One night in Austin 

I drive into Austin with knickers jumping after giving Fort Worth a quick peck as I packed up quick and left without looking back. The long, hard drive, musical expectations combined with my pulsing ovaries mean I slide into Austin town as toey as double pluggers. The Airbnb has 'The home of the brave' pillows strewn on the American flag bedspread, I throw them on the floor after taking note... ‘when in Rome’. 
I tart myself up as much as I can from a backpack filled with hiking gear. 
I have the one dress. 
It's a popular dress, people comment; it's bright and pops. 
I let myself, the dress and Austin down when I thow on old lady, pink Birkenstocks instead of the illusive cowboy boots I hoped to find at the thrift stores I had frequented, seeking a old Kalamazoo. 
I needed them boots because I might meet that fantasy Texan cowboy who loves sad, achy pre 80's country music, feminism, foreigners and dresses that pop! 
Guess he’ll have to be less deeply superficial than me. 
I pop lipstick on to pop more and to hopefully divert away from my pink lesbian sandles. 

Austin is a music town and I have been aching for music that makes you ache sweetly. Oh, that and aching for that liberal Texan cowboy. 
I dive into Red River St, scented, bright and eyes darting and sparkling like largemouth bass. 
I come ashore at Stubbs. 
There's no one there. 
It's Sunday. 
Seems the sinners are either recovering or at mass. 
"Where are you from" asks the napkin folder in cowboy boots you could catch a real Texan in. 
"S'traylia" I thicken my accent to match hers and the humidity. 
"I'm looking for live music, country preferably but not the sweet stuff" 
I try and hide my feet. 
"Well you picked the wrong night, nuthin' much happening on a Sunday" 
"Yeah, I can see that" 
"Try 'The Cronical'" 
She yells to the bar for a copy and one is delivered with my cheque. 
It's closing time. It's 8pm. 
I check the street press section; it sure is a quiet night. 
Ethan Hawk is in town promoting his movie about Blaze Foley, called ‘Blaze’. 
Blaze and Townes were co-conspirators in music drinking and untimely deaths. 
Hawke is speaking at Waterloo Records. 
Should I pop in on my one night in Austin? 

Nah, that would be too, too in my search for 'authenticity'. 
Mmmmm.... What even does that mean? 
After the hyper-reality of American freeways and television, I no longer feel that confident about that word…. especially without boots. 
I read that in Saxon's ‘The Resentments’ are playing. 
I think I recall that name but maybe just the notion. 
I head there. 
Steve greets me 
'Love your Tom Fords', he bellows with a wide generous smile. 
'They're fake' I smile back. 
No wonder I am having a hard time with authenticity. 
Steve is a friendly chap who spruiks the band well and so pay my $5 entry fee and go to get a drink. 
The bar is dark, gloomy and steeped in that history you imagine to be legendary. 
A man lops up and introduces himself. 
He is extra friendly. 
I take a deep breath. 
The combination of my dress, pulsing ovaries and what he has imbibed has him sniffin' like a hound. 
I pick my nose as he tells me about himself. 
He’s a seaman on dryland and shows me his boats like a proud father. 
He is a professional sailor on tall ships. 
Shame he’s drunk, he could have been an option if Mr Texas doesn’t show. 
I excuse myself to listen to the band. 

They’re all sitting down as they play; they’re older and weary. 
I like them. 
The singer has range, gravity and gravel. 
I start to relax, nice one Austin. 
Four songs then they end. 

The next band sets up 
Steve hollers from the door when he sees the Strat. 
‘LOVE YOUR STRAT, MAN!’ 
Steve likes labels it seems, America likes labels. 
Authentic labels. Labels with history and passion. 
Labels with street cred and toughness. 
I place my dress over my sandals. 

So far three bands have played since 3pm. 
The next band Mission 2 Mars is motley and really good, but not as weary and I miss the weary. I get up after their first set, say goodbye to Steve who offers to show me around the green room. It’s lined with photos of the legends. 
I found something authentic. 
Thanking Steve, I disappear into the hot night, wishing I could leave my fucking slippers like Miss Cinders, but there are needles and I promised someone I would be careful. 

I head to Antones. 
A bigger cover charge of $20 
But worth it and more. 
There are 8 people here. 
The singer/Hammond player is in a wheelchair and is in his 90’s. 
I don’t get his name just his life force as he jabbed and swayed like Ali. 
He’s the boss and I watch Oscar Ornelas dance around him, both not weary at all, ‘til past midnight. 

I’m at the bar trying to finish my third drink for the night. 
I can’t. It’s too strong. 
Curse it, another reason I needed boots. 
The band ends, and I disappear my feet flapping vulgarly, like a drunk teenager. 
It’s nearly 1am. 
I head towards The Continental and arrive just as the band ends. 
It was a big night and the greats were there and I missed it. 
Meh, there’s always something to miss. 

I’m comfortable with that, that’s the great thing about being older. 
You just don’t care as much. 
Indicated by my choice of footwear it seems. 
The staff and I chat, they are fantastic people. 
I take a million photo’s as they close up. 
We exchange favourite bands. 
I tell them all the greats in Australia. 
‘Some are my mates’ I boast with childlike sparkle only a Birkenstock wearer would dare to gush. 
They get this. 
They get the passion I have for music. 
I leave with hugs and smiles. 
Awwww… Austin. 

So, I didn’t get a root but I got small musical kisses on warm, summer night breezes and a little ache of how good a long, hard sweaty night in Austin could be. 
I’ll be back Texas and you know what I’ll be wearing. 
x

Suicide spaceship  

Feeling suicidal isn’t as hellish as you’d imagine. 

The thought of finally being free from the shitpit of your life is more like a feeling of deep relief, like sinking your tired, sick to the bone body into to a warm scented oil infused bath. It feels like you might be able to finally rise above your pain and ascend to the suicide spaceship of freedom. 

At least that’s how the idea of topping myself feels for me. 

It’s a fucker of a thing to write about because I fear what people’s reactions might be. More of those scared, pitiful looks from people who have never felt this and the small erosion of my flailing career as those in the business of entertaining, shrink away.  
Mental illness is sexy only when you’re young.

I am meant to have my life together by now.  I don’t really. 

Oh and the comments on the social medias that will follow this, make talking about my suicidality seem like a serene stroll in the fecund rainforest. 

‘I’m here if you need’... ‘ You’re so strong and brave.’ .... 'You’re not alone’ 

…….. please don’t. 

The truth is I am alone when I am in my darkness. 
To quote the seminal Seuss in ‘Oh the places you’ll go.’ 

“Alone is something you’ll be quite a lot. Alone whether you like it or not.”
Yeah. Seussian science. 

I’m not saying all my friends are fucked because they are not there for me. 

This simply isn’t true. They are there for me but they can’t fight this battle. 
They can help me feel less alone and do so by loving me and checking in. 
They do this.  Bless ‘em. My dear friends love me despite my mess. 

No matter the efforts, I am alone. 

I know people want to be there but they can’t always be and besides, this isn’t about them, it’s about me and my sometimes broken shit brain.   

I’m alone in my head and that’s where my Aleppo is.  
The one of the things that we all secretly share is that ultimately we are all alone.

It’s a funny, sad paradox…. 

Anyone who thinks differently believes in a god or a benevolent universe and that’s at least one delusion I don’t have. Sometimes I wish I did, it must be nice. 

