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Just Tell Me Happy Birthday :: Osteoporosis, and turning 28.

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From… not my 28th birthday, obviously. 26th! Pizza Hut are good people.

It’s my birthday next week. Well, this week I think… technically. Thursday, March 31. I’ll be 28.

I’m still pretty little kid-ish about my birthdays. I count down the sleeps remaining, I make plans for a birthday party. There’s hell to pay if there’s no cake. All the usual things. I have to give up a lot of things in pretending to be a mature adult, but I’m not giving up my birthday excitement.

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This was the same year. My guild let me drink that during the raid, and then I ran around and solo healed the end bosses at the time. They were awesome, and… well, so was I. Ranked like a champion. Really good day.

This year is a little different, though.

I’ll be spending my birthday at the chronic pain clinic’s day program (a fatigue and a half’s worth of effort to say the least), which isn’t doing much to usher in a new year’s worth of excitement and promise. But don’t worry, this story gets better.

My doctors have been pestering me for the last couple of years to get a Bone Mineral Density (BMD) scan. I’ve got plenty of good reasons – malabsorption, chronic critically low Vit D, history of falls, minor trauma fracture, history of eating disorder, long-term steroid use… The works. But it’s always fallen by the wayside. There’s always something else that’s just a little more important to care about. Right now, it’s chiari malformation and my 10 week long migraine.

A routine GP visit (after a bad hip dislocation) reminded my doctor that I was due for my yearly echocardiogram (heart ultrasound). She figured while I was scheduling scans, I might as well suck it up and get my bone density sorted.

We didn’t expect for my scans to show anything. Despite all my risk factors, I’m very young for bone density problems. We just needed baseline results to compare my idea of ‘healthy bones’ to in the future.

But we were wrong.

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Spoiler: Yellow isn’t the good colour.

I’m in early stages of osteoporosis of the hip. My lumbar spine is looking pretty great, but my hips? Not so much. This is of particular concern to my doctors, because my hips dislocate frequently – and I’m the world’s worst candidate for a hip replacement. If the neck of my femur (where it joins onto the ‘ball’ bit that goes into your hip) were to fracture during a dislocation… well… that’s not going to be good for anyone involved. Mostly me.

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Spoiler #2: Green is good. Minuses and orange/red are not good. Now you’re all ready to go forth and be bone doctors with my sage advice. (Seriously, don’t).

I’m gutted. I haven’t spoken much about it because I’m still processing it and I just don’t know how I’m meant to come to terms with this. We’ve caught it early. Treatment and preventative measures are available. They’re not even difficult ones for me to take – regular blood tests to keep an eye on my calcium (which we already do for my liver/kidney function and vit d/ferritin), and a 6-monthly injection. That’s all.

But is it? My brain just can’t seem to agree. Maybe it’s the timing. 4 days until my 28th birthday and I’m just starting to reach the age where I look at young people in their early 20s and sigh, remembering the foolishness of youth (while also reserving my right to still be that foolish youth sometimes).

I’m not in my 40s, watching my children blossom into adult independence. I’m not in my 50s, looking forward to grandchildren. I’m not in my 60s, hoping to avoid the worst of elderly decline for awhile yet. I’m not in my 70s, when bone mineral density scans are actually indicated for age.

42 more years until the government has deemed it medically necessary for me to have a bone mineral density scan because it’s normal for my body to break, and maybe we should do something about it. That’s the entire span of my life, and then another third. That’s how long it should be before I’m staring down the barrel of 6-monthly subcutaneous injections for the rest of my life.

I’m caught in this horrible conundrum. I’m simultaneously grateful for doctors who care enough to pester me into tests they feel I need, while also wanting to rage at the universe for needing those doctors at all. I’m grateful the results were available quickly, that treatment is easily accessible, and the same doctors are immediately on top of making sure that treatment is in hand – no fighting for it, for me. I’m grateful that it’s only early stage osteoporosis – but I’m also really, really not.

I’m not fucking grateful that the universe has thrown yet another curve ball at me.

I’m not fucking grateful I have to get post-menopausal old lady bone jabs because my body fucking sucks.

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Both relieved this exists and is an option for me, and FUCK YOU. It’s a weird situation for my head to deal with. I’m still not there yet.

I put off scans and doctor’s appointments sometimes because I just don’t want to add another thing to my ever-growing list of ‘You’re too young for that!’ (tell that to my body).

I don’t want to hear a doctor sighing and scribbling a brand new diagnosis onto my list, whether we’ve suspected its existence or otherwise.

I just want it all to stop. I have enough things, body. Universe, I’m good. My list is full. We can stop now.

But we can’t stop, and I’m still meant to be grateful for all the little ‘it could have been worse’ moments that other people don’t have to deal with. Somehow, despite being covered in more shit than most people will when they’re 42 years older than me, I’m meant to dig out this sunshine and rainbows view.

A view perfectly healthy, work-stressed, do-I-want-to-get-married? almost-28 year olds haven’t even gotten close to mastering, and somehow I need to have learnt enough resilience to survive the onslaught I never asked for.

If we’re out at the same thing – or in the same little conversations – and you see me buried in my own world? Come hug me. Don’t tell me it will be okay, because it’s not. Don’t tell me that it’s shit, because you don’t know the half of it.

