Angry Thoughts

I’m trying very hard to remain civil and eloquent.

I’m trying very hard to remain hopeful and positive.

Both are proving extremely difficult.

Because, once again, my country’s leaders have told us that, in the eyes of the law, LGBTQIA citizens are not equal. That we are not worthy of the same rights and recognition. That, despite being the last developed English-speaking nation holding out, despite years of evidence that it will not be the ruin of society, despite the vast majority of Australian citizens being in favour of equality, they continue to resist extending the basic right of marriage to all Australians, and will continue to resist it until their dying breaths.

In the past, when politicians have made homophobic remarks, dismissed the marriage equality movement or expressed ideas so incredibly ignorant that it’s hard to believe an adult actually said those words, I have tried to laugh. I’ve laughed at the idiocy, at the archaic nature of our politicians, at the ridiculous stubbornness of ageing men desperate to keep us in the past.

But it’s becoming harder to laugh, harder to remain hopeful in the face of such clear and constant reminders that for all the campaigning, debating, awareness raising and polling, that our leader simply do not care about us.

Some would argue that this is a matter of opinion, that everyones entitled to their position and entitled to stand by their beliefs. But I say, when your beliefs and your opinions are hurting people you are in the wrong. And this hurts. The affects people’s lives. This tells people they are lesser. This kills. Your intolerance and resistance to change is hurting and killing people. LGBTQIA people are at an increased risk of assault, of mental health issues, of suicide, and you are actively enabling that by telling them they are not worthy of the same things you are worthy of.

They say it’s not personal, but that, with respect, is bullshit. Politicians are ignoring the voices of the people and clinging to their own outdated agendas, forcing their beliefs on the rest of us because they happen to find themselves in positions of power. They are hurting us, and telling us it’s for our own good, and I am finding it so very hard to stay positive.

If I fall in love with a man, I will be able to stand before the law and bind myself to him. I will be able to make a commitment recognised by the law and the government, and enjoy all the benefits that come with it. My relationship will matter.

If I fall in love with a woman, I won’t be able to do any of those things. Because as far as my country is concerned, my relationship will not be equal, will not be worthwhile, will not matter.

If I fall in love, I want it to matter.

Forget that every other developed English-speaking nation has legalised it. Forget that clinging to outdated laws is making us the laughing stock of out allies. Forget the supposed separation of church and state, or the evidence that same-sex relationships don’t hurt children and won’t lead to legalised bestiality. Forget that the meaning of marriage has constantly evolved over the centuries and that laws are constantly rewritten and that this debate is exhausting and that Holy Catholic Ireland got there before us –

This is hurting us. I can’t laugh about that anymore.

Honesty

I haven’t written much lately.

I haven’t felt like writing much lately.

I could beat around the bush, throw out any number of excuses about my enduring lack of productivity, but they’d all be exactly that – excuses. I’m not all that comfortable with this particular depth of honesty, but because I’m working on rejecting shame and embracing truth, I want to be honest with myself. And with whoever happens to read this, if anyone.

I’ve been struggling, recently, with depression and anxiety, and a touch of OCD. I’ve been working on this, with all the accompanying ups and downs, for about 10 years now, but I’ve been in a down swing lately, one I’m still trying to crawl out of.

Anyone who’s experienced it, whether directly or through a loved one, will know how these conditions most often manifest. Beyond the obvious constant lowness and unshakeable, paralysing fear, there’s the headaches, the aches and pains, the exhaustion and inability to focus, the feeling of dread and disconnection, the loss of interest in the things you used to love.

I love writing. It’s one thing I know I can do, one thing that always made me happy, but for the past 6 months or so, I’ve struggled to write a word.

Things are better now then they were last month, or 3 months ago, or late last year, but putting words on paper is still proving a challenge. These words are especially challenging – it is, understandably, not something I enjoy talking about. Perhaps I’m hoping by forcing myself to express it, I’ll be more able to overcome the problem. I’m not quite sure. But I know that keeping things to myself, bottling them up, doesn’t work.

