Tired of riots and protests eh?

Tired of riots and protests eh?

I read a comment earlier today that said something like ‘I know the death of an innocent black man is terrible, but there is really no excuse for protests, riots and looting’.

For. Fucks. Sake.

Nope, absolutely no acronyms for that one. FOR FUCKS SAKE!

How about we all get our priorities right and say things like- protests, riots and looting and terrible but there really is no excuse for the death of an innocent black man.

And no, right now I don’t mean the death of ANY man because the fact is that countries like America and Australia aren’t “accidentally” killing a disproportionate number of white men or white women.  The people dying are overwhelmingly, disproportionately PEOPLE OF COLOUR.

Black people. Brown people. Definitely not fucking white people.

This is a race issue. And if you’re trying to argue it’s not – you’re part of the problem. If you use the example of one small group of rioters, or one black man, or one black women who resisted police, to negatively form an opinion of all people of colour, than you should be applying the same twisted, stupid logic to footballers and politicians and the police. And you should be publicly apologising and taking personal responsibility for the Christchurch and Port Arthur murderers. Because they were white Australians.

You need to look at Australia’s own appalling history of deaths in custody – around 400 over the last 30 years including at least one man whose final words were also “I can’t breathe”. Then there is the deaths of refugees in our concentration camps not only because of psychological torture but because the people we pay to look after them, murder them by ‘accidentally’ beating them to death.

We’re not talking, in America or Australia, about some vigilantes rising up, running around and randomly shooting people of colour. They are dying at the hands of people who have sworn to look after us. They are dying because our system is so inherently racist that as long as nobody is making a fuss nobody cares.

Do you know how many times people have told me they are TIRED of me ‘banging on about refugees and human rights’? How many eye rolls I get when I stop people bitching about ‘Chinese builders’ or ‘Indian taxi drivers’ and point out that their ethnicity has fuck all to do with how competent or incompetent they are? How refugees are not taking your jobs if you’re not fucking out there applying for them in the first place? Do you ever think about the fact that we refer to white people working abroad as expats and people of colour working abroad as immigrants? I get that the answers aren’t easy but if we aren’t asking questions, if we’re not agitating, advocating, actively trying to make it better than are we actually any better than somebody that uses yells abuse in the street or has a stickers on their car saying ‘fuck off, we’re full’??

We don’t even acknowledge First Australians in our constitution. In face, we only stopped classifying them as Fauna or Flora sixty years ago.  We’re still killing them and incarcerating them.  And we’re not being mad enough about that. We SHOULD be mad about George Floyd. That’s fucking awful. But it shouldn’t take George Floyd’s appalling death to get you mad about the insidious racism that exists every single fucking day. And it exists HERE. In Australia.

We lament the holocaust, but we’ve got our own concentration camps funded by your taxes and YOUR VOTES. We have 400 black deaths in custody funded by your taxes and YOUR VOTES. Next time you have the opportunity to be pissed off about racism, how about you gather your family and friends and get out on the streets and protest loudly not just by way of a passing comment at the dinner table but by putting your body and your voice to it.

We should be mad. Racism is a tomfuckery that is learned. And the only way it is going to stop is if people stop being racist. And not just quietly stop being racist, but by being really loudly anti-racist.  We need to agitate. We need to speak up even if it makes us a really annoying friend. We need to advocate for those who are who live with this bullshit every single day. It’s tiring sure but how much more tiring, how much more dispiriting is it for those that live with it every single day. Every. Single. Fucking. Day.

We also need to acknowledge that none of us are perfect.  We have all said or done things in the past that we look back on and think ‘well bugger me if that wasn’t tone deaf’, or ‘turns out I was an ignorant individual back in the day’, but the great thing is we can do better and be better now. It doesn’t matter how much of a racist dick you’ve been in the past, this is your time to shine. Part of becoming a fully functional adult is learning to think for yourself, to rethink attitudes, beliefs and/or patterns of thoughts so that you don’t automatically carry on the bollocks of the past.

And do something apart from share great quotes – slacktivism has its place but build on that. Be proactive. Buy your kids dolls that are black or brown or have different facial features. Buy books where the heroes aren’t all whiter than Enid Blyton.  Watch films that have people of colour in them that aren’t purely featured as historical markers to the white version of history.  Follow people on Twitter that challenge your thinking or even introduce you to thoughts you never would have encountered without them. Vote in people that don’t exploit your xenophobia so you can be rich when you’re old.

