On life and lemons…

“When life gives you lemons make lemonade”

Or so says the famous proverb …

Between you and I, I hate lemonade! It’s sickly sweet and reminds me of a home remedy I used to have when I had a cold. It gets a lot worse when served hot and sweetened with honey instead of sugar.

Back to the memes, which I can’t have enough of, I’ve found many memes about life giving you lemons:

“When life gives you lemons, throw them at someone”

Or its polar opposite:

“When life gives you lemons, keep them because … hey, free lemons!”

Some show their “ethylic” inspiration:

“When life gives you lemons, grab tequila and salt”

“When life gives you lemons, make margaritas”

But I haven’t found this one yet. My most sincere thanks to my BodyBalance mate Chris for suggesting this highly creative alternative 🙂

In case you were wondering, I can make lemoncello (or limoncello). Either way, cheers / salud / santé or whatever you say in your own language.

Nuff said: When life gives you lemons, make lemoncello.

On bipolar sufferers and their support people—my thoughts.

Being both bipolar and a support person to another bipolar, I’m familiar with both sides of the equation. Therefore I believe I’m in a very good position to share my thoughts and give some insights.

If you’re bipolar, listen up! Cut the crap with the self-pity, the omnipotence and the self-absorption. Admit you have a serious health issue. Stop being a navel gazer, up-your-arse, negative, unbearable and nasty piece of work. Your support people love you. Stop for a fricken second, just a fricken second, to think that you’re wrecking their lives when you insist upon not taking your meds, not changing your lifestyle for the better or not allowing a kind, loving relative or friend to help you manage your screwed-up finances. You can do heaps better than that. I know how much you’re suffering because I’ve suffered that much myself. I’m aware it isn’t pretty. In any case, in the middle of so much pain, you can still find enough self-awareness to make a change. Tell a loved one you love them, apologise for the hurt you cause them and remember that being bipolar doesn’t define you. It’s part of you, not the whole “you”. I know, you’ve got to deal with it, as I deal with it myself, but I’m sure that you can do that and more.

If you’re a support person, you’re not alone. What I found works for me is 1) compassion; 2) compassion; 3) compassion; and last but not least compassion. Not “idiot compassion” – if you don’t know what that means, google it up. Listening, just listening, goes a long way. Now, I’ve got a few little “pearls” for you as well. Sometimes you use hurtful words when you talk to your bipolar loved one, shame on you! Find yourself a sounding board if you need to vent – preferably a counsellor or a support group. Don’t wear your friends out; some of them may even misunderstand your plight and a) give you stupid advice that you must leave your partner; b) throw your son out of the house, c) tell your mother to drop dead. That isn’t the way. Some friends can be very understanding: those are the ones who just listen. Take time out if you need to. Find a safe space where you can refuel. Set clear limits as to how far you can go for your BLO (Bipolar Loved One). Don’t believe that you’re invincible, unbreakable and unflappable, because you are NOT. If your BLO is a family member, don’t forget that bipolar disorder runs in families and you may be bipolar yourself.
If your partner / spouse happens to be bipolar, and you decide you absolutely have to leave them for your safety and sanity, it’s sad and regrettable. But you come first. If there’s no “you”, there’s nothing. Run for your life if you must, but don’t abuse the hell out of someone who at some point must have been very attractive and worth everything in your eyes.

To both: Not all bipolar sufferers are the same. Remember it’s a disease, so considering that all BP patients are the same would equate to considering that all cancer sufferers have the same personality traits. Bipolar disorder isn’t a weakness or a defence mechanism that sufferers “switch on” whenever they feel like it, and on purpose. It’s one hell of a disease.

Money and a room of one’s own

It’s been a while, guys. That wasn’t the way it was meant to be, but there are a series of unremarkable things that happen in life that can push an author in unintended directions. Case in point: what happens (or doesn’t happen) at work. A vast majority of us indiefolk have to do other kinds of work for a living. Many of us belong to the so-called precariat: we hold casual positions at work which don’t allow us to think in terms of earning so much a month, because there are months in which we don’t earn anything.

