Category Archives: Telling stories

Beginnings long overdue

It’s been a while. 

I’ve been away. Thinking. Getting counselling. Reading books and columns by authors on topica around growth, development, change, behaviour, abuse, parenting, bravery, and shame. 

Lots of reading. Trying to reevaluate my priorities and needs while I have the luxury (of time) to do so.

These last four months have been perhaps some of the best four months in the last decade of my life, because they’ve granted me the time and space to pause, reflect, and think. To engage in the Socratic method. And the entire time I’ve been supported emotionally and socially by my amazing partner. 

A few months ago I started a sub-diary here, taxonomically speaking, to monitor my alcohol intake. Unlike my daily beard photo (see my instagram feed for more on this), the amount of time and energy required to produce a daily update was more than I could commit to.

But it also raised a point of concern somewhere in the dusty halls of my brain: if I have to keep a daily written log of my alcohol intake, surely that can’t be a good sign?

And I don’t think it was. But it led to a good outcome. But before I explain further, we need to time travel nine years into the past. 

Yes, nine.

A little under a decade ago I received my MA in Communication/Publishing/Some Wierd Mishmash of Stuff from the University of Sydney. 

Upon doing so, I found myself applying for a random TAFE course, and subsequently a graduate diploma in Business Management at the now defuncy Sydney Business Institute. 

During this time I met a woman who I began dating and (depending on who you ask based on acceptence of traditions) became engaged to. (In Russia an engagement ring and its associated baggage is not the standard approach; rather – two people simply agree to get married.)

The relationship ultimately broke down, due to me finally leaving my partner, due to her verbally and emotionally abusive behaviour (though at the time I would not have known to call it that, and would have simply called her “controlling”).

This had some very severe and long-lasting repercussions on my overall well-being. This includes a drinking habit that, while by no means is severe, is consistent. 

I wasn’t the biggest drinker before meeting my (now) ex. Certainly, as someone who had spent nearly a decade in the univetsity system, I was accustomed to the parties and alcohol consumption that went with them. 

But never would I have called my intake consistent. 

But. 

In the aftermath of the relationship’s collapse and the six months of legal insanity that followed (which I will never understand), I went on something of a small bender. 

Eventually, in the wake of an excellent level of therapy from a terrific psychologist, my anxieties and depression calmed and I no longer found myself self-medicating. 

However.

I still enjoyed a good “tipple” as they say here in Kangaroostan. And hardly a day has passed since then when I have not had at least *a* drink. As one friend pointed out: she did not know anyone else who was such a consistent drinker.

Time travelling back to now – the last four months have provided the time and space necessary to look back on the past, think about the present, and wonder about the future.

We’d like to start a family. Buy a place somewhere. Have enough room for all our books and computers and toys. And to raise kids that we hope to try and have be good humans requires us to first and foremost be the kind of people that we feel comfortable having our kids learn from. 

Also: I am on a pretty serious dosage of anti-depressants (75mg of Cymbalta per day). And alcohol can obviously interfere with the effectivity of anti-depressants. 

Therefore, barring a particular special occasion now and then, we’ve decided it is best to cut my consumption of alcohol down to zero.  

As we have identified that my depression and anxiety were genetically inherited from my mother, the sanest and most intelligent approach, in light of all these factors and issues, is to simply bring alcohol consumption to a complete halt (barring, as I mentioned, special occasions). 

And you know what?

I like it. This decision feels *right*. 

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Filed under Drinking habits, Food and Drink, Mental health, Telling stories, Where We Are

The Fog on the Window

The glass in the window is foggy. There are bushes and a street somewhere beyond it, evidence of a world beyond the walls that protect us from the elements – torrential rains and unsettling and powerful gusts of wind.

The apartment feels like a bubble. A pleasant bubble, at least. There are tables, beds, a kitchen, food – even a friendly grey cat. But it is still a bubble. Beyond the bubble, the world has vanished. The only proof of its existence is the occasional burst of noise against the glass panes – of bushes thrashing against the window, and in the spaces between the leaves, a faint, circular glow of a street lamp bleeds through on occasion.

The bubble provides quiet time, a sense of peace; granting us the necessary downtime so desperately needed following two animated days of ping-ponging between assorted locations for company functions and meetings. The world beyond is gone away. The bubble is a luxury. No one expects us. Our time is ours.

Rain and wind sweep through Brisbane’s streets, driving pedestrians off the footpath. Need supersedes desire; must – not whimsy. There is an element of the apocalyptic to it. What might be gone in the morning? A macabre thought to have, surely. Would cats still treat the world as their kingdoms if there is little kingdom left to feign a feline reign upon?

The light of the world will slowly return, the fog will clear away, reality will slowly reassemble.

But for now, we have our bubble.

