I Can’t Keep Quiet

A Cambodian Girl (source)

put on your face
know your place
shut up and smile

Have you read Half the Sky? It’s written by award winning journalists who had to tell the stories their publishers weren’t interested in running. Stories about the plight of women across the globe. Stories that were not ‘news’ despite women being roughly half of all the people living on this planet.  The stories highlighted to me how very far we are from the things fair-minded citizens have fought for ….forever.  From the beginning of time.  The book put me in mind of another author’s work, Xinran; The Good Women of China.

And here we are, thousands of years into human existence; fighting for simple human kindness. An agreed creed against injustice. Fighting even for awareness that these things remain to be fought for. Fighting to show the younger generations that these issues are not new. Trying to convince our young ones that each generational wave can build upon the work of generations previously. Are more people all over the world making a noise, speaking out? Is it wishful thinking? Traction is hard fought won.  In Science, we have been able to build on the discoveries of others, stand, as Einstein put it  ‘on the shoulders of giants’.  Perhaps not with regards to climate change, but still. Yet in matters of equity, true cultural advancement; can we, are we even brave enough to carry on the work of people before us?

I don’t know exactly at what point the fight for interhuman respect became a fight between genders, but it did. It might have been when those invading armies destroyed an entire extraordinary culture in Ancient Sumer and with it, the first documented rights of women.  It might have been when the industrial revolution and rise of capitalism rendered mothering a non-valuable industry. It might have been the first rape. Or the billionth. At some point, the marginalised, the vulnerable, the consistently downtrodden of the world noticed that most often, the oppressor was male.  Stronger, shrewder perhaps, more aggressive. Force triumphing over Fair.

Stop whining, say the modern day alpha males. Stop whining and accept it. It’s just the way of life, the law of the jungle, the status quo  -and what about our rights not to have to listen to you whine? So, life’s not fair, swallow it and shut up.

But I can’t keep quiet.

Lately, the burning in my brain about women’s issues has been tearing me up inside. I’ve been shutting up, being a good girl. Not making waves. I’ve been doing that for so long it is making me crazy. Then just the other day, my beautiful friend Chloe who is volunteering in Cambodia, shared a story that broke me. She wrote about a little twelve year old girl from their school who has been abducted for the sex slave trade in Thailand. She thought she was going to be taken to see her Mum. I think of my own twelve year old and my guts twist.

I know that little girl and her even younger sister have been taken to the brothels, because her abduction is the classic m.o of the organised criminals who run these rackets. It has long been documented discussed and dissected by Not For Profit organisations working in the region. Ignored by governments, the media and by people like us, comfortable in our busy workaday lives.

Those little girls don’t have parents who can shout. They don’t have countrymen who can take time away from the graft of survival to search for them.  Even if they did, they’d probably end up killed. It’s a one way ticket into the brothels of Thailand. Children are briefly valuable commodities in the sex trade of Thailand; sought by wealthy foreign men taking their criminal sexual preferences to a more permissive political climate. And when those girls are no longer children they become grist for the sex trade mill. And it is not just Thailand. Brothels, even here in New Zealand profit from sex slavery. Each person held captive, ‘just another’ nameless woman, no freedom, no voice.

No one knows me, no one ever will
if I don’t say something, if I just lie still

I saw my friend’s post about those little girls on a day that was full of my own personal challenges. And then I saw a facebook post from Milck, the artist who wrote the stirring anthem sung at many of the women’s marches around the world recently.  In Goteburg, women gathered to sing her song in public as the snow fell. It’s a beautiful clip. It made me cry.

I’ve been a blithering mess lately, crying at everything. Feeling the weight of the world’s injustices as if every one is my own. So I decided to take my sensitive and sore soul off Facebook. It hasn’t stopped me feeling upset. It’s not revolutionary, nor a political statement. It’s not helpful to anyone out there struggling.  My sensitivities are only useful if I do something with them. I just mention it here to explain it to you if you’ve been looking for me out there.  I’m here. And I can’t keep quiet.

Below I have listed a couple of organisations I trust, if you too feel galvanised by your inner distress to do something.  Join me. I’m not on Facebook right now, but I am still here. Fighting the stupidity of humans hurting humans by using my voice. Fighting by sending money and goods to the organisations who can help. Fighting by raising my kids to be aware, kind humans. Fighting for myself, by regaining the emotional energy I need to continue the fight.

A one woman riot,

I can’t keep quiet
For anyone
Anymore.

All lyrics in bold italics are by Milck. You can see her song here:

Organisations:

SHAKTI:

Shakti has four ethnic women’s refuges in New Zealand. You can donate using the details below, or credit card donations are possible through their website. Donations go towards ensuring safety to vulnerable women and children. Items needed include beds, bed linen, duvets, kitchen ware, groceries, sanitary products, toiletries, etc.

Direct Deposit: Shakti Community Council Inc (Donations)
ANZ Branch, Mt Roskill Branch
Account Number: 01-0183-0243434-03

AUCKLAND WOMEN’S CENTRE

Helps over 3,000 women a year by offering:

  • crisis intervention to women with complex needs
  • support, information, advice and referral for emergency housing, women’s refuge, rape counselling, child abuse reporting, abortion, parenting
  • links to AWC’s low cost community education programme and counselling
  • referral to the right service based on particular needs

UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT FUND FOR WOMEN

Keep abreast of global issues for women.

