Tag Archives: family

Turnings on Edges #effyourbeautystandards

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Originally published by the Skin Deep Project May 2014

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Last month I said I’d talk about the ‘turning point’ for me in learning to love and accept my body. But I actually told a bit of a fib. That’s not *exactly* what I’m going to share. I can’t talk about the turning point, because I didn’t win the war with my body.

 

My body is not a static, unchanging experience.

 

My body has grown two children. It has fluctuated in dress size, in fitness, in muscle tone, in appearance. I have new scars, freckles and moles. My dress sense has changed as my life (and confidence) has changed. My hair colour and style is an ongoing party.

 

I didn’t win the war against my body because I am my body. Because my body changes and so do I. Instead, I have (tried to) embraced honesty with myself. I have (tried to) embraced self-reflection and the process of asking myself – why?

 

Why do I find my body lacking?

Why do I measure my body against a narrow and media defined beauty standard?

Why do I tie my body to the sexual desire of others?

Why do I punish my body and soul for failing these arbitrary standards?

Why do I de-value the experience and strength of my body?

Why have I sought aesthetic beauty and in doing so made my body, heart and soul sick on many occasions?

 

Why? Why? Why?

 

And somewhere within exploring these whys, I’ve found a healthy tension between seeking improvement and loving what is – and discovering that I want and need both. And that’s okay. It really is okay. My body is not a static, unchanging experience. My body is a lesson. A lesson in gratitude. A lesson in humility. A lesson in honesty. A lesson in love. There are days when I love my body, it’s shapes and curves and aesthetics. There are days when all I can see is how far I am from the ideal presented to us in the media. There are days when I don’t even really notice my body.

Mummy with Amaya

Image: with Amaya, one day old 2014.

My daughter will be six weeks old this Saturday. She came into the world on Easter Saturday after a very painful but uncomplicated labour. My strong, powerful and healthy body brought both of us safely through that experience. And as I’ve nursed her over the last few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about the body messages I want to give her. The way she’ll feel when she looks in the mirror. I have years to figure out what I want to say to her and years to continue shaping how I role model the lessons I hope she learns but here are some early thoughts for her (and for you, reading this):

 

  • You are glorious. Glorious and powerful beyond your believed boundaries.
  • Your body (and your life) belongs to you. Keep exploring and decide which adventures you want to deepen. And which you want to discard. Choose deliberately.
  • Whatever else you do, care for your body, it is the vessel carrying you through your life. Make it last and enjoy what it can do – if you let it – bodies are fun!
  • I cannot give you the answers. I cannot erase the doubts, the fears, the pain you will encounter – but I will be here. To hold you. To listen. To make you cups of tea.

 

 

Turn these corners.

Fold them in to,

New mirrors,

Blank pages,

Deep dreams.

 

What’s your favourite body positive message or piece of advice?

 

 

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Conjoin #oldflame #poetry #thedirtythirtychallenge

 

Conjoin:

 

Dear Him.

 

How many years now?

 

How many years have we folded into the secrets that time is made of?

 

My secrets.

Yours.

A bibliography of dreams untouched by truth. We seeded something though, you and I. In dark corners and deep dreams. In silliness and fire skin. In spiky grass and houses made of dust. In teenage legs and adult eyes. In too many truths and not enough sighs.

 

In windows that were too dirty to see through. I always stood looking out. Hands on hips. Words on lips.

 

And saw/

 

I made you into a troubadour. A perfect warrior poet. All muscles and skin and letting me – only me – in.

 

And

 

We seeded something, you and I. A poppy seed dream. An unlined seam. A sparkle in a stream. My feet cracked the banks and I looked down to see/

 

 

/I was losing me.

 

I don’t remember the last time.

 

The last time that I loved you.

 

But I remember the first.

 

Its skeletal remains a wind chime in my memory

Bones that scream and sing in the wind

Tones that make beauty taste like maybe

Love taste like I didn’t know how perfect I could be

Yesterday taste like salad without dressing

Today taste like tomorrow taught me how to roar

 

I stopped loving you. Because I started loving me.

 

Because that little seed of spinach made me taste a different song. A song that leads me on. And on. And on. And on.

