Monday, December 7, 2015

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Nine: Pine and Vinyl

What fears aren't mine, but yours?

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.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Eight: The Couch

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 have been in mourning.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Seven: Lunette; Information for Smart Girls and Boys that know and care about Smart Girls.

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.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Six: We're Not Weird, Death and I.

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.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Four: Downfall of Paris

When I was a young girl I was a dancer. Lots of girls were (and still are) schlepped to dance lessons at a young age as a gender defined rite of passage, yet the years that I spent ‘jump 2-3ing’ and ‘battering-up’ were largely bereft of any true cultural appreciation. I spent fifteen years in pursuit of the hobby so I’ll expect you to go “shit, that’s a while” before you discover how horrifically underwhelming my passion and focus was the whole time.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t want to be good. I did. It’s just that I wanted be successful without any sacrifice or reason, in the same way that I wanted to have the entire catalogue of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cards but I resented the idea of having to build the collection from scratch.

It all started in my first year of primary school when, one morning tea break, my very Irish friend Eibhlish was hopping around the school oval. She had the concentration of a cub chasing a butterfly, repeatedly lifting up her front leg, leaping out onto it and completing the move by bringing her lifted hind foot in front of the grounded other, closing them tight, toe to heel as if pulled by magnet. I asked her what she was doing, making her endless circles around the patch of land that we had usually flicked marbles around on.  

“I’m doing my Jump 2-3’s” she said.

“Your what?”

I was alarmed that she knew how to do something that I’d never seen before. She was usually very reserved and quiet, and such a bold move from her to switch our game to something unchartered had made me instantly suspicious.

“The circle at the start. Then I do skip 2-3’s. Here, I’ll show you” Eibhlish said, as she took my hand and taught me my first steps. From then on, all term, we’d take the same strides in close hemispheres. We’d dance during all of the breaks and every day after school while we’d wait to be picked up by my poor parents, whom must’ve eventually caved in to my pleadings to begin classes at the same Irish dance school that Eibhlish visited every Saturday.

It turned out that Eibhlish quit taking dancing classes shortly after my father was posted to another state with the Air Force, forcing us to leave Perth.  We had formed a very close friendship, but I started to realise that even from the age of nine, dancing was to be something ongoing that I could hide behind. It was a part of my character as much in childhood as young adulthood, and the music genuinely inspired and consoled me, but it was still a performance act that other people enjoyed as much, if not more, than me.

I started properly competing in 1994 at the age of ten. My older sister Deb would be bribed into curling my hair with ‘rags’, which entailed strips of old bed sheets being wound into my sectioned and moussed mane. I was made to sleep in them for two nights usually, and then they’d be yanked out on the morning of the competition with a Shirley Temple inspired end result. To this day, the smell of cheap cedel or Final Net hair spray gives birth to butterflies in my stomach and more often than not, an oddly shiny eye.
Progressing from the Beginner stages to Primary, Intermediate and then Open divisions happened over the course of the next three or four years. My family couldn’t afford the fancy costumes at first, but somehow or other mum managed to hide the true total costs from dad and I never went without something, even if it was the pre-loved fashions of the other girls. It was seemingly always the richest kids with the glitteriest tiaras that took home the big trophies, but I didn’t care all that much. My dancing kept me out of the house and away from the ordinary, and instead of being swept up by house chores and hormones I was being groomed as a reasonably respected little entertainer.

I got better and better at dancing, but I was certainly never the best. At the same slow rate I grew closer and closer to adulthood, but I was still a kid behind the ever-developing arsenal of fake tan, wigs and diamantes. My dancing teachers were committed and generous, but at the same time they could be brutal. Weekends were too often spent in championship ‘workshop’ conditions, which meant that our feet bled, knees ached and muscles burned to the point of spasm from hours upon hours of repetitive strain. Other girls came and went, but for the majority of those years I was too afraid to rock the boat in case I lost my distraction from what was going on at home or at school.

Dancing stopped being an effective diversion some time after my seventeenth birthday. I’d travelled interstate every year for at least half a decade with my competitions and I’d travelled to Northern Ireland to pursue my ‘dream’. I wanted it, and I eventually worked hard for it, but the praise was peppered with guilt for being so expensive and causing ‘real world’ financial issues with my folks. My schoolwork eventually suffered.  My high school boyfriend was doing what high school boyfriends do best and filling me with the confidence to run away and leave my stress behind. When that intense relationship fell apart, my dancing did too. Bitterness* replaced joy and the music eventually lost it’s draw. I went to practise once a week, and then once a month, and then not at all.

