October 27, 2013 § Leave a comment
It was such a beautiful day in Sydney yesterday. By the time it got to 4pm, the girls had returned from their overnight sojourn at Nana’s, the boys had returned from lunch out with Grandma, and Sol had returned from his gig. We were all restless, wanting to do something to make the most of the uplifting weather.
So we packed everyone in the 4wd and took off for an adventure.
There is always some resistance from our boys when we venture somewhere new. But after a little while of ignoring their complaints, they too got caught up in the beauty of Sydney Harbour.
I’ve never been to Middle Head before, and apart from the fantastic views there were stone tunnels and rooms to explore….leftover fortifications begun in 1867, with gun mounts and everything. It was actually a crystal clear day but it took me a while to realise the lens on my camera was really dirty….hence the hazy pics.
I am what you might call ‘intuitive’ or sensitive to the energy of places. Once I sat in a real bomber plane from WWII, and was sick for days afterward. As I walked through the tunnels at Middle Head that same feeling came over me. I also felt some fear. Sol scoffed a little until we read the information about Middle Head, about how they used some of the rooms as ‘torture classes’, meant to toughen up soldiers for the Korean War. Hmmmm….maybe I was picking up on something after all.
Once we had explored everywhere, the boys began testing their strength and skills against the challenges of stone walls and huge gaps to leap. Many times I had to turn away, but William is an expert and knowing his limits, and his brother’s too!
Yes, we have budding Parkourists on our hands. Robin loved all the climbing and exploring, being able to roam free.
In the end the boys didn’t want to leave! On the way home we stopped at Cremorne for pizza. We turned into an attraction for the locals….obviously there are not many larger families in these richer suburbs of Sydney! I’m now used to the stares, and the comments.
We had a bit of conflict on the way home, as it neared 10pm and 5 tired children tried to get comfy in the 6 seats in the back of our car. I’ve long ago stopped expecting every family outing to go completely smoothly….but this one was pretty good. It’s a good feeling knowing that we can still take out our 14 y.o, 10y.o, 6y.o, 4y.o, and 18 month old for some fun together.
October 22, 2013 § Leave a comment
’cause some guy designed
these shoes I use to walk around
some big man’s business turns a profit
every time I lay my money down
some guy designed the room I’m standing in
another built it with his own tools
who says I like right angles?
these are not my laws
there are not my rules.
Ani Difranco, I’m No Heroine.
When I was at University in the 1990’s, it was at the height of a new wave of feminism and the popularity of Women’s Studies. I completed some amazing courses: Feminism and Sex, A Critique of Modern Romance Fiction, Women in Advertising, and lots of 19th Century Women’s Fiction from both Canada and England.
When I journeyed to Canada in my final year for a semester of University in Montreal, I reached a turning point. Maybe it was that I was alone in many ways: I lived in a typical north American ‘dorm’, with people all around me, but essentially I knew no one in Canada, and as a 20 year old I was not as forthcoming as I am now, not as open or quick to form connections (part of the reason for this was that I left behind a partner in Australia, but that is another story for another time….).
Maybe it was the lifestyle I got into…..staying up very late into the night, only to sleep in and surface for lunch. As the days trickled into Fall, I was only exposed to 3-4 hours of daylight a day, most of which was spent at lectures. Maybe it was the few friends I did find….women, like me, having their eyes opened for the first time to the deep and far reaching tentacles of ‘the evil Patriarchy‘!
Toward the end of my eight month stay, I found myself walking down the street one day in Montreal, only able to notice the brash advertising around me, the busy road full of cars that ‘men’ created; I realised that men designed buildings with sharp edges and square windows, and in fact were responsible for lots of the problems of the whole world. It was crushing.
Even more crushing was the realisation that I was not happy thinking about the world this way. I was becoming a victim.
Was this worldview really serving me? A worldview that focused on the wrongs done to women throughout history. That focused on present day inequalities and approached all men with white hot rage, just because they were men (either men were conscious perpetrators of misogyny or they were unconsciously acting it out – there was no third option).
I could continue being angry at the way buildings were designed, and the way the world turns, but how exactly is that empowering? I don’t think that basing my identity on my politics or on anger helps make the world a better place. I don’t think it raises other women up.
