Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Losing my identity was a gift (and how American Pie lied)

Imagine from here.
Have you ever lost part of yourself? A big chunk of your identity; who you are, how you see yourself?

Sounds sad, right? Well, it is a little sad. But it’s also kind of awesome.

Once upon a time (a lifetime ago) I was a musician. According to my shrink I still am, but if the definition of musician is someone who writes, plays, or sings music, then I no longer qualify.

I’m going to assume that singing badly enough in the car to make both child and partner consider jumping out and walking doesn’t count. Trust me, I’m right on that one.

To put this in perspective, you need to know that I was an extremely shy kid. A kid who was always sick. Always bullied. Always a bit weird. Not very bright. Always chosen last for anything at school. A kid who listened to music nobody else liked. Read books that were too old for her. Wrote weird stories and was generally on the outer. The kid who couldn’t buy something in a shop if the price wasn’t on it, because she was too shy to ask.

Despite repeating Grade One because I couldn’t read, I caught up fast and soon overtook my peers. I loved to read. I loved to write.

Don’t get me wrong, I was no introvert. Quite the opposite; I desperately wanted the limelight. I loved performing in plays, being the centre of attention. But off stage, I was terrified of everything. And everyone.

It’s not surprising then, that when I discovered a talent for music, music became my identity. Music was everything, because the kid underneath was nothing.

I started on that dreaded instrument of musical torture, the recorder. Next came clarinet, tenor saxophone and flute. Clarinet was my real love. How I loved to play that thing. It soothed me, became my best mate.

I still wrote and read but music took over and writing was shoved to the back of my over-crowded brain.

Music didn’t solve my social issues or my shyness but it gave me a much-needed outlet for my extroversion. And it was one thing (finally) that I was good at. So good that I was lead clarinet in various youth bands and orchestras. My music teachers loved me. They knew I was destined for Big Things. I was “the next Don Burrows*” and I was accepted into the Conservatorium of Music at Melbourne University.

During my first year of university I permanently damaged the tendons in my hands. I couldn’t play. You can’t complete a performance-based degree when you can’t perform.

I left university, and music, behind me.

My identity was taken away.

A tragedy.

You’d think so.

You’re right, I grieved for a very, very long time. I still have rare days where the anger wells up and can’t be contained. I’ve made my peace with those days and know they pass.

It may be hard to fathom, but losing music was a strange and complicated gift – but a gift nonetheless. The loss shoved me head-first into the real world, where I had no choice but to start to deal with my shyness. That real world taught me to care less. It taught me that few people can hurt you if you never take yourself too seriously. Laugh at myself, and steal the power from others laughing at me.

It also made me to realise that music wasn’t all there was to being me. There was writing.

With music out of the way, the road was clear for me to write again.

It took twenty years, but here I am.

If I hadn’t lost music, there'd be no stories about finding live lizards in the bottom of my handbag, dead possums in my roof-space, and bongo calves who steal my airtime. I wouldn’t be sharing tales of involuntary feminine waxing in public places, GPSs with suicidal tendencies, and how buildings are smarter than me.

Imagine if I’d never been able to tell those stories?

Now THAT would have been a loss.

Have you ever had to re-build your identity?
How did you do it?

* Go Google him. I know. I’m old. But not as old as Don Burrows. Sorry Don.

P.S.  I have a bone to pick with American Pie. I attended many band camps and I can honestly say that I never pleasured myself with any of my instruments. Given that one of them was a tenor sax, that was probably for the best.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Please do not poke my subconscious with a stick - the top 9 things that shit me

Appropriate image from here.

What shit really pisses you off?

Are there things that people do, say, situations that press your buttons?

There are strong, ingrained detestations that creep up on me. I'm regularly surprised, because I forget they’re there. Which is pretty dumb because how can someone forget about the shit that really shits you? That shit is crazy.

Here are the Top Ten Nine* Things That Give Me The Major Shittings. Enjoy. 

