Wednesday, September 21, 2016


It's uncomfortably familiar
And I wish it weren't so
I remember really struggling
With it, long ago

Searching for inner balance
Trying to maintain my tune
Hum along with my 'shadow' self
Listless and inopportune

The answers won't be found outside myself
That space, once cultivated, lingers
Trying to (de)centre and uncomplicate myself
Within the bounds of 'mental fitness'

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My favourite 'Dangerous Ideas'

It's always a pleasure to attend the Festival of Dangerous Ideas, something about Sydney I can honestly say I love. This year I was lucky - I had only bought a ticket to one event, but by virtue of being at the right place at the right time, I ended up attending a session for free. Neither of these sessions has been filmed for YouTube post-festival consumption, but there were a few that were that I wanted to share with you:

#1. 'Why Black Lives Matter' by Alicia Garza

#2. 'Open the Borders' by Philippe Legrain 

If you think about it, #1 and #2 are interconnected. In order to have the ideas that will allow us to open the borders, we have to recognise that poor and/or black lives matter. Whether that means treating would-be immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa as having a lot to offer, or giving poor African-Americans the ability to move to, say, New Zealand or Western Europe, it's a matter of recognising the worthiness and dignity of every individual. 


So the FODI sessions I attended were called 'Generation Less' and 'What don't we want to talk about in the arts?' 'Generation Less' was an interesting, if depressing, analysis of how my generation has less opportunities for wealth accumulation than our parents, and while I couldn't relate to some of the labour-related inequities (since I'm 'mentally disabled' (I prefer mentally gifted and mentally out of place) and don't have a job), I do feel that there are very few opportunities for me to advance economically. I applied for three volunteer positions a few months ago and wasn't able to land any of them, which just goes to show that there's so much competition even in the non-profit sector. I had been intending that a volunteering role would gear me up for a paid placement somewhere. 'Hold your horses, Epiphanie,' the world cried in response. 
At the same time, I recognise that I don't need to own property or have a high disposable income to be happy. I manage to travel every year, and if I can keep doing that, I will be happy. Or, rather, less miserable than I was before. Buddhist theory really helps with finding inner worth within. Anyway, the woman who spoke to us about generational inequality was called Jennifer Rayner (in case you want to look her up). She is involved with the Labour party, so her ideas are correspondingly more centrist than mine, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have a lot to offer. 

'What don't we want to talk about in the arts?' was more challenging - it asked us to consider that there is a failure of empathy on the Left towards progressive Muslim voices - the ones who want to reform their religion to make it friendly towards gender equality and GLBTI rights. And here I have to admit that I spend less time empathising with Muslims than I consider would be beneficial in my more reflective states. I don't have any Muslim friends. I'm not actively seeking out to deepen my understanding of progressive Muslim voices. I enjoyed Persepolis and used to follow its creator, Marjane Satrapi, but now that I think about it, I'm not sure she's Muslim.
So what are the reasons for my avoidance of progressive Muslims? Every day at home I hear vitriol about them from people who are close to me. I do my best to ignore that and keep an open mind, but it does tend to drive me away from them. And I'm sorry I'm not doing more, and that I prioritise other kinds of empathy. There's no excuse. But if an interesting voice crosses my path, I am open to listening, and supporting them. I will try to direct myself more towards these people in the future. 
Lloyd Newson is the name of the brave gay man who spoke out against discrimination by fundamentalist Muslims, if you want to look him up. He's a director of politically charged dance performances which look amazing from the clips we were shown last week. 


So what is my own Dangerous Idea? That the so-called mentally ill have meaningful experiences which ought to be listened to and not shut down. We should be encouraging them to open up and connect to other members of the community, not automatically drugging them with neurotoxic drugs. 'Open Dialogue' is a good start, a treatment which respects each client's reality and helps them make meaningful sense of their experiences. Originating in Lapland, Finland, Open Dialogue is the future - but for how much longer will clients be systematically dehumanised by a psychiatric class that doesn't want to relate to them?

Slow down

The pace of the city can take some time to disconnect from. It takes conscious effort to walk slower. Look up, savour each nosefull of the flowers spilling out into the street.

I brought the jacket home
And deviated from submission
How quickly true colours
Reared their ugly heads

I feel helpless and I'd
Rather not participate
In this war of attrition
But my dreams I'll fight to save

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Within a patriarchal context (Poems)

Exposed to the very
Thing I was avoiding
Saw the stuff of oppression
Rise up within me
I could ask
Them to stop creating
These kinds of series
But it's unlikely
To make much
Of an impact


My voice isn't what it used to be
I've made it more authoritative
Less sexy
It's liberating
To subvert the conventions
Embody the struggle
And how
I confuse myself
When the time comes
The voice that received such attention
Has grown into something
More instinctive
I remain softly spoken
But am I missing
The seductiveness
That ensured my popularity?
What does it mean
To want to be desired
Within a patriarchal context?

