Sunday, September 25, 2016

The importance of pierced nipples, to me

What I've done in the recent past is give myself too much credit. Knowing myself well, I thought that I was capable, if only I tried hard enough to forego my sexuality, to simply park it, and in this way there would be harmony and equanimity in my life. After all, I'd managed to dig deep and find copious patience and tolerance, to put aside other dreams of mine, so why not consider me the problem, dig deeper, research more about what was wrong with me, and simply alter myself to be more in line with the sexuality of the other.

It turns out altering one's sexuality is not just a matter of putting one's mind to it. My arousal, or not, isn't something that I can fake. I can't simply decide to be a vanilla woman, someone who is not aroused by sado-masochistic stimuli. It's an enigma when one's partner's arousal isn't exactly compatible. Long before I began writing in this online journal I blamed myself for my (non-mainstream) arousal, my secret thoughts and my desires. I was the odd person out here, not him. These past months have been a return to that self-flagellation.

My dismissal of this stance occurred over several key moments in time. I was accused by someone who knows me well of "kink shaming" and I told him that it was an absurd comment and a particularly hurtful thing to say to me. But, over the next few days I began to see that he was right in the sense that I was making kinkiness out to be a major 'problem' and something unnatural. I was naturally kinky. In shaming myself by having kinks I was shaming kink. My argument and thinking was flawed in some fundamental ways.  I had got into my head that I could kick kink much as someone kicks alcohol or caffeine or sugar or drugs; by withdrawal. Let's face it. I had tried that over a couple of decades in my twenties and thirties and managed to do nothing but grow the kink.

To celebrate this new liberated view of myself I took myself to the city and had my nipples pierced, something that has been on my bucket list for a long, long time. I needed a physical manifestation and transformation; a moment by moment reminder of my true nature. I wrote a long post about the experience but decided in the end that I wanted to keep the experience close to my heart. I think it is enough to say that all elements of the experience reconfirmed for me that I am who I am, and my body now signified that in a way that is meaningful to me.

There is a big difference between dominating and being domineering with a woman. I am well aware of the difference and what makes me happy. In embracing my kinkiness I acknowledge my willingness and enjoyment to submit to the domination of my submissive, masochistic and kinky sexual nature at the same time as I recognize that domineering behaviour will always been seen for what that is. A submissive woman still has dreams and plans of her own.

If I ever have a desire to write in a way that has me rejecting a part of me that is so intrinsic to me, I will be very disappointed with myself. I'm too old for this self-flagellation and attempts at sacrifice. Whatever the circumstances of my life, I remain as I am and I've the nipple rings to prove it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


It's happened a few times recently. I can be going along very nicely, content, when I am thrown off course. When I recover, it's hard to remember or to explain the unsettled state, or to answer why it might have happened a couple of times in recent months. Of course, I do have some ideas; a lack of opportunity for self expression springs to mind.

I think of it as a containment issue. For decades I've been fundamentally serene in my presentation and then there's a 'blow out'. No one knows when to expect it, certainly not me. It's as if pressure has built up in the valve and the pressure must be released. It can no longer be contained.

Two thoughts about that. Scrolling through my tumblr feed I came across some words of wisdom about my husband's star sign. The advice was spot on: to be gentle and listen; to provide empathy and understanding. Never to try to change, or to think that you could control because that was never going to happen. I think the 'blow outs' relate to that; the sheer frustration of that. And then, I realize the situation and return to my bubble; my state and place of acceptance.

Second point: that there has been a permanent change in my state of mind over the past several years and nothing feels better or more natural to me than containment. It's something I organize and maintain myself, in ways, and thus there's a requirement on me to be consistent and committed. In other words what really matters in my life is that in spite of the support that may, or may not, be available to me, its my acceptance of what works for me that is at the heart of the containment and serenity.

Blow outs hit me like a tsunami and are just as torrid and destructive, from an emotional point of view. They toss me about like a bit of board and then leave me flattened and broken on the ground. It's a destructive energy force that must work it's way through me before it blows out.

Maybe a lion in a cage might feel like this sometimes; growling at the edges of the cage; never completely used to the enclosure. That's not quite right because 95% of the time I love that enclosure and wouldn't replace it for a boundless grassy meadow on any account. But, then there's the 5% of the time when my sensibilities can be rocked by the slightest word out of place. I guess that 5% of the time is building up over time, but it doesn't feel that way at all. Rather, it feels like an instant discombobulation that hits out of nowhere and dies down in an equally random way when the energy supply has run out.

Of course, in the thick of it, I've no idea that it will end at all. I don't know that it is not permanent; that it is a freak storm with an end. A freak storm or a frustration fit? These incidents have this in common for sure: a feeling of frustration that I've no ability to effect change; that I'm caught; that I am who I am and need what I need; that I am forever uniquely me; not an easy thing to reconcile.

I think, over years and years, others get to see that this will happen from time to time and that the kindest thing to do is to provide the wall on which I may bash my head until it hurts enough for me to realize that it is in fact a brick wall. There is next to no chance of brick walls tumbling down or changing their form. There's no negotiation with a brick wall. There's no civil conversation to be had with a brick wall.

And so, spent, I sit. I sit very quietly and realize that freedom, that girlhood, isn't what I wanted after all. It doesn't suit me. I don't wear it well. Rather, it wears me and that's not a good look.

The moment I accept that containment is my lot there's a little smile that forms in the corners of my mouth. Thank the Lord for brick walls, I think; for the resolve of the brick wall; the strength and non-negotiability of a brick wall.

It's a love/hate thing. I can feel that I have the nouse, the creativity, the vision to enlarge my world and the world generally. The ego is intact. Yet, the forces of my world, from every visible corner don't see it that way. It's not for me, they say. It's not my fate; not the way I was designed. A tiger is a tiger. A bird is a bird. It's not right to pretend that I'm something I'm not, I'm told.