Just tell me we’re catching up, even when I’m exhausted and in my pyjamas and just can’t get my brain around why your life is okay and mine isn’t.

Just tell me that you’re there, whether it’s for drinking tea or drinking amazingly huge cocktails.

Just tell me happy birthday.

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Kink and Trauma :: Why some pain hurts and some pain heals.

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In some ways, kink and trauma go hand-in-hand. Like therapy, you develop a safe place to explore your pain. You foster a relationship of trust and open communication that allows you to delve into memories too raw, too rich to handle alone.
 
Sometimes it can be difficult to explain to others why rape victims are drawn to a place where they hand their control to another person. For many – both victims and general public alike – it hits a little too close to home. After having my body and my control forcibly taken, why would I voluntarily go through something similar again?

I’m not. Not really, not even if I was engaging in consensual non-consent (also known as ‘rape play’). The key part in all of this, all of kink, is consent. That word we use so much, that I’m sure older players are sick of hearing, is the reason kink helps to heal my trauma – not reinforce that the memories were right.

The childhood lesson ‘If you fall off the bike, get back on’ that we all teach our kids? It’s really not so different. If our kiddo has a bad experience, we encourage them to revisit it and try to create a more positive one to show them ‘Hey, you can do this thing, it’s good most of the time’. It doesn’t remove the awful memory, but it’s a reminder that not all memories will be awful.
When I touch on painful memories in the midst of intimacy, this is often my brain’s way of expressing that same lesson.
I trust my partner to keep me safe while we play. He knows my limits and respects them. He checks in with me before, during, and after. He knows that when he gets me to that happy floaty place, I need quiet and weight on me for a little while after. We discuss the kind of play we both want, and I know he’ll keep both of us within those boundaries.
I trust him with all these normal kink expectations, but I trust him with more.

As a victim of childhood and adult trauma, I trust him with the spiky, searing parts of me that have not yet scabbed over (and I’m not sure ever truly will).
I trust him to dance around the edges of my painful memories and slowly draw them out, replacing them with better ones.
I trust him to communicate with me and know when to use this immense power, and when to let my trauma sleep.
I trust him to help me confront my fears and flashbacks, and to sit with me when they’re just too much for me to handle – whether that’s waking up from a nightmare, or in the middle of play with a crop in his hands.
I trust him to not assume that he knows what’s best for me, but to allow me to lead my slow recovery through his actions.
My partner isn’t here to fix me through fucking, or to fix me at all. It’s not his job, not his responsibility. It’s nice that he’s an active participant in replacing shitty memories with better ones (or at least evening the score a little bit), but ultimately these are my demons. We both know where the true responsibility lies.
Kink and trauma isn’t a good combination for everyone, and not everyone is combining them in the healthiest way. It’s one thing to ask your partner to hurt you because you need to feel something today, and quite another to push them into a situation you both regret. Not all kink relationships are built on the same foundation of trust and communication, and not all trauma victims believe that the trauma is their own responsibility (and not that of their Master, Daddy, or Mistress).

I think there are plenty of ways to do it wrong, and not a lot of ways to do it right. Trauma fucking sucks and it can ruin your relationships and intimacy. Even managing to maintain equilibrium is a victory if someone in your relationship has trauma. Sometimes you’re going to fuck it up. One of you will go too far. You might add to that bad pile of memories instead of the good one you’re trying to build. They might take too much responsibility, or you might not take enough.

Trauma is bullshit and sometimes it just doesn’t mesh with your life. Kink might make that easier, it might make it harder. Who the fuck knows? Some of us are drawn to it regardless.

I just know that my partner and I have worked out a thing that helps us. I’m less terrified of oral sex than I used to be. He can cover my mouth and my nose now. We can play in public – I can be mostly unclothed in public! Lengths and strides from where we started, where started.
If life has screwed you, kink isn’t going to fix you. Finding a way to accept your trauma and process the memories will.

For me? I’ll be curled up on the floor under a pile of disused rope, teasing out the meaning of life and why some pain hurts and some pain heals.

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The One Twue Poly Way :: When Jealousy Causes Problems

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There are a lot of assumptions about polyamory, and poly relationships. Some come from outside the community. We’re all familiar with them. ‘Poly people are just greedy’, ‘Poly people just want an excuse to cheat’, ‘If poly people experienced real love, they wouldn’t want anyone else’.

The usual. Damaging, if spread without correction. Hurtful at best.

Sometimes the assumptions that come from within the community are more dangerous. That women are more likely to be poly, or be open to it. That you’re either poly, or you’re not. That it’s a clear cut, intrinsic, unchanging aspect of yourself, like sexuality (… not that sexuality is clear cut either).

In a lot of ways, it’s the latter that causes the biggest problems in poly relationships – at least in my own experience. If we accept that poly is just a thing that we are, we also accept that those who struggle with it probably ‘just aren’t made for poly relationships’. I don’t think that’s true.

I strongly suspect that most people who identify as poly would say that they experience jealousy, but they handle it better than our mono counterparts. We know that we can love multiple individuals and it doesn’t detract from any of them, so we logic out the jealousy and concerns when we are on the other side of the equation. It still bites a little, but it’s generally handled easily.

