With a background in acting everything I write has music to it, or rather in my head as I write. Cancion De La Noche
I love reading and I don’t ever read enough but there always comes a time when perusing a book from someone you know can make reading that bit more special. ‘The Good Enough Mother’ was certainly a piece I was looking forward to reading as I hadn’t spoken to the writer, Anoushka Beazley for some years; and was just genuinely excited to see someone who I had crossed paths with doing extremely well! I think sometimes, the worry is that someone will read/see your creative output and dislike it. But we put ourselves out there, sometimes with our hearts on our sleeves and not only take risks but hope to connect with the reader in some aspect.
The story opens with Drea who becomes a single, non biological parent to Ava over night due to her Teacher boyfriend who runs off with his Research Assistant to live in France. Drea’s character is funny, dark, sarcastic and shows the sad complexities of humanity that reside in all of us. Why did I love this novel, well firstly I could hear Anoushka’s voice, and even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to Anoushka, it was great to hear her voice in Drea. Secondly, the story of Drea has so much heart and made me seriously think of ‘Motherhood’.
I lost my Mum several years ago and it’s still difficult to know she is not here anymore, that I can’t take her shopping, meet up in a coffee shop, have family get togethers, or simply share my life with her. I contemplate whether I will be a ‘Mum’, ‘Mummy’ or ‘Mother one day, to my kids or someone else’s. Do I want to be a Mum? I ask myself “why this has not physicalised?” I blame the notion of not meeting the man who has wanted to have this “lifestyle” with me, but is this fair? Did I meet him but not clarify my needs? I always said “never say never to kids” when someone asked me, but then some how the cycle of men in my life that I attracted were the guys who could never commit, disliked children maybe because they hadn’t grown up themselves or possess the required emotional maturity, or had kids already and didn’t want anymore.
As with Drea’s story I could associate with other issues that perhaps prevent us as in ‘I’ from making those clear decisions. Maybe it was never high up on my priority list, maybe I thought it would happen naturally, maybe I didn’t think I would be a good Mum or be any good at being tied down and didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of my parents. So, “fear” prevented me? Maybe because my parents were so adamant on me having a career and in doing so gravitated towards people who wanted to take rather than share. Maybe my needs became second to their needs?
With main characters in novels, conversations happen in their head which only the audience can hear and identify with. When I started this post I was debating on whether to call it “Conversations in my Head” partly because we all have them and I do try to stem the demonic ones; but this is about how “The Good Enough Mother” stirred emotions and thoughts I have had all of my life. Maybe because my biological clock is ticking, maybe it has ticked? Oh look, there’s one more thing I cannot add to the bucket list but if I could, would I? Probably yes, most definitely yes if there was someone who wanted this with me. But unwittingly I chose and choose the men who do not and that is one of the most painful decisions I live with daily.
Drea’s internal dialogue is utterly insightful, I guess this is why I connect with her. There are reflective moments that made me feel completely broken, the way we compartmentalise so much until we are forced to confront our issues. The mirrored moment is never necessarily with a person or situation but pages in a book, a scene in a film, even down to the most boring of chores can have you crying because something you read in a novel made you think. Denying how we truly feel about our circumstances and who we are, and whom with we can be ourselves. Sometimes, being alone is preferable than being around people who constantly judge you, analyse you or your situation, who offer advice when it’s not needed or asked for – “The fixers”.
Drea deals with her problems internally, and I wonder if this is a symptom of modern life. We feel guilty for sharing our problems, we consider it “dumping”. We feel a failure if a relationship has broken down, there’s always blame. We feel shame for not being what Society says we should be, in a relationship that leads to marriage, children, financial and domestic security. There’s nothing wrong with wanting them but there’s equally nothing wrong without having them.
The fear is not loneliness or am I settling for second best or wondering if I had made different choices would I be somewhere else? The thoughts are what if there is someone out there who wants to live the life I want to live, should I keep searching? Maybe I do want to be a Mum? Maybe I just want security because I never had it as a child or growing up? Maybe being a Mum will fill the loss of not having one? Maybe I still don’t know and it’s okay to not know especially if you’ve been through the “I thought I’d met the one” phase and they turn out not to be.
