Archive by Author

Far Flung Four is dead

28 Oct

Long live Far Flung Four!

OK, I’m calling it. After a year, 52 topics, 183 posts and 784 comments, Far Flung Four is having a sleep. A big, big sleep.

But I’m confident that it’ll be back in a while from now. Or maybe even a shorter time. Who knows?

What I do know is that I really enjoyed writing for it, and reading all the entries. I loved the sense of closeness it gave me to the other flingers, and to our faithful readers, especially Mischa and Suzy.

I look at my weeks now and I’m not sure where I fitted in writing my posts. That time has been quietly eaten up by other things. Most notably the fair.

So it’s so bye for now I think…unless someone wants to try a last ditch resuscitation  Things have changed a lot for my fellow flingers in the past few months. All of whom have relocated, or are in the process of relocating, and there’s lots of change happening in work and family and life in general.

This weekend I took part in an oral history project where I was interviewed about my life and how I have been affected by things like technology, place, family and belonging. I got to tell someone my life story! Crazy, amazing, tiring, teary. It took over six hours, and I’m feeling pretty exhausted, but it was a great thing to have been a part of. I mentioned this blog in the interview, and remembered what a cool thing it has been – touching on every single one of those topics, and much more.

So…. Thanks for the laughs and the thoughtful insights and the feeling that I’m a part of something much bigger than myself. I miss our philosophical chats, our silly rants – all of it. But I’m also glad it died out with a bang and not a wimper.

I look forward to when we reconvene, whenever that is.

Love, Beth

Custard – by Beth

10 Sep

How can you be a major fan of custard? It’s so middle of the (dessert)road.

Custard tarts leave me cold. Vanilla slices are over-rated. Custard accompanying apple pie is nice, but I give the credit to the pie. My father used to have a thing for No Frills custard and would team it with crushed weetbix, sliced banana and a generous sprinkle of milo for dessert. I wonder what the custard sitch in Poland is, Justyna?

I have never made my own custard from scratch (have used Edmond’s custard powder like a good Kiwi), but I did make my own vegetable stock for the first time today. Tabitha told me of a clever method where you keep a ziplock bag in the freezer and add vegie scraps to it until it’s full and then you POUNCE on it and make a pot of stock. The making of the stock was more satisfying than the eating I’ve gotta say. The soup I made from it wasn’t the best ever. I guess it depends a lot on what vegetable scraps you put in there…I am inspired to keep going though. It felt so good to make something out of stuff that would usually go in the compost. And it smelt really good.

 

Discretion – by Beth

30 Aug

What percentage of our lives are dealt up to us vs. things we have some choice over? Do we ever really have control over anything/anyone/ourselves, or is control a big illusion/false economy?

I have thought about variations on this question roughly a thousand times since having a child. I haven’t come up with any real answers, but I know that I wrestle with it a lot. I’m all like: “Look at me, no hands, I’m going with the flow!”, followed one hour later with “I don’t like this feeling anymore! Get me outta here!”

Control. Choice. Freedom. All concepts that are so incredibly loaded in our society. We can be paralysed by too much choice, and surely we can be paralysed by feeling we don’t have enough. I’ve been to both ends of that spectrum, but the too little choice one sucked the most.

Just this week a friend of mine had a baby, and in an email mentioned how she had felt out of control during the birth and that she was looking forward to “getting some control back” post-birth. So challenging for any new parent, especially those used to working in a predictable environment and mainly interacting with adults (i.e. most new parents).