I don’t like talking about those things – it’s a vulnerability I’m not accustomed to and not at ease with – but my belief in the importance of dialogue is stronger than my discomfort. There’s a stigma attached to mental illness. People don’t want to talk about it, and this in turn makes it harder for people to seek help. It’s a cycle that needs to stop. If for every person that rejects shame and speaks out, another finds the strength to ask for help, then I’ll happily embrace the discomfort.

I’m more than my illness. This post is proof enough for me. Some days it may beat me, but right now, more often than not, I’m okay – and I’m hoping, just maybe, I might be ready to start writing again.

Cate Blanchett, Carol, and Why It Matters

In case you missed it, earlier this week, while promoting a movie, Carol, in which she plays a bisexual woman, Cate Blanchett made reference to previous relationships with other women. Cate Blanchett, who is married to a man, and has been for quite some time, said she has had intimate relationships with women ‘many times’. She stopped short of calling herself bisexual, and that’s ok. Sexuality is fluid and personal and if she doesn’t identify as bisexual far be it from us to force the label upon her.

But, as it was sure to do, this revelation led to quiet the media frenzy, and this is where the problems began.

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1.) “Cate Blanchett’s Lesbian Past” – now, when a woman has had relationships with women and men, the assumption would be that she is attracted to both women and men, and therefore, if she must be labeled, would be be described as bisexual. Yet despite the growing acceptance of the words ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’, people still seem bizarrely reluctant to talk about, or even acknowledge the existence of, bisexuality.

2.) “Why do we have to label everything they’re just relationships labels are evil” – I choose to believe this comes from a good place, from a desire to see people as people regardless of their gender, colour, creed or sexuality. Yes, labels can be harmful when given unwillingly or taken and used against you. But the fact is, labels can be important. When you’re struggling to figure out what you’re feeling, trying to understand yourself, worrying that maybe you’re Wrong, having a name to put to it is important. Labels you choose for yourself can be incredibly liberating. Knowing this applies to you, knowing there is a word for it, that other people identify the same, that it’s normal – there can be no underestimating the important of that.

Now, Cate Blanchett may not identify as bisexual. But I do. And to see bisexuality thrust so roughly into the public eye, only to be shot down – that hurts. From the usual bile and ignorance to the outright refusal to consider bisexuality as a possibility.

It took me a long time to feel comfortable with who I am. I spent years wishing I could be one thing or the other, not somewhere in between. I didn’t know any bisexual people. There were no bisexual celebrities, no characters in movies or books, no one for me to look to and think “they’re like me and they’re all right. I’ll be all right too”.

To have a someone like Cate Blanchett – ridiculously talented, incredibly successful, happily married – to look up to would have meant the world.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding about bisexuality. That bisexuals are insaitably promiscuous, can’t make up their minds. That they’re home wreckers out to steal husbands, incapable of monogamy. That they’re gay, but just don’t want to admit it, or straight and just want to be different. That it simply doesn’t exist. I’ve heard this from the media, from strangers, from people I’m close to. There are people hearing this now, in the wake of Blanchett’s interview, and pushing down parts of themselves they feel they should not or cannot accept.

At the end of the day, Cate Blanchett’s sexuality is not our business nor our concern. What she does or does not identify as is irrelevant to our lives. But the reaction to it is telling of a deeper misunderstanding, a deeper prejudice, a discomfort with difference from the perceived norm.

I am many things. I choose many labels for myself and I am still learning to be comfortable with them all. Many LGTBQIA individuals are facing the same struggles. Cate Blanchett herself cannot hint at bisexuality without facing a barrage of speculation, mocking and outright denial.

There’s a deeper issue here than Cate Blanchett’s relationship history. That’s the real story.

Age of Anticipation

Avengers: Age of Ultron comes out this week. I’m seeing it on Wednesday evening. I bought my tickets a few weeks ago, keen to see it as early as possible. I’ve waited 3 years for this movie. I’m not having it spoiled at the last by some over-eager reviewer on Facebook.

It’s just a movie, but I’m excited. I love stories, and the universe Marvel has created has become one of my favourites. I’ve looked forward to each new instalment, snatched up advance screening tickets to see it first and marked the days til my friends and I see Iron Man blast bad guys again.

