Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Sanity Test

She said "I don't think
I could pass the sanity test,"
As she looked down
Not in guilt but in sorrow
Sorrow for me
And my hardline self-censorship
Overriding my
Long-cultivated rebelliousness
The kind that had me unafraid
To go out with uncombed hair,
Bra-less or with mismatched socks

Well, I did go braless
Just the other day
It made me so uncomfortable
I grimaced in self-contempt

*

What would it mean
To own a condo in Chiang Mai
It would keep me real
A reminder that most people
Do not live in developed countries
A base in between two continents
That are etched into my soul
But so is Asia
And Chiang Mai is one of its
Crowning jewels
And I miss it
Even as I yearn
For a European consciousness
Minus the racism

Grace emanating from charming art
Censored-censored, cannot start
A smile for every and for no occasion
Buddhist calm at every station

No amisulpride, but I can always import that
But the conditions which necessitate its need
May keep me from blooming in that lovely heat

Fight to maintain
My capitalist posture
But real concerns remain
Among them fears of enclosure

How close to Thailand can I get?
I had a friend, but lost her
I loved and lost without regret
And now I long for another

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Decalibrating

I was finely attuned to my astrological profile. I had trained myself to be passionate, yes, but also obsessive. It just occurs to me that perhaps Scorpios have 'the worst reputation in the zodiac' because Anglo-Saxon majority Western countries are deeply suspicious of intense emotions. Otherwise that archetype would be just as celebrated as any. There should be a place for deep, dark, turbulent, messy, overpowering emotional states. Instead, we have a cultural aversion to depth of feeling. It's not fair.

I've titled this post 'decalibrating' because I would manage my personality to be always in alignment with Scorpionic traits. I cannot undo the negative effects of this all in one go. I need to slowly get more ambiguous. Borrow from the different personality profiles that I always gravitated to, but never felt like I could own.

It's not all negative. I enjoy being deep, eccentric (Aquarius moon, hello ;) ) and aesthetically pleasing (hello to the Libra ascendant!). Due to chance, my personality profile as dictated by astrology was full of contradictions. I embraced the idea of contradictions from an early age. I even had a bottle of Calvin Klein's Contradiction perfume as a teen. "With a spritz of Contradiction, I'm off," I would say.

Here and now, I have the opportunity to diversify. To create different styles of relating to the world. To walk through the world with infinitely more power of choice. To know that I am responsible for wherever I take myself next. I have gone from an actor in a play, to the writer of the script. This pleases me. I hope other people, too, can appreciate what it means to be free of the astrology metanarrative.

I do not know who my audience is here. My girlfriends have never taken astrology seriously. Most of the people I know don't talk about it, so I assume they don't have an interest in the topic. I have two Facebook friends who I know are into it, but I feel uncomfortable approaching them with my views. I know I wouldn't have liked it if the situation was reversed and they tried to convert me to their view.

I remember reading chapters about Leos, and thinking 'I enjoy those kinds of people'. Perhaps because culturally I've been conditioned to heartily enjoy entertainment and good times, be the life of the party (even though I'm an introvert), or, at the very least, contribute to a festive atmosphere. Eastern European socialising is an exuberant affair. You see, we grow up shaped by a wide range of factors - cultural, social, political, and personal. I found an analogy floating around the internet: A Finnish extravert is similar to an Italian introvert. Often we see extraversion and introversion in oppositional terms, yet there are so many cultural renderings of these qualities to complicate such a theory.

I also find aspects of astrology very sexist. Half of the zodiac is associated with 'the feminine', and the other half with the 'masculine' energies. Feminine energy is passive, emotional... basically, all the stereotypes you've ever associated with a gender binary. This makes astrology built on conservative precepts. It makes sense, then, that the more conservative you are, the more likely you are to believe in it. It also explains why my belief in astrology didn't sit well with many of my other beliefs, such as the problematic state of all meaning-making systems. Over time, postmodernism, feminism and atheism combined to make me question my belief - to take previous doubts to the next level, and undermine them completely. Let's just say that it's been a long time since I did anyone's natal chart.

Yes, I'm bitter. But I'm also trying to be curious. What else can I let go of? 

Friday, December 16, 2016

Nerd Chic

When I was younger, I didn't want to identify as a nerd. Sure, I studied a lot, and was generally thirsty for knowledge, but I didn't study as much as most of the people I knew in my selective school. On random occasions, people would find me 'cool', and I hung onto this with gusto.
Now that I'm 33, I care a lot less about image. Empathising with communities of 'nerds' has allowed me to connect with wonderful people who subvert the status quo armed with passion about written narratives.
It's hard to remember how long ago I first found Laurie Penny's work, but she was the first of people I truly admired to self-identify as nerdy, and, in me, a seed was planted. If such a fabulous activist could gain power from the word, then maybe it wasn't something to feel dowdy about. Maybe I could come to peace with it.
'Nerd' worked its way into my OKCupid profile a few years ago, was removed, only to be reinstated, this time as a way of describing my passion for languages. So now I feel more flexible in the ways I identify. Being a nerd is cool in its own way. Viva la revolucion!

*

Mornings with Jody, evenings with Sarah. Two beautiful musical geniuses and adorable muses. I still can't believe my good luck. đź’ś

*

Finding the space to be kind to myself and my loved ones
Deepening the space
Extending its sphere of influence
Emboldening my sensitivity's expression
Captivating un-self-consciously

If I can find a way to love myself
They then can follow that path
I must recover the map to self-rapture
Wonder and curiosity and all of that stuff

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Searching for the Start

Monday

Half the fun of travel is planning everything. It allows me to be more spontaneous, not less. So I'm tickling my mind by devising possible trips around Germany and beyond. Hannover is on the way to Hamburg. Leipzig is in the other direction, but equally enticing. Dresden appeals. Stuttgart is a bit far.

Tuesday

There's no way around it: I would be much better served by monetising my writing.

This blog is (and has been) a great way to let people know what I'm about, but today I am mindful of its limitations. I am also feeling gloomy, and unable to progress much further in bringing you a post as interesting as I know I'm capable of, because of the noise in my head. The chorus of voices that tell me I'm not really that arresting, or passionate, or wise.

I thought the best way to bring myself back to the present was to write about them. It becomes postmodern. Yes, I'm saving the word from the abyss of calculating disapproval, scrubbing it off and letting you admire its shine. If you will mimic my enthusiasm. Even if you don't.

My mind is constantly leaping all over the place, celebrating the diversity of viewpoints I can offer. Few people have travelled as intensively and extensively as me, and I aim to represent that tiny minority that has. We often struggle to find our audience, being detached from the traditional cultural gaze(s), and finding it impossible not to take multiplicities into account.

