Saturday, November 8, 2014

fever dreams

I'm sick in bed today. It's weird; although I don't enjoy being sick, I've always loved the excuse to stay in bed and do nothing, yet this feels weird and I can't enjoy it. I suppose I still haven't gotten used to all of the things about myself that have changed since I had a baby. Even though she is out walking with her Dad, happy as Larry, I feel as if I should be doing something for Maybellene, or else tackling the considerable list of things to do that require two hands, like sorting out the clothes room, or at least mopping/scrubbing the floor around her high-chair. I feel as if I am shirking, which is partly why I am here - so I feel as if I am doing something. It seems the guilt of parenthood is more varied than I had thought.

I've been avoiding the local news, tv and online, to preserve my spirit, and in protest of its ridiculous bias and failure to perform its role as fourth estate. The Moment Of Truth event just before the election made me so, so angry at our journalists, and how much they let us down, and so frustrated with the media outlets making them this way. However, while waiting for something to load, I clicked on Stuff this morning, and found this piece about a state house area in Hamilton, and some of the people who live there. It's not the best writing - some of the descriptions are excessive and verge on patronising, but I realise that many people are so hardened towards people living in poverty that to elicit any compassion or empathy, this level of detail is necessary, and that makes me sad and it makes me angry. When I first read it there were no comments; they've since begun to roll in and, unsurprisingly, the majority are judgemental, cruel, and untrue. I try not to read the comments on these articles, but sometimes the bad neighbourhood of my mind gets the better of me. I wish I hadn't read them. I don't need a reminder that people are mean; the evidence is everywhere. 

I feel weak enough that if I linger on this too long, I could end up really low, so I'll move on. Today is the National Day of Action Against the TPPA, with marches happening all over the country. Ours starts at 1pm, and although Vincent is adamant I'm not well enough to go, I haven't entirely given up hope of making it there. I don't know if it's to do with feeling like I'm more or less on the bench, or wanting to do everything I possibly can to make the world better because she's in it, but since M has been on the scene, it's been even more important to me to get involved in the things I believe in, if only at a most basic level of signing a petition, or putting my name to a letter pre-written by Amnesty International (two this morning). As well as the floor scrubbing and clothes-room tidying, there is so much to do when there is a baby in your life; so much self-improvement that needed addressing yesterday, and so many things in the world to attend to which you thought you had longer to get to. I thought I had a head-start; I have nieces, but I barely got going, and as quickly as one thing is achieved, another pops up. There really isn't time to be sick; not only in a personal sense, but in a universal one too.

Complete subject change, before I start back down that winding road. A month or so ago, I read The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver, and I thought it was marvellous, and found it so affecting. I'm still not sure why it got me quite so much; because I have sisters, because I am a mother, because I grew up in a fundamentalist Christian church, because we lived in fear of my Father, but it did, and will stay with me. I need to know more about the political histories of African countries like the Congo, and America's sinister role in tearing them apart. Anyway, some parts that stood out to me:

I knew it was only the shadow and the angle of the sun, but still it's frightening when things you love appear suddenly changed from what you have always known.

Hunger of the body is different from the shallow, daily hunger of the belly. Those who have known this kind of hunger cannot entirely love, ever again, those who have not.

The death of something living is the price of our own survival, and we pay it over and over again. We have no choice. It is the one solemn promise every life on earth is bound to keep.

For women like me, it seems, it's not ours to take charge of beginnings and endings.

To live is to be marked.

We would rather be just like us, and have that be all right.

Conceding to be in my right mind.

To live is to change, to die one hundred deaths.

Just when I start to become jaded to life as it is, I'll suddenly wake up in a fever, look out at the world, and gasp at how much has gone wrong that I need to fix.

Only by life's best things are your children protected.

Not a thing stands still but sticks on the mud.

In spite of myself I have loved the world a little, and may lose it.

The power is in the balance: we are our injuries, as much as we are our successes.

But look at old women and bear in mind we are another country.

I would like to be a writer like Barbara Kingsolver; everything she writes has layers and layers of meaning, and such beauty.

