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  • Writer's pictureJillean McClory

Life's Brilliant Mess, BAM!

At some point, the farting around needed to stop. Pasting together your bits and pieces, hearing the rhythm of your voice, writing your letter to the world, and taking the plunge is the job.

Taking the plunge from farting around – no. 4,576 – launching my new blog, Life’s Brilliant Mess. I focus on life’s brilliance, its messes, its loves, and its adventures from the vantage point of womanhood. A voyageur of the rhythms of life, I explore the art of being your own person.

When I was eight, I began collecting evidence of my life on paper. Scribbling on bits of whatever was at hand, I wrote my thoughts like poems. Favourite words. Quotes. Drawings. I decided to get serious about writing at twelve and started a writer's notebook. I christened it, My Brilliant Messy Life - a hindsight record for my future self on who I wanted to be if I lost my way. It wasn't long before my musings became entrenched with meaningful moments aptly mixed in with the inane.

Cynics are in abundance, and my people, we are strong, but fragile. We sometimes need a minute and have a lie down to get over the possibility that we may be graceless buckedjits on the page.

Writing educated my imagination in ways I didn't fully understand at the time. When I decided to launch Life's Brilliant Mess, it seemed fitting to revisit my first journal entry from twelve-year-old Jillean. The conviction and knowingness of my younger self bowled me over. Confidence radiated from the words. I couldn't help but wonder – am I still that girl? But that's for another day.

It’s easy to get lost amongst people, to bury yourself so far beneath the surface that you aren't recognizable, but writing is exposure. I edited other people’s work for years. I wrote research antidotes and memory lane pieces while learning my craft. It educated me better than any formal education - doing the work. Practice and practice some more. It taught me discipline and it was very comfortable. It allowed me to work at home and raise my children to independence, and they are the delight of my life. But at some point, the farting around needed to stop. Pasting together your bits and pieces, hearing the rhythm of your voice, writing your letters to the world, and taking the plunge is the job.

Trust me; if I have a dime for every time someone told me I sucked at writing or asked in a high pitched voice, "Are you still doing that writing thing?" What they really meant was, "I don't give a shit, you're delusional." Either you suck or you're delusional, those dimes add up and there is no doubt, I would be at gazillionaire status by now. People say shitty things to creatives all the time. Irrelevant things, but creatives tend to give them credence. There are many reasons why. Teachers, friends, yard mums, people you don't know, people you do know, like, a granny who is an awful woman, or a narcissistic mother-in-law who laughs when you say you are writing a novel, she tells you, "That's ridiculous. You have a one in a million chance to get it published."

Guess what? I'm one in a million, babe.

Cynics are in abundance, and my people are fragile, we need a minute at times to have a lie down to get over the possibility that we may be graceless buck-eejits on the page. Good God, don't we have enough of that nonsense dealing with our inability to accept our talents, happiness, and artistic poverty? Now we're going to let people we don't know, don't like, or give a shit about weigh-in? The truth is, the shitty people in your life never die. They morph into other people. Accepting their existence without giving them credence evaporates their power - easier said than done. Living centre stage makes you a target regardless of your profession.

Whatever happened to my ridiculers? And their need to stunt my creativity and learning curve? They never grew out of being assholes. Enough said. My parents, Marie and Geordie – thank God were supporters. I wanted a typewriter in a big way. They bought me a 315 Underwood for Christmas when I was ten, and my Aunt Bridie taught me how to type. I loved my Underwood! Wrote my life on it.

Marie was a storyteller. She had tales of incredible odds and a world war to fuel my imagination while I sat looking out the window. It somehow seemed fitting to me, a wee girl from Belfast, an immigrant to Canada, gravitated to those scary transformative tales.

I'd rather be a buckedjit than an asshole.

At ten, I wrote my first story about Elizabeth Bangor. She lived happily with her big Irish family in Bangor Bay. One fateful day, on October 17th, 1933, Elizabeth stopped talking. What happened to fiercely independent, opinionated, never at a loss for words, nosey parker Lizzie on her way home for school that day? What transformed her? What was she hiding? And the story began.

Language became my favourite toy. Books became my outlet for the adventures I was too young to have, but one day became my motto. One day I would do everything. In the meanwhile, I took words out for a spin. Trying them out in my mouth and making mistakes – incorrect pronunciations for words well beyond my years. I soon realized my word samples weren't the badge of honour I believed it to be. While I thought it was learning, others thought it was an opportunity to ridicule. To make me feel stupid. Frankly, the sentiment then and now – I'd rather be a buckedjit than an asshole.

Everyone is always trying to keep me in the lines. It's exhausting.

This is my first entry in my writer's notebook. Never fear I cut it back a bit. I'm a bit verbose.

My Brilliant Messy Immigrant Life

I'm 12 for now

I want to start A Writer's Notebook like The Diary of Anne Frank, or Virginia Woolf's, A Writer's Diary, Somerset Maugham's, The Summing Up, and fill it with My Brilliant Messy Life. At 12, you wouldn't think sorrow had darkened my door, but it has. I feel like I've lived a buzz-zillion lives.

  • Irish born.

  • Ripped from my country - although I did look sensational when I left in my leopard skin boots and mink hat and muff my Granda bought me because he really loves me. I don't know how he stuck Mariah all those years, but that's another story.

  • A new immigrant in a strange land.

  • Ravaged by measles twice or maybe it was three, but a lot, a lot.

