The Lost Art of Compassion

My heart hangs low in my chest today. Eight people were killed by firing squad in Indonesia this morning as an attempted deterrent to drug smugglers everywhere. Eight people faced their killers, all of whom denied the offer of a hood. It is said they died with dignity, as dignified as being shot whilst tied to a plank can surely be.

I had a scathing post ready, full of zingers and well-crafted literary comebacks. I can’t do it now. My lowly opinion is nothing compared to the agony the families of these prisoners must be experiencing.

I have deliberately refrained from engaging in any online debate over the Bali Nine ringleaders and their fates. This is partly because up until recently I didn’t actually know a hell of a lot about it, and partly because I was afraid I’d end up getting into an argument with a friend or acquaintance which would eventually culminate in me losing respect for them and their opinion. But mainly, it’s because I can’t hide my disgust for the “average” Australian sitting in their comfortable suburban armchairs, yelling “kill the bastards” at their television. It hurts me how easily we can separate ourselves from others, how cozily we pass judgement, how ruthless we are in our dismissal of others’ pain, just because they broke the law. Just because they made a mistake. Who here on this planet has never made a mistake? I just wonder how gung-ho these armchair executioners would be if these men were their own family.

Yes, these people broke the law in a country that upholds the death penalty. Yes, they did the crime therefore they should do the time. I’m not arguing against Indonesia’s laws although I vehemently disagree with them. What hurts my heart is the callous indifference to the fact that these men are now dead. Dead by the hands of other men. Up until their execution I heard people give me all sorts of reasons why the Indonesian government should “kill the bastards”, including that the heroin they were trafficking would have claimed lives here in Australia. Okay, fair enough. But it didn’t. No lives were lost at the hands of Andrew Chan or Myuran Sukumaran with that heroin. (And please don’t lecture me on how heroin destroys lives, I know more about that than I care to. Even after my experience watching a loved one mess herself up with that drug, I still wouldn’t want anyone else’s death to be a payment for her life.) When discussing it with a friend few months ago, she told me she had no sympathy for Chan and Sukumaran because, irrespective of her own feelings about the death penalty, they broke the law. Pure and simple. I then said to her, “can you imagine what it would be like knowing you’re going to be shot in the heart by twelve faceless people?” She said she didn’t want to think about that. That made her feel horrible.

Yeah. Me too.

Truthfully? I don’t know what I want to say, other than I’m grieving for those men’s families. I grieve for those men who were by all accounts successfully rehabilitated and who took ownership of their crimes. I grieve for those countries who utilise state-sanctioned murder as a punishment, and I grieve for those who have died for their crimes in those countries. I grieve for those people who separate themselves from their compassion and empathy because it’s easy to do so from the safety of their own home. I grieve for those who are victims of crime and are still hurting so much that they feel someone else’s death will lessen that pain.

Sometimes people do stupid things for stupid reasons. They still do not deserve to die. To quote Professor Jeffrey Fagan who appeared as an expert witness for Chan and Sukumaran in 2007: “Executions serve only to satisfy the urge for vengeance. Any retributive value is short-lived, lasting only until the next crime.”*

That’s all I have to say.

*Quote from Fact check: No proof the death penalty prevents crime, published on 2 March 2015 on abc.net.au

Pain For Art

Around September of last year, one of my closest friends was hit by car in Berlin. I got the call early in the morning from his boyfriend, the words crashing into my head and bouncing around inside my skull.

“What? Oh my God, what? Are you okay?” It was all I could say, over and over again, my incredulity belying my shock. This doesn’t happen. This stuff happens to other people, not to my friends. I start to cry. My friend – the boyfriend – starts to cry. The voice in my head utters one word:

“Nope.”

That’s the thing about being a close friend but not the best friend. I couldn’t do anything except ineffectually offer consoling words and lots of ‘I love yous’ to my friend’s family and partner, and sit and wait to find out if he was going to come through the coma, then the brain injury, then the rehab, then the trip back home. Other friends wanted to send care packages full of cards, letters and photos; I couldn’t think of anything to say that wouldn’t sound trite and disingenuous, when all I wanted to say was “don’t die, okay?”

He didn’t die, and he has recovered like a boss, the only signifiers of his accident being the corrective glasses he has to wear (because one of his eyes was knocked out of place by the car) and two scars on the back of his head. He jokes about his accident all the time. It tickles me that he got hit by a car whilst very intoxicated, running across a Berlin road to reach an after-hours bakery. He almost died for cake. My kind of guy. He can still walk, talk, be funny, and most importantly, he can still write.

I’m rehearsing one of his plays at the moment, and, as always with his work, there’s something in my character which challenges the fuck out of me. The particular challenge of this play I’ll discuss later, but there’s an important piece of information about “Carol” that really didn’t hit me with any sense of brevity until last night: she suffers a brain injury. My friend, who’s directing, gave me a note about playing a particular scene in which Carol is on her journey of recovery, and he said dryly, “as someone who has a brain injury …” I must admit I stopped listening after that because the actuality of his situation smacked me in the face with such force that my mind went blank. And I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed for being a wanky actor trying to find the authenticity of this woman’s situation, congratulating myself on being such an intuitive and sagacious artiste that I could just pluck her emotions out of thin air, and here was someone I loved who experienced this thing sitting in front of me, all matter of fact and candid and non emotive and I had no idea how he got through it all, much less how I was supposed to convey that on stage. I was awestruck, and sad, and grateful all at the same time. I was humbled. Not only did my friend survive this incredible thing, he humbled me with it – no mean feat, let me tell you.

As an actor, my job is to reconstruct, represent, recreate, interpret and narrate a story; a journey, if you will, that one character goes through. This character is a fabrication, even if it’s based on an actual person, therefore one has license to embellish, colour and adorn that character’s personality. My goal with every character is to try to find the human in the fabrication. I try to make the character relatable, if not likeable (because sometimes I play really unlikeable personas), and I’m good at it. I know that. My wife tells me I’m a little conceited about it, and she’s right, but that’s only because it’s the one thing in my life that I’m 100% certain about. I know I can do this, whereas with everything else I only have a vague, hopeful surety that I’m kind of getting it right at least 50% of the time.

Having said that, even in the face of my own arrogance, I am humbled and blessed and thankful that my friend trusted me enough to give me the assignment of representing a small part of his story. He didn’t write this character based on himself, the play is based on several other true stories, but as fate, or divine will, or just a happy accident would have it, here is another opportunity for me to delve further into the mires of the human psyche and therefore learn more about myself.

So thanks, friend, for getting hit by a car so I can know myself better.

Christ, I’m such a wanker sometimes.

My friend has a blog. It’s very good. Check it out.

https://eisforestranged.wordpress.com

Love Isn’t Enough

Trigger warning: contains references to drug use, violence, abuse and rape.

I remember the first time it happened. We were in St Kilda East, opposite the cemetery. Stupid idea for two energetically sensitive people to live opposite a massive cemetery, but there you go. We were breaking up for the second time. I had confronted her about her return to drug use, and by confront I mean scream “fucking junkie” in her face. She punched me in the mouth, held me down on the bed and raised her fist to punch me again. She called me a dumb fuck, ugly bitch. I muttered for her to get out of my house. She did. I cried. I went in to work at the parlour the next night, my lip swollen and a blood blister forming. The girls took care of me, but all I wanted was her.

I begged her to come back. She did eight months later. By this time I had spent a few months living in a factory cultivating an amphetamine habit that I didn’t have to pay for, I had worked in Sydney for the first time and been anally raped by a client whilst there, and had been homeless for a while, bouncing from couch to couch. I had finally found a little flat to call home in St Kilda, and she came back. And then she left. And then she came back. Even when she was with someone else, she came back. This was to be the final two years of our relationship, this push me/pull you bullshit.

The second time it happened was at the flat. I had found needles and poorly written love notes from another woman. I confronted her again, this time adding “whore” to the well-versed “fucking junkie” routine. I slapped her because she called me stupid. She doesn’t remember this, but I do because she fractured my nose in retaliation. She slept in my bed that night, while I lay on the couch, sobbing. She was gone in the morning.

I punched the wall next to her head once because she stole my entire $700 pay packet to score some heroin. Then I took her to a Buddhist temple to be cleansed. She thought I was taking her somewhere to kill her. I guess she didn’t know how much I loved her, that regardless of how many fantasies I had of beating her up and throwing her off the balcony, I could never harm her. Love does that.

The last time was the last time anyone ever laid a hand on me again. I forget now what the argument was about. Probably drugs, again. I goaded her, that I remember. I pushed her hard with my words until she snapped. She held a knife to my throat and tried to smash my head through the kitchen window. Fuck, she was strong. I have strength, yes, but she was propelled by something more forceful. I couldn’t push her away. She suddenly let me go, grabbed her things, and stumbled out the door. I didn’t see her again for years.

I grieved for her for a long time. I thought she was The One for me because I felt so strongly for her. I didn’t realise until years later that the physical stuff was not the only abuse we heaped on each other. She lied to me constantly, about stuff that she didn’t even have to lie about. I called her names to hurt her because I couldn’t touch her. She stole money and jewellery from me. I read her private phone messages. She took drugs and worked at the parlour one New Year’s Eve instead of spending it with me, so I cheated on her with another woman – I was free to sleep with whatever man I wanted to, but I broke our one rule in spite. She shot up anything she could get her hands on. I cut myself. She’d proposition men for drugs. I laid on my back for her habit. We played stupid games with each other, her using, me enabling until we burnt ourselves out. We were like a supernova that imploded into a black hole.