 

It’s a song that tastes like grateful. A song with your son’s eyes. A song with my laugh.

 

How many years now?

 

How many more?

 

To find the peace I came for?

 

From Her.

 

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Another Dirty Thirty poetry prompt:

Day Twenty One

Write a love letter to an old flame.
The catch? To make sure it doesn’t sink to a sea of sappiness, try to use 1 or more of the following word/phrases in the poem:
poppy seed, bibliography, troubadour, skeletal, spinach, conjoin

Adopted #thedirtythirty #poetrychallenge #poetry

 

Adopted

 

He is –

 

 

Murky breaths and midnight toenails

Perfect Tai Chi in between the walls

Headlight free and Sunday solid

He bends I told you so’s into spoons

 

 

                         – made in his mother’s image.

 

 

Silent in a father’s absence.

Light feet on cold floors

Old dreams starting new wars

Nothing in a name –

 

 

He’d like to ask. He doesn’t.

 

 

– but shame. Woven into brickwork clusters.

Filling in cardboard carpets and red flags.

A dented screen, a captured queen.

A ticking secret on the other end of an Instagram like.

 

 

He swallows.

He bends.

He –

 

 

                   – is.

 

 

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Prompt: Free write Friday.

I’m making a new thing. #elusivemaybes

Every show performed in a different lounge room. A one woman theatre experiment asking “How can we feel so alone surrounded by people who love us?”

 

“The sound of a baby crying

The sound of a kettle boiling

The sound of a dog howling

The sound of a closing door”

Sing Me Your Sorrow Installation Day 1

Image: Sing Me Your Sorrow, presented at Crack Theatre Festival 2013

What: Another Elusive Maybe is a small-scale performance experience designed for the intimate surroundings of actual real life lounge rooms. Limited to a maximum audience of 8 people per show, the experience incorporates soundscape, poetry, performance and live text message conversations.

Through the lens of parenting a small child, this is an art experience about loneliness and love and community and how we don’t ask for help. Parents of small children in particular will resonate with Another Elusive Maybe, though anyone who has ever felt lost and conflicted about their choices may also see themselves reflected.

Another Elusive Maybe is an independent project by South Australian artists. There’s no budget and no funding and none of the artists are getting paid.* This project is an experiment. Exploring a number of ideas about the kind of work I want to make in the future. As such this iteration is unlikely to be fully resolved and will see future development. Audiences at Adelaide Fringe will be the first to get an invite to future developments. So come and see inside the process of making new things!

*even selling all the tickets won’t fully cover the cost of fringe registration, equipment and fuel!


Who:

Another Elusive Maybe is a biographical musing (by me obviously) in collaboration with Ryan Morrison. Ryan and I met through our shared experiences with Riverland Youth Theatre (though we didn’t engage with RYT at the same time, we stumbled across each other later) and we’ve collaborated on a number of projects over the last five years. Most recently I loaned my voice to Ryan’s ‘Shapes in Deep Shadow’, a multi-modal, meta-fictional work Ryan completed as part of his Creative Writing Masters. Experience it here: https://shapesindeepshadow.wordpress.com/

Ryan is a clever multi-form artist playing in the writing and sound/music space mostly. He also does a rad daily comic over at http://onlythetruest.com/

I’m assuming if you are reading this here, you already know me, but if not, more about me and who I am here: https://alyshaherrmann.wordpress.com/about/

and ye olde bio here:

Alysha Herrmann is a proud parent, regional artist and advocate working across disciplines in the arts, education, community development, social justice and social enterprise. She is a writer, theatre-maker, cultural producer and the current Creative Producer of ExpressWay Arts. Alysha has won numerous awards for her work using the arts to interrogate and explore community concerns and aspirations including most recently the 2015 Kirk Robson Award, 2014 Channel 9 Young Achiever Arts Award and was named by SA Life as one of SA’s fastest rising stars under 30 in 2014. Alysha also tweets tiny poems as @lylyee and blogs about living a creative life at https://alyshaherrmann.wordpress.com

 

Curious? Come and see the thing, these are the deets:

 

When & Where:

16th Feb, 23rd Feb, 8th March

All shows 8pm

All tickets $15

Book at https://www.adelaidefringe.com.au/

*location will be emailed in the week before selected performance

Running time approx. 40minutes

Bring your mobile phone and keep it turned on. Free cookie at every show.