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Imagine Differently

You may have noticed that of late my social media feeds have been quite active. It’s not without basis or reason. In part, it feels as though, after nearly four years of – what feels like! – an imprisonment of the soul, that I’ve been, well, let loose. 

“But, Ilya, you left your job nearly two months ago”, you might say. And that’s not incorrect. 

But I’m not yet well. Not yet stable.

I’m presently in therapy, to discuss, analyse, understand, and deal with the all too real and serious trauma brought upon by my last job, as well as lingering, older trauma. To become more self-aware of my own bad habits and behaviours. 

But it is a process. And one that needs riding out as the mind heals itself. I’m not there yet. Some days, the desire to address the ills of the world is strong, to rant and rage at the financial and banking sector, to right all the wrongs I witnessed during my time in the finance world. 

Other days, I want to hide from everything, and everyone, due to being unable to deal with social interactions. 

It’s all part of the self-rejiggering process. Rebuilding. Shaving my beard and hair, getting an earring and a tattoo, it’s all part of that process. 

My close friends – my ‘chosen’ family, as I think of them – know of my past mental health struggles, and my emotionally –  and occasionally physically – abusive upbringing, and how that’s been reflected in past relationships, to say nothing of my current non-relationship with my biological parents.

It’s a peculiar process to go through, healing mentally. It’s difficult to know what to expect some days, and it’s different for everyone that goes through therapy. 

So bear with me. After all, you’ve got to start with ‘A New Hope’ if you want to get to ‘The Return of the Jedi’. 

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Filed under Mental health, Telling stories, Where We Are

The Reduced Drink Experience: Day Seven

Monday.

A busy day. An educational day.

Following a stop-in at my local cafe for a cappuccino, I wound my way to Ashfield, to help a friend take care of her 18 month old son (she’d had an operation involving the appendix leaking a bit like a mostly ok but not quite perfect kitchen faucet where the nobs never seem to be tight enough).

I learned a bit about baby poo – which, when it involves diapers, really looks like an accident was perpetrated against a chocolate cake that involved collapsing knees, gravity, and a severe lack of pants.

Following several wonderful hours of taking care of the most adorable 18 month old baby I have ever met, I hightailed it for the city, for trivia training. See, I’m training to become a trivia host. Stuff working in finance – being a trivia host is just a billion times most interesting and rewarding (isn’t hyperbole just the best thing ever?).

Following my bit of the show, I took the time to sit and enjoy a pint of cider with a Russian guy that the host introduced me to. A Russian who grew up in the same city as my father.

And attended the same university as my father.

And studied in the same faculty as my father.

And in all likelihood, probably knows my father.

We spent a bit of time chatting after trivia wrapped up. A pint of cider was followed by a pint of Kosciuszko beer, followed later by one final schooner of Coopers before heading home. (I paced myself, fret not!)

What a tremendously weird and awesome experience though, to meet someone that’s a quarter of a degree removed from my father. And who’s also a Frank Herbert fan too!

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Filed under Drinking habits, Food and Drink, My relentlessly fascinating life, Ruminations and Musings, Telling stories

Wherein Author Begins a Gloriously Stupid Plan

Tomorrow morning I’m going to wake up and not have to go to work because the Queen Has Spoken, and declared that all shall party because it’s her birthday. Mind you, I’m not sure which Queen, nor when a policy of rocking out to her birthday during the work-week was initiated, but I’m honestly not going to complain.

It’s also my thirty-second birthday, which really isn’t that big a deal when you’re a baby-faced monstrosity like me, who has to maintain a beard to keep from getting carded and not be asked if my parents accidentally abandoned me at Toys R Us. But it’s still a birthday, and I’m still going to have to remind myself that I’m not 22, which is what I actually feel like most days.

So I’ve decided that Monday will used as the launching pad for yours truly to begin work on a novel that I’ve long let lie dormant because, well, life put a few fucking crimps into my path (you savvy?). First I was sitting around waiting for the government to decide whether or not it was going to drop-kick me beyond its borders, then moved house, and then I started a new job. Shit got real, yo. Who the hell can write when life’s one giant, angry super-squid trying to pull you down into the murky depths of social and emotional oblivion?

But that’s all better now. There’s stability now. Citizenship looms jovially, with stubby cooler and meat pie on a plate with my name engraved on the rim, sparkling not at all like certain vampires I know under a cloudless mid-day sun. And the new job seems to have become stable, and I’m not moving any time soon.

Which means it’s time to treat this writing thing seriously. And fuck, I’ve already done some preliminary outlining work on the damn thing anyway, so there’s no reason to not commence with Step (writing), so that come June 9 2014, when my lanky Slavic arse is on the precipice of rolling into its 33rd year of vaguely human existence, I’ll be able to say: “Shit yeah, I’ve actually written this novel and gotten it out of my head and can now continue onto the next book”, because there are just so many stories that have built up over time in this little grey-matter nuthouse, and they deserve to be put down on paper so that they can be shared with the poor, unsuspecting populace out there beyond the confines of my skull.

