In and Out of my Comfort Zone

IMG_3305In the past I have suffered from Graves disease which is a form of hyperthyroidism. I am fortunate that, for me, the drugs work and send the condition into remission. I have had 3 or 4 recurrences which just meant I had to go back on the anti-thyroid medication.

Before I was diagnosed and in the periods before the drugs could kick in, it could get pretty rough. The thyroid controls your metabolism which basically effects everything, your skin, your muscles, your heart, your temperature, your mind. One of the most disturbing effects was anxiety. Your body’s metabolism is in a state of flight ie heart pounding, sweating, shaking- your brain follows. My anxiousness didn’t so much take the form of panic attacks, more often a feeling of being inadequate and overwhelmed. Routine tasks became like climbing mountains. Driving, shopping even conversation became gargantuan tasks in my mind. I lacked any confidence in my abilities to extend myself beyond the most mundane.

In hindsight that experience has done me a favour. It has made me grateful for every opportunity I get to experience something new and challenging. I like to take on things outside my normal sphere, just to prove I can.

I’m not a risk taker but I do like to promise myself that at least once a month I can do something outside my comfort zone. I am a reasonably unfit introvert with perchance for procrastination so stepping outside my comfort zone may be other people’s norm. Some of the things I have done in the past few years to fulfil my promise to myself are:

-Sing solo in front of a group of people. (a WEA class – and it was voluntary!)

-Drive into the inner city of Sydney (So what! you say. I learnt to drive in regional areas so city traffic and parking freaks me out. I am yet to drive over or under the harbour)

-Take on ethics teaching to groups of primary children (I learnt so much but it was definitely out of my comfort zone for first 6 months)

-Go on long bushwalks (this is sort of in and out of my comfort zone as I love being in the bush but am reasonably unfit)

-Attend meetings and gatherings where I knew nobody.

-Got a puppy (I swore I would never own a dog as they are too much work and tie you down and I knew nothing about dogs. I was right.)

Of course there is other times when I like to indulge myself. A massage, a walk along the beach, reading a good book.

So hence becomes a new blog routine. Every month, apart from my other posts, I will do one called, In and Out of my Comfort Zone.

This month

IN: This is going to make be sound very spoilt – I got a new car. My previous car was over 10 years old so the difference in technology and comfort is mindboggling. Sometimes I just sit and imagine I’m in a luxury spaceship. I am thinking of moving my writing space out there. Comfort, privacy, music, 360’ view. What more could you want?

OUT: I signed up for my first NANOWRIMO. National Novel Writing Month. That is a challenge to write 50, 000 words in the month of November. Did I mention that I was a procrastinator and a slow writer? This is my worst nightmare and my most necessary kick up the backside. I have made myself accountable by joining up with some other local NaNo nuts for write-ins and progress meetings. I feel the pressure mounting. Sunday is N-day.

What are your INs and OUTs this month?

Book Reviews

We Were Liars

By E. Lockhart               Allen and Unwin 2014           YA fiction

Score: 8/10                             Genre: Dark teen romance, Suspense

Cadence spends her summer breaks on the Sinclair family’s private island along with her mother, her grandparents and the families of her two aunts.

Cady her cousins Johnny and Mirren and the intriguing, handsome Gat form the band of summer friends called ‘The Liars.’ As they spend lazy summers swimming, boating and playing tennis Cady falls in love with the outsider Gat. Together the Liars observe the so-called ‘beautiful’ Sinclair family implode. Rivalry between the adult sisters spurred by the manipulative elitist grandfather turn family gatherings into ugly feuds.

Cady’s fifteenth summer will change everything. An accident, a head injury, and amnesia leave her grappling for answers. She aches to see the ‘Liars’ again and begs her mother to let her return to Beechwood island in her seventeenth summer. Will the Liars help her unravel her confusion? Will Gat still love her?

It is hard to discuss this book without giving spoilers – but I’ll try. Lockhart plays with language form, timelines, and character voices in such a clever way that the pages fly by. The setting of Beechwood Island with the four houses for the four families (map included) is a fantastic claustrophobic space to tell a dark tale. So why didn’t I give this 9 or even 10? Possibly because I felt a bit too manipulated by the plot twists. Also, I’m not one for ‘happily ever after’ but this ending is gut-wrenchingly irredeemable. I’m not sure I liked the feeling (call me a wuss) even though I appreciated the writing that led me to despair.

Recommend for: YA writers and teenagers. This may seem self-evident – it is YA fiction, but some YA’s have more general appeal. I think I would have appreciated this book more if I was an angsty teenager.

Use for writers: Where do I begin?

Creative sentence/paragraph structure: Occasional short repetitive sentences pack emotional punch. Particularly when describing the facade of the Sinclair clan. “We are Sinclairs. No-one is needy. No-one is wrong.”

Authentic and interesting teen voices: Cady’s feelings of love, pain and bitterness are shown in a raw and poetic voice. Johnny is flippant and likeable, Gat is serious and brooding and Mirren is sweet and insecure.

Setting: atmospheric, confined but never over-described.

First person present tense: creates intimacy and tension.

Changes in text form: emails, lists and my favourite; Cady’s increasingly bitter fairy-tale retellings – very clever and ominous.