Born-day and #IDPWD

It’s my birthday and it’s also International Day of People with Disabilities.

#IDPWD2019 a day to acknowledge our struggles, be at one in pride & commit further to acting together to remove systemic inequality. Whether you like international days or not – that’s my intention today. Plus it’s my birthday, so for me it’s a celebration of survival.

There’s been a lot of talk about invisible disability and I’ve been recovering lately from some experiences I would rather not repeat, but that sadly have experienced a lot during my lifetime.

Recovery means doing what you have to do.  That might mean talking or not talking, writing, resting, rehab.  It also means dealing with the stigma (your own internalised and other people’s) associated with recovery.

Don’t let the “today tonighter’s” get under your skin.  These are the people who cry “fake” when they don’t understand disability issues like; semi-ambulant use of a wheelchair or that screen readers help low vision people use a mobile phone or people who think disabled people are broken. The people who say “it can’t be that bad” to criticise people taking care of themselves.  This is the ableist shit we cop from people who buy into the burden arguments of the old medical models (whether inadvertently or not) and this blog entry is not for them, it’s for PWD.

So here are my tips for dealing with ableist S.H.I.T.

S – is for Shame.  Shame and stigma are weapons and it’s something we are learning to resist (internal and external shame).  Try to work with kindness to yourself when you feel you are self-shaming.  For example, mental health issues are experienced by 85% of the population and probably everyone at some point in their life, if we are honest.  If you’ve had someone tell you to hide a non-visible disability because you can – gently remind them reasonable adjustment is a right and shaming you is harassment and hurtful.  Remind people (or get an advocate to remind them) that disability is not to be ashamed of and that shame can be a form of abuse.

H – is for Hate.  As an Autistic person I struggle with people’s hatred.  I just don’t get how people can hate with passion.   How it translates into thinking that because a disabled person rights are somehow special treatment – or that we are a burden.  This is hatred and it covers a view that disabled people are less than them.  I call it out and have tried to learn to call it out with compassion, but none the less call it out. Hate is hate – even when sheathed in politico speak like “merit based” arguments used to diminish what a disabled person might need to contribute.  The whole rotting pearl of “we can’t change everything for one person” crapola when people merely ask for a reasonable adjustment.  Same with poor taste jokes and casual use of disability slurs. Call out people who slag off someone else because they are different and if you can’t safely call it out – allow yourself to get space away from them or get an advocate and get to safety.  You do not have to put up with hate.

I – is for I.  Allow yourself to be an I.  Hold space, take up space.  You are enough.

T – is for Time.  Things are getting better over time.  Take employment, for example.  In 3 out of the last 4 jobs I have disclosed disability safely.  Compared to before that when you couldn’t even talk about it.  Things are getting better, it may not be quick enough for many of us sadly, but together we are making change.

Keep on keeping on. We can do it.  #disabilitypride

I hear you and I love you

I hear you. I love you.

There have been a lot of you lately. In the press. On social media.

I hear how you demean other women for speaking up about harassment and abuse. I hear your internalised misogyny.

Here is what I hear you say:

“Don’t waste police resources for a small thing like harassment”.

“Get over it”.

“You need to deal with your past”.

I hear you. I love you.

If you are ever harassed, abused or assaulted I hope you report it. But I know it’s not easy.

But I will gladly stand beside you.

Believe you. Hear you. Love you.

I’ll hear you and believe you if you are harassed and need support. I’ll choose to love you.

I reported violence to the police and they told me he loved me. For a headlock.

No one heard me. Not even the police.

Since then I’ve seen huge changes with police culture and I’m happy to report now – but many voices once told me not to. I nearly died. But I’m here and I’m not letting fear get the better of me.

I hear you. I love you.

That’s just one example of horrors I have recovered from. Talking about them doesn’t mean I haven’t healed. It means I can hold peace with my past and be strong enough to carve a better way forward – with honesty.

I love me now. So I won’t hesitate to stand up to harassment and abuse – even when it’s you, another woman, trying to strip me of my right to be heard. I hear you extending the reach of the patriarchy with your compliance, your collusion. I love you.

I feel fear too – but I face it. I’m hopeful that you can one day too.

But I’ll love you too. I’ll call you out on your hatred and condoning of harassment when you diminish its impact. That’s how I’ll love you.

I’ll process the hurt you inflict on me and I’ll choose to love you after you’ve shown how much you hate your own sex. But I won’t buy into the narratives that say women like me are man haters for speaking up.

I hear you. I hear how when you minimise other women’s experience of harassment and abuse, how much you dislike your own sex. I love you.

I love you. I hope you can learn to love your own sex and face that internalised misogyny head on.

I hear you. I love you.

Pauses and Puzzles

So it’s been interesting.  I haven’t been blogging because I think my brain has hit the pause button.

I am tired and that’s okay.  Life has been challenging but more rewarding than ever.

I recently went to a comedy gig/charity fundraiser in honour of Eurydice Dixon and her favourite charity The Welcome Group: Supporting Refugees

I got to meet some awesome comedians and find out more about potential gigs.

