Choosing to be Childless

I had it all figured out. I had a plan of what I was going to do when I got pregnant. I was going to have photos taken every month of my baby bump, from the day of confirmation all the way up until the birth, Artsy, candid shots of my blooming belly in soft lighting, but not hiding any of the messy bits of pregnancy like stretch marks or rosacea.

Then, when the baby was born, I was going to have a pagan midwife and use meditation and hypnosis to give birth drug free. We were going to have mood-filled family pics, rose coloured and achingly beautiful. The miracle of birth. New life. All that.

I got older. We had donors lined up, my lesbian wife and I, but they all fell through. Then I turned 40 and we decided that probably the only way I could get pregnant was through IVF, and that was hella expensive, so the choice was made for my wife to bear our children. All my plans for the documenting of my own pregnancy was transferred to her, as was most of my life. She would have photos every month, she would have a pagan midwife and lovingly cradle our newborn addition in that rose coloured light. I was so excited for a brown baby, for my little rainbow family. We planned for it, had names picked out, godparents chosen, shared pictures of baby and toddler fashion that our very cool kid would wear.

And then everything changed. And I mean everything. Shattered marriage leading to a new job, new life, new couch to surf, new goals. Whether I liked it or not, my existence shifted. I found myself cleaning houses for a living; the suburban homes of the working mother, some married, some not, all with children of different ages, different stages. The one thing that became abundantly clear to me is that children take over everything. And I mean everything.

These women I clean for are all intelligent, hard working, motivated career women. They have jobs, they have partners, they have lives. But one thing I noticed that they all shared was that their lives and their homes were dominated by their children. They were mothers first. Women second. People third. Their lives were defined by their offspring. It made me feel anxious.

I went home, back to New Zealand to figure out where I was going. I tested the waters back home, trying on the possibility of moving there, having a baby on my own. My dad and his husband are there, both big fans of the idea of me progenerating little Bentons everywhere. I had a chat to one of my cousins about how her life had changed since she had kids. She said unequivocably that she loved her sons, but all her dreams for herself had taken a back seat. I looked at her face. She was tired.

On the plane flying back to Australia I thought about all the times I’ve been pregnant, ended in either a termination or miscarriage. My doctor had told me that I was very fertile, that despite the polyps in my ovaries and the scarring in my uterus, I had a “very viable womb”. If that were so, why so childless?

The realisation settled on me like dust settles on polished wood: I would make a wonderful mother. But I will never be one.

Quite simply, I’m too selfish to give up my life for a child. I gave it up for a partner and it nearly destroyed me. I would love that child until I had nothing else to give, but I would grieve for my childless life. I understand that everything changes when the child is in one’s arms, but to be honest, I don’t want that change. I’ve just emerged from a cocoon of my own making, all my insecurities and neuroses woven into a personal carapace that blinded me as it protected me. I have broken free of not only an abusive and toxic relationship with another person, but also with myself. I’m not ready to put that aside to dedicate my energy to someone else, fruit of my loins or no. By the time I am ready, I will be too old. I’m already too tired.

I wept painful racking sobs over this decision. I had longed for a baby since puberty hit at age 11 and I had always assumed that it was an inevitability. Even as I flip flopped about marriage, shooting out a sprog was unquestionably a thing that would happen. But as I’ve matured and grown and realised what being a parent actually entails, I’ve chosen myself instead. I look back at all the sacrifices my mother made for us kids, how the decision to have a family impacted her life. She died stating that her greatest achievement was her children and I am so grateful to her for that. But I just can’t do it.

I’m okay with it now. In another life, in a parallel universe, I am a mother and I’m damn good at it. In that existence, my kid is ridiculously talented, intelligent and beautiful and will grow up to change the world. And in that world I would be content with being a mother first. I would be proud to be a mum.

But not in this one.

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You used to take my breath away. There was a time when I’d look at you and my heart would stop, just for a moment. I’d watch you dance and my knees would buckle at the heat emanating from my very core. I used to wonder how I got so lucky to get someone as sexy, as talented, as wonderful as you.

