I Can’t Believe I Did It

And I will remain cryptic. But it is done. What will be, will be, as Doris Day sang in, what was that film again? Ah yes, The Man Who Knew Too Much, an incongruously happy song for a sinister film, though it was meant for a child to hear it and be rescued.

I really must watch more Alfred Hitchcock films, though I think the one time I watched The Birds I was too young and it scared me greatly. We studied Psycho at school and I remember watching Rear Window one night when I was looking after my much younger siblings and my parents were out. I was about 16 or 17 and they were nine and seven, or thereabouts. I certainly had no qualms about the suspenseful side of his films, even the shocking murder scenes, but the birds were all too much.

In reality I’m not much of a film goer any more. Years of being a sole-parent put paid to my heading off to see the latest film and I’d barely begin the habit before I had her. Benalla, although it still had a cinema when I lived there, wasn’t known for its high culture. I saw Star Wars: A New Hope there and Xanadu too. I remember saying I was going to see a film there but sneaking off to my boyfriend’s place instead, I can’t remember the name of the film but I think my parents were unconvinced. It may have been the smell of the marijuana that he was smoking in his room and that clung to my clothes and hair that was my undoing on that one.

A few years later, after we had broken up (well, my father basically told him to leave me alone) and then, through circumstance and sentimentality, reunited, we went to see Dead Poets Society at the Village Cinema in Melbourne. We debated the film heatedly afterward. He believed the teacher was wrong for encouraging the young man to reach for his passion whereas I was filled with regret that his parents could not see passed their own ambitions for him and blamed them, more than his teacher, for the young man’s suicide.

We analysed and recreated and reimagined scenes from this film. We were captivated. It remains, for all it’s faults, one of my favourite films, if for nothing else other than the passion it stirred in us both, we talked for hours about it. We stayed awake until dawn. I often wonder where he is and what he is doing now. We didn’t break up so beatifically the second time around.

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I Think Of The Terrible Cruelties We Are Heaping Upon Asylum Seekers

Tonight people around Australia are attending candlelight vigils for a slain asylum seeker, Reza Barati. He was killed in circumstances that we still really don’t know a lot about, in another country, Manus Is, PNG, because successive Australian governments have played the “I can be crueler than you” policy game and determined that vulnerable people seeking safety in our country will instead be turned away and sent to places that can only be for one thing – to heap more cruelty upon them.

I didn’t participate in an organised vigil. Having chickens means we are bound to be home within a time that we can lock them away, keep them safe from foxes and other predators. That’s before dark and candlelight vigils work best after dark. Instead my partner and I held our own. We considered what we could do to change the way our government is treating asylum seekers, doing it in our name, painting us as selfish and craven across the world.

We’ve not come to any firm conclusions. We will keep supporting political actions, protests, petitions, and the social justice focused not-for-profit organisations that do this work and much more. Organisations like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC), Sanctuary and others work with asylum seekers to assist them to survive in a policy landscape that has been set against them. Most have no income, no work rights, no access to Medicare, little capacity to support secure housing and not even access to schooling for their children.

These organisations work with everyone who is placed in our community while their asylum claim is determined; access to those in the detention centres on Nauru, Manus Is. and Christmas Is. is restricted and fraught with legal and policy barriers. They also advocate and support asylum seekers and refugees through the legal minefield that is the Australian refugee processing system.

The ASRC has around 900 volunteers and they achieve amazing things. I want to be part of that too. When my health settles, and my finances, I think that’s the next thing for me. I am not silent and soon I will be an active contributor to this important social justice cause.

I cannot change what has happened. I am only one voice (among many) who abhor our current government’s policies and secrecy around the off-shore detention centres. Our voices are not being headed but our actions can let those asylum seekers amongst us know that they are welcome here.

Remembering Reza Barati, I blow out this candle and hope that his senseless loss of life can help galvanise us all to fight for others like him. I hope we can all find a way to stand up and say “Not in my Name” to our leaders. I hope.

I Become Curmudgeonly and Introspective Simultaneously.

What is so bloody special about digital TV? Honestly. Tell me! I live in country Victoria and our digital signal is constantly interrupted by whatever vagaries are happening that day, or not, because there’s no rhyme nor reason for good or bad signal.