I keep watching this video, which Lorde released yesterday to accompany the song she wrote for the Mockingjay soundtrack (which she also put together, while touring America. Youth is not wasted on that youth.). I don't know why I feel as if I have to offer some criticism of the song, like I have to prove I'm not completely one-eyed when it comes to Lorde, but I do, so - it sounds like a song written for a movie. However, that's not necessarily a criticism; Talk Show Host was written specifically for Romeo and Juliet, sounds like it, and is brilliant. I love how this begins and ends, and I love the styling of the video; the costumes, the mise en scène... And I love her dancing. She's so great.

I should nap if I'm going to have any show of convincing Vincent I can go marching. My dreams last night were bad; I was always at some kind of disadvantage, and vulnerable, and when I awoke, I felt terrible - head throbbing, dry and hot with fever onset, and with a strange kind of fever possession, which pulled me out of bed and to the kitchen to drink glass after glass of water, in a strange kind of fear. Vincent once told me about a boy from his primary school with epilepsy, who would calmly remove his shoes and set them neatly beside him when he could feel a fit coming on. When I woke up this morning, I felt like I was taking off my shoes.

Back soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

fox force five

The children are out with their grandparents, but it's taken me so long to downgrade our house from Hair-Pit Of Hell to just General Health Hazard that I don't have much time left for writing (besides which the sieve inside my skull has leaked much of what I was trying to collect in there during the week. It's actually very sad living like this. I don't so much mind being permanently confused as to the day of the week, but forgetting everything else leaves me with only reactions and feelings, and I wasn't short on those anyway. I feel like an idiot).

1. After reading Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things a little while ago, I realised I really like Agony Aunts; at least ones like her. When I try to think of how best to describe Cheryl Strayed, I just come up with 'cool', which isn't overly enlightening. I guess what I mean is that she's authentic and kind and strong, and on the side of fairness and love and self-belief and all of that good stuff that we all need in our lives. She hasn't had an easy life, and she's been privy to some really hard lives, but she's come through the darkest times with this grace that I appreciate, and an extra sense; the kind of grace where she is patient and merciful, and a sense which makes me feel as if things that look opaque to others are translucent or even transparent to her. And she swears, lots. I found myself challenging things about the way I think and feel and approach things while I read the book, and realised how many excuses I accept from myself instead of really growing, just because it's easy, or, even worse, because of my worm. Right now I'm reading Anne Lamott's journal of the first year of her son's life, Operating Instructions, and she talks about this worm inside her which feeds on bad stuff - hearing gossip, or unfortunate things that have happened to people she doesn't much like (or kind of likes), and that type of thing, and how it gets stronger when she feeds it. I have one of those worms. She also quotes one of her friends, who says her mind is a bad neighbourhood, which she shouldn't go into alone. I'm afraid my mind is a bit like that too. The worm and the bad neighbourhood mean that I keep things that make me unhappy in there, so that I can go in and feel bad sometimes - bad and isolated. I used to do it much more than I do now, and use those things to get angry at people, one in particular, and myself, but now, when I venture in there, I just use them to feel bad about myself. It's strange, when I consciously try to work through my issues, and improve myself, to realise/admit that I've been squirrelling these things away to hurt myself with - I don't know if a person who doesn't do that type of thing can understand it. But I don't want to do that anymore; at least, I don't think I do. Either way, I don't think a person with a baby should indulge that type of self-destructive behaviour. So I'm trying to face those things, beginning with admitting what I'm doing when I go to that bad neighbourhood alone. It is kind of a shameful thing; like hate-looking at people's facebook profiles, and it will take some work. But anyway, it was Tiny Beautiful Things that started this new wave of trying to make myself better and healthier, and now I have a love for Cheryl Strayed, and a new appreciation for Real Agony Aunts. They have something to say to all of us, whether or not we identify with the person asking for help. I recently found a new one called Ask Polly, which I also like (so far); that was really what 1. was supposed to be; just - read this. Jeez, it's no wonder every conversation I have with anyone about anything takes a long time.