I read an interesting article about the phenomenon of selective schools in Sydney - the way they offered a high concentration of minority ethnic students. I personally felt ill-equipped to deal with broader Australian society after spending most of my time walking around in the headspace of immigrants. I'm still not sure I have much of a clue as to the typical Australian experience. So sue me. ;)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Alternatively gendered

I'm writing in a hipster cafe in Newtown where rainbow coloured street smart graphics adorn the majority of the wall space. I'm thinking about gender. My current ventures into bolder gender identities, to be more specific. I announced to my Facebook world that I wished to be known as 'they' and 'them', where pronouns are concerned. I am gender variant. I am gender neutral. I am agender. I am genderqueer. All of these, and none. I hold a unique gender identity, which changes daily. Sometimes even by the minute.
I noted that I would still respond to 'she' and 'her' but I'd love it if everyone saw that I do not wish to be confined to one of two mainstream genders. What I do want is to assert myself continually as a feminist who stands for gender equality, and embodies a new aesthetic. It's not that I want to be different; it's that I already am.
Four years ago I was in a more traditional environment or two, which taught me to fear my own tendencies toward androgyny. I covered them up and slid into an agonised, confining performance of femininity which haunts me even now, as I try to pick up the pieces. It may take some time before I feel comfortable with myself, and I'd like to thank my girlfriends and everyone else who is willing to be patient.


Monday, December 5, 2016

To Dwell

Congratulations
You successfully hid your emotions so well
That people were jealous of you

But the jealous woman
Was already a sociopath
What does that say about your friends?

I've been trying to not get angry
At how tenaciously
I clung onto you

I tried to fit
Where I didn't belong
Mainly because of your influence

Or so I say, but
I really know
That it was always my decision

We make do with the best of
What's around us
I fled to affordable places
Within my cultural knowledge
I failed

But in failing I have succeeded
Even though at times I labour to construct
A victorious narrative



Monday, November 21, 2016

The benefits of being an immigrant / Everyone is relatable

One day we might open all the borders and create a centralised universal basic income for every citizen, everywhere. To get to this stage we need to recognise the worth of every single individual on the planet. Why are we not there yet, and how can we advance to that point?

Australia, the country from which I am privileged enough to have a viewpoint, is firm in the grip of a white supremacy. Collectively, "we" have difficulty relating to people who don't look like "us" ("us" being white people). One example of this is the fact that Australia has never had a Prime Minister who is a person of colour. Oh sure, there are individual PoC who rise to positions of power (e.g. Penny Wong), but as a class, people of colour remain underrepresented in the politics. In an Australia where race (and ethnicity, and immigrant status) is not a problem, 1 in 4 politicians would be an immigrant (to match the general populace).

Perhaps most telling is how Australia currently treats the most economically vulnerable people of colour it has responsibility for: refugees. More than one leftie has suggested to me that the detention camps at Manus and Nauru might more accurately be called concentration camps. I suspect this might be anti-Semitic itself, but it does evoke the death, torture and degradation that is a feature of those sites. Behind this cruelty is misguided fear and hate of people who are relegated to the class of unrelatable. They are instead seen as a scary threat.

It is because white supremacist Australia won't extend its empathy outside its narrow in-group that we have this problem. Empathy has a healing, heartening result. The more examples I have around me, the more likely I am to extend my empathy myself. We need empathy towards people outside our borders, people from developing nations who don't know how to demand the kind of civil rights we take for granted. We need to want to see them to flourish as we do our neighbours. If we wanted to live in a world where resources were spread much more equally, where people didn't need to immigrate to another country to increase their quality of life, then we could put in place the mechanisms needed to make centralised universal basic income a reality.

As an immigrant from Bulgaria, I have the gift of knowing that Bulgarians are, yes, relatable. They are warm, jealous, patient, cold, you name it. You can find any kind of human in a nation of under 8 million - your best friend, your worst enemy or just someone to chat to for a while to help pass the time. Bulgaria is like every other nation on earth. Dehumanise its residents at your own emotional deprivation. If you want a rich and robust appreciation of the human race, empathise with people from Thailand, Libya, Peru... the limit to your empathy is up to you.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Railing against

If you can accept the situation
It would be for the best
There's the truth of you to imagine
So underrated by yourself

Let's dispense with foregone conclusions
Let the rigidity fade with each breath
You're only alive, and
It's only the worst, and the best

Stride by stride, hop by hop
Arriving somewhere worth your while
As you fascinate the fascinating
Leave your mark upon their lives

You've passed every test
Find a way to align with your shine
For many strive for but do not possess
The ease with which you rise

The abyss leers back

Leering at ourselves
Objectifying most parts
Nobody wants another unhappy poem
I'm got compassion fatigue, so I start

I've got my seat at the cafe
I change positions as I please
Sometimes I can't embody ease
So it's a performance of peace

Interrogating that position
Trying to replace
Other people's voices with my own
Finding out what's new

And what I've been carrying far too long.
I don't know myself through this lens
Of compulsory nationalism
Seeking new sense now

Scrubbing the board fresh
So I can start anew
Is that even possible? I wonder
Craving to erase you

The antagonist I've carefully enshrined
Above my wall, standing tall
I know better than to keep you
I can't bear to let you go

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Everything and nothing is obvious

If I could, I would move to Germany with my Australian girlfriend. There, I could live in a more politically progressive country with both girlfriends (for one of them is already living in Deutschland). There are a few things currently stopping me from doing this, and those are:

- I don't know much German, which I would need in order to work there
- I highly doubt I can hold down a job with a regular income
- My Australian girlfriend is unable to come with me

So, right now, things are not looking good for my future as an expat (or 'immigrant twice removed', since expat seems to be reserved for white people). I am stuck with the one voice I can relate to in mainstream politics, Richard di Natale of The Greens, being dismissed by Labour supporters for having the audacity to suggest that Australia should stop being America's lapdog and create its own path in foreign policy.

I am also stuck with Turnbull calling media outlets such as the ABC 'elites', and Shorten (the opposition leader) calling for 'Australian jobs' - that is, scapegoating foreign workers for white people's unemployment. I can tell this is just the beginning. It's obviously going to get a lot worse, and anyone with any sense and financial independence, would have already left this backward nation far, far behind.

Far from punishing asylum seekers with torturous conditions, Germany has humanely welcomed large numbers of people. Okay, so the response has been uneven, with a whitelash of its own, but mainstream society has learnt from its white supremacist past and strives towards racial harmony. And that's just one issue. Germany is a better place to be a woman (or a man who believes in gender equality), as evidenced by the 2016 Global Gender Gap Index. Tertiary education is free for everyone, if you are entering the system after a certain date. The universal healthcare they have is more deeply entrenched than its Australian counterpart. And what Australian philosopher is equal to Nietzsche? I'm willing to learn German if it means I can read Kafka in his favourite language.