One of the closest times I have ever been to actually doing it was post a car accident, nearly 2 years ago 

It was a strange surreal feeling; watching the sea and thinking about my dead body floating in her perfect blue. It shocked me. That night, I nearly called an ambulance at 2am with the thoughts swirling around, my brain was being a fucking arsehole troll and goading me into a decision I felt to thick with bleak to stop. 

But I did stop it. 

Earlier that day I was at the beach when the sea called me in. That gorgeous giantess knew how sad I was and seemed to want to help. The dead star in my heart weighted my broken body down and the drag was fucking immense. I would not weigh that much in the sea. I would float. 

I wanted that fucking relief so much but I couldn’t do it as much as I ached for it. 

So I made a deal with the sea. It involved me writing the world’s greatest book before I could reward myself with ending my pain and floating into her largeness.  See what I did?…  yeah, I pulled a swifty with my own darkness. 

The next day I went to my therapist and told her that I was suicidal. I didn’t want to fucking tell her. But not being honest with your therapist is like faking orgasms…. It’s fucking pointless and shit doesn’t get better by pretending.
I thought she’d admit me to hospital. I didn’t want to go, I don’t want to be drugged. I didn’t want the shame of failing at another fucking thing. 

She didn’t send me off to the psyche ward. She asked a few important questions about my grand suicidal plan, I didn’t actually have anything solid. Then she said I was doing a great job of looking after myself and that I was pretty fucking smart for tricking the sea. 
She reminded that I just had a really big car accident only 2 weeks before I was in shock and that I had Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder plus I was also having a really hard time dealing with loneliness and homelessness.

She helped me remember my brilliant realisation from years before, that the urge to end my pain was different to wanting to die. 

I know this. I mean I usually know this, but sometimes I forget. Most of my death thoughts are because I am hurting so much and I just need relief. 

Not being in pain makes sense and I just needed to find a better way out of my pain but doing so involves hard work. I don’t want more work. 

I was fucking completely exhausted because I was already fighting with all I knew for my shitty messing fucked up life. 

I was homeless staying at my friends place while they relocated, my son had disappeared in a teenage haze of hubris and hadn’t called even after he knew about my car accident, and even my on again off again lover of 20 years hadn’t come over the night of my accident, despite him being 10 mins away. 
I’ve had no family for a long time, I mean I do have family but they really don’t like me. I embarrass them I think. Anyway I was alone and I had to keep fucking fighting despite my utter, complete and abject exhaustion and loneliness. 

Then my therapist gave me homework and told me to invite friends over for dinner because I was isolating myself. FFS. I rolled my eyes and left. 
What a stupid fucking idea. 

A week later, I did what she suggested, it was a weird dinner and me being me, who is always uncomfortably honest about my mental stuff told them that my therapist told me to do this dinner party. But my friends were lovely and forgave my burnt offerings and I actually had a beautiful night. 

I’m lucky I have friends like this. I know this.
They made me feel better just by loving me they way I was. 

It was a good idea that dinner; my therapist wasn’t stupid. I was. Typical. 

So the suicide spaceship didn’t pick me up and take me to Nirvana that time but it sparkles and hovers near me when I am down. Oh I get down a lot. 

And not like James Brown. 

I have episodic reactive depression. Basically that means when shit hits the fan I sometimes hit the floor and don’t get up for a while and most things feel pointless and nothing really feels good. It’s childhood abuse stuff mixed with a genetic predisposition. It’s mostly manageable with therapy and is always lovely when it ends.
Like having a bliss shit. 

I have to be really careful with my life choices, like I can’t drink like I used to, or take party drugs, I’m a shit and annoying drug user anyway so I can’t numb my pain with substances, which is ultimately a very good thing I reckon. 

But I do like getting drunk but that shit just brings the spaceship closer. 

So when the death star hovers and the dead star drags, I lay, sit and walk like a zombie in my own private hell day after fucking day. 

And I fight to keep living because I know it will pass. 

It always does. 

There’s only one thing that stops me from planning my own beautiful death in my fog of doom. 

It would hurt the people I love. I know this hurt. 

I’ve been really hurt by my friends killing themselves. 

Why would I add to it? 

I can’t do that. So I fight. 

And in my darkness at 3 am with my failed life mocking me with garish anxiety clowns popping in and out of my slumber as I sob into my pillow and suicide Scotty wants to beam me up, I shrug, roll over and think of my funeral with my fucking shitty family taking over like they do and ruining the day of mourning for my friends and I think of my friends feeling like arseholes for not being there even though they couldn’t because no one can be there 24/7 and I imagine their faces and I feel so sad I’ve let them down….. and then I see my son walk in.   
I see his face. FUCK! 

I realise then I can’t hitch into the galaxy just yet.  I made a decision when I was 20 to have a child. It’s my job to teach him and guide him. I need to do better, I need to find a better way. I need to do the fucking hard work. I need to show him how to fight for life. 

So weeping still, I roll over, turn my wet salty pillow to a fresher side at 4 am and try to sleep. 

Day in day out until… 

Today. 

Today I am still a bit of a mess, I don’t have my life together, my family still don’t really like me,  6 months ago the job I loved liquidated a few weeks after I injured my wing and then I got rid of all my lovers. 

I’m ok but. 

I just had a lovely cup of tea, there’s soft rain falling, I’m in ugg boots in my temporary but beautiful home, my injury is getting better, I can play guitar again now, I can write, my son and his friend are coming over to learn how to sew, they might not turn up but I’ll be here though. 

And the sea and I still laugh at the joke I played on myself….

Cultural grief for white people who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuff…  

The other week I was lying awake in the middle of the night and thinking about the extreme right and their anger. Not the most soothing of night musings but this was after the Florida high school shootings in the US and I had earlier that evening watched the powerful speech by student Emma Gonzalez.
The backlash was quick, vicious and there for the whole world to see. 

If Trump has done one thing well, it’s to bring the hidden hate and prejudices to the top, shit floats style, and while this fast food style politics might influence a new click bait generation, it also seems to be activating some of this generation away from dumb obedience to a flag and into a place of political discourse and critical thought. 
Yet, as I read the comments after Ms Gonzales speech, (Yes, I read the comments because they can be very interesting but only if you’re in the right headspace) it got me thinking about the anger of poor white of middle America. 

In his tough love book ‘Deer hunting for Jesus - Dispatches From America's Class War’, Joe Bagent was one of the first liberal American’s to ask the democrats to look at their prejudices against the poor working class of America. He warned there would be a backlash. 

There was. 

Enter Trump. 
Oh maybe, that’s another thing Trump did well, (or those that got him into power) he saw this growing mistrust of the impoverished whites and milked it like snake venom. 

Bagent himself was born into working-class Appalachian stock and in his book, spoke of the cold class war that is fought with condescending snubs, distrust and mockery between the chardonnay swilling liberals and rural conservatives. Where you have the educated liberal left thinking the inbred hicks of the middle states have no idea of what they really need, and conversely, you have a group of white blue-collar workers fed up with being told what they need. 

Middle America was ripe for the taking.
And get taken, they did.
So what does this have to do with cultural grief? 

Well I reckon this anger has to do with grief.
Let me define what I believe to be cultural grief; cultural grief is an individual or group grief of either perceived, or tangible cultural loss.

Here are some examples of perceived cultural grief, 

In Australia the extreme right nationalist groups believe their cultural ways and heritage are being taken over by minorities who are not culturally similar to the white colonial Christian heritage of Australia. 