Hating men is reductive and oversimplifies the real issues. I’m so dismayed that Feminism is now a dirty word amongst younger women, probably due to that hard-line view that was popular when I was at University. (An example: I remember reading andrea dworkin, who would not use capitals in her name as they were a patriarchal construct. Her view was that heterosexual sex could almost never be anything but violence against women, due to simple differences in anatomy.)
After that day on the street in Montreal I changed my worldview and my personal definition of feminism. At one level, it is about the right for self determination over one’s own body, equal pay and freedom for women. On another level it is what I mentioned in my previous post: a balance of masculine and feminine energies in the world. A unity that promotes mutual respect, harmony and peace.
Feminism ain’t about women
No, that’s not who it is for
It’s about a shifting consciousness
That’ll bring an end to war
Ani Difranco, Which Side Are You On
I now live in a boxy house with sharp corners, but one day soon I will build the strawbale home with rounded walls and intelligent nature-enhancing design. For now I give thanks that I have a house. I choose to focus on the good things in the world. I choose to further my own growth and development in a positive way, and I believe this has the most positively powerful and healing impact on society as a whole.
October 17, 2013 § 1 Comment
(Please be aware this post contains slightly graphic images )
Today my husband asked me why I make these felt pieces. I call them Flower/Vagina, and I have just finished four to go on sale at the Australian Goddess Conference in Sydney this weekend.
What sparked our discussion was this photo I shared on Facebook:
It is a shirt made by American Apparel, and has apparently sold out (read more here). I would not wear this out in public (as I feel strongly about children being protected from adult images), but I would have this as an artwork hanging on my wall.
I shared the photo, as I tend to do with vagina themed photos or articles.
Sol doesn’t get it.
Our discussion has made me ponder things, so as to articulate my position more. And I have to keep coming back to myself…..
My mother was not negative about my body, or beginning menstruation. She wasn’t overly positive either. As I grew into adolescence however, somewhere along the way I had picked up the belief that my body and its processes were something to be ashamed of. In my twenties I worked consciously to reverse these beliefs, to see menstruation as something positive and to love and appreciate my body.
I don’t know many women who naturally love themselves or their bodies, or feel positive about menstruation. I don’t expect a man to understand growing up with negative connotations attached to one’s own body and gender. We live in a society where masculine qualities are held up as the standard to which everyone should strive. ‘Female’ qualities are often derided and shamed, and menstruation is generally perceived as a negative experience.
I am not a man. I am a woman, with different hormones, a different body, and even a brain that is wired differently. All I want is for my reality to be reflected somewhere out there in my world. I believe in balance and unity between female and male energies in the world, so I think there is space for more positive woman-centred images, energy, and ways of being.
I want to carve a little space for myself, amongst all the noise that says being female is being less than. And this is why I make these felt pieces. The very first one was for a very special friend and Women’s Business Medicine Woman (for want of a better title). As she celebrated 50 and her Harvest time in life, I created a piece that reflected her life’s purpose as a role model, teacher, healer and friend for women. Since then I have been asked to make more, and so I do.
I don’t force them on anybody. I share photos and people can choose to look or look away. They are going on sale at a place filled with like-minded women, who will probably love them. And if I contribute to even one woman feeling better about herself, her body or her nature as a woman, then what I am doing has purpose.
At the very least it makes me happy to be creating something with my hands, which fosters more of my own self love and self acceptance.
October 12, 2013 § 1 Comment
I am not a natural host of parties or events. Children’s Birthdays, especially, have me very nervous (ironic, considering I ran a Playgroup for five years!).
Most of it comes down to our home, or more specifically, the cleanliness of our home. So I began tidying and cleaning three weeks before the big day this time, and prepared everything in advance as much as possible. That helped.
I hold a party for my children every second year. Last year we were all recovering from Robin’s illness, so this year it was Zara’s turn for a party. Months ago, she decided on a Fairy Party. And Lily, six, took great delight in being the co-organiser.