 

And if you can’t make the Fringe dates, rustle up a group of friends (5-8, including yourself) and book the show for your own loungeroom in March/April. Contact me directly for this pressurelands AT me DOT come.

xx

 

 

Save

For The Mother I Sometimes Meet #effyourbeautystandards

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Originally published by the Skin Deep Project March 2014

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This skin I’m in.

I wallow in its spaces. Fill my glances with sneering faces. I look for them. I seek them. Even when I don’t mean to.

 

For The Mother I Sometimes Meet

 

As long as I can remember, my mother has always been overweight. Hovering usually in an Australian dress size of 22-26, she’s had to shop at plus size stores or generic department stores with their shapeless, blocky and unflattering designs. And it was always clear, without always being spoken, that she hated her body and by extension often herself. There were many times she’d ask ‘How can you love me, when I’m so fat and ugly?’ or “Do you think I’m ugly?’ or just state ‘I look horrible. Horrible and fat.’ Questions and statements that came from a deep and hurting place inside of her.

 

Her relationship with herself and her body was the backdrop to mine. Although I only remember my mother directly criticizing my body a handful of times, her judgment of her own set the tone and I knew without being told that I was also fat. Also ugly.

 

I held the teatowel in my hand. Frozen for that heartbeat of a moment. Looking at her. Seeing her. Feeling so close to knowing who she really was. Her face was red. Her hands sunk deep into the soapy dishwater. Her hair was messy, pulling around the lines in her skin. For that tiny moment I was seeing into something un-nameable. Something beautiful in her that I still have no words for. Even now.

 

I was 11 when I had that moment watching her washing the dishes. It was a moment, I’ve never been able to fully articulate but it’s stayed with me. Because what I felt, was how deeply beautiful and precious my mother was (and is). I looked at her standing there, washing the dishes with messy hair, lines etched into a grumpy face and I saw her as being powerful and glorious and stunning. But I was 11 and I didn’t know how to tell her that.

 

So I just blinked.

 

The moment was gone and I kept drying the dishes.

 

I’ve never told my mum that story. I’ve never directly challenged or asked her about her body image issues. Although I do now try to make a point of telling her that she’s beautiful and of telling her that I’m beautiful and proud of my body.

 

I’ve worked really hard over the last 10 years or so to see myself, really see myself. And to love my body, this skin I’m in, not for a narrow definition of sexual or aesthetic worth but for the all its curves and edges, the shadows and shapes it makes, the powerful, healthy and strong vehicle that it is carrying me through everything I ask it to do.

 

So how do we have these conversations with our nearest, our dearest, our beloveds? How do we cut through the narratives and boxes the media sells us to reach into the deep truths we know and discover about each other? How do you talk with your parents or children or partner about body image? How do you wish they talked with you about body image?

 

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Tough Mama Photo

Marry Me #writeme30

 

Much love/ too much/ too many/ they say/ but maybe/ not enough/ rough the edges of your jealously/ with maybes//

 

The Photo:

Threesome photo Seb                                          Photo supplied by Seb Robertson

 

 

The Response:

 

 

My love and I were legally married a year ago. Because we are heterosexual, a man and a woman, we were allowed to have our union legally recognized in Australia.

 

Because I was born with girl bits and my love was born with boy bits, through no design on our parts.

 

We talked about not getting married, as a kind of boycott in our way.

 

But reflecting on the limited influence we have, we felt that the people we were most likely to influence to think kindly of marriage equality were more likely to become defensive about their position (and therefore hold onto it tighter) in response to any boycott on our part and that perhaps instead our wedding could be a moment to share both our commitment to each other and our views and hopefully influence those in our circle against marriage equality with compassion instead.

 

We opened our ceremony with this:

 

Marriage has meant lots of different things to different people, places and times.

