Ducks are my new favourite animal. (Soz cats.) I love them waddling about with their handsome metallic green necks and feathery brown pelts. It turns out Burnie has a large, healthy population at Romaine Park. I adore how they travel in pairs and huddle in groups. They are not afraid of people and snooze out in the open. It’s so trusting and meek, my heart melts.
Apparently ducks rest in groups for safety. The outside duck has one eye open to keep guard.
The quack community.
Little duck bums.
They generate happiness in me.
Well, it was a year. Chalk it up to experience. Downgrade my heart from spectacular. Surprise my mind.
Beautiful reluctance. Transcendental views. Average dates – (I’m looking at you October 7).
Dogs barked, muesli was eaten. Spotify playlisted and rage guest programmed.
Joy. Content. Heartbeats.
Dreams about…wriggly jigsaws and friendly abandonment. How am I here? Where am I there?
State hopping, spoken word performing, mental health monologuing, man about house.
I’ve had it all – a lifetime of moments. Set to the soundtrack of an infotainment hotshot cathedral.
Dress right. Knuckle down. Buckle up. Take off.
WHAT I CHOSE TO WRITE ABOUT:
Mental health mainly. My opening gambit i is the loneliest letter was partly inspired by trawling through my musical archive. I found a stripped back version of my song I’m So Lonely, written in 2008. Just another patented Saturn Returns soundtrack to a suddenly bottomless life. I was impressed. If nothing else, it’s comforting to be reminded that you aren’t some alien version of yourself, just a boat rockin’ riff on previous themes.
Then I suppose after that it was How To Talk To A Depressed Person.
I’ve never liked the question how are you.
Asking someone about their mental health is a confronting and private matter. It needs to be given the gentle, conscientious forethought of an orienteering operation. There’s strategy, tact, respect and craft. Instead, we get r u ok – (a high brow advancement on what r u lookin at?) – the grammatical nature of which is enough to pummel my inner harmony.
Never fear, my well-meaning diatribes are here.
This year was marked by the premiere of my one man show Get Up Mum in March. It was epic. It was profound. (It was quite long, to be fair). I hope to perform it again mid next year in Burnie and Melbourne. I was interviewed by my new friend Helen Shield. If you were wondering, one of the most uncomfortable aspects of broadcasting such personal work is seeing the inappropriate tags and disclaimers clogging up the footer. It’s bemusingly ironic that mental health is either cloaked in euphemism or clownishly signposted in bureaucratic overreach.
I had surgery. An ulnar nerve transposition on my right arm (as you do). I’m past 40 and abstractly vulnerable. Well, to be fair, I was once described as ‘intensely vulnerable’ by Fiona Scott-Norman in an article about stand-up comedy in 2007. So, artistically, I’ve worn my brain on a chain. Only now is my physical self catching up to the costume. What could go right.
I wrote an article titled Liquid Mental. It was sparked after walking along Romaine Park and seeing a teenage boy wandering along the fields. His head was lowered, having mastered the art of walking and scrolling. I was haunted. I had to write something and incorporate Terminator 2 and the music of SBS Chill regular Eric Hilton. It was fun.
I packed up my place in Melbourne to return to Tasmania. As I was sorting everything it occurred to me that it was twenty years since I became “The Bedroom Philosopher.” Oh well, said the diligently private person to themself, I guess we could use this as motivation to launch a light to moderate assault of content – I mean – art, on the unsuspecting consumers – I mean fanbase. I rekindled pleasure in reimagining my first album of light-hearted folk songs, cultivated during my accidental dream job of being the weekly songwriter for Triple J’s Morning Show in 2002.
It was a nice time in the archives. I liked who I was at 22. In a not dissimilar creative time travel to the way I hung out with my 12 year old self in Get Up Mum – I had a beer or two with my 22 year old self in the Living On The Edge…Of My Bed release and subsequent memory lane / cassette digitising sessions. I even cut together my own radio documentary on the origin story of how I went from winning ABCs Heywire to scoring the gig of a lifetime, without having performed a single comedy spot.
It wasn’t all beer and skittles in that career. Sometimes it was sarsaparilla and quoits. I love nothing more than bemoaning the clusterfluff of riding success while being a share-household name in Australia. I feel like I’ve had so many backward compliments and subtle cracks at me over the years I wear a technicolour raincoat in a fickle bid to thicken my skin. Anyway, blow off steam I must – it felt fitting to hold my own Depress Conference.
And so on and so forth. I had two pieces published in the mental health themed poetry anthology Admissions. I wrote a letter to schizophrenia, gave a talk at a mental health conference and rereleased / reimagined my first ‘proper’ album recorded on a four track at the end of Hellyer College, 1998. (Peppered with lil’ somethings recorded on my cassette walkman).
I was nominated for the most underrated book award in 2015. It was a relief to lose.
Birthmark by Phonze!
It was nice to receive a kind letter towards the end of the year. Thanks Lucy.
Thanks to like, anyone who has read my self-published dalliances and gained any insight into the cosmic beauty of our abstract depressions. Power to thee.
The key is to….keep going (apparently).
And try hard not to ask anyone if they are okay.
And if you’re talking to me, try and avoid the sentence “I found some of your posts worrying.” It’s sort of patronising, sorry.
Bonding on that private channel requires you to have prepared an application with a backpack full of context. Put thought into what you say – as opposed to the industry standard of little. Do your interpersonal homework. Like a good essay, support your statements with evidence.
If you are truly, lastingly concerned about them / me, just be brave and ring them up. Have a friendly chat.
Talk about the price of weather. Remind them they are cared about. It’s far too easy to forget. (If you are a bloke and can drop the ‘L’ bomb – well, good luck with that.)
Why the human heart is designed with affirmation amnesia I am uncertain. Perhaps we are animals after all; fitfully aware of the perilousness of our circumstances – the energy reserves required to survive in this befuddled bio-matrix claptrap of a bush doof. The casino of soft knocks and hard streams. It could not be more unnatural if it tried. One puts ones blinkers on. One runs ones own race. 🏇
Get human. Stay wobbly.
Love from planet Justin. 🪐
- The best way to stay tuned to anything I do is via my beloved mailing list Justin Heazlewood’s Fuzzy Logic.
(The latest one of these can be witnessed hither.)
I’ve just signed up and wanted to let you know how I’m enjoying all of this. Your writing is so entertaining – love the fast-paced, psychedelic imagery and invented words (autobiocracy!) I also dislike of the question “are you okay?” – not just because it’s a bit patronising but it is also such a non- question, it lacks real curiosity and just leaves you to reassure rather than reveal. I think if the asker really wanted to know, it wouldn’t be a closed question.
I also wanted to let you know how much I loved ‘Get Up Mum.’ I cried many tears for 12-year-old Justin, but found myself equally in awe of the creative, intelligent, sensitive and resilient kid he was too. I work with therapeutically with children and have on occasion with child carers and so this resonated strongly for me. Thank for for undertaking such creatively courageous work. Digging up and reworking childhood trauma can be therapeutic but it’s also painful and can’t go back to being unseen, which comes with its own complexities.
Your stuff on loneliness has been so inspiring and helpful for me at this particular time in my life, so thank you! When is your next book!?
Forgot to say before, the free-associative flow of your work is really enjoyable to read. I’m not sure how you feel about Helen Garner, but I love her autobiographical stuff for the same reason. The way she layers little snippets and details from daily life that sometimes almost seem random, but in accumulation hint towards an unbearable/unknowable emotional truth lying dormant in the background.
Looking forward to reading more Justin.”FROM LUCY, BY EMAIL
You are always stronger than you think.
You are always stranger than you feel.