They were two torn out pages with my hand writing on them. Had I torn them from a notebook years ago? They were found amongst a box of old high school art folios and reports. The weird god stuff in my art folios made me cringe. That dumb and silly girl did not exist anymore. I threw everything including the school reports into recycling. I kept those two hand written filled pages. There was meant to be more. There was one very important thing that was missing from that box. Something I had wanted so that I could love and read and then choose to throw away myself. More on that in another post.
Here are those hand written pages. Oh.
For some reason, call it nervous energy, i wander around my new boyfriend’s place in Kensington. I do dishes and a load of laundry. Things you do when you are unemployed. Things you do when you are unemployed and still in shock that you have an acual boyfriend, and are uncertain how to proceed when at his place and all you have to do is simply wait for him to come home after work. That morning be fore he left for work at dawn, he had hugged me tight and said. ”Do you think you could stay over another night? One night of you is not really cutting it anymore.” My heart does a little squee. I nod and say, ‘OK.’
As I fold his t shirts and pair his socks I think about a day three years ago.
I was sitting on my friends front lawn in Ballarat. The sun was out but the air was crisp and cold. I was in the messy middle of my cid infatuation. My friend had come over to visit and found me in a tear filled heap on the floor listening to some whiny white boy band that tried to pass themselves of as punk. ( Unwritten Law’s Seeing Red) My friend and her boyfriend had bundled me up from the floor and taken me to thier place for some tender loving care. It may have also been at the behest of my housemates. They may have grown bored of my morbid self indulgence.
Sitting in the winter sunshine I watched my friend’s adorable dog, a Jack Russel called Violet, run around the front yard gleefully sniffing out bugs and tiny creatures. My friend was trying to get me to call Sid and flat out ask him what the fuck he was playing at.
”You can use the phone in the kitchen. I will shut the door and give you privacy.” She suggested.
”Like it is that simple.” I said glumly. ”Hey Sid. Just calling to ask regarding those hand jobs I gave you. Do you love me or what?” God, it hurt to love that idiot Sid. I did not need to call him. I had already convinced myself I knew the answer. He would laugh at my me and say that he would have to be pretty desperate to fall in love with someone who was so rubbish at hand jobs.
It was here with my friend kindly giving me such love and patience as I wallowed in my angst and misery that this particular friend said something to me that it would take a very long time for me to believe.
‘This will have a happy ending no matter how it turns out.” I roll my eyes and grunt and then sniff. My friend continues.
‘If you and Sid sort everything out and end up together. That is happy. If Sid continues to act like an asshole of mammoth proportions you will move on and that is happy. You will eventually find someone who realizes and appreciates how weird and wonderful you are…and how great it is to kiss you.”
I say nothing and my friend’s boyfriend comes out to bring us cups of tea. Later that year my friend and that boy break up and she moves in with me and her best friend. They eventually decide to ask me to move out. It is not a surprise as I was being fazed out emotionally for months.
Now its three years later and I still have the first text Josh ever sent me four months ago.
5 june 06
Hey cutie. Just wanted you to know I had an awesome weekend and that last night was great. I should have birthdays more often. Text me if you got credit.
Even now thinking about that text makes my heart feel like it is being squeezed. he is not even pressuring me about the whole sex thing. Which is a relief.
Oh dear Ive gone and done it now. I have written his name down for the first time. I have been too scared to. What if writing it down shifted some fabric in the universe and unhinged something? Like a thread pulled once too many times resulting in the whole thing unravelling. Its done now and there has been no shifting that I can observe with the naked eye. I will now allow myself to gush a little.
He is tall. 6ft2.
he has dark floppy hair that falls into his eyes and causes him to flick his head in way to get his hair out of his eyes.
He has the cutest New Zealand accent as he is from there.
He is interesting and darkly funny.
He loves to kiss me.
I guess that my ex friend was right.
It was only a few nights ago that he told me the whole story behind the death of his mother when he was 18 years old. He spoke in his soft deep voice and I pushed my face into his neck in an attempt comfort him. He wrapped his arms around me and held tight. I almost stopped breathing. She had been addicted to anti-depressants and pain killers. He had come home late from a party with his then girlfriend: Angela. They had had drunken sex and fallen asleep. The next morning he was woken by a knock on his bedroom door. It was his Dad. ”I knew it. I knew it before my Dad even said anything.” My beloved boy murmured into my neck. ”Its the shittiest feeing, the feeling of loosing a parent.”
I hug him and think of his old girlfriend. I wonder what I would have done in that situation. What could you possibly do to lessen the impact of such news? Nothing.
The house is empty and we are on the living room couch. I kiss his cheek and he find my mouth with his. There is hunger there and we are hyper aware that we are alive. He gently pulls my t shirt up and over my head. He tosses it aside.
I smile to myself as I fold the last shirt. It is about 3 hours until he gets home. I cant wait.
I left my very first and only Silver Bullet vibrator in a bedroom in a large share house in Kensal Green, North London to be exact. It was 2009 and I had been happily flipping my own bean for about 4 years. I did not realize my diminutive implement of happy endings was missing until I was in Manchester. I had expected to find it while unpacking my suitcase in the bedroom of the house I would be living n and working as a nanny. I owed rent to the place in London and did not have the money. I could hardly call up Patrick the creepy live in landlord and ask if he had come across my vibrator while cleaning out my side of the bedroom. It was not all that large or expensive and I think the one double A battery that made it work had run out. I had become a little addicted to its magic as it had helped curb my initial intense homesickness and sexual frustration.
Growing up in a Mormon household (The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints). There’s a musical about us. The church had guidelines for every aspect of your life. One of the things that is considered wrong and unholy in the eyes of the lord, was masturbation.
Yes that delightful, harmless and disease free past time was considered gross and dirty. This is so funny and inexplicable to me now that I stand before you a proud and defiant apostate of the church. Apostate is just a fancy way of saying that I decided through a process of transgressions and starting to think for myself, that perhaps the church was not as great or good for me as my parents and relatives had tried to make me believe.
There is a little pamphlet that you get as soon as you turn 12. It is called For The Strength Of Youth. Inside the pages are some very lovingly written, if not condescendingly, information that invites you to dress modestly and save yourself, your sexy parts and feelings for your husband or wife. It says you are not to ‘arouse sexual feeling in your own body’. In the pamphlet you are told that Homosexuality and Lesbianism ‘is a serious sin’. You are told same sex attraction saddens the lord. ”It’s Adam and Eve. Not Adam and Steve!” This was a statement I heard hundreds of times while growing up.
