On Breaks And Breaking

Hello my dear friends and sometime loyal readers. It’s been a while since I’ve been on here, and I do apologise. I make no assurance of coming back regularly any time soon. I’m definitely not shutting down for good, although I’ve considered it. I’ve thought about posting a few things over the last couple of months, but the thing is when there’s been an absence, a silence, sometimes you get a little afraid as to which words are powerful enough to break it with. Sometimes I’ve enjoyed the silence, too. My world has been turned upside down, taken apart and put back together again without so many broken places, with less gaps, and sometimes it’s nice to be alone with the thoughts of that, the trying to figure out what it all means, without having to explain it and without having to make small-talk in the process. It’s been good, but “big” is an understatement.

The thing is this: I’ve been busy writing. This is a good thing. And the thing also is this: before that I was busy being lost, and wondering whether I’d write again, or what that would look like, and whether my writing dreams, like so many others before them, simply needed to die.

The odd thing about this is that this started after I’d finished writing my first book, a novel I was proud of, and went to my first writing conference. I don’t think it’s meant to happen that way, somehow, although the more people I talk to about this the more I find that my story isn’t all that unique. And not only in the writing world. How often, how many times, have we been striding somewhere purposefully only to find we’re going in the wrong direction? The closed door. The no door.

It was a hard day the one I realised that the book I was so proud of had a place in no camp, made harder by the fact that there were no real, clear, obvious answers. I was surrounded by loving friends who could hold my hand and sympathise with me, and for them I am eternally grateful, but none who could say “this is the way you should go. Go there”, or at least none who knew for sure.

I did lots of things. Imagine, if you like, me standing in the middle of an open field, with nothing but grass for miles and miles.

I walked. Or, at least, I wrote. I shelved the lost and placeless novel and struck out in some direction or another, without any real sense of which way was up, and a very real sense that I was now lost and needed to move, and I wrote pages and pages and more pages. I wrote character studies and backstory and plotted out development arcs. I was angry at my own lostness, and that anger coloured my work. After a while I tried to write a new plotline for the lost-and-placeless, hoping it would redeem it again, take it back to the place where I was once so proud of it, but the new plotline for the old novel was distracting me from the vision of what it originally was, and I was no longer sure whether I was re-plotting the old novel, or whether I should be in fact using those storylines in the new one that was slowly taking shape. There were no boundaries on either novel, and at times I wondered whether I needed to combine them. I walked in circles again and again, and then again, until in the end I gave up. 

Have you ever been there, to the walk in endless circles, with a map that keeps changing? Have you felt that bitter lostness, the purposeless so bone-deep it makes you want to abandon even the most important journey?

You can’t google something that doesn’t exist yet. You can’t cheat, and look up the character notes on a story not yet written. I know this. I’ve done it.

They were hard months. Sure, it’s easy to say “it’s only a book! Why didn’t you just do something else?”, and there were times I thought exactly that, and times that I tried. But giving up is harder on a dream is harder than being lost, because giving up is forever, and you’re still walking around a grassy plain with no sense of direction.

In the end I stumbled upon a map of sorts, in the form on a 4-week online course, so I sat down, wrote nothing, and waited. It saved me. The course taught me a few things I already knew, and lots of things I didn’t, and it gave me one huge gem: the confidence I needed to trust my instinct.

That was June/July. It wasn’t so long ago.

I’m telling you all this because I’m almost finished rewriting my second chapter of my lost-and-placeless novel, and even though I’m battling with the feeling that I should have been here months ago, that I was the kid in the sports carnival who ran in the wrong direction, I’m proud of this book, and proud of where it’s going. I may not be where I expected to be twelve months ago, but at least I’m heading in the right direction. Having lost hope, having been forced to give up my dreams, I found them again.

It’s no small irony too that this is the theme of my novel. Art imitates life. Again.