I listened to this podcast tonight about – an interview with David Eagleman about his book on the unconscious mind. There were a couple of things about it that really stuck with me in connection with this topic:

  • “there’s a lot of other literature showing that it’s quite bad for the body to hold secrets. You get an elevation of stress hormones … in fact there’s a group at UT Austin that’s been looking at this for a while. When they have people write down their secrets, even anonymously, or even just in a journal, their stress hormone levels go down. Their number of doctor visits goes down.”
  • Secondly he talked about two examples of men who were driven to terrible crimes purely by having brain tumours pressing on particular parts of their brains. One guy killed 13 people and wounded 33 in a shooting. In his own suicide note he said he was sure there was something wrong with his brain, and sure enough the autopsy showed a brain tumour pressing on a part of his brain dealing with agression.
  • “Currently in the legal system there’s this myth of equality. And the assumption is if you are over 18 and you have an IQ of over 70, then all brains are created equal. And, of course, that’s a very charitable idea but it’s demonstrably false. Brains are extraordinarily different from one another. Brains are essentially like fingerprints; we’ve all got them but they’re somewhat different. And so by imagining that everyone has the exact same capacity for decision-making, for understanding future consequences, for squelching their impulsive behavior and so on, what we’re doing is we’re imagining that everybody should be treated the same. And, of course, what has happened is that our prison system has become our de facto mental health care system. Estimates are that about 30 percent of the prison population has some sort of mental illness.”

I’m tired. Going to show some discretion and get to bed.

Hair – by Beth

25 Aug

Hair.

An innocent enough word, but it immediately quickens my heartbeat.

The pulse increase is mainly due to traumas gathered in my teen and young adult years, in connection with my ‘hair suit’, as a dear friend once referred to her own hirsuteness. Inspired by Tabs’ wikipedia post, I looked hirsutism up on Wikipedia and found out about the Ferriman Gallwey score. I score 15 out of a possible 36 on that. So, we’re hardly talking a career in a circus sideshow, but a score of eight or more is considered hirsute.

Sites of hair-related trauma include beauty salons (I have cried about three times in these situations. Fuck, women can be bitches to other women), and school buses (nicknamed Magilla Gorilla by an older student). I remember eating lunch at Pizza Hut with my friend and her little brother (we must have been in year 10 and he was about 6 years old) and him asking innocently why I had a moustache. It was that same friend’s mother who did me the greatest service in the world, by waxing my mo for the first time when I was about 18 – just starting uni. She lovingly told me to meet her in the bathroom and she just went for it. A total act of love and womanly camaraderie – she told me it was nothing to be ashamed of.

Until the mo was gone momentarily I never realised how much it had affected my behaviour (I now held eye contact with people more, for example) and my self esteem. Where other girls were battling with their small boob or fat demons (I was also fat and small boobed), I found the facial hairiness the hardest. It marks you out as unfeminine, and that was not something I wanted to be. Yet another reason why growing up around the northern beaches ideal of womanliness: olive skinned (but caucasian!), blonde haired, blue eyed and skinny was not fun. I did have a lot of friends, and I was school captain for heaven’s sake, but I was always aware that I was a sitting duck for teasing.

For years I thought I may have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome or have trouble conceiving, but I haven’t had either. I actually think that my ambivalence towards having kids was partly due to this issue – I thought I shouldn’t set myself up for a big disappointment. I also hated the idea of having a girl and her growing up with the same issue.

A kindly doctor once told me that I had more testosterone than average and that makes me really passionate. I have always kept those words in my heart. She was the same doctor who said a Buddhist prayer before killing a tic lodged in my shoulder. A totally lovely and compassionate woman.

Right now I am the most comfortable I’ve ever been in my own skin. Accepting of who and what I am (mostly!). I can look back on those teenaged years and go: “shit, that was hard”, but also be thankful for what it taught me about compassion, difference and survival.

There you go, my friends. My thoughts on hair.

Rarity – By Beth

13 Aug

Thinking to myself, what’s rare? What’s a rarity in my life? In the world? I am tempted to write about how rare time to myself to do whatever I want is (bit exhausted by the whole parenting thing at the moment). Actually I will do just that.

Here’s a list of all the things I would like to do:

  • Read/knit for a whole day
  • Have a massage
  • Spend a day taking photos and working on creative stuff
  • Eat dinner without L sitting/squirming on my lap, and then asking me to run around the house after him.