Everything fun makes god sad and it confuses me that the person up stairs created all this stuff and then said ‘don’t touch any of it’.
Masturbation was not discussed. Sex was not discussed, consent and feeling safe or what constitutes a healthy relationship was not discussed.
When I was 13 I was visiting my friend from church Claire, she had an 11 year old brother. While I was visiting, his parents caught him rubbing his crotch up and down the pantry door. He had obviously just discovered how amazing it felt.
My friend and I watched as her brother was taken into the living room and sat down for a talk. We listened through the closed door. It was all so funny to us. What was he doing that for?
He could have simply been told that it was something to do in the privacy of your bedroom. He was instead told that it was not right. He was told that, ‘You just don’t do it.’ ‘Just don’t do it’ is basically the cornerstone of the Mormon religion.
I never understood why the church told young people not to masturbate. It was disease and pregnancy risk free. Did you really want to be so very ignorant about what made you feel sexually wonderful on your wedding night? Wouldn’t it be better if you could help steer your brand new spouse around the map of your body? Have the vocabulary and confidence to say what you needed? No. Refrain from all of it and you shall remain pure in the eyes of the lord. That creep was always watching you with love and judgement.
Which is why I did not discover the joys of self -love until I was 23 and had been living out of home since I was 16. The guilt and shame surrounding sex is something that I found difficult to unlearn.
I got a job on the tropical holiday destination of the wealthy: Hamilton Island. The job involved cleaning up fancy apartments, after rich young adults had partied and puked and left grand amounts of alcohol behind. Because, when you are rich like that, you waste shit. The other cleaners and I would collect it and sneak it back to our rooms.
I was still a virgin at this stage and when the rumour that Hamilton Island had the highest rate of STDs in Australia. I got scared and decided I was not loosing my V while on an island full of people who may or may not have the disease that gives you cluster warts on you genitals.
It was there with the warm breezes and sounds of the ocean floating through my window, that I slowly entered the wonder and majesty of self- reliant sexual pleasure. It was all very tentative at first, just a small and nervous hand caressing the stomach and slowly, very freaking slowly it moved towards the front of my underwear. over the knickers and until I found the spot that made my heart start humming and a feeling that was so so good it amazed me that I had been made to feel so bad about it and put off doing it for so long. You could say that my working holiday on a tropical island was also a sort of honeymoon period for myself.
It was not jus that it felt good. Learning to make my own body feel sexually aroused was a huge deal. My body up until that point, had never really felt like my own. It always felt like it was being shared or dissected or cut open and my insides moved around or added to. My body was a slab of malfunctioning meat and it was not nusual for it to be stripped down and stared at by multiple medical professionals at a time. It did not happen all at once, this awakening and feeling like my body could be sexual. When you ar a kid with a body that is fascinating medically, it is easy to feel like you have no control over what happens to you and the skin you are in. While on that tropical island I discovered that I had way more control over my body than I was led to believe. Learning how to make this body sing a little and learning what caresses worked and the ones that didn’t, was like a whole new world was right under my nose and I had the magic key.
All that wasted time reading the Book Of Mormon in preparation for the end of days. All that time spent believing that Jesus is going to come to earth a second time and you better be on the right and sexually pure side when he arrives. What a wasted adolescence. I wonder if I would not have been so sad had I known how to make myself feel like the second coming of Christ, without the judgement and the end of the world.
After that I became aware that it was great for calming my nerves or helping me fall asleep. What an invention of the human nervous system. To think all through uni, I thought if I did anything like this, it indicated I could not get a boyfriend. Thanks to the church really pushing the whole hetero-normative patriarchal, only get sexy when its your husband helping, ideology. I thought fluffing my own cream puff, indicated that I was as ugly and doomed to die alone, as all those truly horrendous and lame Mormon dances had me believing. It did not prove anything except independence.
I did not need a girlfriend/boyfriend. I only needed my clean hands, a sexy imagination and a quiet moment.
Once the news that you could sign a sheet with your email address and log on to the website, in order to get your two 40$ tickets to The Book Of Mormon The Musical, the queer kids behind me hastily signed the sheets and went home. They were weak, I thought as my resolve simply grew stronger. I was not going home without two tickets held in my own hands. I had come too far to simply go home now. Also, I did not really trust the internet. What if the site crashed? I would rather stand here in this line without any food or water, than I would want to bother with annoying internet forms and such. I had exactly 80$ in my wallet and no money in the bank. I felt like a lone wolf or half of a gun fight at dawn: focused and pulled tight with concentration.
The queer kids were very interesting. There was the amazing male identifying kid who was wearing the most amazing yellow blazer I had ever seen. He had seen the musical in New York and simply thought getting cheap tickets would be a good way to get a babe to date him and make out with him. The female identifying friend wearing a dress they said thier mother got for them and was ”vintage as it was from the 90s!’ Had recently gotten released from a psych ward. There was an American girl who was wearing an adorable dress covered in a cat print. She had also seen the musical in New York and thought it would be nice to get some cheap tickets. She was not too bothered as she was just happy to hang in the line with her friends. Yellow blazer had a huge picnic blanket that they spread out so we could all sit on it as we waited in the line. It was 8am at this point and the line was huge. I happily sat on the blanket with the baby queer kids and they suggested we go around the circle and introduce ourselves and our preferred pronouns. The weather was cool and the sky was cloudy.
There had been people camping out the front of the Prices Theatre since 4pm the day before. I noticed people on thier way to work staring at the line. One man in shorts and thongs had his phone out and simply filmed the entire line from across the street. I glared at him as he walked past my section of line. Having people to talk to did make the time go quicker. It was nice to know I had my book in my bag in case I got tired of talking. These kids seemed very young and I had no doubt I would tire of it eventually. Yellow blazer was talking about how upset they got at someone at a party who had commented that they often felt uncomfortable around white men. I thought this was an understandable feeling. Yellow Blazer explained how victimised they felt at such a statement. I stayed silent with some difficulty. The line moved a little bit and we all stood up and picked up the blanket to move forward four steps.