Because I cannot move right now, let's focus on the positives:

- My Australian girlfriend, whom I love (no more or less than my German girlfriend)
- My parents' weird but heartening love, and financial support
- I can afford to spend some time in Germany next year (I've already got the tickets)
- A handful of friends who enhance the quality of my life
- A great psychologist

I want to enhance my self-care to the extent that I feel I can cope, no matter which country I am in.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Negotiating Peace (Poem)

I want us to stand
Hand in hand
Looking up
A pre-arranged agreement
Intuitively conjured up

And I want us to sing
Brim with emotion as
The tunes tumble out
With caution and abandon
In turns, it turns out

I'm unwilling and unable
To engineer a sneeze
I cultivate the soothing talent
Of putting myself at ease

Saigon recalled the strict sensibility
Unequivocal obedience, masking all fragility
A red flag or banner, never far from sight
The Western visitor will not be right

But the formerly Communist child
Has found a Western home
And, sure: I feel I don't belong
Yet I'm singing therapeutic songs

Embodying the right to breathe
Experiencing every piece of me
From my scalp to my heel
Feeling what I need to feel

Safe space within

I was once in the same Facebook group as an African American woman who told us that she didn't feel safe being alone in her car one night. It resonated. I don't drive a car or live in the United States as an racial minority, but I have plenty experience in not feeling safe in my body. I hate having a vagina, because it has the capacity to experience excrutiating pain. I am so sensitive to micro-aggressions towards me that I maintain an overweight physique to make myself invisible to the heterosexual cis male gaze.
Anyway, I know on some level that I will be okay, even if I am raped again. I will get physical and psychological help. I will report it as soon as possible. I will do everything I can to make them pay.
I am capable of infinite reinvention, my sensitivity allows me to bask in loving touch. I'm going to be okay.

*

The above was hard to write. Being vulnerable is hard. But reading Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay has reminded me of the need to share my experience. We live in times when nobody can guarantee me that I won't be targeted for abuse by a certain hateful minority group within the English speaking world. But I'm taking that risk, because we women intend to win the battle for gender equality. And we won't wait quietly as incremental change occurs. We will push where it's needed.

I tired of the English language world in many ways, a long time ago. Part of my learning Spanish had to do with wanting to escape its limitations. The more I learn, the more I am running to, not running away. It's gratifying to pick up on nuances of culture that were previously inaccessible. For example, I overheard a Spanish speaker describe something as 'para mi gusto' (for my pleasure). The way she said it was spirited and emphatic in ways the English phrase rarely conveys. This was a love affair with pleasure.

I want to learn more, but I am paralysed by indecision (deepen Spanish or pick up more German?), held back by multiple stressors (making the kind of embarrassing mistakes you have no way to avoid is quite stressful for this introverted perfectionist), and easily distracted. Somehow I managed to understand around half of the written word in Spanish, and I have insights into numerous other languages which have been the result of hours and hours of practice. Perhaps I don't celebrate my achievements enough. *takes a moment to do that*

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The right to be disturbed (Poem)

Maybe I
Don't want your
Unconvincing
Reassurance

I've been dreaming
Of a fairer world
A world less violent

Maybe I
Have the right
To be unwell
In ways that
Disturb you
To your core
Maybe I
Don't want
Restraint
Anymore

But your posture
Your convictions
And my freedom
Causes friction
And I tear
I cannot bear
Such intrusions
On my soul

I look at the stars
I look in to my heart
I know the revolution
Is bound to start
But will I be around
By the time it
Reaches these parts?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Startled (Poem)

Unwilling participant in this social system
Unsure what I'm yet to experience 
Stigmatising myself at every turn
Making it hard to cultivate charisma

What do I owe this culture?
What does it owe me?
Who and what does it contain?
And who am I without it?

*

Don't think too much
Smile at the social cues
Adorn your eyelids with submission
Offering them up if someone male should gaze your way

A practiced, showy, stylised submission
Pretend it doesn't grate as you tinkle away
When all you really want is to find the mechanism
To be in control and have it be okay

*

Friday, October 21, 2016

Negotiating volunteering and the glocal

As of two days ago, I am one of the women behind the popular Twitter account of the Sydney Feminists. As with any lifestyle change, I am taking the time I need to readjust to the responsibility, the labour, and the fulfilment. Just because no one pays volunteers doesn't mean that they aren't doing hard work. I'm doing this because I believe in the organisation's values and it's rewarding, but also stressful. I'm still figuring out my identity as a Sydney Feminist social media assistant - which tweets I'm going to have difficulty ignoring, and which I will need to retweet despite initial hesitation. The possibilities are endless - we follow over 2,000 accounts, which means there's a constant stream of data pouring in. My job is to identify the choicest tweets for our purposes and amplify their voices. It's a position of power which I take very seriously, and I now understand what a good job the women before me have been doing in managing the account. They are my co-conspirators.

I'm writing this post at a Peruvian restaurant, high on the novelty of it all. There simply aren't that many Peruvian eateries in this part of the world. The decor reminds me of old Inspector Gadget cartoons, but suggest more class and sophistication between the brush strokes. I am forever searching for the best the world has to offer. There is a particular attraction to the continents I haven't let my eyeballs swish around - Africa, South America, Central America, the Caribbean. Due to money constraints and health concerns, I am unlikely to visit these places soon, so I'm actively seeking out connections with them through my local environment.

Sydney. It's changing all the time, yet sometimes it feels like we're stuck in unimaginative right-wing policy. So I focus within. I focus on my relationships with imaginative left-wing people. I nurture my romantic relationship here as best I can. It constantly surprises me in the directions it takes. I think this is a good sign. I'm reading again, devouring feminist literature by the eyeful. I avoid those who impose themselves upon me. Shake it off, baby. Shake it off. Life goes on, and it is more good than otherwise.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Quietly, while the spectacle plays out

The Tweets started streaming in, and I decided I needed a safe(r) space. Writing a new blog post can help me clarify my mindspace constantly, so in the face of lucrative toxicity I turn to the Blogger gods to sort me out. 

I have spent most of my life suppressing anger. These days I am loosening my grip on the container. Some of it emerges. I need to keep letting go.

I keep watching lesbian films, and feeling like the spaces openminded people create are too good to be true. I feel like at any moment homophobia could barge in and harsh my mellow. In fact, sometimes the mellow is unsafe to inhabit. Maybe I need to be more conscious of creating a safe space within myself. 

