Girl, you’ll be a woman soon

By @jaynemandfredi and originally posted here

It is sometimes the little things that completely undo me. Today it was your pony tail; half a metre of ash blonde silk, not a kink to mar its smooth perfection.  And just like that, I can picture gathering soft, fine fuzz into a hair bobble, for the very first time. How this transformed you from generic toddler into a creature that was undeniably a girl. That stumpy, wispy pony tail said so, far more eloquently than the colour pink ever could.

I loved how your pulled back hair accentuated the adorable chub of your pink cheeks, and how I couldn’t stop myself from kissing you, over and over again. Do you know that I sometimes close my eyes when we embrace now, just so I can better recall the sweet, baby scent of you? Such salted caramel memories you invoke in me.  Sometimes it makes my chest ache.

Now you are more likely to smell of Impulse and peppermint gum.  The tickle of ‘Very Pink’ in our nostrils every morning heralds your arrival down the stairs.  Your cheeks have all but lost the roundness of childhood, and I see a new bone structure emerging, one I didn’t even know was there. You remind me of me, and sometimes, to my shame, this makes me sad.

Your body is changing, and this too dismays me. You are slowly growing taller; legs lengthening, feet almost the same size as my own. Where the softness of childhood is fleeing, and the angles of beauty are being carved out on your face, it is being redistributed in areas that I know you would rather not have it.  Now and then, I catch glimpses of the woman you will become, and I am captivated by your beauty, though it terrifies me.

I take comfort from knowing that you are strong, my darling. Very strong. You have a deep sense of self, and an innate pride in who you are. It will protect you from much of what this world throws at you.  Your moral compass will guide you, and it won’t lead you astray. I don’t need to tell you to stay true to who you are, because you always have done.  I have been more proud of you than I could ever have dreamed possible. Your goodness radiates from inside you; such a kind, thoughtful, sensitive, human being. Your capacity for empathy astonishes me, and hints at the instinctive wisdom of your soul, a wisdom I never thought to find in one so young. The pain of others hurts you, I know. Nevertheless, I pray it always does.

You don’t remember when it was just the two of us, do you? When all we had was each other, and I clung to you like a drowning woman, as I went under and wanted nothing more than oblivion, and to feel no longer.  You kept me afloat; the routine of our days kept me going when I had no choice.  When nappies needed changing, when bottles needed making, when small feet needed new shoes, and boredom needed to be assuaged with yet another trip to the park.  Sometimes, it was grinding monotony but it kept me alive. I’ve never told you that before, but it did.

Later, you became my friend; my tiny companion, with your constant questions, and your love of the same book, over and over again. We bonded over make-believe and imaginary creatures who shared our world. We played endless games together, for at home I was your only playmate. Later, the little ones would come along to share your life, which meant three more willing playmates. What an inspiration and a role-model you are to them. They are very lucky to have you

As for me, I thank God for the gift of you, every single day. You were my challenge; my test. I have never done anything so bone-crushingly tiring, so frightening, so achingly hard, as becoming your mother. Many, many times I have failed.  I hope you’ll forgive me when I continue to do so. I know you think I’m wonderful, and that you want to be like me, but I am just waiting for the day when you discover that I’m not. That really, I’m a scared, anxious, clueless woman, who isn’t half as clever as you think I am, and actually, is nowhere near as good as you.

I have led such a tiny life and in all the ways that this world measures success, I have achieved very little. I do not have a high-flying career or a string of letters after my name. There are no accolades for me, nor awards with my name written on them.  I have no fancy possessions nor do I own anything of great material value.

And yet…we have everything we need and much of what we want, because we never actually want all that much anyway.  I have made my choices, and I chose to live a simple life, and to pour what energy I have into raising you. I wouldn’t change a thing.

I’m not such a failure, as it turns out. Look at you. Just look at you! You, my darling; my first born; my daughter. I thank you for the privilege of being your mother, and I will love you until I die.

And before you say it: Yes. I love you more.

Parents, keep listening to your gut—not the gender therapist

4thWaveNow

A few months ago, my teenage daughter stopped trying to “pass” as male. She dropped the self-defined-as-male uniform, the stereotyped swagger and the fake-deepened voice and just—moved on. Her fervent desire to be seen and treated as a boy faded away, just as other formerly unshakable ideas and urges had in the past. And our relationship has never been better.

Although I’ve allowed myself to exhale, just a little, she will remain at risk, because every sector of society—the media, the government, the schools, medicine and psychology–is now saturated with the message that trans is real; trans is good;  and if you’re a “gender nonconforming” girl, you just might actually be a boy.

What did I, and the other adults who love her, do? It hasn’t been easy. In fact, for a time it was a living hell, a purgatory of slammed doors, stony silence, yelling matches, and mostly—waiting.

There…

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The creation of Sisterhood – how can we help our girls to value each other?  

By @jaynemanfredi and reblogged from here 

I recently wrote about how our society makes it increasingly hard for girls to value and support oneanother and this got me to thinking about ways that we, as mothers, can help foster good relations amongst our growing daughters. We often take it for granted that girls will automatically want to nurture and support one another, but I think this is naïve, especially when we consider that they’re growing up within a highly misogynistic world.  Is it any wonder that they naturally seem to distrust, and all too often dislike one another? Sometimes, we have the expectation that if we just allow our daughters to mix with as many different girls as possible, both in and out of school, then they can be trusted to apply the standards of behaviour that we’ve set for them at home. Sadly, this demonstrably isn’t always the case.  Even the kindest and most caring girls can be capable of hurting and upsetting others, whether it’s done deliberately, or is out of carelessness or a moment of thoughtlessness. How then can we help and support our girls to support one another? Here’s some ideas.

Friendship Pact.

Encourage your daughter and her friends to get together and make a binding friendship agreement that they will never, EVER, talk about one another behind each other’s backs. This seems to be the single greatest evil amongst friendship groups; the thing that causes the most upset and arguments. It sows distrust between girls, is immensely upsetting for the girl who finds out she’s the subject of the gossiping – which she will, because someone always blabs, thereby causing more stress. Let’s encourage our girls to make a pact that this kind of behaviour is absolutely forbidden, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to uphold the pact. For tween girls it might be fun to cement the agreement by making friendship bracelets (which could be as simple as loom band ones), which all the girls wear to remind them of the pact, or it could be written down as a formal agreement, which all the girls sign. However they decide to do it, it’s crucial that each girl understands that back-biting and gossiping is absolutely not on, and that the agreement to not do this is sacrosanct.