Whenever I hear a tune that is remotely jiggable, I dance it with my fingertips. Every irish dancer does this, I'd imagine.  I get shitty with myself when I can't remember how each dance went, and the versions it took on as the trends changed. I kind of hope that one day some friendly stranger asks me to hold their hand and do some Jump 2-3’s in a circle with them, because that’s how a true Irishman or woman would probably react if they found out that I knew how.
*Read alcohol and party drugs

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Three: Walls Don't Talk, I Do.

My mother and fathers marriage, although surviving multiple decades before combustion, was of even greater volatility. I say this as if I was there from the start, but I was born long after any fires of passion had turned to suspicion and contempt between them.

They lived through each day's task list just to get to the next, it seemed, struggling against each other as if morbidly motivated by the decay of their intimate lives. I loved them individually and more so with any glimpses of reciprocal joy that my sisters and I could harvest from them, but after seeing them throw garden tools at each other and speed away in the Fairlane clash after clash, I very quickly assumed that marriage was not an effective constitution for the role modelling of healthy interpersonal relationships. I knew that something was really off when we tried to take some friends to the movies in the City. I might've been about five years old. It was school holidays and my parents rallied up us three girls and our mates, which seems a difficult task in itself in retrospect and all fairness. We took the train from Wanneroo to Perth, but by the time we'd pulled away from the station Mum and Dad were casting vehement looks at each other from across the aisles. We blocked around to the cinemas and I think they got into a massive fight about what money they were using to pay our friends movie tickets with, so before we had a chance to grab our tickets Dad took off and Mum was sobbing uncontrollably, with seven kids staring at her, wide eyed. She tried to chase him down, pleading him to validate her argument, and we scrambled behind in tow all the way back onto the train and back to Wanneroo, without the social credit of seeing The Rescuers Down Under in the big smoke. My big sister kept asking me to shush every time I asked a question, but it was clear to me that I wasn't the only one wanting resolution.

I didn't grow up with any expectation that my parents would want to share their lives with me after I reached an age in which I could fend for myself, perhaps because I sensed that the family dynamic was already strained beyond the powers of my intervention and thus destined to break apart before I got a chance to stitch anyone or anything back together. If the walls of our family home could talk they wouldn't yell, and if they had fingers they wouldn't point. The fear of the walls breaking apart and exposing our weaknesses was possibly the mortar holding my parents together all that time. Unsurprisingly, we had mixed reactions to their ultimate divorce, even if it took the GFC for them to find a reason to call it quits that lay outside of their own emotional deadlock. I felt relief, and not unlike a vulture I picked through the decomposition to find two unique parents in which to develop new individual relationship frameworks with.

I don't believe that everything happens for a reason. Things happen in which we find reason, and sometimes this is in order to forgive.  It's harder to talk about things close to home, and that gives reason enough to place a high importance on sharing them.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Post Two Hundred and Twenty Two: Seven Times, From First to Last.

"Have you ever been in love?"

"Oh yes." she replied. "Seven times, from first to last. And I can tell you, that unlike the tick of a clock nothing can be predicted in such affairs but the rapture and sorrow of your first and last kiss."


Dorothy was a spinster for some time. It says so on certificate, right in the spot that lists her occupation, pre-domestic coercion. I like to think that as her granddaughter we might now have indulged in conversations about romance, had she still been alive. She might've told me about the occasion in which two seperate suitors rode on horseback to her family property to escort her to the same dance. We might have discussed too, the impact of war on her young family, and of the tension of those days that lead into weeks that lead into years. Maybe I could've gained a greater perspective on life's commitments and regrets. I would beg to talk about each year, without any blanks, to congratulate her not just on her life as a wife and a mother, but on those experiences that she hid away from the limiting opinion of others.

Through the instinctive eyes of a child, her marriage to my grandfather was like a perennial winter.  On more than one occasion he showed up at my family home unannounced, some three and a half thousand kilometres away from her, having driven all the way from Melbourne to Perth on a whim. No one ever asked him why he felt the need to escape her, and only in retrospect can I imagine how she felt as he 'left for milk,' failing to return for a fortnight or more, and with empty hands raised in demand of roasted meal.

~To be continued.