From the amazing David Pope
From the wonderful Cathy Wilcox.
From First Dog on the Moon – see the whole thing here, it was brilliant.
Let’s talk about discretion and trust. And perhaps also the public interest.
These are not the usual words I would use when introducing a discussion of the Disclosure principles in privacy law, but right now they seem apt. Because right now I am hopping mad about the disclosure by our government of one woman’s personal information to the media.
The matter I am talking about involves a single mother, but at a deeper level it involves all of us. We are all citizens, we are all ‘clients’ of government agencies at various times throughout our lives, and we all entrust our personal information to those government agencies. We expect that our privacy will be respected in return. This is the story of what happens when it isn’t. This is the story of Andie Fox, but it could just as easily be the story of you or me.
From Anna Johnston’s “Just because you can disclose, doesn’t mean you should”at Salinger Privacy.
But if you read Malone’s piece, as I did, you’d know that it didn’t actually dispute anything of moment in what Fox wrote – not the prehistoric hardware, the clunking website, not the wait times, the mindless bureaucracy, the searing hot shame of sharing private lives in a public space that would lead you to any conclusions Fox made. All Malone really did was divulge, on behalf of the government, information about Andie Fox that was irrelevant to her story. He helped them frighten her.
From the writer, Mary-Rose MacColl’s piece, “If we want writers like Andie Fox”.
I have this theory that when women have a decent stretch of maternity leave they return to work with this insight that life is not all about career achievement. That sounds like progress, except… oh many things.
And some time later, we enter this new phase when our children are older and at school and we are suddenly able to speed up our career efforts again. Life is not all about tending to others or how others perceive us, we find. It is really about self and how comfortable one feels about that.
This awareness haunts you, because it cannot just sit for another thirty to thirty-five years of working. Can it? What would the answer be in that case? I mean, it feels good to see things clearly but..
Men seem to reach this insight much later, much closer to retirement. If they’re lucky. Many more find it on their death bed when.. too late. It makes them restless, sure, but it doesn’t do this for thirty-five years of working and wondering like it does for women.
So.. I enjoyed this essay from Elisa Albert. She’s quite abrupt in “The snarling girl”in Hazlitt, as opposed to here in an earlier essay I admired, and possibly this is what made it controversial on my Facebook page. But anyway, it’s interesting to see how an essay on ambivalence about ambition and conspicuous success can provoke thought.
Here’s what impresses me: Sangfroid. Good health. The ability to float softly with an iron core through Ashtanga primary series. Eye contact. Self-possession. Loyalty. Boundaries. Good posture. Moderation. Restraint. Laugh lines. Gardening. Activism. Originality. Kindness. Self-awareness. Simple food, prepared with love. Style. Hope. Lust. Grace. Aging. Humility. Nurturance. Learning from mistakes. Moving on. Letting go. Forms of practice, in other words. Constant, ongoing work. No endpoint in sight. Not goal-oriented, not gendered. Idiosyncratic and pretty much impossible to monetize.
I mean: What kind of person are you? What kind of craft have you honed? What is my experience of looking into your eyes, being around you? Are you at home in your body? Can you sit still? Do you make me laugh? Can you give and receive affection? Do you know yourself? How sophisticated is your sense of humor, how finely tuned your understanding of life’s absurdities? How thoughtfully do you interact with others? How honest are you with yourself? How do you deal with your various addictive tendencies? How do you face your darkness? How broad and deep is your perspective? How willing are you to be quiet? How do you care for yourself? How do you treat people you deem unimportant?
So you’re a CEO. So you made a million dollars. So your name is in the paper. So your face is in a magazine. So your song is on the radio. So your book is number one. You probably worked really hard; I salute you. So you got what you wanted and now you want something else. I mean, good, good, good, great, great, great. But if you have ever spent any time around seriously ambitious people, you know that they are very often some of the unhappiest crazies alive, forever rooting around for more, having a hard time with basics like breathing and eating and sleeping, forever trying to cover some hysterical imagined nakedness.
I get that my foremothers and sisters fought long and hard so that my relationship to ambition could be so … careless. I get that some foremothers and sisters might read me as ungrateful because I don’t want to fight their battles, because I don’t want to claw my way anywhere. My apologies, foremothers: I don’t want to fight. Oh, is there still sexism in the world? Sigh. Huh. Well. Knock me over with a feather. Now: how do I transplant the peonies to a sunnier spot so they yield more flowers next year or the year after? How do I conquer chapter three of this new novel? I’ve rewritten it and rewritten it for months. I need asana practice, and then I need to sit in meditation for a while. Then some laundry. And the vacuum cleaner needs a new filter. Then respond to some emails from an expectant woman for whom I’m serving as doula. And it’s actually my anniversary, so I’m gonna write my spouse a love letter. Then pick up the young’un from school. And I need to figure out what I’m making for dinner. Something with lentils, probably, and butter. Then text my friends a stupid photo and talk smack with them for a while.
Taking care of myself and my loved ones feels like meaningful work to me, see? I care about care. And I don’t care if I’m socialized to feel this way, because in point of fact I do feel this way. So! I am unavailable for striving today. I’m suuuuuper busy.
I swear I’m gonna tattoo a list
of literary giants who were/are single mothers
on my forearm so every time I hit a doubter
I can just pull up my sleeve
and not waste any more time
I could be writing
by trying to explain that I do
think I can do this
and I will
no matter how bleary
no matter how hungry
no matter how many swank
socials or national conferences
I can’t afford to attend
because Toni Morrison
because Adrienne Rich
because Audre Lorde
because before Plath hit the oven
she sent her mother a letter pleading,
pleading for childcare
because I could keep this list going
because what the fuck kind of world
is this if we really think
we have to ruin our mothers
before we let them give anything more
than the whole human race
to the world.
Writing and children, particularly the toddler variety, are often seen as a bad combination, and in many ways this is true. There is the sleep deprivation, the lack of space, and the ‘million other things’ to do. But for the writer – be it of fiction, poetry or journalism, or in my case, all three – there are unexpected revelations. Your perspective changes – and while at first it may seem much has receded into the unreachable distance – there are, if you remain open to them, new stories and depths of understanding and empathy to tap into. My most recent essay in The Monthly, The Strange Life and Tragic Death of Julia the Gorilla, would never have been written if not for the excursions I took to the Melbourne Zoo with my boys. The essay was such an effortless pleasure to write, the story so extraordinary that Longform.org picked it up and it is now being translated into Spanish for the Mexican publication, Letras Libres.
It is as though my height has been altered, and from this different eye-level, I can see underneath things, stories previously hidden, tucked tight into shells.
On writing as a mother by Anna Krien in Writing Queensland.
A Small Needful Fact by Ross Gay.