Contemplative Photography 14

14 01 2013

If you’re interested in Miksang photography, check out my ongoing series of posts.  This week I’ve been struck by everything around me being ‘new’ to me.  I’ve just moved to a new town, a new state, a new workplace and job.  Although some things are familiar, all my surroundings are new.  In some ways, it’s great to see everything with new eyes, noticing things that are unusual or different, and seeing some things in reality for the first time.

Speaker's Lawn: shot from the upper balcony.  This looks to me like a computer game!!

Speaker’s Lawn: shot from the upper balcony. This looks to me like a computer game!!

This angle intrigued me due to its symmetry, patterns, sharp contrasts and colours.  The longer I looked, the less real it seemed and the photo looks to me like a computer game.  This shot was taken from the upper balcony looking down onto the manicured green that displays a much different character at ground level.  See what you see.


Fragments of me

23 03 2012

The room is dim and musty. Two shafts of light from milky windows create gentle diagonal beams across the room. As I step forward, I leave footprints in the dust that has lightly coated everything that has laid undisturbed.  The walls are lined with rows and rows of old oak drawers salvaged from an abandoned library. They’ve been there for years, some older than others with a new cabinet added every so often in a higgledy piggledy fashion.

I peer through the dim light. I didn’t realize there were so many rows. They each contain a little piece of me, a fragment of my soul, my life. I learned early on to compartmentalise parts of me.  It has been a blessing and a curse.

Some drawers are numbered, some labelled clearly, others are blank. A couple are boarded up. I run my fingertips along the face of the drawers, touching the wood, the handles, the gaps in turn. I can almost feel what is inside even with such light contact. There are buzzing sensations and sometimes a patch of cold or heat seeps through the veneer.  Memories.

Sounds, smells, celebration, screaming, faces, music, shouting, banging, laughter, pain.

One drawer is missing, another smashed in and another has been burnt out. I think that was the one I stuffed with molten shame. I survey the damage, the splintering of my soul and life into so many pieces. It was self inflicted.  I learned early on to compartmentalise parts of me.  It has been a blessing and a curse.

I’ve only visited this part of me, this secret crypt on a few occasions and rarely brought anyone with me. Sometimes I unlock the contents of one drawer. Different people knew different pieces, have different access. No one has seen the lot together. Not even me.

I don’t know what will happen if all the contents spill onto the floor together but it’s time to start sorting, time to unlock.  I need to sift and sort, keep things that are useful, treasure and nurture some parts, let go of others, throw some things away, and reintegrate the parts into one.

It serves no purpose any more.  In my younger years I’d steal away and come to this place to hide myself, to preserve myself.  The secret aisle is not full of dark secrets, it is full of light, it’s where all the precious things are hidden. I’d creep in here and hide those parts of me I needed to keep safe, keep from being trampled, squashed or stolen.  Many times I made it to this room out of breath, running from footsteps that were chasing me.  I’d quickly break out part of my soul, scraping and clawing out all joy and delight, or celebration or wonder, or fragility or tenderness and storing here, slamming the drawer shut with the promise of a later return.  I promised myself, while gasping for breath that I’d come back some day, open the drawer, savour the moment, relax and let the joy and fullness of life flow through me like sunshine.  Then I was off again, running from the mugger.  I had to store myself in pieces. I couldn’t keep my pure essence with me, it was always stolen, stripped from me; fight or no fight.

I’ve wondered recently why I don’t savour or celebrate my successes and why I’m not known.  It lead me down to this room of drawers. I’m gradually gaining the courage to open up and look inside.

It will take some remembering.
Re-membering. Putting the pieces back together.
That is exactly it – I have been dis-membered, shattered into pieces.
I want to be whole.  I want to feel whole.  I want to be fully me.

I’m beginning.

I realised I was gay when…

20 03 2012

… I was seven years old and rode the bus home.
I looked out the window as the trees flew past and wondered if I would have to have a husband in order to have children. I didn’t particularly want either but thought that it must be possible because some of the kids at school only had a mum. I decided there and then that I wasn’t going to have a man around. I thought a wife would be much better. I didn’t know what ‘gay’ was at that time (and I clearly didn’t know where babies came from either), but I did know that I wasn’t looking for a future husband.
… I was ten and was shocked to find I couldn’t be ‘anything’ I wanted to be.