The same people would likely follow up their jealousy stance with the logical reasons for worry – time management, or concerns about personality clashes and relationship dynamics, or practical issues like living situations, children, marriage (if that’s on the table). As we logic-out the jealousy, we also logic-in some very good reasons for concern.

Regardless, other than a small minority of poly individuals who simply don’t feel jealousy at all, it’s something we all deal with in our own ways. It’s almost as if it’s a prerequisite of ‘being’ poly. The ‘One Twue Way’ of polyamory: We feel jealous, but we were made to deal with it. Those who struggle with jealousy are suggested that perhaps they’re not really poly.

Many in the community believe that poly is a thing we ‘are’, in much the same way gender and sexuality are not choices, neither is poly/mono. We wouldn’t suggest that a gay man was not truly gay just because he struggled with the concepts and realities of being homosexual. I would hope that we would have the same response if a transgender friend was having a hard time with living their transition, too. What sort of person would I be if I suggested to my FTM friend that their struggles with male bonding were because they weren’t really a man, and perhaps being a woman was a better option?

Yet we do the same thing to individuals experiencing issues with poly all the time. Sometimes it is that simple. Particularly within the kink community, people get drawn into poly relationships almost as the norm. When they realise it’s not for them, it can be hard to extricate yourself from someone you love who just… don’t love like you do.

More commonly, we’re just human and jealousy (and related issues) are more difficult to deal with while we’re under pressure. Work, health, finances, family… they all impact how we react to minor challenges. Yet poly is meant to be different, somehow.

It’s no secret that I struggle with chronic illness issues. If our bodies were made from Lego, apparently mine was constructed from those shitty knock-off blocks that don’t stick together (or refuse to come apart). While not everyone has to deal with my level of health problems, I think everyone can relate to how hard life gets to deal with when you’re sick.

Ever had a toothache?  Pain makes it so much harder to not lose your shit over regular problems. That person who interrupts you just a little too often is suddenly unbearable.

Had a really terrible day at work, boss just riding your nuts all day? It turns your usually irritatingly-endearing children into monsters who are determined to destroy your brief few hours of relaxation before you go back to the grind again tomorrow.

Financial pressures? You can usually deal with your housemate’s loud tv in the evening, but fuck them today.

You get the picture.

For people who are usually able to logic-out jealousy and associated emotions, sometimes the pressure is too great. Our emotional spoons go right out the window and we’re left with our feelings and no safeguard.

We tell ourselves – and others – that if they can’t just suck up that jealousy and deal with it, they’re not really poly. We ignore the impact of bad days (and weeks, and months), and the role our logic plays in making poly work. It’s clear cut, after all. If you can’t cope with poly especially on your bad days, it’s not for you. You’re not really poly.

And that is bullshit.

This isn’t an excuse to take your bad days out on your poly partners. It’s not a good reason to let your jealousy rule you, shrugging and blaming it on something else. That’s being a shitty partner, regardless of whether you’re poly or mono. Being accountable for our actions is key.

Recognising why we’re struggling is pretty important, though. Being able to communicate that is doubly so. It’s an awful lot easier to help a jealous partner work through their feelings if you know it’s because they’re under pressure, rather than just ‘not cut out for this’. Tackling the problem at the source is always more effective.

At some point we’re going to have to drop this idea that all people who struggle with poly just aren’t cut out for it. We’re going to have to challenge the idea that we’re immune to jealousy, or just automatically better equipped to deal with it, by virtue of being ‘born poly’. Learning to deal with jealousy and associated problems is an acquired skill, and some of us have picked up the basics faster and earlier than others.

Ultimately, it’s something that all partners – poly and mono – should learn to address. Jealousy and insecurity hold all relationships back, they just stop poly relationships from functioning completely. We aren’t special. Ability to logic-out jealousy isn’t some magic superpower we obtain when we fall in love with two people at the same time. We just have more motivation to acquire it.

If your partner or friend is struggling with poly problems, take a deeper look. Is there something else going on in their life that’s making this harder to deal with? Did they never really learn the skills to deal with jealousy? Is their communication poor? Are they worried that they aren’t really poly because they’re struggling, and that’s making everything worse?

As with most things, communication is important. Listen, be present, and leave your preconceived ideas of what polyamory and poly relationships mean at the door when you start a conversation with someone who is struggling.

 

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Vale Ms McAlister

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Unlike most of my posts, this one will be image-less.

While it’s almost customary to provide pictures of our deceased loved ones, it actually goes against my cultural beliefs. In many traditional Australian Aboriginal customs, photographs of now-deceased people are strictly taboo. Though the beliefs vary slightly between regions, there is a discomfort in ‘seeing’ those who have passed. Many have ones regarding the names of deceased persons too, though I do not hold to that in my own death beliefs.

It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. The people who know and care for are dead. They should be gone. These are communities where death is very common, and very real to everyone. You watch people die, you bury them before decomposition sets in. Death. And photographs? They’re that ‘gone’ person, still hanging around. While the ‘magic’ of photography has eased the taboo in many, it’s still a very unnerving concept. I hold to that.

As such, you’ll have to be content with my memories and descriptions of a woman who not only changed my life, but saved it.

