Hello.

Welcome to the Kindling Khepri.

I am still becoming, pushing the sun towards the breaking dawn.
I carry messages across the water, bidding them to survive. It is in my words that I will live forever, while my essence grows and rots and withers away. Know me in my message. Know that every line here is truthful and sincere, and every utterance a baring of my most vulnerable self.

Kindlings are my long-form musings on love, life and loss. They follow the threads laid out in the First Kindling; between Twigs and Kindlings, a khepri builds a bonfire of rebirth, nurtured by the breath of a thousand stories.

Do not crush me, traveller. Let me show you my soul, hoping it finds reflection in yours.

 

 

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Baby steps

With mental health, it’s the small wins that are often the most significant.

Thats because it takes a lot to make those wins. It takes one comment from a loving relative, one joke at a dinner table – ‘Be careful, you need to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress!’ – to set what was a slowing spiral back on its breakneck course. You go back to measuring yourself daily, weighing food portions, and working so hard your appetite is gone by the time you get home. You can’t bring it up though, because then you get labeled oversensitive.

The gaming starts up slowly again.

Recovery is about daily victories. Sometimes it’s a spoonful, sometimes a bowl, other days, if you’re really lucky, a feast. One day of eating like a normal (middle class normal anyway) human being is not going to make you balloon, but it’s hard explaining that to a brain preoccupied with the minutiae.

I never started this blog as a recovery blog; writer’s block set in again when I tasked my brain with keeping my body alive. It’s been trying to kill me for so long, and I can finally admit that without feeling the need to add a caveat that I’m not insane. I am, a little. How can I not be when I speak to my matryoshka mental health problems as naughty younger siblings? But I keep writing here because sometimes the process of becoming isn’t beautiful, or beautifully phrased. Sometimes it’s a crock of shit, and I have to be honest about that too.

I was 10 when an uncle passed a comment about the thickness of my thighs, and that’s when I realised my body wasn’t like my other cousins’.

I was 12 when I asked for seconds at dinner and my stepfather responded I should look in the mirror before asking for more.

I was 14 when my stepsister asked me to stretch her jeans. My older sisters treated me like their chubby project to fix. I have a cousin who says my legs are stumpy. I had friends who didn’t hit early puberty like me, and so found my new body probably weirder than I did. My mother would take me shopping and I would cry in fitting rooms, pull my own hair out, and scratch myself, never being able to find clothes that fit my hips, seeing a troll in the mirror that I was sure everyone laughed at constantly. Even our family nanny constantly comments on my weight loss or gain. My body is everyone’s property but mine.

I never noticed when my weight started dropping, in fact I’ve never been able to notice. I cannot see myself. I can only tell by the fit of my clothes. And yet, despite all this self hate and harm, I find fat shaming repugnant, and hate seeing others go through what I went through. My hate is self directed, and I’ve long realised the issue wasn’t about weight – at least, not entirely.

As I’ve said before, the root is always in other people and their opinions of me, and the right so many people in my life think they have to comment on every detail of my being. I spent most of university covered in baggy pants and skirts and jackets to hide myself away (and to avoid changing rooms). I used to enjoy deciding what to wear in the morning, choosing my daily armor, but mostly these days it’s a fight to make it out the door without having a total meltdown. I check the mirror five times before I leave. I measure almost every day now, at least until the spiral slows again. And every time a man passes a salacious comment in the street I have to fight the urge to burst into angry tears. I do not want to be seen.

I do not want to be a body, I have only been a body. I was a body to my rapist, I was a body to mocking friends, I was a body to trashy boys with hormones for brains who thought treating me as a conquest was a way to cultivate mutual respect. I was a body to the guy who would throw a blanket over me and force his hands into my underwear with his friends in the room, thinking his violence made him a big man. My body has only ever been the source of my humiliation.

