Category Archives: Inspiration

Wild Women Wakening: one month after…

Many years ago I read Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ groundbreaking book “Women That Run with the Wolves”.

Not the same cover, but voilà... The book that found me at Cairns airport.
Not the same cover, but voilà… The book that found me at Cairns airport.

At least for me it was completely groundbreaking. It gave me the possibility of re-reading stories that are part of universal lore presented in an erudite, “exegetic” book. As it happens with many of these good books, WTRWTW crossed my path by chance (or perhaps not) at Cairns airport while waiting for a connecting flight back to Sydney. I had to “kill” nearly four hours in between flights, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to buy myself a book. Probably the best “impulse purchase” of my whole life, and believe me when I say I’ve allowed myself more than my fair share of impulse purchases …

Nearly nineteen years after that afternoon at Cairns airport, a few weeks ago at the gym, I bumped into Lauren Kennedy, one of my gym and aqua mates. After the Body Balance class we both took, she pinned up a poster on the communal corkboard at the entrance:

Wild Women Wakening poster workshop.
Wild Women Wakening poster workshop, or how to follow a hunch.

I didn’t have to think it over twice, and announced to Lauren that I wanted to participate and a few hours later I signed up for Wild Women Wakening. More often than not, those hunches tend to work to my advantage when they’re informed by deep intuitive knowledge rather than on a whim. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the wolves and the enormous wealth of intuitive knowledge  that “Women That Run with the Wolves” brought into my life was conjured up from my subconscious depths. Yay! 🙂

On Day 1, though, I was feeling really sad and disconnected. My creative thoughts had gone missing in action, until Lauren handed us our sketchbooks. My drawing is pretty bad, but colour pencils lit a pilot creative light that flickered on. I wrote this:

We spoke about “La Loba” and read the short story from WTRWTW. I had this vision of a trip in the desert, with all its typical colours. I’m driving a Tesla car, and quickly find myself in the middle of nowhere. Fear turns into panic and I stop.

The sky is studded by a million stars and I begin to yield into the grandeur of its infinity and mystery.

“I don’t know where I am. I don’t know and I don’t care.

No sé dónde estoy. No sé ni me importa.

Without giving it a second thought, I step out of the car. Nothing around me, nothing but “darkness visible”.

I should be…

Scared!!!

But I am not! And yet I know I’m not alone. She’s with me — La Loba!

I don’t dare turn around. My feet won’t move.

FROZEN FEET, FROZEN ME!

Stars everywhere, but no Moon.

‘Hear me!’ says La Loba. ‘Oi!’

I feel like an impostor, but she doesn’t know.

‘Hear me!’ she repeats. ‘You’ll be fine. You’re not alone. You’ll be a friend of the stars. I’m here and so are the bones… Those bones…’

At the sole mention of bones, I’m left wondering if I should be afraid, but I’m not.

‘I’ll teach you things. You’ll start with bones and create life. BE LIFE! You’re not alone!

In all fairness to my dear readers, I have to say I had intended to write a “diary” of the workshop, which has already run for a whole month and will continue until the end of April. But in the same breath I decided that the creative “muscle” that I’m exercising every Monday morning doesn’t need to become part of a discussion in the online world. Some “innerspaces” should remain so, methinks. Self-marketing time lasted almost two years (part of 2014 and most of 2015).  I’m now engaged in self-reflection, and enjoying it 🙂

All the same I’d love to mention my fearless fellow “creatresses”, Marilyn and Claire, in whom I found kindred spirits, as well as in Lauren herself. It’s become a very exciting part of my weekly routine to catch up with them in that beautiful space we share in Mount Victoria, and share our personal creative journeys in a spirit of cooperation and mutual support.

Have a nice evening and see ya later, FFJ 🙂

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Five months after

It seems like a lifetime since I last wrote a blog post, five months ago. A lot has happened since then and I’m going to save you the intricate details that probably don’t mean anything to you, but I surely need to put some of it out there.

calendar
Calendar by Andreanna Moya, available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/andreanna/2837855969.
Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0

A day job can be hard slog: certainly I can’t complain about my “day job”, but it takes up a considerable amount of “neural real estate”. Being a university teacher who’s also a postgrad student uses up a lot of my mental resources and more often than not I need my free time just to “switch myself off”. Tied to this is financial worry. Part of me yearns for a steady income stream to replace casual teaching contracts. But casual teaching contracts is all there is—at least for the moment.

Sadly tragedy stroke once: my best friend Kev had rapid onset depression and ended up taking his own life in the middle of June. I lost one of my pillars of support, someone who’s protective wings were readily available for nearly ten years. Grief is so weird that I felt I was in the clutches of depression myself, for a good couple of weeks after Kev’s passing. In a conversation with my psychiatrist, I was able to finally frame those dark feelings as grief. I knew that life went on and found a way to honour my friend’s memory by joining his “tribe” of friends and adding my bit to help Kev’s favourite organisation, Petrea King’s Quest for Life Foundation.