I listened to Cat dress and Yellow blazer discuss their views on dating as the person in the 90s dress lay with their head in the lap of Yellow Blazer. The sun had come out a bit stronger and I removed my own less amazing blazer that had been free from a friend who was almost as short in stature as I. ”I just want to kiss all the babes.” Yellow Blazer exclaimed. I noticed they were also wearing an amazing button up navy shirt with a bow tie. There was so much I loved about the outfit. Cat Dress did not share Yellow Blazer’s enthusiasm for babe kissing, or, she did not care for what was required in order to get to the babe kissing part. ”I just find dating incredibly tiresome.” She said in her American twang. The kids did not ask me anything about myself at all. It was wonderful. The talked excitedly and without taking any breath. It was as if every single word was of the utmost importance and had to be shared straight away.
Once the line had moved to a point where you could see Amphlett Lane and the street art showing the iconic school uniform that Chrissy Amphlett often wore and her two beloved dogs. The queer kids started squealing about how cute the doggos were. ”That lane is named after the lead singer of The Divinyls.” I said. ”Do the dogs have anything to do with her?” Yellow Blazer asked. ”Yes, they were hers.” I said. ”You should youtube her band. They are amazing.” Yellow Blazer nods.They have no intention of looking up some old lady band.
It is about at this time that we are informed that all the 20$ tickets are gone. My heart sinks a bit. We are told that it is not to despair as if you stay in line you can still get two 40$ tickets. I sigh in relief and double check my funds. The cool breeze blowing through the city is lovely and I am glad the day is not hot. I figure that free coffee should give me adequate sustenance for all this line standing. Some guy with a big camera stalks around taking photographs. Up the line there is a man and women in faded clothes. They are standing with their arms around each other and the woman is laughing. There is a fold up stool and a plastic bag next to them. The man and woman break away and the man sits on the stool and pulls out a note book and a pen. ”We were going to go to the pool after this.” He says laughing. He sits on his stool and jots stuff down in his notebook. It is not a moleskin. It is one of those ones you can buy at a supermarket for $2,95. Another group of older people in the line have become friends while waiting. They discuss their children and how much rain they have gotten during the week. They discuss parking and what kind of fresh hell the traffic will be when they finally get to drive home. They are cheerful and in good spirits. Holding each others place in the line for toilet trips and snack missions.
The line keeps moving in tiny ways and larger more positive ways. The yellow Blazer and friends are getting quiet and more bored. When the sheets for email sign ups get handed around they sign and flee. I was hoping more people in front of me would vacate the line. Some people do go home and I find myself standing behind two older ladies in their 50s to early 60s. They are sitting on milk crates and offer me the spare one. ”You can sit on my scarf if the crate is to sharp.” One of the ladies says. Her name is Ann and her friend is Karen. I sit on the crate and fall into easy conversation with the two women.
Karen and Ann knew each other back when they lived in Wagga, but they were not friends or enemies. They both moved to Melbourne within a 3 month period and became close friends around the time their marriages dissolved at the same time. ”That is so wonderful.” I said. ”That our marriages fell apart or that we became friends?” Ann said. ”Could it be wonderful that both things happened?” I asked. Ann wrinkled her nose in response ‘Nah.” She replied. They had been friends for over ten years. They love the theatre and usually buy tickets for something to go see together for every birthday. ”We are both geminis.” Ann says. ”I think that means something.”
‘I do not.” Karen says.
There is a great deal of excitement when we get to the point in the line that is actuall at the start of the line with velvet rope that creates a snake at the frot of the theatre. It is nearly time and I can hear people cheering as they exit the theatre with tickets. I decide I will not cheer. I will quietly and with dignity, exit the theatre and make my way to Parliment station. The milk crates are a bit annoying now so I leave mine for someone else to sit on.When the women find out that I was raised Mormon they have some questions. ”What made you leave?” I say that I simply started thinking for myself and i found I could not be a feminist and go to church without wanting to tear my hair out and scream in frustration.
Karen asks me a question that makes me stop and think hard. ”Is there anything that you got from being raised in the mormon church?”
”Good stories to tell strangers.” I say quickly. ”Its a weird thing to have first hand knowledge of.” I say. ”I guess I am glad that I have that lived experience as writing fodder.” My new friends look interested and I can feel that they are listening and its nice. ”It is also really great to have so many rules to break.” I say. Sex and drinking wine is so much fun when you first start doing it, because you have been told so many times how sad that stuff will make you.”
There are a group of young kids ahead of us who are playing cards as they wait. There is a very large man in a Star Wars t shirt standing and chatting to another very large man wearing a Hawaiian shirt. There is an Asian man standing behind me in a blue t shirt with CALIFORNIA written across the front. Karen asks him if he has been to California. ‘No.’He says. ”The t shirt was from Kmart.” He turns to me. ”Jessica.” He says. ”Your name is Jessica isn’t it?”
”Is Mormonism like Scientology?” He asks this very respectfully and with great interest. It is a great question. ”I would say no at my first instinct.” I say. ”BUT! I do think they have some things in common. Both religions were started by white men. Both have a badly written manifesto. One written by the founder of scientology himself and the other translated from golden plates that a boy was told about at age 14 or so. Mormon people do not live on a boat like Scientology people did. The level of famous people involved in both religions is varied as well. Scientology has Tom Cruise and John Travolta. The Mormons have Mitt Romney and the Brandon Flowers who is lead singer of The Killers.”
The man in the California t shirt has a plastic bag with him that contains a few bottles of water, some empty and one unopened. He offers me the unopened water. I accept with gratitude. I gulp the water and it sloshes around my throat. It is 6pm. People who saw us on their way to work now see us as they return home. Karen gives me some fresh limes from her bag. Ann has a lime tree and Karen slept over at her friend’s apartment last night. ”These will go great in my gin and tonics.” I say. ”Thank you.” Ann and Karen start planning their celebration of getting tickets. They are in need of a stiff drink and some food. They invite me to join them. I really want to. I cannot as I only have money for the tickets. ”I would love to.” I say. ”I have plans already.”
It is 7pm when I and my new friends get to the ticket sellers. I hand over my cash and get two tickets printed and handed to me. I share excited exclamations and Karen and Ann ask me when I’m going. ”10TH of Feb.” I say. ”The ladies get my blog details and promise to look my writing up as does the lovely gentlemen in the blue California t shirt who is in the process of getting him and his wife tickets as I say my goodbyes.