Recovery is a process. I am learning that to recover from this destructive relationship with myself I have to recognize its relationship to a host of other traumas I consistently assume I’m ‘over’, despite my own family or friends not even knowing about them. I’m open about my mental health because I think I should be; people make the dangerous assumption that you cannot equally be a mess and seem to have it all figured out. For example, anyone who’s been hangry knows what havoc it wreaks on your mood. Imagine that amplified, constantly having mood swings and feeling like your reactions to things are irrational and not being able to explain why to people because you feel like you’re making excuses. That kind of cycle of blame would make a steel turbine crack.

I am trying day by day, fork by fork, meltdown by meltdown, to rebuild – as hard, selfish, messy, and slow as that can be. I want to rebuild because I cannot let my own destruction be an excuse for hurting others. And I remove myself when I think that may be the case. You have to get up, you have to get up off the mat and call it in and fight back even if fighting back is a glass of water and three hours of staring into space. You have to. And I have to. I’m going to be someone’s mother one day – I know I will be – and I have to learn to be strong now, and to fight the world’s cruelty now, because one day I won’t just be doing it for myself.

I will invite neither criticism nor vanity into my child’s body image. I will not deny food for bad behaviour and dress fittings, or teach them that their body is not enough for play, for thought, for love. I will not allow strangers or loved ones to criticize them or even comment on their bodies, and for every schoolyard bully and trashy lover with a toxic mouth and violent words I will remind them that their wellbeing, their joy in beautiful things, their appreciation and respect for self and other, matters so much goddamn more than the needle edge of a scale.

Teach your children that they are transient, and transcendent, and more than the clumsy composition of flesh and clay that carries them through this plane of existence. Tell them, and teach them, only this: ‘Your soul is weightless, my love, and it can soar.’

Kindlings, 6

The great thing about keeping a blog (firstly) for yourself, and not an audience, is that you stop caring about what you say and use it as a way to give voice to your brain-stew, hoping along the way someone might find it useful, but not worrying too much if they do.

I’ve battled anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating since my teens – this year, almost a decade. My weight was always a problem for my family. I started puberty earlier than my peers, and sprouted hips and body parts I never knew I’d have. I didn’t know what to do with it. I was put on my first diet when I was somewhere between 9 and 11.

It always felt like my friends were prettier than me, and for many years my looks were not something people commented on – unless to say that my curly hair was ugly, that my eyes and mouth were weird, that I dressed funny, that I had a huge ass (Dawn Schweitzer has a huge ass? Who would write that? Who wouldn’t write that?). I learned to not bother with my appearance much because it didn’t seem like anything special. But I obsessed about it internally.

I can calculate the calories in your plate before you’ve lifted your fork. I can figure out how to game those calories with exercise and calorie-burning foods so that I can come under my ceiling without passing out. In the last year, and last six months especially, I dropped my daily calorie limit to 1000, and then to 800, and at my lowest to 600. No one really knew – because I knew how to game. I felt I was losing control of my life and watching it pass me by. And when I can’t control my world, some warped little voice named Haruki pops up and reminds me that if I’m shit at everything else, I don’t really deserve to eat.

I don’t deserve to be nourished; I don’t deserve to be healthy. Sometimes it’s more that than the fear of being overweight. I become enraged when other people are fat-shamed around me, but I shame myself daily. My dysmorphia is so bad that still, after losing over 20kgs this year, I see a troll. And in the course of this ‘dark night of the soul’ as one of my close friends called it last night, I saw the roots of so many fears and insecurities that I felt trapped in a quagmire trying to figure my way out. Learn to stop giving people so much power over you – sounds easy, right? But what power am I giving them, and how do I take it back?

I stopped eating because I had my heart broken by someone I knew I had fallen in love with. I stopped eating because I broke someone else’s heart, someone I loved too, even if he didn’t believe me (and his disbelief fueled that fire). I stopped eating because I wasn’t happy with my work, didn’t feel like I deserved my place, didn’t feel like what I was doing was enough for my boss, who I love and respect dearly. I stopped eating because I was a bad friend who never seemed to do enough to keep people around, even though many of those people did even less. I stopped eating because I never made time for my family. I stopped eating because I’d given up on my craft and worse, stopped thinking it was worth investing myself in when it was all I had left. I stopped eating because I couldn’t even hold my life together when everyone around me thought I was doing quite okay. I stopped eating because part of me didn’t want to live anymore.

