Thursday, April 26, 2007

Anzac Day

Yesterday was Anzac Day in Australia - the day that Australia commemorates the lives of all our soldiers who have died in wars.

The 25 April was the day in 1915 that Australian and New Zealand soldiers set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. They thought it would be a quick fight to knock Turkey out of the war, but the Turks fought us back. The expedition was, in fact, an utter disaster from the Australian point of view.

I'm not sure what it says about us as a nation that we are so focused on celebrating and remembering a more or less complete military failure. But our view of ourselves as a nation pretty much began with that campaign. Generally speaking, we have an idea of ourselves as hardy, democratic, fiercely egalitarian, resourceful, brave and sticking by our mates.

To this day, thousands of people - mostly young people - make their way to the battlefields at Gallipoli and regard it as a kind of pilgrimage. Australians are mostly not very religious but, if we have a sacred place, it is Gallipoli.

I have written before about Anzac Day and, as usual, it was an emotional day for me. It was a day that crystallised all my mixed feelings about war - all the horror, the waste and destruction, but also the courage and endurance that humans are capable of.

But perhaps it is a sign of my improving state of mind that I didn't spend the whole day reflecting on the darkest aspects. In fact, I actually managed to find something positive to focus on.

There are not many people that I truly regard as great. But I think I would have to grant that title to Ataturk, the main commander of Turkish troops during that Gallipoli campaign. Not only did he hurl back an invasion of his country, become his country's first president, and essentially establish modern Turkey, but he wrote a tribute to the allied troops, his former enemies, that is now part of a new memorial in Canberra:

Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives... You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side now here in this country of ours... You, the mothers, who sent their sons from faraway countries, wipe away your tears. Your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land, they have become our sons as well.

The generosity and greatness of soul of this tribute brought on the only tears I shed this Anzac Day.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sex Dream

I had a very vivid sex dream last night.

This is not unusual for me. Usually, after weeks or months without sex, I have a series of incredibly vivid sex dreams and frequently wake up in mid-orgasm. When I was a teenager, I thought that only men had "wet dreams". Not so.

And alert readers will have noticed that it's been a while since any sex was occuring in real life.

So, actually, I'm usually kind of pleased to be enjoying some sexuality, even in my dreams.

But last night's episode had a very, very irritating twist. The man was very hot. I was truly enjoying myself. And guess what?

I got rejected. I got rejected in my own sex dream. Mysteriously, my lust object found that he had something better to do.

Apparently, my sub-conscious hates me.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What Have I Done?!

I may have done something really stupid.

I have an old friend named Pat - a friend that I am very fond of but who also drives me crazy. When I first met her at university, I was deeply impressed. I had actually never met anyone so clever, so deeply intellectual, so assertive and so clear in what she wanted. And she is still all those things.

At the age of 42 years old, she has decided that the right man is never going to turn up. She's had a few relationships, but the men all seemed to be pretty hopeless, so I can see why it didn't work out. And she has gone to a sperm donor clinic and got pregnant by herself.

I know. Doing it the hard way. But I think, in her position, with no good man in sight, I would have done the same thing. I know what it feels like to think that you will never have a child if it is the one thing you ever wanted to do. For me, it felt like death. They might as well have told me that I would die the following day because, frankly, I didn't see the point of going through all those long, barren years I would have left to live with no child.

Anyway, since Pat got pregnant, she has become estranged from her own family. It turns out that she was sexually abused by a neighbour when she was young and that her family, who found about it, did nothing at the time and nothing since. The fact is, she doesn't trust them to help her at a time when she is feeling vulnerable. She doesn't want to be around them herself and she definitely doesn't want them around her baby.

I listened to the whole story and thought about how horrible it would be to have a baby alone. I thought of my long labour, and how much worse it would have been without my Big Dude and my mum with me. I thought about those early weeks with a new baby when I wondered if I had made the worst mistake of my life. And I felt that I just couldn't leave Pat to do it all alone.

Somehow I found myself volunteering to have her at our place from late in the pregnancy through to the first weeks after the baby is born.

