What to write when you can’t write

Standard

IMG_2947

 

It’s almost impossible for me to sit down to write without first sifting through at least ten cliched topic ideas. The year in review, recent awful incidents domestic and abroad, how the summer holidays went, my increasing frustration at the unbridled gluttony of Christmas, resolutions for the new year, how good it is that my kids have grown up some. I could do a list, a top ten or a how to. Once I have sorted through all my crappy ideas, I then have to sit frozen for a period while I wrestle with the fear that I can’t write anything. The awfully romantic thing is that I wrote way easier and quicker and (I think) better when I was depressed and wanting to hurt myself. So now I have this worry that I’ve got nothing to say. After crippling self doubt comes the first few words, helped along by a nice lubricating glass of whatever it is at the moment. So then I worry that people will think I am too reliant on alcohol but I have already approached that unease and I prevailed. And then a few more words come, always in little spurts, a sentence at a time, scrutinised for repetition, banality and adages. You won’t believe how often I consult the dictionary and the thesaurus while composing a post. One thing I can’t stand when reading is obvious writer’s habits. A turn of phrase or way of expressing something that a writer uses over and over. So I am hyper vigilant to it in my own writing. Having said that I am in no doubt that most readers could find banality (!) and habits in my stuff.

Sometimes I end up with something I really like and think is good. Like this one. I really liked that one. Then most other stuff is simply OK. Maybe some of it is a bit boring to read, but I haven’t been game enough to publish something here that I think is truly crap. All writing wisdom says you have to just write, and write heaps of crappy stuff before you get to the good stuff. I think my blog is the writing equivalent of the girl who takes 200 selfies and posts only the one where her chin is just so, her eyes are open enough but not too much, and her hips turned just enough to make her look thin enough but not like she has too big of a butt. It’s a bit exhausting. I wonder if all the really cool bloggers I know and read have this problem. Or if their version of crap is my version of good. I’m sure they must at least occasionally write a bit of crap.

I wanted to finish with one of my original cliched ideas. Original cliche, see what I did there? A friend of mine recently wrote on Facebook in her Christmas wishes, I know for some of you today will be wonderful & for some it will be heartbreaking. We all get our turn at both in life. I thought that it was an expression of such lovely and true empathy. There has been a great deal of sparing of thoughts and thoughts going out to and thoughts and prayers being cast about in recent weeks. But my friend’s comment stayed with me right through the day, and the next several days. And I really did spare a thought. Lots of them. My thought sparing came with honest pain in my heart and a humble, joyful acknowledgement that all who were expected at my Christmas table were there. I always liked the idea that you could carry a bit of pain for someone at times when it was unbearable and make it (not less painful) just that tiny bit shared. So I hoped, in my thought sparing, that I did it at just the right time, for the many, many with an empty seat at the Christmas table.

I broke up with my TV

Standard

I had this relationship that had become a bit stale. Like this old person kind of hanging around, but I was still feeling this level of obligation to them because we had shared so much history and that. It had come to the point where, to be honest (and maybe a bit brutal) it was an inconvenient relationship. It was a bit awks too because they were just like there all the time you know. Look to be honest with you, it was nothing more than a relationship of convenience. Meaningless noise in the background. Gosh I know that sounds heartless but let’s be honest. It’s not that I’m not thankful. We’ve shared some life changing moments. The first female Prime Minister, the worldwide Ebola crisis, MH17 and 370, various World Cups, numerous election nights, the Royal Wedding, the Bachelor Finale. Unforgettable.

The main problem was that this relationship had started to choke out some of my other relationships. And I never said let’s be exclusive, can we just put that right out there ok. We had a standing date for the seven o’clock news. Every night. It was like a deadline in the sand and I couldn’t miss it. Some would say the hallmark of a controlling relationship. It did nothing for me other than to make putting the kids to bed even more stressful. You could almost say that this relationship had become more important than spending time with my kids. Ewwww.

If you have followed this blog for some time, you may recall me writing about my entertaining life with depression and twins. One of the things that I have really struggled with is noise. Yes noise, far too much of it in fact. Imagine my surprise when, after dumping my erstwhile companion, I discovered a significant reduction in noise in my life! This was accompanied by an inexplicable yet divine increase in silence, peace and calm! Had I known that ending this relationship would instantly make me more available to my kids and husband AND make less noise, I would have done it years ago. But hey. Live and learn, live and learn.

