It was quiet. No platitudes. No casseroles. No broken heart emoji laden tributes.
I wonder who bought the dress that they put back on the shelf. On my flesh and bones it sat, briefly, tucked into my waist with a pair of bull nose clips. But it was magnificent, and I deserved to see me in it. I won't have the joy of kissing in it next month, but I like to imagine the day in store for it after being hemmed up to the height of the right girl.
No one died, but there's a part of me calling for the space and time to respect the fallen. And to be acknowledged within my grief and relief. I have both, and sometimes they bicker.
Where's the narratives to look at that feature women who try and fail. Someone needs to write a guidebook for the ones that got away or got away upon.
I am not lost, but I lost.
My ghost of a September wedding. For a bride-to-be that isn't to be, I'm left wondering what I can do with this time. I didn't realise before now that you could observe a countdown even when the vital components of ritual have been deconstructed.
I have almost lost to time the tactile memory of it, my ring, cold on my skin and nestled between the two low creases of that fourth finger.
I've had this word, unspoken, in my head for weeks.
I don't know what to do with it. I don't really know what it might want
from me. I've played with it, toyed with it as a concept and a tool, and I've
let it sit and steep like a tea.
But where do you start, and how do you stop, when you're polishing stories
like knives and forks and serving truths.
I cringe at the noise of social platforms. I cringe harder at the irony
of pointing it out when I contribute to the endlessly rising volume. Considered
things, talk and text that fit a smooth narrative. Things that speak of a
transparency, but through the lense of creation. Can something formed ever be
free of shape?
Here, I will speak to this, the picture says.
This is something that you can talk to me about, I say into the
This is what I feel safe to share.
There are things that I preference. That we preference. And this comes
at a cost to the issues that cause us discomfort. That cause me pain.
I am slipping my fingers between the gaps in my thoughts and spreading
them open like the threads of a long, thin knitted scarf.
What have I carried for you, but have forgotten to put down?
I always had places in my home that I could hide in.
In the late 80's it was easy for me to scale over the edge of the wooden toy box and layer a menagerie of glow worms, cabbage patch kids, and carebears over and around me like an encoffined babe.
By the time that I was six, I had learned to seamlessly disappear from the watch of my sisters and parents and I made a home in the cypress pine tree in the backyard. A miniature door was constructed out of some scrap metal propped up against the far reaching tree branches and the side of the fence, and unbeknownst to the rest of the world that little door created a magic portal into a space of unyielding potential. My memories of others joining me in the tree are few, bar a handful of friends from kindergarten that complained of the itchy needles scratching their skin and my sister Deb, who was rapidly growing bored of my style of play being five years my senior. I suspect her absence in the tree house was also due to her being hyper aware of my proximity to her Ninja Turtle card collection which she protected with a matching strength of Poseidon over his Seas.
I'd carefully hung 'ornaments' made out of trash in the branches and intended for them to signify different levels of the cubby. Winding around the trunk in a circular fashion you could easily make your way up through each 'room' to the roof of the house and sit up there, undisturbed, to watch the clouds take the shapes of my Enid Blyton book characters. Eventually, I was banned from the tree because I was covered in scratches and itchy bites, which my parents put down to fleas from the birds that lived within my sanctuary.
My mothers closet soon became a place of wonder. I would gently slide open each drawer in her dresser, with it's wobbly plastic ornamental handles, and innocently sniff each silky nightie or pair of socks. Though laundered, they smelt of her. Often I'd find a block of Cadbury's hazelnut chocolate, with it's purple paper wrap, in the drawer that she thought I couldn't reach. I'd wonder why she didn't want to share with us, to keep this happiness to herself, but I'd never dare to break a row off in the belief that I'd never catch her out in a sneak again.
One particular item of treasure was a blue vinyl cosmetic case that mum hid behind the shoes on the floor of the wardrobe. It could be locked via the strap across the top of the case which clipped in to a close, however Mum never bothered with the key, much to my delight. Inside was a mix of old Avon cosmetics, pearl pink lipsticks with cracked lids that smelt of glycerine soap and blue eyeshadow pallets rarely given their opportunity to shimmer. But thrown into the mix of powders and primers were a few tattered photos from Mum's younger years, old Christmas bon-bon prizes which would fascinate for hours and some clip on earrings that I'd put on and then rip off thinking that they would somehow leave an evidential scar. I would spend what seemed like hours lifting each trinket out of the case, imagining it's life out of the closet, and then putting each one back carefully before clicking closed the clasp. Imagining what it would be like to be a woman was more challenging than imagining myself as a Diplodocus, and I'm not sure if all that time imagining, literally hiding in the closet under the skirts, prepared me for the realities of my born gender.
