Couch to 50k Week 5 Complete

I finished up Week 5 and it was difficult. Tim pre-recorded podcast assures me this is the worst of it. Deep diving into a emotional trauma and resurfacing it to write was easy the first time -, because … well… because I hadn’t anticipated how much of a kick it would be. This is a skill I have – I just don’t connect to the full emotional impact of a thing prior to it happening, because if I did I’d be a wreck.

So the first of the dives was difficult, but felt worth doing. The second I really struggled to approach it in the same way, preferring to talk around it, talk about the aftermath, be a cooler head. The third time I just couldn’t face it at all, wrote about something else and deleted the entire thing. I’d say I wasted my time, but I don’t think you can ever do that with something like writing. Sometimes you need to excise the rubbish so you know what you don’t want to do. (You measure a circle, as I frequently tell people, by starting anywhere).

The final day I went back in and tried doing it again, and it was just as emotionally wrecking as the first time I wrote about it (abeit I approached it from a different angle)

It can be hard to write/talk about really deeply affecting stuff. I mean, look how far in to this blog I’ve come without even saying what my writing this week was about. It was about the death of my mum, some 14 years ago, and how much it impacted me.

Anyway. I did it. I’m glad I did that first bit of writing on it, and I’m ready to move on to something new.

Looking forward to week 6.

Couch to 80k Week 5 Day 4

I blame my sort of hazy-looking-out-of-the-window-like-I’m-still-in-secondary-school lack of attention for not realising this week’s writing workshops would be all about strong emotional exploration, revolving around a single traumatic event. I’m not sure I would have done anything differently, but certainly I’d’ve been more prepared for it.

Today was diving into the same subject as yesterday and writing more on the topic, could be a rewrite, could be an exploration of specific bits, could be really whatever you want (including avoidance if that was too difficult).

I’ll be honest, the best thing about yesterday’s writing was finishing it and knowing I’ll never have to do that again, then turns out that wasn’t the case.

I went back to my mum’s death and wrote about the aftermath, really. It wasn’t my plan, it’s what happened. I also felt like I wanted to keep it distant, turns out I can grab that nettle once, but not twice. It’s not that the writing was so perfect it couldn’t be re-written, more than it was drawn from my own feelings so deeply that… well, I didn’t want to cry again. Simple as that really.

And thank you to everyone who commented yesterday, both on the blog and on twitter. I think appreciate both as a connection to me us all as humans who have more in common than not, and -I’ve chosen to take it- as a nod, that I’m going in the right general direction as a writer (DON’T DISABUSE ME OF THIS! IT’S ALL I’VE GOT)

So here’s today. A calmer, more reflective meditation on the aftermath of my mum’s death.

It’s been years. I still sometimes feel hollow. After mum died, I went off the rails, not oh-my-god-Paul-is-drunk-it’s-only-10am off the rails, but off the rails for me. I was angry. I was angry at my youngest brother, who was seven years old at the time. I was so angry at him. Why wasn’t he as upset as me? Why wasn’t he crying every day? How the hell could he get up and play football and not give a passing thought to the fact his mum had died?

I was angry with myself, I was angry with my wife, my parents, my family, my work, my entire world.

Mostly I was angry with my mum.

She knew. She knew she wouldn’t wake up. She knew something had happened. But she didn’t tell anyone. Instead she wrote a note, and went to sleep content not to wake up.

The pain of death is felt by everyone left behind.

It’s been years. I’ve forgiven myself for being angry, and I’ve come to understand why she didn’t phone anyone, or go to the doctors, and just … let go.

Mum was 50, she’d raised five boys, had her first -me- at age 16 and the next at age 17. I can understand that tiredness now. I want to say I forgive her, but really, there’s nothing to forgive. In my heart, I think of my mum as both my mother, and the 16 year old girl who never had a chance to grow up into adulthood and sometimes, I remember a photo she showed me of her at age 6 and I think of her as that little girl too.

She was like a force of nature, until she was spent.

Looking at her in the tiny box they put her in, I could see, at last that she needed the rest. Even storms have to stop and mum was a storm.

Couch to 80k Week 5 Day 3 – Up close and personal

Oh man. Today. Today was tough.

I like emotional distance. I like humour and sarcasm and playful silliness – these things keep you from drowning in your emotions. My oldest son has ASD and I think for kids with ASD the general population think they’re cold emotionally, but they’re really not – if anything they can feel things very deeply and struggle to keep emotional dampers on those feelings. So they often overcompensate (learning how to cope) whereas neurotypical have very fine grained control over their emotions, it’s easier to keep it all damped down.

(Like, I think, every single thing about humans, there’s no real binary here – there’s no such thing as neurtypical and ASD – rather brains that work in varying degrees in varying different ways, but humans LOVE LOVE LOVE to classify stuff, so we end up with words that cover some portion of that rainbow of colours)

(I mean, the unspoken thing here is my constant wondering of whether I’m on the spectrum, the answer is: of course I am, so is everyone else. I’m human)

Anyway, I’m moving too off topic.

Continuing this week’s theme of Psychic evaluation, and – to put it crudely – plundering your own emotions for content (and I mean a more romantic way to put it would be to say “enriching your writing through the exploration of your own emotional experiences ” which is also nicely alliterative ). Week 5 Day 3, Tim tells us is an optional day – do it or do not. (There is no try).

(Is it obvious I’m stalling? It is, isn’t it?)

It’s write about a traumatic event in detail. I have a few to choose from, but the one that, I suppose impacted me the greatest – the real life changer, is my mum dying. It broke me for a good long time. So I’m posting it here, sometimes I feel like I need to keep these things private, and sometimes – often in fact – I discover that sharing this stuff touches reaches other people and they find they’re not the only one to have felt like this. I will be honest, I cried typing up a lot of the following. So, as per Tim’s instructions on writing it, I’ll give you the same on reading it: you can skip this one if you like.

