The best ideas

As usual, after dropping my SigOth (significant other) off at work at 3.30am, I find myself unable to switch off the mental light and go back to snoozeville until the screechy alarm thing makes its evil noise. So, I thought, why not jump on the old interwebs and see what’s cooking?

There’s lots cooking. More than I need. Its all just adding to the noise in my head that says move!do!make!worry! Some of it, I will admit, has been interesting, and I’ve bookmarked it for a more sane hour’s reflective reading. There is, however, very little point in reading anything right now that I might actually be interested in because I will just be cross at it for a little while as it has been so interesting as to keep me awake; and then I will promptly forget all about it once I finally do pass out again, mere minutes before the screechy alarm thing.

coffee

Insomnia is a family trait on my mother’s side. I remember making jam with my maternal grandmother at 2am on a hot summer’s night and thinking how wonderful it was that we had that secret time together. I found out later that she had also done the same thing with my mother and her sisters, and her mother had done it with her. There is a history of wee hours jam-making which will probably end with me as I have no progeny to pass the genetic tendency onto, and I don’t think my eternally sleepy step-daughter is really up for it. Perhaps if she has children I can convince one of them that the best thing to do when you cannot sleep on a hot night is to get up and make yourself even hotter by standing over a boiling pot of fruit and sugar for an hour, and then run blissfully around under a very cold shower before diving back into bed with the fan on full-blast. Yes, what a grand adventurer I will be as a nanna!

The tendency for midnight meanderings comes from my father’s side also. On this side, however, there is less jam-making and a lot more wandering around with guns. Farming and such, you know, because of foxes and feral cats. Or in the case of a great-great grandfather, being a bootlegging criminal with a tendency for gangsterism. Some nights I am visited by these tendencies, and I merely lurk in the dark, watching for signs of beasties that I need to protect myself from or the huntress in me seeking the flash of a white tail to chase after. Other nights I drink far too much whisky to numb the darkness of bloodlust and fall asleep on the couch in an irresponsible display of failed parenting.

Romanticise as I might, the bottom line is that as a mid-forties woman in suburban Melbourne my options for reasonable insomnial shenanigans are mostly limited to reading crime fiction or trawling the web for things to shout at in my mind. As it is summer, I may take that cool shower before flinging myself back into bed and letting the fan blast me into a hypothermic rest of sorts. But I do miss the jam. And the shooting.*

*Please note: I am not usually a violent person, and I do not take animals’ lives in vain. Besides, I am a terrible shot and much more likely to injure myself than any other living creature. Oh, and I do not have access to a gun, which is very fortunate for all involved.

I’m not your servant

I started writing about my annual New Year’s Day cinematic excursion to the Westgarth, and about how excited I was to have re-ignited my passion for Colette, and for writing, and for being a strong and independent woman, basically. Then I realised that I’m not. I’m not strong, nor am I independent. I’ve just come off ten days of cleaning houses, setting up tables, preparing food, serving food, cleaning up after others have eaten, making beds, vacuuming floors, scrubbing toilets, washing clothes, squashing down my own feelings, allowing others to take precedence, negating my own needs and desires in deference to the needs and desires of others, all for a festivus period which means close to zero for me as I am not a believer in a Christ figure, nor a God, nor gods plural, nor deities of any kind, really.

For what? What was I wanting to achieve? Did I believe that my acts of self-abnegation would be rewarded by more or better love from those close to me? Did I think that I would feel good if only everyone around me felt very good? Fool! I have been doing this for 20 years, and not once, NOT ONCE, have I ever felt good, or better, or more virtuous, or more loved at the end of it all. Only tired. And largely unappreciated. A Mrs Dalloway. A matyr to social propriety, to being seen as a good woman.

Try as I might to live a feminist life, my idea of what makes a good woman seems eternally tied to being a nurturer, a carer, a soft place to fall, a selfless provider of sustenance and a servant to the desires of others. A good woman, a strong woman, is able to make a roast feast for 20 in 40 degree heat, to serve that luncheon at a beautifully set table, and then to clear it all away in moments so that the sated diners may repair to their couches for some digestive rest. As they rest she washes dishes, cuts up fruit, whips cream and reapplies her lipstick so that when the resting is done they can repair once more to the beautifully re-set table and wonder how she has made such a succulent afternoon tea appear with apparently so little effort.

In my mind the good woman then basks in the appreciative glow of her family and friends. And she is satisfied with that, because she doesn’t need anything else to validate her. But I am not that good woman, because for me it is not enough to hear a thank you or two, and the smacking of lips, and the clearing of empty plates, to know that I have made others happy with my labours. I require some other form of validation… but I do not know what that is. Can I not just be acknowledged simply for existing, without having to present celebration day feasts as a fait d’accompli? Can someone not just say “Benne, you are breathing! You take air in and out of your lungs, and you try not to harm others. You are a good person!”?

This is where my annual outing to a quiet little cinema has led me. To questioning what it means to be a good woman, a strong woman. To understanding that that which I believed was enough is actually nowhere near enough, and that I yearn for more. To my resolution for the new year –

WRITE OFTEN. WRITE OPENLY. WRITE AS YOU ONCE PREPARED A CHRISTMAS FEAST.

Thank you, Gabrielle-Sidonie Colette, for the reminder.