Now, it’s all been exposed as an illusion. You tag me in things because I wrote music for you, hoping I’m sure, to impress me. But I can see through it all now. It doesn’t impress me. I don’t feel the same heat. In fact, I feel a passing indifference. It’s all the same. The same moves, the same looks, the same songs, all directed at someone else, all trying to show me what I’m missing out on. I’m not missing out on much.

Today, though. Today was different. It was supposed to be a day of celebration, a day of love. It was, but I walked into that room where three years ago we exchanged vows that I thought were sacred, that I took very seriously, and it all came crashing down. Here, in this room, where another same sex couple were joining themselves together under the law, where I thought my life as a married woman had begun, I was reminded that you got away scot free. You walked away relatively unscathed. You don’t have to be confronted with any of this.

I returned to New Zealand seeking solace. Seeking my home. I didn’t find it. I hadn’t been home since my mother died, since you and I became wives, and it all slapped me hard in the face. You don’t have to feel any of this. You keep telling me that you were hurting too when you ended our marriage, but how could you have been? You will never be forced to come back here and go to the places we went to together, to relive those times now knowing it meant nothing to you. You do not have to look into the eyes of my family that took vows with you to help us to honour our union and admit that you fucked up. You will never be forced to remember, to have your home forever linked with something that was so full of promise, but wasn’t treasured as it should have been. You can just walk away into another person’s arms and never have to take responsibility for the pain you caused because you’re so good at pretending that everything’s fine.

I have to carry that weight. I have to carry it for both of us. Still. And I hate you for that.

But …

But, I’ve met someone else. I’ve met a man that has opened my eyes and my heart. I’ve met a man who has reminded me that I’m allowed to be beautiful, that I’m fascinating, that I’m intelligent, that I’m sexy. All the things you failed to see in me, he sees. I’ve met a man at a time when I don’t want a man’s attention. I’ve met a man at a time when I don’t need anyone’s attention, and yet here it is. And it’s reawakened in me the knowledge of my own power as a woman. It doesn’t lie with you. It doesn’t lie with him, either. It’s all within me and it’s all mine.

I am not pursuing this man. He came into my life simply as a signpost. He has reminded me that I am not your soon-to-be ex wife. I am not a divorcee. I am not one of many of the broken souls you have left behind. I am not one of your victims. I am better than how you left me. I am better than how you treated me.

I am moving on.

Onwards

The Fullest Circle

22 years ago I arrived in Australia, fresh faced and damaged, 18 going on 19, already affected yet still so naive. I moved in with my Dad in a Victorian suburb called Clifton Hill, in a cute little apartment opposite the massive park that dominates the suburb. I had intended on a fresh start, away from the mire and malignancy of Auckland, a city I loved and hated simultaneously. I came here, to Australia, to Clifton Hill to reinvent myself.

Of course, we all know that problems follow us, even across the expanse of oceans. A fresh start is a fallacy, especially at that age, when wisdom is yet to touch our brows. The span of experience between then and now is staggering. So many lives compacted into one. 41 years old, and I find myself back in Clifton Hill, cat sitting a marvellous creature named Keyser in a cute little shoebox apartment – right next door to where I used to live.

The concept of things coming full circle has always eluded me, being somewhat of an unintentional nomad. I have moved constantly in the 20 odd years I’ve been here, all within the same city, never settling for long, always trying to outrun the darkness. And here I am, back where I started, in much the same situation. Shell-shocked and blinking against the light as I start my life again. Again. Always again. It feels odd. I don’t feel completed, or satisfied, or finalised in any way. I feel much the same as I did then, albeit tempered by the complexities of a life well-lived. Here I am, talking as if I’m in my twilight years when really, I’m just beginning.

I have no idea what’s coming next. I don’t know what the Fates have in store for me. I know things are moving; my career, my self worth, my adultness, all are moving forward at a rate that I can’t fathom. I have no control, I’m just holding on and going for the ride, knowing that what’s to come will be as surprising and soul altering as what has been.

