Saturday, 22 October 2016

secret: 20 thoughts collected from the year I was 30 (or, Some Things I Know To Be True)

1. Social media is not the one way
to my soul, nor the way to make me
pay attention
nor the way to make me love you.
If you are not there on some sort of
How are we to meet?
How am I to know?
Social media is a tightrope.

2. A person does not have to be a gender.
Sometimes I am tired
Sometimes I am not a woman or a man
Sometimes I am a Helen & that is all.
It follows that there are some people who are perpetually tired in this one way; the Patriarchy is a big nuisance forever
A person does not have to be a man or a woman all the time (nor straight, gay, queer, more).
That is fine with me.

3. There is not much that cannot be soothed by any or all of these things:

  • Licks from puppies
  • A hot drink you can warm your hands with
  • Putting things in the places they go
  • A full night of good sleep
  • Being in a bookshop or a library
  • Days with no plans in them.

4. Love is a mystery
I definitely believe in it, but romantic love mystifies me. It is my way to want to pin it down and have a definition to refer everything to, but it's ridiculous and won't stay still. I don't get it. I don't get how you're all doing it. I'm bewildered.

5. I am pretty fucking great.
I have spent a lot of time rebounding from all the things other people think. I've tried very hard to keep them happy; to mimic their ways, which is almost the best way to give them what they want from me.
I have curbed my instinct and my words and my actions to fit into things. I have felt guilty or fake or like a liar for saying I think one way and knowing that isn't always true. I have chosen not to do things because I will probably do them wrong and then people will have opinions about that and I will need to address the opinions of me like that's my job.
It's not my job and it's none of my fucking business what you think of me. Go for it and leave me out of it.
I am pretty fucking great just like this and I love my mistakes and it's fun when I'm doing things differently from how you'd like me to. Please, when you feel compelled to give me guidance disguised as kindness, know that I sincerely to the very bottom of my heart am just not really listening.

6. I don't owe time or smiles or gratitude.
When you are kind and generous and friendly with me that is just lovely, and thank you.
I don't have to do things I don't want to do anymore. The best bit is this means that if I'm smiling at you I really mean it and if I'm where you are I want to see you for reals and you don't have to play a guilty game of obligation with me, which leaves you time for more activities.

7. I remember when you let me down. It doesn't mean that our friendship is broken, because I'm an adult that can like you in spite of your flaws. I just didn't forget.
I didn't forget all the times I let you down, either (the ones I know about, anyhow). To err is human, etc.

8. Most motivational quotes are true.
But this doesn't stop me from cringing.

My favourite motivational quote is from Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood and it goes
"When you are in the middle of a story it isn't a story a all, but only a confusion; a dark roaring, a blindness, a wreckage of shattered glass and splintered wood; like a house in a whirlwind, or else a boat crushed by the icebergs or swept over the rapids, and all aboard powerless to stop it. It's only afterwards that it becomes anything like a story at all. When you are telling it to yourself or to someone else."

This is life and this is definitely my life. I guess maybe it's not your average motivational quote, but it sure as fuck motivates me.

9. Sometimes it is easier to spend time with new friends who are right there than to keep up with old ones who are far away.
Once I love you, I really love you, which means that when I can't see you whenever I want, my heart is broken.
I basically need to forget you exist just so I am able to function, unless I'm visiting your neighbourhood.
[I love you faraways so much, and think about you all the damned time]

10. The thing that makes me tough, strong and the actual best:
My brothers - by sheer virtue of their own awesomeness. We reflect this awesomeness in each other ad infinitum. All other relationships of my life are based on a version of this. They have taught me fierce loyalty, the fine art of cutting the shit and saying the truth, the importance of a shot of Campari before any party, and that the power in just knowing that someone has your back helps you to move fucking mountains. People are jealous of us and look, we know it.
What you suspect to be the case is true: even on our bad days, we are actually a little bit better than everyone else. We're not sorry about that. Try asking water not to be wet, or scotch not to be delicious.

11. Look, it is a definite waste of your time to care about how fat you look in your pants, but we all sometimes think about it, even the most kickass feminist of us.
It's ok to have a lapse and think that silly nonsense thought.
I shake away the thought like it's a little spider on my arm and do not beat myself up about fat, pants or thinking thoughts.