I was in work. I think it was the start of the week. I had a shirt on sleeves rolled up. When someone came in to the room to tell me.

“Paul. Your dad is on the phone”. She looked concerned, but it was impossible to tell what it was about, though it seemed serious.

I phoned my dad.

“Your mum is dead”.

I don’t remember asking to leave, I think I told someone, I think I lifted my coat and zipped out there. I don’t remember how I got home. I think I phoned Annette. At that moment, everything was blurry, nothing was real. I felt a hurt so deep down, that I just wanted to wail. Not scream, but to reach inside and pull out of me a noise from the depths of my being. A Death moan- suddenly I wasn’t a man or a boy, as I was an animal, mourning the loss of its mother. A wolf cub, lost in the forest, its mother – its entire world gone, and I just wanted to howl out.

I think I went home to my dad’s house. I think my wife met me there. And, really, I disintegrated. I couldn’t take it. My brothers were there. My youngest brother, Luke, was in the room. The house smelt like home, but stale. My dad was shaking a little. Maybe I was vibrating through the room, like the only thing alive at that point was my loss. Mum was lying in bed. Someone mentioned a note.

She’d left a note.

“I felt something in my heart last night, something broke. I don’t think I’ll wake up tomorrow, take care of Luke. Love you”

I could feel stinging behind my eyes. Tear ducts heating up, stifling tears. And then I ran, I wanted to both run away as far as I could and go to my mum and crawl up beside her and lie there and never move again. Never move away from her. At that point, I forget I had siblings. It was only ever me and mum. For one year, when I was too young to even understand or realise, it was only me and her. She had me when she was 16. So from 16 to 17 years old this young girl had a baby, and that horrible moment made me feel what that must’ve felt like. I felt that love she must have had for that child, for me, and I felt it go. For it to suddenly be taken from the child. I felt sorry for myself, of course, but I felt sorry for the child I was. And the girl she was. And that she’d never had a life as an adult without kids.

I ran and ran and ran, and I’m still running.

I went upstairs, and went to the toilet, locking the door. I didn’t want anyone to see me, I wanted to be alone in my grief. I wanted to climb in to the forest, and stand over the body of the wolf and howl at the moon and the world and every bastarding thing that was in it that took my mum from me

Couch to 80k Week 5 Day 2 – Good Grief

Ok, week 5 is – I think in Tim’s words a Psyche Evaluation. Running through emotional strengths and weaknesses and what you – as a writer – find easy and hard. And using those things to write better. (This feels like doing a SWOT analysis – Strength Weakness Opportunities and Threats – on your emotional strengths as a writer)

I find this a bit though. It’s the mixing of real emotions in with fictionalised events that I’m struggling with. I’ve spent most of my life I think boxing away certain emotions so they don’t overwhelm me, and I’ve always been guarded in writing from my heart – I have no problem writing from my brain (which is probably why all of my published writing is really articles on how to do things in computers/art) – but writing from the heart is hard.

Today’s writing exercise was a tough one too, taking one of the emotions we did yesterday and building a free write around that without mentioning the emotion.

What I really want out of this course is the inner strength to sit my ass down and write a comic. I have a handle on a lot of the fundamentals of this, but to really write something true and real I think I need to dip in and not be embarrassed, ashamed, guilty or in any other way afraid to deep dive in to my heart for emotional truths.

I’m not sure I can do that.

Here’s today’s snippet – just remember, these are draft zeros, there’s no editing and I often, frequently, in fact almost always, start with the intent of writing one thing and at some point it changes in to another (these are things that a second, third, fourth draft would resolve mind you, so I’m less worried about them). Anyway. Here it is…

He stood in line. Waiting. In front of him some oldster was attempting to put coins in the machine. The machine that probably hadn’t seen coins in decades. He wanted to tell her to get a move on. But he also wanted her to just live her life without some idiot screaming at her.

He looked down at the ground, and frowned. The ground, a grey slab, in a grey world. Everything was grey. Everything would continue to be grey for some time, he imagined.

The old woman fumbled around, he turned around to look who was behind, some kids. Kissing. Normally he’d be angry, wishing they could keep that stuff private. But he was a changed man now. Nothing was the same and he… Well, he couldn’t find it in his heart to be angry at someone else’s happiness. They’ve probably no sense of how long they’ll ever have together. What was the old woman’s story? Had she found love as a kid too? Was she on her own as he would be?

It’s only been one day. He’d bought a sandwich, but it tasted like ash, so he binned it after a single bite. He should be hungry, but he had no appetite.

He’d woken up that morning and the world was dimmer. He was dimmer. And yet, the day was the day, the world was the world and work was work. He couldn’t just drop everything.

If she’d died he could. If she’d died, suddenly there’d be room for sympathy. People would know. They’d give him time, they’d give him space. They’d let him be.

They wouldn’t expect him to stand in a fucking queue and pay for parking.

But she hadn’t died. It was worse than that. Death at least has closure.

She’d left him, and he couldn’t find a way to change her mind. She’d left him and he couldn’t find a reason for her to stay. She’d left him and he couldn’t find a reason.

So he got up, got dressed, went to work, his insides replaced by an automaton.

“Patrick! Patrick!”

It was his wife.

“Yeah, I’m just getting a ticket.”

“Ok, well, look, I’m going in to the shops, Matilda needs the loo, give us a buzz when you get in, ok?”


If she’d died he could’ve mourned her and said she was a friend. He could have let his wife see a fraction of his grief. Not all of it. There’d be no point in destroying that relationship. But enough that he wouldn’t have to fend off questions about why he was being “so bloody mopey