One thing that is different now to what was then: I am fierce now. More fierce than I have ever been. My heart is shredded, my soul is singed at the edges, but it gives me a power that I can’t describe. I am aware now, more awake than I ever could have imagined. I don’t see the path in front of me, but I’m now at a point where I don’t need to know what’s coming. I just have an unwavering faith that the Universe knows what it’s doing, and I’m about to enter something new and unimagined.

This blog, all the things I have written, splashing my innermost desires and despairs across the page gives only a fraction of what I experience. It’s my platform, my tool of self-expression. I have followers, but really, it’s just for me. My own little narcissistic soap box of opinions and responses; a sifting of disjointed thoughts into something clearer. Comprehensible.

I am here now.

I am here.

I am.

This is an angry rant. Something I have to get off my chest once and for all and then I won’t waste any more time or energy on this bullshit.

Am I okay? No, I’m not.

I wish I had never met you. I wish I had never given you my heart. I wish I hadn’t fallen so hard for you. I wish I had never taken you home to my country to meet my family. Do you know that no one in my life EVER has met my entire family? No one, not friends, not partners, not even school friends have met both my brothers and my mother and father much less my extended family. No one. Except you. And now, with my mum gone, no one will again.

I wish I had never pinned my future on you, talked about kids, dreamed about where we’d live. I wish I had never believed you when you said my heart was safe with you. I wish I had never trusted you with my darkest secrets and fears. I wish I hadn’t relaxed with you.

I wish I had never married you.

I wish I hadn’t wasted all those beautiful and special experiences on you, you who didn’t appreciate or respect how so very important they were to me. You didn’t care.

I wish I knew how I had got it so collosally wrong when everything in me believed you were the one. I wasn’t naive when I met you, but I got it so wrong.

They say these things happen to teach us something. Well, all you taught me is that love doesn’t exist. All you taught me is that no one can be trusted. All you taught me is that I’m better off alone.

I had hope before you. I trusted before you. I saw the best in people before you. Now I’m closed off and cold and brittle. This is your legacy. You have ensured that no one will feel the depth of my love for a very, very long time.

But I’m so silly, because you don’t care about any of this. You don’t care about what you did to me. Our relationship was never about us, it was always about you. Even now, it’s about you. You didn’t love me. If you did, you would have never done those things to me. If you did, you would have left me alone.

So good luck. Good luck with your new, “completely normal” bedfellow, after all the lies and bullshit you told me about not being ready for a relationship. Good luck with not abusing her like you did me, and the woman before me. Good luck in not fucking it up like you did your marriage. A marriage that was only sacred to one of us.

Don’t tell me you’re sorry. You’re not. Don’t tell me you care. You don’t. I am a light that showed you the way and now it is lost to you. And you don’t even know how valuable it was, you narcissistic fuck.

You are dead to me.

Just In To Leave Her

A Woman of Wonder

I miss something that doesn’t exist. A whisper, a feeling, a brush of a hand. It used to be so solid, so clear. Now it’s fuzzy and distant, this thing I miss. It’s like trying to embrace a cloud.

I took my first plane trip when I was 11. My brothers and I flew over to Australia to see my dad. As we flew I looked out the airplane window and imagined I was flying through the clouds, bouncing off each one like they were cotton balls. My mother had parachuted through a cloud back in her Navy days. She described it as passing through damp gossamer. Clouds have no substance, she told me. They’re like dreams.

On long road trips past oceans, I’d imagine the sea had frozen and I was ice skating over the waves. It gave me a feeling of freedom and power to believe that on some plane of existence I could conquer the impossible. 10 year old me could command the weather, use my ridiculously long hair as lightning, stop an oncoming train with a look. In my mind, I was unstoppable.