Let me encourage you today my friends. Have you given up on your dream? Do you, today, feel like you’re walking in circles with no sense of direction? Do you feel like everybody else has already ran the race and you’ve just finished tying your shoelaces?

It’s okay.

I’d say a million platitudes here, but sometimes they’re more confusing than anything. I do know that hope deferred makes the heart sick, and a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. I do know that journeys suck sometimes, and sometimes it’s hard to find someone to run with who understands, or someone who is able to mourn with us as we mourn. I do know that what seems like it should take about three months can sometimes take three years – or, Heaven help us – three decades. All of that sucks, pretty much. None of it is easy. But if you feel like that today, let me tell you you’re not alone.

I’m not going to tell you what to do, but maybe take a break before you break. It may give you the strength you need to keep on going!

 

When Labelling People Is Good For Them

I came to social awareness (as opposed to, say, growing up, which is quite a different process) at a time when political correctness was just beginning, and–unlike other periods of time that I’ve mostly read about in old novels–labelling people was considered wrong.

Don’t get me wrong, this move away from labelling is generally a good thing, as this Psychology Today article points out. We are more than our skin tone, our body mass index, our age, our job. I have been labelled from time to time, and those labels make my skin crawl, make me–even now–want to jump out of my chair and shout “you don’t know me!” I am not where I live, or where I grew up. I am not my education. I am not my family of origin. I am not my hair colour. I am me.

Sometimes though I think we’ve taken things too far. Sitting on a plane on my way to the USA for the very first time it suddenly occurred to me that I had no idea what to call black people these days, and if I found myself suddenly in a situation, say, where a key was dropped at McDonald’s, and the waitress asked me who was sitting here before me and I said “A tall black guy”…is that offensive? Would I need to say “an above-average height African-American?” What if he wasn’t of African descent, but Carribbean? What if he wasn’t even American? Did any of it matter? Thankfully nobody dropped any keys at McDonald’s while I was in the US, so I never had to deal with the fall-out from this, and consequently I have yet to discover whether I would be frowned upon from describing a person as “black”. Or brown. Or, as my young son used to say when describing a kid in his class at school, “he has a brown face”. Notably, there are only two “white” people in my family – the rest of us are a kind of pinky colour.

I’ve been so aware of anti-labelling, of the risks one takes in using phrases like “black”, or “retarded” (which was in common usage when I was growing up, and wasn’t seen as a slur), or “crazy”, and it occurred to me that there is also a positive place for labels. I’m not a big, noxious word like “crazy”, but I’m a smaller, more precise word, like “introvert”. That label has helped me enormously, has helped me classify myself not just according to “I am me and I am unique”, which can be terribly lonely, but  part of a crowd, a subset of people just like me. I am left-handed – not just the only one in tennis class, but one of millions of people throughout the world.

If I’d only ever seen apples, pears, bananas and oranges, the first time I saw a custard apple, a mango or a paw paw I would think them crazy, different, wrong. (Actually this is precisely what happened when I was young – yes, even to mangoes. I still remember my first one). Labels help us classify. Stone fruit. Tropical fruit. Fruit. Without these labels we’d be less willing to try things, more inclined to throw them out and to not experience the good within.

Pineapple and apples (Wikimedia Commons)

Pineapple and apples (Wikimedia Commons)

I read an article the other day that helped me understand an old friend of mine so much better. He’d worn a million labels, some he’d fought against, some he’d embraced, none of which gave me any context at all to understand him better. I kept him there, metaphorically, my pineapple in a lifetime of apples, having to suspend all understanding when with him and define him,not as crazy, but as “unique”, “odd”, “different”. None of these labels are helpful, either, not in a real sense. They didn’t help me relate.

There were a few articles I read. One was about Asperger’s Syndrome. Another was about personality disorders. Another on different types of mental illness, and psychosis.