Village People - wikipedia

They all said it – parents, teachers, brochures. What do you want to be when you grow up? You can be anything you want to be!! Yay!
After seeing my tadpoles turn into frogs and caterpillars turn into butterflies I was honestly quite shocked to find out that girls couldn’t become boys if they wanted to. So much for being ‘anything’. It was a crashing let down as I liked all the boys’ games and toys and didn’t really understand girls and their obsession with brushing each others’ hair, doing cartwheels, admiring horses or dressing up Barbie dolls. I’d never owned a Barbie in my life, I hated horses, I didn’t wear dresses and I sure as hell wasn’t playing netball. My parents even bought me a G.I. Joe doll (ahem, action figure!) to try to tempt me. I didn’t really know what ‘gay’ was then either, but I did know the Village People were homosexuals because the lady next door told me that one day while she was making a caramel slice. I didn’t know what ‘homosexual’ meant until I consulted my dictionary later that night, and even then it didn’t particularly make sense. From the tone of her voice I got the distinct feeling that it was something people only whispered about, like it was a bad thing, or naughty or shameful or embarrassing and definitely secret.
… I was 12 and fell in love with the leading lady
Jennifer Beals.  Oh my goodness.  My heart still skips a beat.
I went to the movies one Saturday afternoon with a girl from school.  It was our first year in high school and was a big deal to be allowed to catch the bus into town, go to the only McDonalds in Western Australia and then see a movie, all without our parents. I had a Big Mac and got a Coke and some Fantales for the movie.  I fell slap-bang-madly-in-love with the boiler-suited Jennifer Beals within the hour.  She was so sexy my head was reeling and confused and deliriously excited. I saw the whole movie but my mind chattered and argued throughout:
Whaddya mean you think she’s gorgeous? It’s a woman.
Excuse me!  She is a SHE, not an IT, and SHE is beautiful… I could kiss her.
OMG – but this is a  w-o-m-a-n!!!  Are you crazy??
No, I’m not. It is what becoming a teenager is all about, falling in crazy love.
Yes, but with b-o-y-s!!  Girls think BOYS are kissable
Boys? Ha, who’d want to do THAT?
Well, what girl do you know who has a GIRLFRIEND???
Oh… Maybe I am crazy… OMG I AM CRAZY… THERE’S SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME!! What am I going to do??
Wait, she’s on screen again, whoa….. Ouch, my heart actually hurts.
I left the movie theatre with wide eyes and a passionate heart and tried hard not to even speak about the Movie in case people could see love on my face. This was my biggest (and loneliest) secret. The theme song even now, evokes painful pangs for the lonely and scared kid in me who wrestled with this everyday for years.
I was 13 and cheated on Jennifer Beals by falling in love with a Supermarket Checkout chick.
Her badge featured a Dymo label of the name “DORA” and she was always cheerful and chatty. I blushed and became mute whenever I saw her, it was very embarrassing. I dropped things, tripped over and stuttered. I knew by now that something was very wrong with me. No other girls had turned into boys and most had a boyfriend that they actually liked and touched. I had boyfriends but they were boys who were friends and liked talking about football or cricket or riding motorbikes. No one EVER talked about liking other girls, not like THAT anyway. There were hushed conversations about “Lesbians” but again, it was something to detest. I’d read the weekend paper and see a small advert in the Personal Column every week that read “Gay or unsure? Call for help“. I memorised the phone number and lost countless coins calling from public phone boxes and then hanging up once it was answered. There was no internet, no website, no teen outreach centres.
I really did think something was wrong with me. I knew no other person who struggled or mentioned an attraction to the same sex. I had to lie to others and myself. I had to hide my real self and try really hard to rid myself of this weirdness. It persisted though and I hated myself for being so strange. I just wanted to be ‘normal’ and have a ‘normal’ life.
…I was 14 and was in the Army Cadets and got ‘tough’

Boot Polish - wikipedia

I smoked. I swore. I got tough and wore my Army gear as much as I could. It meant I didn’t have to try and navigate my way through lip gloss, eye shadow, nail polish or Jazz Ballet like the real girls were doing. I went orienteering out in the rain and mud, went on hikes and camped, polished my boots and brass, cooked over open fires and crisped up my uniform with starch. There was NO fraternising on parade or on camp. It was GREAT. I did get a crush on a cadet Leader which signalled to the boys that I was not interested in them and signalled to everyone that I obviously was NOT gay at all, even though my increasingly short hair cut and swagger might have indicated otherwise.
I was 15 and tried REALLY hard NOT to be gay.
Boyfriend – sure!! Hey, I’ll get a boyfriend then another then another. See, there’s nothing wrong with me! I’m doing just fine over here being a girl that has BOYfriends. Lots of them. But who is that girl that walks past me every day on my way to Science class? I don’t know her name but she has such a great smile, and those eyes… Dammit!! Oh there’s a boy – you’ll do.
… I was 16 and lined up the ‘impossible’ guy
I met him one night while I was in the city. I’d joined a social ballroom dancing class because obviously ballroom dancing was about GIRL meets BOY. Dancing with boys all night meant I spent my time talking, gazing, touching and being close to them, not the girls (see entry above). I spotted him across the floor and decided he was THE catch. I was exhausted from trying to make myself ignore my attraction to women so I decided to do a deal with myself. I told myself this was my last ditch effort at a man. He was 31. If I couldn’t go out with him, then I was obviously destined to go out with a woman.