It should be no surprise that Wonder Woman was my first crush as a kid. I became obsessed with her at the age of 5. She encapsulates everything I want to be: strong, fast, awesome boobs, a lasso of truth, the ability to run in heels and an innate capacity to take no shit. She’s a saviour with good and honest morals and values. She’ll cut a bitch, but only if that bitch is violating the liberty of someone else. Also, she likes girls and boys, but that’s besides the point.

Being my own version of Wonder Woman is intoxicating, particularly when someone else is prepared to be Steve (or Stephanie) Trevor. Being the one who saves the day is empowering and satisfying and ego stroking and extremely dangerous. It lulls one into a false sense of invulnerability, which then makes the inevitable fall from the messiah pedestal that much more painful.

The thing about superheroes is, they don’t exist. I mean, yes, there are extraordinary people who do amazing, miraculous things, but they’re just people. No capes, no superpowers. No one can leap tall buildings in a single bound. If only. There are plenty of damsels and dudes in distress, though, that fuel the need for superheroes. But it’s false. No one can save anyone else. We can only rescue ourselves, truth be told, and I used all the skills I learned in my journey through life for the one I loved, all the while forgetting that even Batman was not always everybody’s favourite guy in Gotham City. Bruce Wayne had to eventually acknowledge that saving the day was not going to take away his trauma.

Growing up has a tendency to curb those thoughts of indestructibility, to transform them into things more attainable. There’s always been a part of my mind, however, that has believed that the improbable is still possible. The Universe has a way of making things happen along a path we least expect. Goals can be achieved, dreams can come true.

Ah, yes. Those dreams again. Paper thin and fragile. Unsubstantial and deceptive, like a cloud. Like you turned out to be. My cumulonimbus. I believed in those dreams, in those clouds of my youth. I allowed myself to be swept up in the fantasy, in the idea that me and my love could overcome anything, that the Wonder Woman inside me would stay vigilant and true. It could have, but it didn’t exist. I miss a thing that didn’t exist. I miss my Paradise Island. I miss you – not the victim you, not the damsel you, certainly not the abusive you, but the version of you that was loving and strong and generous and kind and honest. Sadly, that version you gave to me was as false as it was true. What I felt was truth. Who I felt it for wasn’t.

So, my heart breaks one last time as I reach for those flimsy, filmy illusions, wishing so hard that they were real. Wishing I could grasp them to my heart because they were so beautiful. My belief in making the impossible probable hasn’t died. I’m sure you didn’t intend for your abuse of my love to do that, any more than my saviour complex was intended to deny you your autonomy. I like to think you’re not aware of what you do to people. I guess I’ll never know.

But, it’s no one else’s concern, my awakening. It is mine. My renewal is my responsibility. For probably the first time in my life, I’m being my own superhero. I’m saving myself and although I have wise, wonderful, pull-no-punches honest friends and family to guide me, I’m doing it alone.

And it feels so good.

 

I’m Still Here

CW: Suicide.

I called the CAT team tonight. There are a couple of reasons why I did that. Firstly, because I really, really wanted to die. Secondly, because I wanted to die but I didn’t want to disrespect the people whose house I’m staying in by ending my life in their home. Thirdly, because I made a promise to my friends that I would reach out if things got bad. Fourthly, because I didn’t want to burden my friends with another night of me sobbing on the couch.

I’m on a ridiculous amount of anti-depressants, and they’re probably going to go up in dose this week. I see my therapist regularly. I have wonderful, supportive, amazing friends who love me and tell me so all the time. I have a talent – many talents, actually – that I’m proud of and work on constantly. I have moments of awesomeness. I have moments of being babin’. I’m fairly intelligent, I’m quite funny, I’m fun to be around. But I consistently seem to fall in love with people who don’t believe I’m worth fighting for. And right now, I’m very, very alone.

I’ve never really had a problem with being alone. But now, it looms. It’s crushing. My family, whom I adore, are away from me in other countries and on other plains. There is nothing more lonely than being surrounded by incredible people, but only wanting the company of one. And when that one proclaims that they no longer have love for you, that in essence, you’re not worth the fight, suddenly the world seems very large and expansive and empty.