It didn't help that I was verbally abused yesterday. The attack was not homophobic in nature, more misogynistic, but it wouldn't be hard to find the connection between them. It speaks to the strength of my romantic relationships (yes, you read right: there are two, for I am polyamorous) and my social sphere that I was able to process the negativity this event stirred up within so quickly. A few years ago I selected 'No' as the response to the OKCupid question 'Are you happy with your life?', but now I'm not so sure. I'm ambivalent. 

I am thinking of book titles, as I periodically do. There is much to be written.

*

The older I get, the more dangerous this blog feels. 

It's often organised around what would otherwise be diary entries, with the minimum of screening for social acceptability - a woman has to keep herself safe on the internet, after all. I thank my lucky stars that I'm not a famous feminist, just one more blogger in an oversaturated field, and haven't had any misogynist comments for years. 

I spoke to an old friend today, who reminds me that it's okay that not everything's alright. I don't believe anyone is every really 100% okay. Constantly manageable emotional states are illusions. Very common illusions. Let us do without. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Darker

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)

Yesterday,
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.




Saturday, August 13, 2016

Becoming

Every day I'm becoming a little more me. A little more free.
Every day it's like I carve my initials into the air with incisive eye movements.
Every day I'm longing to happen upon a safe state of mind.
Every day there's relief when I close the door, turn on the heat.
Every day I'm looking away from my imperfections less.
Every day I'm valuing myself more.
Except when it's once step forward, two steps back.
There are plenty of those movements in store.

 *

Learn to resist the straitjacket of silence
Let the darkness ooze out in the direction it might
And if a whisper serves me better, let it
Develop. More resonating than a stylised shout

*

The more I know you, the more I care
I fear that I don't open up enough
But I know nobody's perfect and it's still OK
We remain both loving, and loved

*

Temptations everywhere I turn, of my own making
All I really need are strong jolts of self-affirmation
Did I leave you hanging, mid-revelation?
An epiphany that hasn't reached fruition
Muddled, searching, casually realigning
Fragmented forays into deepening my understanding
The unreliable narrator intends to keep on going
Enjoying and lamenting the ways in which she's growing

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Karaoke selection [short poem]

All the songs I used to sing
Bookmarked by my indignation and bitterness
It's time to grow attachment to new things
Sweep you up in my newfound love
But first I have to liberate my intuition
Let it reach new places
Negotiate new spaces
Meditate on tones
Relinquish things I loved the most

Friday, August 5, 2016

#PrataOmDet / #TalkAboutIt

The first few people I told about being raped either didn't take me seriously (Shanghainese police) or didn't believe me (members of the Australian Consulate/Embassy in Shanghai). What I mean when I say the police didn't take me seriously is this: They nodded when I explained what happened and took the offender in for questioning immediately, but neglected to interview me in any depth and dismissed both of us after (allegedly) beating the offender up. (I only have the offender's word that the beating happened, though it does seem, in my opinion, likely to have happened; the offender sought medical help and seemed unsettled afterwards.)
Perhaps more damaging to me was the female worker at the embassy/consulate who immediately questioned my account of what happened. I believe she said something like: 'If you were raped, why did you keep sharing the same hotel room with him?' She non-verbally implied that I was a threat to the offender's reputation. Always placing the man's authority higher than the woman's. Even though he wasn't in the room and she had never talked to him, the offender had a voice more powerful than mine. This was 2006, before the current feminist revival.
All this denial of justice and my authentic voice led me to believe that, in China, 'rape' doesn't exist. I believed that the Communist party had brainwashed the populace into denying the existence of anything that could be described as rape. I told this to my Dad when I was in the hospital. He didn't reply. He must have thought that nothing I said during that time made sense. He had no idea what I was going through, although he loved me and wanted me to feel better.

*

25% of women describe being forced to have sexual intercourse against their will. In other words, 25% of women admit to being raped (though not exactly in those words). Remember that.

*

I hate to admit it, but I am still somewhat afraid of disclosing what happened to me. I'm aware that victim blaming is rampant, and many out there consider women who are raped to be 'damaged goods'. I'm happy that I stay far away from the misogyny I identify as such. I don't emote with men (or women) who slut-shame, or espouse puritanical views. I surround myself with proud, capable women who consciously identify as feminists. I get my emotional cues from them.

*

Be part of the solution: Talk about it. Talk about when someone crossed your boundaries. Talk about when you crossed someone else's boundaries and feel guilty. The more we talk about these things, the more we can put them into context, mobilise to act based on new knowledge, and change the system. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Work WITH it, not against it

My sense of myself and the world (where is the boundary? Is there a boundary?) as something that is beautiful is struggling to come through.

All around me, whether IRL or in the media, are people who struggle to find beauty within themselves and each other. I used to be much better at the process of finding beauty, but I too have joined the masses over the years. I have learnt from other people's mistakes; I have listened to too many people bash self-help practices; too many people that claim that my ideals are not worth aiming for.

Thankfully, I know how to claw myself out of this pit.

This is why I love following people such as Timber Hawkeye (an American Buddhist author), who radiates love and acceptance of self through his Facebook posts (and book). I also love following people who have an intense relationship with language and use it in such a way as to make worlds come alive through it - such as Laurie Penny and Sarah Menkedick.

I have everything I could ever possibly need to create a profound sense of beauty within myself.

Here are two other beautiful people I follow on Twitter I invite you to take a look at: J. D. Landis & ROSES. Their brand of beauty is all the more meaningful because they engage with the dark side of humanity. I still like the old Keats 'truth is beauty and beauty truth' philosophy.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Quizás [Perhaps]

I pulled a sad note out of the spectrum of responses I'd been provided
A bit sad, I said. I missed Germany.
But she was not one of those people who valued this small slice of sincerity
Her face fell a little
Next time, I told of her I was 'de buen humor', and she seemed happier
We have all been rewarded when we express positive emotions over negative ones
This happens constantly
I think of Martin, who joked that he went around telling people 'I was angry a moment ago...'

Agency. I have agency.
I can hire, and fire. I have the Australian government to thank for my small disposable income.
Without it, I'd have to be entirely reliant on my parents. And they wouldn't pay for language classes.

*

I'm looking to language exchanges now. They're free, for one thing. And perhaps I can find the words to ask for a language partner who is more my style. That niche description that opens up new worlds.