I’m not a doctor, but within half an hour of reading I could feel certain labels my friend has worn dislodging in my brain, and other, better ones take their places. He may never read these articles, and I may never discuss my thoughts about them with him, but for me finding those labels allowed my heart to expand, and helped me to love him better. He’s not alone, not unique as such. He’s not a not-apple, but a pineapple. I may have never met anyone else like him, but now I know that there are probably many others.

It may be nice to be unique, but there’s such a joy in finding one is not alone.

I’m all for labeling people, if that’s the result.

 

On Vision, Writing, and the Nobel Prize

I wouldn’t say I’m prone to visions really.

The Vision Of Saint Helena

This is Not Me. (The Vision of Saint Helena by Paolo Veronese. Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Can’t say that many times I’ve been struck dumb as the Lord has vouchsafed to me a drop-down movie-theatre in front of my eyes where He unravels some mysterious plan (although it did happen once…and no I wasn’t on drugs…and no, that is not what this is about).

Can’t say that, in recent years at least, I’ve been beset with the other kind of vision much either – motivation and direction for my own life, that sense of knowing exactly where I’m headed, what I’m doing, what I want out of life. Sure, I knew the answer to these things in a vague and general way, hopefully as we all do, but sometimes it’s hard to be driven and motivated when, by necessity, your day-to-day life has very little to do with your career goals. Don’t get me wrong, I love my life, and I love what I do and am grateful every day, but I’m not aiming for a career in toilet cleaning, or laundry, or driving kids to music lessons. I don’t want to be a professional Lego builder (oh okay, that one would be fun), and, here’s the rub, the vision for my life I had ten years ago I’d done.

Ten years ago, if you’d asked me, I would have said “I want to travel, and I want to write a book”. Both of those things, for various reasons, seemed wildly out of my grasp at that time. Both, now, I have done.

So. Now what?

Well, go back and travel again is one answer, and publish the book is another, but they’re still vague answers of the not-particularly helpful kind. They’re goals, but they’re not Vision. They’re not propelling me forward, encouraging me to get out of bed in these early hours of a cold morning. They’re true, but they’re not…enough.

I’ve been thinking about this recently. I’ve been planning the rewrites for said book (because it needs them), and trying to pinpoint exactly who I’m telling the story for. It’s one thing to have a goal to write a book. It’s quite another to know exactly who your target audience is and how to reach them, and what specific expectations they have in a novel, especially because I don’t write in a particular genre (thriller/mystery/romance etc).

I’ve been thinking about it a lot over the last few weeks, in between toilet cleaning and laundry and driving kids to music lessons and everything else. I’d added a new character, a new storyline to my novel, and I was excited by the things that was bringing up, and the new direction and focus – and all of a sudden I “looked” at the pictures in my mind and I noticed something strange: the new characters and storyline, when I imagined them, appeared in different colours to the rest of my story. Does that sound dumb? (It may help to explain that I have a mild form of synaesthesia, and sometimes I see words in colours). They didn’t fit, they looked as if they’d been cut out of something and pasted there…and I knew the canvas where they did belong too – another novel I’d been struggling to make all the pieces fit.

Have I lost you yet? I don’t have visions but I “saw” my book and the colours were wrong. Yeah. Stick with me a minute, okay?

I realised something else, too: every time I thought about my novel (the one I’m trying to rewrite) the same image turned up in my head, not in a loud, intrusive way, just subtly in the background like the ads on websites that we tend to ignore until we accidentally click on them. It was my grade nine English classroom.

What? I hear you say. You clicked on an ad on the internet for your grade nine English classroom?

NO!! I realised that every time I thought about my book, and who I was writing it for, and why I was writing it, I thought about that class. I thought about reading Lord Of The Flies, and how much it had inspired me at age fourteen, not only in the depth but also the simplicity of the story.

True confession: when I was fourteen I was so impressed with Lord Of The Flies that I decided that when I grew up I wanted to write a book that could win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Don’t laugh.

Oh okay. Go ahead. Laugh.

