On the stack and into the woods

Last year I posted a blog about starting the Artist’s Way and the need to commit to a ‘creative recovery’ process to deal with my weeboo weeboo – and the reason I’d be sharing this on my site. Then I wanted to tell you about the posts, which reminded me that I’m not sharing it on my site, I’m sharing it on Substack, as I am everything else.

Sorry WordPress. You stopped being a blogging platform a long time ago and your super clunky back-end is giving me the arsehole.

I’ll still be cross-posting blogs and columns here, so if you’re subscribed via WP you’ll get the updates, but I’ll be migrating the email subscriptions to Substack. If you’re keen on switching yourself or subscribing from scratch, here’s the link…

Anyway, I’m currently two posts in (one completed step 1 and step 2 started) and I wanted to let you know in case you were interested in also doing the Artist’s Way and joining in a little conversation about it.

That’s all for now. I hope your 2023 has started off well?

t
x

The magic of intention

You don’t have to be a wizard to change your world, says Tanya Meeson
Woman&Home, January 2023


When I was a teenager, one of my favourite reads was a high fantasy series written by David and Leigh Eddings called The Belgariad. Although I remember very little of it, one of the main story devices lodged in my brain and stayed there: the concept of ‘the Will and the Word’.

Sorcerers in this world would harness the power of ‘the Will and the Word’ to affect the world around them, mustering their intent towards a specific purpose and then saying a word to make it so, transporting themselves here or there, burning or flooding this and that.

While I had enough sense to know that I was unlikely to ever conjure a helpful sprite or spontaneously combust my enemies, there was something about the idea of this power that felt somehow within reach. But real life carried on and there were dramas to attend to and so I didn’t give it much further thought.

Fast forward almost two decades, and The Secret was suddenly barrelling onto the New York Times Bestseller List injecting the concepts of ‘law of attraction’ and ‘manifestation’ into the zeitgeist, Oprah was talking positive affirmations and intentional living, and suddenly the idea of ‘the will and the word’ was back to tickle me. Since then, it’s become something of a constant inquiry for me.

Turns out, like almost everything in life, nothing changes but for the telling of it. The concept of putting power to intention through word and deed is ancient. One of my favourite examples of this is ‘abracadabra’, a seemingly a nonsense word made up by stage magicians but whose origin of meaning is often attributed to its Aramaic roots: ‘avra’, meaning ‘I will create’ and ‘kehdabra’, meaning ‘as I have spoken’.

This kind of intention-setting with all its ‘positive affirmations’ and ‘manifesting your life’ yadda yadda might seem nothing more than high fantasy to most, but new research into the brain is revealing that how you think and what you think really can transform your world.

Simplistically speaking, neuroplasticity – the ability of the brain to rewire itself and grow new neural pathways as a response to internal or external stimuli – is a lifelong capability in service to whatever inputs it receives: form unhealthy habits, thought patterns and attachments through trauma and repetition, and those neural pathways will strengthen; form healthy habits, thought patterns and attachments through intentional focus and perseverance, and those will strengthen.

Far from ‘just’ being able to engage in continuous learning, the real magic inherent in neuroplasticity is that the many harms of life can be healed.

Astonishing work documented by psychiatrist and researcher Dr Norman Doidge in his two books The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing has shown that you can change your life and how you are in the world – and by extension how the world is to you – by changing the way you think about things, the way you visualise your life and your body, the words you speak and actions you take to support this. Where pharmaceutical interventions play a role in alleviating symptoms, this brain work is about getting down into the root causes.

But for this to work, the intention and the action to follow through is key: the will to change and the perseverance to do so – and to do so even if your current state is so different to your desired future state that you think it almost impossible to change.

The word ‘intention’ actually hints at this. Its root is the Latin intendere or intentio, meaning ‘stretching’ or ‘purpose’; the ability to go beyond the now, to imagine a new state and then to strive to create it. It’s the intangible made tangible, it’s thoughts to things, the will and the word. It’s almost magic.

As the new year rises to meet you, what intention will you set for a future as yet only imagined, and where in your brain will that first step towards it be taken?

Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Have yourself a merry little blissmas

After a difficult year maybe it’s okay to indulge in some schmaltz, says Tanya Meeson
Woman&Home, December 2022


There’s a moment close to December that shifts the balance of the year full tilt into year-end jollies or the screaming heebie-jeebies, depending on where your musical proclivities lie as you stroll the shopping aisles selecting your veggies. I think you know what that moment is and I think I can comfortably predict how it will sound. Maybe it’s already earwormed its way into your brain or, if you’ve managed to avoid to it, let me be the one to kick off this silly season for you. Are you ready? Okay, here goes…

Mariah’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ or Buble’s ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ or Boney M’s ‘Mary’s Boy Child’…

Sorry. Don’t hate me. I couldn’t help spreading the cheer. And I’ll tell you why, even though I might lose some of you here. But I really, really love Christmas.

Now, I’m not religious and so this might come across as flippant to those of you who are, but I love all the tinsel, bells-and-whistles, happily-ever-after movies and Euro-inspired snowflake trees with SA-reality braais and sunscreen smells. I know it’s commercial and I know it’s sentimental, but after a year of horror – war and climate collapse, corruption and enough murder in TV shows and the real world to bath us all in blood – it just feels like a bit of a palate-cleanser. You know? Like, why after all the horribleness can’t we just have a little break from reality and enjoy a moment of believing it’s all going to be okay?

Maybe I was just primed for this from my childhood. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time with my gran, and song ‘n’ dance movies were big in the household. Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby … you name it, their croonin’, tip-tapping ways had me transfixed. The only thing that could top the picture-perfect world of loveliness and happy endings they inhabited, was if that world was covered in dazzling white snow and Christmas cheer beamed from every scene.

Musicals are somewhat different today, but the baton of all things merry is still in play, having been handed over to Christmas movies and jingle bells and the sweet blush of hope in the New Year and new beginnings.

That’s not to say that the Christmas season doesn’t have the power to throw me into a world of angst around ‘enoughness’. Family ‘shoulds’ and traffic mania, the year-end scramble to tie up loose ends and all the expectations of jolliness, isn’t exactly a recipe for levity.

But then I get home and put on those tree lights, treat myself to a Christmas choccie, pop on a sentimental Christmas movie, and: voila. Instant stress relief as I ball out whatever tears need to come. (To be fair, I’m easily moved by sappy scenes, so I can’t guarantee this will work for everyone.)

Look, I’ve not always been this way. Frankly, for a while I was just annoyed by Christmas and – I’ll risk the Grinch-like exposure of this – the expectation to give gifts.

One year, on an especially tight budget, I railed at Tom about this until I frothed at mouth: the commercialisation, the plastic, the lack of reciprocal thought in the effort I put in etc etc … and then it dawned on me like an irritating kindness: I actually like gift-giving. I like finding or making presents and wrapping them next to a twinkling tree while I watch Father Christmas movies and eat choccies … getting into the Christmas spirit of giving, I realised, was a pleasure for me.

gah okay fine I’ll just gift into it

Since I’m naturally very self-serving, this realisation went quite some way to settle my feelings around this time and so now here we are: Tom helping me make crooner Christmas playlists and me fretting because my favourite Quality Street isn’t what it used to be. But these are good problems to have.

As the next few weeks roll round in whichever way the roll round for you, I wish you great comfort, love and celebration, both for the exiting year and the one ahead.

And when those carols wind up in the mall, I hope they find you singing along.

Image: something from the internet of vintage freebies

Before the new togetherish, a bit about the old wee-boo wee-boo…

This week I decided to move on from my personal Wee-Boo*. But before I talk about the ‘moving on’ part, I think I should just flesh out what this is.

(Wait. If you don’t care about the backstory, just jump to the togetherish part by clicking this link.)

The Wee-Boo is the plaintive cry of the ‘poor me’ mini-troll that lives inside me and insists on meeping on about how misunderstood I am, how alone, how unloved, how neglected and rejected and kinda pathetic and and…

The Wee-Boo starts as a meep from the internal mini-troll but can quickly become a loud and overwhelming roar.

Lately, since I’ve been happy and content with life, it’s decided to have a go at my creative endeavours. And boy, has it enjoyed sinking its teeth into self-publishing.