For a while there, I was very happy with the plan, thinking about how nice it would be, two old friends together with our babies. I even stopped brooding about my stupid job and reflected cheerfully on how their flexibility about my hours will hep us during that period. I was deeply moved when she said "Oh, I'm so grateful. You are the only person I really feel safe with".

But now, I am waking up to the reality of what I have committed to. I don't really like having house guests for longer than a week and this could be up to three months. Not to mention that extra house guest who will cry during the night, want to be fed every few hours and need its bottom wiped.

And of course, I am remembering the thousand little incidents of petty irritations with Pat over the years - she's so brilliant intellectually and yet so impractical about simple things. She can never admit that she's wrong about anything. She is already conducting running battles with her obstetrician over the handling of her diabetes. Also, she's very disorganised. She runs late all the time, she makes huge messes, she starts complicated projects and never finishes them - I'm very structured and that kind of thing gets on my nerves.

She won't be here until mid-July and already I can't decide whether I am excited about the whole project or dreading it.

Fuck. What have I done?!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Interview Me

Many of you will have seen the Interview Me meme replicating itself around Blogland, and the lovely Trueself came up with some great interview questions for me.

1 - How has having the Little Dude compared to your expectations of motherhood?

Motherhood is both a lot harder and also more fun than I thought it would be. The level of extra housework that a toddler generates has been an unpleasant surprise – after all, they are so darn small that it seems impossible!

But I underestimated how delightful my Little Dude would be. I didn’t really picture how he would laugh and be curious about everything and his sweet, affectionate nature. He is so much more of a personality than I would have predicted. I didn’t realize how having a child to play with would bring out my silly, fun side and how liberating that would be. I also didn’t realize how much positivity and meaning it would bring to my relationship and how it would bring out the best in my Big Dude.

2 - What advice would you give to a young woman starting a relationship with a man 20-30 years older than her?

It’s not for the faint of heart – but then, neither is any committed relationship. She may find that the differences between her and her man are not primarily about age at all. Mostly, I would say, enjoy it. Don’t allow worry about the future to rob her of the joy she is experiencing now. I worried too much in our early years and it didn’t do me a scrap of good.

3 - What is the greatest sacrifice you've made in your life and what made it worth making?

I think the ongoing sacrifice of some of my deepest wishes and longings about my sex life with the Big Dude has been the greatest sacrifice so far. I had a lot of hopes and I tried hard, but with only limited success. It is the one really great grief of my life so far – the loss of that passionate, physical side of love. Sometimes it hurts very much. What has made it worthwhile is that love remains. I know my Big Dude loves me. I know he thinks I am beautiful. I know he is trying, and that will have to be enough.

4 - What qualities would a blog generally have to attract you and make you a regular reader?

I am mostly interested in relationship blogs. I find myself pulled in by deep emotion, perhaps around a few core issues, honesty and willingness to look deeply and self-reflect. I find blogs where people have given up on their partners depressing. To keep me reading, the blogger also needs to show a little respect to their partner and the people around them. The ones who have flat-out contempt for their partners usually lose me fairly quickly. A sense of humour is vital!

5 - If you had the power to change one, and only one, law what change would you make?

In Australia, we have a law about mandatory detention of migrants who just turn up and don’t apply for a visa. Many of those who are detained are refugees or just people who are running away from terrible situations and Australia locks them up, sometimes for years.

Until recently, even children were locked up in these places. A few years ago, I got to know a little girl who had been in detention. We took her to the beach with us and she was such a lively, laughing little girl, shouting with excitement because she had never seen the sea before and running so bravely towards the waves. But I knew that she had seen terrible things - mental illness, despair, self-harm and suicide. It makes me physically sick to think of children in such places. I know there is no absolutely right answer to the issues of refugees and people smuggling. But this law, I think, simply must be changed because it does so much harm out of all proportion to the problem.

In accordance with the rules, you can leave me a comment saying, "Interview me" and I will respond by asking you five personal questions. You can answer these questions on your own blog or in the comments section of mine. You should include an offer to interview someone else and ask them five questions.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Easter Thoughts

I have been having trouble getting into Easter this year. I have been so preoccupied with other things that it's been hard to clear my mind.