I make my way to Parliament station and ride the escalator down to platforms 3 and 4. I walk past the vending machine and stare longingly at the treats I have no change for. It occurs to me for no other reason than curiosity, to put my hand into the part where treats drop after you have swiped your card or put change in. My hand comes into contact with a bag of something. It is cold and I pull it out excitedly.
It is a bag of Malt Teasers.
I sit on the train with tickets to the Mormon musical, two free and fresh limes and a free bag of chocolate.
It is new years eve and it seemed like a good day to go and do something I had never done before: get a tarot reading. Growing up under the teachings of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, it was advised to avoid anything that was in the realm of witch craft and trying to contact spirits. It was said that the spirits in this world were actually working for satan, so trying to chat with them was pretty silly and dangerous. You really only need to watch that amazing 90s teen film, The Craft to know that it is not the power or spell that is bad, there is o bad or good except in the heart of the witch. No wonder the LDS church wanted you avoiding that, it completely rendered all the patriarchal god fearing and hell fire stuff null and void. It placed the power in you.
So I went to The Royal Arcade off Bourke Street Mall and found the adorable and busy pagan shop: Spell Box and made an appointment to see and be seen by Joyce. While I waited I looked around the store and considered by a candle that came with a tiny owl pendant. The candle was to be lit on a full moon and used to inspire wisdom. I looked at bracelets made from jade stones and tried them on my wrists to see if they would fall off easily. The stones felt cold and smooth on my skin. There was some young tween girls looking at fancy looking boxes with their Dad. ”It is beautiful.” The Dad said as he crouched down with his daughter. ”Will it fit all the stuff you want to put in it, though?”
When it is my time, I am approached by a buxom woman in her late forties. She has perfect ruby red lips and curly blonde hair pulled up and tesed around her face. She is wearing paisley and her skirts tinkle with tiny bells. I smile as she leads me up some stairs and ushers me into a dark room with a lamp and a small round table with a satin cloth draped over it. The room is hot like an oven. The fan is too loud so we leave it off.
”You can record the session on your phone if you like.” Joyce tells me. After fiddling with my iphone for a bit, I realize I have no idea how to record. ”Is it an iphone or android?”
”Iphone.” I say.
”I cant help you, I’m afraid.”
I laugh and put my phone away. ”My person would feel very validated by your comment.” I say. ”They hate iphones.”
Joyce looks at me and says, ”You have a partner?” Damn I was not meant to give her any free info about me, I think. I nod as I mentally kick myself.
They are creative and are very intuitive to the rage and anger within others. I am told and I agree. Joyce says that they are creative and do not focus on or express their own creativity enough. I nod in agreement. They need to channel the rage and anger around and in them and pool it into their own creative endevours. Joyce stops and leans back in her chair with tarot cards in hands. ”This does not help you, though. But, wanting the people to love to succeed encourage them to carry out their own dreams, is pretty important.” You cannot argue with that. I really want them to do their own stuff as they are just so talented and have so much more to offer than merely being part of other peoples visions.
Joyce tells me a bit about herself: raised catholic and completed a degree in psychology. She always felt a great spiritual presence or power around her and within. Not the spiritual power that the catholic church pushes: one of guilt and self hate. She asks me what brings me here. I tell her curiosity. ”I was raised in a religion that taught all this stuff was evil and should be avoided at all costs.” I tell her. ”I was too scared to even take part in sleep over seances as a teen, because the Mormon church strongly advised that stuff opened up your soul to the devil. ” I ell her that now that I am a grown up and no longer feel tied down by the fear of hell and an angry heavenly father, I can do things that I have always wanted to do or experience. Once you have ticked off the big ones: sex before marriage, alcohol consumption, tea drinking, recreational drug use. You need to get more imaginative.
”Do you work?”
The question makes me look down and then up again. I avoid her eyes and then gather my courage. Her eyes are kind and questioning. There is no malice there, it is only in me and directed at me. ”If you mean gainfully employed in full time work, no.”
”I didn’t actually. I meant what do you do thats important to you.”
My shoulders unclench and I feel my spine sigh a little as it releases tension. I straighten my tiny rounded shoulders as much as they will allow. ”I write. I want to be a great writer.” I say. It feels so good to say it out loud. In the tiny, one lamp lit windowless room, the statement feels like a confession fused with an declaration. ”Im getting a strong welfare sense from you.” I nod and frown. I am told that this is not to be ashamed off. The work that I do writing and making my voice heard is an important work and should not be considered of lesser value that working in a 9 to 5. Joyce tells me that my words and point of view mean a great deal to a great many people and will continue to matter. I am told that the kindness of the state allows me to do my important work that matters to people. ”You need to let go of all that fear that surrounds you in regards to your writing upsetting certain people.” Joyce tells me.
I am asked to divide the tarot card deck into three piles and pick a pile to take a card from. I do this and choose the top of the left pile. Joyce is doing card stuff and my bad eyes do not allow me to see whats on the cards. I concentrate on what she is saying. ”I ma getting a very strong child vibe and nurture.” Joyce tells me.
”I cant have kids.” I tell her. I feel a bit deflated at this. ”You don’t need to have kids in order to be nurturing. It could mean that you need to nurture your own belief in yourself. It could relate to how you value friendships and relationships. What is your relationship like with your mother?” I groan and make a face. ”Not good?” I shake my head. Joyce places cards on the table as she speaks. She says something that makes me squirm in discomfort, or is that recognition of something inside myself I am too ashamed to ever say out loud? ”You feel you would have done a better job at mothering than your mother did with you.” Joyce says. I stare up at the ceiling and turn my attention to the lamp light splashed across the wall. That is a horrible thing to think. I think. I nod slowly. It is true. I do think that sometimes. I wont ever get to know for sure though as I dont want any children. Being the eldest and having all that responsability when still a child myself, killed any mothering desires I may have had. ”I would have done things differently.” I say softly.
”You are on two very different plains.” I try to keep my adamant nodding to a minimum so I don’t break my own neck. ”I know she loves me but I do not feel connected to her at all.”
”She does not see your light.You are scared of writing what you need and want too as it will upset certain relationships, your mother/ daughter relationship in particular. You need to let go of all that angst and mother related fear and focus on doing what is important to you. You cannot control how people respond to your work. It is doing it and continuing to do it that is most important.”