Starting with the tangy hors d’oeuvre of not finding a local publisher, to really savouring the main meal of 70-odd-agent-rejections tartare, to this new treat: the bitter-sweet dessert of making sales (yay!) but not hearing anything back from anyone who reads it** or worse hearing something (‘started reading, love it’ messages), then nothing…

*crick crick*

My personal favourite so far is a reader in the wild who gave me a glowing written review – SO RARE – and five (FIVE) stars on GoodReads, only to apparently have a peevish moment, delete the review and change the five stars to one. Thanks for that asshole.

Happily, I think we’re onto the after-dinner mint on this particular cycle, and here the Wee-Boo troll is enjoying the fact that when someone other than a friend mentions my book to me it’s only so that I can placate them about not reading it.

‘No no, really it’s okay,’ I say when they mention not getting round to it/time/bigness of book/life getting in the way. ‘You don’t have to read it. Really. Please don’t worry. Yes it is a lot. Please don’t worry about reading it–’ Oh my god please you’re killing me here. ‘–who has the time or energy, right? Please, it’s no biggie.’

I fear I have a written a dud that I have mistaken as something only because I love it so. Like some tragic fairy tale heroine who nurses a baby for years only to wake one morning and realise it’s actually a stone.

And of course, the WeeBoo troll loves this: Maybe there’s a reason no agent or publisher wanted it? Ever think of that wise-ass?

Hmm nom nom.

weeboo weeboo

Anyway.

Then this week, a tweet from a new author went viral…

She got comments and encouragement from e.ve.ry.one including Stephen King and Margaret Atwood and it was incredibly heart-warming and gentle and generous and a huge reminder that dud or no, I still have to pay my dues. Dud or no, I’m not the only one feeling these Wee-Boo feelings and I’m not the only author in world to want or struggle to find a readership. Dud or no, there is a lot bombarding people: content, news, life events, stuff stuff and more stuff. And ultimately, dud or no, one book does not a novelist make.

To wit: I’m done with the Wee-Boo. I’ve done all the therapising work to deal with its origin and the worst of its consequences the rest is now just old patterning. It’s small-minded, self-pitying, self-aggrandising, ungrateful, a waste of energy and short-sighted. Worse: it’s boring.

I found this card in a library book when I was 16.

While I’m unlikely to win the war against this age-old instinct (at least not alone), I can certainly walk away and give something altogether more generative a chance: a new mindset. Which is why I’m going to be committing again to The Artist’s Way.

I shared this idea on Instagram and was delighted to hear that there was clearly something in the air and that others had also started pulling out their AW to begin the journey for the first or second time. I suggested maybe doing this togetherish and some people said this would be nice.

So here this is. A start at doing this togetherish. Here’s what that means.

Doing Artist’s Way togetherish

The Artist’s Way comprises 12 sections or ‘weeks’. I am certainly not going to be able to complete one section a week, so I’m giving myself two weeks per section starting from Monday 2 January.

I’ll be using my Substack account for this, which you can find here.

I will post an intro post at the start of each section and any subsequent experiences related to that section as comments into the comments section.

Here’s where the togetherish bit comes in.

We all lead full and demanding lives, when and how you choose to dip into the week’s section is up to you. I’m not a facilitator, no one is here to ‘keep you accountable’, and since this is a public, free meeting point, nothing is going anywhere and you can pick up and move on as you like.

Hopefully we get some energy picking up around this and we can share experiences and support in the Substack’s comments area for each ‘week’s’ section. If not, that’s also okay because I’ll be doing this for me anyway.

I’ll see what Substack’s tagging feature is like, but somewhere on the homepage I’ll create a ‘home’ tag for all posts relating to this. I’m not going to bother setting up a specific subscriber collective for this unless it grows or my current subscribers hate getting updates about this and leave. I’m not sure whether you’ll have to subscribe to my Substack to comment, but if you hate that idea of subscribing, the content and everyone else’s inputs are still here if you want them.

This is a first draft of this idea so things might change.

What do you think? Mail me if you like, subscribe for the updates below, or simply check in from the new year.

