Last Saturday night, I celebrated my cousin Nathan Dunkling’s 21st birthday at The Comic’s Lounge in North Melbourne. Social gatherings like birthday parties can often be huge anxiety triggers for me but somehow my anxiety was under control tonight even being in a large group of people and inside a crowded live comedy venue. Yes it filled up very quickly which meant that the volume levels of conversation gradually rose up and it was very difficult to hear what was going on even at my own table.
Some of Nathan’s friends were sitting at my table and so it was hard for me to engage in conversation with them. Thankfully I had a solution to this, pulling out my phone and playing Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery to curb my boredom levels before the show actually began. Some people might pull out the “anti-social” card but I really don’t care as I see it as a coping mechanism and way of feeling comfortable when I can’t connect with the people around me. Plus waiting for our meals did take a long time so I didn’t have much else to do.
Finally around 8.15pm, the MC for the evening Josh Earl began his comedy routine whilst I began chowing away at my entree, salt and pepper calarami. I also ordered an Atlantic salmon for mains which was really delicious. There were four comedians in total including an American lady named Eve, an Australian named Claire and the main headliner Dave Thornton. Honestly it was a very hit and miss affair for me. Plus I felt like there were too many breaks in between and it seemed to stretch the night out a bit too late for me (We were there for over 4 hours).
Admittedly, some jokes simply soared over my head perhaps because I missed the context of what they were talking about. Others I basically didn’t find funny at all. It’s not to say that I don’t have a sense of humour, more I can only stomach so many jokes related to Sex – poo, dicks, vaginas, masturbation, circumcision, vasectomies. Religion – Jewish people. Christian people, believing in God. Children – dealing with being a parent, being able to handle kids, changing nappies. I’ve pretty much heard it all. I think a lot of it depends on the delivery of the joke too. If it’s too forced, I’m most likely not going to laugh at it. Still it was an enjoyable night out and good value for money.
On Sunday morning, we checked out of our hotel room at Best Western Melbourne City Hotel – Formerly Pensione Hotel and had breakfast downstairs at Oliver’s. Then we drove down to St. Kilda to visit the Esplanade Market and walked along the pier. Even though the air was fairly cold, eventually the sun broke through the overcast clouds and it become a lovely morning to check out the scenic views. I do get a little nervous when it comes to passing by stalls in a market which some sellers trying really hard to get my to buy something but it’s nice just having a browse and watching the people walking their dogs along the footpath.
On Monday morning, I had an appointment with my support worker Seb at Jamaica Blue Cranbourne. A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling pretty conflicted and disheartened about the service Mentis Assist was providing to me. There was a lot of being messed around with lack of communication and no confirmations being made over the past few weeks besides having one fill in support worker. Everything felt like it was in limbo. I sent a text message to Seb yesterday but I had no idea if he would even turn up today.
Eventually he did reply and things got back on track again today. What was alarming to me though was the fact that he wasn’t informed about what was happening with me over the past few weeks. Nobody at Mentis Assist told him that a replacement support worker would be organised for me or that my appointment would be switched to Tuesday afternoon. It was almost enough for me to pull the plug but honestly none of this is Seb’s fault, just the broken system that had left me hanging.
On Monday afternoon, I had my second last Creative Writing class at Balla Balla Community Centre in Cranbourne East. I have to admit that I was stuck in a rut of sorts after the last class and really struggled on the previous homework task of coming up with five different endings to a short story I began in Week 3. I was feeling a little uncertain about what I’d come up with but at least I gave it a go.
ENDINGS HOMEWORK EXERCISE
Ryan is determined to escape the trappings of his old life and even in these dire circumstances, he will make it to Fiji one way or another.
Ryan decides to build friendships with the locals in New Caledonia and eventually settles there.
Ryan sends a distress call back home to Australia in order to be saved from the ordeal he has been through. He managed to escape the plane crash with only minor injuries, however it has had a major impact on him psychologically. He makes contact with a counselor to find strategies to overcome his trauma.
Ryan ends up in a local hospital wired up to machines – life support, oxygen, heart rate monitor. The experience of the plane crash was too much for him and has taken a tool on him physically as well as mentally and emotionally.
Upon landing in New Caledonia, Ryan ends up getting himself captured by a tribe of warriors, clad with wooden spears and shields, deep inside the bushland. Will he manage to survive?
During today’s class, we looked into scenes vs. chapters, improving your draft, killing off your darlings and the habits of successful authors. Scenes are more complicated and more important than chapters. They are very specific building blocks within your story. They also need tension and conflict. Each scene can be divided into two parts: ACTION (Goal, conflict, disaster) and REACTION (Reaction, dilemma, decision).
Chapters are arbitrary divisions within a book. They impose order and create a certain sense of structure. Chapter breaks are more about pacing and must be placed strategically. They leave readers with a question or a reason to know more. Scene structure has nothing to do with chapter breaks.