I expected that I'd be writing forever here, y'know, and then one day I just stopped. I'm not sure whether it was too uncomfortable or embarrassing, maybe I felt like an imposter in my own home, but I lost connection to the blog that was started so long ago under such different circumstances. It's like picking up a diary from school and following on without break in the ink. And I cringe, yet I yearn for a similar expressive space.
I don't miss the mortuary. I do, however, miss the sense of purpose the job provided. The reward was rich, and helping the dead made things more interesting than now. There was a strong sense of duty and an element of selflessness that seems lost in the wider business operations.
I am only now coming to realise that in losing my daily dedication, I have been in mourning.
People poo-poo dwelling in the past. I can understand why, but I figure that if you haven't quite nabbed why you're feeling a little lost, maybe the past isn't a bad place to visit so that you can wrap up the ends.
I like remembering where I was when I first started writing on the blog, even if the memories are tinged with sadness.
In the beginning I'd ride my girlfriend's bike home from work, take a shower and plonk on the couch with the laptop. Every day I'd rush to write an entry so that by the time she came home I'd have something to show her. When the relationship ended I painted a world that was unshaken, but it was far from the truth, and writing from other couches and with other people wracked me with guilt. The blog brought me other people, but never a sense of pride.
The years passed and naturally the entries stacked so as to follow days, but I've been writing from a distance, away from the couch.
I wish I wrote this when I was sixteen. I'm thirty, and this is my own little reproductive revolution.
I bought a tiny cup, but it's also kind of a trophy. A clever little victory prize for the squadron of unhappy crampers. A gift that not only gives, but takes away.
Thinking back on some of the various discoveries in my life that have been game changing; things like the little arrow symbol on your car speedometer that shows which side the fuel tank is on, or the discovery that barbeque shapes are vegan and therefore obviously a perfectly acceptable breakfast food, buying a cup for my vagina has been pretty up there. *Takes bow.
And for all you peoples who are rollin' your eyes saying "Man, she's going to talk about periods again" then this article is not for you. Go home. Sit on your soggy pads, or live with the fact that as you ignore the leaking ladies around you, we are bleeding EVERY MONTH for decades, and if we know about it and your aversions, together in the same room, we'll purposely keep on bleedin' right up next to you.
If you're wondering what menstruation has to do with funeral practice, it has little relevance, other than the fact that I am awesome at both things. I am also trying to write more, and sometimes a girl leaks thoughts.
*Warning. This article has been written under the influence of luteinizing hormones.
The 'lunette' menstrual cup is made of medical grade silicone and it's only duty is to catch period blood, month after month, for as long as it lives. It'd house little humpty dumpty if he was small enough to hang around in my palm, or, as it nestles in situ, alarmingly undetectable in the crook of your nook.
I think I first read about menstrual cups in a health food store catalogue. The marketing was aimed at women who grind their own sage to rub into their sweaty pits and use the activities of the moon to decide whether or not to cook zucchini in the same pot as the squash. I was not keen on the idea of running around the toilet at a movie cinema during the previews, hiding a goblet of my own slosh under my cardigan until I could throw it down the sink. Would I just go and wash it on down the sink next to the girl on a break from the candy bar? And then what, did I just wipe the cup with a Kleenex and whack it back up?
It was only when a girlfriend of mine and I were talking about the joys of negotiating our periods and simultaneously attempting the sport of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, with it's fancy all-white get up and forward rolls, that she brought up the topic of menstrual cups. She'd been using one for a while and I was blown away by her bravery and commitment to her clam. I had ALL of the questions.
"And it isn't too big?" I asked.
"Does it spill, leaving you looking like the sole survivor of Carrie's prom?"
"And when it gets full, are you at risk around sharks?".
I am so dumb.
Off I went in search of some more information. I read a few great articles about regular women (girls who liked music and doritos and comfortable crotches) that wanted an alternative to forking out a wad of cash every month for something that we seemingly couldn't avoid purchasing. Some of the articles were about women with shitty cycles too, girls that struggled with pain and heavy bleeding and also girls with periods that sprung forth solely to ruin important events, for example walking down the aisle or sitting on an international flight for twenty hours, hunched over in follicular agony.
