This is where I jump.

I don’t mean the scary jump, the one where everything stops, the one that tends to be off something. No, this jump is an ‘into’, and sort of adventurous when you’re a practising hermit. I’ll get to the jumping part, but I need to ramble away from it first, before I can take a run up…

It’s silly really, but I think the reason I don’t exercise is that it helps me think. I know that’s supposed to be a good thing, one of the wonderful things about keeping fit and active and all that, but it’s always a pain in the arse. I don’t need to think more, I think quite a lot already. I think when I should be sleeping, I think when I should be working (about things other than working, obviously), and I think when I should be listening. My brain distracts me at every turn.

The thing with exercise, is that it does a lovely job of clearing my head for creativity. It may be the best way for me to think of the best things, the new things to add to my list of things that need writing or exploring or adding to other things. Every time I head out to exercise I kick myself for not bringing a pen and notebook with me, because I always need them, but who goes out for a brisk walk with their notebook? Hardly anyone I’ve ever seen. I could whip out my phone and speak it into the voice recorder, but there’s something that scares me about verbalising those ideas before I’ve had a chance to jot them down – the air takes a bit of the original sparkle before you can get home and listen back to what now seems like a silly idea, especially as the noises of real life in the background conspire against it. That is, of course, if I even remember that I’ve recorded something in the first place. Often, the new thing, the sparkling idea is kept and lost at the very same time. There are a lot of audio files on my phone that haven’t been heard.

Were I to exercise every day, as I no doubt should, the backlog would be ridiculous. I have quite a few things on the go already, and while I’ll never send an idea away, I hate to have one I like that I won’t give time to. I had a great idea for a… something, maybe a short story today while walking, and I have not the time for it. And it’s a flippin’ good one too, a love story, and I almost never write those. It’d be just as mad as all my other things, but that’s what would make it mine. I hope I remember to remember it later.

See, here’s the jump I mentioned – I was brave and reached out for some help with a project, my novella Blue in the Red House. I’m extremely happy to report that I am working with a mentor, a writer I am coming to admire very much (hi Isabel!), and though we’ve only chatted once over skype, and I can already see the frayed thread-ends where my story might have been pulled too tight on the loom. It’s an intensely strange and symbolic landscape I’m expecting people to traverse, dense with all kinds of madness and sense, and they at least deserve a handrail, or a safety net.

So I jump now. I devote time to something that I would have decided was finished (which I suppose it is, to a degree, without being finished at all), and I finish finishing it so that other people might one day be able to start it. I can’t do that if I go out walking in ideas every day! No, what I need is more coffee, less walking, and perhaps a copy of Scrivener if I can find it on sale. Now is when I try to be organised, try and make something excellent out of something good.

So this was my ramble, my little prayer offered up to guilt and whatnot at finally giving time to this writing thing, time that is usually used for ‘important’ things like laundry and cooking and working and mothering. And exercise.

Jumping is exercise, though.

 

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Just a wee haiku…

I was magic once
The assistant with all the
Breaks in breath and joint.

(When I was 19 I went to Nepal for 5 weeks, and I was a magician’s assistant. It seems like a dream now, but it really did happen. The snatches of memory sort of fill the corners of me that crumble when I’m sad.)

Rebel Without a Stim…

I’m still not smoking. I’ve managed to get to day 5, and I feel good. I’m not in tormented agony like I was the first day, and I don’t think I’m having any scary cravings. They don’t feel scary anyway, they feel like momentary de ja vu, which is weird, but I can move past it. I am not about to flood my keyboard with tears like I was on day one, and I am not shaking or swearing at people. I do not wish to spend the day in my bed, curtains closed, staring at the wall. This is a vast improvement.

The reason I think this has been easier than I thought, is because I worked out why I was smoking.

I was addicted, that is absolutely true, so let’s get that out of the way immediately. Yes, smoking is addictive, and nicotine is a right shit, and yes it is a super hard addiction to break. I shook, and raved, and cried and all sorts because I was very addicted. Now the nicotine is gone, and so I really shouldn’t want it. I shouldn’t want to smoke, because it’s simple addiction, right?