But that was my vision, and it served me well. It made me write, and research and learn the craft of writing. It made me look for stories to tell, and deeper meanings within those stories. That vision, that lofty goal, made me think, made me learn, made me the thinker I am today.

Here’s an interesting thing. Somewhere along the journey I let go of my vision to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, and settled instead for writing a book…maybe that came with realising how hard it was to write a book, let alone a good one. Maybe it came with growing up and realising the silliness of adolescent dreaming. Whatever the reason, the result was that my arrow-sharp focus blunted, widened, in something akin to mock-contentment, and it’s only now I come to realise I lost something in that. It’s like the time my daughter had a go at archery – she didn’t hit the target. She didn’t even hit the hay-bales the target was attached to. Her arrow fell a metre or two short, flat and lifeless on the grass.

If I don’t have a vision – a target – my arrow will land on the grass, and I will think that’s okay. If I don’t have a target I won’t have the determination and drive to go get my arrow again and strengthen my muscles and my pull until my arrow DOES reach the hay-bales, and, eventually, even the target.

I’m glad I’ve found my vision again. It’s helped me hone down the knowledge of exactly what I want from my story, and what I want for my readers. It’s helped me sift through the mass of story to find the questions that gnaw at me, and will hopefully gnaw at my readers, too. And so, proudly, I’ll stand before you today and say (with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek), “Hi, my name is Megan, and my goal is to win the Nobel Prize for Literature!”

Can you see my smile? I won’t be at all disappointed if I never achieve such a crazy goal, but the fact that such a goal exists is already helping me. And, with any luck, if I keep working hard towards my lofty goal, maybe one day my book will land short, on the desks of a student in my old grade nine English class, and maybe they will be inspired to a lofty vision of their own.

 

 

Holy Flamin’ Mandarins Batman! Ain’t That The Truth!

Sometimes, have you ever noticed, our personal truths are so odd, so out there, that we hold them tight in our hands in an odd mix of wonder and fear. Sometimes our truths are hard to talk about. Even though we know them to be true we know that they fall so far outside people’s expectation that we’re afraid we won’t be believed. So we don’t talk. We hold them tightly to our chests and gently hope them soon buried.

Here is a truth from my life, one that is so strange I found it exceedingly hard to believe: when we were in the Canadian Rockies last October we drove past a truck full of mandarins that had caught fire.

Yes. The truth. I know. Weird, isn;t it? For one thing, when has anybody ever seen a flaming mandarin truck, and for another thing, what on earth was a truck full of mandarins doing driving in the Canadian Rockies?

But it’s the truth.

I have the photos to prove it. Sure, they’re not the best–we were driving past this thing at 80 miles an hour–but still:Mandarins in the Canadian Rockies

We talked about this a lot amongst ourselves, but after a while we stopped. We didn’t share it, even though it was the truth, and no amount of wondering why such a strange occurrence could happen would answer our questions. Sometimes you need to learn to live with contradictions.

The other day my aunt and uncle came to visit. I hadn’t seen them for a long time, and we got to talking about our trip, and showing them photos of the things we did and the places we saw. And lo and behold, up on the computer came the photo of the smouldering mandarins, and we told our story and expressed our incredulity at this our odd and incomprehensible truth.

“Oh yes”, my auntie said, not at all perturbed by such a strange sight. “The oil in mandarin skins is highly flammable. My mum used to keep them and dry them and use them to light the fire.”

We stared, open-mouthed, at her for a minute. Our strange truth was believed, and, not only that, it had a reason. What we couldn’t comprehend was comprehensible to someone.

I’ve thought a lot about that mandarin truck again since that day, and allowed the truth to seep deep down into my story, allowed the strangeness to become normal. In that process I’ve been reminded of other truths I’ve held close to my chest, things that have been too personal and too odd for me to ever talk about, and how other people’s stories have helped me recognise the truth of my own, have validated them, justified them. I remember movies I’ve seen, books I’ve read, that express uncomfortable truths I thought were known only to me, and how those books, those movies, have made me feel less alone.