The funny thing is, we loved each other fiercely. That’s probably why we lasted for five years all up. She still says that I was the perfect girlfriend. I beg to differ, but I loved her, there was no doubt about that. Sometimes, though, love isn’t enough. We were bad for each other. She lost herself in drugs and I lost myself in her. While we were together, terrible things happened to us and we weren’t in the frame of mind to get help. Our network was sex workers, brothel managers and drug addicts – people who had their own stories and horrors to contend with. We removed ourselves from our respective families because toxic relationships tend to make their inhabitants do that. Oh, there was love. In retrospect though, looking back years later, it is so clear that it wasn’t enough.

Ten years later, we’ve reconnected and we’re friends. Good friends. Some people raise their eyebrows at this. I guess I wanted her friendship because I refused to be the victim and I refused to make her the perpetrator. I’ve told very few people the particulars of this story because I still refuse to be the victim in this. I spent a lot of my life victimising myself because of the things that happened to me at the hands of others. I needed to, and identifying as a victim of abuse is very important for the healing process to begin. But by the time she and I were finished I was done with it, I was done with being the person bad things happened to. Therefore, I think, I was able to forgive. She and I have talked and talked and cried and talked about that time. She has apologised again and again, still does, to such an extent where I have to tell her to stop because she doesn’t need to anymore. I can see by simply spending time with her that she’s a completely different person now, as am I. I said my sorries to her too, as one thing this relationship taught me is that things are rarely one-sided.

I’ve suffered abuse. At the hands of my mother, at the hands of a child molester, at the hands of a few rapists, and at the hands of a lover. It does not define me, but I know more of this subject than I care to. No one can tell me otherwise.

If you know more of abuse than you’d care to, please get help. Talk to someone. Recovery is not about being angry at the person who hurt you (although that helps for a short time), it’s about finding a way to move on with love for yourself. Talk therapy helped me immensely. Maybe it can help you too.

This post is dedicated to this year’s Australian of the Year, Rosie Batty, whose strength, resilience and bravery is an inspiration to many.

CASA
Support for victims of rape and sexual assault

http://www.casa.org.au

Family Drug Support
For families and loved ones of those with addictions

http://www.fds.org.au

ASCA
For adults surviving child abuse

http://www.asca.org.au

Victim Support Australia
Help for victims of crime

http://www.victimsupport.org.au

Child Wise
Help for victims of child sexual abuse

http://www.childwise.org.au

Domestic Violence Resource Centre
A very helpful site for those experiencing domestic violence, also caters to LGBTIQ

http://www.dvrcv.org.au/support-services/national-services

1800RESPECT
https://www.1800respect.org.au

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association
Although there is no over-reaching national association, this page has links to other organisations that offer support and help to current and ex-sex workers. (Based in NSW)

http://www.scarletalliance.org.au

A Letter To My Mother

Dear Mum

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to fall from a great height and survive; what the impact of my body hitting the ground would feel like. Would I pass out? Or would I lie there, all the breath knocked out of me, at one with the moment?

Since you’ve been gone, I feel like I’ve jumped off a cliff and tried to fly. My back is fucked, I have a constant cough (probably more due to the amount of cigarettes I’m sucking down than anything else), my knee is giving out and I’m tired all the time. All the fucking time. My wife gave me a massage last night that left me in tears. In trying to fix my back, she released all this emotional garbage that was caught up in the muscles, sinews and tendons supporting my spine. I sobbed like a child, keening and hiccuping, like the world was ending. Something has to change.

Something has changed. The world has hit breaking point and I feel we are on the brink of a world war. This is what history has dictated since we have failed to learn from it. It may seem that all the conflict is oceans away from those of us here at the bottom of the world. Distance – usually a tyrant – is saving us from the immediacy of suicide bombs and guns and planes being shot from the sky. We weigh in our opinions on issues we know little about – not for lack of trying, but simply because what we are fed through mainstream media is homogenised, censored and spun into webs of carefully worded (dis)information. Those seeking transparency are labelled as kooks, naysayers and agitators. We as a people are being gently patted on the head and told not to worry, it’s too far away from us, here, have a free iPad!

A lot has happened in the world in the past two months since you passed. A man held up a chocolate store in Sydney. The country thought it was terrorism, when in reality it was one unhinged man on a rampage. Staff of a racist, xenophobic magazine were gunned down by religious extremists in France. Neither party was in the right as neither freedom of religion nor freedom of speech justifies such violence. Thousands of people were massacred in Nigeria. Nobody knew about it here because the victims weren’t white or Christian or American or important.

Evil isn’t so easily defined anymore. I’m afraid of what the world is becoming. I’m afraid of what I’m becoming. I’m so angry, quick to snap at anyone for anything, allowing myself to get dragged down by other people’s shit, hating on myself for getting a little bit fat, I’m publicly reacting to things I have no business reacting to, letting the little things become big deals. My wife is suffering; it’s been such a difficult year for her. She’s not been doing well; the pressure of the past year has finally gotten to her and the shit has hit the fan. She’s struggling with newly diagnosed depression, and I’m struggling to support her. She met you and you were a support for her and she needs you so much and now you’re gone.

Why aren’t you here? Why did you have to go? I am a child, because all I’m thinking about is my grief and what’s happening to me when all this stuff is going on in the world. The times I have thought how much I’ve needed you is triple the amount before you went. That’s funny, isn’t it? You were always there, always sending me cute emails, always ready to give help when I needed it, which in reality wasn’t often. Now that you’re not here, every time something goes wrong or a celebration is due, I feel your absence keenly. I’ve seen you no more than eight times in the last 19 years, but your energy was always with me. My brother assures me you’re now looking over me. I can’t feel it yet.

All I can feel is this emptiness. I’m lost. So very lost. Theatre, usually the saviour of my soul, holds no joy for me anymore. My home, usually my sanctuary, is threatened by malicious outside forces. My love for K, the thing I’ve fought for at the expense of friendship and my reputation, is buckling under the weight of somebody else’s hate. I want to run. We both want to run back home to the safety of you, but you’re not here anymore, and I’m so angry and sad and grief-stricken.

I needed to talk to you the other day. Not about anything in particular. Just to talk to you and hear one of your stories about Daisy the cow, or the crazy things you and your kin would get up to on the property, or the songs you would sing for Granddad. I wanted to hear more about your nursing days, about you parachuting out of planes and landing in the ocean, about the judo you learned so you could be safe and independent. I even wanted to hear the sorry story of you and my father, how you loved him, how you failed each other. I wanted to tell you that I’ve forgiven you for your violence towards me when I was a child, that I forgave you long ago, and that your death brought all of that shit back up again, and I had to reconcile who you were then with how you were before you died. Two different women. One I feared, the other I admired. One I grieved for, the other I celebrated. I wanted to tell you that I understood. I wanted to tell you how grateful I am that you saw and heard all the terrible things I did to myself and other people during those awful years of my twenties and that you loved me anyway. You never threw it in my face. You never told me you were disappointed. You just told me that you loved me, that I was your precious girl, and that you were so proud of me.

I had so little patience with you the last few years. You seemed so caught up in your pain and in your past. You would linger there, dwelling in all the things that hurt you, refusing to let go of that and see the present for what it was. I didn’t know, until you died and I was sitting on your bed in your bedroom, how hard you tried. I saw the symbols of your faith throughout your house: crosses, pictures of Buddha, your precious angels, notes to yourself reminding you to let go and be thankful. I saw those things and I felt so ashamed that I didn’t have more faith in you. My gods, you tried. You tried so hard. I’m so sorry.

I miss you. I miss you like nothing I’ve ever felt before.

I wish you were here.

My eternal love,

Missey

Come What May

I’m about to do something I’ve never done before. I’m opening my blog up to tell someone else’s story, in her own words. In the spirit of full disclosure, this is my wife’s story. We talked and thought and debated long and hard about whether we should do this, but in the end, we just want it done. She wants it done. She needed to tell her story, so I did the only thing I could and gave her the platform in which to do so.

So now, in her own voice, here is Krissy’s story.

Courage
My name is Kristen and I was in a relationship with a woman I’ll call IC for four years. It was four years worth of sacrifice, emotional ups and downs, and hard lessons learnt. I proposed after two months, I started my conversion to Judaism after three months, and we moved in together after a year and a half. That year and a half we kept our relationship a secret from her family because I was not Jewish. So, naturally, I had something to prove once our relationship was in the open.

I spent the entire relationship feeling like I had to prove something. One day, five months after we were married, she threw me out of our home, denied me access to my things, broke up with me via her mother, and labelled me an abuser. Then she told everyone. All our friends. Anyone who would listen.

This post isn’t to attack her or the people who support her. When someone makes a claim of abuse, of course they should be believed, and people believe her because they are decent. They’re doing the right thing. The only problem is, it’s not true.

I know I will get crap for writing this, and I know that some people will think I am being vindictive or spiteful. I honestly don’t care about the repercussions because I have already been accused of horrible things, so whatever anyone has left to throw at me, it can’t be any worse than what I’ve already experienced. I am writing this because I’ve been silent on the subject so far, and not many people have had the courage to ask me what happened from my perspective. I don’t believe in public mud slinging, but I’m still feeling the effects of her accusations nearly a year later. She is still publicly accusing me. This is my side of the story, and a chance to finally express what I’ve been going through.

Let’s start with a definition. Emotional abuse has several signs, according to the World of Psychology website and it includes but is not limited to the following:

  • Telling their spouse their opinions or feelings is “wrong”.
  • Disregarding, dismissing, and ridiculing their spouse’s opinions, thoughts and feelings, often by stating, “it was just a joke” or “you’re too sensitive.”
  • Controlling all the financial decisions, withholding important financial information, and making their spouse live on limited resources.
  • Belittling their spouse’s accomplishments, aspirations and who they are as a person.
  • Blaming their spouse for their problems or unhappiness.
  • Deflecting blame onto their partner instead of taking responsibility for their actions and attitudes.
  • Criticising and name calling.
  • Withholding affection.
  • Interfering with opportunities.
  • Isolating a spouse from friends and family.
  • Discouraging any independent activities such as work, classes or activities with friends.
  • Causing insecurity in the relationship by threatening to leave.
  • Unreasonable jealousy.