It’s an odd feeling to know that I’m worthy and deserving of love and happiness and all that entails, but feeling so lost and hollow that that knowledge seems meaningless. I, once so independent and fearsome in my knowledge of my place in the world, am now directionless. Without a home, without my beloved cats who are not doing well without me, without my family, I’ve been very, veeeery slowly hauling myself up a very steep hill, all the while impatient to be settled again, to be over and done with her, to be happily single, living the life of my dreams. Unfortunately, the realisation of that dream seems to be moving further and further away, like when you try to run down a hallway in a nightmare but it keeps stretching on away from you.

I don’t feel like this because my marriage ended. That hurts, yes, but it’s not the reason I am teetering at the edge of the pit. I feel like this because I never saw it coming. I trust my intuition keenly, it’s never steered me wrong. But this time it gave me no warning. I had relaxed – maybe a little too much, but I finally felt safe.

And then I wasn’t.

I feel like this because it all seems so cruel. I didn’t deserve any of what has happened to me. I’m not blaming anyone, because I’m tired of that pointless circular game. I’m usually the type of person who will cry and wail when I’m hurt, but then I’ll pick myself up, dust myself off, acknowledge the part I had to play in why things fucked up, and with that acknowledgement, things seem to move on naturally. Awesome things happen, and suddenly I find myself not grieving anymore. This time, though, it’s different, and I’m struggling. I’ve acknowledged and acknowledged and acknowledged, but I still feel so very lost.

I was doing fine. I actually was doing really fine, and then something happened and I rolled back down the steep hill, bumping and grazing myself along the way. I didn’t fall down as far as I was when I started, but it’s a significant drop. I don’t have the energy to start heaving my way back up that bloody stupid hill, but I can’t stay here. I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m relying on other people so much that I feel like I might forget my own autonomy. I don’t trust anyone. I still have a lot of love, but my wall is getting higher and thicker and I feel myself hardening and cracking like cheap paint in the sun. This feels bad. It feels so bad, and nothing I’m doing seems to be helping, and I’m really, really scared.

I had made peace with suicidal ideation just before everything fell apart, and then it’s like the Universe went “okay then, let’s test that theory.” Fucking Universe and its experiencing itself through me in a way that’s not starry and delightfully magickal. Fuck it.

Do I really want to die? Obviously not completely, otherwise I wouldn’t be here to write this. But the desire to be with my mum, to be away from this endless darkness, to be free from this sticky, sickening pain is so great that sometimes I have to call the CAT team. And that sucks.

I’m sharing this because writing about it whilst in the thick of it helps, and also because a friend of mine once told me that she had spent an afternoon reading every single post on my blog and it helped her to feel less alone. I know I’m not the only one out there in the pit.

We’re okay. We’re still here.

Just Say Yes

 


Yes folks, it’s that time again! It’s that time to pull out my dusty old copy of the Gay Agenda, turn to page 246 of sub-section 39b (the Bi Agenda) and wax rhetoric about marriage equality! Yay, that old chestnut.

Australia, while a wonderful country in many ways, is a little bit backward. Besides the rampant racism and xenophobia, the alarming domestic violence rate, and the existence of XXXX beer, Australia is the land of the seemingly homophobic government. Tim Minchin puts it best in his latest online offering, so I won’t go into why it’s ridiculous that marriage equality isn’t legal. But let me just explore our options here.

In 2004 John Howard’s Liberal government introduced the Marriage Amendment Bill, changing the definition of marriage in the Marriage Act 1961 to state, “Marriage means the union of a man and a woman to the exclusion of all others, voluntarily entered into for life. Certain unions are not marriages. A union solemnised in a foreign country between: (a) a man and another man; or (b) a woman and another woman; must not be recognised as a marriage in Australia” (source). What that means is that the government pretty much sanctioned discrimination based on sexual preference and it was done without consulting the Australian people.