Wrong.

Smoking is an addiction, but lord fucking help you if it is also a stim. I found a friend to help me with my stim needs though, and its name is Sparky.

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Sparky is one of those insufferably ‘hipster’ (groan) vaping things, and Sparky has saved my life. Sparky is an Aspire K3, and it is wonderful, because I am am still doing the thing that soothed me. Smoking was a stim for me, and this is a non-killing-myself way to do it. When I feel like a smoke, I have a vape instead, and it tastes like mild tobacco and blackcurrant, which is rather pleasant, and it contains no nicotine or nasty things.

When I started smoking, properly, when I was 15 years old, smoking was a double-stim – it worked as a social thing, and as a calming way to escape when I wanted to be alone. Smoking is the ultimate, all-purpose stim for autistic people. Well, it was for me.

When you first start, as a teenager, smoking is bad and cool. You are a rebel, possibly a loner, but you are cool, and you’re a bad ass who doesn’t follow the rules. Yes, this is daft, and also not true at all (especially if you’re a quiet book nerd whose nickname is the ‘walking dictionary’). It sort of works though. It does. Or it did. People might think you’re weird, but if you smoke, you have an element of cool. In the 90s this was true at least, and loads of earlier decades, and probably some to come.

It’s a thing too, a thing to be part of. You ‘go out’ for a smoke at bars now, and there’s a ready-made group of people who are also suffering from nicotine addition, but also quite cool and rather indignant about having to go outside. Complaining as a group is sort of fun. Especially while smoking. Fuck the man and his rules, man! We have each other’s backs, though they may not be long for this world.

People will ask you for a smoke too, and you get to be the answer to their predicament. Or you might meet someone at a thing and they might say, ‘you want a smoke?’, and you would say, ‘yeah sure’ because that is a way to meet people, and you are probably very shit at meeting people (if you are like me, and I’m sorry if you are). You are very much part of people that way, but part of the un-people, the people who do the things that logic says no to, or whatever. You are people, even for a couple of minutes, but you’re part of the ‘other side’, which is the same thing that makes people get all silly over Darth Vader or The Joker, because sometimes fucked up is very attractive.

Then there’s the other stim about smoking – getting to leave a room of people, or just one person, that you find hard to deal with to go and smoke. This is an understandable thing. You are an addict, and they feel ok about you going away to smoke because you are an addict, but you are a kind addict who doesn’t want to get their addict stink on non-smokers. You are so nice! And also, you are so outta there. That is the fucking best. It is also the worst because those numpties are very judge-y while you spare their lungs and their soft furnishings, but it is still THE BEST because LESS NUMPTIES.

I really like the ‘leaving the room’ part, that was always my fave. That is the time I get to be alone, I get to regroup, I get to be separate. That is a nice break.

I put smoking on like a hat, to begin with, if I’m really honest. All my favourite people, who weren’t real but were because they were in books, they all smoked. If I wanted to write, and not just a wee bit, but actually BE a writer, then smoking was going to be one of my things. And it was. It still is, but I just don’t do it. I admire it, how lovely it looks, how nice I think it smells, and how moody it makes me when I write. I will miss it, there’s no denying that.

So now, I treat ol’ Sparky like a smoke. It is a way to hang with the smokers because I still feel weird about breathing out visibly in a room, and it is a way to be on my own, to relax. I can’t leave that stim yet, and I don’t know that I will. It makes me feel better, and now that it isn’t slowly killing me, I think I can do it without fear, and hopefully without judgement.

It has been 5 days, and I feel ok.

Smoke and punctuation…

Today I have begun an attempt to give up smoking. It has been almost six hours since I have had a smoke. This is not long, but I feel as though the back of my head is missing, and everything is coming out. There is no focus, and there is fizzy focus.

When I am on a long haul flight, dodging wayward elbows and the sharp corners of the drinks trolley as it passes by, I don’t think about smoking. I know that I can’t so I don’t think about it, I simply zone out, watching the tiny little plane on the tiny little screen move ever so slowly between the tiny little dots, and I am free from the cravings.