Now lately it seems that, whenever I get into discussions about the bible, I end up arguing with someone about why it isn't inerrant. But the bible still speaks to me. There are times when it becomes the word of God.

For instance, I was reading the gospel of Matthew this afternoon and the tears pricked behind my eyes when I read these two verses:

Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.(Matt 10:38-39).

I never used to like that verse much. After all, who is really worthy, anyway? Also, it made me think of those sour-faced martyr-like women who go around complaining about how we all have a cross to bear, turning every little problem into a huge drama, and hinting heavily that their particular cross is us and our general thoughtless, selfishness and lack of appreciation.

But for some reason, I relate better to it now. I think it means that if we try to follow the right path, life inevitably presents us with things that are truly hard to endure - things that make us feel like we are dying inside and that make us think, "This is fucking killing me and I cannot do it".

If we try too hard to avoid those problems, if we keep chasing fantasies about all the other things we want instead, we will lose ourselves. We will lose touch with what is best about ourselves - our strength, our integrity and our compassion. We will fritter away our lives with petulant little complaints that life isn't the way it was portrayed in the brochure. We will never become what we could have been.

But if we take up that cross with a courage, carry it with a good will, even if we are complaining and cursing all the way, we will somehow find the life we were meant to have and become the person we were meant to be.

And we may find that the burden is not as heavy as we first thought:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.(Matt 11:28-30)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cool Personality Test

Ah, I just love the endless opportunities to analyse myself that are available on the internet...

But I do like this test's use of images instead of words. Try it and see what you think!

Monday, April 02, 2007


You know, I was about to write something else - my response to Trueself's interview questions for me. They are good questions and I will answer them.

But instead, I just want to mark a realization that surprised me the other day. I was thinking about all our issues - my Big Dude's health, our sex life (no sex at all in the last month), my job, my back, our finances, and all the other issues that have been worrying me. Added to that, my dear friend Judy is leaving town and is unlikely to return. My main source of real-life support and friendship is leaving me. But the other day I realized that, while I am still at some level worried about these things, the fact remains that I have been remarkably happy lately.

These issues, which are still problems to be addressed, don't seem to outweigh a kind of underlying happiness and contentment. And, while factors like counselling and the unclear-whether-it's continuing improvement in our sex life last month and moving to our new house have helped, I think the reason lies mainly in the spiritual side of my life.

I still have all the same doubts and questions about God. I am still suspicious and guarded about organised religion, even though I am attending a church. You want to know what I have been reading lately? Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion. Not exactly calculated to increase faith. In that sense, nothing has really changed.

But something seems to have happened to me. I did ask God, in the words of Don McLean, to cast the darkness from my soul. And somehow, this seems to have occurred. I still have times of frustration and fear and gloom, but they seem to appear and then fade out again rather than taking up full residence in my mind and heart and consuming all the good feelings.

I felt like I was struggling under a weight I couldn't lift. I would get up, but I couldn't stay up. And now, I just seem to be travelling more lightly.

I feel more grateful. I see the problems, but I also see the value of what I have. I love my Big Dude. I know he loves me. I have the joy of watching my Little Dude grow - a joy I came so close to missing. I have friends and a mother who care for me. While we have plenty of finacial difficulties, I have no real material needs that can't be met. Instead of focusing on all the things that other people have that I don't, I notice that many of them are wading through at least as much shit as I do.

I don't know how long this state will last - but I feel blessed.

And I have this other thought.

I am not sure that I could have got here if I hadn't struggled through that dark time. If I had run away, if I had tried to avoid the suffering by immersing myself in alcohol or sex as I have in the past, if I had refused to carry it, I think it would have got me. Somehow, turning to face the pain, looking at it dead on, seems to have lessened its power over me. The pain could determine how I felt, but it couldn't determine what I did. In that sense, I might have felt trapped, but actually I was free. Free to be more than just a collection of impulses to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Free to determine who I am and what I become.

It's like I turned to face the Medusa and, instead of it turning me into stone, I opened my heart and it become soft, tender, living flesh. I feel alive.