Watch your words.

So many disputes between girls seem to come about over seemingly nothing at all; someone makes what they think is a harmless remark, and the next thing someone has taken offence, girls take sides and someone inevitably gets sidelined. We might tell our girls to “be nice” and to “not be mean,” but perhaps it might be more helpful to give them a solid framework to help them work out exactly how to do this. Get them to consider whether or not their words are Kind, Truthful, and Necessary, and encourage them to get into the habit of thinking more carefully about what they say. They might think that Maddie really needs to know that her new jeans look like they’re too tight for her, but it’s certainly not kind to tell her so, and while it may very well be true, it’s sure as hell not necessary! Also, sorry is one really powerful word.  If genuinely spoken, it has the ability to diffuse an inflamed situation, add salve to a bruised ego and mend bridges. Acknowledging and taking responsibility for thoughtless or unkind behaviour is also a huge step to becoming a mature young woman, especially if it’s done with sincerity with no caveats included. Heck, that’s probably good advice for all of us!

Girl Time.

Introduce the idea that girl time is both special and unique.  While it can be argued that there is no definitive shared girlhood experience, there are undeniably some common denominators, the most overriding of which is that only girls know what it’s like to not be boys. They’ve not grown up with the privilege of being born male, and have had to navigate their way through a world that overwhelmingly caters to and for the preferences and needs of males. It is a man’s world, and only girls know what that feels like, even if they’re still too young to fully articulate what that means.  Fostering within our girls a sense of pride in their sex and all that comes with it; be it periods, under-wiring or whatever, will also foster a sense of unity. Encourage your daughter and her friends to spend time together regularly that is just girl time, with no boys allowed, even via FaceTime or Instagram or whatever the method of contact usually is. Let her discover that girl only time can be immensely liberating, as it’s time freed from the pressure and potential performative friction that the company of boys can engender.  No one is saying that boys are off limits; just that making space to spend time together to enjoy one another’s company without this distraction is a really important and potentially sacred thing.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

If they’re going to learn to support one another, they need to get into the habit of respecting differences and affirming one another’s individual choices.  During adolescence the pack or herd mentality is strong, and it can be really hard to chart your own course. It’s doubly difficult when your friends don’t back you up or even mock your choices. Girls need to learn to support one another by encouraging each other, and building each other up rather than doing what we’re  encouraged to do by our nasty and misogynistic media, which is to knock each other down.  Our girls aren’t ignorant of celebrity culture; where young women are on the one hand praised for being highly sexualised, and on the other hand mocked for exposing too much flesh, and then admonished if they fail to live up to ridiculously high standards of beauty. They will have seen the covers of well known celebrity magazines where women are chastised and mocked for being too fat/too thin/too old/too pale/too made-up/not made-up enough – etc.  They’ve absorbed the message that it’s open season on women and our bodies, and it’s our job to help them unpick this rubbish and not proliferate it with their friends.

Be the change…

Ultimately, we are our daughters’ first and most important influence.  How we respond to other women, whether it’s our friends, mothers, sisters, or that woman off the telly, is being absorbed and perhaps copied by our girls. We too have grown up in this sexist world, and thus, we’re sadly not immune to misogyny either.  How we speak about ourselves, and about other women is really important.  If we want our daughters to respect and enjoy the company of other girls, then we really need to practice what we preach, and model some womanly appreciation of our own. This even goes for that one girl in your daughter’s class who has been a thorn in her side ever since Reception year. Don’t give in to the urge to verbally rip her to shreds after your daughter has come home from school (yet again) in tears after another barbed comment. Try to criticise the behaviour, rather than the girl herself, however hard this may be. So much of what happens between girls is a temporary glitch, all over and done with and forgotten by the following day. It may seem like the end of the world in the moment, but that’s when we need to step in and remind them that these things happen; that friendship is worth fighting for and that they need to stick together. Always try and remember that while you’re comforting your daughter (and silently cursing the one who upset her) another girl may well be doing the exact same thing with her mum. Our own child’s perception of things isn’t always entirely accurate.

With this in mind, it’s also a good idea to try to foster warm, cordial relationships with the mothers of your daughter’s friends. This might require you to be quite proactive if your child is in secondary school, as the parents don’t mix as much as during the primary phase. Having a good relationship with other mothers means you can communicate directly if there are any on-going issues between girls, instead of inwardly festering about it, or immediately escalating it to a teacher; a sure-fire way to get someone’s back up. Also, it sets a good example to your kids if they can see that their mums present a united front, and behave respectfully to one another.

Ultimately, this is a hard phase of development, both physically and emotionally.  Few girls seem to emerge entirely unscathed from their secondary school experience, and for some, friendship with other girls and true sisterhood continues to elude them beyond school and into adulthood.  What this tells me is that we need sisterhood more than ever, because for every twelve year old girl returning home from school today in tears, there’s a doting mum handing over a tissue and worrying herself sick.  We all want the same thing; happy, healthy, thriving girls. Let’s work together to achieve this, and encourage our daughters to do the same.

NOT a natural mother

By Jayne Manfredi first published on The Road to Emmaus
A common, recurring response from other women when they hear I have four children; (after they’ve expressed the usual “Goodness, you’re brave!”) is often, “Wow, you must be a complete natural.”

What does this even mean? That I’m a natural mother? Perhaps one who breast feeds until her kids go to school? That kind of natural? Into whole foods and organic produce? Maybe it’s just a way of expressing admiration for someone who is so obviously committed to this mothering malarkey that they wanted to do it multiple times? Maybe all these things. Or maybe it’s just a bullshit notion entirely that has merely grown out of society’s erroneous expectation for mothers.

Women are socialised to be nurturing and this goes hand-in-hand with the idea that we are designed to be mothers. This doesn’t just mean being in possession of a womb; it means that hormonally,  genetically even, we are naturally predisposed to be able to carry out the task of raising a child. Why then do we sometimes find motherhood so hard?

Medical sources estimate that around 10-15% of new mothers will suffer from Post-natal depression, and the charity 4Children has estimated that the figure might actually be closer to 30%. I might be going out on a limb here but I really believe that most mothers suffer post-natal depression to a varying degree, at some point in the first year after their baby is born.  If you were one of the lucky ones who emerged from childbirth relatively unscathed, learned to feed your baby quickly and with no problems and in short, took to motherhood as if you were born to it, well, wonderful. I have a friend whose experience of labour and infant rearing was so lovely to her she described it as an epiphany. It was a wholly positive experience. If you are such a person, then I’m glad for you. I wish it had been like that for me.

