Aside

“When the night was full of terrors

And your eyes were full of tears

When you had not touched me yet

Oh, take me back to the night we met”

  • Lord Huron
Advertisements

#Brenonas

My mini-speech at my little brother’s wedding, held on 25th November 2017 at City of Perth Library.

“I hope by now everyone has had a chance to have an oyster or six! What a moving ceremony that was – let’s have another round of applause for the gorgeous couple – Sofi and David!

For those of you who don’t know, I’m David’s older sister Jill and I’ll be your MC this evening. I’m going to wax lyrical for a couple of minutes and then run through some housekeeping for tonight.

Besides the lovely Kate, who I now have the honour of sharing big sister duties with, can I get a show of hands for how many older siblings we have in the party tonight? Okay…quite a few…great! So you’ll understand that when David and Sofi said “Can you come to our wedding and be the Master of Ceremonies,” what I heard was “Can you come to our wedding and boss everyone around?” “Of course, YES,” I said, after I’d stopped crying, “I can definitely do that.” In all seriousness, David didn’t have much of a choice about me ordering him about when we were kids, but I’m incredibly moved (and surprised!) that David has actively chosen this today. So thank you.

Now, this library has a special significance in our family, in that David’s and my Dad – Stephen – used to bring us here on the weekends. That was long, long before it was renovated. Although the building looks different, the memories are still here, and I know that those memories form an integral part of David’s essential makeup as a human being. Just as the library has been re-shaped from a solid foundation, so too have Sofi and David built upon their histories and the strength they share as a couple to form their lives together.

This is what they do! And they do it so well. Both of them build, create, design, beautify and dream, safe within the stability and love their connection provides. Both of them have the practicality and creativity to take things and together, make them better. You only have to look at David’s boat he built that wasn’t complete until Sofi sailed in it, their shared adventures in Brisbane, Sofi’s gorgeous art and design that David celebrates and supports, or the beautiful home they’ve made for themselves in Osborne Park. I think this building is a perfect symbol for how Sofi has helped shape David into the excellent man he is today. Not only for that, but I speak for all the Brennans when I say it represents the dynamic effect she’s had on our entire family. So thank you Sofi.

We’ll hear more about the wonderful couple when we have the speeches at 7pm. At 8pm Sofi and David will cut the cake and have their first dance. At 10.30pm I’m going to start bossing you around and telling you to leave the building. We absolutely have to be out of the library by 11pm, and as anyone who’s ever irritated a librarian knows, that is REAL.”

Thank you lil bro (and now lil sis!). Love you both xxx

Life/Death/Life

I recently became acutely aware that somewhere along the line, I got lost in the woods in relating to heterosexual men. This is a problem because I love them and one day, so the idea goes, I will probably end up hanging out with the same (lucky?) dude most days until I die. Or they die, whoever goes first. Prior to someone’s death it might be quite nice to have a pretty house, go on lots of holidays, have some kids, have lots of sex, smile and laugh a lot and eat some good food. That would be cool, and by the time this happens we’ll probably be able to coordinate a joint  Netflix stream directly to the Apple iChips in our brains. Sounds fun!

I know that if I want that to happen, and I do, I need to find some way to forgive men, find a gentler way of relating to them and stop being so cynical about their intentions. For this reason I chose a male psychotherapist, and I am slowly allowing myself to trust him in hope that a masculine influence will help me find a path back to healthy relationships. I need to acknowledge and understand my own role in creating difficult situations. It’s still a murky mess and I have no idea what I’m doing, but hopefully I’ll get there.  There are men who want relationships with me, there are men who want to be friends with me, there are men who want to be friends and have sex with me, there are men who only want to have sex with me.

I’m trying to understand that there’s nothing inherently cruel or dismissive about any of these options; I have wanted men in all of these different ways for my own reasons at some time or another. Sometimes the way they want me may not be clear to them straight away and this can make things confusing – it’s difficult for me to be patient with that but it’s what happens in life so I have to try. I am also striving to accept (and here’s the kicker), that someone wanting me in a different way to how I want them does not mean they think I’m unworthy or unloveable. It’s just two people wanting a human connection in two different ways.  I’m slowly accepting that the love I give as a friend is worth just as much, I suppose in some ways even more, than the love I could give as a partner. In an even bigger challenge, I’m becoming resolved to the fact that I have absolutely no control over how, or how much, another person wants me.