I shine. I shine in my own way. I'm happy, in my own way. This is the way it is. This is the way it was ordained from the outset. It is what it is.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Why stories matter

My reading and thinking lately has explored that which is common to us all - that our experiences in childhood  lead us to behave in certain maladaptive ways in adulthood. Alain de Botton's 'The Course of Love' explores this in novel form, though for many readers the philosophy was too preachy and/or interrupted the text in a way that was not to their liking. Don't let that put you off. There is enlightening material there and characters with specificity, even if de Botton's inclination is to 'tell us' rather than 'show us'.

Tim Parks' 'Tom and Mary: A Love Story' explores the breakdown of a marriage in what I call true novel form, and how one thing leads to the other. Small incremental missteps or misunderstandings eventually makes for the disintegration of the union. "If he is going to work all night, I may as well go to bed" thinks Mary. Mary takes the dog out for a late walk. "I may as well go to bed," thinks Thomas and by the time she joins him he is "sound asleep, face to the wall." And so it goes on every night, harder and harder to break the cycle.

The truth is that there are precious few happy long marriages in novels. It could be argued that a happy marriage makes for boring reading but fascinating, I think, that so few novelists have even attempted this scenario; quite the opposite in fact. Romances don't count because most romances end with the marriage ceremony itself or some early part of the union. I'm talking about a marriage going the distance and being fundamentally happy. That doesn't happen in novels hardly at all.

Relatedness is so fundamental to the human psyche that as people we try hard to get this right, often with little understanding as to what might be wrong. For some people, this pulls them back inside themselves which can have them unravelling the damage, perhaps with positive outcome, or to a marriage councillor. Or, as my Indian friend said to me yesterday we learn that 'what cannot be cured, must be endured'. My point is that in the process of relating to others we are finding out about ourselves and that's a preoccupation for some novelists because novelists are, I think, simply trying to work things out in the same way as non-writers, but for writers they do that with ink or the keyboard.

Many relationship therapists focus on the well being of the individual and couples emphasizing that bodily contact - sex - is the answer in the end. If you don't feel like sex, try it anyway because often arousal comes before desire, they say. In this way, we are reminded all over again that touch is a lovely thing. We have connected; related. We feel more human. We feel more alive and at peace.

Fundamentally, novelists explore in various ways the universal themes of being human, why humans do what they do, what they do, and how or what might make for some change/improvement. I truly believe that we read stories because we want to believe that people are capable of change; of being better. Maybe that is not a conscious thought but in a novel of several hundred pages there is the opportunity for a character to grow, to adapt, to endure, to survive, to transform and to transcend. Even if it is just two sentences of hope at the end of a 800 page novel, we hold out for it; relish it.

My audience here is not Australian but I am Australian and I was reminded this morning what makes that matter; what being Australian means. I have only read one of Richard Flanagan's novels, The Narrow Road to the Deep North. Set in WW2 in a POW camp on the Thai Burma death railway, this brilliant novel lays before the reader scenes where we see what happens when people are pushed to their limits. It took me weeks to think about food in the same way again. How does one eat a plate of healthy food knowing what these men have been through; how malnourished and dehumanized they were? I'm not good reading about or watching brutality and yet the exemplary writing demanded that I go on.

Richard was a keynote speaker at the most recent Melbourne Writers Festival. I caught the talk on podcast this morning and was reminded that what is particular to a character in an Australian novel or to a person in an Australian scenario is not the end of the story. He told the audience a bit of his school life in Tasmania. He talked of a school bully going up to a boy sitting quietly eating his lunch and bashing his head back against a brick wall, not once but three times. As the bully walked off the boy sitting beside the victim called out, "Why?" and the bully replied "Because I can." The school was so rough that staff were less interested in consequences as they were in keeping the peace, Richard explained. It was an experience that has never left him.

He then went on to talk about Australian stories and that none resonated so much with him as the stories of recent times. In fact, he was talking about the recording of incidents in detention centres for immigrants who had entered  Australia illegally, or were in process. (I am not entirely sure who can be detained in this way.) The little 'stories' told of people in complete despair, people who weren't expressing themselves with a keyboard but with thread when they sewed their mouths shut or with flame when they set themselves on fire; people who had lost hope in life.

Richard's brief for the lecture was to try to answer the question why writing matters. This is what I took from it: that we write to explore that which is more important than our individual souls; because things matter; because it is a way to assert freedom and to find meaning. So fascinating, yes, that we write about individual souls to explore that which is more important than our individual souls?!

"Cruel is cruel", said Richard. "Evil is evil", he said. If a Government behaves in a certain way "because it can" is that not enough reason to use the keyboard to remind the reader of what it is to be human? "Australia has lost its way," he said. It sent a chill down my spine. Has Australia lost its way or have we collectively, universally, forgotten what's right and decent?

In my thinking day by day I do tend to focus on the individual and how he interacts with those closest to him or her. I do that because I've had this feeling for a long time that if we look after those in our family and everyone looks after those in their family, those they love, that's maybe the best that most people can do. But, it's not the whole story at all. The Australian ethos for as long as I can remember has been 'a fair go' and if that's in peril, that needs to be expressed loud and clear. Cruelty is cruelty. Evil is evil.

Perhaps what is common to the interaction between a couple or a much bigger story such as immigration detention is for each and every individual to take a moment to walk in the other's shoes. No matter what the issue or situation, that can't possibly hurt. From the smallest to the largest of stories, they are all about the human experience and what it means to be human; that although we are perfectly imperfect we need to hold ourselves to high account.