I have known both ends of the birth spectrum, having endured a horrendous experience with baby number one, which meant I couldn’t walk for over two weeks; to leaving the hospital after having baby number four and then going to school to pick the other kids up on the way home. It does vary widely.

Perhaps, like me, your induction into motherhood went something like this: you’re weeping in the bathroom every morning at the prospect of peeing onto what is an open wound, your milk has come in and you could rest your chin on your boobs, you lost so much blood in the delivery room that you’re dangerously anaemic, bringing a whole new meaning to the word “tired,” and baby won’t stop crying, and you have no idea what the problem is. Oh, and your partner is a completely useless waste of space.  That.

The thought that your milk coming in actually means your body is being flooded with nurturing, mothering hormones will, I’m sure, provide you with no comfort whatsoever, as you attempt unsuccessfully to latch a child onto a body part that is four times bigger than baby’s head and is ever likely to be sore, crusty and bleeding.  I kid you not, so determined was I to breastfeed (or with hindsight: stubborn to the point of dangerous stupidity) I actually kept a wooden spoon near me to bite down on whenever I fed her, because the pain was so intense.  I can’t recall feeling very nurturing at the time. Funny that.

We’re told that in this aim biology is on our side. Our hormones, namely oxytocin, will gush out along with a maternal outpouring that will bond you to your child in ways that are  utterly unbreakable. If you don’t feel this way there is a real and harmful remove between your expectation (and society’s expectation) of your role as mother, and the bleeding, agonising, leaking, red-eyed reality.

I was terrified of my daughter. Absolutely terrified. I’d never held a newborn, never changed a baby, never fed a baby. I assumed if you put a baby down in her Moses basket, she would just go to sleep (I know, I know, the naivety!) and was flummoxed and rendered powerless by her cries, which only seemed to cease when I fed her, and that was so agonising, it was the last thing I wanted to do.  She pooped continuously, which meant constant nappy changes. She got nappy rash, despite the constant nappy changes, which meant I was checking and changing her every hour, on the hour, round the clock, in a paranoid fluster that it would get worse. I was unprepared for the tiredness, the ever present exhaustion that there was no respite from, because only I could feed her so no one could help me.

The fear of her quickly turned to feelings of inadequacy, as conversations with my friend (who gave
birth the month before me) revealed a very different experience. She went shopping on her way home from the hospital. Shopping! I had to be wheeled to the car.
She’d been out clubbing when her baby was six weeks old. Clubbing! Just the thought of leaving the house to nip to the corner shop made my chest tight and panicky.
I was scared of going out with my baby; what if she cried and I couldn’t stop her? What if she needed feeding? I didn’t want to feed her in front of other people. I didn’t want to handle her in front of other people; I might be doing it wrong. If I ever did, out of necessity, venture out of the house, it would take me the best part of an hour to pack everything I needed. I was paranoid about not having enough nappies with me, or enough changes of clothes. I’d obsessively change her nappy, feed her, check her nappy again, fret and worry over whether she’d need feeding again. She’d sick up, so I’d change her clothes; I was obsessive in keeping her scrupulously clean at all times. Then she’d need changing again, and so leaving the house sometimes didn’t happen at all.  Plenty of times I left, began walking up the street with her in the pram, only to return almost at once because the sound of her high-pitched, implacable wailing brought me out in a cold sweat and made my tummy clench so tightly it hurt.

I avoided other mothers – who were obviously doing it better than me – as their apparent competence and relaxed manner with their babies highlighted my own discomfort. I felt like a fraud; like becoming her mother was a freak accident. I felt like a nanny or a childminder; like she wasn’t actually mine. I was terrified that someone would discover the truth; that I was useless at this mothering thing, and they’d try and take her away from me.

I loved her; this tiny, impossibly beautiful creature. I loved the smell of her; the feel of her soft, downy head with its sparse covering of blonde fluff; her minute and perfectly formed little hands.  In the wee small hours, whilst feeding her, I’d look down and marvel that anything so sublime could have emerged from me.  But loving her didn’t make me enjoy the experience as a whole.  I was battered; mutilated by childbirth, my body distorted to nightmarishly comic proportions, and I was in
a world of pain.

For motherhood comes naturally, doesn’t it my sisters? I am a woman and it is what I am designed to do.  To nurture new life, not just inside my body but on the outside too.  As I struggled to do the one thing that I’d been taught that I was designed to do, I wondered what the point of me was if I couldn’t do this one, crucial thing. What did that say about my worth, not only as a mother, but as a woman? Unsurprisingly, I spiralled downwards into a depression that took a long, long time to recover from.

When I’ve discussed the myth of gender with men, they are sometimes keen to back up their largely essentialist ideas by citing the fact that women give birth as a reason for distinguishing our behaviour to theirs.  This is a problem for several reasons; firstly it erases the experience of women who can’t or choose not to have children by implying that they’re somehow not fulfilling a biological imperative. Secondly, and to my mind, more harmfully, this notion of women as natural nurturers does a disservice to us all by depicting motherhood as something that we ought to be good at.  If you struggle at all, for whatever reason, it can be an isolating and humiliating experience.

The more I think about the idea of women as “carers” the more I see how our biology has been used as a stick to beat us with.  Designating a caring role to women has the potential to let men off the hook (for “biologically” speaking, caring isn’t in their remit) and in practical terms also means that any duty coming under the umbrella of “care” can be foisted onto women, whether it’s taking on the bulk of childcare responsibilities or looking after elderly relatives. As an aside, it’s no coincidence that many jobs involving care, such as nursery workers and auxiliaries in old peoples’s homes, are overwhelmingly done by women. I guess it’s also a coincidence that these jobs tend to be minimum wage too. Mmm…

Girls are socialised from the off to fit into this nurturing mould; it is little girls who are given dolls to cuddle and feed, complete with tiny nappies and pretend bottles. Take a look at the commercial break during a time young children are likely to be watching and witness the blatant gender stereotyping.  We proliferate the “caring” myth by saying things like, “Sons grow up and move on but daughters always stay close.” Which sounds quite touching but actually means “there’s little to no obligation for my son to call or visit, but that’s ok because my daughter will take care of me.” And this is seen by some as normal!