 

Historically speaking, there have been as many ways to wed as there are people and societies. Depending on the culture and era, marriage could be between two or more people, might or might not include living together or children, might be between strangers where the family arranges everything, and might well be acknowledged as legal without a vow being said. It might only be valid when dowry or bride-price is paid or be invalidated if monetary consideration is given, it might require consent of every living parent and an entire community to witness or it might require nothing more than a quiet promise said when utterly alone together. The crucial point was the will of those involved to be married and their commitment to stay that way.

 

For Alysha and Nic their wedding is an opportunity to bring together the people they love – the people who make up their community – all of you, to publicly acknowledge and celebrate their commitment to each other AND their thanks to all of you for being part of the community that helps keep the cogs turning in their lives.

 

Alysha and Nic would also like to acknowledge the significant social symbolism and recognition of marriage with the following passage:

 

“Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support.

 

Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.

 

It is undoubtedly for these concrete reasons, as well as for its intimately personal significance, that civil marriage has long been termed a “civil right.” Without the right to choose to marry one is excluded from the full range of human experience.”

 

Today is an opportunity for Nic and Alysha to publicly share the private vows and commitment they have made and to formalize those vows through legal and social recognition – to remind themselves and their community of loved ones how important connection, commitment and care is in our daily lives.

 

I’d like to invite all of you as Alysha and Nic’s loved ones to give your blessing to this formal union. Do you as the community which supports and loves this couple offer your blessing and support now and in the future?

 

GUESTS: We do.

 

We also had this note within our wedding invitation:

 

*Note – Nic and Alysha fully support and believe in marriage equality under Australian (secular) law and while we feel that boycotting a legal marriage ceremony ourselves would have no impact whatsoever on changing the law, we hope that through celebrating our story and community, you might consider being part of recognizing this important legal change through your future vote.

 

 

Maybe our stance, our gentle (not entirely subtle point) had no impact whatsoever and we were just able to benefit from fitting the current laws expectations. But I hope something of it stayed with people. Sank in, just a little.

 

What does this have to do with Seb’s photo? Nothing and everything. But two things specifically.

 

One of the common arguments I hear against marriage equality is the ‘slippery slope’ one – this is the ‘if we let gay couples marry each other then * gasp * poly couple or incestuous couples or pedophiles or someone might want to get married’ argument.

 

There are lots of great breakdowns of why this argument is ridiculous and I won’t rehash them here except to say legally only adult humans can consent to a legally binding contract (marriage) so any comments about pedophilia or bestiality are just plain stupid.

 

As to the rest, well quite frankly why does where other people put their bits have anything at all to do with you (or anyone else)? If it isn’t harming anyone involved or anyone outside the relationship then actually who cares if it does lead to poly marriages or incest marriages?

 

I’ve seen no conclusive evidence that poly marriages are harmful to children or families within them (the opposite comes through in most research I’ve read) and in regards to incest, it’s icky because we’re been taught it’s icky because if everyone fucked close relatives that messes with the gene pool and heightens the risk of disabled/unhealthy children (so we’ve all taught one another that it’s icky to avoid that shit). That’s a tricky one because that does have a health impact that others foot the bill for (taxes – public healthcare) but if we follow that logic, anyone with dodgy genes that could result in a sick/disabled child also shouldn’t be able to get married, right?

 

My point being, I’m not going to do any sexy things with anyone I’m blood related to personally but why is it a problem if someone else does? – again with the proviso that BOTH are consenting adults at the commencement of the relationship?

 

Whose business is it?

 

And I don’t buy that’s it because everyone is bothered because of the potential power imbalance or emotional safety that they have a problem with it – BECAUSE if you were, you’d all be making a bigger stink about domestic violence (which is at you know EPIDEMIC proportions).

 

People need to get out of other people’s bedrooms.

 

The other thing this has to do with Seb’s photo. Suicide rates are significantly higher among LQBTIQ young people. I’d hazard a pretty strong guess that one of the reasons for that is that we still live in a world, that while more tolerant of diverse sexuality than a generation ago, we still live in a world that at almost every turn diminishes and silences and turns away people of diverse sexuality. Marriage is just a symbol, but it’s a very powerful one, one that is imbedded in our social conscious, in our TV shows and movies and books. And so as a symbol, by remaining only open to heterosexual couples, it’s a symbol that says loud and clear ‘your love means less and is less. You are not welcome here’.