Joyce encourages me to put it out in the universe, my wish or want or desire.
”Mother. I am going to write my truth and do what matters most to me. I am sorry. I love you. I have to this.”
I need to treat my writing more as a buisness. Joyce tells me that in the next three months I must focus on it more fully and even go away somewhere quiet and rural. I need to go away somewhere where there is a lake and mountains and I can sit and write with a view of the lake and be undisturbed. This sounds wonderful to me. I know you should be able to work anywhere as a writer, but, I would love to go somewhere with a lake view and solitude. I ask to see the card that is giving her this idea and she places it in front f me. She points to the tiny mountains in the bottom left of the card. I read the words at the bottom of the card: ACE of SWORDS. I look up at Joyce. ”Oh wow.” I say. ”This card is making some connections for me. It is bringing to mind a specific heart break that I’m basing a novel on. The person it is making me think of did not mean too but did break my heart.” I pause for a long moment.
”I helped a little.”
”You need to work on that book. What is something about that relationship that you are grateful for?”
I sit and think. ”They took my writing seriously.” I say. ”They were one of the first people to see me as talented and that I should share my writing instead of hiding it.” With that statement I proved that the ace of swords card can uncover a new way of thinking about certain situations. It can indicate a push to stop certain self delusions and focus on a brighter and more realistic perspective
Joyce encourages me to let go and put less energy into focusing on past relationships and focus more on the relationships that I have now. Common sense to some but revelatory to me. I may need to only do this to a point as past heart break is pretty good for poems and writing. There needs to be a certain amount of conflict or unrequited feelings.
The final portion of the read revolves around decisions and feelings of worry and fear of the future in regards to life and goals and feeling far behind others when it comes to success and progress. I am presented with the hanged man card. Joyce tells me this could represent a release of control and encourages me to not stress about all the decisions all at once and right now. It is ok to not have it all figured out. I feel comforted by this. I ask Joyce.
”Do you think that some of my stress about not being completely convinced of many things, comes from the whole being raised in a religion that claims to have every part of life sorted and planned? Because it is scary not knowing what will happen when I die but I’m much happier being more flexible in my brain space. My mind puffs are much puffier without organized religion deflating them.”
”That is certainly a very good interpretation.” Joyce tells me. It is then that she lets me know our time is up. We stand and I gather my tote. ”Give me a hug.” I do so and it is a wonderful soft hug. It could be due to the heat but I feel light headed and full of a inner fizz. It was 55 dollars well spent. I did not feel my soul opening up to satan. I simply felt freshly imbued with new found purpose and lust for living my life.
If I try, I can still remember at least one of the 13 articles of faith. The articles of faith are a small and concise over view of what The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints stand for in regards to their beliefs and teachings. They use the term ‘Men’ a lot.
When a little girl in Primary ( Sunday school for little kids) I remember my mother helping me learn them by heart. Each article was no longer than one sentence. The one I can remember and deconstruct from a intersectional feminist perspective, is the following: ‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions.’ I can even still sing it to the tune that my mother taught.
Yes people should be held accountable for their actions. Shame the world we live in still only seems to think this way about women of colour, single mothers, men of colour and not white boys who rape and gun down innocent people. Shame that someone as bad and horrible as Donald Trump can become President. If the Mormons believe that men should be punished for their own sins, how come so many voted for Donald Trump? Surely he can be considered a ‘man’ with many of his own yet to be punished for ‘sins.’ It seems that the members of he church that live where the church was started (Salt Lake City, Utah, think that openly bragging about ‘Grabbing her by the pussy’ is less offensive than the alternative the politically experienced Hilary Clinton. She was not without faults of her own, but surely the level of sins was less horrifying?
When I was 18 years old I slowly began loosing my religion. It was my first year at university and I am living away from home and the church community. It is so exciting and scary to be learning so much and finding out that perhaps not every single thing my parents taught me to believe, was what I was going to continue to believe. Who was it that said that A woman who reads is a dangerous thing? I was becoming a dangerous thing. I was becoming autonomous.
On a weekend home from uni, visiting my family, I am asked to have a ‘little chat’ with the leader of this small town branch of the church, the branch that I grew up in. I am in the Bishop’s office after church. I sit in a chair and stare into my lap with tears of shame as he tells me with such kindness that I am on a slippery slope away from the lord and all he has in store for me. My parents never pressured me about church after I left for university. I remember one day when my parents had the missionaries over for dinner, my Father introduced me as follows, ”This is my eldest daughter, Jess. She goes to university and she’s a punk!” There was not a hint of disappointment in his voice. He was proud. Luckily I was into the music and not in it to horrify my parents.
I am sure they worried and stressed about me. Looking back I am so glad my parents did not stop loving me just because I started doing my own thing. They did not have the controlling parental style of other Mormon parents. As far as my parents are concerned they could only teach us what they thought was right and teach us to think for ourselves. Do I sometimes fantasize about drinking wine with my mum and dad? yes, I do. But, you cannot always get everything you want. Seeing my parents tipsy will never be realized and that not a bad thing.
A few years later that very man who lectured me would get himself into a rather large-scale scandal. He would go to visit a young single mother in his capacity as a church leader bringing back a member of his flock. What would end up happening is that that married man with two children of his own, would get the single mother pregnant, leave his wife of 20 years or more and start a whole new family. This was pretty much the final nail in the coffin that was my membership and interaction with the church. I felt so sick at the hypocrisy that man exhibited and the power he abused. . The single mother he impregnated is a cousin of mine ( I have many) and she and him are very happy. I am happy for my cousin.I hope he treats her with respect.
Angela Davis said ’The seduction of assimilation is one of the greatest barriers to moving forward. Once that mirage of church perfection was shook and muddied I started thinking that in order to be the educated and critical thinking person I wanted to be, I had to let go of a few things that were holding me back. I had to jump of the cliff and hope swimming came naturally. I found it impossible to keep a steady balance or cohesion between my blossoming intersectional feminism and being an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ And Latter Day Saints. The wire cutters came out, but cutting was not the painless quick operation I hoped it would be.