This is your time to say ‘not one more George Floyd’.

Not one more ‘Tanya Walker’.

Not one more ‘Joyce Clarke.

Not one more ‘David Dungay’.

Let them breathe. Be the change. Don’t ask for it.

Things we believe about ourselves

Things we believe about ourselves

I’ve been working my way through the book Postcards From Tomorrow which is (and I quote directly from the book cover) “A collection of letters from inspirational women to their 21 year old selves.” Disclaimer: I contributed a letter.

It’s a fascinating read. The book is populated with women of various ages who have done so much with their lives – women who I see as strong, resilient and successful. Women you would see as strong, resilient and successful. Women that head up huge corporations, who have been on the cover of magazines, raise a kabillion children on their own, made films, written books, launched businesses, run marathons, philanthropists, you name it they are all there between the covers of the book.

What has been most astounding to me as I turn page after page, is that almost without fail, in a thousand different ways, each of the women entreat their young selves to believe in themselves and most importantly, to be kind to themselves.

The narrative for so many women is that we are not enough. Not pretty enough. Not clever enough. Not strong enough. Not interesting enough. Or we are too much. Too loud. Too wild. Too clever. Too pretty. Too big. Too whatever. The media bombards us with imagery. Idle chit chat between friends is often about how we should eat less, drink less, weigh less, be exercising more, shagging more, earning more, achieving more.

We use language that downplays our achievements, we channel the negative voices that have shaped us, we end sentences with inflections, or laugh off things we are proud of. We feel apologetic for taking up room, taking time for ourselves. We collectively praise a generation of men that is better than the one before and take time to be vocally appreciative for having the good sense to marry men that are partners not just husbands.

The letters in this book show just how deeply we learn so much so young. So that just as we are on the cusp of adulthood, stepping out into the world, it is then that we are at our most vulnerable when it comes to the things we believe about ourselves. It takes years to step out from under those constraints, those internal dialogues to recognise that fundamentally, the essence of who we are was always there, we just never had the confidence nor the ability to treat ourselves kindly. I mean where would we have learned to do so when nobody around us was doing it?

Those other girls we mingled with when we didn’t know ourselves, whose words we took as gospel, were just as likely to have been put out in the world with the same lack of confidence, with that same inability to treat themselves kindly. We hurled words and actions out into the ether, aping concepts we scarcely understood but perversely layering them over what we perceived as failures or weaknesses, so we fitted in.

I have two daughters as well as memories of my own. It starts young. Children without the words to match their feelings test out their boundaries, and their power, by inflicting small wounds and scraping at scars. Some tumble through unscathed, but some don’t. The language we use as adults matters too. Language we sometimes use unwittingly, scraps that have lain dormant until we parent ourselves. It takes commitment to pull away from those, to formulate new language that encourages without belittlement, that allows our children the luxury of expressing emotion without judgement. It takes commitment also to proactively model kindness to self to your children. It always feels selfish at some level.

I try sometimes to write the first paragraph of my own eulogy. It might sound morbid, but it’s an interesting challenge. How would you describe yourself if you were to love yourself as much as others love you. It says volumes about me that I have never managed to write that paragraph without resorting to humour and a heavy reliance on what I THINK other people think of me. Though I will be mortally offended (pun intended) if that first paragraph doesn’t mention how funny I am.

I often say to my girls that when people are unkind to you, it’s generally because they don’t feel great about themselves. That it takes courage to be kind. I really should listen to myself more often. I give great advice. Both to my daughters, and to my 21 year old self.

Postcards From Tomorrow
Illustrated by Wendy Sharpe
Edited by Kim Chandler McDonald

A collection of more than 270 heartfelt letters, encompassing hilarity and heartbreak, insight and inspiration from an amazing array of women of influence and integrity writing to their younger selves. There are letters from women who are ‘household names’ as well as from women you will be introduced to for the first time.  There are Australian and international luminaries from the worlds of comedy, theatre, TV and dance;  you’ll meet adventurers and Olympic champions, broadcasters and journalists, activists and philanthropists, politicians, business leaders, innovators and instigators.