 

And I’m not okay with that. I’m not okay with that at all.

 

PS – Look at the expression on Seb’s face! Sex is a natural part of life, something we should be able to laugh at and enjoy – not something that should trap and diminish people because some people disagree with how they do it….

 

This is probably a post where I’m trying to make too many points and simplifying complex thoughts into only a few words. But hey, so be it.

 

The Contributor:

 

Seb Robertson. Founder of Batyr – Giving a voice to the elephant in the room. @BatyrAus Social Entrepreneur. Interested in economics, sustainability and renewable energy.

 

That’s what his twitter profile says anyway.

 

In my experience Seb is an entirely charming fellow, clean cut, talking and walking the ‘right’ way but still entirely approachable and brimming with compassion. He’s basically too awesome to ever be jealous of. Seb and I met as Australian delegates attending the Commonwealth Youth Forum in 2011, where I was entirely happy to be one of his minions for much of the event because I trusted the vision he was trying to articulate. He’s one to watch ladies and gents.

 

He was also a 2013 Cleo Bachelor of the Year Nominee, which I hope he never lives down.

 

When he sent me this photo, he captioned it with “Good luck with this one!!!”

 

 

 

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Photo of a Photo #writeme30 #depression #family

 

Concealed in folded edges is someone I used to be/ grainy with waiting, with wondering/ I am drawn by light// #tinytwitterpoem

 

The Photo:

IMG_1470                                         Photo supplied by Celia Boyd

“I wasn’t sure what to send you, this is a photo that I just keep coming back to and always makes me feel all the feelings when I see it. It’s not one that my family has framed or anything, its always just been kept in a drawer in their house and not put on display, but for some reason I kept thinking of it when you told us about your project.”

 

The Response:

 

I have loved ones who are hurting.

 

Everyone does.

 

I have loved ones who are hurting themselves.

 

Too many people do.

 

When you love someone who is hurting themselves, it’s hard to look at them. To be with them. To see them.

 

Someone very, very dear to me is hurting.

Has been hurting for a long time.

Is hurting themselves.

Is hurting me.

When I sit with them and talk, I want to run away, retreat, leave, shout at them to ‘SHUT UP’. It takes all the patience in me, all the patience I don’t have to be there with them. To sit with them. To see them.

 

I found a stray photo of them in amongst old photo albums early last year. Real, physical photo albums with real, physical photographs printed on glossy paper. A novelty. The photo is of a younger them, smiling cheekily into the camera with two dimples prominent on either cheek. I looked at that photo for a really long time.

 

And then I cried.

 

For a really long time.

 

I cried for all the distance and time separating that tiny human in the photo from the angry, grown-up, hurting human I know now. I cried for me, and all the ways I don’t really have the energy to keep watching them hurt themselves. I cried for both of us, for all the lost things, the forgotten things, the promised things.

 

And I cried because no matter how hard it is to watch someone you love hurt themselves, it’s harder and hurts more to not have them anymore. I cried with the fierce joy of having them still here when we’ve lost so many others.

 

I cried. And cried. And cried.

 

And cried.

 

And then I placed that photograph gently back into my photo album.

 

They are no longer a dimpled child.

 

They are an angry hurting adult.

 

I can’t untangle the past that’s brought us here. I don’t even know where to start.

 

But I can sit.

 

I can listen.

 

I can see.

 

I can swallow my impatience and fill my skin with the radiance of loving them enough to wait.

 

I can be myself. Just that.

 

 

The Contributor:

 

Celia Boyd, another of the YSP tribe, mother of many ideas, creator of deep change. Celia is currently living in Cambodia building new opportunities for Cambodia women through her enterprise SHE Investments.

 

SHE Investments is a social investment business that focuses on women entrepreneurs in Cambodia by providing business training, capital and mentoring.

 

Living in an extrovert inclined world means that amazing people like Celia, who are more introverted in their approach, don’t always appreciate how truly amazing and inspiring they are.

We think you’re a rockstar Celia. Sending big love to Cambodia!

 

What is #writeme30?

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