Many of you know that I had a difficult childhood. There was abuse and neglect of multiple kinds. I had a hard run. I still haven’t completely come to terms with it all.

In the midst of coping with trauma and resultant mental illness, I had to go through adolescence too. I’m not sure high school was kind to most people, but it’s certainly not ideal if you’re trying to process child sexual abuse.

High school was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Don’t get me wrong. It hurt. I struggled. I disliked most of my teachers and peers. There are bright moments in there, flares of memories to convince me that it wasn’t all bad. The day J wore a skirt to school and Mr Jones was on lunch duty, and walked him away for a lecture. The day T laughed so hard purple yoghurt came out of her nose. T features in most of my good memories, and a few of the teenage-spat ones too.

But the pain. The brilliant, shining pain. Trying to convince myself that school was better than home, if only by a little. Through all of this, my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome went undiagnosed. I was a ‘hypochondriac’ and looking for excuses to get out of things. Years later we realised all my ‘fake’ sprains were joint dislocations. I still haven’t completely forgiven the adults in my life at the time.

By the final grade of high school (Year 12), I was 16. Almost 17. I was also terribly unwell.

I’d fled home in the middle of the night during the summer holidays after my mother attacked me. She’d strangled me in an alcohol-fuelled (and I suspect drug-fuelled) frenzy. Hairline fracture in my wrist, bone bruising in my jaw.

I’d been struggling to keep my head above water post-trauma, but after I was forced out of my childhood home for my own safety, I went under.

I’d shown signs of an eating disorder for some time, but it was only then that it took hold. I stopped eating, completely. Anorexia Nervosa, depression, and PTSD held me in their grips firmly. I pushed myself to keep going to school while living at a youth refuge. I harmed myself daily, tried to end my life almost weekly at that stage.

I thought I was presenting so well to the outside world. I hid my wounds beneath knee-high socks and long-sleeved clothing. I smiled when it was polite to do so. I pushed myself through.

She saw.

Ms McAlister (‘Ms Mac’ to us) was my English teacher for 3 of my 6 years of high school. She was tall, pale, and had this amazingly curly hair, kept short. She had a bandanna tied around one wrist. She also had the sharpest, barbed sarcasm of anyone I’ve known since.

I have not met anyone else who could call their students ‘stupid idiots’ and threaten to stab us, and really mean ‘I love you’ – and we knew it.

Let me backtrack a minute. Year 11 – 2004 – was my very first year of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month – A 50,000 word novel in 30 days. Click here for more information). It was only in its sixth year, and just started to filter out across the internet. That year there were 42,000 participants, and just under 6000 ‘winners’. I was one of them.

I’ve wanted to write books since I found out that people wrote them (as opposed them just existing, like trees and rocks). My first real attempt was that year. Everyone else thought I was insane. I was crazy to want to spend my life writing books, crazier to think that I could do it, and truly off my rocker to think I could do it in a month.

Ms Mac was the only person who really thought I could.

That month, I didn’t do any classwork. Not my decision, but hers. Any time I tried to contribute to class discussion, she pointed me back to the laptop I’d borrowed from the Science faculty, and told me to write. I brought her tidbits and asked what she thought. T, mentioned earlier, was also subjected to snippets of my very first novel. I’m sorry. So very sorry.

Fast forward back to 2005, grade 12. Acutely unwell, both physically and mentally. Most people either not noticing, or just believing it was someone else’s problem – my parents’, probably, but I didn’t live with them anymore. Who is your Mum when your own strangled you on New Year’s Day?

Ms Mac.

She was more than my English teacher, or simply a mentor or friend. She stepped up to be the parent I should have had from the beginning. She didn’t need to, it was just more work for her. There was no teacherly obligation – if anything what we did stepped outside the bounds of teacher/student relationships. She did it because it was the kind of person she was.

She told me once that she wished I’d just pass out at assembly (standing for the national anthem), because then she could have made me get help. As it was, I was still semi-functioning and there wasn’t much she could do. I was in the grips of an eating disorder, and if there’s anything they’re famous for, it’s for lying. To others, but mostly to the person who has it. Dysmorphia is a terrible thing.

Eventually she convinced me to go to the hospital. She gave me her home phone number, told me to call if there was a problem. There was, of course. My body is surprisingly resilient. Despite not having eaten for quite some time, my bloodwork was totally fine. No grounds to admit me for treatment, and outpatient programs were booked for months and months. I called her, furious but defeated. Why was I even there? I didn’t need help. My disorder said I was still fat, the hospital thought there was nothing wrong with me.

She blew in like a thunderstorm. Drove to the hospital and decimated anyone who dared try to tell her that I was okay. I was admitted briefly, but discharged after a few days for being non-compliant, but also not unwell enough to treat involuntarily.

Ms Mac, and my legal studies teacher Mrs Paix, spent the next few months holding me together. Ms Mac would talk to me several times a day. I’d just go sob in her classroom when I needed to be alone. Mrs Paix made me show up to class with food – I wasn’t allowed in without something in my hand. When I expressed anxiety at being singled out, she turned every single class into a tea party. She’d pinch the hot water urn from the legal staffroom, and bring cookies and cakes in to class – everyone had to eat, she said. Including me. Few things have touched me more.

