Standing, still. Moving forward.

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The lights cast a soft whiteness across the photographic back drop. The studio is quietly humming. The equipment pops and flashes for each shot. Nods and short sentences between the photographer and stylist. I’m standing there, in my tenth outfit of the morning, swishing one way and another, a small dip of the head, a smile at some imaginary friends, a little on-the-spot walking action… it’s a sequence of movements like a slow motion dance. I am handed a bag, someone teases a rogue section of my hair.  Someone else adjusts my sleeve so the wrinkles will fall ‘just so’. I am modelling.

I smile at the lens, my mind racing along with the shoot, keeping up but in a parallel reality. I’m stunned by the surrealism of it all. I find it hard to compute that I am here, doing this. I’m not sure how long it will take me to adjust to feeling this way. Only 6 months ago I was struggling to manage daily life. Standing was my nemesis. Yet I have been on my feet for two hours straight… and I can still smile. Flash!  Pop! I feel my calves flex to keep my balance in my size-too-small prop shoes. I’m really doing this. Still standing.

“That’s it, we’ve got it!” smiles the photographer. The stylist and makeup artist give each other a high five. We. Are. Done.  Everyone thanks everyone. I change back into my own clothes. And just like that I clock off from another shoot as a curvy model. It’s such a fun and affirming thing to do. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. I’m being paid to try on clothes and show people how they really look on a curvy body. I’m contributing to the kind of online shopping environment that works for curvy girls. I can’t count the number of times I have not purchased online, because the model looked too small for me to really understand how the clothes would fall. It makes me happy to think that there are DD-cup+, curvy girls out there who will purchase clothes this season because my boobs and bum provided some realism to help them with their shopping choices!  Here’s to the bootylicious bods out there, and some fair representation!
Here’s a grainy phone picture of me all glammed up, on my way home from yesterday’s shoot:

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But besides the representation of plus-sized bodies, the glamour and the fun of doing a shoot, there is always something running along underneath, for me. An incredulity. An awareness that just standing is still a dream for so many of you, just as it was for me, not so long ago. I remember how that felt, longing for a body that could do the normal stuff; every present moment is echoed with the contrast. I carry my past with me, I carry a knowledge that I can never forget.

And it is precisely because of all those years that I am seizing the day! I am doing what I can, because I CAN! But I have not forgotten you, out there. I stand for you as much as I stand for me. With every health win, every symptom I walk away from, with every medication I wean off, I am laughing in the face of Dysautonomia. Take that!  See this? Wham. In your face mother plucker! I so hope that if you have been following my journey, you feel me carrying you into everything that you cannot do. Into all of my upright hours, through all of my busy days. You are with me, in spirit if not in body. Your own body biding it’s time, battling it’s own way through the maze. Hanging in there.

I stand for you.

I stand for a world that is kinder to people like us.
I stand until you can.  I will stand as long as I can.
Hang in there my friends.  Hold tight. Never, ever let go of whatever it is pulling you onward.  Because if this can happen for me, then that means, it is possible.  If I have this reprieve, this time of plenty, this freedom to be who I always used to be, then why not you, too?

It’s a paradox, but nonetheless, here I am standing still and moving forward.
Kia Kaha.

*the necklace in the image above is from Uberkate. She ran a competition last year for women to nominate their friends/sisters/mothers using one word for the pendant.  My friend Nettie nominated me and chose the word ‘standing’. My sister in law Cathie seconded the nomination.  And they won it for me! It is a necklace I treasure.  I wear it every day and it draws me back to my purpose every single time I look at it. Thanks Nettie, thanks Cathie, and thanks Uberkate!
** Nettie has a blog called I Give You the Verbs. Which tickles me, because in winning that necklace for me, she literally gave me the verb! 😉

Missing Persons

This is not my usual kind of topic.  But I felt compelled to write about it.  I hope you will read it, it matters.

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Missing Persons
When we first got satellite TV, I spent a disturbing night, up until late, watching a documentary on the Crime channel.  It caught my interest because I recognised the picture they flashed up of a girl I had seen on the news some weeks earlier.  I was deeply distressed when I watched the news report about her imprisonment in a room of the basement in her childhood home.  Nobody knew she was there apart from her kidnapper. It had disturbed me greatly.  So when I saw her face, my thumb paused on the button of the remote.

And I paused, too; I watched.  I sat, transfixed with horror as all the awful facts of her incarceration were laid out.  Then, other cases.  Another German girl.  Then, two more girls, held captive for years in a dugout in Russia.  And Jaycee Dugard, kidnapped and held in plain sight. The stories horrified me; the victims astounded me.  Such inner strength, such survival, against odds that must have seemed hopeless.

