…and out the other side.

Anyone reading this who is sufficiently familiar with my prior blog of unfortunately aggrandizing name (and the one before that), knows that some time back, I experienced a gradual deterioration of my health, resulting in amongst other things, a loss of mobility. I’ve long since mothballed that blog, and the thousand-odd posts it contained, and have maintained a low profile ever since.

The intent was to get myself ready for writing, only as is often the case, a few things happened on the way.

I had envisaged it simply being a case of getting a better chair, tidying up the study and getting a little more walking in. What happened in the first instance, amongst other things, was that I wound up on prescription medication that gave me insomnia for well over a year.

And then there were a hundred and one other things that either frustrated my writing, detracted from my reasons to write, or actively contributed to my depression over the period. Having the ABC’s Religion and Ethics portal’s Twitter account suggest that I hadn’t read a report that I was quite capable of going into technical detail about; fall-outs with intellectually dishonest journos; bad behaviour in the wake of “ElevatorGate”; vexatious legal threats from man-babies; spittle in the face from authors with obvious anger management/alcohol problems; the company of vain, self-absorbed, pseudo-activist poets; people in organised atheism/secularism/Humanism proving my worst suspicions true, despite my granting of the benefit of the doubt; the list extends further before exhaustion.

My only consolations in this are that these have all been a learning experiences, and that nobody gets to tell me “I told you so”; the warnings, where they existed, got all of the details wrong.

So here I am, coming out the other side. Getting healthier.

I’ve dropped thirty five kilos, and am back to packing on muscle. I move faster. I’m lighter on my feet. I’m more energetic. I can feel myself moving towards a place where deadlines are more easily met.

I’m also less inclined to take people’s shit. Far less inclined. I’m less inclined to give too much time by responding, although if I do respond, I’m sure I can do it with greater brevity than before. The fog is lifting.

You know what? All of this was necessary in moving towards becoming a writer. All of it.

I couldn’t have got through to publishing something worthwhile without tackling my health, and subsequently indulging in this horrid auto-biographical focus. As much as I hate it, if neglected, this self-focus would have manifested passively elsewhere in my writing to my writing’s detriment. And this is to say nothing of how my depression would have directly tainted my reasoning and prose.

I’m not done with it quite yet, but the end is coming; an end to this horrid therapy-by-journal-writing.

My emotional palette is expanding. I parse connotation better, and choose my words and tone more quickly. This degree of control simply wasn’t possible for me in 2012, and no amount of writing classes would have helped. The problem was pathological.

So coming out the other side off all this, I’ve immediately been repeatedly hit from various angles, by the same challenge; apparently I’m a do-nothing.

Even as recently as two years ago, I would have fulminated, wondering what could possibly be the motive behind this accusatory behaviour above and beyond my challenger’s ignorance (because there is more to it than ignorance). I would have second-guessed myself, and then scrutinised these doubts for further bias.

Now, beyond a short joke, which I’ll have if I want, I have to confess my caring isn’t much of a factor.

Look, I know I’ve mothballed the vast majority of my decade of blogging, and the institutional memory of most of my past attempts at making the world a better place, at least formally, is erased. Informally though, a number of people remember me, and still value my input, so while more recent allies may not value or recognise my contributions, it’s not something I’m particularly inclined to worry about.

I’m not washed up yet. Not nearly.

If a couple of people want to defensively dismiss me on the basis of my inactivity, especially when they know I’ve been sick almost as long as they’ve been on the scene, and when they know I’ve been incredibly busy, it’s no big deal. The only thing they’ll achieve is a loss of my patience and charity.

And that’s the rub, if there is one; I’ve seen potential in these people, despite the invisibility of their achievements, and I’ve humoured them. I’ve given moral support and gentle criticism, where others have offered abuse and the outpourings of metastasized egos. This has taken emotional energy I could have spent on getting better.

Yet despite the increased emotional acuity I’m experiencing, the prospect of writing these people’s behaviour off fills me with… nothing. Sunk cost? Who cares? Move on.