This is what was rushing through my mind as I stared in horror at the electoral results for the state of Utah. On The New York Times website. The entire state of Utah is coloured in red. 375,000 votes went to Trump, 46.8%. The state of Utah chose Trump over Hilary. The state that does not separate church from the state, chose a sexist, intolerant of any religion that is not white Christianity. A racist and grotesquely wealthy man. Why? I suppose that any religion that is not run by a bevy of old middle class white Americans, must seem pretty freaky to their white fragility. If I sound bitter and snarky it is because that is exactly how I feel.
I sit and stare at that red state and want to throw my phone so hard it smashes. The shame and anger rushes up into my head and makes me feel dizzy. I am desolation. The rage in my heart is throbbing. The epiphany is painful. If you are Australian and you are an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, you have contributed to this election result. No amount of overt and frankly almost aggressive acts of kindness can make up for this.
The puritanical values of The church are things I can no longer silently agonize over, in an attempt not to offend a few people. I am ashamed to have been ever affiliated with a church and community that would think this is acceptable.
Where do they draw the line?
When Julia Gilliard was Prime Minister, I overheard a conversation about how disgraceful it was she was not married. I spoke up and said, ”That does not have anything to do with her ability to run the country.”
”It matters to ME.” One aunt said. The same aunt who told me she had crossed the street every time she saw a black man, while visiting America.
The values of the church do not give women bodily autonomy. They do not believe in abortion, so who do you think wants to help close down Planned Parenthood? They do not believe in marriage equality. Black people were not allowed to join the church until the 1970s. This always bothered me: If god and the church was true, then why was the church just as racist as everyone else at that time? Why didn’t the church include everyone from the start? Including same sex attractd people and queer people and trans people?
I have had conversations with male members of the church. I have had a relative actually use the ‘’ your vagina is a car’’ analogy on me. I have explained the fallacy of that belief. I have yelled in exasperation ”MY VAGINA IS NOT A CAR, UNCLE WILLIAM.” I have tried to calmly explain that it is not what a women wears that causes rape: It is rapists.
I have tried explaining about the 1 in four young women who will be sexually abused by the time they are 16? That is not a dress issue. This is rape culture.
I have tried to make them see that women should not have to be ‘protected’ men need to step up and be better. It has fallen on deaf ears and all I get is a headache of mammoth proportions.
This is not to say that I was raised without love. I was not. I love my parents. I have a great many problems with the church values. Some of the ideas in the church are lovely, being married to someone for eternity, can be considered two ways: lovely and batshit awful. My Dad always said that he could not think of anything worse than being stuck with all his relatives for time and eternity. That is right, people! My father said it way before Stephen Fry said it https://youtu.be/GzfCtGFgRSkand got all the glory. Which is why it can be argued that my father is as quick witted as Stephen Fry. No, my Dad is not on twitter.
I am simply trying to work through my confusion at a religion that tried to shape me, that has been known to blames rape victims and to encourage women to a purpose that seems, to me, revolves around procreation and pandering to the cisgender heteronormative white male ego.
Growing up I was taught about the second coming of Christ. It was going to be this big judgement day where all the obedient and believers in the gospel would be saved. While all the wicked and evil in the world would be destroyed. I remember being quite scared of this stuff. I remember being taught that as long as you believed and tried hard, you would be alright. You had to believe, though, in the lord and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I was taught that you would know about the end of days and that we were living in them now. ‘There would be wars and rumours of wars.” I wonder if the Mormons here in Australia are thinking what I am thinking (more then likely they are not) that it is the Mormons who will help to bring about the destruction of the world, destruction that will not have the spiritual repercussion that they know to be so true. There will be no second coming of Christ, there will be dark days with no heaven to take the dead. Yes that is a dark thought and don’t worry, I have hope on happier days.
But what if the church is true, Jess? What will you do then? You little heathen. You were born into the gospel by parents sealed in the temple. There is more expected of you. You were raised in the one true church, do not forget that.
I had to delete an uncle from my facebook because his profile picture was of a painting of the Mormon prophet and lots of quotes from parts of The Book Of Mormon specifically from the section in Alma and Moroni. Quotes about how this ‘Prophet’ would sort all this out and help the faithful get to the top tier of the three levels of heaven. How this prophet would wipe out the non believers ad the devil himself. I did not only delete the one uncle, I deleted many faithful relatives, they would just get upset and hurt by the stuff I feel compelled to write. I feel it was an act with mutual benefit. I could do me and they could do them and we would only need to interact in real life at family things.
The quote / book of mormon quote that was shared was the following
Alma 48:10 And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.
And this one.
Alma 48:17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
It is not great literature. It is also, it can be argued, nonsense. My uncle’s brother commented: ”If it was certain we’d all get there (heaven) then we wouldn’t need to be here… Why didn’t they go for the gold class option and say Jesus instead of Moroni? Seems a bit redundant to say if everyone was perfect then the devil would have no sway… Goes against the whole master plan doesn’t it… Removes the point of the exercise? ” There was about 30 comments and I stopped reading. It was then I knew what I had to do for my own mental health and personal freedom of expression.
I remember asking my mother about this one true church business. I mean don’t they all say stuff like that? My mother assures the young 10 year old me, that ‘we are the truest of the true’.
When I was 11 I was told a story in Sunday school about a girl with disabilities. It was read from a copy of the Mormon magazine for little kids, called The Friend. In the story a girl’s disability is likened to being a flower that is placed in a shabby and cracked flowerpot. But, it is ok as the shitty pot is just for this life on earth, when in heaven that flower will be put in a beautiful and pristine flowerpot for all eternity.
The lesson was that I and other kids with hospital visits and inoperable’ operable medical problems, were meant to just be happy and grateful for everything as we had chosen this life and were made aware of the obstacles in the place our spirits lived before going to earth. The Mormon church really loved inspiration porn. I really wish I had known that term when I was young.
I think it is this mentality, the mentality that this life is just a pre game show to something afterwards that is much better, can make you less likely to try and change things in a concrete way or to have a more malleable way of thinking. When remember things I have said or done because of my religious convictions, I am mortified. It is my constant goal to learn, unlearn and relearn as much as I can. to what is going on around you in the here and now.
I want to make this world a good and inclusive place. This world deserves to be saved and kept from going under. I want to see all the different people in this world to feel safe and we are not there. I refuse to simply shake my head and say something like ”Oh it is just like they say in the scriptures, we will all be with heavenly father before long.”