Enter, The National Front. Boo Hiss. 

Another example is in Myanmar (Burma) where the majority of the Buddhist populace (88-90%) are currently supporting the genocide of the Rohingya people. The Rohingya who are descendants of Arab traders Muslim and have been in Myanmar for over 500 years, are only 4% of the population yet are not recognised as citizens. At the time of writing, half a million Rohingya people have fled and 80% of those fleeing are women and children. The majority Buddhist nationals believe that the presence of the Rohingya people threatens their Buddhist faith, cultural and religious traditions, and that the Rohingya have no place in their country. 

In this climate, extremists flourish and we can find a wistful nostalgia and cultural defensiveness against that which is foreign and strange to us. Some people embrace the difference as cultural explorers or voyeurs, some ignore it and some rise against with the gusto of a fish ‘n chip connoisseur in Ipswich and then want to fuck shit up. Eventually, when all this Vesuvian drama cools down, different cultures can learn to co-exist fairly peacefully unless there are big land grabs and then well…. we know what happens then. 

Let's explore significant and tangible cultural grief, what is it?

Well it's real and it's impact is enormous.

The one that comes immediately to mind is right under my feet. It’s the loss that indigenous Australians have experienced after the English invasion.  

So why is this gubba talking about cultural grief ? 

Well I reckon, and I could be wrong, that many non indigenous people who currently live in Australia, and many other parts of the world that have also been colonialised, have lost some, if not all, of their original cultural connection due to colonisation.
Yes, even if they were the colonisers, leaving family ties and lands to start again is traumatic, yet I would still call this cultural grief, even if it's minor.

I’m not suggesting that being a coloniser is anywhere near as horrific as being colonialised and losing most of your language and family, yet as a 4th generation Australian, I still have a great need to ask, what is my cultural identity? 
Globalisation has left many peoples of many cultures scattered and while humans are great at adapting, we also crave the comfort of connection and kin.
Hence Chinatowns in all major cities worldwide, except China of course.
This need to group and belong is biological.

When we lose this group and cultural identity, we suffer.
When we lose connection to land, to songs and stories, we suffer.

My understanding of intergenerational violence and how trauma is stored in DNA has given me a deeper insight into cultural grief.
It's unfathomable to think of the loss that the stolen generations in Australia experienced and how difficult that road of healing and re-connection must be.
This empathy is not always shared, when I read statements by some non indigenous Australia's saying things like 'That was 200 years ago, get over it' (it wasn't, the stolen generations are still happening) or 'We all have been through hard times, move on' I can't help but think that the lack of awareness and sympathy might not just come from ignorance but also a uncovered cultural grief of their own displacement.
Hurt people, hurt people.

My own family history has it's own suffering and yet also one of some triumphs.  

As far as I know, I am predominantly Irish, Scottish and English. I have mostly lost my connection to my original land, music and culture and now speak only the dominant language of English. I have regained some of this cultural identity in music I have learned to play and in researching the history of Ireland, Scotland and England. I have found great connection in convict songs where the new world breaks from the old in rebellion and grief. You just have to look at what England did to Scotland and Ireland to see the grief.

I am lucky to have many records of my mixed cultural heritage; many people do not have these as the invaders have decimated many of them. 

Some of my ancestors were convicts and didn't get a say in where they were shipped, they could have been sent to the West Indies but they wern't. They were shackled and on overloaded ships were sent to Australia.
The healing of my historical past has been a process of understanding the trauma of my cultural loss, then finding the paths to cultural connections and ultimately feeling a sense of pride in my heritage and this process of healing. 
Please, don’t get me wrong, I can find plenty in my cultural heritage to not be proud of, but there are also elements of my heritage I am very chuffed my ancestors were a part of. 

This is a vastly different idea to the notion of white pride, as firstly, I don’t think my culture is superior to any other and secondly, I can also see my culture’s horrible history, I mean blind Freddy can see that. 

Look, as loathe as I am to admit, I get why the whole Make America/Australia Great Again might seem tempting, nostalgia is a nice place to get high.
Admitting there is a void is painful.
Admitting grief is painful and blaming another to avoid this pain is a very common defense mechanism.
It’s also very bloody unhealthy and what a shrink might call maladaptive. 

The ability to use critical thought and not viewing my cultures history through white bread glasses helps keep that vision clear. This way of seeing has helped me understand that I don’t need to take from other cultures in order to find meaning in my life. 

I don’t need an Ayahuasca ceremony to have profound psychotropic life changing visions, (there’s plenty of DMT in wattles apparently) I don’t need a ‘skin’ name in order to feel like I belong in Australia, I don’t need a Maori tattoo to have strength and power. I have my own cultural rituals. Irish, Scottish and English folk lore is filled with stories and myths of these.

I’m not saying that the sharing of cultures should be forbidden or any cultural ritual, art or totem should be only used by the culture that it pertains to. We just need to be mindful about why we want to use them, and here’s the big one, AND make sure we have permission to do so. We all have multiple cultures and making sure we respect these is a great way of showing pride and connection to our own, and to others.

I don’t need to use another cultures rituals to have a sense of my own cultural identity. Not because I’m more woke but because the stories and mythology I am discovering of my own ancestral cultures are rich, diverse and powerful enough. 

Years ago I was in Wales camping with my son who was 4 at the time, and I stood on the edge of a cliff in St Davids thinking of the Arthurian legends and looking at the hoary skies and dramatic, wuthering sea scape. Blustered by the winds, I felt a symphony of story surround me and I was swept up in the glory of this ancient landscape and my ancestral connection to it.
It was an unforgettable moment that I recalled years later after reading Bruce Chatwins- Songlines.  While songlines in Australian indigenous culture are mnemonic, connective and serve to educate, my songline felt like a deep whisper of a memory so long ago, almost hidden in mist yet with the faintest mothers breath and sense of belonging. It was a life photo moment and I’d love to write a symphony of the sounds I heard on that cliff or an ancient hymn of longing and loft but I don’t think anything could replicate it. 

The loss of my culture can’t be compared to another and I'm not claiming significant trauma but I will acknowledge that my cultural connection is now mostly long gone, four generations in a foreign land have churned my ancestral soil so now my family have begun to create a new cultural garden that I am attempting to plant and enrich with meaning and connection. It’s hard but I care enough to want these seeds planted for the next generation.

While I understand the grief that drives people with a colonial ancestry similar to mine want to nick or mimic other cultures art, rituals and practices, I urge them to think deeper and connect with what’s theirs.
Don't hate everything about your history, it's not healthy and serves no-one.

Be proud of the good parts of your history but don't get too high and mighty, or you'll fall.
That grief of cultural loss can take people to places of hate and that shit needs to stop.
Lateral violence isn't a way forward.
It's true that I've lost some of my culture and it's sad but I want to grieve in healthy ways and find a way back to my own cultural homes, because to take culture from anothers without context or permission is simply poor manners.

It’s also theft and it won’t fill my own void of cultural grief.
That void needs to be filled with my own story and added to my living cultures currency to strengthen and empower it.
And it is, my son singing the song my mother taught me is the living proof of that.




 

what scrabble taught me 

Looking back one of the first signs something was awry was ignoring scrabble, specifically words with friends. 
It wasn’t that I didn’t care, I really did. I love scrabble. 
I’m not that good but I love playing anyway.
Of course I like winning but I am also happy with the brain exercise. 