I guess that’s as big of a “go fuck yourself” as I can bother to muster. My orbit takes me out of here. I’m done.

Other things await. I have plans.

~ Bruce

Still depressed…

… but still chugging along.

Yes, haven’t I been neglectful with the blogging?

Have I taken leave of my senses, stripped naked and run off into the forest, moss growing in my crevices? No, not exactly.

I’m still depressed. That’s not changing. It’s a life-long vocation.

But I’m not about to start chittering with the squirrels either. Not unless someone posts a picture of them to my Facebook wall, in which case I’ll probably gawp and mew, rather than chitter.

People do worry when you remain submerged beneath everyone’s social strata for long periods. But honestly, it’s all cool. Yes, you; I have noticed. Thanks for caring. Now please stop fretting.

No. I haven’t had a social life off somewhere else. Yes. I have been busy. Productive even.

Only, I’m hammering the fuck out of myself of late. My daily caloric intake is hovering around the 1600 mark, and I’ve been a little bit of a fiend at the gym. Relatively speaking that is… I’ve trained harder before, when somewhat younger… specifically at age 29.

Okay… so I’ve hit 40 recently. I guess 11 years is more than “somewhat”.

Still. The weights I’m lifting are going up despite the caloric restriction, and I’ve lost 10k of flubber over the past 4 weeks.

The connective tissue pain of the past 8 years has been reduced to a bare minimum. I haven’t had this kind of mobility since… my 20s…

My 20s… gawd. My first blog post, a few platforms back and nearly ten years ago, was published just a few weeks after the last day of my 20s. And even then before poor health set in, I was somewhat fresh for my age.

I had youth when I started blogging. And more hair on top of my head.

I also had depression, as always, and it was far more poorly managed than now. I’m not inclined towards nostalgia about that.

Right now I weigh as much as I did when I was 25, although that’s no great feat given that I was fitter at 29. My aim is to get down to something approximating my body composition of twenty years ago – perhaps with a little more muscle (for physical comfort and strength, not vanity).

If… If I can maintain the amount of progress I’ve made so far, this goal is conceivably doable by winter’s end. I’d certainly be placed in close striking distance at least.

But this means putting my head down, and continuing to hammer away in the small hours at gym… on a low energy diet… which doesn’t leave me with much time or inclination left for socialising, or for writing.

It’s a fight. And I can justify neglecting my writing for the time being, the possibilities for improving my heath being what they are. Indeed, it’s been my health holding my writing back for some time now, albeit up until more recent years, mostly in terms of the quality of what I churn out.

Exercise is good for depression as well, of course. There’s that.

I am taking care of myself, actually. Thanks for checking. Although I’ll lurk at the surface here for a little while before submerging again. I have a likely spoken word engagement in the near future, I’ve a large, deeply personal post in draft form I’m umming and ahhing about publishing, and my tenth anniversary of blogging is on Monday.

Now if it’s all the same, I think I’ll grab a little shut eye.

Oh, and hello again! And goodnight!

~ Bruce

Just a thought…

800px-Penciltip

It strikes me that in going to great lengths to sharpen your wit, you risk something akin to symptoms of obsessive pencil sharpening.

Sure, for a while you’ll be able to deliver sharp jabs, frequently and with consistency. But before too long, you’ll find yourself fumbling with words, struggling to create anything worth serious reading, the heft of your word-smithing atrophied through neglect.

~ Bruce

Nightmare on K Street

Not that I could forget, save perhaps by blow to the head, I’m almost forced to remember on account of it being raised in conversation, or by being near-touched upon tangentially; one early morning after hitting the booze during a trip to Melbourne.

Oh, it was going to be great. The night started out with my being called (perhaps erroneously) a “writer”, and I seemed to be able to endure the standard rate at which alcohol was being imbibed. In fact, I didn’t even feel drunk by the time another (it would later be revealed) was having a spew.