12. A lesson for humans:
You can't assume anything about anyone by looking at them.
Don't think a fat person is unhealthy
you are not a doctor
if you are a doctor, you still cannot tell by looking.
Don't think Aboriginal men are bad dads
stow your cartoon drawing pencil
Don't think a trans person has to "pass" as any gender
you can see my earlier thoughts on gender
and probably also fuck off
Don't think a woman deserves sexual, verbal or emotional abuse
for making a mistake
for having an opinion
for running for president
for wearing any particular clothes combination
for not taking your advice
for drinking too much
for making eye contact
I'm bored of this list already

13. Early marks are way better when you're an adult.

14. Sure, drinking is probably a thing I should feel guilty about
but I do not

  1. alcohol is delicious 
  2. soon, you are a bit more funny and charismatic than previously thought
  3. you make new friendships that are very important 
  4. intolerable people are either a) easier to ignore or b) weirdly tolerable now
  5. you can sing and dance better
  6. alcohol is still delicious

15. Some times I put things off for ages that turn out to be great, and my favourites:

  • learning to drive a manual car
  • downloading and listening to podcasts
  • buying a house
  • becoming vegan

16. There are some people who just remind you of who you are
You wander through many other places and try on other hats
And your paths cross again, and
Of course! There you are! Your self was there the whole damn time!

17. Layers upon layers of blankets
are the only way for me to fall asleep
like a pressure on my heart
will keep it in my chest
and I can rest
safe, without worry.

18. Layers upon layers of paper
are the only way for me to feel at peace
stacks of books and notepads
to ease the aching of my heart
so I can breathe
safe, without worry.

19. Mornings are probably the weirdest
of all the regular struggles of my life,
because when I get up and do things early
My day is better
My outlook is better
My breakfast is better
I have time for 2 coffees.
Bed is a great and tempestuous love of my life
It is so warm and comfy
and often, after
a whole night of treating me badly
I crawl in
hoping the next time will be different.

20. I don't know a lot about much, but I do know that having a place to belong in is saving my life. My garden grows roses, and I collect them to display in a bowl by my bed like trophies. I am making a good life for myself, and there are roses in it.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

treasure: the cat ladies

the cat ladies: they are ladies with cats.

in this situation, maybe the cat lady is simply a metaphor for anybody who is alone. the cat lady is a punchline. the cat lady is, essentially, a character into whom the Simpsons breathed life: a woman, alone but for a collection of animals. the cats have taken over. the cats are the central focus of her life. sometimes she can only afford cat food. sometimes she eats the cat food. sometimes she is the cats. sometimes we are all the motherfucking cats.

the (crazy) cat lady carries with her an unfortunate destiny we are all trying to avoid. taking the feminist implications out of this for a second: being alone with only pet cats means you will end up insane. we all need other humans. is this true? is it? 

i (personally) want to use other humans for the following (not always in this order):

  • laughter at my jokes 
  • the music they make
  • sex
  • intelligent conversation
  • aesthetic reasons

besides that, what am i using them for? a sounding board, i suppose, to check i'm still on the right track.

cats can't talk or write music or fuck people or reply to questions. so we cannot replace humans with cats. cats do not have opposable thumbs, so cats cannot operate cash registers, so we need humans to sell us our groceries.

monkeys might be able to help with the cash register thing, but not cats.

the crazy cat lady is a little scary. she's the modern day crone, witch, wise woman. she's the one who has decided the rules for herself, and while the rules aren't necessarily illegal or wrong, they're just not the ones the rest of us are operating to. 

the crazy cat lady is a goddamned punchline. boil it down kids, and really she's a punchline because she's not one half of a whole. she's alone; doesn't anyone want her? what's wrong with her? can't she even secure some poor dummy to fake marry her? 

the crazy cat lady scares us because she has at some point chosen cats over being half of a whole. everyone can find someone: as the meme goes, even Honey Boo-Boo's mum has a boyfriend. and while we "let that sink in", let's just stop and think about the clear and obvious male equivalent: oh wait.

i think it's basically this: women, unmarried women, are a scary fucking business. will they start a gang? will they encourage the married women to leave their men and start cat-heavy communes? unchecked, unmarried with cats ... fuck. will a cat be the president? what's next, a cat in space?

in conclusion, women and cats are probably the most dangerous pairing of all time.