No, the time for prayers is over. The status quo must be shaken and pulled out from the roots. It is no time to become complacent. We must maintain a healthy and productive rage.
I was told that in doing all the things that I was told not to do (sex before marrying, drinking anything alcoholic, kissing girls, trying recreational drugs, reading feminist theory, spending blissful Sundays doing anything other than going to church) would bring me sadness and disappointment from my father in heaven.I was also taught that lowering my standards would bring me great sadness. That is why that episode of South Park is so good, the one where the boys go to heaven and find out the one true faith is Mormons. Then you see two missionaries are talking on a white cloud and one says, ”We are going to go learn about how stealing hurts us on the inside.” Again, it is my father who finds this hilarious. My mother is not as amused.
The deep inner sadness has not resulted from me breaking all these rules. I suffer from depression and no bible story can fix that, on the contrary it has bought me nothing but joy and happiness. I was given a patriarchal blessing at age 17 and i wish I still had a copy of it. I remember one line in it, ”Doubt is a destroying agent.” Doubt in the church, that is. I have found my curious and enquiring mind to be the opposite of a destructive force.
It is now in the present political climate that I feel that I may not have done enough. I have deleted my Mormon relatives from Facebook as it was too much emotional energy trying to explain and educate. With ardent faith such as the type I associate with the particular religion in which I was raised, explaining that birth control being easily acquired is not something that effects your choice to simply not take it, is not affective.
One of my Mormon uncles threw away all their Cat Stevens records after it was revealed that Cat Stevens had converted to the Muslim religion and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. It was only acceptable if people were converted to the Mormon faith.
Growing up I have heard members of the church make homophobic jokes, racist jokes and sexist jokes. I witnessed a fiancé of one of my cousins grill my brother on what scale of attractiveness he thought our then 13 year old sister was. The fiancé said it was important to know what level of hotness his sisters were. He steadfastly ignored my outraged expression. I was without the vocabulary at the age of 16 to articulate my rage out loud.
This fiancé would later tell my sister that the reason he hated me so much was because he had never met a girl younger than him who was just as smart if not smarter. This man is now married with four kids of his own and lives in the states.
In 2015 during one of the Republican primary debates, Donald Trump declared that destroying political correctness was his No 1 campaign issue. No doubt it worked and all the conservative far right wing white people rejoiced at the prospect of no longer having to worry about being held accountable for their words. It was not only Americans who rejoiced at this promise, it is people here in Australia, even if some of those people did not realize that their outraged exclamations of ‘’reverse racism’ and ‘its political correctness gone mad’’ and fear of anything that is not middle class white christianity, have contributed to the second wave of popularity that Pauline Hanson is enjoying.
People who say these things but are not able to see the thread that connects these comments and beliefs with harmful political ideologies. These ideologies are in power now and there are people who will not survive the next four years as a result. Helen Razor has written that we should not hate individuals but hate the system. I hate so many systems. It bothers me that he faith I was raised to have is a faith that seems built on a base of imperialist white heteronormative capitalist Patriarchy. The very basis that this diminutive feminist killjoy wishes to dismantle.
Is that enough, though? Is it enough to simply expand the circle of moral concern? No. But it is a start. I will continue to read poetry.I will continue to read zines, see live music and encourage the creative output of so many talented people that I am lucky to know and be friends with, as well as the creative output of people I do not know personally. That and perhaps taking Helen Razor’s advice which is to read some actual books by Karl Marx.
It was so hot on Monday and I knew it would change by nightfall. I had a day of heat avoidance to fill. I would not waste it in a house that is sans air conditioning. That was what I did growing up on the farm. There was no where to hide back then. That was then and this is now. Now I could simply get a train to the city and find somewhere air conditioned to hole up in. I could not take the silly smile of my face as I sat inside a nice cool train carriage with a new novel in my tote bag. I was going to the National Gallery Of Victoria to see the David Hockney Exhibition. I had been a bit meh at the concept at first. I mean, how many white guys did the NGV need? I guess I was still a little disappointed that when I went to see the Frida Kahlo exhibition in Sydney, I had found it to be very small. I had hoped for more of her paintings to be on display.
There was hardly a line for the tickets, just a couple in front of me who were having a loving time. The young woman giving her boyfriend an affectionate slap on the bottom as they waited. They got their tickets. I was about to step up to the ticket booth when a tall older white man simply walked past me. It was as if I was invisible to him. He simply walked past me and even nudged me a little on his way. I spoke up and said. ”You just walked past me and I have been standing her the whole time.” I then walked up to the ticket booth and tried to get my rage and heart palpitations down to a regular thrum. He did not even say sorry. I am short not fucking invisible, I think in a loud shout of indignation. He was not so old that he was dottery or had simply made a mistake. It is important that you know this. I swear that sometimes my entire existence is akin to Sophie in the land of giants. Luckily I don’t get eaten, I just get incredibly exasperated at the self involvement of old white men, wherever I go.
When I walk into the first gallery space I am confronted by an onslaught of colourful joy and bright posters of ipad made artworks. They are printed and pinned to the wall. Each one different and amazing. There are many impressions of flowers and candles and the changing light of day through widows. There are phones on the walls as well that show some of the works taking shape like magic before your eyes. I walk around and around the first section in wonder. It is like wandering through someones brain who is in love with everything around them. Even an ashtray with some half smoked cigarettes, is a loving beacon to temptations given in to and sated desires. In the image of the ashtray Hockney has seen the beauty and possibility held in the minute moments of a day. Even the ipad image of a bright ball of light behind the black scrawled words of I AM GOING BACK TO BED, is not displayed as a sign of defeat, but more an acceptance of what you cannot change and simply doing what you can. Sometimes all you can do, the best thing to do, it to create one laste art and go back where you are happiest.
Outside this exhibition the city wavers in heat and wind. The sun burns. Here amongst the art, the light is bright and there are no dark corners. The air is cool but not freezing. I stand in front of the ash tray picture and stare for ages. Why do I love it so much? I am never so transfixed by ash trays in real life. I always think they look sad and smell bad. I always think about all the times I sat in a smoke filled room and had trouble breathing. Hockney’s ash tray is a glass one on a bright yellow table and the glass absorbs all the bright yellows and oranges and refracted light. It is not a sad and sorry state as it may have appeared had I seen it in person and not in an art gallery.