  • Mean people with serious plans that didn't include making the world better.

  • Making fun of my lovely accent and Irish way.

  • People don't like happy people.

  • People don't like … what did Miss Maceik call me? … a free spirit with unruly hair and red shoes no one in their right mind would wear.

I love my red ruby shoes with the golden buckle like Dorothy. Marie got them for me. She's a wee gem. I just have to click them and I'm home. At least in my imagination. Can you imagine, the girls at school make fun of my lovely shoes. I don't bloody care. They have no taste. People are odd here. Elaine said I was ridiculous when I ran after her on the street. I run up to her and she was so mad. Told me not to yell in the street like a fool. Couldn't I see she wasn't answering. Told me to put my hair up like a normal girl instead of loose and straggly (I had to look straggly up, it means messy).

Here's a secret: I hate it here. Marie says I can't say hate. Well I bloody dislike it here. I'm not changing my shoes. Or my accent, I'll keep it for home or when I'm alone. I don't want to lose everything. But I'll consider combing my hair more often or putting in plaits. Marie said she would.

I decided to let these trials fuel my writing. I am a writer extraordinaire, a brilliant reader, well above my primary level. I shall have my own kingdom of thought, away from the pettiness and fearfulness around me. Right here. Right now. On this page and all the pages to come.

I have many books in my future. It doesn't matter that I'm messy and careless. Even with my bits of paper all over the place. Even if it's a bloody mess. Small paper. Big paper. Dirty paper. Envelopes. The backs of the wee Italian shop's meat flyer. Birthday cards. And the notebooks Geordie gets from Mr. Ferris, the insurance man – he gets stacks of them, and they're chocker-blocked with my notions. It doesn't matter the state. They're mine. But I must tell you, my scruffy little confidante, I'm looking for a more sophisticated (don't you love that word? sophisticated, so musical) place for my bits and pieces and for the mad confusion of my artistry.

Note to self – in consideration of my messy carelessness – always find solutions for my shortcomings. Mind you, it's difficult to forget them; Mariah is fond of pointing them out. She seems to be under the notion that she sits at the right hand of God – trust me, she bloody well does not.

In that show that comes on after school called, The Walton's, John Boy uses a tablet for his notions. Not very sophisticated, but it was the depression. What do I like about his tablet? No lines. Sometimes I want to write big and sometimes small. Everyone is always trying to keep me in the lines. It's exhausting. Mariah likes lines. Rules. Keep to the old ways. I'm sad to say; she also likes The Walton's, which always makes me a bit leery. I don't fancy sharing the same tastes as her. She's a bloody awful woman. I won't tell you what I want to call her because then I will go to hell for sure, and at this point, I want to keep the high road open. Let's just say, the room gets cold when Mariah's in it.

Sad to say, if Mariah gets into heaven, we are all getting into to heaven. But if that's the case, I have serious doubts about heaven, and my need to get there is naught. One Mariah per life is more than enough – thank you very much! I'm not listening to her regale in the afterlife too. No harm to Marie, but she has a terrible mother.

Let me tell you, if Mariah ends up in heaven, I'll take the train to hell. I would keep company with the devil himself – and I'm an Irish Catholic – over spending eternity with that bloody woman. No wonder Granda left her here and went back to Ireland. But I am hoping, keeping company with the devil won't be the case, and I'm not the one taking that infamous train.

People think it's strange I write. I don't know why I write. I just do. I can't credit myself. First credit must go to Charles Dickens. The first line in David Copperfield – it's a wallop in the face –

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.

Bloody hell. I had to have a lie down when I read this. Will I be the hero of my life? Or will I go away in the head? Become a buckedjit? Where will I end up? Working the docks like Horace Bachelor? On the high road to no town? Eating beans from a tin?

No. Bloody. Idea.

Second credit goes to, The Diary of Anne Frank. I took to my bed with that one. There is too much to say, and I don't have the words.

The truth be told, I don't want to wonder at the reasons why I write. It's the way it is. Full stop. I need to think about getting a proper diary without lines, but this is the house of the 10,000, so there's no frigging privacy. The lot of them are nosey parkers. Lovely. Funny. But bloody irritating. Mariah is at the top of the list. I'll need to make it look like a school book to keep my privacy. No one reads the school books but for me.

I am no Dickens. I am no Frank. But I am a writer. I might be a terrible writer. Maybe all I'll ever write is 101 sad tales of my brilliant messy immigrant life, but I'm still a writer.

Stupid Mr. Harrison told me I'm not good enough to be a writer because I have an affliction to using periods and capitals. It'll take a wee bit more than the likes of Mr. Harrison with his odd misshaped head to get my knickers in a twist. He regurgitates (that's a bloody great word) what everyone else says. The stupid bugger never has an original thought – I say, Mr. Harrison, the bloody poem didn't need frigging periods! – but that's another story for another day.

Worrying about other people's nonsense is not my job. I have enough bloody jobs. When I'm old, sitting on my verandah, in my twilight years, I will no doubt say, who is Mr. Harrison? Or maybe I'll be a bitter old woman like Mariah – one foot in the grave and one on a bar of soap, who won't remember last night's tea time. But I think not, or I'll be frigging disappointed in myself. My hope for old Jillean is she still has her faculties. Being a creative sort with a brilliant mind, I am most certain that old Jillean will be the Captain of Her Own Life. At least, that's the story I will write of my brilliant messy immigrant life. Of that, there is no doubt.


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