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  • Writer's pictureLisa

A walk for inner turmoil

This is not a blog post. It's literally what just happened. I needed to get it out and down somewhere. I'll try to do a proper one next week.

Stepping out of my car, the icy wind rips straight through to my skin and I shiver. The thought of getting back in, not taking my walk, enters my head. But I stride off anyway, like I’m being chased.

I’m tense, unhappy. I’ve been on the verge of tears all week, sometimes tumbling right over in a torrent of awfulness. And I don’t know why.

I hunch into my jumper, hands in my pockets trying to protect myself.

Work splashes around in my brain like a dying fish. Several hundred dying fish. Things and obligations, people I don’t want to let down, students I want to be present for. Languishing manuscripts. Four of them. Sitting there.

I wrote parts of all of them yesterday in these weird little bursts of forcing myself to ‘create’. Trying to outrun the feelings.

Crossing over a bridge I’m finally at the lake. Can see the water and birds. My cheeks feel tingly and red. I promise myself a coffee after as my reward.

I’ve been stuffing my face all day. Comfort eating. When I’m trying to get healthier, lose weight, get back some semblance of core strength. Ruined now. The dam broke today and I’ve had pork rinds, a BLT, chocolate, only succeeding in making myself sick. And still the emotions I’m trying to hold down sit there. Curdling everything.

I’ve never been a sharer. My sister reads my posts because it’s the only way she knows what’s actually going on with me.

I’ve always been like this. Defensive, private, shy. And for the most part, I’m good with who I am. Even if sometimes people consider me cold and snobby.

But why am I feeling like this?!

My pace picks up, I put on a favourite podcast, one I’ve listened to so many times before. Little hints of bravery seep in, or maybe my battered armour starts to crack, bits and pieces falling away.

My work. All jobs… however many that may be at any given time. I say yes too much, get too excited by the project, or too anxious about my dwindling bank account. And I find myself frantically racing from fish to fish, trying to keep them all alive somehow.

When I won the David Unaipon, I remember being so relieved. I could say no to some things for a while. I counted. I had nine part-time jobs or projects on the go. Just cos I like to eat and sleep in a warm place.

In the two and a half years since I’ve got myself right back in that place. Only six roles/projects now, but they feel more demanding, weightier somehow. COVID-19 has made it all so much more acute. All freelance consultation and editing work has dried up. Work at the uni is the same, especially for sessionals, but everyone is under the pump. I wait to see a dark figure with a scythe stalk the halls.

I can’t say no now. Because what if it means not being offered work in the future?

I go to my desk of a morning and I just want to cry. Too much to get through. Never enough. I get one thing done and sent off, and it’s back within half a day, if not sooner. More work to come. There is no finish line, only the never ending merry-go-round that I have no option but to ride.

And my writing sits, gathering dust on a hard drive and in notebooks, mewling at me for attention. Till resentment at not creating bubbles over into frustrated, impotent tears.

I’m supposed to be doing this to have time to write. So what’s the point if I’m not?

The idea of going back to the public service tempts me. Like a desert mirage, but with the chill of a Canberra winter. Yet I know the trap for what it is. Been there, been damaged by that.

The siren song of a secure income though. Of feeling totally independent again, and not like a burden to my partner.

The voice in my head whispers memories of deep unhappiness, micro-aggressions, depression, the birthing place of my anxiety. I shake my head and hope no one saw.

I enjoy teaching. But it’s just like publishing. Populated by passionate people, all of them over-worked and underpaid. I see it still in the late night and weekend emails from colleagues, editors and publishers. I growl at them, but I also know the score. And who am I to judge, having just checked my emails for the millionth time.

I see no way out. The trap sprung long ago, when I realised I couldn’t work in a job I didn’t have passion for and hope to survive it. My anxiety pushes me always to the future – what if, what if, what then?

I stop at a point and look out over the water. For the first time, I notice how beautiful it is. Too trapped inside myself to notice.

My mind goes quiet.

I take a few deep breaths. I snap a pic, to hopefully remind myself of the moment.

I could keep fighting it all. Or I could accept it.

I have work now. I support myself, with help from someone who loves me. I can’t control what’s going to happen next week, let alone next year.

And for now, I get to write! I have to make space for it, and that’s always been a problem for me. I need to do it now, before my creativity hops up and really kicks my arse for ignoring it. Again.

Turning back, I pull my hands out of my pockets. Lift my face to the icy drips of rain and hold my hands out to feel the sting. I welcome the chill, the inevitable nature of weather.

This too shall pass. I will try to embrace it while it’s here.

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