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Filed under My relentlessly fascinating life, Ruminating on fiction, Telling stories

Nice Weather For Words

Two weeks. That’s how long it took me to feel like I knew how to do my job.

Well…just under two weeks, really. That’s how long it took me to become accustomed to the many quirks, procedures, rules, demands, and oddities involved in my new job. It’s stopped being terrifying, and has instead become immensely satisfying, and something to which I look forward each morning. But never mind all that, because I get to wear a suit to work, and that’s cool.

But really, it’s quite the lovely job. The responsibilities are varied, and complicated. And each day is full of variety. Oh, and the salary’s not too bad either.

Did I mention that I get to wear a suit to work? Suits are cool.

The workaholic in me loves it. Long hours, funny co-workers, nice perks, funny co-workers, and more potential for career-development.

Publishing’s a cool biz, folks. Seriously.

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The Wheel of Time: A Memory of Light

It’s been just under 24 hours since I finished reading the final book in The Wheel of Time series, A Memory of Light.

For some Wheel of Time fans, the above sentence is a baffling one. Last ever Wheel of Time book? What?!

And yet it is.

The first novel, The Eye of the World, was published in 1990. I didn’t pick up the series until my best friend, David, introduced me to it around 1997, a year before the publication of the 8th novel, A Path of Daggers. Which is about right, as I was in my first junior year of high school (I changed schools, and had to redo my junior year – much to my pleasure, as my new school was excellent).

David introduced me to the series, as his parents (and he being my brother from another mother, who I called Mum, and whose husband I called ‘Dad’) also read it. Well, Dad at least, did. We were – and remain – fiction junkies. It’s our drug of choice. And so the addiction started. And by the time I restarted my junior year, and met a fellow student named Jason, the addiction was in full swing. Jason and I started a challenge: we would race to see who could finish the series up to the most current book first.

The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt, and The Dragon Reborn each took a week. The Shadow Rising (my favourite in the series) took just over a week and a half. The Fires of Heaven? About a week and a half as well.

With The Lord of Chaos, the descent into expanded reading times began. A month.

A Crown of Swords: a month.

The Path of Daggers? About two weeks.

During my early university years, the next three books managed to finally see the light of day: Winter’s Heart, Crossroads of Twilight, and Knife of Dreams.

And then Robert Jordan passed away, of an unbelievably rare blood disease. And several months later, Brandon Sanderson was hired to fill in the gaps, and do justice to the guy who was, during my formative years, the Most Inspirational Writer Around, and Fully Deserving of Sentences With Capital Letters Everywhere.

And so Sanderson did the impossible. He wrapped it all up. And like Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars, and like Serenity, there was of course a sense of things being rushed, of there being just *too many* dangling plot-threads, far too many to capable of being wrapped up neatly, organically.

A few felt rushed, a few felt incidental, but many felt just right. A beacon flared, indicating to all readers: the road to the end was now being paved, and we should all get onboard. Harriet Jordan, Tom Doherty, and all of Team Jordan stood behind him in support, and let him do what an intelligent writer should do: find a nice balance between two styles of writing, and tell the story to the best of the writer’s ability. Should Sanderson ever come across this blog post (which I suspect is highly unlikely), I’d want him to know that Harriet made the right decision, in asking him to finish the series. He did a masterful job.

Granted: The Gathering Storm had its bumps – notably the tone of Mat Cauthon. But the rest of the novel churned along at a nice, brisk pace, echoing, quite pleasantly, the pace of the first half of the series. I’m not surprised. The first book would of course likely have issues with Sanderson finding an equilibrium between his and Jordan’s tone and style. But then came The Towers of Midnight, which prolonged in an almost gleefully masochistic way, an incident that readers of the series knew was coming. And it was superb. From an editorial standpoint, I completely understand why the book’s chapters were structured as they were. It’s simple: keep the pages turning. Leave readers wanting more. Keep them interested.

And now finally: A Memory of Light.

To my satisfaction, it didn’t proceed as I imagined it would. To my delight, the ending wasn’t what I would have written. And to my delight, I found myself crying.

People die in horrible ways. Others get their comeuppance. Prophecies don’t work out according to plan. Bad decisions are made. Smart decisions are made. And when the scales are poised to tip, incredibly ballsy decisions are made.

And in the end, it all ends. And though perhaps the ending was shorter than I might have liked, it suffices. Yes, plot threads are left unresolved, but primarily only those which were not tied to any particular prophecy or omen. Life moves on. The characters would live on beyond The Last Battle. But The Wheel of Time wasn’t about the fourth age, but the close of the third.

And A Memory of Light was the closing book in the series.

What a funny sentence.

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