Gone are the days in which an academic like me had the chance of being employed full-time. Managing money has become “a thing” in itself and it saps my creative energy. I happened to be discussing this with a dear friend of mine this arvo when she nodded and said something like ‘Yeah, having money and a room of one’s own.’ It was Virginia Woolf who wrote those words in an essay that would become a classic in feminist thinking:

…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved…

I can’t complain about the little room where I do my writing (when my mental state allows me to). Even the local library where I live counts as a “room of my own” with a breathtaking view of the Blue Mountains. We can discuss “the true nature of woman” till the cows come home. In any case, this isn’t what I intend to do here. I guess that what I want to discuss is the role of money in the life of a writer. Yes, that unspeakable monstrosity, that hideous vulgarity. Money, or lack thereof, that can hold back many a creative soul and their creative career.

Every time I want to find an answer to life’s dilemmas, I ask Google. Yeah, effin’ Google and its nerdy relative Google Scholar, my true ally in these days of post-truths. A couple of days ago I came across a very cool website run by Mark McGuinness, poet and coach. In this well worded article he discusses the uneasy relationship that creative people have with money, and he does nail it on most counts. Many authors think that money isn’t important; they don’t know how to get it or don’t know how much they’re worth; they don’t want to sell out or look greedy; not to mention that in countless cases they don’t know how to manage it or spend it.

Make no mistake, one-hundred dollar notes could put a huge, lasting smile on my face.

If I use the third person singular “they” it’s because I’ve got a very clear idea of the role of money in my life. I’m also painfully aware that the need to have a “day job” will be there for who knows how long because very few creative writers make a living as such. I’m not saying I’ve given up; on the contrary, I believe there could be a future working as a creative writer for me. But in the meantime I have to support myself in a different way, namely through a “day job”. A stable “day job”.

‘These are hard times for dreamers,’ said the porno shop assistant in the movie Amélie.  I’d say they’re hard times for those of us that want to make a living without making a fuss. Of course I want to make a living selling novels and collections of short stories, but in order to write them I need the peace of mind that comes from knowing that my bills are paid.

Must leave you now. I need to continue fighting the bad guys and keeping the wolf from the door. Catcha later 🙂

Politics, government, and men and women of knowledge.

Knowledge is power — or so the saying goes. So why is it that many people in government are such ignoramuses?

Hehe, FF, don’t be stupid … Power is about money, tax havens, tax evasion, in other words the golden rule: those that have the gold make the rules.

Politics is also the art of what is possible, of the end justifying the means (salute Machiavelli!), dog whistles and the like. Corruption and whatever-gates. You get my drift 😉

All the same, there are times in which a flicker of light makes me think that some level of change is possible. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, son of the late Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, born and bred into politics and power, gave politicians of every persuasion and from everywhere in the world a master class on how it is possible to understand how things work and not slip into waffle (Malcolm Turnbull, take note).

Last Friday April 15 2016, Justin Trudeau announced a government investment of $50 million over five years, at the Perimeter Institute in Ontario. In a tongue-in-cheek manner, a reporter asked him to explain quantum computing. The PM didn’t hesitate to answer and received a standing ovation from the public.

‘So what?’ I hear you say. ‘I could do that myself … What’s so special about Justin Trudeau anyway?’

Everything: his background, his politics, his compassionate approach to the refugee issue, his feminism (50% of his cabinet is female), his family, even his suits and his smile. Most importantly, for those of us who appreciate intelligence in its different manifestations, Justin Trudeau seems to be the typical PM who can listen to a brief, understand it, draw his own conclusions and re-transmit the information. 

Beyond the anecdote and the soundbites, Justin Trudeau has given us voters a very good reason to expect politicians to lift their game (Bill Shorten, you got the memo?) regardless of their political persuasion. And don’t get me started on climate change denialists, conspiracy theorists, delusional zealots and the like.

Germaine, oh Germaine!

Germaine Greer … A name that’s synonymous with feminism, English literature and Shakespeare scholarship … and brain farts 🙁

Germaine Greer on QandA (11/4/16). Photo by ABC.
Germaine Greer on QandA (11/4/16). Photo by ABC.