*

But I don't like the pressure that comes with being a writer, to always formulate sentences which are coherent. I'm not perfect. I, too, make mistakes. People are used to me expressing myself in a way that could be described as 'perfect', and notice when I occasionally fail. I'd like the freedom to sometimes get it wrong, and not have it remarked on. Even native English speakers make English mistakes, and I am not one of them. I pride myself on my writing and speech, but, sometimes it's more important to get the words out with speed and high accuracy instead of with pauses and a bullseye. Maybe even 'high accuracy' is an expectation which puts pressure on me. Though I seldom have anything but. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Exploring

["When you hurt me / You hurt yourself" - Beyonce]

Homesick. Home is where the heart is, and home is far away. I can't adjust my face enough / to please every passing soul / So I need to interfere with my intuition / Engineer a different song /
It's no good bypassing the sadness / I need its comfort now / I need all the comfort I can possibly handle / And I need it now
They say music can make the schizophrenic spring to life /
But have we really just forgotten how to relate
To ourselves and the other
I commiserate
Yet I'm chemically treated enough / to find the depth of despair implausible
I find it hard to relate to this stuff / Yet passing for 'normal' is impossible
Stuck in a biting algorithm / I'm opposed to my own success
I'm looking, always looking / For whatever happens next

Call me a traitor / I'd rather be hated than be numb
Gut(-wrenching) instinct / To pull the lever and jump
Out of the sombre madness / That streetlife in Sydney's become
I need to get out

A figure appears, and I want her so near
She's the reason I look to sticking around
A much needed conflict is found -
And she is a riot
Displacing what I knew
But I can't get lost in her
Because I've lost the incentive
To lose myself
In the end there's only me and you
(Okay, we're a few)
And when it comes to places, I make do

Thursday, July 21, 2016

I'm a white supremacist (and so are you)

My name is Epiphanie Bloom and I'm a white supremacist. Despite repeated attempts to dismantle this about myself, I find myself more comfortable when in the company of white people. I sign petitions advocating for the greater representation of people of colour - in boardrooms, in parliament, in modelling shoots. But I often struggle when I see people of colour where there weren't before. It's a deeply ingrained tendency towards white supremacy.
My white supremacy might be mild(er than most) or, if you like, a vastly watered down version, but it nevertheless there. I am confessing this because I don't think I'm the only one. In fact, I think it's possible that almost all of the people on earth are afflicted with the same condition. My former best friend, who is originally from China and now lives in California, offered me the "all lives matter" line in response to my interest in supporting the #blacklivesmatter cause. Keeping this in mind, I believe all of us have been taught from birth to value whiteness over blackness, and it's a rare individual who would be able to fully dismantle such overpowering social forces. Better get used to it: we are not just racist. We are White Supremacists.
There is a strength in admitting something so detrimental about yourself. You can only change yourself if you are willing to admit the extent of the problem. I would be causing more damage if I pretended my prejudices didn't exist; if I camouflaged my pro-white bias within a world of well-meaning people with the same insufficient commitments to racial equality. I could no doubt pass as "non-racist" to a large audience, since my first partner was Asian, my best friend for a decade was Asian, and I have had many other meaningful relationships with people of colour. I choose not to hide.
If you are also interested in dismantling white supremacist narratives within yourself and feel like directing me to useful articles or important petitions or protests, please go ahead. This post is about keeping myself accountable and keeping my efforts towards self-improvement on track. If it encourages you, too, to do some soul-searching, all the better.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Parent-free, Scandi-fied

My family timed our trips as such that I have now spent almost two months without parental supervision. These last three weeks at home have felt almost like an extension of my holiday. There is space where there wasn't space before. I feel free.

One half of the parental equation will be away until mid-September, so that may be beneficial. Still, I'll soon be back in a place where I feel suppressed and oppressed. It can't be helped, but I have reason to believe I'm getting better at coping. Seeing my psychologist is immensely helpful.

I am in the middle of a Nordic film binge... so far I've seen the Danish political thriller The Idealist, the Icelandic bitter-sweet romantic drama Reykjavik, and the Swedish crowd-pleasing A man called Ove... tonight I plan to catch the Norwegian Welcome to Norway, and the Finnish The Fencer.

Where to begin? I liked how (*Spoilers*) in ...Ove the grumpy, old protagonist was nevertheless openminded about people of different racial backgrounds and gays. This is not necessarily typical of most countries' senior population. The ad preceding the film (for Volvo) also featured a scene of a young lesbian couple smiling while holding hands in their car, further speaking of Sweden's ground-breaking love of all different kinds of love. Volvo winks at the audience with its slogan "Made in Sweden. Not in Hollywood."

Indeed, there's nothing like a Scandinavian film to speak to the aggression of a power-hungry America - this is one of the stories behind The Idealist. You may get critiques of the USA from Iran of Russia, but none is so convincing as the Nordic. Not that the Danes get off scot-free - in fact, this film is about the consequences of a deceitful government who was willing to sacrifice honesty to cling to power. Just don't expect lots of women in this particular film.

Reykjavik was both familiar and new at the same time - a charming script with charismatic performances and an alluring visual style. A must if you are a fan of film, like the DVD rental store owning protagonist.

There is much more to say about these three films, but I'm afraid I must leave you here, dear reader - I have two new films to take in tonight, and I must get ready. :)

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Emerging from immersion

It's been several years since I stopped believing in astrology and it's time to look back at how it has changed me. I used to be quite devoted to natal charts. As I think I've mentioned before, I chose to immerse myself in the world of astrology because it helped me make sense of an infinitely complex world. It helped me put people in categories, and it helped me think of personality in a way that was more manageable than otherwise. But since I began listening to atheist voices, I was introduced to critiques of astrology that I just couldn't argue against. I began to see that my belief was unfounded, and embraced the reasoning that exposed it as faulty.
In many ways, it's been a relief to disentangle myself from the astrological system. Far from always being deep and perceptive, I knew that I could be shallow and miss important details (like astrology being a fraud itself). Far from always being passionate about subjects, I could be non-commitical, diplomatic and detached. These qualities, being drummed into my head as the unshakeable foundations of Scorpio-ness. It was an immense relief to extract myself from the mindset that I was always going to be treated with suspicion. I've stopped being searched at airport security. I feel lighter, more carefree. Not always being the deepest person around, although in some senses I still aim for that, because it's rewarding.
Perhaps more notably, I no longer make it my business to categorise people. Everyone is a potential friend! It has opened up a world of possibilities, and I feel like the world is a kinder place because of this. I would shut myself off from people whom I judged as not having certain qualities. I no longer place people in boxes they have to fight against to win my approval. I have become less judgemental, and I love it.
Invariably, there is a sense of loss. I spent so much time, money and energy on astrology in the past. I passed up perfectly nice people in favour of my blind beliefs about their unsuitability for me. I regret that now. However, I try to focus on the present, and I know that I'm making the most of my mental faculties now - reaching out to people regardless of their star sign, neglecting to even ask what it is. Every so often I'll meet someone who still believes in astrology, and I'll remember how stubbornly I held to it. I am so thankful to be out of that game. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Back in Aus (snippet)