In 2013, however, the High Court found that the Constitutional standpoint of marriage included same sex couples and that basically the federal Parliament has the power to decide to whether same sex couples have the right to marry. Instead, good ol’ Malcolm Turnbull has decided that we should have a plebiscite, even though his government can pass the law if they choose to.

What’s a plebiscite? Well, time to get my nerd on. A plebiscite (ˈplɛbɪsʌɪt,ˈplɛbɪsɪt/) derives from the mid 16th century: from French plébiscite, from Latin plebiscitum, from plebspleb- ‘the common people’ + scitum ‘decree’ (from sciscere ‘vote for’). The sense ‘direct vote of the whole electorate’ dates from the mid 19th century (source, Google dictionary). The word is a noun and its definition is:

  1. the direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.
  2. a colossal waste of time and $122 million (second definition is the author’s).

Why is it a waste of time? I’ll let australianmarriageequality.org take this one: “… a free vote costs nothing. A plebiscite will become a platform for hatred and division. We elect politicians to make laws, not handball them back to voters. Issues that raise religious and moral concerns are almost always resolved by free votes in parliament, not plebiscites. A plebiscite is not binding so the issue will have to return to Parliament anyway, at which point there should be a free vote. There is more community support for a free vote than for a plebiscite, especially when voters are aware of the cost of a plebiscite.”

Kinda a no-brainer, huh?

Of course, the majority of the LGBTIQ+ community has rallied around the issue, stating that all love is equal, that it’s a human rights issue, and most importantly, that there are other far more pressing issues to put that time and money towards. We are the last developed English-speaking country in the world to legalise it. It’s embarrassing.

But there’s another facet to this issue, a less buoyant, positive, fluffy facet. Yes, love is love. Yes, we should have the right to marry whichever consenting adult we like and be happy. Yes, marriage is not about gender. But on the other side of that truly beautiful coin is the sobering reminder that things can turn shit. Marriages end, dreams die, break ups are horrible and can be really messy, and the unfortunate thing is that in Australia, there’s not a whole lot of legal support for same sex divorce. Our marriages aren’t even recognised for one thing, so it’s stay married forever, or go back to the country you got married in and become domiciled, and then apply for a costly divorce. Break ups are disruptive enough, but the added insult of not actually being able to legally divorce the person one legally married in another country means that closure is deferred, the connection to one’s ex is still active, and salt is rubbed in the open, suppurating wound.

As it stands, my marriage was not taken seriously by some members of the communities I am a part of (much in the same way that my sexuality isn’t taken seriously, but that’s a different post). Therefore, by extension, my divorce is not taken seriously, and that adds to the devastation. My need to cut ties, move on, perhaps even marry someone else is thwarted by this myopic view of a relationship that was very real (if I want to marry a man in the future, I can’t, as I will be committing bigamy in every country in which same sex marriage is recognised). It’s a cruelty on top of an already hurtful situation.

Divorce rituals are important for healing. Many cultures and religions around the world have rituals that are designed to break the bond and ease the suffering of both parties involved. People throw divorce parties. A temple in Japan allows visitors to literally flush their failing relationship down the toilet. I could do all the rituals in all the world, but still, the country I live in doesn’t give me or my ex the option to make it legal. And that’s shit.

I hope that this plebiscite will not go ahead, because there are many, many people that I love (including myself) who will be affected by the inevitably hateful ‘No’ campaign. The anti-marriage equality lobbies that we have in Australia are champing at the bit to unleash their homophobic vitriol upon my community, and this plebiscite will give them leave to do so with relish.

However, I fear that it will go ahead, so I’m throwing everything I have into campaigning for an overwhelming ‘Yes’ vote – even if it isn’t binding, even if the government continue to be a pack of cowards, even if it doesn’t lead to an immediate legalising of same sex marriage, I will still vote yes. I hope all my Australian readers will do so too (mind you, if you’re a regular reader of this blog and you don’t vote yes, my mind boggles as to what you’re doing here).

Once upon a time, I campaigned and protested to have my love recognised. Now I’m campaigning to have the end of it recognised. Equality is equality.