2. I had a smear test last week, and it was great, so now I'm telling everyone I know to make sure they're up to date, and that if they haven't been so great in the past, that there are some things they can ask for to make them better, which are: i) you don't have to lie on your back! It's just as easy for the person taking it for you to lie on your side and curl up in the foetal position. If you still do it on your back, like I did, you still know you had a choice! ii) you can insert the speculum yourself! This was so great; the nurse just lubricated it, and I got to put it in, which was much better than lying back and waiting. The nurse pointed out that it's much less likely to be painful that way, because if it starts to hurt you can just stop and adjust. Also, doing it myself meant I didn't feel like I was just having something done to me - big difference. iii) a bit of conversation first! My nurse and I talked and laughed for ages (so long, in fact, that a half hour appointment ended up being an hour and a half; we're both talkers) so I was all comfortable when pants off time came around. One of the things we talked about was smear tests, how people feel about them, and her own experiences of them, which also helped immensely. Final notes: a) speculums are now plastic, and not those awful metal contraptions. b) nurses are better than doctors when it comes to things like smears. They just are. c) if you feel weird because you have thrush or something, just say it. They don't care.

(It's now hours since the little woman and furry man came back; they haven't run away with their grandparents, in case you were worried.)

3. So as I said, I'm reading Operating Instructions. I might be being hard on it, I dunno, because although I'm enjoying it and finding it helpful, I don't feel like I'm completely on Anne's team yet. (Wondering if it's the font used? Hoping it's not the Christianity...) Anyway, I'm particularly enjoying the bits where she has had a bad night or a bad day, and says things like the baby's no good. (And not because of my worm. I might not fully be on her team yet, but I still want Anne to win.) Sometimes, when Maybellene is making those loud "IIIIIIIIII" noises in her sleep, and rooting around for my nipple and then immediately pulling off (which doesn't always hurt, but after just having put her back on for the tenth time in as many minutes, is very, very annoying), I really really want to put her outside the door, close it, put a pillow over my head, and go back to sleep. Sometimes I would like to throw her on the floor. The thing is, I don't actually want to do either of those things, or any of the other things I occasionally think might be preferable to what's happening, and I never would. But it helps to say it, and to feel like that's okay. Anne makes me feel like not only am I not horrible, I am normal, or, at least, not alone. Even if it's just the two of us, I am not the only one who thinks mean thoughts about my baby sometimes. I was talking about it with Vincent's Mum and Dad this morning, and we all agreed that we wish people would be more open about these things. Because yesterday, during the bit at SPACE (our play-group thing; I believe it's an acronym but I have no idea what it stands for) when we go around and say what kind of week we've had etc, I said sometimes I would like to throw M on the floor, and nobody agreed. A couple of people laughed, but most had these weird expressions like "did you just say that?", and I couldn't tell if it was the saying it that was the weird thing, or the feeling it (similar reaction last term when I described my pulled-on nipples as telescopes), and I felt... I'm not sure. When I told him later, Vincent said disappointed, and I think that's it. Maybe the others don't ever feel that way (although when I was talking to my friend a little later, she brought it up and said "yes!"); it's possible, and if not, then whatever. But if they do sometimes feel that way, their reactions seem kind of mean, and counter-productive, We all know how judgemental people are towards parents, but the group is a safe place where we can be honest, and where we must be honest. I suppose it's a good reminder that if we want authenticity, we have to make people feel safe, and, I guess, be willing to put it out there first. Like that episode of Newlyweds, when Jessica Simpson and Nick's friends' mean wives were going to a day spa, and Jessica said something about getting her moustache waxed, and the others were all like "huh, I don't need that, ugh, etc" about it. She was very embarrassed, but my sister and I both decided then that idiotic statements aside, she was all right.

4. Best comment on instagram in the last month: [to James K. Lowe, boyfriend of Lorde] "When you hold Lorde's hand, hold it tight. You are holding my life in your hand." I fucking love adolescent girls (I'm not being sarcastic and dismissive, by the way). I fucking love them.