I felt the first itch of an urge to write just as the friend I was staying with was set upon by a young lady. A young lady who’d informed us that she’d “just finished school”. Which is to say she was old enough to drink, and what-not, only it made me feel a bit old.

My friend and I had been discussing Maurice Merleau-Ponty (as being the only redeemable phenomenologist), folk-theories of aesthetics, and shit, all day. I was primed to write, and the late-night action seemed to light a fuse.

Soon after, my friend and his newly graduated accomplice, ducked out for a bit of what-not, back at the place where I’d been sleeping. I went on drinking in order to give them a little more time alone, plus extra drinking for extra time, in case it was needed. It’s always good to increase your margin of error in these matters.

Anyway, perhaps I was at least a little drunk.

Eventually, thanks to a friend, I got back to the house, sneaking in and locking the door behind me, in the dark then tip-toeing over creaking floorboards, towards my mattress on the lounge-room floor, dropping my pants, and crawling in. My mate, still awake, in turn tiptoed to the lounge room to make sure I was who I was, which I was, so all was good.

Then everyone more or less committed to nodding off.

Some time later, it occurred to me that I couldn’t sleep. I’d had a good night on the piss, and I still couldn’t stop thinking about writing – people had got me all excited about it; “writer”, “Maurice Merleau-Ponty”, “shit”. Four thirty in the morning is usually a good time for this kind of inspiration.

I got it into my silly head (which is why I entertain the suggestion of my own drunkenness), that it would be like “that Hitchens anecdote” – the one where he drinks his pals under the table, only for them to wake up to find him finishing another essay. It was going to be like that.

Then there was movement…

A foot stepped down on the corner of my mattress and I opened my eyes to make out part of a black silhouette hovering above in the darkness. Footsteps tracked the side of my improvised bedding, stumbling into the kitchen, the silhouette gaining only enough outline to identify the owner; the young lady who’d come home with my friend earlier in the night.

I told myself that as soon as she’d finished I-didn’t-want-to-know-what in the bathroom, and made it back to bed, I’d get up and start writing. Sure… It was going to be like that.

After a wrong turn into the pantry, the silhouette stumbled back across the edge of my mattress, thankfully managing not to step on my balls or face in the process. I was about to emerge from my failed slumber and head for my laptop when it happened.

I still had my eyes closed, hands pinned beneath my head, when somehow a pair of arms interlocked with mine, and a face nuzzled between my shoulder and jaw. Teeth grinded – her teeth – which to my mind, instantly conjured imagery of The Walking Dead – her mouth only millimetres from my neck, gnashing.

I could have screamed I guess, but that doesn’t come naturally to me. Maybe it should.

No, what I tried to do, with some success, was to slowly untangle myself from her arms, crawling further down along my bed, as she lay “above” me at a one-eighty degree angle. After about an hour of this manoeuvring, I was finally free to get up and get away. But…

I needed a little breather before I got up. I closed my eyes, only to re-open them to the first rays of morning’s light. I looked “up” to see legs cycling as if she was dreaming the Tour de France, before noticing that in fact, she was naked. What if during my escape, she woke up to find me standing over her like that?

Shitballs…

Slowly, I searched from my mattress-fortress for my mobile phone amidst my travel baggage. I’d SMS my friend in his bedroom, and maybe give him a ring to wake him up. I needed to be rescued out of this situation.

The search for my phone lead me at last to the insides of a Woolworths plastic bag, which crunched and crackled with each tentative movement. This took some time to do stealthily, yet eventually, I was to discover the bag did not in fact contain anything other than unwashed underwear…

I closed my eyes in disappointment only to open them right as the bag was lifted away by Miss Naked, who stood briefly above my head. Swiftly, she placed the bag to one side, and then slid down under the sheets next to me – it was all I could do to roll aside, making sure my arms weren’t pinned again.

I should mention, that in recounting these details later in the day, it was at this point in the story that I was informed she was likely covered in copious amounts of cum. So there she was – pressing against my back, the pair of us forming some kind of salty shortbread cream biscuit. Yuck!