One day ABC works fine and channel 7 is awful, full of hicks and trips and fading in and out and lines across the screen. This only happens when there is something I want to watch on said channel (like Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy), next the ABC is foul and all the turgid commercial channels are crisp and clear.

Even good signal days have bad moments. Just at the crucial denouement the crackle starts, the picture jumps, the dialogue fades out. Luckily I don’t want to watch much telly, I don’t have time, but bloody hell when I do it’s annoying.

I’m trying to prepare for the new uni year. You know, doing the reading beforehand, hassling the lecturer for the full course guide, talking to other students online and setting up a study group. I know, I know, I’m behaving like a mature-age student. I barely recognise myself. This maturing business is quite astounding. I take responsibility for my own actions and prepare for a number of eventualities. I try to follow through with my commitments and I write my essays before the due date.

It’s a long way from my first foray into university. I went there as a ‘mature-age’ student then as well. I was all of 21. I look at the pup now and, although I’m convinced I was more mature than she is (the illusion of age, I’m sure) I certainly did not reach any of my potentials during my time there. In fact, I excelled only in making friends and drinking beer. I loved the study but I neglected to write the essays or hand them in (on time or at all).

The difference is 25 years and a sense of purpose. I really know what I want to be doing and this Masters will advance me in my work and life journey. I used to defensively announce that I didn’t need a piece of paper to prove I could do my job. Now I know the value of a piece of paper.

When I asked my lovely wife to marry me I did it because I wanted to declare to her that I thought our love could be eternal. It’s still not legal here but nonetheless we hired a celebrant and invited friends and did the whole marriage thing.

We have a piece of paper.

It states that we made a commitment to each other, the date and the signatures of us, our witnesses and the celebrant.

I promised this woman my love and support and compassion and strength for all of our lives together and that we would be together for all our lives. If things get a little hard the reminder of that piece if paper isn’t that I must do this; it is that it imbues my existence within this relationship with a solemnity that might not be replicable without it. It enlivens my relationship. It puts it on the same footing as my parents’ marriage and her parents’ marriage. Sure, calling it marriage would be better, making it legal would be great, but I have declared before the world my commitment and that gives it a greater value proposition.

With that other piece of paper (that degree) I will declare my knowledge of and commitment to working with people in a way that gives them power and skills and purpose and autonomy. It’s a similar thing.

A Short Piece Full Of Hope And Longing

Missed a day or two. Been so tired that I’ve just dragged myself to work and home. Hopelessness of working to just pay the bills.

Then some light and no, not an oncoming train. We’ve had a bit of a social time with invitations to friends for tea and then it seems my lovely wife has scored a job. It’s not a dream job or a great career move but it’s a job that pays money and that is a good thing.

It means a little of the pressure will be relieved. It means that I can think of other things other than how I’m going to juggle the next lot of expenses. It means that I might not have to go to another market at 6.30am to make $120 for the day to try to cover some expenses. Markets are hard and that was pretty tough. The dogs were cute though.

It’s been a struggle with just one low wage. Two low wages isn’t going to change the world but it might mean we can pay all of the things. And we all know that good fortune begets good fortune. So, if that’s true then my wife’s dream job is just around the corner. And if that’s the case then the gravy train is in (not really but, you know, compared to now).

Come On Down To The Market Stall

I’m in the queue. I’m set to go. I’ve been here since just after 6.30am. I’M READY TO GET IN AND SET UP NOW.

I need a coffee. I want to get all of the stuff out and spread it on my table and tarps and on the clothes rack. I want to get the prices written and on the stuff. I want to get people coming through, rummaging through my cast-off clothes and finding a bargain.

My stall will be a great place for all women to find a clothes bargain. There’s floaty skirts and luxurious scarves through to butch shirts and jeans to fit a range of women. I want to set it all out, make it enticing, get all my wares ready. There’s a bit of bric and brac too.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone coming to open the gate yet. I thought the market was an early starter? At this rate I’ll not be set up before 8.30am and will have missed all the early birds.

Ah, the man has come. The gate is open. The line of cars before me files in and I join the end. I hope I don’t get bogged.

Come on down. Daylesford market. In the paddock.

Confessions Of A Woman Who Will Survive

The dull hum of shock is slowly receding and I can start to collect the pieces of my life and reset on my journey. Not so for Rosie Batty, who will carry the hurt and trauma with her forever after.