The next room has its walls completely taken up by square slabs of forest trees and branches that fill up the walls of the gallery. It is magical and also reminds me of art in children’s wards of hospitals. I guess you have to have spent a great deal of time in hospitals to make such a connection. The walls are very big and reach up high. Creating trees that stretch that high would have been difficult for a man of Hockney’s age, I would imagine. The sheer maths of the whole concept would be beyond me. The whole exhibition is from the last decade. That is astounding. I feel like the whole thing is a beautiful over flow of positive feeling. It is exactly what I need. Of course I find myself thinking cynical thoughts. Like, its easy to be creative and happy when you are so financially secure as Hockney is. How many people have an entire trust with people working for you? At least he using it to create beautiful things before death takes him from us.
Hockney’s large scale landscapes of Yosimite park are really beautiful and it facinates me as to how he manages to capture the play of sunlight and how it reflects on puddles or in the sky, through trees and such. My most loved one depicts a puddle so enticingly that I wish I was there wearing gumboots, so I could decide whether to simply marvel at the perfect stillness, or, jump into it and shatter the serenity. I simply stand and stare at it with a tilted head and drunk smile. A gallery guard walks up beside me and says how it is his favourite as well. ”I like how the light plays off of the water and the colour of the trees.” I nod and smile.
”Would you like me to take a photo of you with the picture?” He asks.
”No thank you.” I say. ”I think it is beautiful enough on its own.”
”More beautiful with you.” He says.
I laugh softly. ”Thank you. But, I’m happy with a picture of it all on its own.” I say.
There is a room that has about seven or so blue benches in it. On the walls are paintings of chairs and people that are not quite right. They are at weird angles and seem to be sitting on a chair strangely or standing weird. You look at the walls and your eyes move al over the space. There is a mother and baby sitting on one of the benches and the Dad is taking a photo of them on his phone. He is standing far away so as to get the surroundings in the photo. In another room there is a large screen that is made up of smaller screens. The screen starts black and then square by square a scene appears of people juggling. Then another scened shows people throwing brightly coloured balls to each other as a tiny adorable dog trots around their feet. There is an old women standing on a bright ottoman. I sit and watch the dog for ages. I love how happy it seems to simply be around the activity even if the little thing cannot seem to figure out how to join in on the fun. The little dog simply trots around and sniffs at the balls as the sit on the floor for a second before someone picks it up and throws it to another. I am that little dog, I think.Or, more accurately: we all feel as if we are the little dog at some point. To be specific creativity is the little dog. Is that dog a super special personal pet of David Hockney? Or is it a pet owned by one of the jugglers or the people playing with the bright coloured bouncy balls?
There is a thirty minute interview with David Hockney that is filmed in the exhibition. I watch it twice. He is dressed like a mix up of old English Farmer and artist. I am especially taken with his tweed jacket and bright yellow tie. He tells of throwing away his paint brushes and paints as he totally embraced the new innovative ways to create his art. He sits amongst his Yosomite works and discusses how he never looks back as painting is all about the now. He does explain that he considers happiness to be a retrospective thing.
“Happiness is a retrospective thing, I think. It’s only when you look back, you can think oh, I was happy at that time.”
The long rectangular gallery that exhibits the entire collection of Hockney’s 81 Portraits And 1 Still Life is overwhelming at first glance. You simply have to take a deep breath and have little sits on the seating provided, in order to take them all in. There are famous people like Barry Humphries ( who did look splendid in his dapper as all get out suit and hat and shoes combination. I was far more taken by this fellow. The hair stylist to the A-list: Earl Simms. I like how his posture and gaze is inviting and not bored. A few of the portraits show faces that are less than ecstatic at having to sit in the same chair for three days straight. I feel like Earl is about to laugh or is at least thinking thoughts that are amusing to himself. He could just be incredibly excited to be sitting for a potrait for David Hockney.
This is a portrait that Hockney did of one of his L.A home’s house keepers. Her name is Patricia Choxan. Her gaze is serious and thoughtful. I wondered as I looked at the paintings if each person was paid the same in order to sit for Hockney. Did they get paid at all? Was it an honour just to be asked? Did Hockney pay his cleaners extra for the sitting for the portrait? I found myself really hoping that was the case.
This is the portrait that begun the entire series. The man with his head in his hands is J-P Goncalves de Lima, long time gallery assistant to Hockney. Hockney found him this way after the news of a young man who committed suicide. A young man dear to them both. David found him and since he looked exactly how they both were feeling, Hockney decided to paint it. It must have been so difficult to paint this portrait, but the feeling that it had to be done, would have powered them both through. Who can stand before this painting and not feel such intense sorrow and loss for everyone who has ever lost someone in this way. Everyone knows someone who has felt this way first hand. The colours are bright and this juxtaposed against the very real sadness in the man’s posture creates a sense of hope through pain. This to shall pass and rear up inside again and pass and return. This portrait makes me think of all the times that I have ever seen my own father sitting like this. The clothes are different. The chair and rug is different. The posture and physical embodiment of despair? very much the same.
In a ”post truth” world and a world that seems happy to let the idiots take over, there is something cathartic about seeing this male human in a posture of frailty and woe.
The portrait of Julia Green is my pick of portrait with best outfit. It was difficult to choose amongst so many well dressed people. But Julia’s outfit caught my eye and drew me to it like a magpie to a bottle top. I have a particular perchant towards black and white outfits with bright coloured tights. It was interesting to walk through the exhibition and pay attentions to each person’s choice of footwear. Hockney always painted the shoes with great care and it is interesting to see how much the shoes told you about each person.
The final section of the exhibition was in a large dark room with a large screen on each wall. The screens each showed the progression of a season as experienced in Yorkshire, the north of England. There was summer, autumn, winter and spring. It was magnificent and awe inspiring and above all it was calming. I stood in the centre of each of the screens in turn. It was like walking through into the other side of the world. The colours change and alter as time goes on. Seeing the winter season was like walking into a haze of white. If you stood close up and blocked out anything from the peripheries, it was like drowning yourself in something pure and blinding.The whiteness gets you feeling dizzy and disoriented.
I have always loved Autumn the best out of all the seasons. Seeing the leaves changeand the foliage of Yorkshire countryside, change right before my very eyes nearly made me cry with the emotive wave that this video art instilled within me. Seasons change and comeback. Even if you don’t.