A (chronically) fabulous weekend

I had *such* a good weekend-hosting another ace LB party, followed by a 36hr mates movie weekend of late nights & being up early enough for McDonalds breakfast (with 2hrs to spare-such is our dedication to fitting in an extra movie!).

The cost of this fabulous exertion for me, however, is increased aches, pain & more tiredness than my non chronic-pain-enduring friends. So instead of doing the few things on the To Do list I diligently wrote up before bed yesterday, to do when my mates had left, I crashed on the sofa & napped instead of going to church this eve (very disappointing as it’s a great talk topic at the mo!); dinner was brought to me on the sofa by my kind husband who knew enough to rouse me to eat tonight when I’d have rather slept but actually needed the energy & enjoyment of the eating more (he’s a keeper!). The weekend’s activities were absoluteeely worth it (!!!) but in hindsight, having the movie weekend off the back of the party was over zealous social planning (I can hear other chronic-pain endurers going ‘duh!’).

OK, I know that describing two days of mooching on the sofa watching (brilliant) films & eating guest-made treats as ‘exerting’ sounds ironic but it’s not. I also know I am FORTUNATE! Yes I wake in pain every day & sometimes cry in pain or, moreso, from the physical & emotional tiredness from it but, hello, I danced, chatted, served, laughed & ate & drank from Friday to Sunday, & had more fabulous fun & conversation than many healthier peeps this weekend! Amidst the hosting, I let my friends/guests wash up each morning while I got my pilates groove-on cos hey, I’ve learned how to receive love & help (well, am learning), & also because I believe that it’s kind to let others show love & appreciation through service if they want to.

The time with mates has been so wonderfully nourishing for me mentally & emotionally as we watched great stories, had fun & scintillating conversation, deepened new friendships & ate & drank heartily. But it’s also been two eves in a row of 5-6hrs sleep for a body that needs-& rarely gets-9+hrs to be rested, but which will still wake in aches & pain every single morning regardless of how many hours sleep it gets, cos, y’know, chronic pain life. Nonetheless, now I’m more & more aware, & ACCEPTING, of the need for chronic pain *self-care* planning, I’m learning to plan better in future. So I’ve written off the To Do list: I’ll just have to suck in choir practice tomorrow as I haven’t the energy to rehearse tonight, & I am cashing in on the on the best perk of my job (well second best after the free coffee!) & am going to work from home tomorrow-a luxury for which I am immeasurably grateful!! So this is me being open. As I write that my face is saying ‘ugh’ as I hate vulnerability & showing any weakness! But, I’ve realised that is colluding with internalised ignorant societal norms which dictate that physical & mental health = strength when, in fact, it takes *real strength* to recognise, accept & acknowledge one’s needs & limitations. So here are some of mine laid bare. And they don’t make me any less (chronically) fabulous!

Different Loves

It transpires that I am a big fan of love triangles & love choices: Mansfield Park, Persuasion and down the less sophisticated end of the Literary scale, The Hunger Games & Twilight.  I love critiquing the choices these women make (ugh, Bella, yay Katniss & Fanny Price!) because I believe ultimately Love is a choice. So here’s a short poem trying to articulate how these heroines, & real life people since time immemorial, can love two people, & love the very things that make them different-& then make a choice to love & live with one.
The love she has for him sparkles and fizzles with bright energy,
Like a crackling fire,
Bright, warming, comforting and hot…
But releasing the occasional spark that may burn her skin & heart.
Watching for these is wearying.
The love she has for him flows and melts like a current of water,
Refreshing, rhythmic and peaceful, yet strong, upholding and life giving
That love is like Nordic air, revitalising her soul and cleansing my mind.
The love she has with him tastes like Ghanaian stew,
So rich, flavourful, & nourishing.
But sometimes too spicy & powerful.
The love she has with him is like fresh, warm crunchy bread and Camembert,
Hearty, warming, gentle yet with texture;
Each mouthful moreish and delicious.
One love is rich red, burnt orange, bright amber…intense and warm and hot.
One love is turquoise, azure like the richest tropical ocean, strong and deep and refreshing.
Both loves are colourful, the colour one chooses is a matter of asking :
What colour do you want your life to be?
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Photo: Pinterest

You (Don’t) Complete Me…and That’s OK!

Any movie fan or anyone with ears recognises the line ‘You complete me’, those heart-warming words uttered at the end of the movie Jerry Maguire that prompted a collective ‘awwww’ from cinema audiences across the world.

They are, however, bollox.

Ok, I overstated that for attention (gotcha!). But it’s a sentiment with which I’m definitely in conflict.  See, in many ways, yes, my husband completes me-I feel ‘home’ when in his arms and all that jazz and if everyone else around me got sucked into an earthquake crater, I’d be ‘OK’ with having just him survive (sorry folks).  Obviously, I’d be miserable and distraught but he’s the one human I root for before all others and the one whom I love the most.