And to be honest, I had to die. I had to meet that girl, that shadow, that spectre that I’d turned into – Haruki herself – and cut her throat. Haruki protected me from the worst of my childhood and teens. She was a safe place where I could control something when everything else seemed so lost and frightening. But she was slowly killing me; her voice in my ear at mealtimes started making it impossible to leave my house. I would rather pass out faint on my bed than let anyone see the dark rings that started forming under my already dark eyes. I was only safe eating in a group – and funnily enough, safest with my colleagues. When work started winding down I felt that familiar panic start to rise.

I can’t tell you how I saved myself. I’m still trying. And it’s true, I’m saving me. No true friend of mine can or should take credit for being there for me through this, because their input is fleeting in comparison to the daily battle that comes with sticking a fork and not a finger into your mouth. That doesn’t discount or discredit the amazing support and care I’ve experienced from those I love. I appreciate it so immensely. Half the time it feels like I’m choosing life for those people, because I still sometimes wonder whether giving up would be easier.

But I’m saving me, and making myself indestructible – like water this time, flowing and soft and uncontainable, so that when people leave my life I don’t fall apart over and over again. I don’t try to control the outcome of what happens anymore. I have to tell myself not to care and trust that what is good will come as long as I do my part. And what is good is not necessarily what you want but it may be what you need. That includes speaking back to Haruki’s ghost, her faint, rasping screams coming from the pit of the hell I sent her back to. It includes finding ways to look after myself and know my triggers, and be unapologetic about what needs to go.

2018 is around the corner, and as another close friend said (and I agree completely), there are zero expectations for what this year will bring. But I can say quite unequivocally that I know what I need to keep life in my bones, the habits I need to break.

I will not grovel.

I will not beg.

I will not chase.

I will not explain myself.

I will not apologise for myself.

I will not lie to myself.

I will not live to please anyone else.

I will not accept manipulation.

I will not be contained.

I will not be controlled.

I will not try to control.

I will leave doors and windows open for those who prove themselves welcome, and shoot at the feet at those who are not.

And I will leave my shotgun at the front door, so that I remember to protect what is mine: my tribe, my life, my heart. No one else will do it for me. No one else can do a better job of it than me.

A Lot

You do not

have to be good

to do it;

you can

only

get good

by doing it.

 

Sing loud

Paint broad

Love big

Do it

you only get good

when you take the shot.

 

What they call

‘Talent’

‘Skill’

‘Bravery’

you know

to be as simple

as trying.

A lot.

Kindlings, 5

Let me confess something I’ve been telling myself all my life:

I’m really not a great person.

I would like to be, in my heart of hearts, but I know I’m not. I have a lot of issues and beyond that I have so many survival mechanisms and defenses that I terrify my own self. The khepri is a little beetle and symbolically it pushes the sun towards the dawn. The real beetle it represents is much less statuesque – it rolls a ball of shit, quite literally.

My lessons post-Kindlings 3 have been multiple and difficult but I’ve been thankful for them daily. The one lesson that’s stuck with me is something a lovely human being once said to me: ‘You’ve always been good to me, and I’ve always been good to you, and that’s why it’s never hard seeing you after time has passed, even if we aren’t best mates’.

I am guilty of being selfish, demanding, intense and immature. These are things I know about myself and have been trying to improve since I saw what was there. The one difficulty – though really a blessing – I have is that once I’ve seen the worst of myself I can’t go back there. That’s how I rebuild every single time, from the desire to be ten times better. Change or die.