Ms Mac’s funeral was last Friday. T made sure I was able to attend, and offered herself up as my personal hotel and chauffeur. She knew how much Ms Mac meant to me.

The chapel overflowed. Inside, every seat was filled. People sat all down the central aisle, and stood in rows along the walls. Even with every spare inch occupied, there were still an extra 30 or so people standing outside the chapel, listening in.

At my high school, the teachers mostly kept to their own faculty staffrooms. English, Maths, Science, History, Food Technology, you get the picture. While there was an overwhelmingly high percentage of English teachers present, I was stunned to realise something else.

There were a few other teachers I was close to in high school. Not like Ms Mac, but a few others who had gone out of their way for me. Mrs Caulfield, my maths teacher who knew that I wanted to write instead of do calculus, and treated me kindly for it. Mrs Dowler, the food tech teacher I hated for years, and then valued dearly.  Mrs Paix, the legal studies teacher who went to great lengths to make sure I was cared for, and included.

The other teachers who went out of their way for me were all there. They had nothing to do with the English staffroom, but they were there too. The very qualities that bound me to particular teachers, they’d found within each other – and all found within Ms Mac.

I’d always imagined that I’d go back one day, and she’d still be teaching. I’d hand her my novels. I’d tell her that I’d made it, and it was all because of her.

I’d tell her all about all my work in youth mental health and suicide prevention, and how I was only able to do it because she got me through it.

I’d tell her all about my children, and the lessons I’d passed to them were the ones she taught me.

I’d tell her that I was only here because of her.

I’d tell her that all my good bits were her. All of them. That the woman I’d grown up to be was a direct result of her caring more than she ever had to.

And now I can’t.

I’m back home now. It still sears that the world is just a little less bright without her. Mark said something very useful after I found out about her death. I was sobbing about never getting the chance to take my books back to her and tell her that she was the only one who believed in me.

“You didn’t have to”, he said. “She didn’t need you to go back and show her what you could do. She already knew. That’s why she encouraged you in the first place.”

He was right. I know that she didn’t make lip service to her students. She absolutely, truly believed that they were the little balls of potential that she said they were. That was why she pushed us, why she threatened us, and why she consoled us.

I was accepted into a short story anthology about a month ago, and was given the opportunity to include a dedication (real author moment there). Even though the words I sent in were before her passing, they remain permanently true. Her belief in me as a person, and me as writer, will be in every single word I put to paper for the rest of my life.

“‘To the formative women in my life. Ms McAlister, who taught me that writing was where my heart was, and to my Lionheart who has reminded me every day since.”

Vale, Ms McAlister, and thank you.

Thank you.

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What does Adam Goodes have to do with rape? :: (or why being a good guy sucks sometimes)

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They seem like two unrelated issues, but the constant booing of Adam Goodes has an awful lot to do with telling rape jokes. If you’re a non-racist who agrees with booing Goodes, this blog post is for you.

For those who aren’t intimately familiar with Aussie Rules football (AFL), Australia’s entrenched racism, and how they’ve hit the news lately, you might want to visit this link. If you’re already familiar with what’s going on, you can skip the synopsis and start reading from the picture of a cat playing football.

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That’s a pretty big trophy. I call reverse racism! It would be smaller if he was white!

The quick summary is that Adam Goodes is an AFL player. Most people would say he’s pretty good at what he does – He’s won the top award for ‘being good at that football thing’ twice. He’s been awarded ‘Australian of the Year’ (it’s a real thing, we give it out to people who contribute to communities and culture, or for individual achievement – he’s done both).

He’s also an outspoken Aboriginal activist. That’s where this starts to get messy.

The AFL has an indigenous round, dedicated to recognising Aboriginal culture and achievement in the sport. To be clear – this round is specifically dedicated to indigenous culture and achievement. People attending the game were attending a round dedicated to Aboriginal culture and achievement.

At the 2013 round, a 13 year old girl hurled racist insults at Goodes from the stands. Yes, a girl was yelling racist insults at an indigenous player during the Indigenous Round.

She was ejected from the stadium as a result. Goodes didn’t ask for her removal, and didn’t even blame her for her comments – instead, he used it as what Internet Parents would call a ‘learning moment’.

“I’ve had fantastic support over the past 24 hours,” Goodes said. “I just hope that people give the 13 year old girl the same sort of support because she needs it, her family needs it, and the people around them need it. It’s not a witch-hunt, I don’t want people to go after this young girl. We’ve just got to help educate society better so it doesn’t happen again.”

Goodes said that Victoria Police asked if he would like to press charges but he declined, reiterating that the girl needs to learn why her abuse was hurtful.

“It’s not her fault, she’s 13, she’s still so innocent, I don’t put any blame on her,” he said. “Unfortunately it’s what she hears, in the environment she’s grown up in that has made her think that it’s OK to call people names. I guarantee she has no idea right now how it makes people feel to call them an ape.”

Mature way to handle the situation, most people would say. In the eyes of racists, it was the beginning of a shitstorm of incredible proportions. Unfortunately for Goodes, he continued being black despite the booing of white people.

Perhaps he should have stuck to something... whiter? Like the 'Bus Stop', or the 'Nutbush'?

Perhaps he should have stuck to something… whiter? Like the ‘Bus Stop’, or the ‘Nutbush’?

