Microcosms 45

The prompt this week commemorates Dostoyevsky’s birthday and it took me a while to be inspired. I’m really finding that I get more creative the more restrictive the parameters (which actually aligns with modern research into how creativity works so isn’t that surprising, really).

This week’s elements were:

Novel/Novella: Landlady

Short Story: Weak Heart

Genre: Romance

End of an Era

296 Words

Mariana inhaled as she raised her hand to the doorbell, her heart fluttering in anticipation.

“Oh be quiet, you silly old fool,” she muttered toward her chest as footsteps approached.

The door opened, and there he was. Her tenant, Daniel, towered over her, blond and gorgeous. He’d clearly been exerting himself – no doubt last-minute cleaning for the inspection – and his muscular young body glistened beneath loose-fitting singlet and shorts. Blue eyes twinkled as he smiled at the old Greek woman.

“Mariana! Right on time as usual.” He leaned in to kiss her cheek and she swooned to his natural musk.

“Daniel,” she responded, forcing her voice not to waver, “always a pleasure!”

He invited her in and began the tour, pointing out where the tired paint was still fading and the tired walls still cracking. The unit was well-loved, despite its old, sun-bleached state. Mariana’s children kept insisting she should do the place up and double the rent, but she loved its old-fashioned charm – and she loved its current tenant, who could not afford a rise that high.

They got to the bathroom and she noticed some feminine touches: an extra toothbrush and pink razor resting on the vanity. Her heart skipped a beat.

“Daniel, you’re not sub-letting behind my back now, are you?” she admonished with a chuckle.

Daniel blushed. “My girlfriend stays here on the weekends,” he admitted sheepishly. “That’s not a problem, is it?”

She swallowed disappointment as her fantasy shattered. “Foolish woman!” she thought.

“Of course not, Daniel dear. I’m only teasing.”

The inspection finished and they exchanged their farewell pleasantries, although Daniel noted that Mariana seemed a little flatter than usual. As she got into her car she let out a wistful sigh.

Maybe her children had a point after all…

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A Salad for Snaily the Snail

Artist: My 4yo daughter

Medium: Play Dough (homemade)

In A Salad for Snaily the Snail the artist invites us to reflect upon the ephemeral nature of life. She intimates that perhaps it is best to stay true to our inner nature, and eat salad whenever the opportunity arises.

NFS

(Inspired by the Daily Prompt)

Prim P

Primrose Penelope Pinkerton

Went for a walk one day.

With her head held high,

Her hat did fly,

Into the sky so grey.

….

If only she’d thought to have pinned it on

It wouldn’t have set itself free.

With a smile and a sigh,

She waved it goodbye,

Leaving it up in a tree.

….

(Inspired by the Daily Prompt)

(Because what the world needs right now is whimsy, damnit!)

Well.

I wasn’t quite sure what to do with the Daily Prompt – “second thoughts” – today. I made a conscious decision years ago to just not do regret, so I rarely have second thoughts about anything much anymore.

I can’t change the past, I can only control what I do with the consequences that arise from it. Holding grudges or getting lost in regret is the biggest waste of energy – energy that I simply cannot afford to spare.

So I let go of things and move on, and work out what to do about how things are now instead.

(Source)

But then I caught up with the US Election.

Now all I can think is:

I’m sorry, America. It’s not me, it’s you.

I try to keep divisive issues like politics out of my blog, but dayum I am in shock right now. I mean, really? The GOP speaks for you that much right now?

*shakes head*

The older I get, the more of a “bleeding heart liberal” I become. I truly do not understand how anyone in the First World can buy into the culture of fear and selfishness that conservative parties love to sell right now.

Honestly, we never had it so good.

So at the moment, I’m having second thoughts about engaging with the world at large at all. Conservative, exploitative, anti-intellectual, anti-science thought is sweeping through so many cultures right now, adding to the pain and suffering of vulnerable people everywhere, and it just…

I don’t understand.

Just do me a favour. Spend the next few days smiling at strangers; sharing a hug with someone you care about; losing yourself in music; getting absorbed in a moment of wonder at the amazing beauty that surrounds you – if you care to look for it.