With my homework done, the only sensible thing left to do was to buy one of these things and try it out. Aiding my enthusiasms, I'd also heard about the chemicals that many companies use to bleach tampons, and the cost (both financial and environmental) of organic tampons was kind of getting me down. I could make this cup work, if it worked.
When I got to my local health grocer I must've looked kind of scared because a lady came to my aid almost immediately. There were two sizes, but I'd been pre-warned that the bigger of the two was generally only necessary for ladies who have given birth vaginally. Both my friend and the lady at the store had told me to trim the end of the tab at the base of the cup, as apparently it had a reputation for dangling and making things feel a little weird. She was right, and once I'd worked out how to insert the cup I couldn't feel a thing other than the 'release shoot of the blood balloon'. (My creative description, not the store persons, FYI).
The first time was kind of weird, I won't lie. You have to fold the cup into a little 'c' shape and then after insertion, you have to make sure that the cup has opened out and created a seal. If it's in the right place, you're good to go. Literally, you can go. To jiu-jitsu, to countries where you can't find tampons smaller than a chiko roll, on tour with a band when you don't want to have to buy tampons with the dudes buying chiko rolls, on a massive bender (I always forget about my period if I've been drinking)....
What I'm getting at is that you can reclaim a little bit more of your freedom. Learning about your body is a pretty rad side effect of using a cup. You know how much you menstruate and when you menstruate, and the coolest part is that once you buy a cup and learn how to use it, that part of the consumer process is done and dusted forever and even the word menstruate is less of a grandma thing to say.
The march from Menarche to Menopause shouldn't be mocked but I always thought when I bled it was kind of mayhem. Once you can see what is going on, it's kind of a non-event, bar the cravings for oreos and somewhat violent fascination with arm bars the day before. You can leave a menstrual cup in doing it's thang for up to ten hours, so once it's in for the morning you literally don't have to think about it until you're getting ready for rest at night. What I thought that I knew about my body wasn't accurate. Shape, regularity, awesomeness, comings and goings, it has all been re-evaluated. This little tool cost me about $45, and in the twelve months that I've had it I would've otherwise spent at least $150 on tampons and liners.
So that's that. Just like the forth or fifth day of your period, once you've made the switch from tampons to a cup, the pain of the whole process goes. I hope this helps you, or your girlfriend/wife, or your sister. I feel weird saying your mum, but hey, maybe it'll even help your mum.
I saw my Aunty a few weeks ago at my Dad's sixtieth birthday party. She beckoned for me from the seat next to the esky, and when I reached her she said, tapping my hand like a wise elder, "You know though Sarah, you're weird. I read the things that you write on Facebook and it's all weird."
I grabbed a drink and sat down*, feeling like shit. There's heaps of things that I could write about that I'd accept as a little left of field for public discourse, like poops that disappear down the bend without a trace or how Aliens might look at us while we're masturbating, but I don't ever write about that stuff.
I write about Death, because I'm surrounded by it every day.
When people say that I'm weird (and I've heard it often enough to develop a thickness of skin), I think that they're actually denying that what I do and thus what I tend to talk about is the only certain reality that is destined to all of us.
Just sayin', there's nothing really all that weird about Death.
On the contrary, the only weird thing about it is the wacky glasses that we put on to look at it, if we allow ourselves to take a peek at all. Those wacky glasses, the ones that turn a natural curiosity into an oft muttered 'morbid fascination'. The spectacles that frame the process of Death as 'mysterious', when really there are people in our midst *gasp* like Doctors, Aged Care Workers, Police and Death Care Professionals who choose to make a closer connection with the Reaper in an effort to undiddle some of the effects of his big do do's. Something is weird if it is unearthly, but how could the process of death and decomposition be anything but when choose to reverently plant our loved ones back into the Earth.
Can you throw a kettle to the wall or boil it repeatedly without water in it's hull and expect it to still produce a cup of tea? Then why is it weird that after illness or injury, our mortal body will logically cease to function because a threshold of functional health has been reached? And why is it weird, that a person might want to be there and hold that persons hand, or even hold the hand of the person that's holding the hand, when they reach that inevitable point?
Death is not atypical. Death care is not deviant.
Denial is weirder.
*If I had the nimble intellect to reply, I would've told my Aunty that what was really weird was that she has never said hello to me without adding insult, and that I think this might be a family trait that stems from my beyond my childhood, feelings of which she should really release before she or I eventually die, too.