And it struck me as I watched, that this kind of documentary, this kind of channel, dedicated to the crimes people have committed… surely we should be concerned about this?  There it is, all laid out for the sociopaths and psychopaths of the world. All the information they could ever need?  A how-to-guide for abduction, kidnap, subjugation and torture.  A twenty-four-seven feast of human horrors.  And not just this kind of crime.  Every kind of crime. The TV is full of it.  Whodunnits, forensic science and murder shows, action thrillers, bounty hunters, drug lords, pimps and con-men. Why do we have these channels? I ask myself, why do I watch, when I do? I am so disturbed I have nightmares, but still, there are times when I watch.  It really concerns me.

Some of the people who watch, regularly feed their brains on this diet of destruction. If they are people with violent thoughts and desires, it must be like an endless drug supply of their favourite hit.  Until the 2D images are not enough.  Then what?  Why do we keep supplying this drug?

Then, just recently, another documentary flicked across my screen as I was scrolling.  This one about the three girls in Cleveland, held captive, tortured and all but destroyed, for ten years by Ariel Castro.  I watched the policemen talk about the case.  I heard the neighbours, exclaiming in disbelief. I saw footage of family candlelight vigils, the broken faces of mothers and fathers whose children were lost.  It honestly made me want to look away.  It’s hard to absorb the pain of that loss in the face of another mother. It is an unthinkable torture they endure, too.

Why do human beings do these things to each other?  Why are some people so hideously broken that they must break others?  Can the cycle ever end? Will no one stand up and call for less of this violent education on our screens, in our living rooms, one click of the remote away?  What happens to all those unsupervised, under-parented kids who watch this stuff? And what about the computer games, so hyper real your brain is tricked into responses similar to real life.  Environments where car theft, rape and criminal activity are the mainstays of the game? I don’t understand where it is all going, I don’t want to.   But it worries me sick.  Does it worry you?

I have read a couple of the books written by survivors of human slavery. Tonight I finished the second. Their stories are terrifying, heart wrenching, and also inspiring.  But I was struck by the similarity in both Jaycee Dugard and Michelle Knight’s stories.  For both of the perpetrators, a diet of extreme porn and crime channel television were significant interests.  Are we paying attention to these things?  Do we care?  Do we dare to say; not here?  As mothers, wives, women and ultimately, the nurturers of all the babies that enter this world, when do we say ‘enough of these images, these ideas, this sickness’?

Our missing persons numbers continue to grow.  From tiny little ones, childen, adolescents, young people.  Countless souls, unaccounted for.  How many are trapped and needing our vigilance.  Have you ever googled ‘missing persons’ in Google images?  It is overwhelmingly distressing. Do you know your neighbours?  Do you listen for disturbing sounds?  Do you ever call the police?  Do you share and circulate the pictures of missing people on Social Media, or do you look away?  Click away?  Try to pretend it isn’t happening?

I saw this little guy again on my newsfeed the other day: he’s still missing.  And I am ashamed to say that I clicked away.  After staying up tonight to finish reading Michelle Knight’s book about her kidnap ordeal, I resolved to stay up a little longer and write this. And to post his face here. He is only one of so many.  Let’s not look away from their faces anymore.

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Want more information about missing persons?

Go to the NZ Police Missing Persons facebook page.  Receive notifications and spread the word.  You can find it here.

Are you in Australia?  Here is the Australian Federal Police missing persons page

The International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) is a global movement to promote the safety and well-being of children.

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and finally, some words from Michelle Knight herself.
“for now, the only kind of sense I can make out of everything that has happened is this: we all go through hard things.  We might wish we didn’t, but we do.  Even if I don’t understand my pain, I have got to turn it into some kind of purpose”

And she is.  Michelle is putting her life back together and helping other people and children who have been victimised.  Her story is horrific, but her attitude blows my mind. What an amazing survivor she is.

My heart goes out to all those still missing persons and their families.  May they all get the chance to be free again, just like Michelle.  And may we remember not to forget them as we go about our daily lives.

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These books are difficult reads. They make you want to look away. Reading them will make you stop, to cry. To catch your breath.  To shake in your boots. You may have nightmares or lose sleep.  They are terrifying tales and emotionally raw, real stories.  I certainly didn’t enjoy reading them, but I am glad that buying them will contribute to the income of these girls. And I hope that their stories will help us to do something about the welfare of our vulnerable, disenfranchised young women and children in society.