So this, my friends, is the story of my mandarin truck, and my reminder to you, and to myself, of why it’s always important to tell, to read, and to listen to, stories.

 

The Story-tellers

When I was a little girl I went to a story-telling church. They did other things as well, like waved hankies at the hanky song, and played timbrels with all those lovely ribbons, and had bibles with stick-man pictures in them that a smiley man handed out at the door, and collected back up again at the door afterwards. There was a cross, and a table thing with a red velvet tablecloth on it, and probably some preaching as well, but I didn’t have much time for that kind of grown-up stuff. I’d stuff some coloured pencils in my little shoulder bag, and a notebook, so I could draw pictures during the boring bits.

One thing that bemused me about my church though, more so than the timbrels and the fact that the grown-ups had pictures in their bibles, was the Storytelling Bit. I didn’t know if all churches had a Storytelling Bit, but mine did. People stood up in their chairs, and occasionally the preacher would invite them to come up the front and stand near the red velvet table, and they’d say all this random stuff. I always listened to the stories. I liked stories.

Sometimes though…sometimes I swear those people had no idea how to tell a story. They’d get up there and they’d say all about their drinking, and how hard it was to stop, and then their kids stopped calling, and yada yada, and I’d get to thinking “this person has no clue what’s interesting and what’s not”, and then they’d finish with a “but Jesus saved me”, and we’d all have to clap and stuff, even if the story wasn’t very good. A lot of them weren’t. “I couldn’t find my keys, and then I moved my hat and there they were.” Where’s the tension in that? Where’s the drama? “My cat died, and then my aunt gave me another one.” Yeah okay, so I cared about that one. “I used to beat my wife and then this one day I met Brother Peter here and…” Oh boy. Ho hum. Don’t you people know anything about storytelling? Still, everybody clapped like it was the best thing they’d ever heard, and patted the storytellers on the back when they sat down.

I must have been about eight years old when I decided I’d had enough; decided that I could tell a story every bit as well as these people, and maybe I was old enough to put MY hand up in church too. I knew I could do it. I could add life! Drama! Adventure! Mystery! Fantasy! Imagination! And so I did. I knew these stories had to be in the first person (like, you had to say “I did…” not “she did…”, and I had this neat little tie-in about that dude in the bible who had a dream of a ladder with angels going up to Heaven, so it was a good church story even. I imagined it all up as I went, about me waking up in the night and going outside, maybe sleepwalking, and seeing that gate out the side of our house with angels doing loop-the-loops, and how then I realised I wasn’t walking, and that maybe I could do what the angels were doing too, and…

I didn’t get a big clap like I’d expected at the end, when I sat down, which surprised me. I was so proud. I thought maybe they hadn’t liked the ending, or that I hadn’t resolved it as well as I could have. The minister said thank you in a kind of tight voice, and asked if anybody else had anything they wanted to share. I kind of wondered if I’d goofed it, or missed the mark somewhere. I didn’t ever tell stories in church after that, I just clapped politely when I needed to, and went back to my colouring pencils and my drawing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday. That makes today, in the traditional church, Maundy Thursday, and the beginning of the Easter period. Or something like that. I’m sure I’ll be corrected. I love Easter. It reminds me of all the stories, the real stories, of my own life, of the stories I really could raise my hand in church for and say “…but Jesus saved me!”. It’s a time to reflect on what we do it for, the whole chocolate egg and four-day-weekend thing. The whole of Easter, the whole point of the Jesus thing really, is found in storytelling. Jesus told stories, and then, after his death and resurrection, his disciples told stories. That’s why I’m sitting here today, because of those stories.

Happy Easter, my friends. If you find yourself in church this weekend, listen out for the storytellers.