Hope costs you nothing. Generosity simply adds to the joy in the world, in whichever small way you can spare it. The more love you give, the bigger and more abundant your heart becomes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a family to embrace. Good luck with your choice, America. I hope you don’t end up regretting it.

n00b

I really cannot tell you how much I hate being “the new guy” at anything.

No seriously, I can’t. I don’t even consciously know myself, apparently…

As part of my certificate in Education Support I have to do at least 10 hours of volunteer work as a Teacher’s Aide. Of course I decided to do it at my daughter’s school, to keep things simple.

What I should have done was go straight to the front office and ask who to speak to and tee things up that way. What I actually did was dither and freak out for a bit, then get one of my friends who is also doing the course to introduce me to the lady she organised things with.

Sweet! No fronting up to people I don’t really know on my own and describing what I needed to do when I had no idea what sort of script to follow (sure, I’d figure it out and they could no doubt fill in any gaps, but the anticipation of looking like a yammering idiot is a real mental block, yaknow?).

It all seemed to be progressing well, until I turned up yesterday like I said I would and my liaison had the day off.

Oh.


The other ladies in her office explained that I really needed to speak to the Assistant Principal, and took me along to meet him. I’m sure my liaison would’ve done that too, but I still felt kind of foolish for not double checking exactly who I needed to talk to.

The AP is a friendly, jovial kind of guy who confused me with two other people at first before he worked out we’d never met before. He then checked that I’d given them my letter of enrolment like I should’ve.

Um.


Heheh…

No problems. I just needed to get it to him ASAP so he could sign off on all the paperwork and I can get credit for my hours. Anyway, he was assigning me to the class next door to my daughter and took me off to meet the teacher right then and there.

So I had to walk past the windows of my daughter’s class (distracting a bunch of the kids in there) and interrupt another class in progress so he could introduce me to that room full of kids and arrange for me to meet up with the teacher later that day to work out when I’d be coming in to help. Why he had to do that in front of the class is beyond me, but that’s what happened.

I think I managed to come across as warm and friendly rather than shell-shocked and in need of a brown paper bag.


Long story short, everything’s sorted; everyone was friendly and excited to have an extra helper; I’m excited to get stuck into helping kids enjoy learning; some of the kids have already started waving to me in the playground; I got my paperwork in. It’s all good. It’s all fine.

I just wish I could get through all the introductory stuff with more grace.

Rationally I know full well that everyone struggles with these sorts of nerves to some extent, and nobody’s going to actually think I’m an idiot for not knowing EVERYTHING, ALL AT ONCE! And in all honesty, I handled things pretty well in the moment, asking questions, clarifying things, ensuring I’m across everything I need to know.

Truth be told, I was quite happy overall and felt good about having my work experience locked in. Another thing to check off my To-Do List! Phew!

But then early this morning I had the most intense dream I’ve had in ages, where I had a full-blown, sobbing, shaking, uncontrollable panic attack.

Like, I’ve never experienced anything like that in real life. My brain just saved up all that social anxiety and stress to sucker punch me right in the subconscious. POW!

On one hand I’m grateful I’ve never dealt with anything like that during waking hours, but on the other hand I’m now annoyingly drowsy after feeling so refreshed the last few days.

Just another irksome quirk in the show that is Meg’s Brain, I guess…

Feeling Better

The emotional roller coaster continues.

Not that it’s really a roller coaster: more like a carousel that’s on a slight tilt, where your horse not only bobs gently up and down but also traverses a larger undulating orbit of dips and peaks.

Turns out my last bout of the sads was due to me coming down with something. Nothing major, just a grumbly tummy and general achey weakness that left me with hot flushes if I tried to do anything too active.

I was actually kind of excited when it started showing up on Friday evening as it meant I could spend all Saturday in bed without feeling guilty or triggering my husband’s anxiety too much (I do love him to bits, but he takes on the stress of being the sole income-provider as a great burden and as such is a little bit rubbish at switching to parent-mode if there’s a lot on at work. Even he says I’m the linchpin of the family and they completely fall apart when I’m not around – which is incredibly sweet, but also incredibly aggravating! No pressure or anything…)

Anyway, I got to laze about in bed dozing all day Saturday without feeling too strong a compulsion to give up and go intervene when the kids got ratty and hubs started barking at them – because, well, I couldn’t. I tried a couple of times and ended up shaky and clammy and weak so they all just had to work it out themselves.