And a month later I did…

Things certainly didn’t get any smoother or easier from that point on, in fact life got harder. I ‘came out’ to my parents at 16 and was relieved.  I am gay. There, I said it, finally.  They knew several gay men and women and were accepting of them so I know it would be okay. They’d always said I could tell them anything and this was something I could no longer keep to myself.

It wasn’t okay.

At midnight, I picked myself up off the loungeroom floor and left their house after a violent altercation. I was 16, walking through the dark, beaten and bruised.  I was alone at midnight with nowhere to go, no money, identification or possessions.

To say it was a turbulent time is an understatement. It’s interesting to look back now and realise how much of this I was processing as a child… I would hate to think a child I knew was trying to deal with this alone. Times have certainly changed since then and I shudder to think what issues children are now struggling with, carrying and processing on their own. Sometimes we don’t give credit for how deeply children think, what they know or the acute and powerful feelings they are aware of at such a young age. Take a moment to recognise those young people around you, they’re deeper than you realise.


15 02 2012

Beliefs.  Values.  Purpose…

There is nothing quite like the sudden death of a loved one to put life into perspective. Overnight, my life and priorities changed. I didn’t care if the report got written or not. How on earth did I ever believe it mattered that much? Some of the change has been a gift, bringing a wonderful sense of clarity about what is important to me. Most of it is still murky and I’m confused but have a sense and urge for exploration.

It feels like it’s timely. It feels like I’m wanting to really consider what I’m going to do with my remaining years and who I really want to be. Even that is a shift for me. A couple of months ago, I’d have said “what I really want to do”.

It doesn’t feel like I’m exploring for the sake of gaining some control, trying to force a shift or put meaning around the current chaos. I might be wrong, I might be doing exactly that – I guess I’ll find that out along the way too. Even that will teach me something.

I’ve decided to examine my life more closely and review some of my patterns and direction. I’ve been doing it anyway, just not in a very focussed way. So many things come to mind. What IS important to me now? When I look past all the externals, who am I? How do I want to spend my time and energy? How important is money to me? Who do I want to be? What guides me in my decision making? What am I learning through grief – about myself and others? Where is faith in all this? What legacy will I leave when I’m gone? What is the point to life? What do I want to be remembered for? What habits are worth keeping? What is success for me? What would I do if there was no way I could fail? What holds me back? How can I take better care of my body? What does it need? How do I help/hinder my own health? How can I invest in others? What are my core values? What is worth fighting for? What do I need to learn? What do I need to unlearn? What do I need to let go of? What is my purpose? What really makes my heart sing?

I’m not sure whether I’ll explore all of this through The Sacred Cave but it may be a good time to contemplate questions during the Lenten period even though they are not all religious questions set within a Christian context or framework. It seems like good timing though. 40 days of examination. Stay tuned, I might be rambling on a bit, or I might just include some glimpses.

024 Facade

24 01 2012

Behind the facade

The inner room was built in haste from small and off cut clay.
Thrown together with mortar caked, it took not quite a day.
No time to roll or rake the joints, the outside’s sure to please
I’ll be there to clad it with fine stone from overseas.

Run your hand along the smooth and shiny outer stone.
You’d think the total structure might be made from that alone
if you couldn’t see the contrast, but only the outside
you wouldn’t know the truth about what it really hides.

The inner room contains me in a room I built by hand
at a time when I was hurting and no one could understand
the difficulty I have in revealing who I am
but now the outside crumbles and helps reveals the sham

I can’t keep up the falsehood of a shiny neat veneer
it dulls my intuition which I often fail to hear
I might not appear to be so neat or polished any more
with cracks and gaps and leaking taps and dust around my door

but my soul is freer than it’s been in more than thirty years
maybe that’s the blessing of a month of many tears
I wonder if my messy walls can deal with mice and men
or whether I’ll just wait a while and clad it up again.


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