It’s on precisely this kind of occasion (perhaps I’m wrong – I haven’t had many more), that you adopt a certain kind of scepticism towards the eagerness of women, despite what they may say or initiate of their own accord, to do kinky things with your sperm; pearl necklaces, jizzing across the small of the back, swallowing, etc. I feel as if my experience involved some degree of unconscious retribution.

Please feel free to shudder – your sympathy will make me feel less lonely.

There I was, wondering what it would look like to be found in this position, at this stage my desire for essay writing having shriveled to resemble the level of interest displayed by the average, sub-zero, ninety-year-old penis. I had to escape.

About another hour was spent, wiggling, re-positioning, and lifting myself away from my unwanted bed-partner. This may seem an inordinate amount of time to spend on such a task, but one has to consider the constraints upon one’s stealth presented by empty spirit bottles, atop Ikea bookshelves, atop flexible floorboards.

The last few inches was the easiest, my visitor turning over to roll me out in a single, fluid motion, my hands and feet landing on the small gap between bed and bookshelf. Slowly I crawled towards the lounge room door, grabbing my pants and wallet on the way – I was free!

After quickly pulling on my strides and popping on shoes, I made my way to my mate’s bedroom and quietly knocked on the door.

“Whaaa..t?”

Squeezing my head and shoulders into the room, I told him he was missing something. His eyebrows furrowed, in a substitute shrug, so I pointed at the other side of his bed, where, lifting his bed-sheets, he would discover a certain absence before rolling his eyes and crashing his head back down in frustration.

At last, a course of action would be decided upon; my friend would go back to sleep, while I went out to get some early breakfast before sneaking back in to crash on the lounge. He’d take care of any awkwardness should it arise.

All in all, the rest of the morning didn’t pan out too awkwardly, although I’m not entirely sure Miss Naked remembered who she’d fucked that night. I didn’t get a word of my essay down.

Still, it all could have gone a lot worse, escalating beyond all buggery with recriminations all round. I’ll settle for my losses and call it a cautionary tale.

~ Bruce

2012 – Year of the invisible wall…

I’m not inclined towards reviews of years past, and much less towards annual resolutions. However, 2012 was quite a different year for me, and not that I run on some kind of psychic clock tuned in to the changing of the calendar, I do, coincidentally, happen to be undergoing changes of late.

I’ll take the opportunity to undertake an annual reflection, and call it for what it is; a fortuitous trope.

2012, for me, has been the year of Lexapro (escitalopram).

It’s been the year of shuffling off the frustrations of having to deal with the passive-aggressive in-fighting, kook-apologist, racist-in-denial, bullshitting Buckland family, once and for all.

2012, has been the year of engineering my psychological climate. Out with the counter-productively agitating, the infuriating, the self-pitying, the intrusive and the mendacious.

It all seemed a little radical to me before – burning so many bridges at once, even though I’d done it before. But before, it was for ego and for show, whereas now it’s been practically motivated and unceremonious.

And I have no regrets.

I don’t say that to boast. It’s just I expected I’d have regrets, that I’d consider myself to some extent, mistaken. Yet upon calm reflection, I don’t. I’m surprised.

I have no intention of re-building bridges, and I won’t have such projects foisted upon me either. If bridges are to be rebuilt, between myself and them, it’ll require changes, my unpressured consent, and no effort on my part in the rebuilding.

If there hadn’t been ‘developments’ on this front – sly attempts to garner my attention and exploit second thoughts I haven’t had – I’m not sure I’d even mention these broken relationships.

For me, life is expanding into new areas…

New areas, with new rewards, new sensations and new problems…

I was warned by Michelle that antidepressants could hinder one’s writing, and I now take that as gospel. Or as close to gospel as an atheist can manage, and possibly for different reasons.

My writing hit a wall in 2012. An invisible wall, at least; I didn’t feel any resistance as with other frustrations, but certainly, I slowed down.