My other big flaw is not that I act the victim, or centre my own experience, though I am guilty of that too. My big flaw is giving people way too much authority over my happiness, and seeking their validation for how I feel and think. That is unhealthy and after a while it becomes self-harming.

In my world, I am always the one in the wrong, and the people I love know this to be true. I would sooner pin something on myself than on someone else, and when I’m angry at someone I dedicate an immense amount of energy to gaslighting myself out of my anger and confirming with myself that I have, in fact, overreacted.

That was the first thing I started burning to the ground when I decided the time was ripe for a change. I’ve spent my life being convinced by the people I loved that my instincts were false, that what I saw wasn’t true, and that my interpretation of what I saw was heavy-handed or wholly inaccurate – this when I know myself to be a rational, logical, almost too coldly analytical human being (NB: another flaw – computing emotion is a massive challenge, and causes total combustion). After a while you stop trusting yourself; you stop believing that you have a good measure of a situation, and you start conceding your power to people who you think know best. You stop seeing that people may be good but that they can only receive you as far as their own experience allows.

That isn’t a mistake I will make again in a hurry. You have to see yourself as a person of worth before you can be good to others. A lot of the goodness I’ve tried to show people came from seeing all my flaws (and I can list them for you if you want) and all my hang-ups, and wanting to offer people what they needed because I didn’t know how to give it to myself. But that’s the shift I started feeling in myself this year – that rather than give people from my own place of pain, fear and insecurity, I would fill my own bucket first, rather than die of thirst trying to quench everyone else.

And that meant letting a few people down, and cutting a few out completely. Because I am not a great person, but every day I try to be kinder, and nicer, more fair, less hardened. I can’t fix any of my mistakes but I can make sure I don’t knock my head in the same way twice. It works some days and others it’s hard, but I never get out bed wishing anyone harm, and I don’t go to sleep counting off my kill list anymore (I’m actually Jon Snow and about as much of a stubborn pain in the ass); when I’ve hurt people I realise it first and act to rectify it, immediately if possible, but in time if I think that’s what they need more from me at that moment. It’s treading a balance between loving yourself and being honest about who ‘yourself’ really is – your triggers, defences, and capacity for utter shittiness.

So if someone decides i’m not great, and doesn’t think I deserve a chance to prove them wrong, then it’s farewell with great love. I used to try to explain myself to people who’d already made up their minds about me. That right there is madness, and I’m trying to prove to myself these days that my brand of mad is more quirky than self-destructive. It isn’t fair to keep a scorecard of who hurt you when you aren’t keeping track of who you’re hurting; it isn’t fair to keep score of how much you do for others as a defence against seeing yourself clearly, and your own weaknesses. Letting go was always hard for me but thanks to a few lessons I’ve become a professional of late.

No one is responsible for your self-esteem, for your validation, for your self-respect, and if you give people that much power over you, you have to realise that doing that is an exercise in agency that only you can put a stop to. We are only responsible for ourselves. We cannot control other people – what they think, how they react, what their context is. We have to respect it though and realise that whatever hurt we feel, and whatever retribution we think we’re owed, we might never get our absolution, our moment of reckoning. And who needs it anyway? Shake the dust. Burn it to the ground. Build something new and beautiful from the ruins of a life, a love, a friendship that maybe wasn’t for you, or isn’t for you anymore. It’s okay to walk with shaky legs and cling to trees in the cruel winds of other people’s opinions. But in the end let their winds fuel your fire. You are far too radiant and magnificent to let it blow dust in your eyes.

Kindlings, 4, or ‘running’

The day comes when you stop running.

You’ve told yourself for years that that’s not what you were doing. You weren’t running from the foundations that shifted, quicksand like, under your feet. You weren’t running from the person you were told not to be.

You ran, though. And when those things weren’t in view anymore it started looking like you were running towards something more.

Then you stop. Something or someone brings everything to a halt, and the world hits you in a haze of headlights and night air and frenetic sounds building to a crescendo around you in the street. You see everything flash before your eyes: your weakness, your pride; your fear. The mechanisms you’ve used to bury these primal feelings under newer, prettier insecurities.