IC says I did all this to her. She also did some of these things to me. But first, some back-story.

When we met, IC was a virgin. She’d never had a relationship before and she still lived at home with her parents. I had just come out of a two-year relationship with a woman who was violent, and IC was gentle. She had no baggage from previous relationships, and she said she wanted to care for me. Here was my chance to treat someone the way I wanted to be treated. I wanted all her first times to be special and memorable. I wooed her and she loved me. She did many lovely things for me. But that changed.

The wedding day

The day started off bittersweet. We had planned this day for about a year, in fact, from the moment I started my conversion process to become a Jew. IC wore her mother’s wedding dress; I had spent 6 months prepping to make our wedding cake, which ultimately took me nine hours and $600 to make. My family flew in from Switzerland, New Zealand and Brisbane to be with me. They all stayed with me in the 3-bedroom house I shared with IC and helped me prepare for the big day. My bride-to-be was staying at her family’s house, because being a bit traditional, we didn’t want to see each other until the day of the wedding.

The night before our day, I got a call from the hotel where the reception was being held to say that water had dripped on my cake and it had melted. They had put the cake in their drinks fridge next to the door and every time the door opened, water dripped on it. It was ruined. I was devastated. I was so proud of that cake. IC and I saw each other at the hotel due to that cake disaster. All I wanted was to talk to her because she knew how to make it all better. But she went home and her mother took her phone off her and I was unable to speak with her as her mom thought I was going to stress her out. She stole her phone back and we spoke to one another before we fell asleep.

The day of the wedding was beautiful up until the ceremony ended, which is when I had to break the glass. My bride had that if I didn’t smash it well our marriage would be shit. Well, I stepped on that thing three times and smashed it to smithereens. I felt a lot of pressure to do everything ‘right’ that day. Luckily, I did and after the ceremony we felt on top of the world. We went into the rabbi’s office afterwards to have a few minutes as wife and wife as we needed to consummate the marriage within three minutes, as was Jewish custom. We laughed, drank and inappropriately touched each other. We couldn’t believe we had gotten to this place. For those five minutes we were so happy. We didn’t have a care in the world.

Once we had left the rabbi’s office, however, IC’s mother approached us and said, “you have made your Nanna very upset as you didn’t hug her straight after the ceremony concluded”. We were dumbfounded. As soon as we were pronounced ‘committed’ people swarmed us, hugging us and congratulating us. It was our day, well, at least it should have been. Nanna was pissed off. She wouldn’t smile in photos and she was rude. We were very distraught and upset by the whole thing and it was all we spoke about in the limo on the way to get our pictures taken. It sucked.

The reception was lovely. My mother bought a replacement cake, so that disaster was saved. My bride rested in our room in the hotel for a few minutes and I went downstairs from the hotel room to greet guests. We were introduced into the room, performed a Jewish traditional dance, got lifted on chairs, and danced and sang to one another. Our friends and family told us it was the most beautiful wedding they had ever been to. I had one glass of wine, and my bride got her period.

We left the party at midnight to go back to our room. I had planned for the hotel to put a massive cookie on the bed, and rose petals all around the room to surprise my wife. The cookie was a bit of a romantic tradition I used to do for her. The first one I got her a few years back said “I love you”, then one anniversary it was “I still love you” and the cookie on the wedding night said “I will always love you”. She was so happy when she walked into the room. We had a bubble bath and some champagne and the cookie and we watched TV and fell asleep.

In the morning we had to call reception to remind them to bring us our brekkie. During the conversation they they asked her “and what would your husband like?” I laughed quite hard at this, but internally felt slightly offended. This was the order of my life up to this point, though. I was the “husband” in this relationship and I wasn’t allowed to forget it.

After breakfast, we stopped off at her parents’ house as she wanted to open wedding gifts with them. I wanted to rush off and say goodbye to my family as some of them were leaving the country and we were going off to Daylesford for our honeymoon. It took us nearly three hours to leave her parents. I didn’t think she was ready to let go of them just yet. I felt there was always a battle of the parents, and it was only going to get worse.

We said goodbye to our parents, my mother put a purple and red ribbon on the antenna of the car (which stayed there until about a week after she dumped me) and we drove to Daylesford to a house we rented for the week to relax in. We got Maccas in the car on the way there, chatting to each other about the beautiful wedding we had, her head on my shoulder, me both hands on the wheel. We turned up to this beautiful place, cold, wet and windy. It was magical. We had dinner at the pub across the road, consummated our marriage and spent the rest of the week eating at restaurants, vintage shopping, watching movies and TV series in the movie room, getting a massage, drinking wine and eating cheese. We felt like we had it all. She called her mother a few times in the week to check in, we bought her immediate family gifts. We bought my family nothing. Overall we had a good time. I would have preferred to not spend all our time shopping but I wanted to make her happy and in return I got a massage and ate some good food.

My 25th birthday

This was a very important birthday for me, because in South African tradition it is called a crown birthday (as you may have guessed, I am South African). I was 25 on the 25th of August. So it was a special birthday. We drove back from Daylesford and I was so excited because it was my first birthday as a married ‘committed’ woman. I told my wife that I wanted a small gathering at home with my mom, her parents and some friends; a nice dinner with a yummy cake and good company. I asked her to organise it with my mom. She willingly said, “of course baby” and we went on our way.

We got back to the house. She went to go get her sister and some of my friends came around. My mother was making a curry. She had bought nice cheeses and yummy things for the guests and I patiently waited for something to happen. We ate the dinner, my wife scoffing her meal as she loved my mother’s curry more than I did.

Nothing happened. Her parents weren’t coming. Her mom popped round when we were eating dinner and proceeded to get upset because she thought she wasn’t invited. I hadn’t heard from her parents all day and didn’t receive a card or a gift, which I thought sucked a lot. Her mother left, my mother got upset that she bought all this food and they didn’t come over. I thought they were going to because I had asked IC to invite them. Apparently, she didn’t. There seemed to be a lot of miscommunication that day.

I was given the top of our wedding cake as a birthday cake (it was the replacement cake that was chocolate mud and I loathe chocolate cake). You could cut the tension in the air with a knife. My friends left early. My wife then stayed in our room for most of the night upset at me because I was silent and disappointed. I had a whiskey with my mother and went to bed early. It was the worst birthday ever. Yes, it was partly my mother’s fault for not wanting to spend money on another cake (when she spent $600 on the wedding cake), and for the lack of communication, but it wasn’t up to me to sort it out. I asked my wife to plan it and she didn’t. That was what I was upset about.

Every year for the previous four years I gave IC an amazing birthday. I organized hotel rooms, huge themed house parties, got her a magnificent cake and included everyone she knew. The one time before this that she organised my birthday, it was spent entirely with her family. This birthday was my chance to be spoilt and I wasn’t. I then had a week long argument with her mother via text. Her family couldn’t understand why I was upset, why I was in pain. I was made to feel guilty over my terrible birthday. The finger was pointed at my mother, no responsibility was taken by IC or her family, and nothing I did after that was the same.

This is when everything turned to shit. My relationship was not the same. I was not the same. I felt I had given IC’s family so much and received nothing in return. I started to back away from her family because it started to get too much. They wanted us over all the time; they wanted me over to help them move things around the house, to be at their beck and call. I just wanted to be married, live my life with my wife and not feel like I had to spend all my time with them. I was married. To me it felt like we weren’t taken seriously because they just looked at us like children. I wanted respect and I never got it. The events that led up to the break-up were evident of that. I always remained as the girl who stole their child, the girl who they pretended was a man, the girl who took her away from the nest, when in actual fact it was their daughter who wanted to pull away. At least, that’s what she told me.

The end of it all

Sunday

I went to her parents’ place as it was her mom’s birthday. I had made a cake in the shape of a dog, which IC asked me to make a few nights before. I was at the house baking until midnight while my wife was out with her friend A. IC told me she had to go see a show for school as it was an interpreted show and she was studying sign language. She told me she couldn’t get a spare ticket for me. Therefore, I went to her mother’s party alone.

All was good. I spent time with her family. I was on a strict nutrition plan at the time, so I ate salads and made coffee for the whole family. The cake went down well. I picked IC up from the station in the afternoon. I wasn’t feeling too well so I asked her to pick up some cough drops for me. I also wanted to go play dodge ball in the evening and I had no cash on me, so I asked her to take out some cash so I wouldn’t have to park the car. She got upset with me because she didn’t want to get the cough drops, so I went out of my way to get some myself. The car ride back to her mother’s wasn’t pleasant.

We arrived back, I went outside for a bit and IC was sitting with her sister. I was in the kitchen and IC held up a donut and said, “I’m eating one for you.” I responded with “why are you doing that?” The family all turned on me and said “she can eat a donut if she wants to.”

What they didn’t know was we were both off sugar as per IC’s request. She asked me to help her. She had told me to be strict with her and help her to stay off sugar as it didn’t make her feel good, and she had been battling anorexia which no one in the family knew about (except her mother, who didn’t want to do anything about it). The way they looked at me was just horrible, like I was some kind of fucking controlling freak. All I was trying to do was help. She had asked me for help, and I never forced her to do anything she didn’t want to. She could have told me to back off (she’s done it before) and I would have, but she said nothing. So I felt ganged up on and left for dodge ball.

On the way to dodge ball I texted her sister, asking her to butt out, and explained the situation. No one in that family quite understood the effect that kind of food had on us. We both wanted change.