P.S. My friend Patti has been blogging her way through the weeks leading up to Easter by unpacking some of the stuff in the Bible. Her insights are fascinating, and she knows a lot of the historical/cultural details that I’ve not known before. Her blogs are worth a read. In one of her recent comments said this: “The disciples and the lives they led after the resurrection are the the best evidence that it did indeed happen. Before the resurrection, they were hiding away. Afterward, they were fearless, and eleven of them faced martyrdom. Would you do that for a man who came, filled you will hope and promises, and then just died. No! The disciples were changed when they saw their risen Lord.” I’d not thought of it like that before. These are stories that, unlike my little eight-year-old offering, make a difference.

 

 

Quiet.

I’ve been quiet on this blog of late. I’ve been quiet on Facebook as well, and in emails to people. It’s been nice, strange at first, but not unpleasant. Best of all it’s helped me evaluate my life on social media, who I’m talking to, and why. What am I saying? Why? Is it important? Are things more important that I’ve been ignoring?

Probably. It tends to be the way of things.

But…

I joined Instagram the other day. I don’t know why. A lot of my friends’ posts on Facebook were from there, and I guess I wanted to see what it was all about. It was fun. Photos. It’s about photos, and millions of them. Within a couple of minutes I’d signed up to follow all my Facebook friends on Instagram, and it was nice to see familar faces, new pictures, new stories. It felt funny though, like I’d walked, while snuggling on my couch, into a mad fray of traffic that I would now need to keep up with, and a new market place where I would need to shout to be heard. In that evening quiet I felt like I was shouting again, felt like I was running again; like the noise of a potential million people was suddenly crowding at my smartphone and demanding to be let in. Follow Me! Look at ME! ME! ME! MEEEEE!!

I nearly unsubscribed again. And no my friends, before you ask, it was not your photo of the cute cat that made me feel like that, or that lovely dinner, or the slightly lopsided tree in the park. They were lovely. Your photos are lovely, as are all of you. It was just the volume, really, interrupting my quiet, and, probably most of all, the feeling that I should be adding to it; that I NEEDED to be adding to it in order to be a social being, a social media entity.

Know what I mean? Have you ever felt that, or is it just me? I post, therefore I am.

I’m not ashamed to admit that thought. I know where it started, where the whole Facebook love thing started for me. Introvert in a noisy world. Taught to wait my turn to speak. Know the value of listening to others. Babies in arms, and in nappies. Little sleep. Social media became, for me, a way to be heard, a way to remember, and to remind others, that I do have a voice, and thoughts, and to not pass me by unacknowledged. I’m so grateful for the opportunities to be heard that social media has afforded me, and the friends I’ve made because of it. I’ve considered deleting my accounts from time to time, but always come back to the thought that the good outweighs the bad.

The plum trees outside my window are losing their leaves, and there’s a chill in the morning air that hasn’t been there for many months. Soon we’ll need to stock up on firewood, and pull the heaters out of the cupboards. Seasons change. Autumn is reminding my garden to hunker down for Winter, and I’m doing it too. I feel like my leaves are falling; like I’m stripping away everything but the essentials for a season, to pull in quietly and focus on building the things that are important to me: my family, my home, rewriting my book. Eating soup, keeping warm. It’s a season.

Shhhh. Can’t you hear that gentle hum? Isn’t it nice when things are quiet?

Some food for thought: a couple of articles on social media trends: http://theundercoverrecruiter.com/social-network-overload-info/  http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/the-exchange/social-network-overload-may-be-setting-in-sooner-than-expected-162341702.html

Facing Down Your Fears

When I was a little kid, probably less than four years old–definitely before I started school–some things happened, incidents that defined who I was for decades to come.

The first one looked a little like this:

Source: Wikimedia commons

Source: Wikimedia commons

My neighbour’s dog. Big. Bigger than me. Brown and black, like a huntsman spider, with teeth almost longer than my fingers. Rumoured to be hungry. Rumoured, even, to be hungry for little children! I only saw him a few times, but those times…those teeth…were enough.