In that moment you have a choice.

You can flick away the noise and get in the car, take two pills and wake up tomorrow to carry on as usual. Or you leave the spectre of your running self to die in that street, die there with her hollow eyes and hollow bones you could light a fire inside. Leave her there – leave the jacket you forgot in the cloakroom – leave it all. You will never return to live in that skin again.

I’ve faced these choices on a few occasions in my life. In the past I’ve sometimes made the mistake of choosing the former, only to end up there again. It’s the easier, softer path; it’s cushioned in excuses and blame. It’s when you choose the latter that you choose the harder road, the one that involves waking up every morning learning to know yourself anew. Who is this girl I’ve lived with my whole life, and never recognised? When did she lose her faith in people? When did she stop blowing bubbles on street corners and handing out cupcakes to strangers?

When did feeling pain become her only source of feeling? And how do we make it stop?

Old ghosts follow and encircle us. I have never feared them. But the dead remnants of your soul are a little different; a little more powerful, a little less forgiving. Healing is cauterising, is fire and sacrifice. It is the ash that fertilises new ground for life. The soul cannot move forward in light, in newness, without picking out its scabs and sores and burning away the pestilence that holds it back. Break down the walls you hid behind and use them as your foundation.

You stop running. You look at who you’ve become, who you are. What you’re worth. What you could be worth. What you want, who you want in your life. There are no more excuses. There is no one left to blame. You survey the destruction, the smoke and bone and blackened feet. You gather the ashes to plough into the tree sunken into your spine after all these years carrying other people. It’s just you, now. There’s no place for failing. Upright and strong, you begin to walk again, slowly, tenderly, intentionally. You will bloom when the time comes. You will bloom better, brighter. You will never return to that girl again.

Moment

Of madness

or
Weakness

I cannot choose;

but you cannot control

how people respond to you.

You cannot control how people respond to you.

 

I needed the lesson more

than I needed love.

You cannot control them

but you must,

always

Control you.

 

A shock of amber hair and wide eyes in the headlights

watching walls tumbling

deafening

around the lies I told myself.

Roll and rush

rush and roll

into the distance and away;

goodbyes

choked in petrol smoke

and breathless pleas.

 

Goodbye.

Take the lesson.

Metric – A Tribute (2012)

Today is Thursday! So let’s have a throwback to a poem I wrote way back when I was 19 and very, very naive (isn’t naivete beautiful?). If you were a follower of my old blog ‘Insomnia&Sexytime’ you may remember it.

This poem is inspired by the chorus of the song Black Sheep by Metric. If you haven’t heard it before, give it a listen, because it’s really cool. If you’ve seen Scott Pilgrim you’ll know it anyway 🙂

 

Sending you my love on a wire
Like two shadow robins meandering along treacherous barbs
Black and art house the way arty can be
For me
The dancing light echoing off your wire palms

My love, on a wire
I balance myself
And it bends in the middle
So I’ll do what I can
Sending my love
Through heart-shaped wires running up burning telephone poles
To reach you and kiss your forehead
Because chaste is what we are
Through distant pathways and laugh lines encircling the same silver moon

Wiring myself to your faraway love
My love
I send you beauty in the form of impassioned arguments and crashing bursts of anger
A mischievous laugh echoed by a shaking head
Moulding myself to the contours of an imaginary heartbeat
Imagined because it has been an age since I’ve heard it
So, my love, I will love you with
Laughter
And the occasional tasteless joke
With thoughts of your crystallised eyes and sensitive hands
Maybe you’ll remember me
Just today

Because we never forget.

My love, I send you my love
Through this bitter wire in this bitter world
Knowing only that you
Are true
In your own confused, headbanging-against-the-wall way
And you will catch my blown kisses with the fluttering of your lashes
The wire becoming a thousand tingling bubbles on your sleeping, loving face.

I send you my love
On this wire.
Always.