I returned from dodge ball, IC was with her mother in the lounge room with the dog. I was in the kitchen having dinner with her dad. All was normal, except IC and I were both on edge since I picked her up that afternoon. Something was off, and we weren’t communicating. I walked over to the lounge room, took a photo of my wife (which is the last photo I ever took of her) and said, “I’m really tired, I have to get up at 6am, can we please go home?” She gave me this look that was like, “fuck off” so about half an hour later, we left.

We got in the car, I was driving, and as soon as I put the car into reverse we started to communicate. “I feel very embarrassed, I can’t believe you let your family talk to me that way, we’re both on this nutrition plan, you told me it was something you wanted to do” and so on and so forth. She started at me with “you’re trying to be controlling, you’re trying to take my money” etc. Naturally, I was frustrated, I was stupid and drove the car too fast, I was hurt that she thought I was taking her money when we were clearly married and I was the one who was working full time – 12 hours a day in fact. I pulled up to the house, I grabbed my wallet and threw $10 and said, ‘Here, take my money.” By this stage, she was crying. I stepped out of the car and slammed the door. I realised that none of this behaviour was acceptable, but I was upset. My wife had just accused me of theft. I quickly got back in the car, put my arms around her and said, “I’m very sorry, let’s go inside.” She just stared at me, fear in her eyes.

So we got inside, she went in the bedroom, I went to the kitchen and then watered the garden. When I came back into the room she was on the floor, crying. I stood in the doorway and leant my head up against the doorframe and I said, “what are we going to do? This isn’t working.”

She started yelling at me, “you think I’m fat, you think I’m lazy, you think I’m ugly!” I said, “no, I don’t think that at all. You’re saying that, not me.” I just wanted to fix things and I didn’t know how to. I was so depressed and so unhappy. All I kept thinking was ‘I’ve got to get up early to train a client’ and I kept banging my head against the doorframe just so I could feel something. I picked her up off the floor, as I’ve always done, and we got ready for bed. She turned the lights out (the last night we slept next to one another) and I cracked my back and said it hurts. She replied, “you wouldn’t be Krissy without your ailments”.

Monday

The next morning after I trained my 6am client in the garage, I ran into her in the bathroom, she was brushing her teeth. It was so awkward. I said hey, she said hi and I went back to bed. I heard the door slam. At that point I was too exhausted to care. I got up 2 hours later to go to work. I put dinner in the fridge for her for when she retuned home from TAFE. I made a Facebook status about how hard it can be to eat well at parties.

When I was at work, I got a text message from her sister saying that if I was going to talk shit about her family not to do it online. She clearly didn’t understand my Facebook post. It had more to do with how hard clean eating was than me trying to diss her family.

IC and I messaged back and forth about her sister, and IC advised me to ignore her. She asked me if it was okay to take the car, which was weird because it was her car and she could do whatever she wanted. I asked her why she needed the car. She asked me why I wanted to know. I said I just wanted to know. I was curious. She told me she was going to Kmart. It was all very weird.

I was on my way home, it was about 8pm. I messaged IC asking her to please pick me up from the station if she could. She said she was busy. I replied, “so, is that a no?” She never texted me again.

I walked through the door and I got a weird chill. I noticed that all of my stuff had been piled up all over the house. All my paperwork, documents and personal stuff had been emptied out of the suitcase I kept it in and spread all across the room. Books and clothes were strewn all over the place. It felt like something had been pre planned. I walked to the living room and the first thing that I noticed was the empty container of the dinner that I left for her on the coffee table. The fork was still in it and it was dirty. I picked up that dirty container and I threw it across the room. I hopped in the shower, cried and screamed because I knew my marriage was over. It got to around 10pm and she still hadn’t come home. I started to panic because I didn’t know what was going on. I text messaged her mother. She replied, saying we’d talk about it tomorrow. I replied back with an apology for the Facebook post because I thought it was all about that post, but it was about something more.

I rang her parents’ house and her father answered the phone and the first thing he said to me was “what have you done to my daughter?” I was very confused, I was crying. I said, “I don’t know what you mean.” He said, “I don’t know what’s going on, but my daughter is upstairs crying and that’s all that matters to me.”

I could hear her mom in the background, feeding lines to her dad, and what they were feeding me was a text message they had sent earlier telling me to pack my things, get out of the house and stay with a friend for a few days. I wasn’t going anywhere.

I called my friend Bec. She got a taxi and was over in 15 minutes. We sat on the couch talking, trying to figure out what was going on. IC’s phone was switched off and I really didn’t know what to do. We went to bed.

Tuesday

I got up for work at 5am. I trained my clients in the morning at work, and then I got a call at about 9am from IC’s mother. She said to me that the relationship was over, that I needed to find an alternative place to live, that IC had told her that I was emotionally abusive toward her but that I did not hit her, and that they were coming over in the evening to have a ‘family meeting’ at 9.30pm. She told me that I should have some things packed, that I was allowed to have someone else there as a support, and I might want to write out some things to say.

I was bawling my eyes out on Flinders Lane in front of my work, having a panic attack whilst on the phone with her mother. She then tried to counsel me and calm me down over the phone. We hung up, I walked back into work, stood in the middle of the gym floor and broke down. My manager saw me, picked me up and took me into her office. I told her everything that I knew at the time. She said to me to “go home, don’t worry about where you’re going to live or what you’re going to do. We’re here to help you with whatever you need, we’ll deal with that stuff later, just go home and prepare for tonight.”

I left work, went home and got into bed. I cried for a good two hours, and then I made some calls to organise to have some friends come over in the evening for the ‘meeting’. Three of them came over straight after work and found me on the living room floor. I had laid there for another two hours or so. They picked me up off the floor, fixed me a drink and we talked about the next plan of action. They helped me write out some notes. One of the friends was very close with IC, but IC had already asked her not to be there for the meeting, so she left.

The family turned up at about 9.40pm along with IC’s friend A. This friend that she turned up with I had been texting the whole day trying to find out what was happening and if A had been with my wife, as they studied sign language together. They went into the kitchen, I was sitting on the couch with my two friends and they took another ten minutes while they made themselves a coffee. I was shaking. I heard whispering in the kitchen and IC wouldn’t look at me.

They all sat down in the living room and her mother started the conversation. IC only started talking when I said that what was going on was between my wife and I, and I didn’t quite understand why all the communication that had been happening occurred between IC’s mom and I and not IC and I. IC then butted in and said that she asked for their help because she was afraid of me. They accused me of a lot of things, things such as theft, abuse, false intentions (such as the things I used to do for the family I wasn’t doing anymore), emotional abuse, and being controlling. They said I’d changed a lot. They basically accused me of being a false person. They said it was my choice to convert. I converted because I wanted to be with IC, because she told me that was the only way I could be with her.

Then I spoke, basically trying to defend myself. They brought up the incident in Queensland (which I will discuss later), and kept telling me how much they did for me, like letting me into their home, took me on as “one of them”. I asked IC’s dad to look at me and he wouldn’t. He said I wouldn’t like the things that he would say, but I begged him to say it anyway. He said the same things that IC’s mom did; the “how could you do this” speech. I told them how unhappy I was, and my friend Mon backed me up. I told them I felt used. They quickly interrupted and told me I was ungrateful. I felt like my opinions didn’t matter. I asked them what I was supposed to do with my Judaism, since they had more or less sponsored me and promised to show me how to live a Jewish life at my conversion. They had given me a Jewish name and they were supposed to be my Jewish family. IC’s mom told me I’d figure it out. I’d be all right.

I looked at IC and asked her if she would go to therapy with me to work on our marriage. I said I’d do anything to fix it. She said that she didn’t want to see me again for an indefinite time. I said, “does that mean you want a divorce?”

She said yes.

I asked her for a hug. Her mom told her she could give me a hug, so we stood up in the middle of the circle, everyone watching us, and I put my arms around her and held her as tight as I could. I kissed her neck. Her arms were at her sides and she was cold. I let go of her and IC’s mom said I needed to give my house key to A, IC’s friend because she was moving in. She also told me to pack a bag and leave the house that night.

I then passed out. I hadn’t eaten all day. I was told later on by my friend that they didn’t try to help me up, in fact they took a few steps away from me as I lay on the floor. After I came to, IC’s mom walked me to the door. I could hear IC crying in the background. IC’s mom forced a hug on me, promised me I’d be able to gain entrance into the house to get my things later on. I forgot my phone charger, so I yelled out for someone to get it from the living room. IC’s sister went to get it. She handed it to me and said, “everything’s going to be okay.” My friend Bec stepped in and said, “that’s enough.”

My friends grabbed my bags and my pillow from the bedroom and they slammed the front door behind us. My friends and I stood on the porch, hugged each other, and we all cried. I was so thankful my friend Mon was there with her car otherwise I’d have to walk to the station in the dark, not sure of where I was going to spend the night.

We went back to Mon’s place. She made us something to eat, we had a drink, and I sat in shock. They put me to bed, the day done, but I didn’t sleep very well. Mon told me later that she was in shock and crying for three days after that night because of the way that family treated me. Mon’s no fragile flower. For her to say that, it must have been bad.

The next morning I called the rabbi who married us to let her know what was happening. I went to the bank to change all my passwords as IC knew them all. I had to cancel all my private clients and put everything to do with my business on hold. I called my parents in Switzerland and two other mutual friends. I never said a bad thing about IC to anyone. Everyone who I spoke to I told to get her side of the story as well before making any assumptions. Over the next few days I stayed at Bec’s place. I went back to work on the Thursday, and I went up to Brisbane on the Friday to be with my sisters.

When I came back, everything that was promised to me turned out to be a lie just to get me out of the house. I lost my home, my business, some personal items, documents, my religion and its community, and my name. Everything was ripped out from underneath me within a day. I had no legal rights. The police couldn’t help me. They told me that they dealt with this kind of thing all the time, people being falsely accused of abuse, and that I pretty much had no rights. I was basically homeless until a friend offered me her room while she was in Adelaide for 10 days, and that’s when my mother flew over from Switzerland to help me. For a while there, I guess you could say I was a wandering Jew.