5. Summer reading. Amy Poehler's book, Yes Please!, has just come out, as has Lena Dunham's Not That Kind Of Girl (to much more fanfare). I still haven't read Bossypants, so that's going in there too. It feels really good to be thinking about summer reading, as if that's the most pressing thing in my life. I've been watching this video a bit, and imagining what M's first summer is going to look like, and the imagining is making me nostalgic already, and very glad it hasn't begun and I am still having to dress her in several layers of wool before going out walking. It's also making me wish I didn't drink so much milo/eat so much chocolate/do all the things Gemma Ward doesn't and not do all then things Gemma does so that I might look a little more like this when summer comes... I guess I'll just focus on my baby, and hope everyone in our vicinity does the same. (Also, I know it's gross that this is advertising, and I've long thought Country Road's adult clothes are not very well-made, but I have to admit that many of my favourite things of M's, including the little chambray romper I bought her for summer and can't wait to see on her with nothing else underneath it but a nappy, are from Country Road. They do really nice kids' stuff! Okay, sorry. It's not like our summer is going to look anything like this, anyway. We are not Country Road people. I just like stuff that has new mothers and their babies in it, okay! And yes, I might have thought about what this one-piece might look like on my bum, but it's not like I'm actually going to get it! Sheesh.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

don't worry, baby

Sometimes when I can't sleep, I lie in the dark listening to Vincent and Maybellene breathing, and smile. I become really conscious of my heart, and how it feels like it's full of mulled wine or something, and then I feel the warm liquid gradually spreading through my body until my cheeks are flushed and I feel stupidly happy, being in bed with the two people I love more than I love my own life. I feel like I'm being hugged from all sides, even though Vincent is on the other side of the bed and the little person between us is on top of the duvet and swaddled, and I feel so, so secure.

Sometimes on these nights, I think about a time a few years ago when I couldn't sleep and I would lie in the dark and cry. I would look at the light from the moon coming in the gaps between the wooden venetians hitting the white walls of the bedroom, and feel the water leaking from my eyes on its own; trying to keep very quiet so I wouldn't wake the person beside me. I don't know when I've felt more alone than I did on those nights. I thought I must be crazy. I remember the line "I'm empty and aching and I don't know why" looping through my head, and then feeling phony because it wasn't my line, and because I probably did know why I was empty and aching, but I was too scared to admit it, so instead of thinking, I'd just let the words turn over in my head, and feel empty and aching, and sad and stuck. During the day things didn't look so bad; I could fight, or drink, or just pretend - so well that I didn't really know I was pretending, most of the time. (I am that good at pretending.)

I feel sorry for that girl, crying silently in bed. She really did think she was crazy, but sometimes she thought it was the fault of the person beside her that she felt so lonely, when the truth was neither of those things. She was just a big chicken, who thought she was much more grown up than she was. She had made people feel as if she didn't need their advice, so they didn't try to give it to her, even though they all knew she shouldn't be in that bed in that bedroom. I don't really know why she was so afraid; she knew herself, and even if her self-esteem was pretty low, it probably wasn't much different from anyone else her age, and she had enough bravado, or at least access to enough alcohol, to free herself, freeing the sleeping person in the bed at the same time.

Sometimes I think about the things I will tell Maybellene; little phrases that, if we were in a book, she would grow up to quote, saying "Mum always said...". One of the most important of those things is not to let being scared stop her from doing things. There's so much out there that I want her to see and do; so many things I wanted to see and do but was too afraid to reach for... Not that I regret those nights too much. If I hadn't stuck them out, maybe I wouldn't have found Vincent, and I wouldn't be having these happy nights now.

Anyway, I don't think of a song when I'm lying in bed smiling; I just bask. But if I did sing a song in my head, it might be this:

Sunday, October 5, 2014

rants in my pants

I know it's not the nicest way to re-enter a room. And the news isn't even really "new" anymore, because the only time I get to spend on the laptop is to work, so these things have been milling around in my head for a couple of weeks now; possibly even longer (I have completely lost my grip on time beyond hours; the calendar I can see on the wall now attests to that fact - it says 'September'). Nevertheless, these things are still pissing me off, and will continue to hog valuable memory if I don't get them out, so here we are.