  1. Pee on the toilet seat. You know what I’m talking about. That is unpleasant shit.
  2. Stale bread. My definition of stale is “was not baked today”. Yes I am a bread Nazi. I confess. Stale bread might as well be shit.
  3. Slamming doors. My child does this every ten seconds and it’s giving me a serious case of the screaming shits.
  4. Intolerance**. Except of stale bread, slamming doors and sitting in someone else’s pee. You have a free intolerance pass for those. It is TOTALLY OK to be a bigoted right-wing extremist all over THAT shit.
  5. Being told what I can or can’t do. For my psyche, this is like stomping up to a deep, dark spider hole, poking a great big fuck-off stick into the hole a few times and shouting:


    The likely ending to this scenario is you staggering off screaming into the distance with a huge hairy arachnid wrapped around your face trying to sink its fangs into your brain through whichever eye socket is most handy.
  6. Cliques***. I see them every-fucking-where, even in groups that profess to be against cliques. Let’s try to be accepting of people and how crazy they all are. Our own brand of crazy shit doesn’t make us better than those people over there with a different brand of crazy shit. It’s all crazy shit, and in the end none of us get out alive, whatever brand of shit we subscribe to. Let’s just get over cliquey shit and move on.
  7. Media indoctrination of bullshit gender stereotypes that entrench the “women are all busy mums rolling their eyes at their incompetent husbands” attitude. We couldn’t present that scenario with the genders reversed so why do we do it? Men, don't put up with that shit.
  8. Persistent hot days with warm nights that sap my energy and make intelligent (cough) blog writing impossible. They shit me because I have to resort to lame whiney-arse Top Ten Nine lists that nobody cares about.
  9. Pointless Top Ten Nine lists of crap nobody cares about, because they’re shit.

What’s on your top ten nine list of shittingest things?

* I'm as amazed as you are that there are currently only nine. I'm sure it won't last.
** See also: Cliques
*** See also: Intolerance

Monday, February 18, 2013

Will I have to emigrate to avoid a murder conviction? (Is 7 too young to be Emo?)

Seven is too early to be Emo. Image from here.
Those of you who’ve been stopping by to graze on a little slice of crazy here for a while will know that I’m not much of a Parent Blogger*.

However, I feel compelled, given current circumstances, to ask some questions about parenthood.

Questions like:

What the ever-loving FUCK was I thinking?


Where the hell is the receipt for this child, I need to return him NOW?

I’m asking those questions because, dear readers, someone has taken my child and replaced him with a teenager.

That would be OK**, except he’s seven, not fifteen.

He’s always been difficult, often badly-behaved and generally challenging. He’s also always been easy to love, funny, crazy and sweet. And we’ve always been able to influence his behaviour with privilege-removal-based punishments.

Since starting Grade 3, he’s turned into a surly, sneaky, smart-arsed, argumentative, obstructive, Emo teenager. And our standard punishments have stopped working.

“Well what did you THINK I wanted?”

“Don’t do that again or you’ll be in big TROUBLE.”

“No I won’t do X. I don’t care what you do.”

“Of COURSE that’s what I said, what are you, DEAF?!”


Oh, the unfettered joy.

The sarcasm gene has suddenly switched on in the six weeks since Christmas. Thanks Santa, you can take THAT little present back and shove it right up your sack.

Let's not forget the mess. The couch, the floor, the bed are all apparently rubbish bins. And every surface in the house is a potential tissue. Euuurrrghhhh.
I love my son with frightening depth and ferocity. But the other day he was shitting me to almost-tears so much with his Emo bullshit*** that I seriously considered getting a cab to check in to the nearest hotel just to GET THE HELL AWAY FROM HIM.

I can’t help feeling he’s peaked too early. If he’s like this now, what will teenagerdom**** be like?

Will I have to emigrate to avoid strangling him?

It’s taking a lot of deep breathing and calm-blue-sea to deal with the person he is right now. This is how I felt when I woke up this morning:

* I don’t like using the term Mummy Blogger. That's an odd term applied, apparently, to those women who’ve spawned, and who also blog. I avoid it because it’s used – in the press in particular – as a put-down.