All profits from the book go to supporting Lou’s Place – a support centre for vulnerable women. www.postcardsfromtomorrow.com

Rainbow Shirt Guy

Rainbow Shirt Guy

On Father’s Day this year, I took my daughters to a rally in Sydney in support of the Priya, Nades and their daughter who have been taken into detention by the Australian government and are currently incarcerated on Christmas Island. Their crime? They came to Australia as refugees by boat.

Their story is one of many in what is going to be another dark part of Australia’s history someday. In the meantime, it’s a rotten part of our present where our political leaders trade innocent lives and spin their xenophobia into government policy in return for votes. They are aided in this by an insidious media and most potently, the apathy of the Australian public, who buy into the fear mongering and turn a blind eye to Australia’s blatant disregard for the human rights of so very, very, very many people.

History has taught us time and time again that what your government will do to others is what they will do to you given the chance or the motivation.

But you know my views on this. This particular rally was replicated around the country in major cities and smaller towns. Those that turn up to these rallies are often seasoned protesters who turn up, ever hopeful that change will occur, but equally cynical that anyone listens. The #backtobilo rallies were a combination of seasoned campaigners, and newbies. All people advocating, agitating even, for compassionate leadership.

We know that public activism works. People need to lift their voices, block roads, chant slogans and march in progress to achieve change. It is what has happened for generation upon generation. Activism and change are complex beasts, full of new language to encompass emerging ideas, and often a process of introspection and amplification existing alongside each other.  Allies can not be silent, they must add their voices both humbly and loudly. People without lived experience need to learn to listen and to support, and people with lived experience need to share what are often painful stories in order to educate and inform.  It is not a linear process. It is not an easy process. There is no ‘right’ way.

Change doesn’t happen instantly. One does not wake up one morning aware that one has benefited from a position of privilege and that one has a responsibility to use that in support of those without. It is a challenging of your own truths. The commitment to learning more. The sloughing off of long held beliefs. It’s starting a conversation that nobody is interested in having. It’s being part of dialogues that inspire you and shame you, even as you become better educated. Change is realising that you can never be perfect. That you have made and will continue to make mistakes.

It’s learning that your gut instinct is your learned response. It is the series of truths ingrained in you before you even knew. Change is that second response, the one that pulls up the first response and demands that it explains itself.  Change is knowing the difference between sympathy and empathy.  Change is knowing that a world that only works for you is no kind of world at all. It’s a cocoon, shielding you from reality.

Following the rally, the girls and I headed off to get on with ‘real life’, the one where they live safely. And freely. We get a late lunch from McDonalds before we get on the train. We’ve still got our banners, the girls are still asking endless questions, trying to understand why we lock up refugees. I had no good answers, who does?

In the row in front of us, there is a man I recognised had also attended the rally.  He had rainbow coloured tshirt with a great quote on which was a broader version of my favourite #dontbeadick mantra. It is also a sign of my age that I would describe him as a young man.  Some other people bordered the train and one older guy engaged ‘rainbow shirt guy’ in conversation. In a few stops, it became clear that older guy had differing view.

‘Rainbow shirt guy’ (I do know his name by the way), and I started chatting. The rally had been his first one, a public flexing I suppose of his emerging internal belief system. We had a great chat until we got to our stop and went our separate ways. I told the girls as we walked along that going to a rally on your own was a really hard thing to do, especially if you’re the first of your tribe to do so, and that I hoped they would remember ‘Rainbow shirt guy’ when they were older and that if they really believed in something, they’d have the courage to step out of the comfort zone and stand up for what they believe in. Even if their friends didn’t see the point. 

People like ‘Rainbow shirt guy’ always impress me. Young people are getting so much braver, are discovering their voices younger and they manifest that in so many different ways when they come to building a better world, not just for themselves, but for all of us.

Last week I discovered the following message in my blog inbox (Yes, I should check it more often).  And I don’t mind admitting that I cried.  It is an incredibly humbling message. I don’t profess to be perfect. I’m trying as hard as I can. And sometimes, sometimes I wonder whether I make any difference at all. To anyone. Or anything.

But it reminds me so strongly that all of us are changing. And all of us are doing our best.  And I thank J so much for his wonderful words, and the fact that he took the time to write to me, and remind me that it is worth it. We all play our part in making the world a better place.  So I hope he one day he reads this blog again and know that people like him can, and will change the world. Thank you.

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Ten. Whole. Years.

Ten. Whole. Years.