There are a few things that have been happening of late that have made me re-assess what I’ve held secret and hidden from most people. We all have secrets, some are held in shame, some are held to reduce pain, some are profound, some are simple. My secret has been held, not tightly but relatively closely, for over 20 years. It was a secret just between two people for 11 years before that.

One of the factors that is allowing this secret to now become a story, a touchstone, in my life, is that the one person I felt I needed to protect and keep it secret from has now been told. It wasn’t an easy telling and the timing was pretty lousy. I had to re-tell it, as my brother had decided to blurt it out to my daughter.

Uncaring and with the blinkers of self-interest on, he casually asked her if my father had really sexually abused me as a child. She didn’t have an answer, I’d never discussed it with her. She confusedly hung up the phone and went to her room. I noticed but I didn’t understand. I was in the lounge room. Then the question, yelled from the bedroom. “Mum, did Poppa sexually abuse you when you were a child?” The question cut through me. I’d kept this from her for years and, of late, the imperative to not say anything was more urgent – she had her own hurts to recover from, unrelated to mine – I said no. I said no. I mumbled it but in a raised voice because I couldn’t walk down the hall to her room. “Oh”, she said, her voice shrugging, “________ said you told him he had. He asked me if it was true.”

The subject, according to her, was closed. I had said no, she believed me as I never lie to her. I know I never lie to her. I hold that as a sacred trust that I will not lie to my daughter. She knows I never lie to her.

I call my brother, outside, away from my daughter, and blast him from here to breakfast. It’s a one minute phone call of fury, he doesn’t get to say much. I tell him that of course our father did this. Children don’t make that stuff up. My father sexually abused me for 11 years from the age of six years old until just after I turned 17, a long bloody time. I tell my brother to fuck off and never bother me or my family again if he can’t be bothered to believe me.

I take a deep breath as a I hang up. I look at my wife and say, “I have to tell her, I can’t keep this secret from her any longer”.

I walk down the hall. It’s a long hallway, plenty of time to think about how I’ll say it. I’ve said it before though. I’ve said it to my mother, my sisters, my brother, boyfriends, girlfriends, close friends and other friends, counsellors, psychologists and to my father. Now, though, I have to say it to my daughter. I’ve protected her from this because I wanted her to have a relationship with my family and that included my father.

“Sweetheart, I need to talk to you”, I say as I knock on her door. Her answer is non verbal, her eyes lift from the computer screen and she waves me in. I sit on her bed and take her hand. “You know that question you just asked me before? Well, I didn’t say the truth. I was in shock that you asked me and I blurted out no but really it should have been yes. Yes, my dad sexually abused me as a child. I’m sorry that you had to find out this way. It was thoughtless of my brother to ask you. I’ve blasted him. More importantly I want you to know why I didn’t tell you, until now.” I look at her for cues. She says, “You didn’t have to tell me, I believed you.”
“I know”, I respond, “that’s why I had to tell you. I always tell you the truth, to leave it would be a lie.” I adjust my position on the bed so I’m looking straight at her, “I wanted you to have a relationship with all my family, despite what my father did to me, and so I chose not to tell you until I thought you were ready. First, you were too young, then he died, then you had your own stuff to deal with. I wouldn’t have told you now but this happened. I always watched out for you, though, and my father knew that his life was forfeit if he hurt you – ever.” I took a big breathe to stop the tears from leaking out of my eyes. “If you have questions I will answer them. If you don’t want to talk about it I’ll respect that too. If you want to ask me about it at any time, you can.”

Silence.

Then she reaches over to hug me and says, “I don’t want to talk about it. I didn’t need to know but I understand why you told me.”

I hug her back, “He always loved you. He always loved me too but his actions were wrong”, and I get up and leave.

I’ve held this so close, for so long, I’m not sure what to do with the freedom that this has given me. Now, a few months later, the freedom has started to coalesce into a purpose. I’ve been in a women’s circle, doing a course, and it’s ease and safety makes perfect sense to me as a vehicle to build peer support for women who have experienced sexual violence. I’m building a plan. I’m doing the research. I’m going to start a group. I have my first participant and we will find others and we will talk and laugh and cry and support and recoil and recover and heal and survive.