A week later, I called IC’s mom because she told me to get in contact with her to arrange a time to get some documents out of the house. She said to be there at 8pm that night. I had a strange feeling, so I asked a few friends to come by the house just in case. Luckily I did because they told me if I didn’t take everything that was in the garage that night they would chuck it out onto the nature strip. When I arrived, my property was thrown into the garage, paperwork piled on the dirty garage floor, kitchenware covered in ants, and my wife nowhere to be found. The family had put things that they thought were mine in there, but they also dumped a bag of recycling, rubbish like dirty tissues, ear buds, empty shampoo bottles and the like. IC had also thrown things in there that she didn’t want, like the dress she wore on our first date, photos of us that she had, gifts I had given her over the course of our relationship. My conversion certificate was on the garage floor.

Garage

The garage where my belongings were put.

The lights were off in the house and they stood on the corner of the property. We tried to get them to sign a piece of paper saying that they would allow me access into the house to get my things as there were still items of my property in the house. They wouldn’t sign it, and they told my friend that they felt ambushed as I had some people with me helping me get my stuff. I was sobbing and my friends escorted me from the property while they packed up my things.

My friend Kristina (now my wife and the friend who let me stay at her house while she was in Adelaide) came home that night to her house to find me on the couch, sobbing. She dropped everything and ran to me, putting her arms around me. She didn’t know what had been happening, only what I had been accused of. She was actually really only an acquaintance, but she and her housemates opened their home and their hearts to me and I will be forever grateful for that.

I went to a lawyer who wrote up a letter to send to IC’s parents, i.e. the tenants of the house demanding return of a list of my possessions that I wanted to get from the property, otherwise I would have to get a court order. IC’s mother claimed that I owed IC approximately $7000 for unpaid rent, bills and anything she could think of. She argued that IC was to keep the large items of mine that I had bought with my own money, like my fridge and my bed, as payment to her. IC controlled the finances in our relationship. She paid all the bills. She even had me email my phone bill to her so that she could pay it. She paid money to her mom for rent. That was our arrangement. I paid my share, I bought all the groceries, and I paid for the upkeep of the car. I spent $4000 on our wedding out of my own pocket. I paid IC’s mom $2000 in cash for rent the week before they threw me out, even though she had sent me this message in June the previous year:

Message

(My friend Bec and IC’s friend A were due to move in. Two days before I was thrown out, Bec had given notice at her previous address.)

I got a call from IC’s mom the next evening whilst I was at work letting me know she received the letter and that she wanted to be ‘civil’ and would put the things I requested in the garage for me to collect. I then asked her why she wouldn’t allow me access into the property. She replied with “everything has changed inside, you wouldn’t recognise it anymore. There’s no need for you to enter that house anymore.”

I finally got my stuff back with the help of a hired truck and some friends. Bec and I found a house together and I moved in. Kristina and I began to get close. She took me out on a date, and soon we were together. It wasn’t planned, and it took me by surprise, but Kristina gave me what I needed, and still does. Friends started dropping away. People who had helped me during the break up began to get upset with me because I had moved on with Kristina so quickly. My friends told me that I was shoving my new relationship in IC’s face and that it proved I was an abuser. It didn’t make sense to me, and I didn’t appreciate being told what to do, especially by people who held their previous help over my head as a reason why they could tell me what to do.

And of course I’d move on! I’d been accused of horrible things by someone who was supposed to love me, and I was expected to sink into a hole and beat my breast over her. Some people don’t understand how I could move on so quickly, but I’ve always been able to let go of things that are over. I don’t tend to stay where I’m not wanted. Was I supposed to pine after her, or try to get her back? She had made it very clear that she didn’t want me in her life, that she thought I was scum, so why would I hold on to her? Why wouldn’t I get on with my life? It just so happened that I fell in love with someone else. It wasn’t convenient for either Kristina or me, but it happened. I understand that it must have hurt IC, but she had blocked both Kristina and me on Facebook and didn’t see any of the photos or statuses that we put up. I wasn’t doing it to spite her. I was doing it because I was in love.

Kristina’s copped it too. She’s lost friends, people who have disagreed with our relationship. A few days prior to my divorce from IC Kristina began getting phone calls from an unknown number. The day of the divorce they escalated, happening every hour or so with either heavy breathing or nothing on the other end when she answered. The calls stopped during the actual divorce proceedings, and then continued for a few hours immediately after. We still don’t know who made the calls and we’re making no assumptions, but a few weeks ago, after Kristina had announced our legal marriage over her blog, I started getting calls. Almost a year later, we’re still being reminded of what has happened.

The incident

I did do something wrong, which I will always regret. This is the incident I referred to earlier. In March 2013, we went up to Brisbane for a family holiday for Passover. IC’s grandmother had passed away and the family always took a trip to Queensland so they wanted to do it in her memory. They sat me down and told me they wanted me to come along. I said no, go have a family holiday, but they insisted. They said I was good to IC’s grandmother because I spent time with her. It was a family trip and they included me in their family. Her parents paid for everything, in return I tried to do a lot of the cooking and help out where I could. I felt a little obligated to them, and both IC and I felt we couldn’t do our own thing because they had paid for everything.

We did spend some time with my sisters. After that, my sister Lauren went back to work in New South Wales. Within a couple of days, I received a call from my mother that Lauren had been taken to hospital and admitted into the psych ward. I got text messages from Lauren that were very distressing as she was going through a psychotic episode. I started to panic. I isolated myself in our room of our holiday unit because I felt like I wasn’t getting any comfort from IC’s family, I wanted to be with mine but felt I couldn’t because I was on holiday with IC’s family. I felt I couldn’t ask them to drive me to see my sister because it was their time and their holiday.

The night this incident happened, I was having a panic attack and IC was being really cold to me, not understanding what I was going through and seeming not to care. I think she was pissed off because she thought I was asking too much for her to stand up to her family to make them help us. We argued and then she suddenly went really quiet and I felt ignored. I was so lost, so stressed out and upset and felt so isolated from my family who needed me. She was lying on the bed, ignoring me, and I jumped on her and shook her, my hands on her shoulders. It was a shake of frustration, like “give a shit about something! Give a shit about me!” It lasted for about 5 seconds. She opened her eyes really wide and she looked terrified. Instantly, I got off her. I was a bit in shock but I apologised immediately and kept apologising. She said it was okay, so I lay on her chest and we cuddled. It scared her, I know it did, and I felt so horrible.

The next day, it was all back to normal. There was talk of me having to fly out to New South Wales to get my sister to drive her back to Queensland, but my family found someone else to take her. (On the night that they kicked me out they said that they had waited around all day to hear about my sister and were at my beck and call. It was bullshit, they waited in the car for an hour, not all day.)

IC brought it up when it was convenient for her to bring it up, usually in a moment of anger. I thought it had been resolved because we talked about it at length when we were back in Melbourne, but any time we had a fight she would say that she was scared of me. I would reply, “why are you scared of me?” And she would reply that I had choked her.

I didn’t hurt her. There were no bruises and it lasted for about 5 seconds. My memory is of shaking her in absolute frustration. Her memory is of a malicious attack on her in which I choked her, which is what she told her family, but I honestly don’t remember it that way. I accept full responsibility for what I did. There were extenuating circumstances and I was extremely stressed and upset, but it’s no excuse. I have to live with doing that for the rest of my life, and I am acutely aware of how unforgiveable it was that I did that. I expected it to end our relationship, but it didn’t. It never happened again. I never laid a hand on her again, and I’m so sorry that I ever did.

Our relationship

Based on the definitions I listed previously, IC claims that I emotionally abused her, that I was controlling, jealous and mean. Here’s my experience of our relationship.

Screen Shot 1Screen Shot 2

Telling me that it was a joke when her behaviour upset me is emotional abuse. It denied the validity of my feelings and my opinions. I never denied hers. I apologised for hers.

I did not keep her from her family and friends. The week before she threw me out I was entertaining her family for her mother’s birthday. I baked a cake for her mom. IC was out at a show with another woman (which she lied to me about, saying that she went by herself). I rejected my family for hers. I thought that my family was so bad, and here was my wife’s family who were so close and still together and they did things together. My family was strewn all over the globe. I desperately wanted to be a part of IC’s world, so I threw away my own relationships with my family to try to prove to her that I deserved to be in hers.

I have never isolated her from her family or friends. I have never stopped her from pursuing her hobbies and passions. She continued learning sign language, often signing with her friend, A – the one she ‘replaced’ me with – in front of me, therefore isolating me from the conversation. I stopped seeing friends that IC didn’t like or get along with.

I went to every gig of hers I could, watching as she performed nasty songs that she wrote about me. We spent money on her clothes, on her hair, on her image and her career. She did the same for me too. She worked while I studied personal training. That’s what people in a marriage do.

IC would complain about her weight. She sat me down one day and said, “I am unhealthy, I want to quit sugar, I don’t feel good in the morning, please help me.”

I made up a nutrition plan for us both because I was also complaining about my weight and she told me to do something about it. I supported her and made good food for her that fit within our nutrition plan, but she didn’t always follow it. The night I was kicked out she said (through her family) that I called her fat, which I never did, and she blamed me for her anorexia, saying I was controlling her food. She wouldn’t cook! She rarely even helped with cooking. I bought her favourite foods, I made sure there was always healthy food on the table, even when I’d been working all day. I’d come home late some days after an awful day at work and she’d be sitting on the couch eating chips. Still I had to make dinner.

