Trigger Warning!, Uncategorised, Uncategorized

Coersion and Creativity

Empathy is connecting with the parts of you that feel bad along side other people

My Dad and I had a difficult relationship. When I was 16 and I disobeyed him, he wheeled the garbage bin into my room and started putting my school work and clothes into it. This was a Sunday evening, I was doing homework, and I had an assignment due the next day.

 I hate confrontation and I was frightened. When he started to lose his temper, I left quickly. I think I might have gone to the local shopping centre and finished my homework, and not come back til late in the evening. Mum told me that my sister had gone to get her, and there’d been a tremendous argument. Dad threatened her, but he didn’t actually hit her that time. We were all terrified, but I was angry too.

My room was pretty messy, and it’s a parent’s prerogative to enforce cleanliness on teenager’s rooms. Most people want to live in nice houses; Dad included. Dad wanted to live in a clean and orderly space. He wanted me to show gratitude and respect for the area he had worked hard to provide for me, by keeping it tidy and harmonious. That’s fair enough.

However, this is an example of coercive control. The constant threat of violence, the unpredictability of the demands, the lack of empathy, the rigid hierarchical system enforced through authoritarianism: That’s coercive control. The reason it happened was because my Dad was unskilful, and unable to communicate or cope.

A better way of doing it would be instead of saying “I want this room tidied tonight” like a temperamental despot, saying “how can we work together to create a system that will help you to keep things tidy”. People thrive through connection. Chris Voss in ‘Never Split the Difference’ says that all negotiation begins with empathy, and that includes negotiation with teenagers.

I’ve got an example of coercive control where I’m the perpetrator, too. My husband and I went to a birthday party, and I kept an eye on the number of slices of cake he had, and when he got to five I said stop. There is an arrogance of me deciding what he should eat, when he should stop, and saying so in front of others. I shamed him.

Again, this is entirely wrong.

As an adult, it’s his prerogative to decide what he eats, and how much. If he specifically asks me to help him with food, it’s OK to say something in a non-shaming way. He had in-fact asked me to do that previously, and commented that we enable each other to eat unhealthy food. However, consent isn’t just about saying yes. True consent requires you to make sure that the other person is OK. And he wasn’t. And that was wrong.

 If you don’t have the skills to communicate without violence, or threat of violence, it’s very important that you get those skills. And the great thing is, not only will they be happier—you’ll be happier. Not only will they learn to have good relationships—you’ll have good relationships. You’ll be able to connect with people on a real level, because you’ll both feel safe. You’ll be able to listen. And listening and being listened to is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself.

It’s one of the things that makes life worth living.

Life Hacks, Novels and Creative Writing, Trigger Warning!, Uncategorised, Unfinished Symphony

Unfinished Symphony, A Novel Chapter Two- My Life as a Dog

Well, Hi Everyone.

I finished Chapter Two!

This is the plain text version.

Gill.

Chapter Two: My Life as a Dog

My parents have given me a lot of words: terms for nature, for colours, for laughter, expressions for threats and anger, even words of reconciliation; my education has given me a lot of names for emotions, and power structures, for the art of living life as it’s meant to be lived. My parents gave me the ability to notice things that are things. And learning has given me the ability to critically analyse them.

What I lack is the ability to maintain hope and optimism throughout the darkest of judgements, voices and thoughts.

I want to live.

But how? How?

Meditation is my  lifeline. Every morning that I get up and I’m not in absolute suicidal despair I sit myself down quietly and lovingly and rehearse my day.

I start with my heart—I do it a little different every day, but I follow a similar structure. I open my heart in my imagination, and watch the green plants inside. There’s a light that swirls and streams, and I feel gratitude and kindness and happiness inside.

At these times, I know that the essence of me is just like the essence of every sentient being and the green and growing light in me is OK.

Next I do a few prana-yamas; then mindfulness for around 20mins-30mins.

After that I start to rehearse things I want to create: good health in my body, good things happening in my life, tiny moments of gladness and content. Things like holding a baby, cooking healthy food, improving at work or my university results getting better, social situations. I rehearse being in a garden with other people and working together towards a common goal. I rehearse other people’s health and happiness—Peter Cundall, Bob Brown, members of my friends and family, Julia Gillard, the Greek lady in the fish-and-chip shop. Gratitude.

I rehearse my reasons to live.

I have to say, whenever I do this, I feel good.

The good feelings pour out of my body and into my life.

And, for a while, I’m OK.

Some meditations are like a bump to my mid-section. They take my breath away.

Some ideas become sensations.

I love the feeling of life-force flowing through me with the force of a river and the will of a being that loves me intensely and wants good things for me… that feeling is like someone putting a finger on my solar-plexus and making my whole body convulse into bliss.

It may only be a thought—but it causes deep joy.