Drea wants to be provide for Ava and though there are lots of ways she doesn’t see, in so many ways she does. She’s responsible, she cares, she admits to not being the ‘typical’ parent that gets stuck in with PTA or makes friends with other mothers for the sake of school. But there is something in Ava’s need to belong and be part of something that also resonates with me. Maybe it’s being a Mother, maybe it’s to say I did well, maybe because there is nothing left of me after I have gone and maybe that’s they way it is and should be. Why does their need to be a legacy of Maria Thomas? There doesn’t.
‘The Good Enough Mother’ is definitely about the human condition and the complexities of how our minds work. The trauma of childhood, the confusion within ourselves by not really knowing sometimes who we really are and we come from, our parents/families influence on our lives or non-existent parents/families in our lives. It all seems to boil down to who am I? Who I am can be anything I want it to be, how I live and whom I live it with is my choice as long as I am happy why should it matter? Who put the time clock in my body and do I have to listen to them? Listening to the conversations in my head can be harmful or amazing, and everyday I have to consciously choose to listen to the voice that keeps me going.
Thank you Anoushka, if ever I do become a Mum, I hope I remember like Drea, it’s okay to fall as long as I remember to pick myself up and carry on.
You train for this moment your whole life, your careful, thoughtful, analytical about this one moment, and in that moment you side track, that’s when the hit comes. You don’t see it, you don’t feel it, your numb to it. You don’t think pain, you fear pain, you fear regaining consciousness in that moment. “Am I standing, am I on the ropes, don’t throw the towel in”. I’m on the floor, I didn’t see it coming!
I hate how I feel when I hear impending doom, I fear the worse, think the worse, I want to scream at the world, at the gods, at the universe to say why do you fuck with our lives like this, take loved ones away so suddenly, I had no time.
“Are you sitting down, take a deep breath”, and the words flow, the news hits and my head is all giddy from absorbing. I don’t want to create a story in my head, I don’t want to think about my send off music, like a walk on music. I don’t want to hear someone I know is dead!
Yes, I know death exists, we have to all exit one day but why smack me in the face, why punch me in the gut, why queasy and sick, why all the moments that I last spent with them and all the moments I could have spent more. Why make me hate.
Where is my grief, is this it? Is this the sadness, another empty hole that gets bigger with each departure, am I part of the whole or the whole of nothing? Images of my own death, images of a peaceful sleep, no one wants pain. Images of how my loveds ones will react, will I be missed, will I see them from the other side and at least feel them one last time.
How can I hate death when I don’t know it, feel it or haven’t escaped it, or maybe I do and that’s why my feelings are so prominent. Why do I feel time slipping away, reminded of my age, reminded of memories left behind that I never want to see or meet. Nothing about it makes me feel peaceful, gracious of my time, legacies I wish to leave behind. All it does is make me want to fight it, box it, kick it and rage at it.
Leave me and all the people I love the fuck alone! I accept its fate but fate is far away in a distant future. A future where cryogenics restores us, nanotechnology keeps us a live, that potion keeps us young and healthy forever, I don’t want disease, I don’t want to linger, I don’t want to stop fighting until I come face to face with you, and know it’s my time. Please don’t let it be alone, please don’t let it be tomorrow, please let me say to all the people in my life “I love you. I love you, I love you, I love you!”.
There are specific moments in your life that you wish you had someone to share them with and there are several friends, whom on this night, I wish I could have shared this experience. But like with every situation in life some scenarios are to be experienced alone and those memories are the ones that will stay with you forever.
I watched ‘Things I Know to be True’ by Andrew Bovell at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith last Friday, produced by Frantic Assembly. What a great piece of writing! For the first time in a long time I was moved (well utterly flabbergasted), I was transformed by a shift of emotions and inspired by some brilliantly observed writing about familial life. The play was about an ageing couple, the husband retired, the wife still working as a Nurse with four grown up children. The play opens with the youngest daughter returning home after travelling across Europe in a gap year of self discovery. All of the children, now adults one married, one in a broken relationship and one a city flier are still treated like children, mainly from their Mum. All have varying degrees of bitterness and resentment toward their Mum’s ability to constantly undermine their choices, criticise their personalities and having an insight to see the truth. The Dad, a man that shys away from having a voice and in need of a quiet life. Don’t we all.