The bitterest irony of all of course; in a society that trots out the nurturing woman stereotype, is that it is totally incompatible with the most dominant female stereotype of all, that of the “woman as sex object.” Indeed, nothing can slay your sexuality more than being pregnant and then feeding/mothering an infant, or indeed older children. In a world where being sexually appealing and appearing available is prized so highly for women, it’s no wonder that a woman’s perceived value in society can diminish sharply when she becomes a mother. The creation of new life and the responsibility of rearing an infant ought to elevate a woman’s status, and yet the experiences of women I know, my own experiences and the high rates of post-natal depression would say otherwise.

So what is my response when another incredulous woman expresses the opinion that I must be a “natural mother,” for choosing to share my life with four little people?
“Sister, there’s no such thing.”

Mummy, am I beautiful?

By Jayne Manfredi http://www.jaynemanfredi.blogspot.co.uk/

Recently I watched my two girls play dress up together, which is not an uncommon sight in our house.  I looked on with amusement and pleasure as my six year old teetered about the house in a long abandoned (pre-motherhood) pair of five inch heels, while my ten year old fashioned herself a dress out of a satin nightie.  They had both helped themselves to a tube of Rimmel in “shocker” and the scarlet grease was smeared around both their mouths.
Playing at being grown-up, at being women. Comic and colourful caricatures of what they will one day become.

For my eldest at least, with puberty just around the corner, the metamorphosis from spindly limbed, unpolished and pink cheeked child into that most exotic of creatures; that of woman, is fast on its way. Her induction is likely to be a painful affair, involving shaving, waxing, plucking, filing, moisturising, exfoliating, squeezing, brushing, curling, straightening, soaking, steaming, sweating and starving. This is of course without even mentioning cramps, underwire and P.M.T; some of the more obvious discomforts of womanhood.

I describe a particular experience of course; and I should know, because it was my own and my mothers before me.  I don’t think my experience is an uncommon one. Indeed, visit any Boots store on any street corner in Britain and you’ll see a dizzying array of potions, paints, implements, chemicals and creams, all purporting to do that one thing that is so terribly important if you’re a woman: Achieving real and lasting beauty.

For women it is an ambition, nay, a social imperative to be beautiful. It is something to aspire to, to yearn for and to set huge store by, whilst growing up and learning the ways of womanhood. I wonder, how have I, as their mother, contributed to my daughters’ need to be beautiful?

It’s because inside me there is a persistent and desperate need to be beautiful too. And its roots are strong and very, very deep.

I was born with a cleft lip, colloquially known as a ‘Hare lip,’ but I’ve always detested the pejorative feel to that term and so have never referred to it as that.  Put simply, I was born with a split down one side of my mouth; my upper lip being most affected as well as my nose.  I’ve had numerous procedures to correct this condition, all of them painful, the last one at age twenty-six, which was a particular joy. The surgeons have done an amazing job; I look what one might call “normal,” which pleases me no end but was never actually my goal growing up.

I didn’t want to look normal.

I wanted to be beautiful.

Surely this is a pointless and unattainable ambition, for how can one be truly beautiful with a scar down the middle of one’s mouth? How can a woman be beautiful with such an imperfection, when we’re trained to view beauty as the absence of imperfection and flaws?
If I am ever described as beautiful I always feel that “despite the scar” is being silently uttered, for I could never be considered beautiful because of it.

Ok, pity party over, because actually I think that at times my mother has suffered because of my defect (quirk of birth, condition…whatever) far more than me; after all, I have no memory of the trauma of the first corrective surgeries; nor of the isolation she must have felt when I was born and was less than perfect, and people avoided her out of embarrassment or worse still, disgust. She once
commented that a friend’s birth to a baby with a hole in the heart elicited open sympathy, (as you’d expect) whereas my birth, which involved a facial deformity, engendered a less compassionate response. People were undoubtedly uncomfortable about it. Living on a terraced street at the time, within a close-knit community, she remembers watching people walk past with gifts for her friend’s baby, whilst never once knocking on to say congratulations to her. She has memories of being out with me in the pram, and having people come over to look and gush over the “new baby” and seeing their faces freeze with horror when they saw me.  She can talk of being in the doctors’ surgery amongst a room full of whispering mothers and having the receptionist ask if she’d be “more comfortable in a side room.”

I’d like to think we’re more enlightened now; more understanding and compassionate. I’d really like to think that. My poor mother’s experiences of having a child with a facial deformity in 1979 were anything but. This heavily influenced her attitude towards me, in particular her insistence while I was growing up that I was beautiful, for aren’t all little girls beautiful? She has always rushed to reassure me that this is absolutely the case. With every new operation, each new procedure, it inched me a little bit closer to a “normal” face and a touch closer to achieving true beauty.

“Does it look better mummy?”
“Yes, you look beautiful!”
“Is my nose less crooked now?”
“It’s lovely!” 
“Are my teeth straighter?”
“Yes, they look great!”
“Is my lip still wonky?”
“No. You are beautiful.”

My mother’s motto when I was growing up, whether she was dragging a brush through my waist
length hair, or pulling it into tight rollers to achieve a true late eighties poodlesque perm, and I was complaining and whining as only a ten year old can, was always, “You have to suffer to be beautiful.”

Looking back, I can honestly say that I have.  We have both suffered for me to be beautiful.

My mum is a warrior of a mother; she would do all in her power for me to be happy, and isn’t happiness for women and girls utterly bound together with the notion of being beautiful? We’re taught this from the cradle, through a frothy, frilly preponderance of pink and prettiness.  Girls are beautiful. End of.

The consequences of not matching up to this standard are well known, and well documented. Anorexia and bulimia, appallingly low self-esteem, comfort eating, depression, crippling anxiety, general misery and unhappiness.  I look at my girls and I know I would do anything to spare them from any of these things, of course I would. Any mother would.

Are my girls beautiful? Yes. They are my children; I gave birth to them forty-eight hours apiece in screaming agony, and have marvelled and delighted in every inch of their peachy soft, delicate little bodies ever since.  They are wholly, unutterably beautiful to me, which does of course make me wonder then, would it matter to me at all if anyone else never thought the same thing. In other words, does their value come from how the world perceives their beauty, or from how they themselves perceive it?