Now, today, this is not how I am feeling at all. Today, which has all the hallmarks of a day that could be lovely – sun, warmth, new starts etc. – is fucked, and I am on the verge of tears because I can smoke, and I am choosing not to, and why would I do that?

I think, and this is just a theory that could be quite wrong, that my autistic brain and its dislike of major change is having a very hard time with this. The nicotine thing is obviously a thing (look at me doing eloquent so well), but it is the punctuation of my day that seems to be making this harder than it should be.

I structure my day in certain ways, always have. After I do a thing, I pause, and then I do another thing. There has to be a pause, and that pause was always a cigarette. A smoke is a 3-5 minute pause, useful for timing and organising your days in a tangible way.

After I get up and make the  kids’ breakfast I have a coffee and a smoke – I did today, but I won’t tomorrow.

After I make my second coffee, I have a smoke – I did today, but I won’t tomorrow.

After I do the dishes, I have a smoke – not today.

After I hang out the washing I have a smoke – not today.

I would not go outside on purpose if it weren’t for smoking and laundry, and maybe to check the mail, although I have forced myself to do it today, just so my routine doesn’t feel totally fucked.

But my routine is completely fucked. My husband has come home from work, and I was trying to explain that I’d had a bad day with stopping smoking, and that I’d felt like crying all day for some daft reason, except I just ended up blubbering and crying, and now I’m welling up again.

I walk into the kitchen and instinctively reach for my filters and papers. The physical memory of the habit means that when I sit outside I have my lighter in my hand before I even realise what I’m doing.

I need to remake my days, my routine. I need to do it for the sake of my poor, stinging eyes and my weary head. Without the punctuation of a cigarette I am quickly losing focus, and I can’t have that. I need to punctuate my day with something else…

Six hours, twenty-three minutes…

 

 

 

Still not finished at the start…

I started writing this flippin’ ages ago, and never did finish it really. I don’t suppose i can finish it until I finish the story in real life…

 

‘I murdered a snail last night. I knew, as my boot lifted in the night air and came down with the weight of me, the weight of consequences, of my umpteenth journey to the beer fridge, that something would die.

 

There was a crunch, but it didn’t stop me. I strode further into the cold and on to the shed. I felt bad though, I really did. I felt guilty that my progression, which was actually regression, was blazing a trail through the garden with no care at all for tiny things that matter. All I did was say ‘fuck’, and continue on to the cold box of numb with the bottles in it.

 

What do you do when the map of yourself kills in the plotting? Do you send a sorry to the air and hope that it rides breezes and zephyrs until it finds the right ears? Maybe I should have gone back out to the garden and collected all the small things of consequence, taken them inside by the fire and tended their wounds, put them in the mending pile and darned them one by one, a little heap of fuzzily patched maybes waiting for the door to open back onto their world.

 

Nature and I spark though, so that would never have worked. Things that just are don’t mix with things that are trying to be, and soon beside the fire would have been inside the fire, and we would all burn together.

 

That’s the kind of together they don’t tell you about, the one where you try to melt into the way of things and the flames take it all anyway because your elements are not elementary. And you don’t even feel warm when it’s happening. That might be the contents of the bottles doing their work, though.

 

They’d done their work well, much like they do on any given day, and the ones not given. Drowned from inside, the bubbles enough to lift the weight from my head, but not enough to lift the tiny corpse of whatever I’ve killed on my way there.

 

I can rise to the top of it; slowly rise up through the goo, the smashed walls, and see the outside. That’s what happens when you carry your house on your back, when you take your comfort with you everywhere you go. One ill-timed step from the body next to you, and the sticky ooze of the inside is choking your outside, cracked shell digging at your foundations and sticking between ribs.

 

It’s hard to breathe, and the bubbles are the only air going, the only breath that stays where you put it until you need it. Little bursts and flashes of breath and fire put out as soon as swigged, and a trail of bones behind them as they go, pale confetti for a celebration that died before it lived…’

The Robinson File…

This a piece I wrote for a wonderful event earlier this year, that involved a group of fellow disabled performers that I heart with all of mine… the formidable Quippings troupe.