I stopped giving her affection, I admit that, particularly in public. Firstly, I didn’t feel safe. We were a same sex couple in a country that won’t legalise same sex marriage. She never stood up for me in an argument with anyone, could she protect me in the street? I’ve only just now really learned to be okay with public displays of affection, mainly because my partner now makes me feel safe. IC never did. Secondly, she used to grab my head with her hands and kiss me so hard I couldn’t breathe. It would hurt and I didn’t like it.

Our sex life was troubling. At first it was exciting, but after a while it became all about her. She went down on me once during our entire relationship, and never did it again because I took too long to orgasm. If I asked her to do something specific or change something she was doing, her response was an exasperated sigh, and she’d say “I never do anything right.” We are told as women that we have a right – no, a duty to tell our partner how to please us. Apparently, my asking her was abuse. So, I faked orgasms just to get through it, and then we just stopped having sex. To be honest, I think my libido dried up because she was treating me so bad. Her expectation of me was too great.

I was very honest with IC when we first got together. I told her everything that had happened to me in my previous relationship in which I was physically abused and she assured me that I would always be safe with her, that she’d do everything in her power to make me feel special. However, I wanted to go to Sydney. She said we couldn’t afford it, even thought I was earning the money (and we both had $3000 each in our bank accounts). I wanted a dog. She didn’t because it would take my attention away from her. We were given a lot of money at our wedding, as was custom. Most of it was spent on our honeymoon on vintage clothes for her.

She said to me once that if she was offered a job where she had to hide her homosexuality and her relationship with me, she would do it. I would simply cease to exist and I would have to accept that. She said, “we would work it out.” I didn’t come out of the closet to be put back in by my wife.

There was a time when I had gastro for the first time in my life. IC had a massive fear of throwing up so I told her to sleep in other room to keep her safe and away from any possibility of catching it. She was doing a show at the time, I was in a really bad way and she was performing. I called her after her show to let her know my belly was hurting me badly and she said she would be right over. She took over an hour and a half to call me back. I was curled up on the floor in pain near the front door, leaning up against the wall when she walked in, put down her bags, looked at me and sighed. I felt as though I had become a burden. The tone in her voice was that of ‘I no longer care. I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to look after you.’ I felt I needed to go to hospital. I asked her to take me, but she didn’t want me to go. She said to just get back into bed and I would be fine. I felt like my intestines were crawling with rats and they were trying to escape my tummy.

She called her mother to ask what she thought she should do even though she wasn’t there at the house witnessing my pain. She gave her my symptoms and her mom just said, tell her to go to bed with a hot water bottle. No need to go to hospital. So I put myself to bed, cried, she slept next to me but at a great distance, even though I said don’t take the chance. The next day, I begged her to drive me to the doctor but she said school was more important. I drove myself, curled up to the wheel, waited in the waiting room for 2 hours and felt pretty sorry for myself and rotten. The doctor said I was severely dehydrated and should have gone to the hospital. I knew then I had to prepare myself for a life of looking after myself and not to expect my wife to know how to look after me or have any desire to. I felt incredibly alone, broken down and cheated. She just didn’t know how to look after anyone but herself. She was never taught how to.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I was an angel and she was a demon. I yelled, I slammed doors, I drove the car too fast when I was angry, I switched off when I got too emotional. I was a dick to her, but you know what? She was a dick to me too. She would cry instead of talking to me. She would leave without saying anything, sometimes very late at night. She would say everything is all right when clearly things had not been resolved. I was having what I now know to be anxiety attacks and she’d get angry with me or cry, thinking it was all about her. She didn’t help me when I was having those attacks; she thought I was attacking her. She had depression therefore I wasn’t allowed to have bad days. I always had to be happy around her and for her, otherwise I was “blowing up” or “being mean” or she was “scared of me.” She sat back and watched her sister be a bitch to me, complain about her sister in private with me, but say nothing to her in my defence. I was insecure in that marriage because I’d hear things like “convert or I’ll leave you.” She later apologised for that but the damage was done. A text argument over the purchase of a fridge (with my money) contained these words from her: “Enjoy your fridge, it’ll be around longer than me.”

When her sister was living with us, it was awful. Her sister, whom I’ll call S, was inherently lazy. She left her dishes lying around the house; she never did any cleaning or house keeping. We’d argue a lot, and IC would never defend me. Her mother sent me text messages telling me off about how I was treating S. It got so bad that one day I seriously considered killing myself. I was going to hang myself with a belt, but right before I did it, I decided that I wasn’t going to give up. I went to IC and told her how I was feeling. She got angry with me and told me I was being dramatic. Tell me how I am the one being accused of abuse.

She accused me of being jealous, even though I told her she could go out and kiss any woman she wanted to since I knew she hadn’t had much experience before me. She had a friend I’ll call J who for a time lived with Kristina and our friend Lucy. J and IC had a few dates before we got together. I was a little jealous of him, I admit, but I never stopped them from hanging out. However, she would invite J over when I was at work and then tell him not to tell me. They were doing a show together and IC told me, Lucy and everyone she could that J was in love with her and being inappropriately touchy with her and making her feel very uncomfortable. Lucy confronted J about this and I told J to back off. I was very angry with him, not because I was jealous, but because he was making my wife uncomfortable.

I found out later that this was all a lie. Mutual friends would tell me that IC would willingly put her arms around him and be affectionate with him when I wasn’t around. When I was around, he would be affectionate with her, but she’d be cold because of what she had told me about him. She finally told me the truth, and later J told me that IC had said to him that she was confused because she had feelings for him. She kissed him in rehearsal when she told me she wouldn’t and then lied to me about it. She isolated J from his housemates and friends and made him feel like he was a horrible person. He was lied about and I was lied to.

After she threw me out, she lied some more, telling my friends I tried to strangle her (which she later admitted to some friends wasn’t true), telling anyone who would listen that I was emotionally and verbally abusive. My friends keep track of her social media sites and tell me that she still posts things about her “abuser” and about abusive relationships. Anyone who knows IC knows that her “abuser” is me as I am the only person she’s had a relationship with.

She was so duplicitous. When Kristina and I started going out, Kristina invited me to a season launch party at La Mama, an iconic theatre here in Melbourne. Kristina had a show on, and we thought long and hard about whether I should come because IC was going to be there too. In the end, Kristina told me she wanted me there, and our plan was to avoid IC so as to not cause any trouble for her or for ourselves.

As it happened, when I entered the door to the theatre, IC came up to me, apparently on her way out. She smiled at me, touched my arm and said hi. There were people all around us who saw this, including Kristina. Later, mutual friends told Kristina that IC had approached them saying she was scared because I was there. She was upset, and told them that Kristina and I were there specifically to intimidate her. I want to reiterate: she came up to me. I didn’t see her until she was right in front of me. She didn’t have to come up to me. She could have waited until I was inside and with Kristina’s friends before she left. Anything I did seemed to be interpreted as a dig at her. I just wanted to get on with my life.

We went to a show that she was acting in because Kristina’s good friend was directing and had invited both of us. I completely understand that it wouldn’t have been nice for IC to see me and Kristina in the audience, but we went because Kristina wanted to support her friend, and I wanted closure. Kristina said she wasn’t going without me. It was either both of us, or neither of us. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have gone, but it felt important at the time. We were both snubbed by people we thought were friends, and we didn’t stick around after the show. We both sobbed on the way home. Like I said, I understand it would have been awful for IC; it was also awful for us, and to be completely honest, with what I had been going through, I didn’t owe IC anything.

That awful night, her and her family began their campaign to convince the world – and me – that I was an abuser. Yes, I was a dickhead to her, mostly because I didn’t particularly like myself. Because of that one incident in Brisbane, I was tarnished for life. Manipulating and bullying me into believing I was an abuser is abuse in itself. But I was the one who got help. At the advice of friends I went to a psychologist because what if this was true? What if I was what they said I was and didn’t even know it? I went to a psych to address this because I didn’t want to be miserable with myself anymore.

When a mutual friend of ours suggested to IC that she should see a therapist (she’d been ‘abused’, she was anorexic, depressed, she needed help), IC accused our friend of victim shaming her. If IC didn’t hear what she wanted to hear she would blame everyone else for it.

For a month prior to the breakup every time we argued we would discuss the option of getting a ‘Gett’, a Jewish divorce. We knew it would be too hard to do since we were the community’s token couple and we were the first same sex couple in Victoria to have a Jewish commitment ceremony. We were embarrassed because we’d just gotten married. We were afraid of looking foolish. We both knew that the relationship wasn’t working, but we didn’t want to let go. Life would be strange and it would be hard losing each other. She promised me she wouldn’t throw me out of the family home, as she knew I had no family, nowhere to go and nothing to keep me going. We both were severely depressed; we relied on each other for happiness yet we were both headed in different directions. She got her family to break up with me, I realise now, because she was scared that she wouldn’t be able to let me go. She broke my heart, but if in her head that was the only way she knew how to let me go then I thank her for letting me go, and I forgive her. All I ask is that it stops now. We cannot go back, but we can move forward having learnt and having grown. She needs to stop punishing me for moving on.

I don’t want to humiliate her. I just want this to be over. She’s been dragging my name, my reputation and my character through the mud, and she won’t stop. I have lost so many friends, so I have finally decided to defend myself. I married her because I wanted to be married. I thought I loved her. I did for a while, to tell the truth, but she became so manipulative and selfish that my love began to fade. Everything was all about her and her family. She was nasty about people behind their backs and then lovely to their faces. She was jealous of others’ success and I allowed her to deny my own success. IC’s family were right, to a point. I had changed during the course of our marriage. I was desperately unhappy, I was tired all the time because I was working all the time and trying to lose weight. I cut back on the things I was doing for her family because I felt taken for granted. I felt like I was constantly proving myself to them, and if I slacked off, I was told off like a child. My role in that family was to do things for them, and that included IC. The entire relationship was about her.