It was glorious.

I woke up on Sunday very much refreshed and although I was still a bit weak I felt like a million bucks.

But wait! On Sunday I got an added bonus when the kids asked if they could hang out with Nanna all day – and she said yes. 😍

And grumpy hubs went off and did the grocery shopping solo (and came back much refreshed himself), so I got the house to myself for a good hour or so.

Granted, I spent much of that time working on an assignment, but DAYUM! It was nice being alone in my own head for a while without talking or playing or screens blaring in the background.

So here’s to taking the time to relish unexpected breaks! Now to find a way to make them happen more frequently…

(Juuuust scraping it in under the wire for today’s Daily Prompt. And that’s 7 posts in 7 days. BOOYAH!)

Now I ain’t exaggerating or nothing…

…but moving down the coast from Sydney was the best decision we ever made. 

Seriously.

I’ve already shared a few photos of the nearby beauty here, but even better than that, my backyard has gone from a tiny, overgrown mosquito-nest, surrounded by unit blocks, to this:


(The rainbow isn’t always there…)

Our biggest noise complaint has gone from a non-stop drone of traffic, trains, planes and noisy neighbours, to this:


AKA, a bloody great big tree full of currawongs. Not that I would ever complain about them!

We’re also frequently visited by magpies, magpie larks, rainbow lorikeets, rosellas, red wattlebirds, and my absolute favourites: kookaburras.

It is literally impossible to be sad when the kookaburras start chuckling.

And possibly the best part of moving down here? Our neighbours. Just today, my father-in-law popped over to give me a flower he’d grown in his amazing garden:


Isn’t it a beauty! 😍

(Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt)

Microcosms 44

Another crime prompt this week. I’m really happy with my story: it basically just wrote itself over the course of an hour once I’d researched the setting (my US geography is pretty rudimentary) and allowed the characters to introduce themselves to me.

I’m starting to think maybe I should practise crime writing in more depth!

Entries have closed for this week BUT you can still go vote for your favourites and leave comments at the moment (until the end of Saturday).

No Quarter

Character: Reporter

Setting: Martha’s Vineyard

Genre: Crime

300 Words

As she gazed unseeingly across Nantucket Sound Jennifer let out a sigh. Three days she’d been here now, chasing up the story of her career, but the locals were not giving her an inch.

And really, why should they? It was the first murder in the tight-knit community of Oak Bluffs in over a decade, and here was some upstart reporter from Boston feasting on their trauma like a parasite.

An icy wind blew down from the Arctic, a preview of the winter ahead. Jennifer shivered and hunched deeper into her overcoat, sighing again. Maybe it was time to call it quits.

“Folk still not talkin’ Miss Jennifer?”

Jennifer smiled ruefully at the gravelly old man approaching her. “I’m afraid not, Gerald isn’t it?” She gestured for him to join her on the park bench. He smiled back and took his seat, gazing out over the grey water too.

“Don’t take it too much to heart, love. We like to keep ourselves to ourselves here.”

“Yes, I got that,” Jennifer replied with a laugh. She glanced at the fisherman, his face as craggy and weathered as the land around them. “I’m just not sure where to take it from here. This assignment was supposed to be my big break, don’t you know.”

Gerald smiled knowingly, eyes remaining fixed on the horizon. “Ah. Well, if there’s one thing I know about breaks, it’s that there’s always ‘nother one not too far behind.” He met her gaze and gave her knee a comforting squeeze. “So don’t you fret none.”

Jennifer laughed again and offered him a handshake. “Thank you, Gerald. That was the politest brush-off I’ve ever received.” They shook hands and she stood up. “All the best, sir.”

He doffed his hat as she turned to leave. “And to you, ma’am.”

I got nothin’

The Daily Prompt word for today is “sincere.”

I’ve been letting it percolate in my brain all day but remain uninspired. I just can’t do anything creative with it.