I know some incredibly attractive people.  I know some people who are unusual and unconventional looking, and I know some people who would be considered unattractive, and/or possibly ugly – I hate that word! Here’s the interesting thing though: If I asked each of these people to rate their “beauty” or to tell me how happy they were with their physical appearance, the answers might surprise me.  People who the world views as beautiful don’t always agree with the world, and the more I hear of people who are dissatisfied with their appearance, the more I’m convinced that seeking beauty as a goal in life is totally pointless.  Even if you did manage to eat the right diet, do the right exercise, wear the right clothes, have the right hair, wear the right make-up, be the right age, etc, etc, life and the passage of time have a way of trying to lay you low.

You’re going to get older. You’re going to get ill from time to time. You might have a baby.  You might have a disfiguring accident.  Life isn’t full of many certainties but I know this for sure; nobody is beautiful forever.

Why then do we invest so much time and effort on pinning our happiness to something so fleeting? Something so hard to define anyway? Something which is actually far more subjective than we give it credit for?

No answers on a postcard please because this was, of course, a rhetorical question. I’m well aware of why women need to be beautiful (*cough* patriarchy) but that’s a blog post all of its own.

I don’t want to push the notion of beauty at my daughters. I want this to be the last word they use to describe themselves.  They are smart.  They are funny.  They are kind and imaginative and spirited and adventurous and thoughtful and loyal and fierce and a thousand other things that they’ve not even learned to be yet. I will not limit their potential by pinning their future happiness on something as nebulous as beauty, for as soon as you set this as your goal what you’re actually striving for is the approval and validation of others. Self worth has to depend on more than what we see in the mirror, but unfortunately it so seldom does.

In my efforts to be more God centred, it is to Him I look when seeking approval and affirmation. Why do I not look to myself? Well, I’ve proved time and time again that I am no judge of my own behaviour, or of my own esteem; I regularly find myself wanting or paradoxically, I rate my own efforts too highly.  My opinion of me can’t be trusted.

How then does God see me? How does He see my daughters?

Psalm 139, verse 14, tells us:

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Or, in the NLT version:

Wonderfully complex.

When my daughter’s ask me that dreaded question: Do I look beautiful Mummy? I will think twice before enthusiastically answering with a resounding yes. Instead, I will answer with this:

Darling, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are too complex to be merely beautiful. You are unique and you are eternally precious. You are loved. And despite what this world will try to tell you, you are enough.
 Are you beautiful?
 No. 
You are so much more than that.

The Breeders

By @planetcath 

 I’m a lesbian. I’m also a mother, and my child is male. I had sex with a man (married him, no less!) and we had a child together. There. Cards on the table, does this make me a traitor to the cause?

Well, possibly. Lesbian Separatism dictates that women should withdraw their labour from men, that this is the only way to dismantle patriarchy and thus liberate women from male oppression. Withdrawing your labour applies to every area in which you might ‘serve’ a man. So, for those women in relationships with men it means stopping your unpaid, undervalued labour in the home, and withdrawing all sexual services.

Those women who have sexual relationships with men and have children as a result of those encounters are sometimes known as Breeders. It’s possibly one of the less attractive aspects of radical feminism. To apply such a term to fellow sisters, a term that reduces them down to their reproductive capabilities is, without argument, pretty offensive and dehumanising. Not only that, but it flies in the face of what I perceive to be feminism. A love for your sisters shouldn’t manifest itself in offensive terms such as that. A commitment to make the world safer and more supportive for women does not include a sneering disparagement of their choices or circumstances. And, I guess, this is where me and radical feminism part company briefly. There are no ‘choices.’ There are only decisions made under the influence of patriarchy, which is true. But we make our ‘choices’ based on what we know at the time, what is expected, what has been expected since we were born. I had a fairly unsettled childhood and a chaotic adolescence. I met my husband when I was 18 and involved in the Militant movement. We married when I was 21, I was pregnant by 22.

I can see why I made the choices I made but I don’t regret them. My son is almost 24 and is an adult who has faced numerous challenges and health problems with acceptance and patience. He is his own person but I would like to think that, as a feminist, I’ve helped to nurture him into the loving, kind, respectful man he is.

Lesbian Separatism dictates that we don’t focus on men. That whatever problems men face is generally of their own doing – a result of patriarchy – and therefore they can sort themselves out. Women should not be derailed from the cause to pick up the pieces or fulfil any specified gender role of caring. I get it. I really do.

And not only do I get it, I believe it. For men as a class I genuinely couldn’t care less really. But I resent being considered a traitor or a breeder. I am neither. I am a woman who made choices based on my experiences and beliefs at the time. That makes me just like every other woman. I will never apologise for being a mother because it has shaped my life and taught me some valuable lessons. If you expect apologies for ‘breeding’ then you will be sadly disappointed. I am so much more than my reproductive system, and I am so much more than a mother. But I am also both of these things and it feels ok to me. I don’t think any woman should have children if she doesn’t want them. That’s a fundamental part of radical feminism. We are not here to ‘breed’ for ‘breeding’ does little more than reinforce women’s role as the caregiver, nurturer. By having children we harm our careers, make ourselves vulnerable to attack and abuse, and become reduced to unpaid labour. But there has to be another way. A way in which we can acknowledge the political implications of having children, and understand and accept the circumstances of those women that do.

No woman was born a radical feminist. It’s is a journey that we undertake when we’re ready and not all of us follow the same path.  So remember that when you dismiss women as breeders you are dismissing your sisters who are standing right next to you.

 

“I am not a fucking breeder”

A powerful piece that includes graphic descriptions of male violence 

By SLC

The word “breeder” means more to me than any word should mean to a person, but I guess that’s the modus operandi of slurs. I want to start off by saying that I am not a mother. I am not a mother and I will never be a mother, by choice, in large part due to the word “breeder.” I wanted to write this post for *my* mother, and for the mother I’ll never be but could have been, had that pesky little word not informed my worldview so early.

Before I get into my personal relationship to the word, I’d like to offer up a real-time example of the damage that word has done to society, to the legal system, and to the media.

Enter, exhibit 1:

http://www.post-gazette.com/local/2014/09/25/New-charges-filed-against-Wilkinsburg-mother-in-child-endangerment-case/stories/201409250308

The title of this article is “WILKINSBURG MOTHER FACES NEW CHARGES.” Okay, I’ve clicked this article to read of the mother’s purported crimes, right Mr. Headline?

Now, here’s the first paragraph:

A Wilkinsburg woman accused this month of endangering the welfare of her 11-month-old son was charged Thursday with five more crimes, and hours later, the boy’s father surrendered on charges that he abused her and also put the child in danger.