The “Bedroom Short Stories…” lay idle in the hard disk of my laptop. I finally contacted Paul Mattingly—my editor—and started working on the final manuscript, which as you know has been published recently.  You can find it on Amazon, Smashwords and Google Play.  A few months after the intended publication date, my second book reared its head in the e-booksphere.

Where does inspiration come from? I wish I knew … One thing I do know is that it doesn’t come from outer space, or from the fringes of wishful thinking, or from writer’s blah blah. But I didn’t know I was in for a nice surprise that really galvanised me into going ahead: on August 14 I received the unexpected good news that “Bittersweet Symphony” had won the Bronze Medal in the Global Ebook Awards in the New Adult Fiction category. In the same way as I have always reacted slowly to very bad news, this supa good piece of good news took a few days to sink in. I need to organise serious PR work, but I’ve decided to try my luck again at another award. Stay tuned!

Writing assignments is taking up most of my time these days, but I’ve decided to restart blogging with a vengeance. I also have written some 3,000 words that could well become my second novel. I know what it is I want to write about. It all seems to indicate that the main character will be another female, this time a young woman who could actually be Lena Foch’s daughter. Somehow I see myself as a feminist writer … but I’m also a a fringe critic of some of its radical forms. Honouring this view, I’ve decided that my “gals” will be intelligent, honest, strong, independent, sexual and with “dark pasts”, whatever that means. Women of action and substance.

A few days ago I participated in an unusual experience: a casting for a modelling job. Luckily I didn’t get it because the clothes I had to wear made me look like a matron. They’re good pics, but they’ll never find their way into cyberspace. Had I been selected to participate in the project, my image would’ve been splashed all over Australia, wearing clothes that aren’t my style at all and putting on a persona that is as far away from the real “me” as being a creature from outer space.

Well, I’m back. Something has shifted and I’m not quite sure of what it is, but it feels good. Catcha later 🙂

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Extra! Extra! FF Jensen on Bipolar Out Loud

Hi there,

I’m proud to announce that Bipolar Out Loud, one of the top ten bipolar blogs in the world, has published an article by yours truly: “From Pole to Pole. An Author’s Story of Healing Through Writing“.

Wonderful news at  the end of a horrible day…

I can only hope that tomorrow will be better. Take care, FFJ

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If this is how some people write obituaries, I’m Virginia Woolf: my outrage at how some airhead decided to write about the late Colleen McCullough

Stupid people are hard at it. Whatever they do, there are times in which they incite outrage. Someone shared this ‘brain fart’ it in a tweet early this morning, and later a friend of mine shared it on Facebook. I found it so distasteful and outrageous that I need to vent about it here.

The highlighted text speaks for itself: airheads are hard at it. Meh!
The highlighted text speaks for itself: airheads are hard at it. Meh!

We Australians are saddened by Colleen McCullough’s passing. I’d like to say a few words about her and her work. But first I need to get this off my chest: some airhead journo from “The Australian” or any other Murdoch newspaper (it doesn’t really matter; they’re all the same) decided to make a very ungracious comment about the late Dr McCullough’s physical appearance. I can’t bear to repeat it, but will share the incriminating evidence that has been doing the rounds. Pathetic is the first word that comes to mind, and then a flood of four-letter words.

 “The Guardian” published a column by Elle Hunt in the Australia Books Blog that captures the mood among those of us that admired Colleen and grew up enjoying her books. Some of the tweets that this article reproduces are a scream, and patently show that thinking people won’t buy a third-rate piece written by a dimwit.

Such a comment on someone’s appearance in their obituary is what I call “Fifty Shades Of Non-Thinking”. Nuff said.

What I do want to write about is what Colleen McCullough means to me: she’s the first Australian writer who opened my eyes to Australia when I was a very young girl living in Argentina. I first read a very poor Spanish translation from my mother’s bookcase, but a couple of years later I got hold of the English version and enjoyed it no end. The landscape and the consequences of a natural disaster had a few striking similarities with the Argentinian hinterland.  I did fall in love with Father Ralph de Bricassart and felt for Meggie. Fee’s life and the decisions that she had to take became an eye opener into how life can be “unromantic” and yet full of love between a man and a woman.

Colleen was an accomplished scientist and started writing after a relationship breakup (I can relate to that, even though I never finished what I started after that disaster in my love life). She was a ‘voracious reader’ who came from an Australian-New Zealander family, born in Central-West NSW. She worked as a teacher, librarian and journalist before she started her studies at Sydney Uni, where she graduated as a neuroscientist (I have to confess I didn’t know that about her). She had a remarkable academic career in the UK and the US—at the University of Yale, no less!

