Friday, July 13, 2018

Awful Awful Terrible Terrible things



So
Last night I went to a wonderful yoga class. I left feeling clean and sparkly, connected, grounded, elevated, lite, healthy…It is the best kind of drug and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Every time I go to a class, I am reminded why I do yoga in the first place. Because I feel like that after. I could have run a marathon, stayed up for 16 hours and done 15 drawings, then have a cup of tea and go to bed, totally content.
But I watched Nanette instead…
And as a result I’m unpacking a lot of stuff I thought I had dealt with and put away. 

I empathised with everything. Even when I had’t experienced exactly what she was describing. For example:
I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with being gay. It’s never been something I’ve been actively aware of, or an issue. I’m pretty sure I’ve never been bullied for being gay. But I have been bullied for being American, and really, that’s kind of the same thing. You can’t choose where you were born, just like you don’t have a choice how your born, or what your born as. 
There’s been a handful of split second moments during my life, usually when there is major upheaval, or some sort of massive, unforeseen change, when I’ve been really low. This does not happen often, luckily. I am, in the round, pretty content. But there’s been these weird little split seconds of, 
“ You know what would be really easy? If I wasn’t gay. And I could get married. Have kids. And do all the things that normal people do” 
Then I hear myself and immediately retract the statement.
And I realise that THAT wouldn’t be easier at all. Most of the people in my circles have families, and as much as I love them, that is not the easy life option. 
NOPE
That is hard work and I am in awe constantly of anyone who is successfully responsible for anyone other than themselves. Hats off to you folks. You are heroes.

Another thing that struck a chord was when she said that guys need to talk to the women in their lives. Ya know…about why women are afraid of men.
It’s not like anything has ever happened to me directly, really.
It’s just that, enough things have happened to enough other people for me to be 
Slightly unsettled
All the time.
Slightly unsettled all the time.
There’s this hairline fracture of fear that runs through my core that is there subconsciously, somewhere in the background, this tiny tiny, sliver of fear when it comes to every single man and it doesn’t matter if Ive known them forever, I’ve only just met them, or they are a stranger on the street.
There’s just a slight, cautious, subconscious fear
It’s completely rationally irrational.
Nothing has ever really…
Nothing’s ever REALLY happened
But enough things have almost happened or happened to other people that I know that would give weight to that fear
The completely subconscious, barely audible fear inside me
And
I don’t know how to work on that.
I don’t know if I can work on that.
How do you even go about trying to unwrap that?

For example
I did a course since college, and there was a man on it who was going through the slow demise and eventual death of a close family member. In the lead up to the death, this man spoke openly, in a healthy gentle way, that made me feel that he was coping really well with the imminent death of his loved one. But then, this person died, and at the next class he was telling us all about it, everything around it, everything that happened…
And he got very aggressive, very loud very suddenly, and it was really scary. It completely shook me. 
Wow, what’s going on friend? I thought you were dealing with this really well? Why are you shouting at us? What did we do? 
It really upset me, afterwards. But during, I just went in to a state of shock, which I’m beginning to understand is my way of coping with those types of situations. I just held the space, and let him do whatever it was he needed to do.
But afterwards I said to myself
“Wow, I did not feel good about that…that made me feel all sorts of uncomfortable things that I wasn’t prepared for in any way.”
So that totally freaked me out.

There have been many incidents with one particular person during the campaign that have really shook me because I thought this fella was sound. I thought he was crazy in the good fun way, not the dangerous, don’t be alone with him, sort of way. 
So the run-ins with him upset me because I wish I had seen it coming. But I didn’t because he was so sound, in so many ways. He just had this one gigantic blindspot that never made itself known in any conversation, in any circle, at any point. And his sudden aggression. He was instantly angry. It was like setting a match alight. One second you’re wood, the next, you’re fire…

There was another guy. Now that is an entirely different situation, but I am just as deeply upset and disappointed by it. Because he was another that I really felt bucked the trend. But really, he just had us hoodwinked. And without even realising he has done it, he has tainted for me, what was a pure campaign. And as a result, I don’t want anything more to do with him.

But this is what people seem to do. They start off sound, you think they’re cool, they gain your trust, and then they turn around and say
“Ha! Surprise! I’m an asshole!”

Is it any wonder I am fuelled by anger?
Which is one of the many things Hannah said. Anger connects people, but it’s not a healthy connection. It’s absolutely not healthy to feel like this all the time. Even if I'm not consciously feeling it all the time, the fact that it’s bubbling away in the background is unhealthy. It’s not good.