It’s nice to know that list isn’t so long, actually. I have a burning desire to read at the moment – so many good books on the go. Thank you to Suzy for the hot tip about ‘Love and Hunger‘ – I devoured that in double-quick time. Very enjoyable! And Leo is loving ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’. I’m reading a book by the vulnerability TED woman – Brene Brown, called ‘I Thought it Was Just Me (But it isn’t): Telling the Truth about Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power’, and also ‘Bird By Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life’ by Anne Lamott.

After writing about how important friendships are to me as an only child last week, I read this article about the challenge of making friends in your 30s and 40s, and how new friendships are a rarity in adult life. I liked how it talked about having different friends for different purposes: your exercise friend, your work friend, your parenting friend. It’s very different to the high school days of BFFs that you do everything with, but rather than it being a sad thing, it also shows how many more dimensions there are to you as you get older. The day that I read that article I went out to dinner with a *new* friend, and we talked non-stop for almost three hours. I was enlivened by that feeling of having so much to say to someone and being interested in all that they have to say. That feeling is certainly rarer after high school/uni days, but that makes it all the more precious.

On Saliva, and Only Children – By Beth

6 Aug

When I was a little-un I used to play a game with my parents called “licky eww”. I’m pretty sure that my mum made this game up (I googled it to make sure). The rules of licky eww are that you poke out your tongue and the other person pokes out their’s and then you see how close you get to touching tongues before one of you inevitably pulls aways and says “licky eww!” Cue total hysterics.

When Jeff and I got together, I told him about licky eww and he could not mask his horror. (Just to make it clear so that DOCS aren’t called retrospectively, we never actually touched tongues!) But even so, the thought of playing such a game with one’s parents grossed Jeff out. Totally.

I got to see my parents being total goof balls more than pretty much any other kid I know, and I always thought this was something to do with me being an only child. That they had to be my playmates – part-sibling, part-parent.

I think it is fair to say that licky eww is emblematic of everything that is both right and wrong with the only child parental dynamic I am most familiar with.

It’s entirely possible that whatever topic came up for writing this week, my mind would have found a way of twisting it towards being about only children. It’s something that’s on a background channel in my mind 24 hrs a day to some extent at the mo. Jeff and I both say that we’re sure that Leo could handle having another sibling nine months from now, but that we’re just not…. quite. ready. Yet. So while I “get ready” I weigh up the pros and cons of only childness. Wanting to do the right thing for Leo, as well as the right thing for ourselves. The feeling deep in my gut says that we are going to have another one, but still I find the internal debate rages.

Here’s a little preview…

Only child – pros

  • Maximum parental attention
  • Parents become like best friends/flatmates/siblings
  • No siblings to fight with/get beaten up by
  • Due to lots of adult interaction and conversation, you find it easy to get along with/become friends with older people
  • Don’t have to share (can either make you a very generous or a very stingy person, or mixture of both – so really this is neither here nor there)
  • Family less stretched financially
  • No sibling rivalry/fights
  • Less family (and therefore more time for people you chose to hang around)
  • Promotes strong friendships with people outside the family

Only child – cons

  • Maximum parental attention (narcissism, solipsism etc.)
  • Parents become like best friends – can be privy to stuff that is a bit too much ‘in the adult realm’
  • No siblings to play with/love/raise families alongside/share memories with as you get older
  • No siblings to gang up against your parents with/get toughened up by (I am such a wuss)
  • Adults out-number children in the household. You’re living with a couple – can be a bit like a third wheel.
  • Due to lots of adult conversation, can be a bit of a bore/not know how to have fun
  • Less family (to hang out with)
  • Sole responsibility for your ageing parents
  • Even if you have lots of close friends – a best friend is not family. Blood (and saliva) are thicker than water.