When the Indigenous Round came around again in 2015, Goodes decided to perform a ‘war dance’ after kicking a goal for his side (that’s like scoring a touchdown for you Americans). Shouldn’t be a big deal, right? Indigenous round, he does an indigenous dance when his team is winning? Okay, yeah?

Not if you’re a white person who has decided when it’s okay (and not okay) to be a black fella. See, apparently Adam missed the memo on the appropriate time and place to show his culture. Silly guy thought that during an Indigenous Round was the right time. Crazy, right? He should have known that just calling it the Indigenous Round was enough culture for the bogan whities.

To top off the uncomfortable feelings he gave them, the war dance was ‘aimed’ at fans of the opposing (losing) team. Throwing an imaginary spear at them obviously constituted an act of racism on his part. White people really hate it when you throw imaginary spears at them. Perhaps throwing overt insults at their race is more appropriate.

This brings us up to speed. Goodes is getting booed every time he touches the ball during the game. We’re not talking ‘he gets booed when he scores’, I mean it. Every time he touches the ball. The racists refuse to accept their racism (what else is new), even when they yell things like “Get back to the zoo”. Definitely not at all racist. No, Sir!

This picture has nothing to do with the post, but isn't it adorable?

This picture has nothing to do with the post, but isn’t it adorable?

The endemic problem here ironically isn’t with the racists. It’s with those who are standing beside them.

The racists are almost a lost cause. They’re dicks, and they’ll continue to be dicks. I support campaigns to try to get them to be less dicky, (or less publicly dicky), and to teach their kids not to say the shit their parents do – but in the end, they’ll be racist dicks until they learn not to be. It hurts my heart, but I’ve resigned them to the list of anti-vaxxers who ‘research’, climate change deniers, and people who think it’s totally okay to talk during a movie.

The truly heartbreaking stories are those who boo Adam Goodes for other reasons. He’s a bit of an arrogant cock, so it’s not like everyone is going to love him. There are lots of non-racist reasons people may choose to think he’s an asshole – Maybe they don’t like his team. Maybe they don’t like it that a footballer won Australian of the Year over ‘more deserving’ people. Maybe they don’t like him begging for free kicks (think penalties, Americans). Maybe they think he’s an arrogant tosser. Plenty of reasons to dislike him, plenty of reasons to want to join in the boo-fest.

But if you do, you’re siding with the racists.

I know. This seems like one of those stupid politically correct issues where you can boo literally anyone else on the field, but if you boo this guy you’re a racist (or you’re siding with them). I hate it too, but hear me out.

I’ve spoken before about the casual use of ‘rape’ in conversations and in jokes. Essentially, I believe that – like in football – most people are good people. I believe most people are not rapists. I believe most people believe staunchly in consent and looking out for the best for their partner. I believe most people respect vulnerable groups and try to protect them where possible. I truly do.

I also believe most football fans aren’t racists, don’t believe in racist principles, and wouldn’t boo someone for something as stupid as an indigenous dance during an indigenous round of footy. Most people.

But when we (as non-rapey types) tell rape jokes, we’re telling the rapists listening that we secretly feel the same way. We secretly believe that women want it when they’re drunk. We secretly believe that rape is just ‘surprise sex’. We secretly agree that no really means yes.

Given the statistics on rape, if you’ve told rape jokes before, I can basically guarantee you that you’ve said them to someone who actually rapes people. You’ve giggled about ‘surprise sex’ with someone who actually believes it.

You’ve sided with a rapist, without even knowing you’ve done it. Makes you feel kinda sick, hey?

Yes, that includes you, rape-survivors-who-tell-rape-jokes-to-cope-with-what-happened. I’m not going to judge your coping mechanisms, but you’re telling rape jokes to people who did the shit someone else did to you. You’re telling rape jokes to people who think it’s okay to rape people. Like I said, I’m not going to tell you to stop – but maybe, just maybe, you should reconsider your choices if your coping mechanism actually confirms to other rapists that their beliefs are correct.

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Now, I don’t believe in policing what other people can and can’t say. I do believe that just because you can say it doesn’t mean that you should. I also think that if you’re saying things that make rapists feel validated and make rape victims feel like shit, perhaps you should think about whether or not you’re a good person.

If you boo Adam Goodes whenever he touches the ball, you are unconsciously siding with the racist fucks in the stands.

When  you join in, they hear ‘See, other people think his war dance was inappropriate too! Go be black somewhere quiet!’.
When you join in, they hear ‘The stolen generation doesn’t exist and other people believe it too!’.
When you join in, they hear ‘His success is because of white people, he should be thanking us – and look at everyone who agrees!’.

When you join in, you are validating their racism, whether you’re intending to do so or not.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair that you can’t giggle at rape jokes even though you’d never hurt someone, just because other people do. It’s not fair that you can’t boo an arrogant flog because other people are doing it because he’s black and not ashamed of it. No part of it is fair.

Rather than joining in booing Goodes, take a step back. Speak your mind on how bullshit racism is in Australia right now. Make the idiots booing him for shit reasons stop, so you can go back to doing it because he’s a Swans player and stole the Brownlow from someone you preferred. Call people out when they use ‘I’m not racist, but…’, because whatever follows is inevitably racist.