#offtogetsomecats #catsforpresident #votecats #catsnottrump

secret: forgetting, and the weight of it

I'm really struggling with the imperfection of the human race at the moment. Y'all are driving me up the fucking wall. I'm realising my idea of appropriate human behaviour is different from most other people's, and mostly that is fine, but there's a few bones I have to pick.

The disclaimer is that I am still working on practicing what I preach, that I'm not addressing anyone in particular, and that I'm really just having a less-than-excellent collection of months at the moment. Which is actually what I want to talk to you about.

I hereby acknowledge that us humans tend to keep our own personal worries at the forefront of most things we do. That it takes extra effort and love to think outside of this, particularly when we have our unique and special collection of things we're dealing with. I know that. Damn it's a fine line.

Out with it: the thing that's really making me crazy is how quickly we all forget about other people's pain, grief and struggles. I'm fairly private about these particular treasures, so if I've told you that my aunt passed away, or that I kept getting dealt these mini-blows at work when I'm working so hard to further my career, or that I broke up with my boyfriend, I'm officially trusting you enough to share my shit with you. I've tried my best to tell people I like and care about these bits of news. Sometimes I've even told people I like but don't particularly care about, or even people I don't care about or even like that much.

People are very good and sometimes great about sympathising appropriately when they initially hear this news, whatever it may be. People are quite good at doing a follow up check-in on things the next time you see them. People, after that point, well, they mostly forget about the bad thing, and wonder what the fuck is wrong with you.

The thing is, the bad thing still happened. Even if it happened months ago and it's old news to you, it's not old news to me. It might come and go, but particularly in the case of losing someone you love, the mother of someone you think of as your sister, this sadness doesn't have an expiration date. This sadness can pop back up for any and all reasons, and maybe it comes with a smile too, but that's what grief is.

Do me and other humans who might be sad a huge favour and be a little gentle about it. Give us a little space - don't assume it needs to be talked about, but don't pretend it's not there, and don't assume I want to be cheered up. I'm here, aren't I? Wearing pants, as is socially acceptable; holding a drink and shooting the shit; I've even laughed at your jokes. I can still laugh, I just might not be staying out so late or drinking so hard. I'd rather be at home with my Swedish wife watching Gilmore Girls. Keep that in mind and appreciate my effort by knowing, even if you don't say it, that I'm doing the best I can.

Actually, I will go one further: if you can possibly bear it, don't call me, I will call you. By this I mean that I far prefer my own company to the company of most others. If I am in touch with you it's because composing and sending a text message is a burden I can bear that day. If you don't hear from me, it means I just can't even. Don't be offended. Don't be offended if I choose group social settings instead of a one-on-one catchup. Don't be offended if I have a one-on-one catchup with someone else but I do not choose to catch up with you. Don't be offended if I don't write back to your text messages. Remind yourself, please, that even if it doesn't look like it to you, this is actually the best I can do. If you have a sad or hard thing of your own you want to talk to someone about, it might not be in your best interests to speak to me about it just now.

I'm not saying I'm just unavailable forever, but I have to be honest with you: the people who have managed to understand this situation are the ones I'll be calling to hang out with, on the cloudy days and on the sunny ones.

I know it is much more convenient to almost everyone to be happy and filled with jokes - to be quick and witty with a pretty dress on is the goal. I know how infinitely preferable that is. Maybe that's because you're suffering from something sad too, and my sadness is not a thing you can bear. I am going to try my very best to keep that in mind.

I'm not saying you ask me "How are you dealing with your family member's death?" or "How's that infinite well of existential sadness today?" or "Is there anything sad and heavy you'd like to talk through at this noisy bar?". I'm saying continue your business and your life as usual, but when you can, remember there's a few things that have dropped me in some mud I have to trudge through, and I will do my best to do the same for you.

Friday, 19 February 2016

secret: Friday dreaming

I just want to drive somewhere with the car windows down and all my favourite songs for driving places to with the windows down playing one after the other in a mix that I’ve crafted intuitively but somehow overnight wearing my favourite and most comfortable sunglasses drinking an iced coffee with almond milk that is cool and refreshing and lasts forever and the icecubes in there never melt.