When my husband and I got married 10 years ago, we were under no illusion that marriage would be easy.  While we fancied the pants off each other from the beginning, there was no part of our relationship that was seamless, because each step of it had to be weighed up against questions from bureaucrats, endless paperwork and money.

We’d been together for five years by the time we got married and we’d lived in different countries, spent small fortunes on a variety of different visas so we could stay together in the same country, spent hours discussing whether we were right for each other when we had nothing in common and so forth, and so on, ad nauseam.

We’d covered off the all questions asked in every marriage counselling course from the top of the globe to the bottom. We talked about how our families dealt with disagreements so we were aware of the learned behaviours we’d bring to the relationship. We’d discussed whether or not we wanted kids and what kind of parents we wanted to be. We’d explored the different kinds of ways we spoke of, and demonstrated, love.

We had shared stories of exes, talked about what we wanted from life, agreed on the appropriate way to deal with envelopes that had windows, explained to his mother I hadn’t been married previously – the email address was just wishful thinking about me and Colin Firth.  We’d spent hours on religion, careers, travel, music, tv and movies. We’d agreed that I was the funnier one.

Most importantly, along with love, there was trust and friendship. I genuinely liked my guy.

And ten years on. I still do like, love and trust him.

He also drives me completely spare in ways that I couldn’t begin to imagine when we said “I will.”

Children dramatically alter the dynamic of a relationship when they are real humans and not hypothetical beings. The strength of feeling you have for these small beings that you created together bonds you together in a way that you could not have imagined. You learn to appreciate things about your partner that you never would have realised until you saw him with his own children.

You also have less tolerance for his idiosyncrasies now that there are more people in the relationship. And he has less tolerance for yours. You compete to prove who is the most tired as you juggle full time parenting with full time work and struggle to find time for full time partnering.

Date nights segue from movie nights and dinners to pizza in front of the television. Your long texts and emails about how much you love each other become brief kisses at the end of the messages asking them when the hell they are going to be home. You register that sometimes you only get to say “I love you”, not show them.

You cover off redundancies. Job changes. Depression. Ill family members. The deaths of friends. The death of family members. Broken limbs. Families visiting. Visiting families. Friendships. Stressful work. Starting your own businesses. Brain bleeds. You tell the same stories you’ve always told. You add new ones. You find things to laugh about. You enjoy a night out. You play to your strengths. You play to their strengths. You value the friends that mind your children so you can catch a movie. You are thankful for the community that rallies around. You adore whoever invented smart phones as you snap photo after photo, memory after memory. You wish you were in more of the photos. Sometimes it feels like you don’t have time to enjoy anything, just note it down for later so you can savour it when you have the elusive ‘time to yourself’.

And then just like that. Ten years have passed. We are both exactly the same people that got married that cold day in Gundaroo. And we are vastly more.  We are both more aware of how two people that love each other can lift each other up. And we are both more aware of how two people that love each other can wound each other. We have grown in ourselves as much as we have grown together. There are things he likes that I don’t. There are things that I like that he will never like. There is so much we share and agree on. There has been a lot of laughter. There has been tears. We are both agreed that me not dying this year was a good thing. We value the people we have in our lives that like and love us for who we are. We value each other. We still agree that I am the funniest one.

We argued recently. Angrily, loudly on my part, quietly but no less determinedly on his part. We made up. And I was reminded just one short week out from our ten years that there is still nobody I would rather talk to when my husband pisses me off than…. my husband.

He is my best friend. The person that drives me most insane. The man that makes my world a better place for being in it. He is the mirror that reflects the best of me back to me. The man that has my back no matter how imperfectly human I am.

Happy 10th anniversary to my beautiful man.

PS: I’m glad we’re Facebook friends.

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Bits, Butts and Brains

Bits, Butts and Brains

Exploding bits – UNEXPLAINED!!!

Exploding butt – UNEXPLAINED!!!

Exploding brain – UNEXPLAINED!!!
It’s official. We have a hat trick! 