'... but I really think Aborigines should just shut up and stop complaining, I didn't steal their children!'

‘… but I really think Aborigines should just shut up and stop complaining, I didn’t steal their children!’

Side with good, because the only other option right now is to side with people who genuinely believe that Aboriginal people are less-than, or shouldn’t celebrate their culture. You’re siding with people who genuinely believe the Indigenous Round is stupid, because football was made up by white men. You’re siding with Reclaim Australia without even knowing it, and that fucking sucks.

You shouldn’t have to factor in the reasons other people around you are doing things, but that’s the reality of living in a community. If you manage to weed out the people being shit, you can go back to your questionable humour and your booing without being considered a racist or a rapist or a woman hater.

Eradicating shit behaviour frees you, it doesn’t restrict you. Side with good.

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#IStandWithAdam

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Love is disposable – and so are you.

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“I’ll love you forever…”
“… I’ll like you for always.”

I’m not the only parent who snuggles their babies and finishes that sentence with them. When my girls were little, it was almost a mantra in our house. I said it when they drove me up the wall. They said it when I made them finish dinner before dessert. It was our reminder that no matter what, we would always be there for each other.

Our children learn about love from their parents. If they’re lucky (and so are we), they wind up with two parents, happily wed (or something similar) and providing a solid foundation for healthy relationships for the rest of their life.

It doesn’t always work out that way, particularly with nuclear families becoming less and less common. It’s not unusual for a child to have three or four sets of grandparents. It’s not uncommon for them to wave goodbye to a sibling for a week of the school holidays because they don’t share the same mother.

Children adapt, and provided they are shown unconditional love and help with sorting out their emotions, they thrive.

One of the greatest challenges of single parenting is dating. Very few of us are content to spend our years alone, especially when those years contain night after night of ‘But I wanted the yellow spoon!’.

It’s easier to cope with single parenting when you’re… not single.

Even if your new partner doesn’t help with the raising of your children, it helps to feel like you’re not in it alone. It’s not all sunshine and lollipops, though. There are endless considerations to make when deciding whether you should date, who you should date, and how they’ll fit into your lives – yep, lives. It’s not just about you anymore when you have a kiddo.

In a lot of ways, your new partner will eventually have to ‘date’ your children as much as you. They will need to form their own kinds of bonds. They will need to get to know each other and learn to trust each other. They will need to set boundaries around their relationship.

The relationship your children have with a new partner is just as serious as the one you have with them, if not slightly moreso. This other person is helping your children form their concepts of healthy relationships, and reaffirm what love looks like. Whether they’ve signed up for raising your child is irrelevant. They’re contributing to their preconceptions of the world now. This is serious business.

There’s a fair amount of debate of when the ‘right time’ is to introduce your children to your new partner. A lot of it winds up coming down to convenience. Single parents often just don’t have a lot of spare time outside the home, and if you want to see your new partner more than one evening a week, they might have to come home for dinner eventually.

Sometimes it’s a matter of pride. ‘Look at this beautiful child I made! I’m good at the fertility thing! Success is mine!’. That’s fine too, in its own way. Who isn’t proud of their children? Seeing yourself reflected in a tiny person’s eyes is amazing, but there’s more than a little ego buffing when someone else notices it too. As an added incentive, it’s a nice touch. On its own? Your child isn’t a trophy. You don’t get to whip them out to oooh and aaah over how nice they are when it suits you.

Some children are more understanding than others when it comes to new relationships, and a portion of that comes back to how well you (and the other parent) dealt with the dissolution of the previous one. If they’re still not over the last relationship breakdown, they’re going to be less inclined to welcome a new adult into their life. Sometimes it’s a jealousy preference (‘I want my real dad!’), sometimes it’s a fear that the new person will also leave (‘Will she stay? Mommy left’).

It’s pivotal that relationship breakdown is discussed with children in terms they understand, and that they are given appropriate time and expression to cope with the feelings it brings up. Encourage it. They will have relationship breakdowns in their lives too, and teaching them to deal with them in a healthy manner at a younger age will prepare them for their own experiences.

So what happens when a new relationship goes south?

It can’t always be helped. It’s dating, after all. You spend time getting to know one another and find out if you’re compatible in the long-term. Most people would suggest keeping younger children (read: not teenagers) away from these early stages of dating. The success rates are often low, and younger children form attachments without the same logical understanding adolescents possess. It’s impossible to skip the getting-to-know-you phase, so damage control is your best bet.

There isn’t a magic number of dates, though, and often you have to play it by ear, taking each relationship on its own merits. Sometimes you’ll get it right and spare your children some heartache. Sometimes you’ll get it wrong, and they’ll attach to a jerkface before you see them for who they really are. Parenting isn’t an exact science. You’re going to get it wrong sometimes.

The important part is learning from  your mistakes. If you are the sort of person who flits from relationship to relationship, own your faults. Some people are more flighty than others, some work out what they want (or don’t want) early on and bail. Some people are ‘high maintenance’ and know that only a certain type of person can handle them in a relationship. If your relationships are all short, the common factor is you. It’s not going to suddenly change this time.

If your average relationship lasts less than 3 months, this might be you – and you might want to keep your kids away until you’re past the danger zone.