A mismatch in the ways two people want to be wanted by each other sometimes means it’s too hard to hang out, and the loss can feel really upsetting. It can be hard for both people not to feel bitter about not being able to get what they want or think they need from the other person. It may feel really lonely for a while. In Women Who Run With The Wolves, Clarissa Pinkola Estés explains the importance of embracing the  Life/Death/Life nature of femininity. In her most powerful form, a woman knows when to look at a situation she had previously nourished, and let it die. People are usually scared of this happening and rail against it, thinking that only death can follow death. In actual fact, nature makes it so that death always clears the way for more life. Allowing a situation in which two people are unhappy with how they relate to each other to die gracefully, clears a path for new life. I suppose in the case mentioned above, this could mean a new way of relating to each other that makes both parties happy, or it could just mean being able to move on and find what they want and need from other people without bitterness in their hearts.

I’m tired of being bitter, and I’m exhausted from being so angry for such a long time. I just want to be able to love, and sometimes loving someone means letting them go.

IMG_6376
DIAGRAMS HELP

I am growing

How do you act like you just don’t care?

Boys, boys, boys everywhere.

Telling you their innermost thoughts,

looking so kissable…fuckable.

Me too! I agree…

Want someone who’s into art, but who’s

down to earth, and smart enough

not to buy into the wank…

it’s you.

Wanting to be cool, but real.

To be ‘in’ you just can’t feel

(that’s so not fun).

So I fuck up once again,

my pride gets sacrificed to men.

To be a good time girl

you have to be a good time, girl.

Tits, ass, flirting, kissing, wrestling…

how dare you think it was something more?

How dare you…who do you think you are?

I am happy because i’ve set indifference as my default.

Pride means you are unempathetic,

narcissistic.

Can’t be proud to feel.

  • Untitled, 2010

#MattandMatt2017

On April 15th 2017 I gave a speech at my brother from another mother’s wedding at Tower Bridge. By popular demand, and because love is lovely, here it is:

“For those of you who don’t know me, I am Jill and I have been Matt Spicer’s friend since we were born only a month apart. We grew up in Armadale, Western Australia, and we both had the undercuts to prove it! I am absolutely honoured to be able to speak to you today about the kind of man Matt Spicer is, and to describe the incredible bond he has with his husband Matthew Coltrona.

I feel it is a cosmic blessing that Matt and I have always just ‘got’ each other. When I think back to our childhoods, I see a confident boy with sandy blonde hair, freckles, a wide smile and blue, mischievous eyes. I also see a girl with uncontrollable hair, a mouth that was always quick to laugh when she was with her best friend, as well as eyes that were sometimes filled with uncertainty.

Where I was shy, Matt was outgoing. Where I was hesitant to take risks, Matt was fearless. Where I was clumsy and couldn’t run, swim or catch a ball, Matt was zipping around barefoot in the bush, doing it all. We spent days in the pool playing mermaids, me in the shallow end and Matthew in the deep. We made Jane Fonda workout home videos (sadly lost in the mists of time). We had sleepovers when we would giggle and whisper all night long. We tormented our little brothers and Matt’s older sister, and they tormented us back. Our families spent every Christmas together and we would laugh at our parents dancing to Neil Diamond and walking straight through fly-screen doors. And always, always, when we knew it was time for one of us to leave, we would run as far away from the grown-ups as we could and hide, treasuring our time together up to the last second.

Matt’s gentle, accepting and patient nature helped me come out of my shell. He built me up, and my trust in him was, and still is, unshakeable. He was the first person with whom I ever cried with laughter, and is still one of the few people who can reduce me to helpless giggles with only a sideward glance, a pregnant pause or a drawn out syllable. Let’s face it, if someone can stay friends with you when you look like this, they’re a keeper.

New Doc 2017-04-14_3
Ew.

All of this has continued as we’ve grown older. Matt has always been there – reliable, stoic and practical as a lighthouse in stormy seas. I remember panicking in Matt’s car about moving out of home. As I wailed “But I don’t even know how to make SPAGHETTI!”, he calmly gave me a step-by-step explanation of how to boil pasta and make a bolognese sauce. No wonder his cooking is so good nowadays!