But he does not ‘complete’ me (whatever that phrase even means!)…  And nor should he.  I am a multi-faceted person who enjoys philosophical, intellectual discussions one minute and Bunny Suicide cartoons the next; I love sociological films and also The Avengers (well not the last one!); I have enjoyed reading Shakespeare and also Fifty Shades (judge away but there are several similar themes-frankly Juliet and Anastasia are both insipid characters!).  So no, my husband, one human being, does not complete me; that is what God made friends for. And music. And books. And TED talks. And work. And colleagues. And films. And travel. And sunshine. And gin. And prayer. And good food. (you get the gist).  No one person completes me and nor should they.

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And yet we see the myth of Romanticism take hold of so many relationships; the myth that our spouse/partner/other half is supposed to ‘complete us’ and be that one person to whom we turn before all others.

WHY the hell should he be that I ask? Why should the person with whom I share my bed & my life also have to be the one with whom I share my thoughts and feelings if they aren’t the best person for that particular job? Personally, I am blessed with some close friends who share my social joys, intellectual passions and mirror my own emotional intelligence and interests. Some who love watching Grey’s Anatomy and discussing the ‘characters’ as if they’re our friends; others who love discussing sociological, political or relationship ideas, and who allow me to hone and critique my thoughts by listening to their views on issues that are my equivalent of mental/emotional oxygen… and the equivalent of disposable scented razors to David (yes, they are ACTUALLY a thing, ugh).

So no, my beloved, wonderful partner does not ‘complete me’. And for me, THIS is the splendidly ingenious recipe of being ‘completed’… My husband gives me the support and confidence to think (& use him as a sounding board when like-minded & interested friends are unavailable) and the loving space to actively seek & invest in relationships with people who will nurture & stimulate me in the interests & areas where we diverge (and I do the same for him).

And in THIS gracious, creative way we go some way to completing each other far more than we ever could in and of ourselves.  By supporting me in finding my people, reading the books, listening to the talks, dancing to the music, preaching the sermons, travelling to the places (without him), laughing at different comedy & socialising with friends he doesn’t wanna spend an evening with (& those he does!) my husband does help to complete me.

So let’s please discard the deceitful myth of a partner’s role being to complete us. And breathe life into the truth that a partner’s role is instead to nurture us to seek out & find the beautiful variation of people, ideas, and ways of life which, along with our partner’s deep love & faithful support, pour life into us-not to ever be ‘complete’… but to be grown.

 

 

A Feminist’s Defence of Fifty Shades Darker

Now, as an avowed feminist and Christian I know I may be an odd choice to be writing a blog defending Fifty Shades and I genuinely didn’t think I’d be bothered enough but then, of course, the articles denouncing it as abuse, and encouraging people to boycott it did the rounds and I got pissed off, again. So here I am.

I have read all the books (including the one from Grey’s perspective which, being less whiny, is my fave) but I wasn’t sure about seeing the films for some of the same reasons people have given in their condemnatory articles: unhealthy example of a relationship, perpetuating the hyper-sexualisation already dominating our culture (pun intended), maybe negatively influencing my own sexual ideas and, maybe most importantly, the crappy dialogue.  But I caved. Because I love dramatic love stories with happy endings (no pun intended-actually, I’ll stop saying when puns are/aren’t intended because practically anything could be a pun given how sexually creative they are!!).  And just as with Twilight, the simplistic writing, bad relationship example, and pathetic heroine still grabbed me because I was hooked on the love story (I’m ridiculous, I know!).

So here’re my thoughts re Fifty Shades. Firstly, it is NOT ABUSE. It is NOT un-consensual. For starters, he gives her a bloomin contract with a buffet-list of sexual proclivities from which she chooses what she’s up for and what are her definite no nos.  Furthermore, it’s her who chooses what’s she’s up for and what’s off the table and whenever she uses her safe words or says no it’s a NO.  That’s gotta be the most consensual, communicative start to a sexual relationship ever.  In fact, one the only time she gets hurt is when she, ironically, tried to use BDSM with which she’s not comfortable in a stupid attempt to emotionally manipulate him (instead of using the mouth God gave her to say ‘Hey, if we can’t cuddle & fall asleep together I can’t keep seeing you.’) Yes, he IS demanding, controlling and domineering -he tells her this in their sex-contract-meeting so it’s not a surprise.  And yet, in book/film two they only go into the playroom or do any kind of BDSM when she initiates it; we see her saying No, arguing, and drawing boundaries.  Yes, hers are looser than mine would be but she’s hardly the first pathetic female lead…she’d be in good company drinking and whining with Carrie from Sex and the City, Bridget Jones or, of course, Bella from Twilight-on whom she’s based.