I recently worked with Frantic Assembly on the Intermediate workshops where Neil Bettles (http://dowhatyouloveforlife.com/blog/2014/07/do-what-you-love-interview-neil-bettles/) Director/Choreographer shared some of the exercises that the company of the show were working on with us, we did some beautiful movements, lifts, hugs that left my soul shouting at me that this is what I should be doing, not stuck in an office all day. Would I ever get bored, no, I love challenges!
However, I digress. This play left its mark on my heart, on my soul, on me. And I know I am not the only one that walked away from seeing the show feeling like I went through a roller coaster ride of emotions, I’m not the only one that felt like I had been sucker punched in the gut as I could relate to many of those moments when your Mum looks at you and she knows the truth you are attempting to hide from her. Knowing she is right but wishing she was wrong and couldn’t read the miniscule detail of inflections in your voice or how the look in your eye reveals the inner hurt or disappointment you feel. Anyone who has been in that position when parents know how to get to the heart of you and rip you apart with words, whilst you live your life begging for approval inside. But you’re encased with a hardness that becomes your coping mechanism in life, in relationships. Never wanting to turn out like your parents and yet becoming the very essence of what you hate most about what or whom they are. Early on in your teenage life, you made a pact with yourself you would never become them. (Now the play isn’t entirely pessimistic, there is hope). But it is down to the individual to take the steps of change, that journey that only we can make. Only we can explore, learn, grow from and sometimes still don’t know who we are. We are yet to find the person within the shell we look at everyday. The first act took me on this journey and the actors played their parts incredibly accurately that I felt like I was watching members of my family from different periods of my life and to be honest they way the first act left me feeling I couldn’t see where the second act was going.
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this section if you haven’t seen the play yet!
The second act opened with the truth slowly unfolding for each person, revealing the lies they had hidden behind, a need to be the person they truly are, hoping for acceptance within family life that we long for and so desperately seek. But even the strongest of families have their limits. Mine did. Which is why we seek solace in our friends, who don’t judge us in the same way and care more for our well-being. The climax, which I didn’t see coming (and this is where the play had earned its weight, its gravitas that impacted on me and the audience) is when the one person who always brings everyone together, who fought the hardest because they had the most difficult journey in life. Where the Matriarch of the family worked hard to make ends meet, to ensure her children had the opportunities she didn’t, dies unexpectedly. My heart broke, I could feel the tears welling up uncontrollably with the rest of the audience. Every “Not her” which was uttered on stage opened up the memories of losing my own Mum, it reminded me of the pain we all felt, the anger my Dad had towards everything and everyone. It reminded me of the space that could never be replaced, the “words yet to be spoken”, the lives she left behind.
I was speechless. This writer came to do a job and he did it. I wanted to share this moment with someone, with my friends I knew who would love the play as much as me. I felt inspired again, moved again and realised what’s missing from my own work is “heart” and that’s what this play has, a lot of heart and soul. The actors were/are incredible to impart such a journey, often I forget why I love acting and this is why. As I walked out of the theatre, I heard a girl behind me say “I want to phone my Mum and tell her everything I just saw”. I thought, it is when you don’t have a Mum to call anymore that’s when a play has done it’s job. It left me with a whirlwind of sentiments and memories from my past and now it was off to impact on someone else’s life.
Not to be too cynical but I do think, is it me being dramatic, is it the personal journey I am on in life, is this what resonates with me at this particular time? What is it? Why? Who knows, it’s an individual journey for everyone and things I know to be true is that no matter how long we have on this earth, try to not take your eyes off the road.
On Monday 27th of June, I was witness to a lecture given by the former Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams. I sat in the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries’ great hall, surrounded by medical doctors, philosophers and historians, and felt a bit of an ass-(not my girlfriend’s arse, because that just wouldn’t do in such company; I’m referring to feeling like a donkey….a sense of foolish shame).