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It does, however, make me realise that we so often live in a world of anticipation. When work is slow or my weekends quiet, I rely on the future to stay motivated. Looking forward to things – holidays, birthdays, Christmases or new movies – often gets me through life’s duller moments. We look to the future, sometimes excited, sometimes fearful, when perhaps we’d be better served focusing our energies on the present.

While looking forward to things can be an useful motivator, an effective way to cope with stress, I worry about living in constant anticipation. I remember eagerly awaiting my First Communion as a child, only to find the event underwheming and over with faster than thought. When you spend your days in waiting and commit such energy and excitement, you are sure, sooner or later, to be let down. When you focus your thoughts so heavily on what is to come, surely you miss some of what is.

I am excited to see the new Avengers movie. I’m excited to see Les Mis next months, and for my birthday in August, and Taylor Swift in November and Christmas ahead of that. I mark my time in milestones and look forward to the ones ahead. But as I look to the future, I am trying to keep my head in the present and appreciate what each day has to offer, to live my time rather than bide it.

Not every moment we live will be remarkable. Some, if not many, will be rather ordinary and occasionally boring. Moments of calm, of routine and comfort. The in-between moments that make the highlights possible.

I am seeing the Avengers on Wednesday evening, but first I have Monday morning and Tuesday afternoon slump and Wednesday lunch orders and making dessert for my dad’s birthday. I’ve got trains to catch and laundry to fold and friends to call and a lot to do before Wednesday evening, and I don’t want to wish it away waiting.

The Art of Self-Care

I had no plans for the Easter long weekend. 5 days of freedom, and no plans. At the outset this sounds glorious, but knowing myself I’d get maybe 12 hours in before the lack of plans drove me into a deep pit of lazy discontentment and snappish irritability.

I chose, instead, to dedicate my long weekend to self-care – doing things I like, things that are good for me, for no other reason than making myself happy. This weekend, slef-care meant long hours writing or reading, baking and cooking for my family, afternoon naps and board games with friends, long hot baths, buying new make up and an especially lovely breakfast by the harbour on a rainy Autumn morning.

Self-care is different for everyone – to some people, it means going for a run, to others a lazy morning sleep-in, or a trip to the beach, seeing a movie. Self-care plays an extremely important role in maintaining my wellbeing and improving my outlook, but I have a tendency to feel guilty for dedicating time to myself. Somehow it feels wrong, selfish, neglectful of the people in my life and my responsibilities to them.

I’ve struggled with that for a long time. Taking time to read or write can be especially hard for me. I feel like I’m doing nothing with my time, even when there’s no one there to see it. I’ve had to challenge that part of myself, sometimes more successfully than others. But this past weekend, I finished and submitted a short story I was convinced I wouldn’t complete. I slept late and woke when  I wanted and didn’t punish myself for it. I spent a large sum of money on things that I wanted and didn’t second-guess myself or feel guilty for it.

I feel there’s a powerful stigma attached to acts of self-care – investing time in yourself is so often dismissed as vain, selfish, arrogant or attention seeking. I believe we need to challenge this perception, starting in our own lives. We cannot rely on others to validate us, to take care of us and fulfil our every need. Self-care, in whatever form it takes, is about learning to meet your own needs, to offer yourself comfort, to find strength and contentment internally rather than depending on others granting it to us.

Take time to look out for yourself. Do things that make you happy. Be selfish. Be vain. Give yourself the attention you deserve.

Pros and Cons

The Pros

  • Baking experiments – the fresh homemade hot cross buns I baked last weekend, and the pear and chocolate cake I made after.
  • Blanket scarves – it’s juuuuust cool enough to justify wearing one for my morning trip to work or in an over air-conditioned office, and it’s like wearing a hug.
  • Advance tickets to Avengers: Age of Ultron. Because I love superhero movies. I love them so much.
  • My Urban Decay Naked 3 palette – I love make up and I refuse to apologise for that, and this is the best make-up purchase I’ve ever made.
  • Sushi exists – Mum and I had a sushi date for dinner on Saturday. Crunchy prawn rolls. hng.
  • Progress on The Project. Slow, labourious progress, but progress none the less.

The Cons

  • Neglecting physio exercises. Back is hurting. I’ve got to get back to it.
  • There are things I need to do that I am avoiding doing for irrational reasons. Have to work on avoiding avoiding….??
  • Not getting enough sleep.
  • Hozier is performing in Sydney tonight and I am not there.