And the road has no traffic on it but me and there are some nice smooth turns that I can put my heart into and some bits that need swift gear changes so I can rock out my racecar driver moves and there is nobody in the car but me so I can sing along to all my favourite songs for driving places to at the top of my lungs and nail the harmonies.

And I know that once I get to wherever it is I am driving there is a body of water that will be cool and refreshing just like that iced coffee with almond milk that I was drinking while I was driving was and I will dive right in without any hesitation and do somersaults under the water like I did when I was 12 and I loved the water and didn’t care how I looked in my bathers.

And once I am finished swimming I will lay on some grass or some sand or a smooth rock in the shade of a tree or an umbrella and I will alternate between reading my book and napping and my book is filling my brain and my heart up like comfort food but the right sort of comfort food that’s tasty but also nourishing and I will be warm and comfy laying in the shade and I will be drinking something with Campari in it or maybe I will just be drinking Campari on ice but this time the icecubes will be melting.

And then I will head home with the seawater/riverwater dried onto my skin like a secret and I will sing a little more and I will arrive at my home and I will sprawl on my bed made with my favourite patchwork blanket on it and I will cut pictures out of magazines and make a huge collage about my perfect day and I will pause to play songs on my guitar and I will have a delicious snack of cold carrotsticks and hummus I have made myself.

And nobody else is invited and nobody’s feelings are harmed in the making of this fantasy about being alone for a day.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

secret: on feminism, feminists and more

As a white middle-class tertiary-educated woman, there are a multitude of claims and descriptors and arguments and rules and pre-conceptions that I trip over myself to avoid while also naming myself a feminist.

Claiming "female success" and the success of feminism elicits two responses. It intimates an end point, a final win. That the work and the goals of feminism and feminists have been met. That we have achieved equality. This seems wrong for countless reasons and listed pages of evidence that I mostly have neither the inclination nor the time and energy to write. The second response is the instinct to urge caution: don’t let the Patriarchy know we are doing well! They will respond by squashing us even smaller than before. They will redouble their attack. The backlash will be swift and unflinching.

There is a third response, which is: heck yes. Be afraid. Feminists/Bitches get stuff done. This one is muffled by the others, but it is there.

Feminism may have succeeded, but it also continues to succeed, and will log more success in the future. There is a real danger coming from those quietly chipping away at our energy by telling us it’s all been done already. Or that we should be happy with the progress we’ve made, as though there is not much more work to do. Or that things could be so much worse, that 'other people have real problems'.  Some of the key offenders and perpetrators of the ‘feminism is over’ story (a definite myth, let’s be honest) are (always) the ones who stand to benefit by way of our progress, motivation, anger and fire being set aside, distracted, placated into uneasy quiet.

I am not in any way interested in talking about post-feminism. I am only just on board with this concept of waves of feminism, because where waves from the ocean are dictated by the moon, so it feels to me that waves of feminism are dictated by historians and patriarchists (I made up a word, you're quite right) – to me this makes feminism a phase, or a collection of inconvenient phases. With all due respect to the suffragettes and the radical women in overalls with sassy signage, marching down city street and stopping traffic, with all respect to each woman who fought for any of the glorious joys I am consuming on a daily basis (the voting, the birth control, the right to the Morning After pill and the right to a safe abortion and the right to lean heavily on the crowd of strong, bossy, insubordinate women who spoke up before me while I speak up too, and loudly) I do not accept feminism in the prescribed phase format. We’ve been doing it for bloody ages and we’re doing it now and we will. Keep. Doing. It.

Long into the future.

There's a bit of outdated academic reading out there where the folk doing the arguing sit back and try to make the point that young women right now are rejecting feminism. That women being aware of and compliant to and complicit with the sex and the pornography and the high heels and the mascara and the hot wax and the prostitution and the red fucking lipstick, that which was rejected so vehemently by the feminists in the 60s and 70s means feminism is being rejected by young women. 

