Sunday, June 26, 2011

naming and shaming

I awoke to an odd comment on this blog. Early on a Sunday morning, someone in an outer Melbourne suburb had been visiting the site of a local blogger, clicked my non-de plume in his links and got redirected here. From there they chose just one title in the recent posts, an entry that consisted of just two sentences, and felt compelled to comment.

The two lines mentioned a Guardian article and my friend Lucy’s response to it. The visitor did not read either piece, instead they vented their spleen, presumably driven by the title of the post Is child-free the new black?

Anonymous wrote
“Cecent (sic) people who have never had children - never truly know what it is to love somthing (sic) or someone more than life itself.

I feel sorry for all the barren, self centred types.”

Someone I don’t apparently know felt an overwhelming need to connect with me, to us, to tell us we are wrong, inadequate, lacking the ability to love and are driven by ego.

I stopped myself picking apart the inaccuracies in anonymous's comment (who am I to judge someone else’s equally as woeful spelling?) and remembered Brene Brown.

You see, last night I found some podcasts I’d downloaded 2 years ago and spent a couple of hours listening to the wonderful Dr Brown talk candidly about shame resilience. Did I feel that anonymous was trying to tap into some seam of shame within me, that I wanted to attack them (I keep wanting to write “her”, there is something feminine about this response) in return?

Brene Brown says many wise things about the difference between guilt and shame, and also empathy and compassion.

Taking a step aside from myself and anonymous for a moment, I’m a little overwhelmed by the judgments that are continually made about people who don’t have children. Regardless if this is through choice or circumstance. Over the last few days I’ve done my best to wade through the comments on Clem Bastow’s piece in The Age last week. But I find the volume and intensity of emotion somewhat alarming. To summarise the majority fall into two camps – those that negatively judge Clem with scorn or pity for saying she doesn’t want to have children and others who say 'ho-hum this topic is done to death, this article is so last century'.

But you see from anonymous being driven to comment on a mere headline, the issue of not having children is still relevant today. Why else would someone who doesn’t know me, or Lucy, feel compelled to name and shame the “barren” as being self-centered and incapable of experiencing love?

I want to sit and have a chat about those two points for a minute. No attack. No judgment. Just virtually toss them around with anonymous, without assigning a value. Is that possible?

Anonymous is alluding, I believe, to unconditional love. When I sat with my dying brother through his final weeks I believed I experienced this holy grail of love. There was nowhere else I wanted to be. My small business ceased to exist. I’d happily have moved to the end of the earth indefinitely (or at least the city he was dying in). To some extent all my needs evaporated. There were irrational thoughts of what I’d barter to save his life (for a while I considered giving up sex forever, yes unconditional love is tinged with an element of insanity). I’d eat and sleep occasionally but my life revolved around him. I could not think of any other time in my life I felt this way about my brother.

As messy, noisy and scary as death is, there’s such a privilege to sit with someone while they are dying. To be permitted, or welcomed, to be with them for their final breath.

Though this process was privileged and life changing, it was also utterly private. It’s not been something I’ve felt the need to share so publicly before. But when I meet people who find death scary, when people I’ve known have run from these experiences, I don’t judge them. I don’t believe there is weakness in that. Not everyone wants to witness the death of a stranger or a loved one. I feel compassion for their fear. I hope that in their life they become less afraid of death and dying. I don’t wish them to be shamed by their feelings around it.

At the times in my life when I desperately wanted a baby. And yes, desperate is the most appropriate word to describe the longing. It was all about having MY baby. A piece of ME. A person who’d ensure my immortality by ensuring my DNA, MY essence, perpetually through time. (Reading the words as they pour out, I’m struck by the fact that I have just written about fearing death. Coincidence?) Perhaps that proves anonymous’s point, that I am self-centred after all. Because I could dress the desire up in so many other clothes, but deep down, the essential ingredient in this yearning to reproduce was me. Perhaps that's just me and that all the other men and women who become parents have never had an inkling of that desire.

The TED talk below has nothing to do with being child-free. It’s a thank you to anonymous, for helping me get in touch with my vulnerability. Enjoy.

Cross posted on Deliberately Barren.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

no charges laid

Right now I’m sitting comfortably in my seat, tummy pleasantly full from a pleasant breakfast at Café Vue in the International terminal. My new noise cancelling headphones are snuggled over my ears and I’m flipping through the inflight entertainment on my personal console. While I’m deciding what film I’ll watch first, I’m thanking the goddess that there’s no child behind me, relentlessly jabbing said console in game playing mode.

Actually, I’m not

I’m still in bed. With a hot water bottle and a hungry stomach. Not flying to New Zealand for a long weekend.

Having dodged the ash cloud returning from my recent Newcastle trip, the little bugger is back, mucking up trans-Tasman travel.

Tomorrow morning the alarm will go off at 5.45 once more, I’ll groggily switch on the light, turn on my iPhone and check my flight status….

Ground hog day? I’ll let you know.

They say bad things comes in threes and this past week or so has certainly delivered a trilogy of unwanted surprises – my workplace was been broken into and vandalised, blocked pipes at home meant I had a weekend without a functioning toilet, a horrible odour and visitors to share the experience with and today…the grogginess that comes from sleeping badly and too little.

Each little mishap has been inconvenient but not the end of the world. There’s the pain of unexpected bills (and loss of income) and a headache from not having slept for long enough. That’s all.

Saw this paste up – high up in a city laneway yesterday. It made me laugh on an inclement day. Looking forward to the unexpected today.

Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water…

…Jack fell down and broke his crown but Jill was acquitted of all charges.

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Thursday, June 16, 2011

24 hours in Newcastle

It rained, it poured but we packed a heck of a lot into those soggy hours in Newcastle. Read more about the art, food and coffee at my other blog.

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