Ending this relationship has liberated me. It’s like I’m having my own Eat, Pray, Love moment. I can’t believe how many extra hours there are in an evening for a start. I am even thinking of getting out my dusty, old, incomplete cross stitch that I started in China in 2007. It’s been in the garage for years, another victim of this toxic relationship. I am reading TWO books! Hello brain! My husband and I had an ENTIRE conversation like three nights in a row last week. I think I’m sleeping better because I’m already wound down by the time I hit the pillow. And look, blogging again. I’m glad we said goodbye. I don’t miss you.

The Cabinet

Standard

My husband and I once made up a game called Noun, Verb, Adjective. The object is to think of a word that is all three. Totes nerdy much? Go on, try it. So it should come as no surprise then, that we spent the Sunday morning of our anniversary weekend away coming up with our dream team of politics. It started with our hand picked cross bench holding the balance of power in the Senate, but then we decided to go full tilt and design the Dream Cabinet. Not all members are current or even former politicians and we have made up some new portfolios and perhaps left some out. You may need to be an Australian reader to appreciate this list in its entirely, and I especially encourage you leave your suggestions in the comments section.

Tim Costello – Minister for Families and Community, and Prime Minister

Adam Goodes – Foreign Minister and Minister for Defence

Miriam Lyons – Minister for New Ideas and Vision

Larissa Waters – Minister for Planning and a Urban Affairs

Tara Moss – Minister for Women

Jane Caro – Minister for Education (obvs)

Eva Cox- Minister for Seniors

Lenore Taylor – Minister for Communications

Julian Burnside -Minister for Immigration

Tim Winton – Minister for Literacy

Christine Milne – Minister for Renewable Energy and Climate Change and Deputy Leader

Waleed Aly – Minister for Inclusion of Young People

Charlie Pickering – Minister for the Arts

Malcolm Turnbull – Minister for Bipartisanship

Michael Leunig – Minister for Early Education

Tony Windsor – Minister for Primary Industries

Stella Young – Minister for Disabilities

Gary Ablett – Minister for Sport

Debbie Kilroy – Attorney General

Ross Garnaut – Treasurer and Minister for Finance

Heather Ridout – Minister for Health

…and on the opposition benches…

Maurice Newman – Leader and Minister for Reintroducing 1950s Values

Jarrod ‘pleasure’ Bleijie – Deputy Leader and Minister for Crushing the Hopes of Young People

Alan Jones – Minister for Negative Agenda Setting

Karl Stefanovic – Minister for Having a Drink at Work

Christopher Pyne – Minister for Private School Snobbery

Andrew Bolt – Minister for Free Thought

Janet Albrechtsen – Token Minister for Women’s Affairs

Ray Hadley – Minister for Boofheads and Bogans

Michael Roche – Minister for Worshipping Coal (with Tony Abbott as his assistant)

Corey Bernardi – Minister for Ultra-extremism

Steve Price – Minister for Negativity and Grumpiness

Gina Rinehart – Minister for Exploitation and Advancement of Billionaire Wealth

Scott Morrison – Minister for Punishment

Peter Costello – Minister for Smugness

OK so we got a little silly toward the end there. What can I say, we were drinking. On the government benches, gender equality came without even trying (see Tony, not that hard). Not so when filling opposition positions. What does that say?

To the nurses

Standard

IMG_2390

Arriving for surgery is a graduated process of admission into an inner sanctum that most people only ever rarely see and barely remember. Like the watch house after a big night. First, you’re fooled into thinking you’re about to stay overnight in a five star hotel. They have those gold luggage wheely things and everything. Stylish walls, comfortable lounges. There are signposts however, hints to remind you that you are handing over control of your everything to people you have never met and are unlikely to remember (they give you stuff to make you forget). The sense of vulnerability is uncomfortable. There is the signing of your name like a hundred times. There’s the file. My file was placed on the counter top as I was signing away and, being the curious person that I am, I had a little flick through. Who wouldn’t want to know what they’ve got on you in that file? When I returned to signing, the staff member behind the desk (not so) subtly slid the file along the counter and out of my reach like I was trying to access Scott Morrison’s Irregular Maritime Arrivals data.