Eurydice’s murder rocked us all.  But it also contributed to me deciding to pack up and come to Melbourne, cause life is too damn short to waste it being where you can’t pursue your goals fully (as much as I loved Alice Springs).

So before the gig I sat in a restaurant that was in one of the oldest houses in Fitzroy, an awesome spot called Mr. Ottorino   It would be not far from where my father was born.

Not only is the food beautiful, but the house has some original features.  I was able to imagine my grandparents going up and down the staircase in the 1920’s.

So there are little pieces of the puzzle that is my family history in Melbourne coming together.  I haven’t lived here since I was four, it’s a journey of discovery.

I have a couple of job interviews this week.  That will be interesting.  One is in Collingwood, another spot significant to the family.

The Egg of Doubt – Managing Change

Doubt, like any emotion or response to an emotional state, has a purpose. I don’t doubt my decisions that led me to where I am now, but I am experiencing some self-doubt. But I have no doubt that this doubt will be useful! Irony much?

If you don’t doubt what you are doing, then you are not growing, not developing, not learning. Doubt exists right in the middle of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. The ZPD. The heart of my egg of doubt.

So, Vygotsky’s ZPD is about our learning comfort zones (see image below).  The ZPD requires  thatzpd the learner access properly scaffolded (staged) learning activities to make them more comfortable with the stuff they don’t know how to do. Then after a while the stuff they didn’t know becomes the stuff they do know.

But I think the ZPD exists in our emotional learning too. I think we can apply ZPD to the doubt we experience when making major life changes or trying something new.

This is something I have called “The Egg of Doubt”. Why an egg? Because doubt usually represents birth or growth, as does an egg. It’s important to note that I am applying this to change that we have chosen, not change that is inflicted upon us (although some of this would still apply).

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I have renamed the ZPD to the WTF. Yes, the “Zone of What the Fuck”.

Because change makes us doubt and doubt makes us change. It is a contradiction of the most perplexing and, often, frustrating type.

Making Sense of “The Egg of Doubt”.

While making coffee this morning I collected some thoughts (as you do!) on how to make sense of this as follows:

  1. Do I want this change or challenge? If the answer is no, then re-evaluate the change. It might not need to be thrown out altogether either.
  2. Does this change bring me discomfort and is this real discomfort that is a threat or are we merely sitting in the “What the Fuck” zone? If it is discomfort that will cause you harm…go back to #1. Maybe the change does need to be thrown out altogether. Or change the change. It could just be that you are clinging to the familiar and you need to let go and be okay with the discomfort. It’s okay to not know what you don’t know.
  3. What do I need to do to in “What the Fuck” zone to ease the doubt and move to the new knowledge zone? This is where you make a list of things to do to make the journey more comfortable while still learning. This could be talking to the people around you about the change you are experiencing and getting support. Or practicing self-care. But it is important that’s not too big a list or composed of large tasks. Nurture the WTF zone. It’s there for a reason. It’s there to get you to the new knowledge that will eventually become the stuff you do without thinking much about it.
  4. And finally, but most importantly, give yourself time. Change takes time.

Again, as in #2 above:
It’s okay to not know what you don’t know.

Days 11 and 12 – Routine Change

Sometimes I imagine my life a bit like a fire alarm drill.  Does that sound a little cray cray? Nah, not at all.

Take the example of a fire alarm drill at work.  A voice comes over a loudspeaker.  It’s usually a loudspeaker that you didn’t know existed in the building and you’re not exactly sure where it is.

Life and the need for a change can be like that.  You know there might a message through life’s fire drill loudspeaker at some point that will require you to act, but you are not exactly sure when or from where that instruction will come.    

You can be just “trudging” through life when an external or internal voice, like our own fire drill loudspeaker says “you gotta move, do something different”.  Whether or not we listen to that voice can be the difference between living a life we want or just existing.

The next thing that happens in the work fire drill scenario is that everyone gets up and has differing responses.  Some laugh.  Some sigh.  Some complain “do we really have to do this?”.

When I first knew that the funding for my job wasn’t continuing I felt like my fire alarm drill response was a daily occurrence.  I felt disrupted and annoyed.  But I knew it was also an opportunity.

Just like a work fire alarm drill is an opportunity to get outside in the carpark and stretch your legs.  Have a chat, a laugh, for some a cigarette.  The point is, it’s not a real emergency but a routine change, prompted by the need to prevent emergencies.

I like to think of life changes like changing jobs or homes, or cities like a routine change.  Sometimes if we don’t do it, there will be an emergency of sorts.  For me, if you are in the same pattern at home and work and it feels like you are in a holding pattern, then maybe you need to change something.  A routine change of some sort.

Change is always uncomfortable, but if we make it routine change, like a fire alarm drill, we manage our thinking about it better. It’s not an emergency, it’s a routine change to preventing one.

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The awesome Feedback Cafe

I spent yesterday unpacking my car and organising my life.  Then I went for walk and had coffee in an awesome café, The Feedback Café (pictured above).  Booze, blues and coffee.   It is an awesome funky, quirky spot to hang out.   Oh, and bought a book.