Well, shucks… seems to me this story is less about the *alert!!* *alert!!!* CRIMES OF A MOTHER and more about the abuse the mother and child suffered at the hands of the father. Let’s see if I’m right.

Ms. Salter’s attorney, Blaine Jones, described her as “the victim in all of this.”

“She did everything that evening not only to protect herself from being assaulted, but also to protect her child,” he said.

Ah, so I was on to something there, huh? I had my suspicions. What is the father’s role in all this, pray tell?

In a criminal complaint charging Mr. Bryant, borough Officer Michael Bender wrote that police went to Ms. Salter’s home about 1 a.m. Sept. 13 for a report of a domestic dispute and a possible child abuse incident.

According to the complaint, Ms. Salter told police she was asleep in bed with her son, Daviere, when Mr. Bryant forced his way in, walked up to her room and pushed the TV off the dresser and onto the bed, striking the boy in the head.

Ms. Salter told police he left, and she put the boy in a car seat and placed him on the back porch while she packed some items to leave, the complaint continues. Mr. Bryant arrived minutes later saying, “Why did you hit my son?” and hit Ms. Salter, police wrote.

Sweet child, what happened to you?

Officer Bender wrote in another criminal complaint for Ms. Salter that he arrived to find “a small child lying on the bed with large bruising and bleeding wounds to his head and face.”

The child was taken to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, where staff found “a tear inside his mouth from an object being shoved with great force into his mouth,” the officer wrote in the complaint.

Hospital staff members “also confirmed what we had originally thought, that the child had suffered from multiple injuries over a period of time, because you could see various forms of healing on the child’s face and head,” the officer wrote.

The injuries, the officer continued, “were not consistent with just falling or bumping into things, which was the story given to me by the mother.”

Ah-ha! So, the “story given…by the mother” was a LIE! Surely THIS is the part of the article where we hear about the mother’s role in all this, right? I mean, “WILKINSBURG MOTHER FACES NEW CHARGES” certainly leads us to believe that this woman must be guilty of *something.*

In May 2013, Ms. Salter filed for a protection-from-abuse order against Mr. Bryant, claiming that he’d been “harassing and stalking” and threatening her, had broken into her home and grabbed her.

In April, after Mr. Bryant did not appear at a hearing, a judge ordered that he have no contact with Ms. Salter for three years.

In addition to the warrant in this case, Mr. Bryant had an outstanding warrant from March on trespassing and disorderly conduct charges and another from April on charges including sexual assault and burglary.

Oh. I see now. In fact, I see these all the fucking time, so I will share what’s obviously actually occurred here: the father abuses both mother and child, mother files a PFA which should have lasted until 2016, but the father shows up, becomes violent, leaves for a minute, and in this time mom tries to hurriedly pack necessities after securing the child in the car. The woman has an escape plan. This has happened before. She knows what to do. And wouldn’t ya know it, when the cops arrive, dad points the finger squarely at mom. “SHE did all this. I, sexual batterer and serial abuser, absolve myself of any wrongdoing. See that she is hanged for her crimes.”

The media runs this article with the title “WILKINSBURG MOM FACES NEW CHARGES.”

The word “breeder” is silent in this woman’s story, in this article, but nevertheless inextricable from it in ways I’ll get to after offering up some background.

I am a second year law student with plans to practice in family law in Pittsburgh. (Plug: if you haven’t heard of the agency KidsVoice, please get acquainted and share.) This Wilkinsburg mom, now being maligned by our city’s biggest newspaper via a misinformed, sexist, garbage headline, is someone I will call Woman X.

Interning for a judge this summer in criminal and mental health court, I saw many Woman Xs. A pattern emerged: man is violent toward Woman X, (other women, too), Woman X is too frightened to leave and fears not only for her life, but the life of her friends and family members. Woman X then bears children with Man Y and the once private hell in which Woman X bravely suffered, alone and abandoned, has become an entirely new nightmare, but one populated with a tiny new life that shows her a love she has most likely never knew was possible. This tiny new life is the seed that grows alongside her new thoughts, thoughts like tangled branches which, before the seed, only had purpose when providing shade, blocking the sun. For the first time, with the possibility of this new life, those branches sprout flowers and bear leaves, and Woman X whispers to herself, wistfully, “She leaves.”

Most Woman Xers say the same thing when we see them in court filing PFAs: “It was one thing when he hit me, I could take it, but when I realized the children were in danger…” then quietly trail off, knowingly, humiliated. Woman X bears the sad, hardened countenance of a shell shocked soldier, but one who put make up on that morning, curled her hair, put on jewelry, shaved her legs, and tried to pick out an outfit that could communicate to the judge what she was too ashamed to have to ask for, something that says, “Please believe me, find me credible.” Does this blouse make me look like I’m telling the truth? It is almost invariably due to the birth of her children that Woman X begins to think: “Maybe I don’t have to live like this anymore… how far would he go with Baby X? I can’t afford to pay for a disabled child by myself…”

And so Woman X summons the courage to file a PFA, knowing all the while that an act so brazen, so unlike her submissive, battered nature, is sure to douse gasoline all over the fires raging around her. Man Y will see this as an attack and will want revenge. Woman X knows this. For the millionth time in her life, Woman X is between Scylla and Charybdis: don’t file, suffer the continuous abuse of you and your child with no end in sight; file, risk enraging him further — to the point of mortal danger — but at the very least maybe, just MAYBE, she can gain some type of recourse against him if he violates the order…assuming she and her child walk away with their lives after such a choice.

The sad truth is, PFAs and restraining orders do nothing to stop a man intent on harming you from doing so. As the bodies of women and children continue to pile up, this should outrage someone other than me. Even more enraging is the tale-as-old-as-time tactic abusers always use and frequently get away with: pointing the finger at a Bad Mommy. People come out with their pitchforks and torches for Bad Mommies, and Man Y uses this to his advantage with a smugness that would revolt you. I can’t tell you how many men I’ve heard justify their abuse by twisting everything around to make it seem as if his “stopping” her was really just a valiant act to protect the child from his/her bad, bad mommy. This is why so many women get arrested with their abusers. This is how so many children end up temporarily orphaned and left to agencies or to the state.

The child is in the care of the Office of Children, Youth and Families, she said. Mr. Bryant told his attorney that Ms. Salter is four months’ pregnant with his child, Ms. Williams said.