But back to Hannah
She was brought up in The Bible Belt. Which is probably the worst place in any country to be ‘other’ (which is pretty hypocritical, if you ask me). I don’t know where the Bible Belt is in Ireland. I feel that for most of the last 100 years, the whole of Ireland was the Bible Belt.
It was just a Bible, in the shape of a country. Thankfully, that’s changing.
Hannah was brought up in that environment, where she was steeped in shame, the politics of the day and society also had a huge effect on how she viewed herself. 
She had been abused. IN THE BIBLE BELT, on multiple occasions. 
For someone to go through so much, survive, get on stage and speak about those things…
It’s deeply upsetting, on so many levels.

I’m upset that anyone goes through trauma. There’s no need for it. People should not have to suffer, for any reason at all. And yet we all do, and we carry it around with us all of the time. Never wanting to burden anyone else with our suffering, even though everyone is suffering. It’s all relative, but just because my worst day, is your best, doesn’t make my worst feel any less shit.

The other thing Nanette stirred up for me is sexual abuse.
I’m sure the vast majority of people in my circles have been abused in some way by some one. It spans the generations, it knows no boundaries, and respects no borders. It’s not about strength. It’s about power. Which means that women are just as capable of committing these awful awful terrible terrible things as men are. So please, spare me the lecture. You won’t convince me, because I know better. 

I know better because I was raped, by a girl who I trusted, in a place I felt safe, when we were both completely sober. And I've never told anyone. And I've never written it down.
For a long time, I forgot about it. I actually forgot it had happened. But recently, with everything that's going on, it came up to the surface, and wants to be/needs to be dealt with now.

I've never talked about it, because no one has ever asked. I've sat and listened and comforted my friends when they've told me about their awful awful terrible terrible experiences. Helped them deal with the aftermath. Consoled them and tried to convince them that it wasn't their fault. 
I guess, in a way, taking on everyone else's stuff, distracted me from my own.

But it happened. And it happened a long time ago. It happened when neither of us were really out, and being gay wasn't nearly as accepted as it sort of is now. 
So screaming out for help wasn't an option.
Saying:

No
Please don't
Stop
Your hurting me
Why are you doing this

Didn't work either. 
I consoled myself with the fact that at least I couldn't get pregnant. Can you imagine that internal monologue...? 
This situation is terrible, but at least it can't possibly be made worse by getting pregnant as a result.
That, is all sorts of fucked up.

And after, I think the only reason it did't damage me as much as it could have, is that I never blamed myself. I couldn't find a reason for it to have happened. Sometimes Awful Awful Terrible Terrible things happen for no reason...which can sometimes be sort of worse. Because you have nothing to focus on. You can't unwrap NO REASON. It's too big.

From there, I went into a relationship that lasted far too long and was completely celibate. And you know what? That probably caused more damage. Or just as much. In their own unique way, they were both awful awful terrible terrible things.

Hannah suffered repeatedly, in different ways, but instead of disappearing from the world, which is what you would expect anyone to do in the same circumstance, she has turned her trauma into an amazing piece of art which will/is/has helped so many people who have either gone through, are going through, will unfortunately go through something similar. What she has done is given a gift to humanity
But she’ll probably never really feel that, because very brilliant people hardly ever truly feel the impact of what they have done. 

I breaks my heart that someone has to endure awful awful terrible terrible things in order to help so many other people who have experienced awful awful terrible terrible things. 

It reminded me of Chester, from Linkin Park, who I’ve been thinking about a lot over the last week. All the awful awful terrible terrible things he had to live through. But, instead of burying that and never thinking about it or talking about it…he actually made music about it. 
Which has had a huge impact on those who could identify with it. His awful awful terrible terrible suffering helped and will help other people.
But in the end, it didn’t even matter, because he still killed himself. Because sometimes life is too painful, and it doesn’t matter how much work you do on yourself, or how much support you have, money, how together you look on the outside…it really doesn’t matter, because sometimes the pain of being alive is just too much. And that in itself is an awful awful terrible terrible thing. 

So, watching Nanette last night, has brought stuff up.

Hannah has put words on so many things I’ve felt but have never been able to articulate and has brought out into the light so many things I have articulated but never had the audience to receive. And for that wonderful wonderful thing, I'm thankful. 

Monday, July 31, 2017


My solo shows opens in Ballina Arts Centre on September 14th, at 8pm. To say I'm excited would be an understatement. After working on it slowly over the last two years, and working in the Arts Centre for nine months of those two years, it feels quite special that the two are coming together in such a way. 
Despite everything else that life throws at me (at us, at everyone!) I am surprisingly on track, and everything is in order. 
I'm excited and can't wait to share with people what I've been working on and why.