In a lot of ways, it’s like announcing you’re pregnant. When you get that positive test, you want to shout to the world that this wonderful thing has happened. If you’re someone who has a history of early pregnancy loss, you may elect to wait until the odds of miscarriage go down. If you’re confident in your body’s ability to carry the pregnancy through the first trimester, then you might announce it earlier – or tell close friends and family only.

If you find a great boyfriend, you’re going to want to tell everyone. That includes your children, who are likely the most special people in your life. If you have a history of early relationship break down, you may want to wait until you pass the point where they usually dissolve (3 months, for example). If you’re the sort of person who doesn’t really have month-long stints, you might be a better candidate for telling your friends, family, and children earlier that you have a special someone in your life.

Know who you are, your limitations, and your history. Own them.

Sitting in denial winds up hurting you and your family when you suffer yet another ‘loss’ a month in, when you and those around you have just started to get attached to the new member of your family. You may have the resilience to deal with another disappointment in your line of disappointments. It doesn’t mean that your child has the same.

When we bring new partners into the lives of our children, we set standards for what romantic love and healthy relationships should look like. We demonstrate to our children what love looks like. When parents flit from one partner to another, declaring love after a week and introducing their children, we teach them that love is disposable.

Children don’t have the same ability to logic out emotions as we do as adults. They look for patterns to make sense of their world. Usually, this works well. If their parents smile and care for them, smiling people become positive. If parents show fear around something, they assume they should fear it too.

If you tell your child that love is forever, but then openly change partners every 3 weeks, your child will believe that love is temporary and you cannot be trusted.

There is no magic date number before you introduce your children. You need to evaluate the maturity of your relationship (honestly), the maturity of your children, and your own history. You need to check in with your kids and see how they’ve coped with previous relationship breakdowns. You need to own your behaviour in relationships and recognise patterns.

“I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always… unless you’re someone I’m dating. Then I might cry for a week before I tell someone else I love them instead.”

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Courage and Identity :: Who are you really?

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I was going to start this, as I usually do, with a picture.

I wanted to show you the man who abused me for years. I wanted to give you a face to the stories I’ve shared of my rape and abuse. I wanted to be able to show you the monster serving two years, suspended, for aggravated serious criminal trespass (break and enter, with a mitigating factor). I wanted you to see.

But scrolling back through painful memories, looking for the right photo… there isn’t one.

There isn’t a monster in these photos. There is a man. A man my parents met, a father to my children, someone who did actually make me happy some of the time.

My monster is just another man to you.

Healing from trauma has been a lengthy process. Two and a half years in and I’m not sure I’ve really made much headway at all.

I still have multiple nightmares, every single night. Panic attacks are still common, even while I sleep. He’s on the other side of the country and I’m still terrified he’s going to show up here and kill me, or those I love.

Not unfounded fears, he’s seriously threatened to kill my partners before, and did try to kill me. Couldn’t prove it in court, but you don’t need to defend yourself with a knife against someone who doesn’t mean you harm.

The most difficult part of healing has been learning who I am as a person.

When you’re stuck in an abusive relationship (romantic, or otherwise), your abuser often steals your identity – cutting you away piece by piece until the person left is the one they’ve created. After his arrest, I had to pick up each piece and decide whether or not it was part of who I wanted to be, now that I had the freedom to be myself.

I was more scared in the six months proceeding his arrest, than in the six months previous. Even ignoring fear of retribution, I had to work out who I was without the ‘guidance’ of the person who had controlled my life for five long years. It was terrifying.

I didn’t find all good things when I started discovering who I am. I find it difficult to be compassionate when I feel people aren’t trying hard enough. I’m impatient, argumentative, demanding. I struggle daily with motivation, even with my depression under control.

We are all good and bad parts, even those of us who get the opportunity to create ourselves again.

In building myself, I’ve discovered core parts of my identity that I’ve wanted to shout out to the world. Those ‘eureka!’ moments you get at work, or when your plot just falls together, or the food you’re making just sings in your mouth? When things just… work.

I have some incredible people in my life. These people have suffered through two and a half years of my excited squealing when a new part of me is born, another part of my life reclaimed. If you think you’re ‘over’ coming out stories in the news, spare a thought for my loved ones who have pretty much had two years straight of those moments.

Living your life with a commitment to being authentically yourself, while caring and protecting others, is scary. It’s difficult. You don’t always get the balance right, and someone gets hurt – if you’re lucky, it’s you.

It takes an immense amount of courage and inner strength to reclaim who you are as a person after living for so long in the mould that others have decided for you.

For some, it’s coming out and sharing their sexuality or gender with those around them.

For others, it’s bucking expectations and remaining unmarried or childless.

For me, it was finding out who I am, and having the bravery to try to face that new person every day.

As Caitlyn Jenner embarks on her new life journey, she will find herself discovering things she loves about herself, and things she really dislikes.

Discovering and living who you really are is a difficult enough road to walk with the support of others.

It is infinitely harder when people drag their biases about who you ‘should’ be to the table.

The next time you think you are entitled to someone else’s identity, remember that a man once thought he was entitled to mine, too.

You can help those around you to live a compassionate life that reflects who they are…

…or you can make it harder for everyone.

Who are you really?

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