Strange, isn’t it?

Then suddenly the shames are back again. Mythical dark beings who come to my wire door to be fed but won’t let me trim their hair or de-louse them, or pet them or make friends with them. And if I get too close—their jaws clamp into my mid-section. And oh Lord do those bites hurt.

When I was growing up, we had a dog. We didn’t plan on getting a dog. A traumatised, thin, limping creature with brindled fur and soft silken ears turned up on our front step one day. My parents took him in. They paid for his food, they let my sister and I take him for walks, they even resentfully loved him. They got someone to mind him when we went away. He was microchipped according to council requirements. Occasionally he was bathed.

In summer, the flies would attack his ears. He would have 10 flies on each ear, and he’d flick his ears back, and flick them away, but the flies had learned he couldn’t do anything. In madness he’d rub his head in the dirt, but every summer he had open wounds on his ears.

I made my parents take him to the vet. I made my mother apply the cream. It didn’t help.

In winter, his fur started falling out. He had a rash on his body. His skin was red and raw and painful.

Again, I made my mother take him to the vet. He had an allergy to fleas. They gave us tablets, and frontline, and other things. It didn’t help.

He died an unhappy dog. 

To whom do I owe my silence?

What do we owe the people who love us? What do we owe the people who hurt us?

My husband’s family had a dog too. Siobhan. They bought Siobhan at a pet shop. She had an allergy to fleas, too. One day my husband and I were talking, and he enumerated the steps that his family had taken to get rid of Siobhan’s fleas. What I noticed was that someone in his family had a problem, and the whole family had gotten together and made sure that Siobhan wasn’t suffering. What I noticed was that they cared.

My husband’s family takes good care of their things. My husband’s family takes good care of their lives. My husband’s family takes good care of each other.

Who is in charge of making sure that the sentient beings we live with are healthy and protected and loved?

When I was nine or ten, I started harming myself. I’m not really sure exactly what year it was, though I remember the moments vividly. I remember my Mother finding out about it when I was around twelve. She was shocked. She was worried. She was dismayed. For three days there was distress in our house. Then she accepted it and moved on.

And twelve-year-old me was left with a razor blade and my Dad’s words ringing in my ears “let her get on with it”. 

Read Chapter One

Read Chapter Three

Read Chapter Four

…………………………………………………………………

By reading this blog, you agree that you read it under your own risk, and Gill’s Practical Bookkeeping is in no way responsible for any harm or prejudice to yourself, your business, or any fictional examples above.

I am not a financial advisor. I do not have an AFSL. I am a chick who likes to read, think, write, and has access to google. You should treat this blog with the same seriousness that you would treat anyone whose main qualification is access to google. This blog is for entertainment purposes only. It’s a little like watching The Good Place for nerds or artists.

Anything you take from this blog is your responsibility. Nothing in this blog, even if you are mentioned by name, address, and telephone number, pertains to your personal situation. Anything you agree with, or disagree with, you are welcome to comment on, but your opinions belong to you. You are responsible for your comments. If they are offensive, I will remove them.

Life Hacks, Novels and Creative Writing, Trigger Warning!, Uncategorised, Unfinished Symphony

Unfinished Symphony, A Novel Chapter One: Life on Mars

Well, Hi Everyone.

I finished Chapter One!

Download the pretty version if you’d like, or plain text version below.

Gill.

Chapter One: Life on Mars

I am alive. This is one of the hardest and most beautiful things to be.

I spent so long trying to kill myself.

I still want to kill myself on a regular basis.

But right here, right now, I’m alive. And I am glad.

The will to live is like a pesky, persistent house plant. Some kind of creeper, that you bring home and think ‘I wonder if you’ll survive’ and low and behold, a year later it’s crept all along the mantelpiece and you’re thinking ‘Huh. I’m sharing my space with you; how can we manage this?’ And you know that neglect is not the answer. And you know that if you keep watering it and feeding it, you’ll be living in Little Shop of Horrors. So you prune it, and water it, and love it, and feed it a little. Then you hope that what you do is enough to bring out its beauty and purpose while you’re managing all the natural contradictions and tragedies of the world.

My memories are a mess of contradictions. I can remember my parents buying me a pair of glasses and a warm coat. This was evidence that they loved me and took good care of me; it was evidence that they prioritised my needs over their wants. The only price? My eternal loyalty, silence, gratitude, and servitude.

What do we owe the people who love us? What do we owe the people who hurt us?

If I, by my own volition go to an aquarium and buy a fish, and I take it home and take care of it, and love it and feed it, and buy it medicine and change its water, and pay my electricity bill so the filter works on the tank—what does that fish owe me? Does it owe me its life? I buy pets so that I have the joy of observing them being perfectly themselves. Do they owe me anything, besides the true expressions of their natures?