Then one day, I just couldn’t think properly anymore.
I remember the exact moment. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. 

My brain wasn’t working. I couldn’t put the letters in any order. My mind would wander and I couldn’t focus. So I stopped playing. That was a mistake. 

 

On the road you are isolated and just that little connection helps you feel less alone. A laugh and a game with a friend brings memories that help blur the beige walls of the hotel you are staying at and bring colour to the end of your difficult day. 

I was working 6 days a week and driving 3,000 ks out west NSW for my job. 
So that meant I was clocking up 24 hrs of driving in a single workweek. 

That’s just under 25% of my waking week on the road alone. 
I didn’t recognise the signs of burn out. I just kept going because no one else could do the job at that time. I was rostered on and I’d do it.  
I wouldn’t let my elders down. They needed me and I looked forward to hanging with them every week. 

I also wanted to keep my job. I loved my job.

I didn’t notice my exhaustion and because my work away from home meant I lost my connection with friends and I didn’t have anyone checking in on me. 

My teenage son was lost in the hubris of either forging independence and/or losing himself to another world and he no longer kept in regular contact with me. 

The grief of his distance confused the symptoms of my work exhaustion. 
I was falling asleep crying most nights and when I wasn’t working I’d have no energy for anything, 
My music suffered. I wrote no new songs. 

I usually wrote a song a week as that’s what made me the happiest. 

I had very little happiness for a long time.
The joy that I did find, I got this from hanging out with my friends kids where I could loose myself in their silliness.
The irony, that’s not wasted on me, was it was my actual job to bring joy to 150 elders with dementia every week. 

Send in the clowns!

Even though I was seeing friends when I could, I would put a mask of coping on as much as I could. I was deeply ashamed of my constant inability to function or be happier. I wasn’t a good friend because I had so little to give. 

My immune system was also shot to shit. I was sick a lot of the time but I kept going. Ta fucking da! 

Never cancelling work but cancelling social engagements or hanging out with friends because of sickness/exhaustion.
Desperately, I wanted to write. 
Anything, a poem, a blog, a song, my book..... anything.

But my brain was black and what I wrote was shit.
I had nothing.
This fueled my unhappiness and my feelings of failure but I still wanted to keep working so I could buy some land, so I’d finally have a home, a place to rest and be still. 

This thought of stability and security kept me going through those days when I’d wake up and say I just can’t keep driving. 

I drove myself through the insanity of my toxic work environment, through the days of sadness, through long nights lone and the growing pain in my shoulder that I thought would go away in time. 

It didn’t. 

Now I am pretty broken.
My arm doesn’t work from the RSI of all that touring and playing music.
It will take 6-18 months to get better.
I tear up at least once a day either from pain, frustration or just plain old sadness. 

I’m on workers comp but the guilt and the pressure to get better makes it feel like a burden.
That in itself makes me feel even guiltier that I don’t appreciate the support I have. 

My mind is being a nasty fucker and it takes all I can to be vigilant with my thoughts and refocus on healing.
I woke up last night with a big anxiety attack because I was so scared about what I was going to do for work. The dark haze of the night and my anxiety made me disorientated but I am an expert at this now, as I wake up at most nights with these.
I got up, had a bite of a banana and some water and focused on my breathing and repeated in my head.. 'this too shall pass.'

Then this morning I had a big epiphany that the trigger for this anxiety was exactly the same I used to get in the mornings before hitting the road. Yet back then I knew how to bury it. I just keep ignoring it til the night and then a few drinks would take the edge off. 

But this time I have no distraction with work. 

I have only my head and my constant pain and discomfort. 

The company that drove me into the ground went into voluntary liquidation just before Christmas, owing their employees tens of thousands of dollars.
Although we had our duty of care for our elders drummed into us, their duty of care towards their employees was negligible.
Now months later, I can’t play guitar, I still can’t focus on anything for long and I have 5 different medical professionals looking after me, so I can function again and get back to work. At first it felt I finally had people that supported me, I don’t have much of a family nor did the company I worked for care much, but now I feel overly handled and pressured into working when I am just so fucking confused and messy. 
I am not going out much, I can’t.
I’m simply trying to get better. 

It’s seems to be one of the most difficult things to do.
All I know now is that if I invest back into my health, like I should have before, I'll be alright. 
So it's baby steps for me.

Today I will do two big things. I will clean the place I’m renting and I will do my physio. I hope to go to dinner with a mate but will have to see how I go. 
I used to do so much and now it’s an achievement if I wash up.

This is what happens when you ignore the signs of stress. 

Please don’t ignore yours.
You have a duty of care towards yourself.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/high-octane-women/201311/the-tell-tale-signs-burnout-do-you-have-them

The charm of Smithy the law maker 

The berth I booked on the ship over had four bunks.
I was late getting to it as I deemed it necessary to down a few dark ales in celebration of arriving at the ship on time after a few adventurous days driving through Bushranger country. 

The women in the lower two bunks were deep in conversation and I wasn’t included. I’m sure my late arrival and disheveled traveling garb made the older woman dismiss me as not really that important to talk to and the other woman, younger and darker just seemed to want to be polite as foreign travelers are want to be. 

The forth woman hadn’t arrived and when she did it beautifully proved that I, myself, am very polite too, when I didn’t throw her into the churning straight after her turning on the cabin light at 1am and then playing fucking mobile phone games while eating chips out of a packet with an inbuilt microphone.
5 am, I woke to her alarm and waited fuming while she took a 45 min shower and applied her makeup, hair spray and strawberry teenage body spray deodorant to add atmosphere to the murderous atmosphere she’d created. 

The tourist and I exchanged glances between puffy red eyes and plumes of sickening scented wafts. I disembarked in Devonport after offering to take the tired tourist to Bernie as she was planing on catching a cab on a 45min journey. It wasn't where I was heading but a hobo on holidays with a car has a code to adhere to and that’s to help other travelers and find misadventures. 

My tourist friend was sports woman who was here to compete in the masters games in the cut throat sport of badminton - the sport of pirates. She was an Indian national competing for the US and was quite delightful even though she called me spiritual. I assured her I was anything but. She giggled and said that only a spiritual person would say that.

We get to Bernie, have breakfast at the only café open and I generously showed her how to spread vegemite on toast and no, that’s not a euphemism.
After tea and toast I drive her to her hosts home. That’s when I saw him standing in the shadow outside his shop having a durrie.
His shop boy sitting on an esky in the sun.

His low steely gaze bore through me from a block away and I knew I was going to have to stop and have a yarn, so I dropped off my charge and speed off down the hill to meet this man. 

This is Chris.

Chris is a fisherman and tackle shop owner who likes wearing slippers.
Chris is a fucking legend because…. well just look at him. 

I introduced myself feeling like a fraud and a shyster as I’m a shit fisherwoman and the only claim I have to the sea is I occasionally swear like a sailor and I had only just got off a ship. 
He accepts my eager handshake with a tree trunk palm and then proceeds to give the finger to another bloke stepping in the shop. 

‘That’s venison he’s got in that bag. ‘ he informs me. 

‘Oh I had no i-dear’ I replied. 

He looks at me and shakes his head at my shit joke. I laugh anyway.
Luckily, my job entails harassing old people so I got over my split second of shit joke awks and say 

‘I bet you’ve got better jokes and some stories too, Chris?’ 