The media, throughout my life, has frequently conjured such images of public figures, that I would be hard pushed to name one who was not in some way a buffoon, or worse, an out and out bastard. In my mind, Dr. Williams had undergone such a make-over. A bumbling, irrelevant, Church of England (professed belief in any god of any type is always a poor start with me), Gandalf wannabee, whose comments have been mentioned dismissively on many issues. Instead, Dr. Williams is…
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For a moment intuition kicked in, the reality I will never be a part
of your blood, life or family
for a moment I’m not a part
of your life, your circle, your photos
for this moment I do not exist
I am, I was and still a memory, a shell of existence
for a moment I’m empty, tired, numb, fucked off
for a moment, my soul is crying, dying fighting the truth, the lie,
the made up scene in my head
for a moment my world shattered, crumbled, died or
did I face the undeniable inconsolable truth
the truth thats always been there, my fears
that ensnare, that encapsulate
that slaughter, that stabs the heart of me
me, who am I in the picture, no one, this picture
of family that stands, no one, that’s happy, that exists without me
me, who is me. No one, nothing of importance. Noted, that’s me.
Coach asked me today why I was holding back, what is it I feared?
“Losing. It’s simple I don’t wanna lose. Why would I train this hard and for so long if all I’m gonna do is lose”. Stupid question, he must’ve seen the thoughts cross my face cos then he said “Mia, don’t be afraid of your potential”. In my head I was thinking “what the fuck” and he must have read that too because I didn’t have a chance to reply.
“Just think about it”. And we were back into training.
So, I’m thinking about it. Why am I holding back? I know I can be the best so what’s up with me? Then…all these memories came flooding into my head, moments from my life where I had failed. Failed to speak up for myself, failed to help or step in, failed to be a fighter, failed to make my brother proud and that was it.
Everything went in slow motion, and I’m crying. Stupid uncontrollable crying in the street, and I’m searching every pocket to find a tissue, a used one even and then I use my sleeve. Come on Mia you’re 27 and you’re crying over stupidness. Fuck this shit, the only person you have to make proud is yourself, now get it together and fight. Fight to win.
There are some days where as a stubborn person in life means you do not learn anything but your own opinions and hear the sound of your own voice. Then there are times where you realise how much you learn from listening to yourself and the experiences you’ve had. But no matter how hard I try to keep an open mind about my own experiences and my Dads, the generational gap cannot change his way of thinking; it can merely bend it to a degree. But that degree is not a win on my part that he came round to my perspective on any thoughts I put across. It merely meant that in a second he heard what I said and will choose to keep it, ponder on it or has already forgotten it.
What have I learned in this process is that my POV is mine alone and attempting to alter, change, offer a wider perspective to my Dad is not lost, not wasted and certainly not a defeat of me trying to change his/ the world; but that at least I connected with him. At least we laughed and at least we shared that time together. We talked a lot about “destiny” and “what if” moments, the last part of the conversation was “what if I won the lottery tomorrow, that would be my destiny” and I argued this was a “what if moment rather than destiny, and was based on statistical facts that you would not win”. Ultimately, there are odds that the outcome could go one way or the other but in the end who cares whose right and whose wrong.
“What if” I had the opportunity to live life again and make different choices. I wouldn’t choose to do this moment any differently as I know these moments will be far and few between.
I love you Dad
Esteemed soul, divine purpose
drive to my minds eye of truth
take back the streams of consciousness
that drives me to mad endeavours
of momentary suicide
to die or not to die but to discuss
the righteousness of others that befell
inherited wickedness of deceit
but who is the deceiver, them or me
lie me gently in the arms of
forgetfulness of resentment of
the quietness that is beauteous
the silence of numbness
that guilt free, pain free death
of selective amnesia
coat me with your paint, armour
me with destruction
self pity, self hate bears heavy burdens
on my mind, draining my emotions of
comfort. The comfort of hate.
leave my body innocuous cuts that fill
with swollen words of lies. The language
of desert storms blistering my spirited
youth into undefinable eras of old age.
search for me when time remembers
that I did once exist.