1. I had finally come around to Taylor Swift. Quotes like her preference to not wear the pants in a relationship (when will that nonsensical phrase die?) and her disdain for feminism, combined with her awful music, had finally given way to the fact that she seems like a fairly nice person who is a beacon to the bullied... And then she says, in response to Emma Watson's recent speech about equality of the sexes, that hmm maybe she is a feminist; she didn't really get what it meant when she said she doesn't see things as "guys vs girls" (that's kind of the problem, TayTay), and if only there had been someone to explain feminism to her when she was a twelve-year-old girl. What the fuck, man? You had the fucking INTERNET when you were twelve. The INTERNET. Not just a dictionary, like we had when I was twelve, which caused even more confusion about sexual practices and body parts and probably explains a lot of things about me; the internet. Maybe (thankfully) there was no urban dictionary to really break it down (as racistly/sexistly possible), but still - if you had typed in feminism, you would have found a pretty simple explanation of its essence. And you're friends with Lena Dunham and Lorde (sweet Lorde). Come the fuck on. But anyway. Taylor, like Beyonce, is now a feminist. She could be a useful feminist role model in some ways, I guess; she's been in a considerable number of high-profile of relationships which don't seem to have been used by media to define or label (read: punish) her, which young girls need to see (although this is likely a "reward" for otherwise being unthreatening and conservative). However, I'm not comfortable/a bit pissed off with this new thing of formerly really anti-feminist famous women "becoming" feminists so publicly. There is a lot of confusion about what feminism is; demonstrated by Taylor's admission that she didn't know what it meant until recently. This confusion isn't going to be helped any by ignorant people, particularly young girls and boys, hearing Beyonce and Taylor are feminists, and then seeing the inconsistencies in their work (see Destiny's Child Cater 2 U, and TSwizzle's Romeo & Juliet - from early in their careers, yep, but go on to watch Beyonce's solo videos, and Taylor's response to the joke made about her by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Oscars a few years ago). Yep, people can change, and that's brilliant. But there has to be a clear, unequivocal change. He seems batshit, but that guy who used to play Jake in Two And A Half Men knew about that; he got religion and totally denounced the show. Dave Dobbyn, now a Christian, doesn't play certain songs from his back-catalogue which extol the virtues of things with which he's no longer comfortable. I think, for these artists to avoid damaging the cause, which is already so misunderstood and maligned, they have to address where they stand in relation to what they have done and said before (I'll concede that Taylor has begun this by acknowledging she didn't really know what feminism was, even though it still irks me), and why, in Beyonce's case in particular, they chose to reject the label for so long (for which I don't entirely blame them, but think should be explained).

Dammit, I lost my train of thought. Just - people should feel comfortable saying they're feminists (though, to me, it's worth a lot more to claim something when it's not easy). And feminists are a diverse group who don't necessarily agree on everything (porn, for example, or name-changes after marriage). But feminism is a precious thing, and attitudes towards it are precarious. Let's not fuck it up.

2. Marianne Faithfull. Full disclosure: I already detested the idiot. But her comments about modern pop artists being "rubbishy sluts" incensed me. Firstly (and thankfully), the story died because she is so irrelevant; in fact, the headline was probably the only way to make people take notice of the fact she has a new album coming out. But what the fuck? This is a female artist who not only knows what the music industry is like, but has played that game; how many of us only know her because of how often she expounds on her past relationships with members of The Rolling Stones (excellent taste in men by the way; gotta love a man who "trades" women - DICK)? Fucking hypocrite. Secondly: HATE THE GAME. Yep, artists like Miley Cyrus and Rihanna piss me the fuck off too (though not as much as the Selena Gomezes), and whatever misguided rubbish they spout about doing things on their terms and how they're actually empowering women makes me want to ram the tv with the car, and yep, they do have a choice and god I wish they would use the power they do have and change things (and maybe I should cut TS and Bey a little more slack - but when you know better, you do better!). But they are symptoms of a bigger problem - a huge one, in fact, called PATRIARCHY. I'm pretty sure, despite the drugs, Marianne Faithfull knows something about that. And she's old! Why in heavens name would she think it's okay to call women "rubbishy sluts"? Apart from it just being a bullshit thing to do, isn't a slut a person who has lots of sexual partners? Who in the industry is known to have had more than Mick Jagger?! If she's so free and progressive, why would she use "slut" as a derogatory term?

I'm all riled up again, and I think this may be one of the most poorly-argued and badly-written posts in the history of this blog, but I feel GREAT. I have fucking missed this blog, and what it makes me think, and how it makes me feel. I don't know if anyone even reads it anymore, but I don't mind starting again. Reunited and it feels SO GOOD.

Back as soon as I can, even if it means sneakily writing on the toilet.