Rachel Naomi Remen, says that all true love is unconditional—conditional love is merely approval. To be seen, accepted and loved, is a heady and intoxicating drug. I have been both a user and dealer of this drug for a long time. I feel the shame in me, and I see the shame and pain in others, and I think ‘So that’s you. Mmmm. Well, that’s me too.”

But I’m alive.

Strange as that may feel.

My body is fresh and quick and changeable.

My mind is slow and solid and confused.

And my soul? Hard to tell.

Because it’s not just people that I owe a debt to, and it’s not just society. I also owe a debt to life itself. And this pesky, spreading weed that is the will to live keeps reminding me and reminding me: ‘Whoa. Beauty. The amazing beauty of the things in the world. Whoa.’

The first time I tried to kill myself I was around 20. My sister had been suicidal at age 15 and had taken a paracetamol overdose. She was told this was lethal. So I took the same amount and waited to die.

Oh lord. The innocence of a 20-year-old who thinks they have no future.

From there, I tried various overdoses in various amounts, and everything from cutting, to burning, to strangulation, to injecting bleach, to god only knows what else.

I tried a lot of things, a lot of times.

And yet here I am.

Alive.

Why? Why am I still alive when I tried so hard to die? And why do I keep saving my own life? What could possibly make those two opposing forces, the will to live and the desire to die grapple so spectacularly? The Dalai Lama says that the meaning of life is to be happy and useful. I know how to be happy. But of what use am I? And to whom?

Every morning I get my husband out of bed. And while he’s away, I take care of some of the housework. And I often cook him dinner. And all of those things are useful. And all of those things make me happy. And my husband does good, important work. And he makes the world a better place and often saves, or at least improves people’s lives.

But as A.S. Byatt says, that’s not very much to hang a life on.

Let’s say Leonard and Penny bought adjoining farms. Then let’s say Leonard had a flourishing farm and Penny noticed how well Leonard’s farm was doing, and thought ‘I can help with that’; so she gave Leonard all her seed stock. The result would be Leonard would have a great farm, but Penny’s land would be lying fallow.

And that’s not true, either.

Because I get a Lot from my relationship with my husband. He gives me plenty of seed stock back again *wink*.

Sometimes I wonder what I’m capable of cultivating, and how I’m going to go about doing that. And how I’m going to prevent myself from destroying mine and my husband’s farms like I destroy everything else in my life.

I’m learning; slowly but surely, my brain is learning, and my heart is learning, and my soul has always been learning.

Education for me is like standing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and wondering which date palm to climb first for the sweetest, most flavoursome fruit. Which one has the dates which explode in your brain, with the juice running out of your mouth? Learning is like laughter—it fizzes.

I’m doing a bad job of cultivating my body. Lord.

The scars.  So many scars.

They criss-cross my arms and legs and torso like fuchsia, cream, white, and silver chopsticks.

That’s if you’re not looking at the burn scars. You see the same patterns on the bottom of saucepans; mottled, by turns pitted and raised. Or in Aluminium trays that haven’t been washed properly– the layers of brown on layers of silver.

Once you’ve given your life over to cultivating that sort of mischief, what’s the point of cultivating health?

It’s a bit like growing opium poppies in the backyard, and vegetables in the front. Would you like some spinach with your heroin, Sir?

So there’s the first problem. Once I’ve worked out that my life force is around, how can I get to the point where I can actually live?

The constant back and forth– going from reasonably competent to barely able to have a conversation or get out of bed. How can I create a life worth living with that going on?

Yesterday I got up in the morning in absolute despair. I spent most of the day despising myself, wishing I were dead, and taking various actions to make that happen.

At some point in the afternoon I had a change of heart, a small bloom in my soul, or a small gift from my voices, and I spent the rest of the day acting in ways that help me to live. And now I’m alive. Despite whatever damage drinking bleach has done to me.

I’m here.

But how do I live? How does the voice in me that wants to stay alive prevent the voice in me that wants to die from taking over?

Read Chapter Two

Read Chapter Three

Read Chapter Four

…………………………………………………………………

By reading this blog, you agree that you read it under your own risk, and Gill’s Practical Bookkeeping is in no way responsible for any harm or prejudice to yourself, your business, or any fictional examples above.

I am not a financial advisor. I do not have an AFSL. I am a chick who likes to read, think, write, and has access to google. You should treat this blog with the same seriousness that you would treat anyone whose main qualification is access to google. This blog is for entertainment purposes only. It’s a little like watching The Good Place for finance nerds.

Anything you take from this blog is your responsibility. Nothing in this blog, even if you are mentioned by name, address, and telephone number, pertains to your personal situation. Anything you agree with, or disagree with, you are welcome to comment on, but your opinions belong to you. You are responsible for your comments. If they are offensive, I will remove them.