I then cooked a hearty meal for my housemates (who I am immensely grateful for) and a couple of their friends.  I feel at the moment the urge to hurl myself in life, into job applications and walking the streets of Melbourne to find what organisations are out there.

But I recognised that I need to bring to routine to this change. So I made my space comfortable and enjoyed the awesome creative people around me.

My new little office/bedroom is in a bright, cheery, timber floored room in a sleepy inner city suburb of Melbourne.

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A corner of my little piece of inner city Melbourne

There is more to see and do within five blocks of me than I have experienced for a while.

I can go out the door and be surrounded by cafes and bookshops and art in no time at all.

I am enjoying this change, although it was prompted by life’s interrupting and annoying loudspeaker.

It feels right.  It feels like the right kind of challenge.

The loudspeaker of life is not making huge announcements at the moment, but there is static in the background that says “get organised and things will fall into place”.

I believe that is because I am prepared to let life deliver me whatever change, challenge or opportunity is next.  I will act towards directing that a little, but I am quite okay with being at the mercy of life’s fire drill loudspeaker.

Day 10 – Old Beginnings

Sometimes life takes you in unexpected directions.  Well it feels unexpected, but in some ways, like there is some kind of draw to back full circle as well.

I only lived in my place of birth, Fern Tree Gully, Melbourne, until I was about four years old.  My immediate family then moved to Queensland.  In my teen years I very much missed out on getting to know the extended Melbourne based family.

I knew a bit about them and I have been working on a family tree for my late fathers side of the family.  But I don’t know them and they don’t know me.  Most of both sides of the family only know what my Mother tells them about me and I rarely know what is going on in their lives.  The lines of communication have been closed for many years and I am not really sure why.

There is a part of me that wants to reconnect with family here, but a part that wonders if I am too different, too strange.  I am in no way like anything I know my family to be.

Another part of living here fascinates me more than the family connections and that is the history.   Particularly the places Dad would talk to me about.  His childhood.

img_1921His time at Collingwood tech.  His apprenticeship at WL Ryan and Sons at 590 Elizabeth Street in 1939 (he is pictured above – sitting in the foreground on the box at the back of the workshop).

I still have his letter of reference from WL Ryan written in 1949.  I have searched for theimg_1923 premises, but they have been replaced with a modern building.  But I will go for a look and I am thinking about taking Dad’s old apprenticeship papers to the Victorian Museum for safe keeping.  They have some photos of inside the workshop, so they might be interested in his documents to add to the collection.

I am performing comedy in September in North Fitzroy, where my father was born.

I know so little about getting around Melbourne and I feel as though life is just starting again, despite the family history here back to the gold rush in the 1860’s.

It’s an exhilarating but most unexpected turn of events.  Everything is new and interesting and a touch daunting.  But I am very glad to be here, just a little bit away from my late father’s early life.

Day 6 – Remembrance

I am no good at goodbyes. I also don’t really believe in goodbyes. Today we can find each other again so easily, you never really say goodbye. This blog keeps me connected to people. I haven’t seen a lot of people here to say goodbye as such, because I am not gone completely. I will come back to visit, maybe even return for a period again possibly. Who knows? But a visit is definite.

img_1873So, this afternoon, after the packing and cleaning I went up to Untyeye-artwilye (Anzac Hill). I suppose I was saying goodbye, to the landscape and to the people I have worked with here that have passed on. There are many of them. But I took solace in knowing that they went back into country and that they are all around me here.

img_1875I remember sitting with one old man on his veranda. I won’t name him out of respect for his family. We sat there, on upturned milk crates with cardboard for a seat, and discussed the amount of development in the town the damage to scared places. I remember it like it was yesterday, but it was many years ago.

He taught me a huge amount about this culture, for which I will be ever grateful. This is not something you can get from books and I was very privileged to be able to gain that information. Today I stood on the hill that represents two cultures viewpoints of sacred, but the Indigenous space to me was the legitimate one. The imposition of a war memorial is a glaring testimony to colonial domination. War is hell and war memorials do little to sooth my views on this. As ex-military who saw the end of the Operation Desert Storm from Australia domestically, I don’t believe war is inevitable or any way glorious; I believe it should be avoided at all costs. Whilst I understand Australian’s ANZAC legacy all too well (my father was a WWII veteran), I struggle to understand why we cling to violent histories. I don’t believe we should continue to honour one perspective only and that all histories from all cultures are important.

So, I stood on the hill and remembered the custodians and elders I have worked with who are now gone. I remembered my commitment to a fairer, more just world filled with diversity and culture. I silently apologised to those elders for leaving, but promised that I would continue to work for that fairer and more just Australia through whatever medium that is presented to me.

I looked up at the Aboriginal flag flying proudly. It took 30 years and 14 years of debate to have this here, on top of this Aboriginal sacred site, alongside the other flags.

I am glad it is here finally, even if only for special commemorations and days of the year. When I next visit I hope it is a permanent fixture. img_1888

Tonight, I stay with a dear friend on her property 20km’s or so, south of Alice Springs.

There will be food and fireside chat.

It will be a beautiful departure.

Then up at 5.30 am and on the road the 1200 km to Port Augusta.