Subscribe to my Substack if you’re into this idea internet friend…

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is the bestselling course in creative recovery. Her books are still available at stores and her site has a ton of resources, including a week-by-week support system for those who want it. Clickety click or tappity tap here for that.

Anyway. That’s that. Let’s see how this goes.

t
x

*My sister Micia introduced me to the self-pitying, mock-crying term wee-boo wee-boo and I remain forever in her debt for that divine phrase.

**Except my friends and family, Tass and Paul from Facebook, and Ann-Maree Tippoo, the book blogger at
AnnieAndHerChapters. Many thanks, my ego would not have survived this crazy trip without you.

Ready, set, slow

Pleasure is the new fitness, right? Tanya Meeson hopes so
Woman&Home, November 2022


Although I’m a fan of New Year’s Lists, one thing you’ll never find on mine is ‘get fitter’. That’s because I know my limitations and, if life has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t have the strength of mind necessary to commit to a fitness regime. Notice I didn’t say ‘undertake’. Undertake to commit to start a fitness regime I can certainly do and, my God, have I undertaken many.

Let me see. There was the great gym expeditions of 1999, 2003, 2009, 2019 and then 2021, each of which lasted between one month and three years, and even the latter, if I’m honest, just became about sitting in the sauna and bake-sweating for hours. Then, there was tennis and there was running. Once there was boxing training, capoeira for adults, rock climbing, hip-hop, swimming lengths…

So many starts. But to see it through as an actual lifestyle inclusion? Not so much. Even yoga, which I love, is only a long-term love affair if I have a class to go to.

Once, in a bid to fool myself, I added ‘get stronger’ to my List. But then, because I wasn’t clear with the universe, I first had to go through extreme back, glute and hip pain before I and my bank account were gently led by three physios and a Pilates instructor to understand what ‘strength’ is and that it requires a core – and also that I had no core.

Has this inspired me to commit to a weekly workout routine? Nope.

‘No pain, no pain’ is my motto

I don’t know if this laissez-faire policy towards dedicated fitness is a ‘forever’ status quo. I hope not. I have visions of one day waking up intrinsically inspired to ‘just do it’ etcetera. But right now and, say, for the past thirty-odd years of being cognizant of fitness-as-a-lifestyle, I simply lack the psychic energy needed to drive this kind of lifetime agenda. And maybe that’s where my problem lies. I’m just too damn self-aware. Whenever I think of what it takes to get a six-pack, my first question is: Is this a regime I can maintain until I’m 80? If not, what’s the point? (I know this is the fitness version of the ‘I’m too intelligent for therapy’ line, but it’s what I’ve got.)

Look, it’s not that I don’t move. I walk a lot, there’s lots of dancing and stretching and swimming aboutish, I garden, play with my dog, and often even go to Pilates, and I’m very certain that soon I’ll start playing tennis again and go back to yoga. It’s just that I prioritise differently.

I think when I crossed over from thinking of fitness as something that might make me look better to something that might make me feel better, I kinda settled on the level of fitnessing I was at: the level that prioritises pleasure. ‘No pain, no pain’ is my motto and, I have to say, I feel like this philosophy is catching on.

Recent findings from longitudinal health and wellness studies show that a life moderate in food and exercise and high in love and sleep does wonders for the general longevity of the human animal. And isn’t that what all this fitness malarkey is really about? Aging well?

Which brings me to Betty Dodson. Betty was an iconic sexologist who rose to fame in the 1960s and became known as the ‘godmother of masturbation’. Betty looked about 65 when she was 85, and died when she was 91, and in a 2014 Guardian interview credited her youthfulness to ‘masturbation, pot and raw garlic’.

After reading that, I made my own list: regular orgasms, sleep, water, massages, being able to touch my toes, no smoking, very little drinking, lots of howling, laughing, and regular ocean dips…

And, wouldn’t you guess, still no fitness regime.

I know my ‘can I do this until I’m 80’ benchmark is flawed. I know one commits to a fit lifestyle to get one to 80 and all that. I know this. But to do it?

Maybe I’ll undertake again to commit to maybe putting it on my 2023 list. I’ve got some months to prepare emotionally. Until then, anyone up for a gentle stroll around the block?

Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash

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