Improving your draft. Your first draft is the writing equivalent of running a marathon. You need to take a step back, question the structure and the characters, ask whether all the characters want the same thing, does the story contain enough conflict. After draft two and beyond, you need to be a little more critical with your work. Hire a professional editor and get your manuscript copy edited. Then finally have the manuscript proof read.
Killing off your darlings. Cut out any elements that doesn’t serve to further the work as a whole, in order to enhance the story. Darlings can be words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs or characters. The main benefits of killing off your darlings are: it strengthens your characters and plot, improves the overall quality of your writing and refines your self discipline. Things to cut: weak characters, extraneous plot lines, backstory and prologues.
The habits of successful authors include write everyday, finish your stories, learn the rules, break the rules, create their own inspiration, don’t slack off on the hard stuff, follow their hearts and not the market, develop a thick skin, set their stories free, love what they do, write with joy and embrace fragments of writing.
On Monday night, I went to my Boxing small group fitness class with CinFull Fitness. Tonight was a very small group with just myself, Rodney Sack and Ben Milton. We each got our measurements taken before we actually started. It’s been something of a fleeting thought for me, particularly the scales and weighing myself. It’s not longer been an unhealthy obsession. In fact, I hardly ever weigh myself at all these days. I used to get really fixated on THE NUMBER but now I’m able to let it go more easily considering it’s not a true representation of how “fat” or “overweight” I am. There are so many other factors that go into it like muscle mass and water weight.
Tonight’s class consisted of drills and partner work, push ups, plank holds, ground and pounds, sit up punches, V-ups, Russian twists, star jumps, walking lunges and squat holds.
Being paired up with a hard-hitter like Rodney certainly got me out of my comfort zone. I was a little nervous about not being able to handle it (and be accidentally punched in the face) but I wasn’t going to let that fear stop me. I needed to release all of those negative labels that have been given to me in the past (weak, slow, incapable, incompetent, useless, a loser). I’m not any of those things. Sometimes I really do surprise myself in being able to overcome a struggle such as physical fatigue or being out of breath. I know that I’m not as fit as some of the others but that fact shouldn’t stop me from participating in the class.
On Wednesday morning, I attended the funeral of Rita Hartney at Tobin Brothers in Berwick. I knew Rita from a few years ago when she began hosting her radio program Hot Topics With Rita at Casey Radio – 97.7FM as well as her motivational talks and appearances at places such as Balla Balla Community Centre and U3A Cranbourne. She also ran a short course called Speaking Before The Public which helped me work on self confidence and oral presentation skills. It was only a few weeks ago that I learned of her decline in health and subsequent passing on Facebook.
After signing the guest book and taking a copy of Rita’s book It’s Time For Women to Take Control, Mum and I made our way into the main service room which was packed with Rita’s family, friends and other guests. We were really lucky to find a couple of spare seats to sit down in. It was a really beautiful service which highlighted the many strengths and achievements that Rita had gained over the years. She really had a significant impact on many people’s lives.
The speeches were both funny and moving, painting Rita as a strong, determined woman trying to make her mark in a male dominated world. The music selection was very fitting as well, reflecting Rita’s colourful and flamboyant personality. Songs included Elvis Presley’s Devil in Disguise and Helen Reddy’s I Am Woman.
Attending someone’s funeral seems to give me a gentle reminder about how precious life truly is. That you really do need to be grateful for what you have and make every moment count. It also forces me to think about my own funeral. Not just the kinds of arrangements that I will have but questions like: Who will be attending? What will I be remembered for? What kind of mark will I leave behind? I never used to be this philosophical about funerals until more recently when I realised how important it is not to let my life go to waste.
On Thursday morning, I decided to take myself off to Casey Smiles Dental Clinic after experiencing more annoying dental pain, this time on the right hand side of my mouth. I was really hoping that the pain would subside with some simply remedies but after having a restless night with this agonizing toothache, it was time to face the music and the dentist once more.
The good news was that I didn’t have to get my x-rays done like last time as they were already on my patient record. It was also easier to explain to Dr. Mohamed where abouts the pain was coming from and not simply guess which tooth it was. He gave me two options: first would be to exact it like last time, which would be easier and more cost effective. The second option was to have a root canal done in order to potentially save the tooth. However, he warned me that he could cost me up to $1500. So obviously I went with option one.
Thankfully the process was a lot quicker this time around. There was a young female dental assistant doing some training and learning about all the different surgical instruments and how to use the suction hose. It provided a nice distraction for me. Dr. Mohamed reminded me to keep breathing as he applied pressure to the decayed tooth. It was over and done with within a few minutes. The anesthesia needle probably hurt more than the actual tooth removal did. Plus it only cost me $160 as it was a basic tooth removal and it didn’t need to be surgically removed like last time.