It’s taken a while for me to work out what’s been happening. The invisible wall is something I’ve been considering until now, as an opposing force to be overcome. This is how all of my frustrations have been in the past; opponents.

What I’ve come to realise is this invisible wall, it’s really just nothing. Simply, I just don’t have personal frustration and fire as a motivation the way I used to, and it’s taking time for newer faculties to compensate. I’m on new terrain, and I’m not practiced in traversing it.

But things now seem to be speeding up…

I’ve been withdrawn in the past, which I’ve had to learn in the past for safety’s sake. This long since having become pathological.

I’m still not able to comfortably socialise with certain types – narcissists, passive-aggressives, anti-social bigots, and the like, and I don’t care if I don’t ever learn to. But it’s been easier to be outgoing with people of good faith. Much easier – I’m not nearly as worn out by people, without certain types in my life, leaving energy to spend on the good ones.

The surprise though,  is in just how much I’ve neglected participation in healthy interaction, and how I’m yet to appreciate the niceties of how to go about it. No, nothing in general, philosophically, or civically has changed – the difference is all in the fine-tuning.

Unlike a lot of my past navel-gazing on how we should all get along, a lot of my newer, more refined sensibilities (if that’s what the are), are the product of doing – just getting out there and living with good people. This has been made easier through the expansion of my emotional palette, as afforded by my medication.

I’ve got all the same extremes of hue and saturation, it’s just the ranges between have been fleshed out in a more comprehensive gradient. The result has been to find new ways to like or dislike, or to enjoy or to be put off. So it is as well, with the strength of my reaction to any given stimuli – it’s easier now to just roll my eyes, or to select from anything else in the spectrum between apathy and absolute intensity.

Transitioning this to articulation in writing has been, and continues to be, quite a task, especially since for the most of the year, I didn’t understand how this was actually happening.

I’m expecting, if my reflections are accurate, that soon my writing output will begin to increase, and my prose will stabilise into some representation of my current, ‘truest’ self. Progress will continue to be made after this stage, but then for any writer, when isn’t that the case?

To give you an idea of the magnitude of my culture shock, consider my depression of the last year. I went to the doctor in January, on account of feeling quite good – a high which put the previous twenty years into depressing perspective. Despite this high, I still improved on medication, and in fact still made better progress, according to my doctor, than most people with the same diagnosis.

It’s a lot of mental ground to cover in a short time, and has resulted in my residing an unprecedented distance from the black dog. I’m new here, but I’m learning.

My point in this matter of culture shock is, I should soon be stable enough to write my way though a project the size of a book without the beginning and end chapters appearing to be authored by different people.

This rapid change coincides with my expansion into the ‘scene’ – the local underbelly of hobbyist, aspiring and established authors. In a possibly mixed manner, I’m finding new people to like, and I expect I’ll be finding new people to dislike – perhaps some of the precious types. I’ve still got no time for the same old shit.

Further, I’m beginning to intuit, more than ever before, what it is that goes into a good friend. I’ve expanded on a few friendships in Melbourne this year, with those who previously I only knew online. I feel strangely as if they’re old friends – Fin, Em, and company. Some, in a sense are; I recently met in-person, in Melbourne, ‘Notallright’, who I first ran into on the blogosphere in late 2005.

It’s not all about thinking the same way (there are differences, although the similarities do help),  the point is one of good faith; people that for some reason, perhaps the way that they reason, you know you can trust.

I’m realising I’m drawing strength from these good friends, both new and old, in ways I never recognised before. I’ve never had a muse, but I’m starting to understand the concept, rather than know it in a purely abstract manner.

With this comes a new sense of gratitude – even though your friends, you’re real friends, may have had hard years of late, they’ve still helped you just by being who they are. No special tasks required.

So I’d like to thank my friends, old and new, online and off, just for continuing to be who they are. It may not seem like much, but the consequences matter, and who’s had an easy life just being themselves of late?

Again, my gratitude!

Now it’s time for me to cut down on the introspection, look back outward at the world, and press on through the invisible wall. Happy 2013!

