Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Touchy Subject

Over the past couple of weeks I have been routinely asked if ‘I’m feeling better?’ or whether I’m ‘…through the worst of my depression?’. I’m not sure how I can answer this. There is often a pause… ‘...well you seem better anyway’. My response usually goes inarticulated. I suppose anything would feel better than crying every minute of every day and feeling like your heart got ripped out, chewed, and shat on.

I’m starting to get back to my new version of me. Next week I travel to Sydney to see Noam Chomsky, and begin a seven film run at the Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF). Next week will be fun. I’m terrified of the week after though, because at that point last year was when I began my three week sojourn for independence, which failed. Those three weeks will be filled with anniversaries big and small. To top it all off, one of these is my 28th birthday, which I would like to forget completely. Thank god it falls on a Tuesday so people won’t pay much attention

All of these things I can manage with a minor freak out and a good loud, long cry. What I really miss is indefinable, hard to get, and even harder to ask for. I miss the touch of another human being. A few months back Carly talked about her experiences on the subject, given her rare skin condition. While I can relate to many of her experiences, I have a different problem. I feel the sensation of touch every day. People are literally paid to touch me every single day in a clinical, medical, hygienic and detached manner. This form of touch is as invasive as it is required, but it doesn’t solve my problem.

What I want and need badly is physical affection. While many readers would automatically assume this means I want sex, this isn’t necessarily what I’m after. Something as simple and basic as a hug is an arduous task. As with anything in my life this is not spontaneous. I actually have to ask for one. Whilst I do ask on occasion, it feels like an imposition for the other person because they are merely fulfilling an obligation.

This also limits my ability to casually flirt with members of the opposite sex. There’s no such thing as a casual movement or a light touch for a person with Cerebral Palsy. Imagine having to ask a hot girl ‘Can you come closer so I can accidentally brush your elbow?’ Even the famous reaching for the same bowl of popcorn doesn’t work, because one twitch in the wrong direction and the bucket goes flying. At least she would smell good.

Sometimes I am brave enough to ask, but I don’t always want to be the one who asks for what every human being essentially needs: to be loved and to be loved in return. Just occasionally I want someone to do that for me.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Felicity Porter I Hate To Love You

Dear Felicity,

It is 2011, and the tapes you used to mail Sally during your freshman year in 1998-99 are now delightfully quaint. So instead I’m using a blog (maybe Noel has one these days?) to give you some advice, because Sally clearly was not up to the task. I have just witnessed your first year in college for the third time, nearly 13 years after it took place, and I have some questions for you.

These questions seem obvious to me, but clearly not to you. Why the hell were you such a bitch? Why were you even contemplating choosing Ben over Noel? Why did you screw Julie over so royally? Why do you make me love and hate you in equal measure? By god, Miss Porter for someone so smart, you sure as hell seem dense.

Despite moving to New York because you were ‘in love’ with Ben, most of your freshman year, you were involved with Noel. Noel was a major doofus, but he was sweet and genuinely cared about you. Your whole courtship was a delight to watch culminating in the wonderfully sweet week before Midterms. Noel reminds me of myself, despite the appearance of rationality, he wears his heart on his sleeve. Sure, he may not have been over his future ex wife soon after you got together, but you should have cut the poor guy some slack. At least he didn’t resort to a one night stand with someone who had an enormously bad hair cut, even by late 1990s standards.

Noel forgave you, even though he shouldn’t have. But by then, through the contrivance of a zany plot device, your roommate Meghan put a ‘love spell’ on you, so your feelings for Ben would be reignited. Even though that is still beyond my comprehension, lets look at the facts Felicity: Ben was a grade A dickhead:
  1. He hooked up with random chicks right in front of you at the beginning of the year
  2. He then starts dating YOUR BEST FRIEND Julie, even though you were still in love with him 
  3. He then breaks up with Julie for no apparent reason, even though she has been traumatised to the extreme during her own freshman year 
  4. He then starts putting the moves on you, claiming that ‘he likes’ you now, even though nothing in his personality indicates why he should be attracted to you
And yet when I left you freshman year, you were still deciding whether to drive across the US with Ben, or to go to Berlin with Noel. As your study buddy Elena would say ‘Girl, you trippin’!’

Despite the fact that I now seem to hate you, I am still fond of you. You were adorkable before Zooey Dachanel was even practicing her fake lisp. Your heart always appeared to be in the right place, even though you always made the stupidest decisions. This is the quality that I identify with most these days. In 1999 I thought you were an optimistic dreamer, now I realise you were just incredibly stupid because you live with your head and not your heart.

I know how the rest of college plays out and believe me I will be once again revisiting those three remaining years. I know whether you pick Ben or Noel, and I know your choices will continue to fascinate and frustrate me in equal measure, yet somehow for reasons I cannot understand, I still wish you were the girlfriend I never had.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Pop songs about love achieve eloquence that cannot convey.
Events forever tarnished by memory and proximity.
Looking back, not forward. It is helpless but ruined.
Gone forever through words not meant
Reminded by lies. Last words spoken?