Friday, September 2, 2016

Childfree and loving it

The more I read about motherhood from feminists, the more relieved I am that I will never occupy that role. Something really radical would have to happen for me to change my mind. In the past I've been more vague about my intention to stay childfree, leaving open the possibility that I might do a U-turn and submit to societal expectations, no matter how unlikely that seemed. Today I am ready to come out and commit to my freedom from dependents: I refuse to have kids.

I don't consciously will it to be so, but I surround myself with people with similar views on mothering. Perhaps those who are mothers are mostly too busy with the incredible demands on their time their lifestyle provides. Perhaps some of them feel, to some extent, that I am too immature or selfish to hang out with. Perhaps it's not active exclusion so much as non-inclusion. It makes sense to seek emotional support from people who can relate to your situation.

Likewise, I want to be around people who have time and energy for me - who like to travel as often as possible, who don't have somebody relying on them and hence taking up the majority of their time. I think it's nice that I have adult friends who enjoy their social lives and advancing in their intellectual pursuits. Who are rebellious feminists.

Being 32 and childfree means that I have the freedom to spend my money in whichever way I wish. I have a growing foreign film collection and a ton of international travel experience. I'm proud of how I conduct my life. I don't feel I am missing out on something because I'm not having a baby, and I'm not at all worried about "being alone in my old age." There will always be people around to share my life with, whether they are my partners, friends, or just friendly faces I spend some time with due to circumstance. (I imagine there will be plenty of social opportunities created by my generation of elderly peeps.)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Searching (Poem)

Contrary to tomorrow's notions
I found my way past old barriers
It's been bittersweet, slipping on
Today's costume
Giving up control
For the third time in a row


How do I outwit my trauma?
How do I turn myself upside down?
Inside out I've been for some time
Time to occupy new ground

Monday, August 15, 2016

Recovery, honesty & Netflix

As I gain more insight into my mental processes, I become hopeful that there is a way to loosen up the constraints around my brain gradually and let it breathe. Seeing my psych more often gives my health that extra boost, even as I'm not making full use of the services offered. I've been invited to write to her between sessions, just one email which could be lengthy, but that's not how I work. I like to express myself in short bursts, so that I'm more easily able to defend my streams of consciousness from anyone who would like to find fault with them. Adding to a draft over time makes me feel insecure, in more than one way - I have lost online data in the past, which makes me doubt the wisdom of leaving work vulnerable to unexpected technology failure.

Something I keep learning about myself is that I love and value honesty in the people around me. I crave it. Thankfully I surround myself with people who fulfil that need. It takes the pressure to match a low level of openness off. Instead I aspire to be as honest as I can be, because that's what my friends and lover are doing too. To paraphrase Laurie Penny, talking honestly about feelings will never be cool. It's not a mainstream art and it never will be, not when the circulation of myths, falsehoods and half-truths is so high. But being honest allows you to be yourself without a layer of anxiety that accompanies remembering what white lie you told to whom, at what time. I've been there. It's not pretty. I sometimes relapse into insincerity, but less and less as I go.

I had no intention of joining Netflix until I saw it enthusiastically devoured by my partner. Right now I'm enjoying Jessica Jones (having just finished episode 5), which has helped me in ways it would be hard to articulate. The protagonist is gender nonconforming in that she doesn't have any friends, lacks social and nurturing skills, and demonstrates repeated physical superiority over almost everyone else in her world, to mention a few. Perhaps just as importantly, she has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Now, I do have friends. Sometimes I feel like I don't have enough time to myself because I cultivate so many friendships, but there was a time when I had almost none, and felt painfully lonely. That kind of isolation can be self-perpetuating. You feel bad because you're isolated, and you're isolated because your bad feelings prevent you from appealing to a broad range of people. Jessica Jones speaks to that part of me that will always be alone.

It doesn't speak to my sense of atheist Buddhist vibes. The character is intrusive and inconsiderate - she scores higher on aggression that I feel comfortable identifying with. Then there's the guns, seemingly a staple of anything vaguely action-themed coming from American shores. And there was a case of slut-shaming in the episode I saw today that made me cringe. Jessica disparaged the name 'Jewel' as sounding as if it ought to belong to a very 'slutty stripper'. As opposed to every other female character who has our sympathies, who is non-slutty, and hence good. Oh, why am I even using the word slutty in the first place?

But... there was a visual representation of cunnilingus, which made me happy. And it is made clear that while a male accomplice, the third addition to the previously all-female team, could be useful, he is not necessary. Also, the men these women sleep with tend to reveal more flesh than their partners in their respective domestic settings. There is clearly a progressive aesthetic at work here, and it's refreshing.

I have some other TV shows lined up: Orange is the new black, Firefly and Sense8. Occupied viewings are reserved for time spent with my girl, as we admire the greater number and influence of women on the universe of the Norwegian drama. People have long been saying that some of the best filmic texts out there are in the televisual form, and now I'm finally seeing what all the fuss is about.