‘Yeah, I suppose I do. There’s a lot of stories round here but most are BS because that’s what fisherman do, tell bullshit’ 

I think about saying I reckon I’ve met a few ex-fishermen on tinder always talking BS but I don’t want him to get the wrong idea and besides size doesn’t matter?… anyway, I am here to get the gold so I get to the point and tell him I collect stories as I’m a muso and he says he likes artists and starts telling me about Smithy the law maker….. I’m perplexed but smile and nod, then after a moment I realise he’s talking about ‘lures’ not laws. 

Smithy was a 'lure' maker and a master craftsman who made the dopest lures that he then hand painted with enamel and baked in his own oven.

I asked if he was still alive.
‘Nah, not after putting enamel in his over for years’
That’s not a euphemism either. 

He goes out back of his shop and returns with a box of Smithy’s lures.
They are pretty amazing lures I agree.

Each copper piece is shaped like different kinds of fish and painted to dance like pole dancer in the deep blue. 
As I look at each little creation, I feel so damn stoked I found a new art form and craft and I also found a new friend on the road. 

Chris and I shake hand and paw again and I drive back along the simply incredible coastline through the daft named town of Penguin and think about all the stories that are dancing the the deep blue for me to hook.

The notion of radical self love or how to love ones self apart from masturbating  

YES, I am sick again....(eye roll)
(I have a genetic immune disorder that's probably from my grandparents being first cousins, I know right!)

I have Mastoiditis and that means my skull has pus on it. Pus Skull. It’s my new pirate name. 

It’s dramatic enough for me to feel justified on eliciting small noises of sympathy from others and physically debilitating for me to feel like I’m going to fall over to one side as it’s affecting my balance. Very funny to watch but not very good to work with.
I spent 17 years as a single mother and I have an ingrained fear about not having food on the table. I also grew up with Sarah Connor and GI Jane and so I know I should just keep going no matter how hard and never, ever miss work! 

Missing work means that I am not providing and I am worthless and I am not contributing and I am single mother scum who is living off tax-payers and the good hard working people of Australia. 
Yup, my mind is amazing at making sure I slave. It’s so ingrained that after sleeping two days straight due to being so sick, I called up my work in tears because I was letting everyone down and promised that I’d leave the next day as soon as the antibiotics kicked in. 

The truth is my identity has slowly warped to be based more on my outcome than my actual self. 
I work therefor I am. 
I believe that I have inherited this notion from the breakdown of gender roles in our culture. As a single mother, I became the company man of the 60’s except I also did the cooking, emotional labour and frocked up like a fucking goddess! 

This leads to complete exhaustion and body failure so here I am still with my hyper vigilance and my need to achieve so we don’t get thrown into the streets. 
Um…. that already happened and I am no longer a single mother, I am just an empty nester with no nest. 
So now I am furiously planning busceapades in my midnight musings and have not yet been able to get out of my work work work work mode. 
Then I get sick. Then I call my work and cry. 
Then I get better and work work work. Ad nauseum…. 

However, this week a woman I admire super dooper greatly (Mandi Kai) wrote a post about saying ‘No, thanks.’ She got a dream job and turned it down because it didn’t feel right and it didn’t fit in with her need for flexible work hours. So they got back to her and sure enough.., 'We value you and want you on our team so happy to work around your needs'?!?!
I initially was a little annoyed; not by her but by how I don’t do this. 
I am so used to being in a subservient position for work that I don’t question nor fight back often, let alone ask for what I need. 

It reminded me of an article I read years ago saying that self love is an act of fierce revolution because women are so used to putting aside their needs for the needs of others and that actually learning to love yourself, and I’m not talking about buying a new dress or more makeup but true self love and care, is so revolutionary that it will shock and liberate. Men need this too and also to actually have a revolution so they can wear the skirt in this house! 

Mandi is having a velvet revolution simply by asking for what she needs. I must acknowledge that this is a position of privilege, many woman in our society just don't get the opportunity to do this. Especially minorities who have to work and often in poor working conditions. Worldwide, women do 70% of the worlds labour and they don't have the same leverage as western women do, however in saying this, if we demand more we become more equal and can help our sisters who are disadvantaged. Not in a patronising way.


Women can become martyrs and even congratulate ourselves, or more insidiously each other, for self sacrificing. We also can be guilty of policing other woman so they continue these roles. 

Fuck, I’ve done it. From fat shaming, to mother shaming to choosing to not have kids shaming to status shaming to relationship shaming to single shaming sooooo much fucking shame and blame. I’m sorry. 

I have a deep wound that I am still working through after a family member called me The Martyr after caring for my mum in her last years. Apparently it was my nickname with a few of the family. My anger at taking that role and then mocked actually inspired me to change my role and my position in my family. 

It wasn’t easy and I lost contact with people I loved as I learned to find what I was, I started changing, I was writing, playing music, playing different characters, going to therapy and I became happier. I decided I deserved more. 
I do. I deserved a voice and so I started using it, it was small at first and then it became louder and louder and sometimes too loud and sometimes too soft but I kept using it. 
I have not perfected in anyway learning to live for my needs. I am working through so much and even last year after my car accident I decided I was going to MC a big festival and play 3 days after my accident! 
One week later I was diagnosed with Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder. 
I know! Right?! 

But today, I called my work and spoke to a very lovely co-worker and said, I’m not driving 7 hrs to Narrarbri today as much as I want to and have anxiety about not doing so, I am staying to care for myself. 
She congratulated me and said I could make up the hours next tour. 
So simple and easy. 
I did that today. 
So small and yet so loving. 
My petite revolution.
x

Rule Breakers, Trouble Makers and the road to hell.... 

I have a rule. 


Well, I have a few rules and most of these can pretty much be covered by the simple principle of using your manners. 
There are exceptions such as, remembering that people are human and killing people is bad manners even if they are really annoying and/or steal your favourite pushbike and/or are a Bangalow real estate agent. 

My rules are pretty strict, as my son would attest, as he now is doing the opposite of all my stringent rules, flamboyantly and with exuberance. 

Some of my rules are because I am a bleeding heart liberal. 
For example…
Don’t call people names because it hurts. 
Don’t be mean to homeless people because.. well because I am one.. and it sucks.
and don’t put animals in cages because that is cruel.

Especially birds. 

Last month, Miss hypocrite here, broke her rule. 

You see, in my work there are lots and lots of lovely, lonely old people who ostensibly are in cages themselves because they have dementia and are in aged care homes.

I really feel sorry for my lovlies and I ponder deeply and often about how I can help them. 
So I come up with lots of weird and wonderful schemes to make their lives better. 

It’s my job so please don’t think I’m some kind of saint.. No, wait till this sorry tale has ended and then you will be able to judge me a little more honestly. 

There’s there’s this one bloke who lives in a country town in Buttfuckville that I see weekly when I am touring out in Buttfuckville, he is very isolated and doesn’t engage with the other lovelies and just sits in his room all day feeding the rat like birds through his screen door.

So what do I decide to do? 

I break my rule. I think what this man needs is a bird of his own, maybe two so they don't get lonely.
After all, I need to try and break my rule as humanely as I can.

So I find a cage and plonk two zebra finches in the prison of love and drive 2 days to give them to him. 
All the while keeping them alive and ignoring the dead feeling of putting these poor birds in cages.
I enter the room, he seems quite happy, if a little underwhelmed and in his usual sardonic and gruff style says, 

‘I was hoping for budgies.’