Told to move, but somehow unable.
Even though brighter horizons remain.
Drawn to the dark and pain forever.
Seems easier on the outside, harder on the inside.
Pleasure equals pain. Pain equals pleasure?

Time is foolish. Moved so fast then, seems slow now.
Desperate for something. Better than nothing.
Touch is underrated. So frightening.
One second changes everything.
And yet nothing does. Lamentably?

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Felicity Pilot: Decison or Ignorance?

Its January 12th 1999, A Monday. My first night on the Sunshine Coast. I’m 15, scared, angry and feel completely alone. My life in Adelaide is now nothing but a memory. I’ve left all my friends behind to go involuntarily to this new place. My parents suggest this move is exciting, to me it is anything but.

That same night Felicity premiered on Australian TV, and it would subsequently go on to be the show that would define my adolescence. In the pilot Felicity moves from California to New York to attend college on the spur of the moment. She decides to follow her high school crush Ben, after he writes a pleasent message in her yearbook at their graduation.  It appeared to be your typical teenage/young adult drama on the surface. However, the pilot of Felicity instantly resonated with me upon first viewing as I lamented the struggle to find my own identity in this foreign place.

This morning I re-watched the Felicity pilot for the third time, beginning the process of watching the show’s four year run once more, which I will document sporadically on this blog. Watching the pilot this time I had a completely different reaction to the previous two occasions. The pilot is not about being displaced and making the most of the circumstances thrust upon you as I originally thought. It seems with the benefit of hindsight and revision, that the central theme is about the choices you make in life and the impact they have on your life for better or for worse. Perhaps for the first time I was seeing my own adolescence through adult eyes, and retrospectively applying the lessons I’ve learnt throughout the past year.

The more I reflect on this journey the more I begin to realise why I identify with the heroines of teen soaps. Felicity Porter like Rory Gilmore, Peyton Sawyer and Joey Potter represent the kind of bravery and at times, the sense of irresponsibility I wish I could have had. Every romantic dalliance is not life altering, mistakes are made, tears are shed but at the end of the day the heroines are empowered to make choices, romantic or otherwise. The very thing I have always longed to do.

And so it makes total sense that I latched on to Felicity at one of the most powerless moments of my life. I would later learn that moving interstate for love is no easy task, but back then, as I still do now I long for the Power of Choice.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Tell Me What Is On Your Mind, Or Rather In It?

What exactly is the point? How can you be expected to know when being in therapy is the right choice, to know which treatments are actually helpful and which serve merely to give the false sense of reassurance that comes with being proactive, with doing all that we can? Does anyone, for example, really know what “character change” looks like? That, after all, is what contemporary therapy that is more than chitchat for the so-called worried well aims to promote. More pressing, who can be trusted to answer these questions? Looked at a certain way, the entire enterprise seems geared toward the needs of the therapist rather than the patient to a degree that can feel, after a certain amount of time, undemocratic, if not outright exploitative.

The above quote comes from one of the most informative articles I have read this year. It details the author’s experience with psychotherapy over the course of four decades. During this period she consulted a number of therapists all with different methods and manners. I found her insights profound and insightful, particularly given my own experiences in the area.

The first question that needs to be asked is why seeing a professional to help confront and vocalise feelings is still treated as a taboo? Why do people feel that this important activity is still seen as scandalous and indicate that those who seek professional psychatric help are weak of mind? Such societal attitudes are baffling to me, for it seems in retrospect the times where I have been acutely aware of my psychological surroundings are the times in which I feel the most well rounded.

Being involved in therapy is not a one way endeavour. Contrary to popular belief, psychotherapy appears to work best when it operates as a two way conversation. It is only when an individual externalises his feelings and emotions that he can truly notice the effect that they have on other parts of his life.

I suppose it is not a coincidence that the tragically short lived In Treatment is perhaps my favourite television drama of all. As perverse as it may seem, I do enjoy wrestling with my own psychological inner demons, and when I get the chance I examine the motivations of others (often unconsciously). This can both be a handy asset and an enormous burden.

As often as I delve into my own thoughts feelings and motivations, I remain as clueless as ever when it comes to fixing my easily identifiable flaws. This in turn leads to endless cycles of frustration, because although I am acutely aware that I repeat the same mistakes multiple times even whilst they are happening, I remain unable and perhaps unwilling to stop them.

As pointed out in the above article, the process of attending psychotherapy is not about finding solutions to a particular set of problems. Rather it is designed as a process for a patient to develop the right tools to deal with situations that they feel emotionally stifling or uncomfortable. Talking to a professional is not about whether there are a Freudian or a Jungian, or whether they are up with the latest techniques in behaviour modification, but whether they can help steer conversations to a place that is most beneficial for the patient. Furthermore, the therapist must be able to have a comfortable dialogue with the patient so that they can notice subtle changes in behaviour, both good and bad as well as the ability to recognise psychological patterns and themes that emerge.