The cycle continues, and with it, a new life I wish I could rescue before it became another target for dad. I have to remind myself constantly that in two years I will be passing the bar. To calm down, I have to repeat with quiet fury, “One day, I will come for you. I’m on my way.”

The treatment of women, in particular mothers, by the media, by the “justice” system, and by society at large should be viewed through the lens of that insidious, nefarious, vile word “breeder.” When used to refer to a mother, the word does three very powerful things: 1.) it reduces a woman to little more than a means to an end, a vehicle, a mere function, but one barred from ever serving itself lest it fail to constantly serve men; 2.) because it’s pejorative in nature, it connotes not the act of giving birth, bringing new life, displaying power, but instead antonymous associations of emptiness and worthlessness; 3.), and perhaps most troubling, the sum of 1.) and 2.) creates a culture that separates a woman from her body via an erasure of the authority and symbolism of the body-specific organs that define her very existence in a patriarchal society. In effect, it is words like “breeder” that embolden headlines like “WILKINSBURG MOM FACES NEW CHARGES,” validate men’s abusive treatment, and justify the hostile actions toward female litigants whose peril and struggle is wholly ignored or misconstrued for the benefit of men everywhere.

My mother and I suffered abuse at the hands of my father, but she was able to divorce him when I was three. My childhood was messy and far too complicated to try to flesh out here, but know this: my mother never actually escaped my father. He stole me away and destroyed her entire life for years and years and years long after the divorce. It is because of him she spent years homeless, lost decent jobs, lost good men who wanted to be with her, lost me. And I am 24 years old and my father continues to berate, harass, and emotionally abuse me, though thankfully, the physical abuse hasn’t occurred in some time.

One of my father’s favorite ways of hurting me psychologically was to repeat the phrase, “YOU’RE GONNA END UP JUST LIKE YOUR MOTHER.” This cut to my core because of the disturbed things such a statement communicated. My mother is a very broken woman, struggles with PTSD and anxiety, depression, drug abuse. She’s also the smartest, kindest, most fascinating woman I’ve ever known. The irony is, my mother “ended up” that way because of the torture my father committed against her, the torture that, in the very moment he was saying it, he was committing against me. Without realizing it, he was saying, “I am hurting you right now and so you will end up just like her,” all the while believing he was saying, “You are just as worthless as your mother was.” He is, and was, too dense to see the darkness in that.

All my life, my father tried to brainwash me into making “mother” and “worthless” synonymous. Bad mommy. It had a tremendous and distressing effect on my child-mind. To my father, my mother was a means to end, and that end was me. To him, my mother was just a vessel for his rage, a vehicle upon which he could project the insecurities that consumed him. In essence, to him, my mother was a “breeder.” Nothing more and, on a particularly bad day, maybe even far less, though I don’t know what exists beneath that which has been erased.

My mother eventually came back into my life at 16 when she showed up on our doorstep, homeless, living out of her car. That day was the greatest of my life so far. I believed my mother was there to save me, take me away from my abusive father, my abusive grandmother, and the madhouse I so desperately needed respite from. After many terrible things I would rather not relay, we did manage to escape when I was 17 by moving (halfway through my senior year) to West Virginia. For the first time in my life, the two of us, mother and daughter, were truly free. We had autonomy and we had each other. Life was finally starting. We no longer had to live in fear. I basked in the newfound control I had over my body and my mind. So this is what it’s like, I’d muse. If you’ve never had control over your body and then one day, suddenly, you actually do, the most overwhelming, awe-inspiring sense of peace consumes you, and even as I write I can think of no analogue for the type of soul-restoration it facilitates.

But that all ended fairly shortly, as within my first month of moving, still 17 years old, the age at which my mother married my then-28 year old father, I discovered I was pregnant. To make matters worse, we were broke, and I was still on my father’s insurance, which meant that I would have to raise the funds for the procedure by myself so he wouldn’t find out. I had just regained control over my body, only to have that control stripped away in an instant. I was devastated, panicked, but most of all, I was furious. All that fear and indignation manifested itself in the irate mantra I screamed internally: I AM NOT A FUCKING BREEDER. I AM NOT A FUCKING BREEDER. I said this to myself. I said this to others. Though I did not know it then, I was using the abusive language of my father and flogging myself with it. (I still suffer from this. My mother does, too.)

My father has never used the word breeder, to my knowledge, but he never had to. He implanted the connections for me and forced me to listen to it over and over again as if professionally brainwashing me: your mother à worthless à breeder. Womanhood à worthless à breeder. He sealed his cruel words with strikes against my body, as if to demonstrate the physical manifestation of just what he meant… ya know… in case I didn’t get it. And now, here I was, pregnant. Shaking, terrified, saying this to myself and anyone who would help me or hear me: I am not a fucking breeder. Seven years later I can tell you what I was really saying was, I am not worthless. The conflation of “breeder” and “worthless” had become so ingrained in me.

Because I live in a country where I had access to an abortion clinic, because my mother is wonderful and took off work to drive me and sign off for me, and because I had some very generous friends to help me pay for it, I was able to have my abortion. I would not become, as I had feared, a breeder. I would not become my mother. I would not become worthless. This was my mindset at 17 years old.

But the trauma of this event, having taken place at such a precarious, crucial moment in my race for bodily autonomy, has never left me. The act of being pregnant was such a violation at that time in my life that I am incapable of desiring such a thing ever again. Because of my childhood, pregnancy, for me, is just another act of violence that I cannot control.

In summation, the word “breeder” is used by men to oil the wheels of domestic violence. It advocates for turning reality upside down and inside out so that Man Y can abuse his girlfriend and child while the headline about it will deceitfully disgrace the abused woman instead of calling foul on the real agent of chaos in that family. “Breeder” poisons the precious mind of the victim who, maybe like me as a little girl, used to keep herself sane by reassuring herself, “I’ll get out of here some day and I’ll have people who love me. I’ll be such a good mommy and everyone will be safe and happy.” If some of those victims really are like me, that dream will be violently squashed. I am not a fucking breeder. I am not a fucking breeder.

I am, however, my mother’s daughter. I turned out just like her. Radical feminism has shown me that, precisely for those reasons, I am one of the lucky ones.

 

What if everything negative you’ve been told about mothering was wrong?

By @thrupennybit – first published on All Mothers Work 

I want to look at the common complaint of ‘feeling invisible’ that many, if not most, mothers will describe at some time or another, and offer a new way of looking at why this might be, and at reframing that feeling.

