Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. Rumi


Two seasons ago before the chill of winter set in, I wrote the following

Gaslighting…’a systematic process that works to make us feel defective in some way, for the beliefs, thoughts, feelings, and appetites to which we are readily entitled. We are made to feel guilty, sinful, irrational, oversensitive or paranoid, as well as sometimes downright crazy for having these mental states.’ Leigh Gilmore. The #MeToo Effect.

When you live your life under the weight of such belittlements, as did my mother, you begin to believe the person putting you down. You think you’re stupid, ugly, inferior in some way and it’s hard to rise above the insults to lay claim to your actual identity as a decent human being. Especially when you’re a woman. Especially a woman of colour, especially when you don’t fit some perfect ideal of beauty or take on the roles loaded onto you.

These are my pressure points, the place in my body where I am likely to feel the greatest pain.

I walked into my kitchen just now where my daughter sat with her boyfriend planning their day ahead.

‘Can you please give me a writing prompt,’ I asked. ‘I need inspiration.’ 

‘Look in the newspaper,’ my daughter said. 

The newspaper was spread on the bench, and I flicked over its pages to read that a female body was found in a wheelie bin in Point Cook, and elsewhere in Lower Plenty, police shot dead a 26-year-old woman whom they feared was about to set her mother on fire. 

The neighbours called and the police encountered an ‘alarming scene’ of this daughter attacking her mother with a knife. She stabbed her repeatedly in the neck and torso refusing to drop the knife when the police ordered her to stop. They then shot her as police do when someone’s life is at risk. 

The mother died; the daughter died. The family was known to police, and an offender in the family was in custody but they did not realise the extent of animosity between mother and daughter, though they knew there were troubled, or some such.

All this I read in the minutes I spent standing at the bench remonstrating with the horrors of life on this day the second day in Melborne with temperatures rising to the mid-thirties and beyond with another on ahead tomorrow.

‘The world is rancid ATM,’ my daughter said, using the shorthand of her youth. She complains about the weather, not simply because it’s hot but because of her concerns over climate change. And hidden in there is a hint I won’t be around to suffer the full effects, but she and her generation will.

My daughter often complains of us boomers. The way we took our privilege for granted and exploited the land in our time for generations to come.

She doesn’t hold us entirely responsible. She knows her history but certainly we did not help.

We, in our ignorance and greed. 

I remember the so-called Halcyon eighties when many people thought they could get rich quick with property deals. Many did, but at whose expense?

All very well to look back on the past and lament the mistakes we made.

We must learn from them now.

The slipperiness of blame and the way it attaches itself to shame. A way of escaping whatever shame might attach to our misdeeds or vulnerability when we cannot bear to know we are flawed.

Hold your breath.

At night when I cannot sleep I follow a technique someone told me can be helpful in settling your brain. Stopping those thoughts that interrupt the gentle slide into unconsciousness that comes with sleep. 

I breathe in for four, hold for seven and breathe out for eight. The in-breath is easy, almost desperate, gasping for air, and the holding on for seven is not so bad. I could breathe in longer and hold it longer. The hard part is the outbreath. How long it seems to take. I have almost no breath left over the last four seconds of the eight. I try it now. 

It has a strange effect. Unlike the quiet automatic breathing I use most of the time, this enforced regime has the benefit of increasing my awareness of my body. My head especially. It gets tight. It feels as though it might explode. It longs for rest, which might well be the point of the exercise to force my mind out of its busyness into a state of calm such I cannot stay awake. 

…I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep…

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. Rumi