** Yes I know it won’t be OK at all once he really IS a teenager
*** Before anyone imagines I've had amnesia or suddenly become an idiot, yes I know I was a Goth. I was polite and sensible about it though, and waited till my late teens.

**** That is SO a word. Shut-up or I’ll send my child to your house for a week. Actually, can I send my child to your house for a week? Alternatively I'll come and he can stay home. I can pay my rent in wine.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to handle a possum corpse like a boss (RIP PT Barnum)

PT Barnum wondering why we were standing in my pyjamas
in the front yard in the middle of the night.
Our neighbours may have been wondering the same thing.

For those of you playing along at home, this is one last possum post, for reasons which will become apparent shortly.

If you’ve been following the PT Barnum saga, you’d know that he came to stay, we tried to evict him and then gave him a new home, lovingly purchased and hilariously installed in a tree in our back yard.

The other morning I had cause to both celebrate and mourn the fact that the Possum Circus wouldn’t be performing Gangnam Style in our roof space ever again.

It started the night before. We’d progressively removed his entry/exit holes (making sure he was out of the roof each time) in the hope that we’d force him to take up residence in the possum box we bought the little shit darling. Somehow – we still have no idea how – the little bastard darling found his way in again.

This became apparent when he started thumping those hobnail boots and doing the toe slide from Gangnam Style at about 9.30pm. We groaned, eye-rolled and went outside to see where he was exiting. He never did.

Every ten minutes or so the scraping, thumping and lasso-moves would start again. Odd. Normally he’d be out and gone after about twenty minutes, not to return until 5am.

At about 1.30am it occurred to me that he might be hurt, or sick. Then the heavens opened and it started pissing down.

Cue the mental image of me, sleep deprived, in my pyjamas, wrangling two slippery, heavy, metal ladders in the dark, in the rain. I somehow manage to manoeuvre them into the bathroom. One goes up to open the manhole. Remove that one and then put the second, longer one up to actually get into the roof space.

Cue the mental image of me slipping off the wet ladder into the bath. Or onto the cat. Or my now terminally broken neck.

Cue next mental image of me climbing into the roof space in pitch darkness, shuffling around on my knees on the beams trying to catch a crazed/sick/injured/pissed off male possum armed only with a torch, a pillow case and reckless stupidity.

Needless to say, after half an hour of balancing this scenario with animal welfare guilt, I decided to stay in bed and hope I could catch him in the morning to give him some help.

Morning came. Cue the above scenario, but in daylight, and without me plunging to my untimely marsupial-related death. I shuffled around on my hands and knees, in my pjs, skinning my knees and inhaling a kilo of insulation dust.

The insulation had been pulled back in some kind of frenzy and there was poor PT Barnum. Stiff as a board, completely dead, without a scratch on him. I dragged his sorry little carcass back to the manhole, put him in a plastic bag and lowered him unceremoniously down to my waiting partner, who promptly told me that the bag was ripping and PT was about to fall out.

I’m not sure what he thought I could do about it, since I was stretched halfway out a manhole, clinging to dear life to a wooden beam with one hand and swinging a dead possum in a bag by the other.

Once I was down from the roof it occurred to me that I’d better check that it really was PT Barnum. On several occasion I’d spotted (cough) that he was a boy. What if this possum WASN’T PT? If we fill in all the other holes we might be trapping our possum after removing this foreign possum.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to sex a possum corpse in the midst of rigour mortis?

I hope not.

Eventually I found what I was looking for (cough). It was, indeed our own poor little PT.

So now I know that nothing starts the day in quite the same way as having to climb into the roof space in your pyjamas to remove an ex-possum.

I may not be beautiful, sexy or smart, but apparently I handle a possum corpse like a boss.

There should be a gang sign for that. 

Vale PT Barnum. You really were an arsehole, but I’ll miss you just the same.

Are you the one in your house that deals with stuff like this?
How do you manage it?