Therefore psychotherapy is not about being overly vulnerable or discovering life altering secrets as often portrayed in the mass media. For me, at least it acts as a constant process of discovering who I am, digging deep into the recesses of my subconscious that I choose to hide from, and refining the kinks in my personality so that I am able to improve every single day. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Take A Look At Me Now

I remember the last time I cried. It was so cliché. I didn’t just cry, I whaled. It was an attempt to get all the residual pain out of my system. I turned on possibly the saddest song in the history of recorded music and I let it all out. Three and half hours later I was done. A line in the sand had been drawn. Goodbye to past dreams. Goodbye to former ‘friends’ who never really were. Goodbye to the person I wanted to be.

That was a Thursday afternoon, I remember it so well because it was the day before my first meeting with DSQ. The meeting that would supposedly change my life, where I had to lay out all my neurosis and literally beg for money. I wasn’t looking forward to reliving the proceeding nine months in great detail. I feared that I would collapse halfway through both physically and emotionally. Somehow I did not and I was able to present myself with at least a measure of composure.

After the final evacuation of tears, it seems my life has turned around to some degree. Through sheer happenstance that next morning I allowed myself to take a risk and create a friendship that would have never happened otherwise. A few days later, I opened my thesis for the first time in seven and a half months and started slowing working. That was the step that mattered the most. It was harder than faking a smile, harder than talking to several complete strangers about my feelings and much harder than shedding tears. Returning to my thesis meant that for all the talk of ‘creating new goals’ I was actually doing something substantive.

Then it happened: last week for the first time since Christmas I actually felt like I had a ‘good day’. This was because for the first time I felt comfortable being this new version of myself. The pain of the past whilst still there, was in the background instead of the foreground. This all happened because I was doing new things, with a new person, who didn’t know me BC to compare my personalities. No expectations were needed.

I still want to completely forget my birthday and the entire month of December are coming up. But at least I don’t need to cry anymore 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Those Three Words

‘Can we talk?’ is never a good question to ask. It always leads to the end of something. Relationships, friendships, employment: those three words signal the end of the status quo. The fixer in me always rationalises that the question will let secrets unfurl and the clearing of that nagging feeling in the depths of my chest. The question by itself always seems to have noble but ultimately selfish intentions. Sure, I get to explode a tonnage of explosive material, but it is like a grenade has been passed on and I have decided to let it detonate in someone else’s hands.

The night sky is above me, both starless and cloudless. The road in front is blank, dark and eerie. So far the trip has lasted over two hours and one question has been plaguing my mind throughout. ‘Can we talk?’ is literally the only sentence that can compute in my brain. Talk about what I have no idea. The driver already knows all that she need to. I sit within touching distance, the nerves on my fingers pulsating. Just an inch more and I can touch her. Just an inch more and I have past the point of no return.

I told myself I would hold off for a definitive period of time, but it is my libido that wants to break that internal contract. One movement, one question, and the terms are rendered instantly null and void.

She didn’t know but it took about half a second for me to think about the possibilities, Those endless possibilities. If she said yes I’d be happy. I would have everything I wanted. A best friend, a close confidant, and an intellectual sparing partner. Most of all I’d be able to express all this pent up tension inside. But what if she said no? I’d ruin the only meaningful friendship I’ve ever had. I’d be back to where I was 2 years ago in that dark, cold, lonely and pitiful place.

What was the reward? Mind blowing sex and a label? I had been desperate that label for the longest time. I had long considered her ‘girlfriend’ even though we shied away from those direct terms. We had been mistaken for a couple thousands of times. I secretly loved that assumption, but she was always quick to shrug it off much to my great disappointment. I always wanted a real plus one…..

I took a deep breath.
‘Can we talk? I stammered
She looked at me, not knowing that things would change forever…

Thursday, 6 October 2011

The Evolution: Complete With A 70s Pop Soundtrack

While writing my thesis today I turned on my 70s Playlist. Coincidentally these songs were all played in order. They trace the trajectory of love ever so succinctly.

In Lust

You See Cracks, But You’re Still in Love

It Ends, Badly

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

The Conversation

Today I started a 3 week stint teaching Introduction to International Politics while my boss takes leave. I have taught the course for the past 5 years, but decided just to fill in this time.

I get ready to take one of my three classes and then this conversation takes place:
Student: Hello 'little man'
Me: Uhhh hello
S What's a big boy like you doing here?
Me: I'm teaching your class today
S: You mean your mummy's taking the class?
Me: NO, I'M taking the class.
S Are you (my boss's) son?
Me: No, I'm filling in for 3 weeks, she's on leave
S: I don't believe you
Me I can get you my PhD Scholarship papers, my columns for the ABC, and the national media, plus the first chapter of my PhD if you like?
S (Silence)
Me: Stop being an ignorant dickhead and sit your arse down.
S: Oops
Me: Oops indeed!
I hate being a crip and dealing with shit like that. If my job didn't require that I be civil to the arsehole his leg would be broken!