Don’t get me wrong, I have had some opportunities to repay the favour. I recall Matt’s 21st birthday dinner, when it became apparent he had downed one too many red wines. He disappeared off to the bathroom, with Megan and I following around 10 minutes later. Matt had generously repainted the restaurant’s hallway, and had taken a little nap in the stalls. We got him back on his feet, and as we were apologising and paying the bill, Matt staggered over and still tried to get the restaurant to accept his Entertainment Card voucher.

You can understand then, that when this dashing, handsome Italian man came along and made it beyond the impossible 4-month mark with my Matt in July 2005, I was slightly concerned that Matt Spicer, and our friendship, would not stay the same.

As it turns out, I was right. Neither of those things were ever the same. They have evolved, expanded, and experienced even more joy and boundless possibilities because of this wonderful person. Matthew Coltrona’s articulate wit combines with an intelligence matched only by his unquestionable moral fibre. He is something of a Renaissance man, enjoying a high-flying career whilst casually refurbishing pianos, writing and illustrating children’s books, churning out Michelin Star-quality meals, and all while laughing, feeling feelings and being a dream partner to my dearest friend.

I look towards their relationship as a model of what love should be. Honest, respectful, patient, accepting and supporting of each other’s endeavours, I have never heard them say a cruel word against the other, nor have I seen them turn away when there was an opportunity to turn towards. They have built countless memories and made innumerable commitments to each other. Their shared homes, their holidays, their ‘special’ dog Napoleon and their adventure to make a new life in London were all ways of saying “I love you.” The inclusion of their friends and family in many of these escapades were ways of saying “we love you.” Their strengths complement each other perfectly and I truly could not have imagined a better person for my dearest friend to spend his life with. I believe they have found their soulmate and I cannot imagine them apart.

What was my lighthouse has become a bridge. A bridge with two equal towers forged of concrete, steel and granite. Those towers are joined together with love, communication, integrity, lightheartedness and acceptance. The connection between them is strong enough to open sometimes and let the waters flow by, carrying away any resentments. Each tower is supported to stand upright from either side with the steady ties of their backgrounds, their families, the things that make them unique and the new, important and always delightful friendships they make along the way.

The bridge on which we celebrate tonight took 8 years to build and has stood for 122 years. As Matt and Matt enter their 12th year of building their future together, I have no doubt their bridge will stand steadfast for the rest of their lives, and will leave a lasting impression on all who behold it. I am utterly, utterly proud to be able to support that bridge, and I hope we are all able to admire its beauty as we do Tower Bridge’s beauty tonight.”

I love you guys xxx

 

Standing Still

I touched down in Perth almost two months ago. To be honest there is not a lot I remember about the 5 months preceding the 31st of December 2016. I have some crystal clear memories – frantically handing over my caseload to a fresh new Speech and Language Therapist, trying not to cry; power walking down the road in Seven Sisters to pick up some sleeping pills for my flight; staring up at the ceiling from the floor of my friend’s apartment on Christmas Eve; a vet tapping my dog’s eyeball to check if he is dead. The rest of it is hazy – nights wrapped up watching Now TV in my new room, staying on ‘my’ side despite there no longer being a claim on the other side of the bed. My friends’ loving and concerned faces on the opposite sides of pub tables…more nights spent on their couches or in their spare rooms, politely asking for permission to do simple things like boil the kettle or charge my phone, wishes that are of course granted but nonetheless would have warranted no such enquiry in my own nonexistent home. There are other memories too – the faces of the clients I took on in those months, the parents I met working as a nanny, the date I went on and the nice way I turned him down. The moments I could have been nasty but instead handed roses to a man while he lit me on fire. The warm faces of the family I lived with between my separation and my departure from London, making a gingerbread house with their 3 year old and watching their 1 year old son start to walk. Lying on their couch at midnight screaming into an empty house after being turned away from the couch I had previously owned; walking aimlessly around Brixton for I don’t know how many hours wearing a giant faux fur coat, holding a cardboard box with some soap and half a bottle of red wine and my dead dog’s collar and a ball he chewed before he died, crying and wishing that somebody, anybody would see me and ask me what’s wrong. Wondering why the crazy people aren’t trying to talk to me and realising that tonight, I am the crazy person, the invisible one, the one you shouldn’t make eye contact with. Someone comes up to look inside my box and walks away. It’s finally happened – I’m not going to be OK. Calling my parents at 4.50am and not forming words, crying, wailing like I have never wailed before, so much that my Mum who never cries starts crying. I take a strong sleeping pill on my flight and chase it down with a whiskey, waking up with an alarming pain in my leg and on the other side of the world.