If you are around, the show will run for 6 weeks. Please like my facebook page for more up to date details ^_^

Friday, January 13, 2017

Tribute


Beloved
It all started in upheaval.
We had moved from American suburbia to Mayo Middle-of-Nowhere, leaving our Shadow behind. In those first four weeks I pined, dragged my fingers along the dog food packets in the shops and down the PETS section of the paper. Finally finding a litter of English Setters
Perfect.
Black and White, easy to spot in the green fields, in the purple and golden heather from a distance. Gorgeous temperament…like the best human on the plant multiplied by a thousand. Better, even.
You were the only one out of your siblings interested in me, peeping above the little gate into the pumphouse, to reach up to me. Clamoring all over me, once you were released. Your baby blue eyes. That one big black spot on your back. Pure white all over. To say it was love at first sight…well we chose each other.



You slept like a newborn, and were frightened of mirrors. You followed me like a shadow. On the beach, you were so light, you didn’t leave a trace. A fairy dog. I carried you when you grew tired.



As an adolescent, you were full of energy, gliding through the fields, soaring over stone walls like a deer, running along the top like a cat. You were never interested in chasing animals bigger than you, hot on the pursuit of some long gone pheasant, you would breeze past sheep and cows, invisible.



You brought me to many pheasants, without any training. Pure instinct. Running wildly, in an almost forensic grid, following the scent, stopping on a dime, the end of your fan tail twitching, the signal that yes, you had found something. Before pointing, then creeping like a cheetah closer to the bird. A large glowing bronze pheasant would fly up at the last second when you were nearly standing on their tail. But you never did catch one. That didn’t deter you from bounding along after them, across river and field.
Boy, you could run.



We’re very lucky we had you as long as we did. When you were about two, we went for a walk and another dog came running out of their house, aiming itself at me and mum. You ran up to it, protecting us, making yourself as big as possible. But he still had about 2 stone on you, and he dislocated your esophagus. We were so lucky you didn’t just die on the spot. But you weren’t ready.
You held on.



My most formative years are intricately woven with your life. It’s no secret that the first 3 years here were…tough.  Coming home to you, and having you to care about and for, is the only thing that kept me alive. Without you, I wouldn’t be here. You saved me, because you loved me.




I went to boarding school for two years, and then college. My homesickness was, largely, you-sickness. So much so, that part of my third year project was, you. I missed you so, that I recreated you out of batiked cotton and felt, metal poles and wire. Of course, if did you no justice whatsoever, and now I have a larger than life, white splotchy dog in the attic.



When I came home to you, when you were young, you would climb up onto my lap, all legs and bones and bulk. As you got older that translated into pressing the top of your head into my leg, or chest or head. You gave hugs. You gave the very best hugs.



You and Gwyn were inseparable. You followed her around like a henpecked husband. Even when she went ‘visiting’ you would be tagging along behind her, probably telling her to “come back, we’re not supposed to leave the house without the family, Oh, I’ll go with you so, but your taking the blame! We are going to be in soooooo much trouble”
You never went far, sometimes to nanny’s, and when I’d pull up in the car, you’d both jump sheepishly in, knowing that it was very very naughty…but at least you were both together. And you loved going in the car. Sometimes you’d jump in if I left the door open a second too long. Then you would happily sit for10, 15, 20 minutes at the steering wheel, jumping into the backseat, and finally out. You were a funny boy. You had a funny quirk of jumping onto the picnic table and looking in the back window at us washing dishes or making dinner. Your timing was impeccable, you always knew when it was dinner time.



At night, you went on patrol. Any noise, car, person, got a barrage of barking and howling. But there were different tones for “it’s ok, they are going away from the house” and “Mom mom mom, someone’s coming SOMEONE’S COMING DOWN THE LANE!!!”
Your bark was worse than your bite, which Squeek proved. The first week we had her, you followed her like an inquisitive child. I eventually watched from a distance, and just as you were about to scoop her up into your mouth, I said REILLY don’t eat the baby. You started licking her then.
Squeek would curl up with you, and she would come along on walks as well. Then Suzie. Four in the gang.



When Squeek passed, you stood by the grave with me. And sat down next to it when I would go visit her. Sometimes I’d see you go visit her on your own.
Then poor Gwyn the following year, the same. You would take yourself off and sit on her grave, by yourself in the rain.
Without Gwyn, you became old overnight. Or very young. You followed me closely, and had to have me in your line of vision at all times. You also became deaf. But you understood sign language very well.



You were an active dreamer. Falling asleep quickly and giving chase to rabbits and foxes and pheasants. In your dreams you could do what your body was beginning to stop being able to.