Things we DO know though on the last day of July 2019:

  1. An unidentifiable number of strangers have seen me naked this year.
  2. Medical staff use their iPhone cameras to examine you these days and not torches. It was weird the first time and it remains weird the 3874848th time too.
  3. We need to talk more about bits and butts and brains. I am able to confirm when you’ve talked about yours as much as I have had to talk about mine this year there is ZERO embarrassment factor by the end of it. Well not for you, your audiences will still squirm with embarrassment or giggle when you mention YOUR UNMENTIONABLES.
  4. It doesn’t matter how well you look after your body or how badly you treat it – the theory of random chaos applies to who ends up in hospital with something.
    I have met all types this past few months and a lot of them were smug healthy arsehats who were very pissed off that having eaten the right things, exercised, thought happy thoughts and so on, their brains broke or their insides let them down. Sure you can do things which are good for you and that is a good thing – but it doesn’t get you a free pass to old age.
  5. More medical specialists need to revise #dontbeadick 101. Being hospital is really scary and just because it’s business as usual for them doesn’t mean it is for you. People want answers and explanations, not two minutes with your registrar while you bark into your phone about another patient. We get that you’re busy, just remember you are in the business of ‘care’.
  6. Your tribe has your back.  Every single time. Thank them and then pay it forward.
  7. The essentials for going to hospital are (in no particular order) – an extension cord, your phone charger, your phone, clean undies and t-shirt, flip-flops, toothbrush and toothpaste.  This is true whether you are having a baby, pre-cancerous lesions removed, invasive procedures or a stroke.  You can cope with anything if you can text somebody to bitch about it. But its easier to cope with clean teeth.
  8. You need a good GP. And if you’re the kind of idiot that doesn’t visit doctors – know that my life expectancy is better than yours now that I didn’t die because I will be visiting that darling woman anytime something goes even remotely pear-shaped. Not going to the doctor is not a status symbol. It’s a sign that you’re an idiot who doesn’t look after themselves because they can’t say ‘bottom’ to a stranger.
  9. Be an organ donor.
  10. Give blood. Regularly. 
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Self love and precious scars

Self love and precious scars

I’ve been a people pleaser all my life.  It sounds like a lovely thing to be, but the inherent desire to please others is nothing at all to do with being a good person. It’s closely aligned with low self esteem, a desire to be what others want you to be, to mould yourself into something others find acceptable.  It’s to always assume that for others to like you, you need to be something other than yourself. It’s internalised messaging working against your best interests in every single way.  It is measuring your worth, your success, your intelligence and your abilities against the nebulous opinions of others.

And I’ve spent the best part of 44 years doing that. I can never recall a time in my life where I didn’t think I had to be more than what I was to be truly loveable.

Which is fucking tragic when you think about it.

At the very least (which is actually everything) I have a husband and two daughters who think the sun shines out of my considerable backside.  I also have a wonderful tribe of people across the globe who like, and love me, in all my glorious imperfection.

Just as I like, and love them, in all their glorious imperfections.

Yet, when you have a brain bleed, in fact a stroke of any kind, it leaves scarring in your brain. That scarring impacts different things depending on where it’s located, but the brain is a wily little bugger and it creates new pathways as best it can to get everything going again as close to ‘before’ as it can.

I feel very much like as my brain was forging new pathways, it got to that people pleasing bit, went “WTAF ALISON????” and promptly marched straight past it. 

In the last few months I’ve been setting boundaries like I’ve been doing it all my life. I don’t have to change who I am to be accepted. I don’t have to put in the effort to stay connected to those that want to be connected to me. There is literally no compulsion in me to put myself on fire to keep other people warm.

Source: Bridget Jones’ Diary

I’ve been owning my experience, my knowledge, my space. I have even said ‘no’ to things I don’t want to do or be involved in. I’m surrounding myself with the people who want me to succeed and who believe in me, the same way I believe in them.

I have been wary of this ‘new’ me. It has felt out of character, perhaps not to be trusted, how does it fit along the high functioning depression I live with. Is it to be believed?  I’ve poked it and prodded it. I took it to my psych to talk about it and she said that it was the most positive act of self love she’d seen from me in the 9 years we’ve been talking. 

“Self love?” I queried. “Am I not just being selfish?”

And the answer is no. Self love is regard and well-being for yourself.  Selfish is having no consideration for other people. I have, as always, lots of consideration for other people – it’s just for the first time since forever, that consideration is not coming at the expense of my own emotional well-being and that of those I hold most dear.

I remain imperfect. I have been thinking of this period of growth as a version of the Japanese art of Kintsugi – the art of precious scars. Where the bits of me that have broken are not something to be hidden away. That in fact, in the healing of the scars, the filling in of the broken bits has left me stronger, and more beautiful in many ways.

I’m loveable.

Who knew eh? Who fucking knew? #slowlearner

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