I explain Canberra has smuggled in most of the budgies, so there is a short supply. 
He rolls his eyes and says ‘I suppose they’ll do’ 

I leave feeling like Mother Theresa and I even get a certificate of appreciation from my work. 
This feeling has floated me over some jagged rocks since, I have even given my self a little pat on the back in quiet corners and said 
'Ilona, you are such a goood person'

A few days ago my colleague calls me for a work handover and I can't help but boast a little and tell him of my small achievement. 

‘Oh yeah, about that’ he says ‘Um, not sure if you know but the birds died 2 days after you gave them’ 

Both? 

‘Yes, both dead’

Silence 

I start laughing like a demented clown and all I have in my head is the Dead Parrot Monty Python skit and a dark comedic tragic reminder not to ever break my rules.
or maybe not to have as many..

Memories of the 8 weeks when I worked at a brothel.  

Montana was a sex worker I met in when I lived in Brisbane. Montana wasn’t her real name; I don’t remember what her real name was. A few of the women working at 88 had names based on American states; Indiana, Arizona and Dakota, there wasn’t however an Arkansas. Names ending in A seemed to be the flavour there. 
Montana was a sunny 40ish generous woman with a softly worn face, sparkling eyes and a bright, easy smile. Maybe like Montana the state is, I wouldn’t know I’ve never been there. 
Montana was good to me when I first started working at 88. 
88 on Logan is a brothel in Wollongabba, Brisbane. An old hippy friend of mine was a sex worker and told me they needed a receptionist and although this was the butt of many ‘yeah sure’ jokes and I’m sure a few judgmental comments, I didn’t often qualify that I was only on the desk, when people asked where I worked. 
I enjoyed watching the conservative Brisbaneites squirm nonplussed
as I simply carried on with the conversation, as if I said I was a waitress. 
I also wasn’t adverse to the idea the idea of a little notoriety and being a woman of ill repute. 
I love the words jezebel and harlot.
My muso boyfriend thought it was cool and dropped me off a few times in his beloved rusted Kingswood.
Years later he told me that when we broke up, he went back one night at 2am drunk and sad but wasn’t able to go through with anything. 
Poor chap, he did take a long time to work out the difference between love and sex. 
88 was the first legal brothel in QLD and even had a S’n’M room. Initially, I thought I could do that, you know, whip blokes wearing black latex, without having to have sex with them. After all, I’d been hit enough by a few men and I thought maybe I could get my own back a little. 
The first night I worked there, I realised, I couldn’t be a sex worker, even taking my revenge on poor submissive men. 
It was a very full on job and I was, and maybe still am, too lazy to commit to making others happy at the expense of my own comfort. 
What if I got RSI from cracking a whip all day? 
  
The women who did work there were my heroines; they still are, to be honest. 
They would sit around watching DVD’s in chunky terry toweling robes over silk evening gowns and then the doorbell would ring and they would all look at the camera to see if they knew the gentleman caller. 
Sometimes it might be someone they knew, Brisbane is still a big country town after all. 
Then the door would open and the man/men would come and be greeted by me. 
Strangely I never saw a woman come in, though i was told there were women who did.
I called myself Helen and I always wore glasses (this was before I wore them fulltime) and a white shirt.
My job was to welcome the guest, offer them a beverage (no booze just tea, coffee and softdrinks) and then explain the process. 
88 was the first ‘legal’ brothel and had only been open a few months at this stage. 
The men were usually really shy and awkward. 
There was only once that I felt a man was really fucking dodgy and he left without staying, so that was a relief. 
The women were professionals and knew how to deal with fucked up shit and they had panic bracelets to call security of need be. 
After I had explained the prices and process, I’d call the girls down and they would descend in their heels, dresses and bathrobes, shrug the robe off, hang it up, looking tired then open the door and transform their faces into beatific smiles. 
It was always amazing to watch the women I knew as mums, student and friends, change into professional sex workers.
It was Oscar worthy. 
They would saunter like cats to meet the guests and then walk one at a time, back up the stairs till the punter had met all the workers and either choosen one or left. 
They were so many varied types of women and often the most ‘beautiful’ or ‘youngest’ or ‘thinnest’ weren’t chosen. 
Most consistently popular were, surprisingly, the plainer women who had curves.
Oh and Jade who was Thai. She was popular too. 
Some of the customers, of course, had their favourites and would book them or come in when they were working. 
The gauche neon pomp and ceremony of the parade wouldn’t happen then and even though it meant no booking, the other workers wouldn’t care that much, often they were ensconced in what movie was playing in the green room or they were asleep. 
  
The ‘john’ always had the health check. 
That was done by the workers. 
It was called the stinky dick check. Or the sticky dick check, I never wanted to know too much about that. 
Although it was a requirement to always wear a condom, disease can be all over, so the women would don gloves commence the check, after the obligatory shower. 
I thought it was quite clever because if they booked in ½ an hour. That was at least 5 mins taken up with hygiene. 
As a fan of cleanliness for bits, I liked this. 
Then the workers worked and after I’d charge his card, the chap would leave, usually quite happy. 
There were always funny stories and sometimes they’d run comps, like who could fake the loudest and you’d be trying not to laugh hearing a zoo of loud mad sounds emanating from the velvety rooms. 
I also had to do laundry. I hated doing the laundry. 
One very camp cleaner told me I could get herpes in my eye and from that point on I put the sheets in with my eyes closed. 
I never did get herpes in my eye and to be honest I’ve never even googled it. 
I will now.  Um, yes you can. Thanks camp cleaner. 

The regulars were all pretty cool, one was called The General who was quite deaf. He just liked women jumping naked on the bed and playing cards with him. He was spending all this money on credit cards because he was dying and he hated his kids. 
He had a very proper English accent and I always teased him about how hard the Boer War must have been on him. 
Another was this very handsome, young, well built doctor who kept his head down coming in and out and never smiled.

One bloke, who wasn't a regular, I remember well, was terribly shy, he was a truck driver and he was in his late 50’s, I reckon. I did the meet ‘n’ greet and went through the process and we started talking, I was trying to make him as comfortable as possible. I found out his wife had died a few years ago and he’d never been in a brothel before. He started crying and I said it was OK and that we were here to help. He said he was just really lonely and needed a chat. He left without seeing anyone but thanked me for the conversation.
I think about him sometimes, especially when I meet elderly men who are terribly isolated and lonely in aged care. I think about them being held by a women and how much that would make them feel human again.
I think about how if I ran the country I’d have prostitution on medicare for the disabled and those who are lonely.
I think about Montana and the other wonderful women who literally put their bodies on the line to fill such an important need in our communities. 
These women are the healers, and care givers of a generation of men who were taught to not feel.
These women are the real goddesses. 
Oh and I also see men who work in this industry as just as important. 
And I’d fucking love to see this industry taken from the hidden brick suburban only taxi known brothels of the outer suburbs and low lit smut filled dens of the cities and be put where they should be, in hospitals and in aged cared facilities and homes for the disabled. 
I’d like to see these sex workers honoured. 
I’d like us all to not be so damn uptight about it all and see it for what it is. 
It’s just sex! 
And it’s a really important part of being human and alive. 
As for Montana, I ran into her at a Japanese restaurant a few years after leaving Brisbane, she have me a huge hug and told me one of her customers now paid her to travel with him exclusively and they get along wonderfully. She looked happy and said, 'I never imagined I’d have the life I’m now having. Aren’t I lucky'. 
I smiled and hugged her back for her good fortune and reminded her, ‘He’s lucky to have you’ 
‘Oh, he knows it.’ Then she giggled and said goodbye. 
As for the other women, my hippy friend is a doctor now and doesn’t really talk about her past, the others I lost touch with.
I imagine some are still working, it’s easy money after all. 
I don’t think all were as lucky as Montana. 
It would be a tricky world to navigate being a sex worker in this judgmental and sex repressed world but I hope with all my heart they are happy. 
As happy as Montana was when I last saw her.

