Thursday, August 01, 2013

Drink me to sleep

After an alcohol-free month, today is the day I am finally allowed to have a drink… yet I find myself inexplicably disinclined to do so.

Which is odd. Because I have been willing the 1st of August to roll around with more intensity than can be considered natural for anyone over the age of eight not waiting for Christmas morning. Seriously, this shit was difficult. Shamefully difficult. And at times the only thing stopping me from throwing in the teabag and downing some Pinot was the knowledge that (thanks to a StickK campaign) my best friend stood to gain $80 from my failure.

I quickly established wine-aversion tactics: soda water in wine glasses, late-night popcorn, motivational books, and a blossoming relationship with a Breville juicer. But none of these was able to replicate alcohol’s singular ability to quickly and effortlessly dissolve stress and emotional pain. And contrary to what I’d expected, the final week was by far the hardest; each day growing more torturous as the prospect of a freshly opened bottle of wine loomed. Whether this was as a result of the pressure of accumulated stress or the excitement of a difficult experience coming to an end, I don’t know. But I do know I came closest to surrender five days short of the finish line.

Which is why I find it so disconcerting that I now sit here, at ten o’clock at night, with two bottles of organic wine freshly purchased by my boyfriend sitting on the kitchen counter, and feel… reluctance.

Why?

Because during my 31 days of sobriety I accomplished things I’d been putting off for years. Things that seemed too difficult, or scary, or futile.

I wrote a funding grant for a theatre show, applied for inclusion in an Arts program, started a weekly eNewsletter, got published on artsHub, arranged reviewer tickets for a theatre show in Sydney, contacted a top acting agency about representation, registered a theatre company, and planned my stepson’s Communion. And as I write out this list I realise there may be something to this non-drinking thing after all.

So right now I feel as if I’m standing between my old self and new and I’m not quite sure which way to go.

Perhaps a glass of wine will help.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My issue with MTC's The Crucible

Depending on who you ask, MTC’s production of The Crucible sits somewhere between a sensitive and faithful interpretation of Miller's masterpiece and an excruciating poo.
It has been accused of depoliticising Miller’s text and likened to a staged reading. There’s even been a review of a review of the show.

But none of these commentators has identified my particular issue with this production: the depiction of Abigail, the 17-year old girl who starts the whole witch-trial cauldron bubbling.

High School students have been chewing pens over whether Abigail is villain or victim for decades, so I find it devastatingly disheartening that at a time when awareness of the ongoing vilification of women online and in real life is reaching a new tipping point, a mainstage production with the capacity to expose upwards of 15,000 people to this classic text has chosen the path of least consideration and settled on Abigail as bad-girl.

Let me explain.

Abigail Williams, as written by Miller, is a girl living in puritanical Massachusetts with her uncle after watching her parents get bludgeoned to death in their bed. She gets a job working for a family as a maid but sleeps with the man of the house and loses her job when his wife finds out. Problem is, she’s fallen in love with this man and now he wants nothing to do with her. Cue hysterical finger-pointing and contagious chaos.

Now look, you can talk about feminine wiles and manipulation all you like but a married man in his thirties who has sex with an unmarried 17-year old in the British Colonies of 1692 has a pretty good idea of the kind of future he’s sentencing her to.

And while I’m not saying that an interpretation of Abigail as vengeful accuser and villain isn’t plausible, there is certainly room for a much more considered, compassionate and socially relevant direction. One in which Abigail’s choices are a product of the cultural prejudices and situation in which she finds herself. Where we can see the fear in this girl, the helplessness, the adolescent selfishness and yes, the desire for revenge, but also the terror.

Otherwise what is this but a highbrow exercise in slut-shaming hidden behind fancy sets and award-winning acting.

Monday, June 24, 2013

On Step-Parenting

Falling in love with a man with children is not something I would have chosen for myself. But falling in love is rarely a choice. 