It’s been a long time since I wrote anything here, or wrote anything in general. I’m trying to get back into putting words on the screen, taking baby steps back towards achieving my goals. It’s proving harder than I’d hoped, but I’m persisting.

I more or less stopped writing late last year, mainly due to health issues – that’s a discussion for another time and another post – but I’m trying to get myself back into gear and keep things in perspective. A break from writing doesn’t mean I can’t write or I’ll never write again. As difficult as it’s proving right now, I still love writing. I might be in a rut, but I’m trying to work through it. And that means focusing on the good things, rather than fixating on the bad.

So I’m going to try – try being the operative word – to write a weekly list of Pros. A list of good things that have happened, happy memories, highlights from the week gone by, things to focus on through bad days and dry spells. Sometimes there might be Cons too – things that went wrong, struggles and stumbles, lessons learned and obstacles overcome. The aim, in theory, is for the Pros to outweigh the Cons.

I might not be great at keeping this up and sticking to doing it every week, we’ll see, but I’m going to try, and for now trying is a pro in itself.

Reclaiming Red Lips

I’m in love with lipstick. I collect them and keep them neatly arranged in the third drawer of my make-up organiser, stacked from shimmery, petal pinks and dusty roses to the bloodiest reds and velvety purples.

In the second drawer I keep eye make-up. Powder palettes and tinted creams, eyeliners – pencils, crayons, liquids, gels, in black and brown and blue – lash curlers, little tubes of inky mascaras and glitter, brow pencils and soft-bristled brushes. Above that, the creams, primers and powders I use on my skin, more brushes and sponges and cotton pads. My nail polishes have their own basket. My perfumes are displayed on my dresser. I keep my heels stacked in their boxes beneath my dresses and skirts.

I went through a phase in my primary school days when I violently rejected anything ‘feminine’, because to be girlish was to be weak, insipid, somehow lesser. The boys in my classes used ‘girl’ as an insult – ‘you run like a girl’, ‘don’t be such a girl’. I heard this so often I started to believe it. I turned away from skirts and jewellery and the colour pink, even though I liked those things. I tried, rather dismally, to make myself like ‘boy’s things’, to dress and act and carry myself like a boy. I was a girl, but I didn’t want anyone thinking I was girly.

I carried this into my teenage years, when I stupidly believed my aversion to typically female interests like make up and pop music and The OC somehow made me better than other girls.

At some point, with some gentle prodding from Mum, I discovered foundation and concealer, and a little later I started experimenting with eyeshadow, collecting unwanted palettes from older cousins. I was probably 17 before I bought my first lip stains, older before I was brave enough for eyeliners, and even then I told myself there were styles and colours I couldn’t carry. Some women could wear dramatic wings and red lips, and they were beautiful, but they weren’t me. I couldn’t do that.

Until I could. I read blogs and watched videos and paid a little too much attention to other women’s faces, and worked my way up to red lipstick. I bought my first true red about a year ago, in a Boots on Oxford St. It was the start of an addiction.

I’ve taken lots of steps towards reclaiming the femininity I was once so ashamed off, but make-up has played such an important role in embracing and loving who I am. I could be accused of buying into an industry that profits of women’s insecurity, and to an extent, you’d be right. The cosmetics industry is undoubtedly flawed. But when I wear make-up, I am wearing it for me. Because I like the way I look, because it makes me feel good about myself, because I can make myself look sweet as a summer day or dangerous as a dragon in a silk skirt. Make up is a distinctly feminine experience, an art form practiced and passed down almost exclusively by women, one we’re taking back from those who ridiculed it.

To me, red lipstick is about more than style. It’s a statement. A grand fuck you to those 10 year old boys who told me to stop being such a girl, to the 14 year old who told me boys don’t like girls who wear make up, to the 17 year olds who complained that make-up is ‘false advertising’ and the 22 year olds who put dark lips on their lists of 14 Trends That Deserve To Die.

I will wear skirts and gemstones and grow my hair and paint my face. I will control my image and the way the world sees me. I will post selfies and accept compliments and believe in my own beauty. I will take my girlhood and weaponise it and leave scarlet stains on all my teacups.