 

 

The Robinson File

Night falls and the world is ours for a fucking change.

You think it’s the shadows that draw us out,

The dark thud of the damned-to-side-eyes-from-strangers,

But the light hides more than it shows.

We are here now,

And it’s a gift we got for ourselves, this being visible,

Not a care for the cost.

We chucked the receipt because there is NO taking this back for one that fits.

The warranty is breath,

Exhaling our normal into your normal,

We make the air so normal it defies usual,

It flies unusual flags.

I have no use for usual,

And nor should you.

 

Maybe the light was the mask the whole time,

Maybe what you thought you saw,

Well maybe what you thought was wrong.

Maybe the light was in your eyes and you didn’t listen,

Maybe your senses aren’t as keen as you were led to believe.

 

Maybe you’re broken.

Did you think of that?

In this best-world, all is broken-not-fixed-don’t-want-to-be-anyway,

And knows so and loves so and does so.

 

The two distinct ingredients for a proper, crippled utopia,

Are drunkenness and filing.

We’ll need a torch,

Because it will always be night,

There will always be shadows if we need them,

But we will bring our own light,

To peer into drawers of true-lies-true.

 

We’ll all be down-soft filing cabinets,

Skeletons of character in the joinery,

In the revelry.

We will leaf through intentions,

What people mean to say but don’t,

How they feel and what they think and what they drink.

No decoding the words of all the mouths of all the faces of all the hearts,

No accent or dialect or words-mismatched-with-expression,

I will send someone off for the Robinson file,

And I will know what Robinson means,

Robinson and I will doff our hats to each other,

There will be no misunderstandings.

 

Robinson and I will go to the pub together because there are no misunderstandings,

There will be drinks,

Words and thinks,

Files growing fuller and wider and into the skies you think we don’t know about.

 

Cabinet keys fall between knees,

Under feet,

Under wheels,

Pepper streets,

Hobble the cobbles and stick in the cracks,

Crunchily complaining that it should all be locked away,

Only the light of day should see this glow,

So it can swallow it whole,

But there’s no need for word-masks now for these souls,

Their ghouls are resting in the rims of pint glasses,

Finally at rest,

Using their best,

For loving instead of haunting.

 

Robinson and I,

Cordially invite you,

To drop your key,

Lose it in the street,

Glitter up the gutters with them.

 

We meet at every pub,

On every street,

In every lounge,

The smallest town and the vast cities of gold.

You can’t be late even if you try,

Just be there,

Turn off the lights,

And get me the Robinson file.

 

There will be no misunderstandings.

Saturday the 3rd of September…

Saturday the 3rd of September, which is some time ago now, was grand, and I was all fizzy after Steve Silberman’s talk and meeting him. He said so many things that are important, things that I want the world to hear, and I was in awe half the time, the other half nodding my head wildly in agreement.

The friend I went to the talk with and I went to the pub after, and ended up sitting with a group of young ‘mover and shaker’ writers – bright young things who are very involved in the literary world.

It was a bit daunting. The more I listened (and tried to add to the conversation), the more I got confused. The things they were saying weren’t confusing so much, it was just that I couldn’t fathom the connections they made between topics, or the way they formulated the grand thoughts they expressed. They had an easy give and take, a simple, almost natural way of expressing complex ideas, and I was just a little bit jealous.

Ok, I was really fucking jealous. For the briefest of moments, I wished my brain would do that too.

I suppose I suddenly saw how limited I am in my scope of thought sometimes, and that I find it hard to combine multiple spheres of influence into one coherent idea.

I don’t know if I’m even explaining it well now. It felt as though I know a LOT of things about a LOT of things, but that applying them to the world is not my expertise. I couldn’t add anything, and I felt slow and cumbersome in the head. That wasn’t them making me feel that way – it was me being out of my depth.

 

To one day tread water in the company of such intelligent, expressive people, well that seems very far off, but I would like to try it again. One day.

 

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