And the longer I’m in my current relationship, the more I’m able to look back on the past two years objectively and see that I’ve tried to fool myself into believing it’s no different to dating a childless man. But it is. Very much so.

And it has been difficult.

From that first awkward meeting in his lounge room being presented to an interview panel of two single-digit-aged boys, through fortnightly visits and school holidays trying to be friendly but unimposing, coming up with ideas of things to do, making them feel comfortable talking about their mum, and the girlfriend who came before me, it has been hard.

But it got easier. I told myself it did. And perhaps that’s true. Or perhaps I grew accustomed to the feeling of being a living reminder of what these boys would never have.

And then the youngest came to live with him, when we still lived separately and my struggles involved remembering to pack spare clothes for work and sharing his towel and always forgetting where I’d left my shoes.

And even though I knew it would be hard, that it would change him, that it would mean making lunches and supervising homework and trimming toenails and steaming vegetables, I supported the decision. I encouraged it. I reassured him that it wouldn’t scare me away and that I wouldn’t love him any less. That it was the right decision. Because I wasn’t one of those heartless women who turn a man away from his children, distracting him with a shiny new brood.  Because I wouldn’t deny a son the chance to live with his father. So I told him it would be fine.

And it was. In a way.

And it wasn’t.

Because four months later we decided to move in together, and in one weekend of removalists and delicate negotiations about interior design, I became the woman this child would see more than any other. His city-step-mum. The primary focus of his attention.

And I’ve welcomed it, and loved him, and worked hard to fill the gap left by not having daily access to the things only a mother can offer. But I wasn’t prepared for the sheer relentlessness of his need for attention. And despite my best efforts to remain disinterested, an instinct I can only classify as ‘maternal’ has doggedly put down roots in my cynical soul and I feel as if, in that weekend, I leaped from carefree kidulthood to middle-age, without any say in the matter.

Because whilst I’ve grown to love my boyfriend’s son and treat him as if he were my own, the fact is he isn’t. Not only because that position is already filled but because he was not a choice for me. He was a choice made by the man I love and another woman in another time and though I will continue to love and care for him as long as I’m afforded the privilege, I can’t help but be reminded of their love and failed hopes every time I look at him.

Which, I get it, isn’t really a big deal. Except that it denies me the bliss of ignorance. It reminds me that what you are certain could be the one thing that will carry you through the rest of your life in a cocoon of awesomeness is actually just as likely to turn out to be horseshit.

But the worst part is that I’ve begun to question whether I actually want to have kids of my own, when I’d never had any doubts about their inevitability, and I feel as if I’m in mourning for my own children. 

And that’s a feeling I don’t quite know what to do with. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

How many ways can you lose a friend?

It still amazes me how well I can function even from within the depths of deepest darkness.

And I step outside and the world is bleak and beautiful in the same breath of wind. And I listen to Paul Kelly sing Careless on repeat and allow my eyes to well and dry in a pathetic loop of self-pity.

And I think back on all I have experienced, suffered, been blessed with, and overcome in my 32 years and wonder if I will ever actually learn to live with myself. If all this endless work to self-improve, to be kinder, to forgive, to let things go, to accept what is, has really made any difference at all.

And I sit in my comfortable, White, able-bodied certainty and feel sad because apparently that is my right.

And even my depression disgusts me. But it's still the safest place I've ever been.


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How many cabs in New York City? How many angels on a pin? How many notes in a saxophone? How many tears in a bottle of gin? How many times did you call my name, knock at the door but you couldn't get in? I've been wrapped up in a shell nothing could get through to me. Acted like I didn't know I had friends or family. I saw worry in their eyes, it didn't look like fear to me. I know I've been careless. (I took bad care of this) Like a mixture in a bottle. Like a frozen-over lake. Like a long-time painted smile I got so hard I had to crack. You were there, you held the line, you're the one that brought me back. How many stars in the milky way, how many ways can you lose a friend?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013