~ Bruce

…assuming the mantle.

I didn’t get it, and I haven’t got it for most of the time. I’m only just getting it – the faux-masculine shibboleths that I’m expected to observe, in order to be ‘one of the guys’.

Especially the degradation of women as rite of passage.

Don’t get me wrong…

I’m nobody’s knight in shining armour (I think this will be the last time I repeat this for some time), and I don’t believe in chivalry towards women – chivalry, as opposed to decency, assumes that women are frail objects to be protected like delicate porcelain in a world they’re not equipped to deal with. Women are no such thing.

I’ve got an interest in this. If pseudo, and actual misogyny, are used as defining criteria for what it is to be masculine, then I consider that an imposture. I don’t want that group identity lumbered on me, and moreover, I’m willing, if imposed upon, to fight for my stake in masculine culture to the exclusion of other men.

Gentlemen, if you’re going to make an asshole out of yourself in the first instance, I’m not going to take much notice when you make squeals of indignation, when you get a little comeuppance. That is unless, I find it justifiable, useful, and entertaining, to laugh at you.

Seriously though, some men really shit me. The things that some of you expect me to take on board as normal, or healthy, or unappealing-but-otherwise-not-rebarbative.

[Trigger warning: There isn’t anything explicit beyond this point, but the subject matter is rather dark, delving into the dank, unsanitary world of misogyny, as it does].

***

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Releasing The Beast…

I’m neither a hateful, nor an angry person (so say I), yet I’m coming to the conclusion that a good part of my engine, as a writer, has been designed to be fuelled by anger. Hate, naturally produces an abundance of anger (along with other by-products), yet around fifteen years ago, while still not hateful, I certainly had a super-abundance of anger.

What a word count I was capable of then. Mind you, most of it was shit, utter and complete. Indeed, a lot of it was insane. Alien.

But I ran out of bona fide anger a long time ago, and for years, certainly longer than I’ve been blogging, I’ve been having to work myself into a state – partially  in character as my earlier self –  just to fuel my writing.

Ultimately, I don’t think this worked. While in some sense I tried to cultivate this in my old Devils’ Advocate on Steroids (DAoS) posts, I consider these to be poorly-written failures. The faux-‘anger’, conspired to confuse the reader as to my intent, even when explicitly stated, and the effort involved in stoking the fires entailed a certain derailing of my ability to concentrate.

Further, it’s just stopped working. I find it much harder to adopt an angry stance now, and certainly not for the amount of time required to churn out a piece of work. Even on those occasions when I do get angry, I just can’t stay angry for long enough.

I make this all sound quite calculated. While there was some decision making in this direction, it’s more the case that this state of affairs was systematically perpetuated without effort or consideration. I’d go as far as saying it was a self-perpetuated cycle of literary self-harm; an implicit auto-bibliographical self-mutilation.

I comment now with the benefit of hindsight and anti-depressants.

On occasion though, lately, some things have come quickly and with lucidity. And importantly, with outrage.

I’ve still got outrage to run on. The downside of this, though, is that while I’ve got a lot of it, it doesn’t mix easily with sarcasm or any other form of wit I’m fond of. Outrage is so incredibly serious.

The trick is to get the right mix, and to get the words down in a timely fashion.

This is probably a good part of why I came to love the work of Christopher Hitchens, disagreements with many of his arguments not withstanding. Hitchens could juggle white-hot condemnation, with subtle-wit, at a frightening pace, while rarely misjudging a throw.

Sadly, literarily speaking, I’m no Christopher Hitchens, and my outrage at intellectual dishonesty, social injustices, self-centred, short-sighted apathy and more, waits to be properly unlocked. It’s more than just a little frustrating.

I suspect the key will have something to do with talking down to malicious fools in positions of relative power, all while making a point, and not getting too pretentious about it. Knowing this, and fully understanding it, though, are two different things, and I lack the latter faculty.

The chains are getting looser though, and my Inner Beast is hungry.

~ Bruce