The second one was more than a rumour. The second one had a name. It’s name was Snuff, and he was black as night, with a nose pushed back into his skull as if he’d spent his life ramming his snout into the doors of terrified children.

Source: Wikimedia commons

Source: Wikimedia commons

He also had teeth. And legs…long legs, that put his funny squished snout and razor teeth right in line with my chest, long legs that could run faster than my little four-year-old ones, legs that carried those razor teeth almost right up to me, and I just managed to make it inside my front door, screaming, before he tore me to shreds.

I am not joking. My mum looked at him, and she said “Garn!”* in that scary Garning Mummy-voice reserved for scary dogs, and he garned back over the road again and back to his house.

By the time I started school I knew one thing: Dogs were scary.

(I should tell you: a dog lived at my house too, but she was basically some kind of small golden doormat, and I paid her about as much attention as I paid my dad’s work bag, or the washing machine. Not a cat, therefore not interesting.)

There was a third incident too, about the time I was six years old. It was night, or at least evening, in the Winter dark. My mum was walking a couple of friends and I home, and all of a sudden I heard my friend scream…a dog had bitten her in the dark. A small one, all pointy ears and yap yapping, and…teeth. Dark was not safe. The streets were not safe. Not even Mothers Who Garn could protect us from Dogs With Teeth. The truth was out there.

See? Teeth. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

See? Teeth. (Source: Wikimedia commons)

One thing about me: I’m good at working through fears…or, at least, around them. i learned where all the dogs in my neighbourhood were, and I conscientiously avoided them. I’d hear a bark behind a fence and I’d cross the road. No big deal. See? I’m not afraid of fences that bark, or gates with snarling snouts beneath them, I’m just choosing to change my view. I got me a good Garn voice, and I practiced it, loudly, on all the dogs that would dare enter my presence.

And then we got Teddy.

Our dog Teddy.

Our dog Teddy. Also known as “Our Other Cat”.

The thing about having a dog, I’ve discovered, is that they need to be walked. I like this. I love walking. But the thing about walking with a dog is this: they attract other dogs.

Seriously! Streets I have walked in peace for years are now teeming with barks and snuffles and snouts pressed under gates, yips and yaps and teeth…oh the teeth! Not only this, there are dog-walking areas close to us, places where you can take your dog’s leash off and let it have a run around and sniff a few other dog’s butts for a while, while taking in a bit of fresh air and some pleasant scenery. Dogs. Run. At. Me. Here. Big dogs. Black and brown huntsman-spider-coloured dogs. Dogs with teeth. Big dogs, with big teeth, dogs so big that even now they almost come up to my chest…or at least my butt…or…

You know what? I don’t even need to use my Garn voice. I’m not afraid any more.

Yesterday this big dog, this big brown dog with teeth, came right up to me on the path and just stood there, waiting for me to pat it. Just like that. It was smooth-haired, and kind of soft, and it looked up at me with these big happy eyes above it’s teeth, tongue lolling out, just kind of happy to be here, and to be walking, and happy to be patted by me.

I know now that some dogs ARE dangerous, and I need to be careful, and dogs that are allowed by their owners to be off-leash in an area like that probably aren’t. I know now that dogs like to play, and that the vicious snarling black monster that chased me to my front door was possibly only running because I was. I know now that just because I’ve been afraid of something all my life doesn’t mean I need to live my life permanently in fear, but I can follow the example of others, maybe take a few risks, step out a little. Maybe there’s a lot of things I’ve been afraid of that I don’t need to be any more.

Excuse me a minute folks, I’m gonna go Garn me a huntsman spider.

*For anyone without an Aussie accent you may want to translate that as “Go on!”, or perhaps as “Out, vicious snarling dog! Rid the street of thy foul canine presence!”. She didn’t say that though, she said “Garn!”