I've decided to look for volunteer positions within my local community, find a language tutor, and possibly start personal training again. I want to become more independent, and more in touch with my feelings. It helps when I come across Tweets from Conscious 2, or follow a blog like Roses. Possibly something in my future is de-empasising human rights activism. It has been wearing me out for a long time now, and it's finally time to focus on things that will make me happy. In a way, I've been focusing on these battles for a long time, and... if only I could bring myself to pass the baton on to someone else. There are more young people fighting for justice now. Maybe I can relax a bit. (It's for mental health reasons.) I'm trying to give myself permission, here...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Play

My mission these days is to figure out how to play safely within a state (Australia) which could be actively spying on me at any time. I've definitely been censoring myself. I no longer pour my heart out in emails and online messages like I used to. I miss that sense of having gotten things off my chance... But I can no longer trust the state not to use that information against me.
I feel angry about the collective silence that has no doubt been cultivated by the cautious people of the Five Eyes states and beyond. As Murong Xuecun said of Chinese state censorship, it leads to a weakening of creativity. And that is how I feel - we live in traumatic times where I cannot be the best person I can possibly be. I cannot reach the potential I have taught myself to aim for.
I'm sick of being relentlessly upbeat. That system cannot endure. I need the energy previously spent on pretending everything's alright for other things. Like actively making the world a better place.
I lay in bed one night in my swanky hotel, wondering how to get out out of dependence on welfare. Break out of the cycle of poverty and emotional dependence on my parents that holds me back. I couldn't see a way forward. I began thinking in circles. Complete with curlicues around the imaginary lines.
I can't find a solution right now, but there is still hope. I might be able to explain the direness of my circumstances to my psychiatrist, and he might be able to write a letter to the housing commission people which would make me eligible for housing sooner rather than later.
That would solve my noise problem and the parental intrusion. I'm sick of having my boundaries violated. It makes me feel unsafe.
So yeah, I'm keeping it real- if you can't handle me in the darker spectrum of my rainbow, too bad. I won't pretend everything is fine. Sometimes you need to acknowledge the problem, in order to work through it. This is one of those times.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

In bursts and starts

I've been quiet. I tend to do this when I start a new relationship - it's as if I hold my breath, until I feel assured that the person I'm hanging onto every word of isn't going to abuse me in some way. I'm now raising my head a little, in part because I have a new travel adventure to write about, but also because my girlfriend makes me feel safe and loved.
I booked a room in KurfĂĽrstendamm's Ibis Budget Hotel for 12 nights because I knew I could expect quality accommodation here. The suburb is one of Berlin's most manicured, and I feel safe. After all the horror stories my parents had been paying lip service to, namely about asylum seekers of colour, I had started to worry about crime. I realise now that I had simply spent too long listening to the folks' paranoia. Berlin, you're looking better for your hospitality. You are a shining example of what Australia and most of the rest of the world should be. Keep openminded.

The receptionists of this hotel come from places as diverse as Suriname and Russia. It's another thing I like about Berlin - it's multiculture takes me to different places than the one I'm used to. I didn't even know where Suriname was until a few days ago (in South America).

I'm a little hesitant to fall in love with this place, because I know I have to go back, and I don't want to miss it when I'm gone... Is there a way to make the most of both words without feeling insanely privileged? One person usually doesn't have this much international reach. I have several persons' worth, or maybe more. I feel lucky.

Feeling lucky doesn't stop me from a bit of the blues. Maybe it's because I'm yet to have an indepth conversation with a German, although things won't remain so with my ex-girlfriend visiting me on Friday. It will be the first time we meet each other in real life. It will probably be emotional.

It's 7pm now. I sometimes turn to the question of whether I should move out. Randwick is rather contaminated by my experiences with the mental health industry, to give just one reason for doing so. I'm sure that any suburb will bring its own baggage, but I'd like the chance to start over new somewhere.

In a parallel universe, I have a writing job. (If Mari Brighe can do it, so can I?)

I still debate with myself about the likelihood of visiting my high school friend in San Francisco. I'm a bit afraid of the United States, although "the city" itself has appeal. Even if Trump gets the presidency, SF will retain its progressive values. It will waste a lot of energy succumbing to rage, but it's too hip to "see the light" of any Repug's ways. That's what I like about it.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Commencing

I somehow managed to find myself in Berlin, Germany a few days ago. I'm still jetlagged, but I've begun to explore the urban landscape. My first official sight was an improvised reaction to the realisation that it was a sunny Sunday, and people would be gathering in parks or park-like spaces. And that I wanted in on the action. Google and Lonely Planet directed me to Mauerpark, which promised markets and food stalls.
On the way to my destination, my metro carriage came to life with brief bursts of conversation on behalf of the locals. That probably wouldn't happen in Stockholm, I thought. It may not happen regularly, as the ride home suggested, but I felt caught up in these people's casual friendliness to each other, and it made me feel at ease.
Ricardo was, like me, a LCT - a lost and confused tourist. Together we found our way to Mauerpark and told each other a bit about our lives. He was from a small town near Milan, and the first thing he had done in Berlin is to check out the melting pot (and gaybourhood) of Kreuzberg. I felt this was a good sign, even though the items that took his fancy at the markets indicated taste along more conservative lines. The guy had beautiful teal eyes with light green centres, which made looking at him a pleasant thing to do.
I tried artisanal, mint-flavoured honey, ordered Moroccan mint tea, and, finally, did something quintessentially Berliner: munched on currywurst for lunch. It was all delicious.
I came away with two posters of the City's skyline, splattered in multiple colours, passed on a handmade wallet, and also picked up a cute postcard.
Back at my hotel several hours after leaving it, I felt like I had experienced something worthwhile. I look forward to exploring more of the city in the weeks to come.

Friday, April 22, 2016

[Untitled Poem #3]

If I tell you what I dream of
Will you still comfort me?
Will you still find the way 
To see through my neuroses?

I'm searching for something deeper
And I know it's dependent on me
How much I'm willing to share
How much insight I lay at my feet

Will you tend to my wounds,
As we heal together?
Who can resist
Such a fruitful endeavour?

Yet I persist in hiding
Seeking lower-lying fruit
All this could change
Next time I'm with you

[Untitled Poem #2]

Pursuing the chaser
Bottling it up
Willing to struggle through
It's never enough

Don't want to study resignation
But the patriarchy has surrounded me
There's only so much room to move
Or at least that's how it feels






Thursday, April 21, 2016

[Untitled Poem]

The goalposts ever-shifting
I'm searching for the right to soar
Wandering away and back into
Brilliance eluding me before

Withering away, my right to know
I'm building up the right to care
Wondering if it's okay to love you
In those ways I've rarely dared

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How to promote atheism?