Would you like to hear my saddest only-child stories? The first is that when I was about seven years old, I wanted to play elastics. Not having any siblings to play it with, I used chairs to hold the elastic, and eventually it flung off the end of the chair and smacked me in the eyeballs. My eyes swelled and closed over and were very sore. But the physical pain was nowhere near as bad as the pain of the self-pity I felt at having been reduced to playing a game with two chairs instead of two humans. This is honestly the only time in my childhood where I can remember wishing for siblings. The rest of the time I seemed aware that I had a sweet deal. I could go over to friends’ houses to play, but when I came home it was chilled out and all my toys were my own. There was no shouting or hitting or storming off or grabbing like I saw at my friends’ houses. Everyone in my household felt very reasonable and looked after the welfare of the group. (I’m trying my best to not cloud my memories with what I think now. I seriously had very reasoned logic as a small child… I remember before the age of eight (because we were still in NZ) wondering what I would do my PhD about when I was old enough. I decided I would do a study of how many ants a person killed in a lifetime by accidentally stepping on them. I was a serious bird.)

My other saddest only-child story hasn’t happened yet, but I dread it. Being so close with my mum and dad, I hate the thought that when they’re gone there’s no one left to remember them with. No fourth witness to all the love and fun we had as a family. That one brings tears to my eyes every time. I hope they live for many, many years to come.

In my twenties I became aware of the phrase “one’s a pet, two’s a family”. I fucking hate that phrase! In my adult years I intermittently offer counsel to women I meet who have only children and feel terribly guilty about it. I tell them that their children’s lives will still be rich and full and the women nod with flecks of tears in their eyes. Come on people! It’s not the end of the world! Surely though, only children must be on the rise in Australia – considering that men and women are having children later. The mind boggles about the cultural shift that has occurred in China.

Annoyingly for the conclusion of this story, but fortunately for humanity, I find myself thinking that the experience of only-childness is like everything else in life: swings and round-abouts. Neither a particularly good, nor a particularly bad phenomenon. I know some kick arse only children, and I know some painful ones, just as I know some people from bigger families who are rad, and some who are dullards.

As for Jeff and I, we’ll most probably get round to it, so please don’t take this as an invitation to nag me into (or out of) having another kid. Besides – I’m an only child, so I can’t handle any form of criticism 😉

Secret – By Beth

29 Jul

When I read this week’s topic I immediately thought of a particular secret from my high school years. It wasn’t my secret. It was the secret of a guy I went to high school with. I did the wrong thing with that secret. And I still really regret it. It was one of my unfinest hours.

Although our school was fairly tolerant in many ways, it was still on the northern beaches of Sydney. So there was racism, and misogyny, and homophobia. Enough homophobia that out of a year of 120 students, only two people came out during school. It was two girls, and they were a couple, or had briefly been involved at least, and when it came down to it, they didn’t really come out, as get outed and then have to deal with it. Lesbianism was seen as enough of a titillating novelty that they didn’t seem to get too hard a time, but maybe I just don’t know the whole story. I can think of at least three gay guys in our year, and none of them were out in high school.

A friend of mine was close friends with one of these guys, and told me his secret. Like a damn fool I told another friend of mine (justifying it by the fact that that friend of mine went to another school), and she told her friend who as it turns out knew a friend of his. There were three people who broke that trust, but he blamed me the most. Because I had “pretended to be someone who people could trust” when in actual fact I was an “evil horrible bitch”. He really told me what he thought of me. Over and over. Aaaah, high school. As my great grandmother said “I wouldn’t be young again if you paid me!”

For about a year after that whole episode I would look around nervously when I was at a pedestrian crossing. Feeling sure that this guy would run me down if he could.

It was such a breech. I’m still so ashamed. Why did I do it?! What haunted me most was the worry that I’d blabbed out of some deep seated homophobia within myself that I wasn’t aware of. I have a very active guilt complex. I saw a show once where this obsessive compulsive guy could never be near a pen for fear he would write a confession to a crime he didn’t commit. I totally got that guy on some level.

I’ve kind of resented secrets ever since.