Her first novel, Tim, was written in 1974. You can find her bibliography in countless websites, so I’m not going to bore you with that sort of detail. The Thorn Birds was her second novel and became an international bestseller that was later turned into a successful TV miniseries.

I was stunned to find out that her last novel, published in 2013, is called Bittersweet. I’ll have to read it. In any case, I swear that my choice of title for my first work of fiction comes from a different source 🙂

Masters Of Rome is a superb collection of historical novels. I’ve never read it, but I applaud the fact that she chose to focus on the Republic, instead of revisiting the rather trite topic of imperial Rome. There’s a general consensus that Colleen did very thorough research on the topic.

What is it that I have learned from her as a writer? How is she a kind of role model for me? I suppose that if I could choose, I would love to become one of those writers who becomes the readers’ darling and can make an independent living on her works. I’d certainly love Bittersweet Symphony—or any of my future works for that matter—to be made into film or a dazzling TV miniseries. Prizes? Sure, they’re welcome, but many times they don’t bring home the bacon. The critics? Yeah, I know they’re there, and that they’re to be listened to (or read) once, and then quickly forgotten.

Germaine Greer said that The Thorn Birds was the ‘best bad book’ she knows. Certainly good ol’Germaine can be as ungracious as a nun criticising a young girl’s make up! But she can also be fair and praise the Australian setting of the novel. Good on her, but I can predict that Germaine will never become a national treasure as Colleen did! 🙂

My foot needs some attention. Catcha later, my dearests, FFJ 🙂

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Managing depression II: a friend’s words of wisdom

I met Kev way back in 2005, at a bipolar therapy group run by Melissa Subiaco, a young doctoral candidate from the University of Sydney. Kev and I had an immediate connection and developed a rock solid friendship. He’s been supportive in more ways than one. Besides, he isn’t judgmental in the least and we can laugh our heads off at the drop of a hat. For Kev, friendship is a lot more than rhetoric or empty words.

Here are his words of wisdom on how to manage depression. They’re especially valuable because he’s been dealing with the bipolar roller coaster for over 25 years. I appreciate his peer-to-peer insight because I know he lives by it. Over to you, Kev!

'Up early! Sun up, get up!' Wherever you are, do harness the beneficial effects of the sun.
‘Up early! Sun up, get up!’ Wherever you are, do harness the beneficial effects of the sun.

Things that help:

  • Acknowledge the fact that you’re feeling depressed, rather than labelling yourself as depressed. There’s a huge difference in feeling, as compared to being labelled, whether by yourself, or by others. It will make a huge difference, to the length of the healing period.
  • Good, healthy food. Lots of fruit & vegetables!
  • Lots of water formula: .033x body weight, for example, .033 x 75kgs = 2.5lts/day.
  • Exercise, but not excessive. The body needs some time out too. Swimming & walking, high on the agenda.
  • Up early! Sun up, get up! It’s the most energising part of the day! SUNRISE!! Take in the energy of the sun. Walks in nature, if possible. Oceans, rivers, lakes, mountains, parks etc.
  • Good, meaningful sleep. Sleeping pills, only if absolutely necessary. A lot of people don’t sleep well, because they don’t prepare well. That’s the key. Do the research, it takes practise!
  • Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Yoga, using true top to bottom, breathing technique. It’ll slow the mind, with practise!! This is the key!
  • Take yourself out of all possible areas of possible conflict!
  • Supportive friends, not “arm chair specialists”.
  • Seek help from a counsellor, if you haven’t already! Never go beyond 3 weeks without seeking help from a professional! Personally, for me, a physchotherapist.
  • As the head starts to clear, address what changes have recently happened in your life, in most cases, you don’t start feeling depressed for no reason. Depression, is often set off by things that we haven’t really addressed, or dealt with properly, and will just keep coming back. Unless we do so, we will be continually surrounded by triggers.
  • It’s not about what happened, ie, the events, it’s about how we deal with them. People spend so much time going over things from the past. You certainly need to acknowledge that certain things did happen, but going over & over things can’t change whatever happened!! Poor investment of your time that you can’t buy back.
  • Rebuild resilience, your foundation. People with good foundation don’t fall.
  • Picture yourself as the root system of a tree. Only the week foundation trees fall. How is your foundation? It should be like a Canadian redwood!
  • Find what has worked in the  past. Learn from each experience. Have a preset management plan. Use your daily diary! Preset your days. 24 hrs unplanned, is a huge day to fill in when feeling depressed!!
  • Have faith, but be proactive!
  • Be accountable for yourself! No blame games!!
  • Uplifting music. Lots of music!! You can judge your mood, by the music & volume that you play!!
  • Be patient & kind to yourself!!

Thanks for your words of wisdom, Kev! My blog is so much richer for your contribution 🙂 FFJ

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