Ater the fake five star hotel waiting area, there is another area where only one person is allowed to accompany you. After an hour or so I get interviewed and tagged. I felt I was getting closer to the exclusive bit. Except I wasn’t. Here is where you wait, starving, while your surgeon’s morning list blows out and instead of two hours you end up here for four. But finally, a sign of something more inner sanctumy happens and I am changed into their clothes. The paper undies! I’ve now been moved to another waiting area (having lost my husband two hours ago because he couldn’t stand all the not eating) to a chair with a number on it. Now I belong, almost. Yet another hour or so and Sonia Kruger comes in to take me to the waiting bay. Oh good, because I was keen to do some more waiting. Sonia Kruger and I hit it off somehow and in the two minute wheelchair ride from waiting room three to waiting room four, she managed to share with me her dilemma about whether or not to have a third child. I wasn’t able to offer her much useful advice because I was in the middle of fighting back a panic attack. The humour was not lost on me that I was actually there because of too many large children inside me.

I’ve finally made it to a bed and I’m exhausted. I feel that they may as well not bother with the general anaesthetic because I could sleep for days completely unassisted. Dashing Dr Sleep comes in though and I think hey, may as well use your services seeing as how I’ve paid you an hourly rate equivalent to that of Gina Rinehart. When I finally see the guy who will actually stick knives in my belly (let’s call him Dr Knives), I know this is real. He draws all over me with a Sharpie and I’m thinking, a Sharpie? Really? Isn’t there like a hospital type sterile version of  Sharpie? I’m also thinking f*** it’s cold in here.

So I am drawn on, tagged, paper panted and ready to go. I get wheeled a long long way down some corridors, which is plenty of time for my panic to resurface and roll down my cheeks. Anther kind soul pats my hair just like your Mum would. And then there it is, the inner sanctum. Lots of people, lots of lights, fricking cold. My shaking is visible under the six blankets on top of me. There is some kind of kerfuffle with the blow up operating bed (yes I said blow up operating bed) and a comical scene ensues in which Dr Sleep and the nurses try to figure it out. What could possibly go wrong I say out loud, which seems to strike a disturbingly funny cord in the room and everybody laughs pretty big. Do you want me to name the ways, asks a nurse who I will call Nurse Ted, for reasons that will become apparent. No I really don’t, I reply. I really really don’t. Having lightened the mood, I’m now moved across to the blow up bed and people start putting needles in me. I notice it is about five to four. Nurse Ted knows I am almost in full panic mode and comes and stands really close. He holds my freezing, shaking hand in his massive, warm, bear like one and pats me. I tell him I’m alright and he says no you’re not. That thing happens when people are so kind to you it just makes more tears come. Nurse Ted wipes my tears away. I have a strong image of myself jumping up in front of him with a sword in my hand to protect him from the state government. But that might have been the drugs, because in the next moment, I am gone.

The clock says it’s about six thirty in the evening. I’m sore and dry and there are lots of tubes and short beeps. There is a nurse sitting right at my side. Let’s call him Gen-Y-Hipster-Bearded-Nurse-Guy. Gen-Y-Hipster-Bearded-Nurse-Guy was surreptitiously playing with his phone, which was hidden in the bedside table drawer a bit like you do at school. Hey there Hipster Nurse, I’m just saying but you know, if there ever was a moment that I can legitimately claim is all about me, this is it. This is a put your phone away moment yes? I decide not to argue. I can’t speak or move so there’s that, but if any of these short beeps turn into long uninterrupted beeps you better put that candy crushing aside dude.

I get wheeled up to the ward and I am delirious to discover that it is indeed just a bit like a hotel room and even better, that I have no roommate. Which is good because I was about to get inappropriate. I needed to, let’s just say adjust some things and exposure was a certainty. I was in need of some under the sheets adjustments and was shocked to discover that this whole gig came complete with what appeared to be a bonus full Brazilian. I know right now this may feel like far too much information; to say that I thought long and hard about the appropriateness of including this detail would be a complete lie. I’m just going to go with the fact that somebody put me in charge of my own drugs. Hospital. The only safe and clean place to have an acceptable love affair with controlled drugs.

It’s about three in the morning and the past twelve hours or so have got me thinking, not just about drugs, but about nurses. I guess in every profession, there are some who love their jobs and some who don’t. In the last twelve hours, I’ve yet to come across a single person who does not have a unique style of warmth and compassion that comes from within and cannot be taught. Every single person along the long chain of events that led me here to this high and painful moment, seemed to know exactly what to say to me and how to say it. Sonia Kruger knew that I needed a cheery, light conversation, one Mum to another, to keep my mind off my panic attack. Nurse Ted knew that it was all getting too much and, provided kindness and a warm hand to hold; some human connection in a cold and scary room. Nurse Business, my ward nurse, gave me practical, get the job done kindness. Even dear Nurse Hipster gave me material for a funny anecdote in this post.