I know that this paints a very different picture of the girl who has called herself a victim, who said she was dead in the eyes when she was with me, who said she was afraid of me and who blamed me for her mental health issues and her unhappiness. I know it’s a case of she said/she said, and I can’t convince anyone to believe me and not her. It’s all about perspective. One person’s idea of good character is another person’s idea of questionable behaviour. People will believe what they want to believe. This is merely my side of the story.

As I said before, I am not guiltless. I don’t deny that I was awful to be around sometimes, and I didn’t always treat her nicely. But she was the same. If there was any abuse in our relationship, it was happening on both sides. Simply, our relationship was unhealthy. It was toxic. We didn’t know it until it was done, but it’s clear now.

Today I am grateful for my life and the way I have lived it. I have been blessed in so many ways I cannot begin to express my gratitude. I have always felt blessed, privileged and rich. I have travelled, eaten many strange and amazing things, drank fine wines and spirits, held intellectual conversations and met many diverse and wonderful people. I have learnt so much from all of these wonderful and exciting experiences and I can honestly say I regret nothing. I have been so fortunate and have received things I have wanted through hard work, determination and drive. I believe in G-d and therefore I worked hard to form a relationship with G-d. Yes, I have had some terrible things happen to me in my life but I have always come out the other side of it stronger and wiser. Today I want to thank the universe and G-d for giving me such a blessed life, full of love, experience and excitement.

Today I realized that I am no longer the person I was 11 months ago. I have had to learn many a thing and the most important was to love and respect myself. I am a hard worker, an honest and compassionate person, a soldier, a stress head and I do care about what people think of me. Often in the past I would sit and pull my hair out stressing about upsetting people and having people be upset with me, or thinking I have hurt someone. I never wanted people to have to confront me or change for me. I did all the changing and I avoided confrontation. I am not a good fighter or debater. It is easier for me to just sit back and take it rather than to fight back. I get verbal constipation when it comes to defending myself or speaking up for myself. I have spent my entire life serving others so that they could say Krissy is lovely, Krissy is selfless, Krissy is respectful, Krissy is kind-hearted, Krissy is …

NOW.

Those years taught me a valuable lesson. You can be the loveliest, sweetest girl in the world, change your whole life and religion for someone but there will always be someone who either wants to bring you down or doesn’t think the sun shines out of your butt. Butts don’t shine.

I will never forget what they did to me, but in my heart I forgive them for the pain and suffering they have inflicted on my friends, family and myself. It’s time to move on.

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.

The Long Journey Home

Stepping off the plane onto the tarmac at Brisbane airport, I’m hit with a wave of sticky humid heat, like a slap in the face with a warm wet towel. My hair immediately responds with vigour, springing out from my head like little snakes, unruly and untameable. I am reminded one should never wear jeans in Brisbane.

Here ends the first leg of my journey home. I have a headache – a persistent sickly thud in my temples that has been present since the car ride to Melbourne airport. I have cried already today several times. My eyes are sore and the salt behind my contacts is making my vision fuzzy. I think back to the day already half gone: my brother Karl’s phone call at 7.30am (“get on a plane, sis”), having a bath to soothe an anxiety attack, phone conversations with my father, my cousin, my mum, the trip to the airport, K and I playing ‘spot the lezzy’ as we wait for me to board the plane. I think I cried as much for leaving her as I did for anything else.

Brisbane smells like salt; a sea breeze. The air is thick but fresh – an odd combination. I trundle my suitcase to the Airtrain while on the phone to K. This is my first experience of a layover itinerary. I had connecting flight jitters and needed the sound of her voice in my ear. I’m already thinking about the future and how lacking it will be without Mum. I feel ashamed, as if I’ve failed her somehow.

I board the flight to Auckland, my eyes puffy and red. The attendants take pity on me, asking if I’m all right. I smile that defeated smile of one who isn’t all right, actually, but has to be. They stow my baggage for me. I’m grateful for someone else taking control of that one little thing. In the plane, gaining altitude, I have the unexpected pleasure of witnessing an achingly beautiful sunset reflecting vaguely off the darkening Tasman Sea. It seems fitting, somehow. A last hurrah.

I knew Mum was going to go since I heard about the heart attack. When my brother told me of the plan for open heart surgery I got that cold prickly sensation in my chest. That knowledge and the acceptance of her impending death made me feel callous and cold, like I had given up on her already. But I know that feeling. I seem to have a gift for predicting doom.

K kept saying to me right up to the moment I left that Mum could pull through. My beautiful wife with her unending optimism when it comes to me; I wanted to jump on board with her. But I knew. My brother knew. Mum knew.

I sit, uncomfortable in the airplane seat, screaming kids everywhere, it seems. Their high-pitched whining is boring into my skull, and their mother sitting behind me talks too loud because she’s wearing headphones. The kid kicks the back of my seat. I want to yell at them to fuck off but I don’t because it must be hard mustering three kids on an international flight. I spill wine on myself because I’m clumsy and that’s what I tend to do without fail on any plane trip, so now I smell like bad South Australian Sauvignon Blanc. I’m starving, but I didn’t book the ticket with food, so I miss out. I begin to feel resentful and shitty, my weariness turning me into a brat. I just want to be there already.

Mum
I arrive in Auckland at silly-o’clock in the morning, met by one of my 50+ first cousins, Cleave. I’m already exhausted but I heave up my heart and am spirited away to the hospital. I am met at the hospital by a gaggle of my mother’s sisters. All these women, all eight of them, are alpha females. I can only imagine what that must have been like to contend with in a family of 13 kids, but at this moment I am glad of their staunchness. They prepare me as best as they can, but the sight of my mother hits me hard in the chest and my breath is knocked out of me. This woman, this strong, intimidating woman is now as fragile as a butterfly, her wings paper thin. She has been waiting for me. She cries as I take her hand. I cry. When will I ever stop crying? I sit with her as the aunties rally. They have stepped up to heights unimaginable. Their support and their love is as thick as syrup and I am enveloped by it. My mother has been safe in their care.

My brother, my poor, wrecked eldest brother walks into Mum’s room after catching a few hours’ sleep. He’s been here since yesterday, a constant presence. He looks like I feel: wasted, drained exhausted. Yeah, that is a word that will live with us for the next 24 hours. It will define us from here on in. Exhausted.

I hold Mum’s hand as my brother fills me in. My mother, weak but present, interjects.

“Missey, where are you?”

“I’m here, Mum.”

“What are you saying?”

“It’s okay, Mum,” my brother says. “I’m filling Kristina in on what you’ve been up to.”

My mother smiles benignly. “Misbehaving,” she whispers.

My mother is a crack up.

I sleep badly for two hours that night, curled up in an armchair in Mum’s room. My mother has restless leg syndrome, so my Auntie Doreen stretches her legs and massages them. Mum talks to her all night. I catch snippets of the conversation but I tune most of it out, my body needing my mind to rest. I know Mum is achieving catharsis in talking to her sister; I don’t need to know what is said. My eyes open at the sound of the nursing shift change and immediately they fly to Mum’s heart monitor. She’s been having VT episodes – Ventricular Tachycardia – which is when her heart rate spikes to upwards of 208 bpm, so I’m making sure she’s sitting nicely at 74 bpm. She’s alert, perky and engaged. My aunt is exhausted. I wake Karl and we go to breakfast and there’s that faint hope again that she maybe might come out of this. We discuss our dad, how many hours we’ve slept since Mum went into hospital, the outrageousness of hospital cafes not automatically serving real butter with their eggs and toast, a little about politics and a lot about my wife. We go back up to Mum’s room and she’s sitting up chatting to more of her sisters who have arrived to see her. The rallying of the family has amazed us. Their presence has kept her heart rate stable and the love in the room has made her cheeks rosy again. Karl and I decide after a few hours that we’re going to go home for a shower and a nap because we’re wrecked, despite the few hours of sleep we’ve had.

Ten minutes after leaving the hospital we get a phone call. Mum’s had another major spike and she had to be shocked twice with the defibrillator to bring her back. Karl and I look at each other and that inkling of hope we had earlier in the day has gone. Neither of us say it, but we both know this is not going to end with Mum walking out of hospital. I ring K and my other brother Hiran. Come now. You need to come now. Hiran is still in Kuala Lumpur, waiting for a flight. K is reticent because she’s a stresser. I’m tired and I just want them here.

I shower and go back to the hospital. Mum is quiet and faint again, her colour faded. More family turn up. My nana comes to see her daughter, another strained filial relationship that is now being resolved. I can only imagine how my 95-year-old grandmother feels about knowing her second born child is going to die. Everyone thought Nana would go before her children. No one expected this.

My mother’s heart rate suddenly spikes to 198 and she gasps. Nana is pulled out of the room as the nursing team rush in and I watch my mother lose consciousness. I yell for my brother. The nurses call all clear amidst the chaos of people running and machines screaming and Mum is shocked back to life.

I am shocked. And terrified. I can’t describe how it feels watching that for the first time. Karl has seen it before so he rushes me out of the room and I sob and keen like a child. Less than half an hour later it happens again, and this time I watch my mother die and be brought back. I see that heart monitor go to 0 and it’s clear my mother is not going to last the two days until Hiran arrives. The nurses are calling her name, coaxing her out of the darkness. “Cathy! Catherine!”

My mother’s eyes open. “What? Stop yelling at me.”

The laughter breaks the tension enough for us all to take a breath.

Mum insists that she must be kept alive until Hiran is here. Karl and I are asked to make a decision. Strangely, it’s not hard to make. Mum is feeling no pain during these spikes, but the damage these electrical bursts are doing to her heart and her body mean that it’s going to happen again and again and more frequently and none of us can do it. Despite Mum’s burning desire to see her middle child, it’s destroying us to see her die over and over again. The cardiologist has a chat to Karl and me, and then he has a chat to Mum.