Here we are in 2016, for the next few moments at least. Now, where we are is most definitely not post-feminist. You ask Beyonce. You ask Roxanne Gay or Clementine Ford or Jes Baker or any other person I could name for you with more time and less respect for the apparent need for evidence. Unfortunately we did not buy the story that feminism was over. A backlash to your backlash, motherfuckers. Feminism looks different again, to me at least, or perhaps I’m searching for difference.

I don’t just want to be talking about wage gaps (although being that we live in a capitalist system it seems a pretty blatant oversight to pay women less for the same work – shouldn’t the patriarchy be hiding the evidence, not making a gap so obvious and easily put forward to compare an amount of cents to a dollar?).

I don’t just want to be talking about female reproductive rights (although why a gang of old white men should have so much impact on my ovaries is completely beyond me).

I don’t just want to be talking about the prevalence of rape culture in our media, down to the bare bones of the words that come out of our mouths (although if it’s gotten to the point that young women are carrying mattresses around college campuses in protest, we probably need to sit down for a chat).

I don’t just want to pick a few battles; I want to partake in a constant and evolving dialogue/Tumblrblog about all these things as well as cultural appropriation, discrimination against those not able-bodied, resistance to marriage equality, transphobia, body positivity, racial discrimination, refugees and detention centres, rights of animals. I want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land. I want to listen to people who have voices either rusty from lack of use or hoarse from shouting their stories, either way to listen for truths that are not being heard.

I want to negotiate a way to apologise for the clusterfuck of a national heritage I’ve inherited as 6th generation white Australian to the people my ancestors killed, displaced and stole. I want to apologise in a way that promises I will do my best to contribute to change.

I want to stand aside and separate from industries that hurt, maim and murder animals, built on a belief that because humans have more means to power over vulnerable little lives we should take them. It should not be so easy to take lives, or to make lives as short and painful as possible. I do not want to participate in a system of oppression over beings that don't have voices with which to defend themselves.

I rant above to illustrate that I am a feminist and that means I care about how everything fits together. Other people do have different problems, but establishing a hierarchy of who's problems are the biggest is a tactic for distraction. Pulling a feminist cause out of any of the above is like trying to pull a loose thread out of a woollen jumper – the whole lot will unravel. It's all my cause. Bless you, patriarchy. I am not distracted. Feminism is not an historical category belonging to a museum, because we’re far from done.

When you tell me feminism is exclusionary, you’re not always wrong. White feminism is most definitely a story written for white women, where white women anniversaries are celebrated and women of any other colour disappear.  I hope I am working towards being the kind of ally I’d like to be. I’ve used some ‘we’ and some ‘us’ and some ‘our’ in this piece but I’ve tried to use plenty of ‘I’ and ‘my’ in this piece as well.  Speaking for myself here I’d like to say if you’re a man and you’re down with what I’m saying, you’re a feminist. Being a man and a feminist is a little tricky for you in the same way being a white woman and a feminist is for me. Do more listening than talking, I think that’s key. Listen, read, ask respectfully. The conversation can be about you, but it is mostly not about you. This is because if you’re chatting with feminists you are chatting with women who are acutely aware that patriarchy has set society up to listen to and cater to you, as a man. You benefit from that in ways you may not have realised yet. Be quiet, listen, and start to realise.

When you tell me you’re not a feminist because you believe in equality, I will dismiss you or dislike you or feel sorry for you or openly ridicule you or calmly explain to you that you need to educate yourself. Patriarchy has done a fantastic job of perpetuating the idea that the Feminists hate Men and are Out to Ruin Everything; that feminists think women are better than men, deserve more than men. This bad press is boring; let us scoff at it and move past it. Let us not pretend that feminism is utopian perfection. Nothing is perfect. Nowhere is utopia. Nobody is flawless, except maybe Beyonce. You know how we deal with that? We let it be imperfect and we keep right on moving forward for better things. We check in with our basic truths constantly, even if only just to reassure ourselves that are motives are sound. Flaws are not ammunition for derailment. No thank you.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

secret: the apocalypse

Sometimes, to make myself feel better as I trudge my way back up the steps to my office after a slightly-too-long lunchbreak with all the young intelligent attractive people I am lucky and happy to be friends with, I imagine how my office building will look once it has been abandoned. I see parts of the stairs fallen away all together, the rest pulled apart by the stubborn, slow-moving fingers of weeds  that have wedged themselves into the cracks.