I recently watched a documentary called 'The Unbelievers' by Gus Holwerda, which got me thinking about the techniques his subjects, Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss, use in promoting atheism. Krauss argues that Dawkins' contempt and ridicule for religious beliefs are less likely to persuade people than his own softer approach, which involves 'meeting people where they are'.
Dawkins argues that he himself doesn't mind it when people point out the error of his ways, so he feels comfortable dishing it out. But I think most people would do anything to avoid feeling that they are in the wrong. Most of us wish to cultivate pleasant emotions within ourselves, and light up when we associate ourselves with positive things. I know that there are so many things that feel disturbing to me in everyday life, that it's comforting to connect with texts that rub me the right way.
Which gets to the crux of the issue: Religions are comforting. If we're seeking to replace one set of spiritual beliefs with another, the comforts of atheism need to outweigh those of the religion. Whether it's the comfort of not having a homophobic god, or simply not having to think of god as male, it's going to be the positivity atheism brings that will ultimately be the catalyst for change.
Atheists would benefit from recognising the potential of religious followers and honouring their unique gifts, quirks and sensitivities. "Celebrating Logic and Reason" shouldn't come at the expense of respecting our fellow human beings. I know that I have many things to learn from believers in my life, and they would be more likely to learn from me if I am demonstrative of that knowledge. Let's all meet each other half-way and communicate in the spirit of love and peace. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Designing what you dream

Amy Lee of Evanescence once sang: But who can design what they dream? / And dream I do...

It's a beautiful turn of phrase, however I personally find that I have a lot of control over my thoughts and feelings. I am in charge of what happens in my mind, to a large extent, even though I also can't help but be influenced by the home I live in, the neighbourhood within which I reside, the city I call home, the nation or the continent. That said, how I interpret these places is unique to me. I could be in the most affluent of places and feel miserable, or the most humble of abodes and feel like a queen.

I guess I'm starting to wonder how to change my internal processes for the better. For a long time I've been dwelling in dark, repetitive thought patterns, which no longer serve me. I doubt I can change this overnight (and it would probably backfire on me to try), but I believe that with a consistent effort I can bring more light into my day, and make the night less threatening.

So, when I'm looking back on my life, I can choose to emphasise times when I felt good about myself in relation to others. For example, that time during my CELTA course when I was instructed to answer one of the questions on the whiteboard and made a modification to the equation taught which was highly regarded by some of the students. The teacher, being more of a traditionalist, changed the equation back to its original form, but one of my fellow students confided that she liked my version better. Even without this comment, I could tell that the class valued my contribution to the educational environment.

Back to the present, I can choose to remember the loving words of my girlfriend. I can choose to celebrate that I've made new friends recently, and it was all because I opened my mind to polyamory.

I can look at the recent past and choose to celebrate my previous relationship, to know it made me who I am today.

I can be thankful for the alternate bouts of self-doubt and self-assurance that have led me to cultivate the critical cultures I do, including the writing of this post.

I can be thankful for all the people I have touched with my writing, even when I was feeling at my most alone. These past three years in particular, I have been struggling with my blogging practice, but I haven't given up. I have kept going. That in itself gives me hope.

Speaking of the last three years, I have lost some of the weight I gained back. About 9 kgs. Losing weight is hard to do, so I'm happy with myself for that.

There's more; the more I think about it, the more good things come up. It's like a snowball effect. And now I'd like to take a walk outside... before it starts raining. I'll take these pleasant thoughts with me.




Sunday, March 13, 2016

What's the deal with shame?

In one of my favourite songs, Taylor Swift recognises that she could have saved herself the trouble of a turbulent relationship, if only she had trusted her first instinct: that the person in question was best avoided. This revelation is quickly followed by an admission of shame, and is echoed a few more times in the song by the phrases 'the blame is on me' and 'the joke is on me'. I find it interesting that Swift brings out into the open the intense criticism women are taught to employ against themselves in navigating the complexities of their relationships.
It's hard to live in the world as an intelligent, empathetic female without picking up a hefty dose of self-loathing along the way. Our world puts incredible pressure on women to perform a number of roles, and to do so perfectly (e.g. partner, worker, mother, daughter, friend, etc). The self-criticism we engage in is often debilitating. We judge ourselves and others harshly, even as those of us who are feminists seek to empower, love and accept, and encourage our womankind.
My first response to 'I knew you were trouble' was mixed - I loved the melody, but I wished I could ameliorate the lyrics. I wanted to have a narrative about foresight without the intrusion of shame. At the same time, there was something liberating to Taylor admitting she was ashamed, because shame is often something we try to hide. Singing the line 'shame on me now' became a problematic outlet for my own repressed self-loathing.
Eventually I learned to allow the line to just be, and not judge Swift on it. Every human being is multi-faceted, and capable of feeling a wide range of feelings. I made space for the imperfection of expressing shame in my life. It was perfection that was the problem, not the shame. Once acknowledged, shame doesn't have to stick around for very long. It's suppressing your feelings that I recognised to be more damaging.
Every time I sing the song now I have a slightly different reaction to it, one which continues to be complex, and one which I welcome for this very reason. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

The problems with books

People around me assume that it's inevitable that I will publish a book someday, but it's tough producing a long text which is marketable enough for me. Throughout my blog's journey, I have celebrated the short text. I find myself very comfortable working in this format. I suppose there's a lot less pressure to come up with a good blog post, because anyone can publish their writing online with Blogger (or a similar site). 
My friend Martin seems to be the only one who understand that my mind changes so quickly, that by the time I've published something online, half of it feels irrelevant. Writing books, then, is less about getting my message out than making money, and that doesn't feel like a good enough reason to participate in the publishing industry. 
Ideally, I wouldn't have to. That would permit me to continue being a fly on the wall, scooping up those niche books that appeal to me, and not having to worry about making my book commercially successful. 
The irony is that I'm so interested in writing that I want to protect myself from the industry. When I was younger I wanted to start my own publishing house, but I lacked the motivation (and, probably, the contacts). Ah, those days of dreaming with my Danish keypal, where anything seemed possible. Even writing this post, I have to choose my words carefully. I have to be aware of the discourses that might be floating around my readers' heads around reading and writing in 2016, certain inclinations towards upholding the status quo, no matter how slight. (Don't worry, I too am guilty of conformist urges, so non-judgmentalness is a philosophy I live by.) I want to celebrate the quality texts in circulations out there while recognising that the system as a whole needs rearrangement. And I realise that it's all very well for me to call for change while not actually participating within the system. It's a contradiction. But at least I'm calling for change of some sort. It feels like the odds are too against me to work towards publishing a book. That may change. I may feel like things become more workable in the future. But that's how it is today, and I'm trying to be comfortable with that - to find comfort in a world where comfort isn't easy to find. 
Keep up the great work, dear reader!