Silver-lining suicide. 

It usually happens around 3-4am. 
The waking with a dead heaviness and then remembering. 
Remembering everything all at once.
A deluge of rotten debris and there you are, instantly wide-awake, heart hurting awake. 
Like demented and panicked children running in your head, thoughts scatter and scream.

Why did you say that to the woman in the chemist today? Don’t you think your sister is right? You're an attention seeker who uses people. Why do you always fuck everything up? Why can’t you just sort your shit out? You know people think you’re a joke? Why did you even go into that last relationship? You fucked up again. You always fuck up. Yes, I know you are doing well at work but it’s only time before you fuck it up, like you fuck everything up. Now you’re about to be homeless again and the real estate thinks you’re a piece of shit and worth nothing. Maybe you are worth nothing. Your son isn’t talking to you, your friends aren’t calling or even there to help you because you are pathetic and a loser, just like your sister said. That last attempt at your album proves it. Didn’t even get a contract? Who the fuck does that? It’s simple, you annoy people and it’s best you stay away because you are horribly uncomfortable and you look like shit anyway. Nice job on forgetting to brush your teeth again before you went to bed. 
Why are you even alive? Why do you bother, Ilona? You are dead in so many ways.

  
All this hits in a chaotic word bomb and smashes me awake and smashes into my heart and smashes my head and I start to cry. 
My heart hurts so much, my body feels like I’ve been run over. 
I try breathing and focusing on the positive. 
The avalanche of wounded children crying out drowns my reason. 
So I just keep crying and try to get my thoughts ordered. 

It’s then I see a way out. 
The solution. It would be so much easier if I just disappeared. 
The images of my veins opening starts and it feels like a way out. 
Like maybe I can be free of this horrible terror in my head.                  
It all just hurts so terribly. I can’t see the way out and the calming thought that I can die, soothes the thousand broken children squash game in my head and I start planning. 
And then I stop. I realise I can’t kill myself. It's a fucking stupid idea. Not ever. It will hurt the people I love. The same people I can’t seem to connect with now as they don't seem to see how broken I am and maybe they will never understand how hard I am fighting to keep going but I love them and I don't want to hurt them.

So after an hour or two of negotiating with my infantile anxiety I start to calm down, I make plans for tomorrow and groan, knowing I will be exhausted again from lack of sleep. I soothe myself like a mother would calm a distressed child.
'It's ok, it's going to ok, you are tired, you have had a big day.. hush little one, hush'
I see how childlike these thoughts are yet how big the feelings that accompany them also are. 
I fall asleep, the alarm rings. I half wake and the day time starts with anxiety, then after I listen to the 'sound of silence' three times while drinking strong black coffee, I start to feel better.
I do shit.
I cook, clean, work, write reports continue another day, sometimes I cry in my car on the way to work frustrated at the stupidity of my illness but mostly I just listen to audio books to distract myself from my thoughts. 
Work is fine. Work is always fine, I drink coffee, I love my job, I am good, no, I am great at my job.
I spend beautiful rich and full time with people close to death, people with depth and understanding more than I know and they really like me and I really like them. 
I don’t think a few folks at head office like me much but I think they respect the work I do.
Work has been the only thing apart from coffee that has kept me focused since the accident. 

The fucking accident. I've been depressed before, I've had 5 depressive episodes but not like this. 
Nothing like this. I’ve wanted to not be alive before, in the black hole of depression but only as a vague concept, I've never wanted to die.
I’ve never planned ways to kill myself and found it to be a relief. 
The first night I had suicidal thoughts after my accident I nearly called the hospital at 2am to get locked up, but instead I contacted my therapist and told her.
She monitored me closely for a few weeks. I became less suicidal and start planning my path to recovery but I noticed something has shifted in me. 

So what happened to me? I just don’t care about the things I used to. 
Status, money, beauty, fame and designer food seem to be the staples of the world I am staying in and I don't want to be in it.  Still I look for a new home so I can burrow in and hide but the world seems to be filled with money sick real estate mongrels wanting to take all they can from you.
It’s fucking sick. I’m fucking sick. The world is fucking sick.
I go to the beach to sit and think and try and make sense of the senselessness. 
I make a deal with the sea, I won't take my life until I write the worlds greatest book about pain, redemption, compassion, forgiveness and real estate agents.
I laugh at my genius, even this fucked in the head I can still trick my death wish brain. 

Then I go and see my friend Jase to boast of my sea conversation accomplishment.
I think he's impressed.
He is also fucking tired of it all. 
He’s fucked in the head like me but his is different. 
Because he is different. 

I tell him I’ve been seriously thinking about killing myself. 
‘Me too’ he says. 
‘Fuck you’ I say, smiling wryly, ‘It’s not about you, it about me.’ 
‘Darling’ he drones, ‘It’s always about me more.’ 
‘Are you being competitive about suicide with me Jase?’ 
‘Of course, it’s my nature’ 
  
I am safe with Jase, he won’t judge and won’t over react nor under react. 
Actually he will, then he will admit he has then listen for a bit then just say, ‘I love you, Harker’ then we will begin to talk.
The hell nights, we both know them well. 
I feel better having said something.
I have named the opiate dripping monster of my death calling. 
  
The last week before I go outback for work, I move house, fly to see my dad who’s having another psychotic episode and weirdly is suicidal on top of his delusion (I know right?) but families that suicide together don’t stay together... remember that kids. I do two Johnny Cash QLD shows and sing at a very big wedding and my car is broken down. 
Jase calls to check in. 
I explain I won't suicide because although I am on my own at the moment, I know people love me so I am not going to add to the worlds pain, however I am going to go to the garage and perch myself on top of the pile of enormous shit I own and jump till I break my face and or leg.
He tells me I am an idiot and because as I am currently beleaguered with bad luck, I’ll probably fuck it up and end a quadriplegic. 
‘Ah but then I can at least get sympathy sex and there are loads of really kinky guys who’d pay to have sex with a quad and then I’ll become an addict and after rehab write a book then retire on the proceeds.’ I retort triumphantly. 
I’ll do anything to not have to do the next week. 
He said my plan had flaws and lacked strategy. 
I explained it was solid and I needed encouragement. 
He said, ‘No darling, you need to work something else out, your plan is shit.’ 
‘Well do YOU have any ideas?’ 
‘I’ve got nothing, you’ll work it out, you always seem to’ 

I do the week.
I don’t smash my face but I also don’t sleep much due to anxiety, driving to fucking QLD and moving home. 
I leave on a Sunday with a broken car, a thousand cups of coffee and a great relief that I made it, the classic foster lager ad as my inner ear driving song.
  