In our society, our androcentric, misogynist, and capitalist society, I believe that women are shaped and posited as commodities for men. I have long been influenced by the French feminist, Luce Irigaray, who first put forward this theory in her seminal work, This Sex Which Is Not One (1977).

In a nutshell, in such a society, all exchange is conducted between men. Therefore, the only place for women, and their only contribution, is as a commodity for exchange between men. This commodification usually takes the form of sexual objectification. Females are defined by their exchange status; as a commodity available for exchange and for what they offer in terms of exchange value.

This exchange system, which underpins our society, unconsciously teaches males and female their part in it. It becomes the identity and worth of women without them realising it, even if they would find the concept highly offensive when described to them. Even though it is a flawed and imbalanced form of identity, it is a normalised and approved-of identity nevertheless.

So what happens to women when they become mothers and their exchange value drops or even ceases? As mothers, we are de-commodified, and we are de-sexualised and de-objectified (to a lesser extent), especially so if the mother breastfeeds her child(ren). This holds true regardless of a mother having an active sex life (hey, stranger things have happened, right?!). What then, can patriarchy ‘do’ with us? What worth do we have, what point is there to women if they are not defined by what they can be for men, give to men? In Irigaray’s theory of exchange value, women do have value as mothers, but I think this is no longer true in a system where the capital that women can produce is now valued above the work they do as mothers. The importance of mothering cannot be denied on a basic level, however, for men need women to bear their children and to raise them for them, especially as their system defined mothering as demeaning. How then, can they re-objectify us?

The answer, for some men (but certainly not all) is to recreate/maintain a hierarchical interplay between the two by the money they earn from working. Instead of money earnt being for all the family, in some cases the woman has to ask for, sometimes beg, and be grateful for money given to her. Paternalism is introduced and enforced, and thus the woman is redefined in terms of her relationship with and dependence on a man. Of course, the obvious solution would appear to be for the mother to re-enter paid employment. But that is just to re-commodify herself, re-enter a system that defines her in terms of her availability to men in some way, even if that feels more familiar and falsely powerful.

When mothers talk of losing their identity upon entering motherhood, this is always framed as negative. But I would like to offer the argument that part of the confusion and sense of feeling lost is because the mother has ‘unplugged’ from the matrix, as it were. She no longer has that identity as object and commodity, and, even though those are negative and unequal, they are, nevertheless, the ways in which she knows herself, or knows how to define herself, more importantly. What now, asks the mother. For some, the answer is to reclaim her former commodification and objectification. For others, new objectification is either accidentally or deliberately created – ‘better the devil you know’. Many more struggle and continue to feel lost, and find unhealthy outlets for their confusion and pain, often in negative parenting. Others find something new. Others realise the opportunities that motherhood gives them to be self-defined, free, autonomous and powerful. Helping women realise and experience this is at the heart of the work of AMW.

Commodities and objects are ‘things’; if we are not ‘things’, a patriarchal system cannot categorise us. We are half-formed things, not tangible, not fully real, in its eyes. Little wonder, then that we receive the constant conscious and unconscious messages, and reactions, from so many sources, that caring is a form of debasing, of lessening one’s self, of masochistically choosing to be subservient, as though anyone involved in caring is somehow a bit pathetic and lacking; too inadequate, feeble, incapable, or maybe plain old boring, to participate in ‘real life’.

Loving, helping and keeping vulnerable others happy, healthy, safe, and alive is, then, supposedly demeaning, whereas performing often meaningless undertakings for others we have to treat as our superiors, for monetary reward is empowering and worthwhile. Well, I call bullshit on that. Having to grit my teeth whilst some twat in a suit, who talks down to me even though he’s easily 10 years younger, pulls fuckwitted ideas out of his arse in an interminably long meeting, or running around a park pretending to be a magical flying cat with an amazing, hilarious, scrumptious child who worships me like a living god? It’s no contest for me. Hell, I’d even do it for free… Oh, wait, I DO do it for free!

It might seem strange to some people to talk of motherhood bringing autonomy and self-definition when one’s identity often feels subsumed with that of one’s child or children, particularly in their infancy. However, here again, I see profound power and strength of self. Not only do we find the maturity, lack of ego and rejection of unhealthy types of power to prioritise our own needs according to those of others dependent on us, or with more urgent needs, we eschew implementing hierarchy and superiority in relationships where we actually hold all the power. We hold the power over our children, even if it doesn’t feel like that at times! And yet, we do not make ourselves ‘the boss’, or objectify them. We endlessly find myriad ways to shape and help them, all with a determination not to dominate or oppress them into acquiescence. All this, again, is a rejection of, and refusal to participate in patriarchy and androcentrism. I’m not saying that motherhood holds all the answers to unlocking total self-definition and fulfilment, just that it is far from the dull and demeaning experience and rôle that it is too often depicted as.

No wonder motherhood confuses, repulses and scares misogynists. They do not know what to do with us, now we’re not sexual objects, or capitalist commodities. Now for the good news: when someone does not know what to do with you, YOU get to define that for yourself. The question is, can we find a way to do this when our whole lives up to this point have been about having it clear that we mustn’t and shouldn’t define ourselves. The answer to that is, we must, however strange or hard it might be. In a truly equal society, even discussing this sort of thing would be seen as bizarre. Let that thought keep you angry enough to not stop pushing to always be yourself. – EP

In further articles, I will discuss how to redefine oneself and find ways of working (including for pay) that does not commodify one as a women (or is as non-commodifying as is possible for anyone in a capitalist state), and also look at why mothering is made invisible, or inconvenient, in depictions of, and discussions about, daily life and ‘real’ life, and what we can and should do to address that, to normalise, reposit, and to more correctly represent parenting within societal understanding.

Anxiety; it’s a bastard

You don’t have to be a parent or a feminist to suffer from anxiety, but amazing how many do….

opinionatedplanet

Like a dead weight around my body, paralysing and pulling me down into a pit of self loathing and fear.
I smile and nod, attempt to mask the all encompassing fear of the world.
My head is filled with a thousand thoughts, all of them worries magnified beyond belief.
Logic and reason hover like a tiny, wafer thin thread holding me to the ground. The slightest rip and it will go, floating off in to the light and leaving me plunged into the darkness.

I have to get out of bed. I have to go to work. I have to blank my mind in order to function because the fear of telling people why I can’t is too great.
Where does it come from, this overwhelming sickness? I can trace it back and see the beginnings but I can’t see how to make it go away.
Go for a walk…

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