Monday, March 7, 2016

For Sarah

We begun again
Perhaps you weren't aware
Of my rearrangement of my psyche
When it comes to you
I still cry for you
It's the only time I do
I want to carry you to safety
But how?

Friday, March 4, 2016

The day before Mardi Gras

I liberated myself from my online degree. It seems like this happens every couple of years: I start out really keen to make the most of the study options out there, but once I get down to it I feel a loss of identity. It feels like I have to limit myself somehow, and I'm unable to reconcile the new bouquets of knowledge into an already existing garden which is chaotically but carefully tended to. There is method in my madness, one that can remain obscure to my conscious arrangements, one that I nevertheless prize. To superimpose the university structure threatens to disturb the balance. I know it's not like this for everyone. I respect those who undertake studies without jeopardising their own vision. But for now, I have rediscovered the joy of opting out.

I've figured out where I'm going this year: Germany, Iceland, Ireland and maybe Italy. To be more specific: Berlin, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Quedlinburg; Reykjavik; Dublin; Palermo, Taormina, Ragusa and Cianciana. I'm hoping for a mixture of the old and the new, sunny and progressive, feminist and emotionally expressive. Hopefully La Niña's cooling effect will make this summer in Europe more bearable.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Hello, Hej, Hola

You may have noticed that I haven't been writing much. I hate to admit it, but I'm sort of feeling like my writing isn't of much use lately. I'm afraid to write about feminism and mental health to the extent I want to, for fear of backlash. This post marks my unwillingness to give up my presence, however marginalised, in the blogosphere, yet I can't yet claim to have recovered my faith in myself enough to offer you doses of me as regular as they used to be. What little I can offer will have to suffice.
I'm sorry that my fear and withdrawal means that I'm not the role model I aspire to be. I hope you have other people in your life that you look to for inspiration when it comes to breaking new ground.

How have I been keeping myself entertained? I read quality articles and books every day, trying to keep up to date with the local situation in many (mainly Western, admittedly) a country. Tonight I'm going to watch a lesbian film about cross-cultural romance set in Japan, which should be a treat anthropologically even if the plot/script/narrative falls short of fulfilling. I have finished reading Eat, Pray, Love, and it made me wonder why a woman always has to find the ultimate meaning in life with a relationship. It's repetitive. Not that there isn't much about Elizabeth Gilbert's book to commend. Let's face it, relatively few American women turn to Eastern spirituality to the extent that they're willing to spend months at a time in an ashram in the middle of nowhere, India, or be taken under the wing of a Balinese traditional healer. I learned many things about Balinese culture in particular.

I actually bought a ticket to Bali last year, but then a nearby volcano spurted ash in the air and I had to get a refund as it was no longer safe to fly in. Instead I'm planning to travel to Europe in late June, hitting a new place or two, and enjoying the company of my ex (with whom I am still good friends). That's right, I'm no longer seeing the girl with the sky blue eyes. A little sadness still remains, but it's better this way.

I feel relatively okay these days. Daily walks on the beach fill my evenings with bursts of serenity, as the wind blows in my face and the sun warms my path. My psychologist reminds me that reality is subjective, and that what I like/dislike about others says more about what I like/dislike about myself. I still wish my circumstances were different to the extent that I could live in Western Europe, but I am continuing to appreciate the luck I've had in winding up in Aus.
I wish you peace, equanimity and self-love. May you be safe, inspired and find much meaning in life.

Monday, January 18, 2016

'Why did she say that?' and other random thoughts

Why did she say that? Doesn't she know that she's only perpetuating the vicious cycle of guilt women are expected to maintain in a patriarchy? I mean, I know Gwen Stefani isn't a feminist, but it's hard to reign in the part of me that says "You can't do that!" The goal for me would be to be more comfortable with my feminism. That way I won't feel influenced by former platinum blonde role models when their misogyny comes out to play.

My journey as a feminist has been a difficult one. My parents didn't bring me up to believe in equality between the genders. While they're both gender atypical, neither of them are overtly unconventional. They are some of my closest companions these days.

I am continuing this post in the next day, listening to Fever Ray's 2009 album on YouTube, thinking about Italy and Europe, since that's where the first part of 'Eat, Pray, Love' is set. My psychologist recommended the book to me as an example of an autobiography that, while still a good read, wasn't Shakespeare. She said I needed to read more books like that, so that I wasn't always comparing myself to la creme de la creme. Amazon reviewers have given it 3 1/2 stars out of 5, but I'm aware that books featuring a strong female presence get a lot of negative backlash, which is why I'm willing to bet it is worth more. 4 stars, at least.

I am not the most open person in the world, but I can articulate things that prove a pleasant surprise. I trust my inner voice fervently. I understand that the world doesn't offer many people who will be unconditionally kind to me, and it makes sense to me to protect myself, even at the expense of being as open as possible.

Continuing this post hours later from the last two paragraphs, I'm now finished with the Italian section of Elizabeth Gilbert's book, and I'd be lying if it didn't make me feel a twang of longing for Italy... Sicily has been on my list of places to visit for some time now, and I'd love to visit some Tuscan towns as well. Not to mention the birthplace of Italo Calvino, Turin. And while I'm at it, the Italian tourism industry has been promoting Puglia, which strikes me as sweet on the eye... maybe if I pray to the travel gods they will help me see all these sorts of places?


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Emotions

I felt the drug working in my system, and a part of me died. The part that wanted to experience passion to my full capacity again. I felt like somebody might as well have said to me: "We don't care about you as a living, breathing, emotional human being. We want you neutered." I had no choice in the matter. I felt like a cat that had been desexed and declawed, and I should probably abstain from comparing myself to animals, since to be a mental health patient is to be dehumanised by so many, and maybe I'm even in on the action myself(?), but I can't help it.

Emotional problems persist to this day. While I was unwell I digested the paradigm of an emotionally repressed person. I somehow thought mimicking him was the bright thing to do. I was in a moral panic. I believed that I had to suppress my intellectual curiosity to prevent emotional pain. I've relaxed since then, but I'm also still haunted by trauma from a past relationship. Often it feels like I will never emerge from this state. Yet I keep doing what I can to keep hope alive.

I recently had a falling out with a man who identified as a feminist, yet acted in some distinctly sexist ways. I don't want to be too harsh on him, because he had done more emotional work than most guys his age, but a big part of me is relieved I no longer have to put up with his male entitlement. Even so, I feel his absence. I'm not a socially gregarious kind of person, and I don't have many friends. The loss of a budding friend makes itself known. I suspect most of us feel lonely and misunderstood, so ironically I'm not alone in that. *Sigh*

Tomorrow I will finally see my psychologist, after a two week absence. I expect the time to fly.