We set the scene: hand painted sign in the front garden, rainbow windmills, balloons, bunting (a gift from Zara’s Aunty). On the morning of the party getting dressed was a serious business: party dress, high heels, hair decorations…..only to be discarded quickly when a new fairy dress was received as a present!
We kept our seven little girls busy: pass-the-parcel, pin-the-wand-on-the-fairy, making and decorating wands, and an impromptu outside dancing concert. The fairy cave that Sol and I constructed at 11pm the night before was a popular playing spot, and even Samuel (who is ten and decidedly beyond such little girl fancies!) could be seen having a quiet moment in there with the doorway closed. Everyone went home with a fairy bag filled with rainbow bead bracelets and hand made felt fairies (ok, yes, and a lolly or two).
In the end the day went very well. I wanted Zara to feel special, and I am sure she did. And I am determined to play host more often, not least so I have a clean home again!
October 8, 2013 § 2 Comments
I wrote this piece for Birthings, the Sydney Homebirth Magazine, of which I am the editor. It seems poignant as it is Zara’s birthday this week.
In the dead of night in October, 2009, I gave birth to my fourth baby. The room was dim, and the air had a sombre peacefulness to it. I had gone nearly two weeks overdue with this baby, and I hadn’t been in a hurry to meet her; in fact, I would have been quite happy to remain pregnant indefinitely. Having three children already, I knew the turbulence, the highs and lows, the rapid changes of the first few days post partum, and I was afraid of the changes I knew were coming.
After a five hour labour, I efficiently birthed a little girl into the pool in my mother’s lounge room. As I felt her body writhe out of mine, I automatically turned around in the water to pick up my baby. It was instinct to gather her to me, because in that same instant, I realised that I felt nothing inside. No overwhelming rush of connection, or love. No sense of achievement that I had given birth!
In the back of my mind, as I gazed at my newborn baby (because that was what new mothers did), I knew that something was not right with this scene; something was not right with me.
Later that day I confessed to my midwife that I still felt nothing towards my baby. She assured me that this could be normal, that sometimes the mother-child bond is slow to grow. But something had happened during that birth that changed me, some internal shift that I could not define, and as those newborn days progressed these changes became more apparent. I had no appetite. I felt very removed from reality, as though I were in a fog. In those precious early days of bed rest with my new baby, I spent hours just gazing out of the window at the blue sky.
I loved my daughter; I know I did. I breastfed her on demand, slept with her and took care of her well. Her energy was quiet, contemplative and easy going, which perfectly matched my own melancholia, and because of this we bonded well. But when I think back…only fleeting scenes of that time come to mind….the six week visit with my midwife, talking about feeling trapped; taking photos of my baby at the park, and flashes from her first birthday. That is about it: I can’t remember much of her first year of life. It was swallowed by a dark cloud that also swallowed my rational mind and feeling self.
I was disturbed at how I had no influence over the thoughts that ran through my head. By eleven in the morning my energy was spent and I would feel exhausted for the rest of the day. My exhaustion meant I had no energy to defend myself from the negative self talk that took over. I literally felt that my head had been invaded by aliens, and I did not know how to help myself. During the day, with the other children at school, I would often just sit with the baby on the lounge: just sit, feeling her body in my arms and listening to the stillness around. There could have been a delicious lunch sitting on my kitchen table but I would have no way of getting myself there to eat it.
When Zara was 3 months old I went to see my midwife, confessing that I was depressed. Neither of us were surprised, as the months of the pregnancy had been stress-filled, with me trying to hold it all together by not really addressing anything. In the two years previous to conceiving we had lived in QLD, and we had lost our home and income in rapid succession. After a stint fruit picking and travelling (adventure filled but also stressful), we found ourselves briefly homeless and with dire financial struggles. Moving back to Sydney and the support of friends and family in anticipation of welcoming this new life (that we had planned) was supposed to help us float. However we struggled to find our own home and rhythm, my husband’s heart remained in QLD, and we struggled more and more to support each other.