Now I am standing still. There are no longer three jobs to do across three counties. There are no pets to look after. There is no relationship to tend, no baby to keep trying for. No house savings to add to. There are friends and family who keep me alive. And there is me, slowly coming out of survival mode and wondering where to put all of this adrenalin, these memories and this anger.

Social Story

Your name is Jill. You have just been dumped.

Sometimes being dumped doesn’t seem like a dumping at first, it seems a bit mutual. At some points it even seems like you should do the dumping, because sometimes people who want to break up try to convince their partners to break up with them first so they don’t have to. This is generally called Being a Coward. Doing this can make the person who was convinced they wanted the breakup to feel like they have made The Right Decision. This is mostly about protecting their own pride and trying not to be hurt.

After a couple of weeks, you might decide that despite your pride, you do not want to break up. You do not want to Not Touch, Stop Trying, Give Up Your Dreams, Not Speak To Him, Lose Your Best Friend, Move House, Not Be A Team, Give Up Your Dog, Force Yourself Not To Worry About Him, Live Separate Lives, Not Follow Each Other’s Dreams, Not Know Him Anymore, Have Sex With Other People, Become Past Tense. It is OK to not want these things. These things are very sad.

When the person who was supposed to be convinced realises they don’t want to break up anymore, it forces the person who wants to break up to give lots of Reasons. These Reasons can be categorised into Environmental Reasons (geography, employment, support network, crazy dog). They can also be Communication Reasons (avoiding talking about problems, being too bossy, being too passive, not saying the right words in the right tone of voice, using hints instead of direct communication). These Reasons are all Fixable. Once people start talking about them openly, they can be addressed. Sometimes people want to address them, sometimes people don’t. When people say they don’t want to address them and you do, it can make you feel confused and frustrated and ask ‘Why?!’ a lot.

The person who wants to break up will sometimes tell you about their Life Reasons (confused about life, what they want from life, what they think you want from life, think you are probably a Bad Thing in their life causing lots of trouble, think they are ruining your life, want a totally different life). Life Reasons seem a lot harder to Fix, but you say you are ready to live a better, less boring life too, with them! They don’t want you to. Sometimes people want to Let You Down Gently (this can also be called Being Confused depending on who you ask and what mood you are in), and when you ask if they still love you, they say yes. When you ask if they are still in love with you, they say yes. This is confusing in the context of them not wanting you to run away with them. People don’t always tell the truth. Not telling the truth is what humans do a lot of the time, so it is normal and Expected.

To the person who wants to break up, all of the above Reasons and related discussions would seem Enough. Sometimes the person who has wanted to break up has been thinking about it and getting ready for it inside their head for a long time. This means they start seeming OK sooner, and not wanting to talk anymore. They can be a bit relieved and start acting friendly. This is normal and happens to a lot of people – you have done this thing before when you have been the person who wanted to break up. It can be hard to understand that this is very hurtful.

Usually the person who wants to break up is the one who Leaves. But, in this situation, you are the one who has to Leave. This takes time to arrange, and this means that you have to share the house for a while. This is not a Usual Breakup Thing. The person who wants to break up thinks you should be friendly and be able to be around them in the same house without crying too much or talking too much or asking ‘If you still love me, why?!’ too much. You have to keep Doing Things like working, closing down your business, looking for somewhere to live, packing up all your things, realising you don’t have a job anymore after September (because you quit it to Follow Him Around). At first you want to seem like A Rational Person and show that you still love him and that he could change his mind if he wanted to. This makes the person who wants to break up feel comfortable and pleased by your acceptance. But eventually, having to do things that make you very scared about your life makes you feel upset and angry and ask ‘Why?!’ more. It makes you ask them to get out of the house and sleep on sofas. This can make the person who wants to break up feel frustrated and fed up with you.