Before I went to Australia, I said my goodbyes. You had had a few funny turns, and I honestly didn’t think you would see out the month. Luckily, you were still here when I returned, having gotten a second wind, or just being WILLED to stay alive by all of us. About 6 months ago, you stopped coming down the fields, and would instead perch at a vantage point to watch me walk alone.



But this year, you had slowed down significantly. And your mobility was compromised, with back legs that were withering away, and front legs not strong enough to carry you.
In you eyes on Thursday, you said it all. Mum, everything hurts. I’m exhausted and I can’t fall asleep.



You were mine for half my life. From 14 to a few weeks shy 30. You would have been 16 this June. You have been my constant companion, my shoulder, my rock, my most greatest love, my favourite being on earth, my joy, and child.
Your love was the purest, because it was unconditional. On my worst days, you still loved me the same. And that was your gift to me. That love. That love that you had from the moment I saw you when you were a tiny, baby, to the moment you closed your eyes for the last time. And even in leaving us, you held on. Oh, you held on so tight. But so did I.



The only comfort I have is that I know you are no longer in pain. That you are free of your body that had become a prison. You are running, leaping, bounding round the fields, with Gwyn running up like a clown, flushing the pheasant before you get a chance to point, and Squeek trailing along behind. I hope one day that will bring me peace.
But right now my heart is broken.
I love you, my sweet, darling, spirit guide, my sentinel, my protection, my best friend and charge, my boy, my baby my Reilly.

I love love love you, and always will.


Monday, May 30, 2016

The last few months...

As I said in my previous post, I've set myself a little task this year. And like most people's New Year's Resolutions, mine has gone a tad askew. I haven't taken a photo every single day, but mostly I have. This is partly due to a hip injury that put most of March out the window, and a trip to Australia in April, that turned my daily routine on it's head. But now that I'm home, and in a new routine (with a proper job and everything ;) !) I can get back to doing nonsense like making collages of the months of the year.

March

You'll notice that there are not 31 pictures in this college, because I spent most of the month either sitting, lying down or at physio. Fun times. And proof that it doesn't matter how fit you are, or you think you are, you can still pull a muscle you never heard of, doing hardly anything out of the ordinary. 

April

Luckily, the zillion hour flight to Oz, mixed with the extreme heat and slow pace completely cured my hip (I don't know, but I'm going with it). I took LOADS of pictures, but this is a good recap of all the main bits.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

February round-up


The shortest month of the year is over, and Spring's here visibly on the ground and the trees, if not so much in the air. I have been curtailed over the last few weeks, due to an injury, but I've been getting plenty of work done from my settee and desk. Two trips to the beach and some long overdue family time, as well as playing around with some techniques I haven't used in years, and a commission.
^_^

Monday, February 1, 2016

January


I set myself a little side project for the year, just for fun, as a way to document what I am doing, a sort of visual diary. There are large sections of 2015 that I draw a blank over, I am hoping this will help me remember what I have done.
So every day I will take at least one picture, preferably something that will sum up the day, and at the end of the month, I will compile them, like above, and post them here, and over on fb.
I'm hoping I will learn some things from doing this. Common themes, colours, patterns.

Monday, September 21, 2015

September... ?!

It's hard to believe it's nearly the end of September already. The summer has simply flown (mostly because it took place during two weeks in April) and a scattering of days here and there. But like most summers, most of my time has been spent in the garden, even if that time has been cold and wet. And while I watched horizontal sheets of cold rain beating down, things did grow. Amazingly. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me. Flowers and vegetables I've never grown before, took off with little or no effort, while my courgettes (something I've never thought much about) failed miserably...it was simply too cold.
So it has been a long, busy summer, in spite of the challenging weather. And like every summer (other than the zine fair) the art side of things, has been quiet-ish. I have been sneaking in some filming and I have a loose outline for a performance piece, but no drawings as such. I suppose, at the moment, I am at a thinking/planning/research phase in my own work, which is just as important as work WORK.
Anyway, here's a quick recap of what I've been up to:

The young garden, beetroot, fennel and onions. All of which looks more like a jungle now.


Field orchid


Trip to Kylemore Abbey <3 p="">

Aloe in the walled garden


Our usual entrance, and probably the reason why I am obsessed with *that* colour.


Patricia Piccinini' s magical show Relativity, part of the Galway International Arts Festival




Achil Henge, much more impressive than I was led to believe.



Fifth annual Dublin Zine Fair, two wonderful days spent in Dublin


Boo, with the zine hoard.


Scabious and heather


Bare ridges, waiting for garlic planting season.


What I think is Cladonia floerkeana, after it's spores have formed and finished.


Fox Moth baby


Boo, soaked from the long grass


Heart shaped cloud, because life is good!