After this appointment with my midwife I began counselling via email with another homebirth midwife. Apart from some much needed de-briefing, the advice was simple: to eat, regularly. To rest, every day. To go for a little walk, every day. Those three things sound like not much, but to achieve all three in one day was rare. Of course I was still caring for four children; cooking, doing the school run, playing with them. I did all of these things on auto pilot. At the time I consoled myself with the thought that the children probably couldn’t tell that I wasn’t really present – after all, hardly any adults could tell. Christmas came and went, with me feeling that the real me was hovering somewhere a few feet behind my body as it played happy families.
When Zara was five months old I returned to my part time role running a Rudolf Steiner Playgroup. That job saved my life. I couldn’t get it together for myself, or my baby or other children. But I could pull myself out my stupor for all those children that came for a few hours of connection each week; and for the new mothers who looked up to me as a shining example of motherhood. That job gave me three hours where I was valued, purposeful, and present. I clung to the job, aware that it was motivating me to eat better, to get more sleep, and to keep talking with my counsellor.
When Zara was a few months past her first birthday, the clouds in my mind slowly began to disperse. There was no great event, no big ‘aha’ moment or shift. Life just began to get a little easier. I was able to begin answering back to the negative voices in my mind. My husband and I gradually re connected, and after Zara turned two we finally moved into our own home again and went on to have another baby (but that is another story….)!
No matter how planned and longed-for a baby is, giving birth and adjusting to a new person in the family is a huge change. I’ve learnt to never underestimate the depth of that time – and how long it can linger. For me, going from one to two children, then from three to four, were really difficult transitions, both practically and emotionally. It took well over a year in both cases for me to fully adapt to the new family size and dynamics, to adjust my expectations of myself and my capabilities. I’ve had to seriously re think the ridiculously high standards I often set for myself.
Now Zara is about to turn four. She’s well adjusted, happy, and adores her big sister and baby brother. I often look back to that time when she was a baby and wonder why things had to happen that way. What lessons have I learnt from that time?
Experiencing PPD taught me that I am absolutely extremely important and need to be looked after first. I won’t pretend that I have this lesson learnt….like all women I juggle many things and sometimes struggle to prioritise my needs. I had needed support, and a break from responsibility, but I didn’t or couldn’t ask for those things. I needed to be more loving and accepting of myself, but those turbulent years in QLD had eroded any trust I held in my own decisions and life choices.
When I became pregnant for the fifth time, I made a promise to myself to ask for the support I needed. And I did – from family, friends and midwife – and when that six week old baby became very ill (and remained very ill for months), I was able to be there for him; to be his strength and his home, to manage the intense stress – sometimes badly – but without getting depressed. As I get older, and as life continues with its cycles of high points and hard times, it feels to me that I have been forged; the flames of intense self doubt and depression somehow moulded in me a deep strength that I have only ever been able to give thanks for. It is true that without the clouds we cannot truly appreciate the sunshine…I find myself, often, in the midst of some mundane activity with my children and their chaos all around me, just giving thanks, and being happy.
October 6, 2013 § Leave a comment
Things have been changing.
To observers it may not be apparent; we haven’t moved house and I haven’t begun a new job (though I have left one). I’m not pregnant, no one else has left school. We haven’t made any big impulsive decisions.
But things are shifting on the inside, in a deep, deep way.
I write about it as though it is hugely significant – because it is. When I look back over this year, and even back to last year and the year before, I can see how I was really stuck in some fear.
It was not exactly a choice to begin observing myself, begin being real, begin taking full responsibility, begin radically loving myself. Aspects of life had become very difficult and stressful. Relationships had begun breaking down. Children can always be counted on to be good reflectors of our unresolved issues. And mine have been no exception lately.
Most of all I had lost confidence in myself. I had to hit rock bottom to be willing to find a new way to think about myself, my relationships and my life.
I’ve done a personal development course. It’s given me tools to think about things in a more compassionate way. It has given me permission to be where I am, to accept that shift takes as long as it takes.
And suddenly, instead of running away from problems or turning my back to them, I am ready to turn and face them.
I lost faith for a while. But like a tiny, vulnerable seedling, I am nurturing it back to life.
It is challenging. I still have many days where I want to hide away from the world, and not even check emails. But sometimes, peeping through, like that burst of sunshine from behind a cloud, my inner radiance lights up my life.
I see the joy in living.
And I am chasing more of that.