Her comments on ABC’s QandA, broadcast yesterday April 11 from their Sydney studio, left me wondering … I could only find a link from, which will have to do for now, given that there’s no YouTube link that I can easily embed.

GG was hell reasonable most of the time. She made a number of valid points on refugees, terrorism, the Panama Papers and Shakespeare. At some stage she expressed a firm disagreement with Dr Theodore Dalrymple, psychiatrist and author. He said that in his years of experience as a psychiatrist, he found that the underlying reason why men treat women violently is jealousy. GG replied that she thought it had everything to do with misogyny.

Germaine, Germaine, have you ever heard of pathological jealousy? By the way, it can also affect women …

Someone like her, who I’m sure can analyse Shakespeare’s Othello like no other, should know better.  I’m not saying that misogyny isn’t part of the problem, but disqualifying a psychiatrist’s well founded observation wasn’t precisely a brilliant idea. First brain fart of the evening.

The best was yet to come, though … Stay tuned.

Questioner Steph D’Souza said, ‘When I was younger I found your work a great source of strength and inspiration. It helped me resist the limitations that society or even misogynists could place on me, but I find really confusing views you’ve expressed that transgender women are not real women. Why do you believe there is such a thing as a real woman? Isn’t that the kind of essentialism that you and I are trying to resist and escape?’

‘This is so difficult,’ Germaine responded. ‘The interesting thing to me is this, that if you decide, because you’re uncomfortable in the masculine system, which turns boys into men often at great cost to themselves — if you’re unhappy with that it doesn’t mean that you belong at the other end of the spectrum, that by expressing it that way.’

At this stage, I began wondering whether I’d had too much Verdelho with dinner …

GG continued, ‘We’ve got a problem now with the word “know” and we could spend a lot of time discussing what that means philosophically, is believe the same as “know”? Is true belief the same as knowing? None of this is easy. The difficulty for me, that women are constantly being told that they are not satisfactory as women, that other people make better women than they do and that the woman of the year may be Caitlin Jenner which makes the rest of the female population of the world feel slightly wry.’

Hang on a minute, Germaine. It doesn’t make me wry. How would you know? You don’t speak for me. Are you “all women,” m’dear?

‘I don’t believe that a man who has lived for 40 years as a man and had children with a woman and enjoyed the services, the unpaid services of a wife, then decides that the whole time he’s been a woman and at that point I’d like to say, “Hang on a minute, you believed you were a woman but you married another woman. That wasn’t fair, was it?”‘

You thought that was the whole brain fart? There’s more.

Wisecracking Germaine finished her comment saying to the host, Tony Jones, ‘I belong in this hole.’

And effin’ stay there, Germaine. In the hole.

Last year she uttered fiery claims that transgender women are ‘not real women’ and accused Caitlyn Jenner of misogyny for attempting to steal the limelight from the females in the Kardashian clan. That’s a very lazy point of view. Apparently she didn’t bother to inform herself on what it is to be transgender. The Internet is full of quality resources like this one published by the American Psychological Association (.org and .edu online resources are the quality ones… I’m sure Germaine knows that). My good friend Dr Vek Lewis is a Sydney Uni academic who is also an advocate and activist in the field of sexual minorities in Latin America, and he’s my go-to person when I have doubts on this topic. I bet that Germaine will surely benefit from a frank and robust conversation with Vek.

I look forward to a debate between Vek and Germaine …

What most surprises me is that as different sciences move fast and elegantly, and do research on gender that go beyond capricious beliefs, Germaine Greer sticks to “her guns” (whatever those guns are). She used to be a feminist hero of mine. She opened my eyes to different possibilities, beyond those of being a wife and mother. Now she appears to be slamming the door shut in the face of transgender people, bordering on vilification.

Nobody can deny that a contrarian and provocateur like Germaine Greer has enormous entertainment value on television. However, her manner of entertainment isn’t helpful at all. QandA now owes us, faithful audience, some quality feminism. Bring Eva Cox, Anne Summers, Raewyn Conell, Naomi Wolf, Isabel Allende, Susan Faludi, Rigoberta Menchú and Tara Moss. Bring others. Let Germaine stay in her “hole”.

Catcha later, a glass of Verdelho is calling me. FFJ 🙂