I go away for over a month for work, all is well when I am away. I love the road. It’s just me and no one I know, no one I have to pretend like I’m ok. 
I had asked for help on my facebook, and although people responded, they did it online. It felt cold. I needed to be held.
One very nice drunk poet held me and said I was a sweet little thing. It was one of the most tender moments I had.
A few people called when I asked if I could be checked on. I asked because I was so desperate and I was hurting. 
I stopped trying to reach out and just went away. 
  
I came back to my home excited to rest for a few months after driving 15,000k’s breaking down three times, seeing my dad and helping him after the psych hospital and his mental health community treatment order and a weekend work conference, I find out I’m being thrown out of the home I just moved 6 weeks earlier. My sister has been contacting friends of mine on FB, as she is unhappy about what happened with my dads intervention and tells them what a terrible person I am.
She continues to send me emails saying things like how disgusted our dead mother would be about me. 
  
The anxiety starts again. Like der! 
  
The home I set up crumbles, I can’t find a place to live and I am crumbling again. 
So I go to the fucking beach, the same beach that I made a deal with the first fucking time I was suicidal, all those months ago. 
She greets me like an old friend, soft and enormous. 
‘Ah, I’ve missed you’
We both sigh to each other. 
Her skirts smash against me in delight and I fall into her. 
I walk back onto land and as I’m drying myself, I feel all of her in me. 
Her vast unknown depths and terror and her quiet beauty.
She kisses me with salt spray and asks how the book is going. 
I smile.

  
  
  

 

The magic of men 

I post often about what gender inequality does to women but I am increasingly more aware of how this imbalance affects men, especially as I am really concerned about the devastating rise of male suicide. 

I’m writing this in the middle of the night, after waking with insomnia, aware that I needed to work through some feelings that are bothering me. 
I’m not that worried about not sleeping and am just using the cover of darkness to sort through some disorganised files in my heart and mind. 
I have an implicit trust in my abilities to navigate my feelings. I am good at knowing what my feelings are and how to talk about my feelings with friends or a therapist or to my guitar. 
I was lucky enough to be given this as part of my gender identity. 
We all know women are more emotional and therefore able to express their feelings better than men. It’s a given. Men are just not as emotional right? 

Yeah, nah. 
Therein lies a big fat lie and a more frighteningly, a dangerous one. 
A lie that is not just hurting men, it’s killing them or to be more precise, it’s making them kill themselves. 
My female ‘privilege’ of being given the emotion portfolio over, say, the treasury portfolio doesn’t seem so crash hot, after all I also get stuck with the ‘overly emotional’ aka Steve Price hysteria label. 

I acknowledge the male financial burden isn’t that fun when you’re losing, and they fall like mad men in Manhattan when the dollar gods turn their backs on their worship but I’d still like a bigger bit of that pie, thanks the same. 

But let me just explore what my feeling female advantages are in my culture (acknowledging fully that there are always exceptions.) 

1. I am allowed to have and express emotions more. 
2. I am allowed to nurture and build relationships based on my feelings more. 
3. I am allowed to cry and I get held when I do. 

Imagine getting a puppy and not allowing it to bark past a certain age. It would impact heavily on its socialisation and more importantly it’s happiness. 
That’s effectively what we do to young men. 
I remember once very clearly telling my own son not to cry when he was about 8. Thankfully, he stood up to me and said he was allowed to express his feelings. Well done son. :) 

However, I was shocked at myself and I’m not sure how many other times I might have disregarded his feelings but I remember being very aware of my lack of abilities to understand his emotions because I wasn’t brought up to know how to deal with 'feelings' from a male. 
I was brought up ‘knowing’ how to deal with actions from a male. 
So I read a few books and got learned that male emotions are pretty much identical to female ones. Der! 

We’ve all been given a bum steer, women are now the emotions ‘experts’ who are being murdered by angry men at an alarming rate and men are emotional zombies with bigger bank balances and yet a deep crippling sadness that makes theirs and others lives seem worthless. 
So what do we do? 

Well, this is actually something we can all start changing by simply being aware of this inequality and the impact of it. 
Then we need to fucking talking about feelings! 
YES, TALK ABOUT FEELINGS or even lack of feelings. 
Talk about the numbness, the void, the red, the black.. 
However it comes, please just talk. 
The RU OK campaign is a great way to get info more and also beyond blue. 

Yet, in my sleeplessness, I had another thought. 

My rambling midnight meanderings lead me thinking about something my mother told me when I was little. She said that all the women in our family had ‘powers’, that we had the ‘gift’. 
She said we were all “Fae’ (an old word for fairy or intuitive) 

The truth so happened that we did get these ‘powers of knowing’. 
There have numerous been times when shit has gone down with my family or a loved one and I have ‘known’. 
Yet, I bet anyone reading this has had something ‘spooky’ or inexplicable happen similar. 
I could go on and on about how special I am... but the truth is, I, nor my family is. 

It’s simply an extension of my ability to be emotionally connected, have awareness and the added genius of my mother planting a seed, saying the women in our family are 'magic fairy witches', so any strange anomaly would automatically be attributed to the gift. 
That’s a pretty cool thing to get told as a kid and I did spend hours trying to use my mind to move objects and…. er… maybe I still do occasionally purely for ‘research purposes’. 

So how does this tie in to gender inequality? 
How many times have you ever heard the quote ‘A mothers intuition’ or ‘A woman’s intuition’? 
How many times have you heard ‘A males intuition’? 
None right? 
Are men less magic? aka incapable of deeper connection? 
I again don’t bloody think so and I think this is another terrible gender falsehood. 

Interestingly, I have observed in my extensive pop culture ‘research’, indigenous men are waaaay more intuitive and their powers extend to talking to the land, animals and stars. I’m quoting any Disney or Hollywood film, from any era and any ancient pre-invaded white civilizations have also endowed their men with these intuitive ‘powers’. 
How amazing are ‘native' men at this intuition caper (aka deeper observed connection at the intricate and interconnectedness of all life). Maybe that's why there is so much fucking dreadful new age bullshit around this and 'sacred' masculinity that also seems to be a lil' racist.. Mmmmmmm? Anyone? 

Poor white guys are usually portrayed as pretty bad at the deeper feeling stuff except for Kevin Costner because he runs with wolves and builds fields for heroic dead base ballers. I badly digress. 

So it’s no wonder many blokes are in so much pain, not only have they been told to ignore their feelings, when they dare look to the heavens for help no great whoosh happens where a king lion constellation says ‘You have forgotten who you are and so forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.’ 

Let me please atone for my Hollywood references (great and small) and quote a great man who navigated and curated the world’s great myths and his own great emotions. (including his death) 
I include religion in the term 'myths' because I reckon religion is just organised ritual gone OCD. 

"The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature". – Joseph Campbell 

If our definition of being a man equates to money, power and success over connection to themselves and their place in the magic of this amazing universe, then no wonder they are hurting. 

There are some great men of science, the arts and culture who navigate around the toxic world of enforced gender conditioning and have found their own magic and I'd like to thank them. 
Eddie Izzard, Dr Seuss, Joseph Campbell, Oscar Wilde, Harry Hay, Robert Mapplethorpe, Carl Sagan, The crew of Briefs, etc…. so many more wonderful writers and educators. 
 

So maybe we can start teaching our sons that they have an inner world of magic and connection as precious and important as women's. 
And maybe we can remind the men around us that inside them are worlds of beauty and tender connection and can we all please make a bigger effort to nurture that. 

Midnight ramblings over, it’s nearly dawn after all and right now I want to follow my bliss to sleep .