The decision is made. No more resuscitation. The next spike that happens may well be her last and we just have to let her go. We can do that. We know we can. Mum’s been in pain for so long, emotionally and physically tortured by the circumstance of her life that her death will be a blessed relief. She has struggled and fought and been knocked down so many times, and although she’s gotten back up every time it has taken its toll. Her soul is tired. She misses her father, 50 years gone. She wants to go home.

We get Hiran on Skype; he’s still in KL. They say their goodbyes. My heart is breaking.

I am exhausted. Debilitated. Sapped, shot, wasted. I have walked from the cardiac unit to the car back to the cardiac unit time and again. I know the journey down that corridor like the steps to my own house. Everything is surreal, coloured in stark light like an over-exposed photo. I’m running on autopilot: have a cigarette, wash hands, watch Mum, talk to cousins, make huge decisions, be responsible. I feel like a child lost at the supermarket.

I sit next to Mum as they take the wires and catheters and IV tubes off her. I tell her I love her. She tells me she blesses my marriage, that she wishes she could be there to see me be married legally. She says she can go, confident to leave me in K’s hands. She says to tell K she loves her and she will be looking out for us both from above. She tells Karl to find someone who makes him happy. She wishes she could touch her son Hiran just one more time. We all fall silent, waiting for her to go. We sing Pokarekare Ana, one of Mum’s favourite songs. The aunties sing a waiata, we sing Amazing Grace, for my mum is a Grace and she’s amazing.

What feels like hours pass, but in reality it’s probably only 20 minutes. Mum stirs.

“Oh,” she murmurs. “I seem to be still here.” She breathes. “You must be so bored.”

Again, laughter. We disperse, Mum’s not going yet. Karl and I have a discussion, how are we feeling? Wrecked, tired, drained, sad. Karl says he needs a drink and some food. Cleave and I go on a fish and chips and wine run. We smuggle booze back into the hospital. The nurses don’t care. They’ve been so excellent, the care they’ve provided has been extraordinary.

I eat, sigh because the food is awful. I sit by myself as I need the space. I’m so tired. I announce to my cousin that I’m going to take a nap.

“Kristina.” There’s an urgency to the voice calling my name. “You need to come in now.”

Mum has a look about her, like she’s not quite behind her own eyes. There’s no longer the beep of the monitor to let us know the state of her heart. There’s just that look.

I sit next to her again and take her hand in mine. She’s still holding the rose quartz crystal I gave her when I arrived at the hospital. It gives her comfort. I tell her I love her. I can’t seem to say it enough. She whispers to me, “you have no idea how much I love you, my precious baby girl.”

Karl is standing on the other side of the bed, holding her other hand, stroking her forehead. The aunties, uncles and cousins are crowded around us, but all I can see is my mother. My strong, independent, imposing mother who taught me how to survive in a man’s world; who hit me as a child but loved me fiercely; who accepted every decision I made because she knew it was my life to live; who spent the last decade making up for bad mistakes; who tried her best, and despite the circumstances raised three good kids; who gave up dreams of owning her own home so that we could have music lessons; who did it all on her own.

My mum’s face changes – she’s going. My auntie Doreen says very quietly, “her pulse is threading.” Suddenly, Mum opens her eyes, queerly blue after a lifetime of hazel. She gazes directly at me, long enough to register my sad smile, then her eyes shift to just behind my shoulder. She has a look of wonder on her face and I know that she’s seeing her beloved dad. She closes her eyes again, her mouth slackens (oh shit, this is it). Her breathing becomes laboured and shallow, more time lapses between each gasp. It is disturbing to watch, but this is apparently a peaceful death. Doreen quietly informs us that Mum’s heart is fibrillating and then she stops breathing.

My mother is dead.

Something in me cracks and I sob like I’ve never sobbed before. A list of facts races through my mind: she’ll never see me marry legally she won’t see me on the big screen she’ll never get her house she’ll never meet my babies oh god what do I do when I’m pregnant I took it for granted that she’d be there I need her to be there what am I going to do what am I going to do? I’m panicking so I don’t realise I’ve said the last part aloud. Karl looks at me. “Karl, what are we going to do?” My big brother, who stepped into the role of my father when he was only 8 years old rushes around the bed and wraps me in his arms.

“It’ll be okay,” he murmurs. “We’re going to be okay. We’re all going to be okay.”

We may be. But we’re changed.

A few of the aunties and I wash Mum down and then the wonderful nurses help us get her into the shroud. We form a guard of honour as the orderlies wheel her to the elevator to take her downstairs to the morgue. One of the nurses comes out and stands with us. We sing again and then we escort her down. Mum’s gone. We say goodbye.

The next few days until her funeral are blurred into hours awake and hours asleep. I sleep simply because I can’t stay awake. I’m awake because things need to be done. K arrives just over 24 hours after Mum’s gone. Hiran arrives a few hours after that. Arrangements are made, people are informed. My father is coming over for the funeral. The boys (my brothers) and I prepare for the event. Mum wanted music so we have to rehearse. We play together like it hasn’t been 20 years since the last time. We sleep little, we eat little. I cry a lot. K is a rock, she sheds tears privately with me. She is trying so hard to be strong.

The funeral is beautiful and brutal. I can’t sing the beginning of our second song, but then I do because it’s Mum and all she wanted was to hear us kids play together again. My father breaks down and into applause simultaneously, leading the charge for the Benton kids. I don’t know how we did it, but we did. Karl and I cry. Hiran is as stoic as ever, but I know my brother. His heart is breaking as much as mine. Our fractured little far-flung family.

The next week flies by as quickly as the last. K and I get New Zealand married; a legal, happy celebration with a few of our aunties from both sides of my family in the midst of such sadness. Three days later, my grandmother dies. Mum’s 95-year-old mum. We reel in shock again. It was expected, but not yet. I can’t do another funeral. I know now what I can and can’t take, so K and I decide to fly home. The extended family step up again and my auntie Liz and uncle Pat offer to cover me financially so I can stay. The offer is considered simply because of its generosity, but I have to go home. I can’t escape my every day life – now without Mum – any longer.

I fly home with K with money given to me by another wonderful aunt Carolyn who has now taken a responsibility of sorts for my welfare. Our rent is paid because of that money. I can’t thank her enough. On the plane I finish this piece of writing because I need to. I am no longer what I once was. My mother is gone. I, ever the empath, the sensitive, can’t feel her. I get messages from her. I get information, but I can’t feel her. This scares me because now I feel so very alone, even though I know I’m not. But I’m too young to not have a mum. I know she’s happy. She’s no longer in pain. She has her garden and her house and her dad.

But I don’t have a Mum.

Catherine Mary Grace (Benton until she reverted to her maiden name by deed poll), born on 26 May 1943, died on 22 November 2014 at the age of 71 from Ventricular Tachycardia. She also had cancer in her uterus and liver. She is survived by her three children: Karl 42, musician, Hiran 39, musician, and Kristina 37, actor/composer. She is also survived by her sisters and brothers Anne, Bill, Rita, Mary, Elizabeth, John, Doreen, Marie, Patrick, Robert, Carolyn and Valerie. Cathy’s years of sacrifice enabled her children to follow their dreams and their art. She left behind a legacy of music, responsibility and accountability, which I will uphold to my dying day.

Her last word was my brother’s name. “Hiran.”

Young MumI love you, Mum.

I’m sitting at the Rosstown in Carnegie listening to my friend Meg sing her Sunday sesh, and I’m reminded of my years of playing gigs with my band Tempest in days gone by. Oh, those were the days. 3 hour gigs every Sunday afternoon, residencies, getting that elusive gig at the Espy, recording, rehearsal, APRA, all that fun stuff.

Honestly, it was actually fun. I look back on those times with a great sense of nostalgia. The band ended badly, as such things do when ego is involved, but it was three years of awesomeness, singing and playing the music we had written, entertaining people, having all types of music lovers come up to us afterwards telling us they loved what we did. I remember one gig when a punk gentleman approached me after a set saying our music wasn’t usually his thing, but he really enjoyed what we did. Those were the moments we lived for.

Watching Meg sing, watching her revel in the magic of song made my heart ache – gladly. Music has something, an unnameable thing that automatically lifts the spirits. God, that sounds so conceited and wanky, but it’s true. Mind you, I’m writing this after two bottles of vino, so really, everything is a wank. But back on topic, I reckon every artist is inspired and gratified by another artist’s work. Seeing people do the thing they love is infectious. The energy of watching that act of art awakens something in an artist’s psyche. Art begets art, always and ever, and thank God it does, otherwise I’d be lost for inspiration.

I want to write again. I want to compose music just for the hell of it, just for the fun of it, for the joy of creating. I have no plans to record and release, or even to perform, but just to write is enough. Meg awoke that within me, just through the act of singing. Crikey, it’s powerful stuff, art. The cool thing about Meg is that she’s a life coach. Like, she actually gives a shit about helping people be better people. And you can hear that when she sings, that care. That’s the power of art.

Now, I’m no sycophant, I don’t believe in blowing smoke up anyone’s arse (what my ex-girlfriend used to call a trick with a packet of cigarettes and a length of hose), but I’m an advocate of helping people be better people, whether it be through art, or therapy, or group discussions, or education, or psychics, or psychotherapists, or whatever. Bettering oneself is bettering oneself, however which way you butter your bread. Therefore, I’m including a link to Meg’s website ’cause I think she’s great, but also because I believe in supporting fellow artists in whatever they do.

We’re at a point in existence in this world in which we’re on tenterhooks. There’s war, there’s death, there’s man’s inhumanity to man all over the damn place. Any chance we have to find our inner truth and have better relationships with other people on this earth, we should take. So here’s my unabashed plug of my friend Meg, singer, event planner and life coach extraordinaire.

Peace to you all.

http://www.startingtodaycoaching.com.au

Music Gets The Best of Me