Everything will slowly rot away, I tell myself firmly. The fibres held together to form carpet will disintegrate into a slightly itchy dust. The glass of the windows will be yellowed, cracked, splinters on the floors, or gone altogether. Maybe doors and windows will be boarded up, graffitied like we see in the movies. I smile in a fond way at us humans trying to conceive of and imagine our own demise, immortalised in television, graphic novel, film. There’s always graffiti.

I suspect the way we all go is more likely to be infertility, like in Children of Men, or dead crops, like in Interstellar, or a nuclear holocaust, like in Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn. I don’t really think there’ll be zombies, even though I’d like that. I’d like evolution, Marvel Universe-esque powers, revolt and revolution. I assume I’ll be dead, bones in the ground. So I allow myself the luxury of a daydream. There’s a weird comfort in knowing that ultimately, my dislike of those stairs that I traipse up and down at least twice a day is irrelevant to the future of the planet. That time will ravage them and their torturous role in my day-to-day existence will ultimately be immaterial.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

soundtrack to my life: sunny road by emiliana torrini

I was a 20 year old Arts student trying to figure out if I could be a writer, living in Brunswick, having just dragged myself through my then-boyfriend's first psychosis-induced hospital visit. Guess who has two thumbs and decided to move in with someone diagnosed with schizophrenia? This guy!

I'd lost my previous job working at a chocolate shop because of the afore-mentioned unexpected hospitalization of boyfriend, and once the dust had settled, had the tough reality check that I needed the pocket monies real bad. Living off Youth Allowance in Melbourne is challenging and requires levels of creativity I had not previously been exposed to. I was also concerned about having to give up the most important luxuries of an Arts student: coffee and cheap red wine.

My lovely love of a friend Bridget hooked me up with a sweet gig making shitty nachos and overdressed salads in the kitchen at The Retreat Hotel on Sydney Road. My interview: "Do you have black pants? Can you be here at 7?" The answer to both was yes, and I was in.

Even at the time I knew it was the sort of experience I'd reminisce about some 10 years later from the comfort of my much-better-paid career path job (jury's still out there, kids - give it another 10 years maybe). I had a sweet crew of mates in next to no time, and we good-naturedly tried not to burn each other, trip each other, or bury each other in plates stacked in death traps, all the while being secretly in love with each other and desperately pining for those two free knock-off drinks. I got to love a whole lot of rock and folk music chosen by the bar staff (always a little more self-important than the kitchen staff; they, after all, were not covered in oil and gravy), absorbing some excellent live bands through quiet lunchtime shifts. I ate a lot of cold chips.

This song was on high rotation on triple j one very hot summer. The kitchen was not airconditioned. I lived for the moment our boss shut the curtains, signalling the end of service and the start of the race to straighten up the kitchen before we could knock off. We'd work quickly, the radio blaring in our kitchen cocoon. Emiliana Torrini's beauty of a song made me nostalgic for a life I hadn't yet lived, shoulder to shoulder with people who I loved. This song makes me think of Bridget, McGregor, Georgia, Cesar and Ben and yes, even Lach. This song gives me that feeling of catching a flash of a breeze from the back door; a momentary relief from heat emanating from the grill and the ovens of that tiny space. Life seemed very busy in a way where nothing moved too quickly past the familiar and the fun. This song makes me wish just a little for another half-second of that juicy and glorious time.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

secret: some poems, in no particular order (they are backwards)


we tire of farewells
we are just so tired.
my skin is almost transparent
like the membrane of an egg
beneath it I am raw and animal.
my heart is unbearable
trying to wrap itself in cotton wool
I try to work through grief, like there's an end to this quiet pile.

to drag a worried body with a bruised heart
all 'round town
is a tiring thing.
I tire of farewells
I am just so tired.


they say it's not just the stars
but the space between them
like how you and me sit side
by side
staring at the fire.
feeling that warm and empty air
between our shoulders
our arms
our legs
our hands
our lips.

they say it's not just the stars
but the space between the stars
(it's the space between me
and where you are).


is a long list
& my heart aches while I wait
& you're crafting such beautiful question marks
with sure, warm hands.

there's just open space tonight,
there's just open space.