So sexually there’s no abuse.  In fact, I commend the latest film for the two scenes of cunnilingus-seeing a woman’s pleasure prioritised in a film is so rare and to show this strong man doing it can surely only have a good effect on dismantling the idea that it’s unmanly so well done Fifty!

fifty-shades-darker                                        Image: Happy Naila Edits

As for their emotional relationship, my goodness is it unhealthy but, to me…that is as someone who sadly knows women who have been abused in varying ways…it is not abusive.  Yes, he’s an over-protective control freak and she’s insipid.  This film, Fifty Shades Darker, actually goes a long way to improve things.  In the books, they’re both in need of serious therapy (which he’s getting) but this film makes Ana’s character more assertive, likeable and generally less pathetic and wet (ok, that pun was unintended but it’s funny so hey, it stays).  When Ana wants to say No or challenge him (cue the movie hairdresser scene), she does.  And in the film her times of compromise are clearly through conversation and negotiation; even though I, as a strong-willed woman would have definitely not caved where she does (cut to NY trip convo), she isn’t emotionally manipulated or dominated but rather weighs up the options and makes a choice that suits her best.  Sounds rather feminist to me.  Of course, the reasons she makes the choices she does are because a) she’s in love for the first time and we are all a little pathetic when those hormones are flying. b) she has lowwww self-esteem but again, I know real life women-and plenty of fictional ones-who seek their affirmation from a man and to give Christian Grey his credit, he’s always encouraging her that’s he’s capable, intelligent, beautiful and worthy of his affections when she asks stupid, doe-eyed questions like ‘why would you want me?’

So no, Anastasia Steele is not up for the best Feminist Icon in Fiction award, nor is Christian Grey Mr ‘I Love to Compromise’. But the film is far better than the book re showing her as a more assertive, confident, independent young woman growing in her career and love life and skin. So watch it or don’t. But let’s not condemn it when we don’t decry the same pathetic characters in other movies, and let’s definitely not decry ‘abuse’ when there are so many real women (& men) who are being abused.

Me Before You-let’s kill disabled people?

OK, I have been looking forward to today for months: today is *the day* that Me Before You is released. And what a hoo ha there is about it! So I feel the need to wade into the debate-well attack-on the film.  I’ve read the book-unlike many who are commenting & even protesting, ugh!  To be more precise, I actually stayed up until 9am in the morning to finish it and then re-read it the same week.

And it definitely is *not* an ‘anti-disability’ book. Not a ‘snuff movie’ (Lol). Not a pro-euthanasia book. And not an anti-euthanasia one. These labels and criticisms miss the amazing depth and range of this story:

It is a story about love-of self and life and others.

It is about freedom-from fear, from shame, from doubt.

It is about class and hardship.

It is about family.

It is about hope.

It is about dreams and loss.

And it is about disability and euthanasia.

Yes, the chap (SPOILER alert!!!) wants to be euthanised. But that’s not making a judgement that all disabled people want to die, should want to die or should simply be killed without choice (yep, some ejits are actually suggesting that’s the film’s message!).

me before you protest pic(Hmm, only willfully offended people could take that message)

It’s saying this particular character wants to.  And that is his story and his choice. And as with all euthanasia choices it is based on both his physical condition and his personality.

Physically he is stuck. He’s not just ‘in a wheelchair’, he’s a quadriplegic: he can move one finger and his neck. A little. While that is tragic and horrid, it is something many people accept and live with and are happy in spite of-hence they aren’t asking for euthanasia.  But he is not able, or not willing, to live with it. Again: it’s his story not all disabled people’s.

He’s also in recurring, agonising pain. I know pain. I am in pain every day, all day. And anyone who has chronic pain and says they haven’t even passingly thought about death is lying (or has amazing drugs!).  Unlike Will, however, when my pain is bad I can get up, I can move position, take a bath, take meds, go to sleep, drink some wine, or watch some distracting Grey’s Anatomy! Whereas he is stuck, immobilised with searing pains, oh and suffers frequent pneumonia, and also night terrors.

Again, many people accept that and live with it and are happy in spite of this. I hope I would if it were me, but I do not know. What we readers know is that He Is Not.

And that’s where character comes in: he says, painfully, ‘I know I could have a good life with you, even a great life’ (paraphrasing from memory so excuse me if not exact). But ‘I am not a man who accepts’. He will not adapt, accept and press on to design a new, adapted life-like the many happy or contented quadriplegic people also mentioned in the book.   He wants HIS old life back. His active, adventurous, full, independent, busy life.  And if he can’t have it he doesn’t want the life he’s stuck with. So he wants to un-stick himself and be killed (because he can’t do it for himself).

That is not anti-disability. It is the story of many chronically ill or disabled people. Thankfully not all and not most. But it’s valid and real and important and needs to be told.  SO let’s stop criticising and just start listening to these sad but different and valid views. (Oh, and I promise I’m not just saying this because Sam Claflin is in the film 😉 )

me before you poster