Nurses work very very hard. For a very small percentage of what Dr Sleep and Dr Knives take home. Sure, Dr Sleep and Dr Knives have the expertise and the long long years of study. But without these good nurses, Drs Sleep and Knives would find that they are not nearly so successful at their jobs. Nurses change bed sheets, clean up shit, wee, vomit and blood, hold hands, wipe tears, make tea and have a whole range of clinical medical skills and knowledge and Doctors would be incompetent without them.

I had great doctors and I thank them, but the nurses pulled me through. Thankyou.

 

Once again, in a loud voice please

Standard

IMG_2100

Let’s start over. From now on, you are to have first pick of the take away menu. You are to have the drumstick, the big slice, the comfy corner of the couch. No more end of the loaf toast for you, no more cold dinner, no more three dollar shampoo.  I don’t ever want to hear you describe yourself as not all that clever ever, ever again. I don’t ever want to hear that acceptance in your voice as you admit that you bought his story that your appearance is somehow less than it should be. From now on we draw a line in the sand. This is acceptable, this is not. And when it is not I want to see you let the tiger out. No more powerlessness, no more keeping quiet, no more waiting and seeing.

I saw it happening, but I didn’t know it until now. I wish I could have saved you from the crushing he has given you as he squashed the fight out of you year upon year upon year. He took away (some of) your spark and that’s not acceptable. I don’t know what kind of fears you have lived with, I don’t know what your new fears are. I hear you say it a lot, that you are frightened. But I want to say to you no. He has taught you that and he’s gone now. He has taught you that you can’t be alone, that you can’t be the strongest person in the house. Every day he has chipped away at you until your own son forgot what your laugh sounded like. Not acceptable.

It’s time now for noisy laughter, for spontaneous decisions, for expensive shampoo. It’s time to own your body and your space and your opinion. No more apologising, much more expecting. No more doubting that you’re worth spending time with. The only reason you didn’t pick up the phone is because he made you believe that nobody wanted to answer. It’s time to separate out the person he stepped on and the person you are. He tried and he failed. No more asking permission no more second guessing. Today is the day for a new haircut, a new puppy and some fresh air.

Mother Martyr

Standard

IMG_0171

Every time Mother Of One had coffee with Mother Of Two, she couldn’t really say how she truly felt and that she was struggling with motherhood so terribly. Because of course Mother Of Two had a lot more on her plate. You see, Mother Of One hadn’t told anyone, but her husband had recently lost his job and had sunk into a deep depression. She was sure that their relationship was falling apart. She was emotionally drained and struggled to feel love for her tiny baby. But hey, there were people who had it worse right?

Every time Mother Of Two had lunch with Twin Mother, she kept her feelings of mother shame to herself. Because of course, poor Twin Mother was dealing with TWO babies AT THE SAME TIME! Mother Of Two’s problems paled into insignificance. So she kept to herself the fact that her shouting at the children had reached a point where she was so overcome with shame that she felt incapacitated. She was fearful that someone would ‘take her kids away’ and that of course she was a terrible mum. But she couldn’t tell anybody, because someone always has worse issues right?

Every time Twin Mother had tea with Mother Of Twins Plus One On The Way, she wanted so desperately to say how she thought she was losing her mind. But she didn’t. Because hapless Mother Of Twins Plus One On The Way was always talking about her anxiety around how she would deal with a newborn baby when she already had so much to cope with. Twin Mother kept quiet about feeling like she wanted to cut herself or drink bleach just so she could get some attention for once, she kept that very quiet. Because really, what were her problems compared to that of others?

When Mother Of Twins Plus One On The Way had dinner with Mother Of Triplets, they rarely talked about anything. Raising triplets had made Mother Of Triplets was so hyper alert that she had forgotten how to converse with adults and Mother Of Twins Plus One On The Way was simply in awe of Mother of Triplets. Mother Of Twins With One On The Way really wanted to say that she loved having twins, couldn’t wait for her next baby, but she didn’t want to sound smug. She even hoped for another set of twins. But she didn’t want to make it sound like everything was peachy. Even thought it pretty much was. You’ve got to be sensitive to other people’s struggles right?

One day, Mother Of Triplets had drinks with Quad Mum. The two of them had far too much to drink because it had been so long since they’d been out without the children. In their crazy, loveable, drunken stupor, they talked about life, love, passion, and truth. They remembered that they were women, people who used to not be mothers. They laughed and talked truth and nobody felt smug or drained or ashamed.