Maybe it’s an Australian thing? The unit of study this week for the partial Certificate IV in Education Support that I’m enrolled in at the moment was all about diversity. We touched on how widely conversational norms can differ from culture to culture.

Like how in some cultures it’s considered polite to maintain eye contact while talking, whereas in others that’s the height of rudeness and disrespect. Or like how a smile isn’t always a signal of happiness, or how sometimes “yes” simply means “I understand,” or like how some cultures find it absolutely impossible to say “no” – especially to anyone in a position of power.

In general terms, Australians are quite unique in our directness. We’re big on sarcasm and “ribbing” (making fun of and insulting our friends as a sign of endearment) but sincerity is basically a given. We prefer to cut the bullshit and speak plainly over important stuff (honestly, I don’t know how Americans can swallow the advertising over there: more often than not I genuinely can’t tell if what I’m watching is a parody or for real. So much schmaltz and overt marketing! Blergh!).

If you’re perceived as insincere or “full of yourself” it’s pretty hard to be taken seriously around here.

Anyway, this post makes me 3 for 3 in my goal to post something daily. Yay! Quite frankly it’s also an exercise in confronting my perfectionism and posting something I’m not 100% happy with. Double yay! 😜 Plus I managed to make my bed and tidy my bedside table today. Triple yay!

I sincerely hope this trend continues.

And I’m sincerely grateful if you’ve read this far and choose to continue to walk alongside me on my journey of self-improvement. 🙏

Sad

Down. Glum. Despondent. Melancholy.

Depressed.

Oh how I wish I wasn’t such a one-hit-wonder.

Two days ago, when I did my stocktake, I was on the way up. I was still waking up in the mornings wishing I could hide, but once I got going about my day I could feel my brain unclench and relax and allow my natural optimism to take over.

Like that moment when you settle into a soft bed with clean sheets after a particularly exhausting day.

“Oh good,” I thought, “my meds are finally kicking in properly! I should find everything easier now.”

Plans were tackled, commitments made. Some momentum was finally happening as I rolled up my sleeves and got stuck in to pulling my life back together.

Then, last night, while my girls were in the bath and my husband was flaking out in bed feeling unwell, I noticed how hard everything was feeling and how tired I was.

I felt my brain and body powering down, collectively saying “Nope!” and letting the dark cloud settle again.

Fuck.

I love this image, even though the words don’t really apply to me (I’m pretty open and vocal when my depression gets this bad!). It really captures exactly how much of a heavy, all-consuming weight depression is when it gets you in its clutches; how much effort it takes to simply hold on; how close you feel to losing your grip and being completely enveloped.

It’s relentless. And vicious. And blunt. And ugly. That overwhelming need to ball up and hide from the world. It’s like having a really bad cold but without the outward symptoms like a runny nose or scratchy throat – and with the added bonus of a nasty voice in your head telling you how much you suck and making you feel like you need to put on a brave face because nobody else will understand and they’ll hate you for being flaky and unreliable.

Man I’m over it. So much. I wish there was some way I could just make it bugger off for good, but if anything it’s getting more tenacious and nasty with age. My coping and management skills have improved, but it just keeps getting sneakier.

I’m tired. I wish I could just give up somehow and let it win without that affecting my kids. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not even slightly suicidal. Never have been (seriously, I am almost offensively optimistic by nature and have some pretty rock-solid self-esteem once you scrape all the muck of depression away). I just want to hide and sleep and eat junk and not have to care about anything for, oh, I don’t know – a year or so? That would be rad.

Instead my days are consumed by bracing against those relentless blows, and constantly re-prioritising plans around what I’m actually capable of dealing with on any given day.

Remember that stocktake from two days ago? Well I’ve managed to follow the Daily Prompt two days in a row now (yay me!), but my plans to get into a daily cleaning routine have stalled pretty hardcore. I need to pare it back even more.

So my new daily goal on the “treating cleanliness as something you just fucking DO as an adult” front is simply to make my bed, clear my bedside table, and keep my bedroom floor clear. THAT’S it. For realsies this time.

Then at least I have one tiny oasis in my life where I feel centred and in control. Hopefully things can seep out from there.