Posts tagged feminism
A Parallel Universe

I did that thing that you aren't supposed to do--I googled an old love interest.  The one I used to spend hours in coffee shops with, smoking cloves, imagining the great things we were going to do.  I was going to write a book that changed the world.  He was going to go forth and bring down the Man.

His first book is being published this autumn.

I love my life.  It is incredibly rich and full of friends, of creativity, of laugher, of the two most gorgeous children and most beloved husband I could have ever dreamt for myself.  But it is a small life, filled with the same stereotypes we used to rally against. I inhabit this strange parallel universe where I am the person I never wanted to be. Its not entirely uncomfortable, but its not comfortable either. I am woman, hear me cook and clean.


I remember reading a study about health inequality when I worked in Public Health.  The basic premise was a powerful one: absolute deprivation can only go so far to account for poor outcomes in health and well being.  Relative deprivation (ie if a deprived household sits next to a wealthy one) plays an enormous role in well-being, particularly mental health. 

Isn't that the truth?  I am happily content to go about my life and business as long as I don't compare my self to others.  I can be quietly proud of my blog, as long as i stay away from Twitter and league tables and blogs about blogging.  I can be happy in my little house, as long as I don't read Country Living magazine.  I happy with the structure and shape of my days as long as I stay away from parenting books. I am content in my life, as long as I don't hold it too closely to what might of been.


After I read all about the wonders of Former Love Interests career, it was time to make yet another meal.  I stood at the sink and imagined my life in this parallel universe.  In it, I probably smoke too much, have short choppy hair, possibly of a primary colour.  I may not have children, but spend my days doing something charitably trendy.  Maybe I have a tattoo.  Maybe I am vegan.  I probably live in Minneapolis.

And then my thoughts turn to the parallel lives of my family.  I wonder who adopted Icarus the Cat from that crazy drunk woman in Twyford if it wasn't me.  I wonder if Kevin is a theatre director.  I wonder if the landlord would've sold this house by now if they didn't have us as stable tenants. I wonder if the incredible force of nature that is Ellis would have been born to someone else.


I couldn't tell you if its regret or if its simply curiosity...its possibly both.  But its kind of hung around for a couple of days, making me feel a bit sad and absent.

Two paths diverged in a yellow wood and I took the one most travelled by...I followed a man to another country.  I got married at 23. I have 2 children.  Work part time. Problems with extended family confound the issue and make me wonder if I've made some heinous mistake choosing this path. Much of it is the same anxiety that surrounds many expats, but seeing my parallel universe so clearly stirred up a lot of the crud that normally settles to the bottom.


The irony is of course, when I try to picture what else I would be doing right now, I can't.  My days would be filled with everything I have: photography, knitting, cooking, children, Kevin. But it doesn't change this twinge of feeling like I've let myself down.   

As my plumber often says (he's very wise and our heating keeping breaking), you always make the right decision at the time, so there's no point in looking back.  Indeed.  And you shouldn't google anyone... 

A Room of Our Own

I suppose it was inevitable, which is why I wasn't that shocked when I suddenly started sobbing at my sewing machine this afternoon. It had been building for a few weeks, or even months.

I'd just wanted to make a small bag to hold the range of plastic carriers that seem to procreate the minute one crosses our threshold.  Simple.  Pattern found, fabric decided upon.  Easy. 

But sitting down and just getting on with it wasn't on the cards.  First, I had to clear away the basket of laundry, the pile of books, cars and tucks and the bag of roving piled high on my desk.  Then, I had to pick fabric paint off the the work surface as well as the 2 log cabin squares I'd finished for Ellis' quilt.  I then realised my good skein of white thread had wandered.  In such a small house, the wide expanse of my desk becomes so many things to each of us: a play ground, a dumping ground, a viewing point for a small boy. Ellis loves to climb up and go through my sewing supplies.  And they go everywhere.  Unorganised at the best of times, devastation is what usually greets me when I sit down to create these days.

And so I haven't been.  I have ignored my sewing machine for weeks and haven't bothered to crochet or knit anything recently.  I could blame the fact that if I even attempt to make anything, I can't find the hook/yarn/needle I need, because it has wandered away on short, 2-year-old sized legs. I finally start something and small hands come and 'help' the minute I sit down.  I can barely write any more, as the moment my fingers hit the keypad, other hands itch with a burning desire to "push buttons".

Its not his fault, I know.  Of course he wants to help his mama.  We cook together.  He helps clean.  We do laundry together.  Why shouldn't he be a part of this too?

I have tried to include him.  But it ends up requiring so much of my mama energy, I am left without  the creative energy to finish anything.  And energy is on short supply these days, as I struggle through the worst period of insomnia I have ever experienced and a rather uncomfortable and, quite frankly draining pregnancy.

After my tears subsided this afternoon, I spoke to a good friend about it all.  She said, quite matter of frankly, "You know what you need to do, Kat.  You have to move to a bigger house where you can have your own room to close the door to other things".  Essentially, I need a 'Room of One's Own'.

We all know the argument, don't we?  As women, as mothers we need a space to close off to the outside world to just be and create. We can only reach our full potential if we have the time, the space and the financial resources to do it.  Small hands have no place in the realm of art.

I do admit I dream of such a place.  It has white walls, with huge windows that overlook the sea.  There is a cappuccino machine and all the caramel digestives I can eat.  Hell, while I'm dreaming, it has a Chihuly chandelier as well.  I sit on the overstuffed corduroy sofa and dream and sketch away.

Its a beautiful dream, something I see in the very real lives of many of the creative women I admire. But a studio, or even a third bedroom doesn't really solve the problem, does it?  I think of this problem like a tree.  A landscape architect once told me that trees only grow their full potential of branches and height when they are planted alone in a park or other isolated position.  Only then do they look like the pictures in tree identification books.

I bet you can see where I am going with this.  They are beautiful and tall and spread as wide as their genes take them, but they lack the system that gives them sustainability.  The other trees to breed with.  The ecosystem that all works together to ensure a different kind of potential.  One that fits beautifully together, piece by piece.  

For some, maybe the isolation is necessary to create, but I see examples again and again of women who create with their family, in amongst their children, in snatches of moments, with few financial resources. It is not in spite of these things they create, but because of them.  Knee deep in life, they find their drive.

Of course, its not all or nothing. Closing off a bit of my space to make it inaccessible to a curious toddler is needed and a 'studio' clear out is in order.  But, fundamentally, I want him to be a part of my creativity, because he is so much of my inspiration and my drive.  I want him to participate in it.  I want him to learn to sew a button on and darn a sock.  I want him to see the things that fuel his parents passions and that possessions don't just appear out of nowhere.

And so, we have to learn together. To grow as an ecosystem where all of our needs are met and we are allowed to flourish. We have to learn to recognise our inherent differences, which includes realigning my understanding of what I can expect of a 2 and a half year old.  Forests take a long time to grow, but its worth it in the end.