Sometimes the person who wants to break up doesn’t understand your feelings anymore, or understands but doesn’t care as much. Sometimes they can’t understand why you’re so upset and why you can’t accept it’s over. This is normal. This means things happen like when you’re standing in the kitchen with them and they’re looking at you with cold eyes and a face they have never looked at you with before and they’re saying “I DON’T WANT TO BE IN A RELATIONSHIP WITH YOU” and “I’M NOT IN LOVE WITH YOU ANYMORE.” These things can make you feel like you have been punched in the chest. These things can make you realise this was always The Real Reason. The person who wants to break up can feel angry you made them say The Real Reason. Some people can infer The Real Reason themselves. You are not one of those people. You don’t pick up on hints easily and need people to spell things out for you (this was even a Communication Reason). Now it has been spelt out, you know.

Sometimes people stop loving each other. That’s OK, that’s normal. That happens a lot. In history, even your own personal history, this is not A Bad Breakup. Bad Breakups involve other people and smashing cars. Bad Breakups involve people’s life partners suddenly disappearing forever. Some people never get given any Reasons. If this was a movie you were watching, you might even be rooting for the person who wants to break up. You would find whimsical, life-affirming meaning in their Rumspringa (or Midlife Crisis, however you want to look at it). You might wish it were you who was strong enough to want to start their life again. But it isn’t a movie. In movies people sometimes come back, but this is real life and you know he will never come back. Even if he ended up thinking he was wrong, he would never, ever tell you. If he ever felt regret he would just cherish the pining, long stares, wounded eyes and heavy sighs it would elicit.

So now there is nothing you can do and you are Very Sad. Your eyes always seem heavy and you feel like a hollowed out shell-person. You’re not very hungry anymore. That’s normal – don’t panic. Some of your friends might say “He just needs some time alone and I’m sure it’s not over.” Some of your friends might say “You’ll look back on this and realise he did you a favour.” Some of your friends will say “You weren’t happy anyway, move on.”  Some friends will say “He didn’t mean what he said in the kitchen.” Most friends will say that what he said in the kitchen was final and unambiguous. You might never know which of these is true, and that’s OK. Some things you don’t need to know or can infer later. You should try not to think about this.

You will feel sad when you see pictures of him accidentally, or if you think of a nice memory. That’s normal. You might feel sad when other people have all the things you two had planned to have together. You should try not to for their sake. If you feel sad, you can make a funny joke, or remember you don’t want those things with someone who says they’re not in love with you anymore anyway.

Sometimes when people get dumped they think something is wrong with them. They might think they always do The Wrong Thing in relationships, or that they are Quite Ugly or Innately Unloveable. Or, they might think they don’t know how to pick people who are good for them, and they will always choose people who end up saying “I’m not in love with you anymore.” Some people say “You should be alone now” – this is probably true, even though it makes you feel angry because you did not expect to be alone all of a sudden. You’re not sure if you’re meant to change everything you do next time, or if there will be someone who you don’t have to change for or work very hard to be with, or if there are any men out there who have gone through the growing up bit already and could just love you. These are all normal things to think and feel and wonder about.

If you feel very bad, there are things you can do that are Good Ideas. These include: calling your family, calling a friend, hanging out with kids, doing some exercise, drawing a picture, writing something, going to an exhibition, going to see live music.

Things that are Bad Ideas are: drinking too much, asking him ‘why’ again, looking at pictures, asking your friends about what he’s doing, thinking about what his next girlfriend will be like (willshebeyoungerprettiersmartermoreleftwingskinnier?), thinking about what his next house will look like, letting yourself worry a lot about how he’s doing, going on dating apps (because men are all horrible).

Things that are Undecided Ideas are: coming back to the house sometimes to see your dog, trying to be friends one day, taking up smoking again, thinking about how much happier he will be from an objective point of view, having sex with strangers. These will probably become clearer with time, but for now it is best to file Undecided Ideas as a subcategory of Bad Ideas.

This weekend you will move out and that will be The End.