HOUSE OF HAGAR, Cambodia
Chloe tells me this is absolutely the organisation making a difference for victims of sex trafficking in Cambodia. Immediately after the girls were taken, Chloe got in touch with them and House of Hagar are working with contacts to try to extract the girls and return them home.

HAMLIN FISTULA HOSPITAL, Ethiopia
The kids at our school knit peggy squares for these exceptionally brave women. I urge you to read more about them and their plight and consider donating or helping them in any way you can.

The Dysautonomia Divide

Relationships are an emotional engineering feat. There’s communication, so easy to get wrong, a thoughtless word can drive a canyon between two people. There’s the non verbal stuff, body language, expressions, eye contact (or lack of it).  There’s building intimacy and trust, or letting that slide.  Another great divide.

There are so many unintentional ways we can trip our relationships up.  My primary relationship is with a man, so we have gender difference warping our perspectives and carving new terrain for intrepid exploration.  He’s direct.  I’m sensitive.  What a winning combination. Not.

Sometimes I’m tired of strapping on the explorer kit and mapping the divide.  I get frustrated and fed up with the effort it takes to make it all work. It’s not easy maintaining a healthy relationship.  Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  But when I am scaling the sheer slick rock face of another misunderstanding, I think how nice it would be if we could cut to the chase and mind meld.

A little discussion was had this morning about Zed’s school concert.
“I don’t think I can go this time, honey” I said.  I knew it the moment I woke.  It is a fact of Dysautonomia that I miss out on many of the things that really matter to me as a Mum.  That means my kids miss out too.
(sigh) “Is this how it is for single parent families?” he thought out loud.
Then: (another sigh) “We ARE a single parent family.”

Ouch.

He left the room and went on to the next thing before he could see my eyes fill with tears.  My face turned toward the window.  I stared out at the grey day outside. My thoughts weren’t very pretty in that moment. I thought about what I must be to him. He doesn’t know how it feels to be inside this body.  He sees, this lump in the bed. This drain on his energy and patience. The not-so-silent partner, making my demands but not able to support him every time he needs it. I thought then about how unattractive I must be, this lumpy useless person I have become. Often so lost in my own health struggle, there is little left to give.

And then, I got really angry. I assessed who I am as a parent.  What I offer my kids in spite of my compromised abilities. I thought about all the things I do manage to get to, the smile-though-the-small-talk just for the chance to see my kids do something at school. The meals I cook, gripping on to the bench and willing myself through to the finished stage. I thought about sitting up at the bench to pre-wrap sandwiches and lunchbox snacks, long after my best-before had been and gone.  About morning cuddles on my bed with my babies, good long deep-and-meaningfuls. I thought about all the little bits of evidence that I am doing my best, despite Dysautonomia.  I am still parenting.  I whipped all that up into a whirlwind of objection.

And I told him how much it hurt to hear him suggest he parents on his own.
He was exasperated.  “That’s not how I meant it!  Why can’t you take it the way it was intended?”
And again, we are surveying the divide.  We decide we can, with some teamwork, breach the gap.

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These discussions aren’t uncommon for us. Relationships are hard work.  Once our bridge was built, we took a moment to discuss the difficulty of relationships in the context of chronic illness.  I asked if I could write about our morning argument and he agreed. I asked him what the worst part of our marriage is for him. If you too are living with chronic illness, you know all too well what the perspective of the sick person is. Here are his reflections from the bloke point of view, the other side of the dysautonomia divide.

“One of the hardest things to cope with is the inconsistency around the margins. I can never predict if you’ll be able to help or be of no help, I have to be able to roll with that. Even when I’m exhausted from a big day.

I carry a lot of guilt towards the kids, I seem to spend so much time doing necessary stuff around the house instead of hanging out with them or doing fun stuff.

I have to watch myself.  It is easy to compare what would’ve been with the way it is. That can be really depressing.  It’s best if I don’t compare.  I feel sad about what the kids are missing out on by not having an active mum. I try not to think about what I am missing out on.

I am balancing the challenge of work, sick wife, kids. If I need to do more at home, that’s less time working and earning.  There’s a knock on effect. That doesn’t leave me much mental space. I grind through every day trying to be optimistic. But it’s not easy.  Sometimes I have to go and smash zombies with my cricket bat*”

“So, why do you think our marriage still works?” I asked.

“We love each other, we’re friends, we’re supportive and we don’t let our differences fester. We make ourselves deal with it. Generally we dovetail really well.  We are tolerant of each other.  We respect and trust each other.  We believe that the other has our best interests at heart.  So there is room to argue and get over it.

Also, we’re committed to our future; we’re both working really hard towards it.  I work hard to earn the money and keep the family going, you work hard to find a solution to the health situation. We’re both pulling in the same direction.


It’s like Jack Reacher said in the last Lee Child novel. ‘You have to expect the best and plan for the worst’. I’ve seen you through so many dips. We have always come out the other side at some point. Also, I’m optimistic about recent treatment possibilities.  There are lots of arrows pointing in the same direction. Is that wishful thinking?  That’s what optimism is.

It’s like when Team New Zealand were racing in the America’s Cup. Every time you lose a race it dents your confidence.  But you still have team spirit. You still believe it’s possible. We are a team.”

* don’t worry, it’s a computer game.
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Does your relationship suffer because one of you is ill?
What do you do to keep it together?
How do you bridge the divide?