Living Life on your own Terms


She knew what it felt like to be owned, or rather, how it felt when others presumed to own her. She had never felt as free as when she placed her most treasured possessions in a suitcase and left the detritus of her old life. The wardrobe was crammed with dresses and coats she would never wear again. The comforts of times past were still sitting on the shelves, her linen on the turned-down bed. She looked around her room one more time, and then closed the door, not looking back. One suitcase and a pocket filled with dreams were all she carried. She would never again see photographs of herself as a child, nor read through old schoolbooks. Stories were contained inside her mind, recollected at a moment’s notice. It is much more fun to belong to oneself. She thought of who she might be as an older lady. She hoped that she would have honed her own style, after years of discarding what hadn’t worked. She hoped that she may have found what did. Whether that be becoming a Lady in Pink, or the Chick in Green.

Perhaps, there would be the wistfulness that comes when one has had to make hard but true choices. This Iggy Pop song would take her back.

There is a price to pay for freedom, whether it be emotional, material or everything in between. One must not think too much about the risks, or one would never be brave enough to leave. All it takes is a deep breath, and the knowledge that the centre isn’t holding and is actually giving way. The trip into the unknown is the only way to survive. To be one’s own master, not owned nor contained. Twenty years pass, just as in the song, ‘Candy.’ She is ever closer to reaching her golden years. Perhaps a lady in pink awaits, or maybe she will become a rainbow. She wonders whether she has used up her quota of colours in younger years; maybe she will instead cloak herself in charcoal and grey? She knows that birds, dogs, a wild garden and books shall feature heavily. Wherever she ends up, and whomever she is evolving into, she can say she has lived life on her own terms. She was always an unruly spirit, unconstrained and certainly never owned nor boxed in. No matter what they thought…

 

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The Handmaid’s Tale


The Handmaid’s Tale, a series based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 book, has just been released in Australia. Last night I streamed it, determined to watch only the first episode and have an early night. Of course, that didn’t happen. What ended up occurring was I watched all ten episodes. It was confronting and terrifying,  yet it somehow made my resolve stronger. As a survivor of sexual assault, physical violence and fundamentalist religion disguised as faith and obedience, I am acutely aware that the depiction isn’t a grim warning about what may happen. For survivors it is a remembrance of what has already been, and what we must guard against.

The order decreed in Gilead is the ultimate submission by women. Not having access to money and property nor control of their bodies. It is a world I don’t want to live in. It is a world I have lived in. Having scriptures spouted to suit whatever situation befalls, and to claim it as evidence that the perpetrator is in the right. Women and girls being told that they are here to be pleasing and pleasant, first and foremost. The exquisite rebellion encapsulated by reading, driving a car or etching words of encouragement for those who come after you in your cell.

I vowed that if I survived, I would fight for my daughter to not have to endure a speck of what myself and my contemporaries endured. I was fourteen when I uncovered that grown men were placing bets on who would obtain this child, far away from home. My mental fortitude kept me alive, even as they sought to destroy me, discarded as collateral damage in a war I knew nothing of. I hadn’t been taught the rules, so how could I be expected to play? We must arm our daughters with knowledge, fill their hearts with empathy and love, and make damned sure that no part of The HandMaid’s Tale is a part of their future. I know of too many incidents of women who are infertile sitting in far-right churches, and left crushed after it is announced that yes, it is indeed a fertile church, and one of its members is pregnant with her fifth child. Everybody applauding, amid laughter that God has rewarded this place with ripe fruit. The women who can’t have children or who are undergoing IVF feel as though a sword has pierced their soul upon such occasions. Worth is down to how fertile you are, and home-making lessons are offered and encouraged. The women are kept ‘accountable’ to each other. How exhausting and depressing. Freedom is found when you can be whomever you want in this world. It is not found in your dress, your submission, nor your fertility.

A week in my life from twelve years ago (part 2)


I found the following pages that I wrote around twelve years ago. This was long before I became a mother; long before my child was in the school system and long before she was found to be dyslexic. I was around ladies who had been wounded in childhood, and through their own tenacity, had survived. I was around women over eighty whom I wanted to emulate in older years. Apparently, I never did like party plans! Reading through my summary of this particular week has me convinced that there are signposts along the way, indicating where we shall find ourselves, and who we are destined to become.

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‘Sunday, I attended a writer’s meeting. A real estate agent talked about his former life as an English teacher. He apparently loathed it. His daughter-in-law then introduced herself, and I desperately wanted to interrupt her. There was no love for her chosen teaching career, and certainly none for her students. “You can’t show them up in front of the class anymore, they believe it’s humiliating! Some of them can’t read or spell properly. In kindergarten they knew that they were failures. Some of them, however, refuse to face facts… If you don’t fit into society and it’s expectations, you will be discarded.” I shot my hand up, feeling like a child in front of this ferocious creature. I talked about the excellent literacy program at the Exodus Foundation, and sweetly inquired as to whether the students had access to anything similar where she taught? Turns out, she was the bloody remedial teacher! I commented that kids have to take in so much these days, and she was un-moved. She used big words, laughing, “some don’t even know the meaning of preposition, and get similes confused!” Oh the horror! I was livid, and ranted under my breath that using big words doesn’t make you clever, nor a writer.

In a lapse of sanity, I agreed to go to a party plan event at a friend’s. My friend is a beautiful, intelligent woman with raven coils setting off a heart-shaped face. Poor darling is surrounded by antiquated ideals and suffocating domesticity. The women gathered were apparently school mums, though in truth, I don’t think that half of them were friends to themselves. They glared as I entered the living room, and looked me up and down. I demurely found a place to sit amongst the humourless women. They chatted amongst themselves about what my friend had in her home. The features, the furniture, the carpet. What they needed to renovate in their own homes. Items that I could buy down the street for $1.00 were being ordered at $40. The women glanced at each other’s order forms, to see who was getting what. I felt like sticking a fork in my eye. I felt like grabbing my friend’s hand and running like the wind away from this hell and these horrid women.

Monday was a better day. I kept a friend company by accompanying him on his truck as he made deliveries, my little dog in my lap. We had a great time cruising Sydney’s highways. I then raced to Lenka’s puppet show at the University of Technology. Lenka is a famous Czech puppeteer, and her work was featured in the movie, Amadeus. I met many fringe-dwellers and artists, as well as Koori friends. Aboriginal elder, Uncle Percy, and sweet Koori healer Yangamarra piled into our car afterward. Uncle Percy sang whilst Yangamarra drummed.

What a week it has been! Some hours were forthright and exhilarating. Some were a drudge, which I frankly resented spending precious moments of my life on. It all adds to the tapestry of life! You realize who and what you want to become through all these experiences.’