The shapes of my theology

Hi there. I wrote this thing for a college exercise which was to talk about how my theology has changed. Quickly I realised the question isn’t how it has changed but which particular change I should talk about. So I borrowed an idea from the delightful Gail Ramshaw, and made the following. A list of the shapes of the theology that has held me and been held by me, over my life.


My theology as scenic background.

I parade in front of it in a variety of guises, each of which I play with gusto. It stands upright and thin and stiff, telling myself and the viewers what surrounds me. A closer look would reveal that its paint is thinning and that what it depicts is not realistic. I forget it is there. 

and

My theology as comfy blanket.

It is always waiting for me, tucked in a cupboard or stuck awkwardly down the side of my bed. I put it away for months at a time, but I know where it is and how comfortable it makes me. It is sometimes, the reason I go to bed.

                                                   but

 My theology as the blue sky.

It is above, it is blue. This much we know for sure. This cannot be contradicted. We know where it is, how to point it out to tourists and children. It contains mysteries, yes, but we know where it is, how it should appear. To conceive otherwise would be lunacy. It is above, it is blue.

My theology as scaffold.

A green and rigid structure, holding up the façade of a building. It’s not pretty, but by God is it necessary. Its removal results in catastrophe.

 

 

My theology as petals on a pond.

They float idly by, so small they are almost tucked into the water. It is nice to watch them move, which they do with no discernible pattern. They do not tie you to the pond and when you return, if you return, the petals will have gently swirled into different positions, their water-top dance unknowable and unimportant. 

My theology as parent, or grandparent.

It has held you and raised you and now is yours to walk with or visit or ignore for days and weeks, forgetting to call. When you visit you are warmed by its wisdom and eat the treats it offers you gladly, but often find yourself keen to leave again. You call when you need help with your taxes.

My theology as smorgasbord.

A table groans under the weight of dozens of plates, heaped with food of all colours, smells and textures. Or a long serving section with trays in bain marie’s, each one a surprise and a delight. You take your time wandering to each in turn as your whims lead, sampling a little here and there. The food is delicious, and after you eat it you feel as nourished as you’ve ever been.

My theology as balloon.

Once draped inelegantly and uselessly over the ground, its outer patterns indiscernable, it has begun to fill gently with warm air, growing slowly larger, and yet larger, filling to a shocking, an extraordinary size, the images printed on it’s surface widening until they are proud and taught, until it rises calmly from the earth to transport one in a basket to heights previously unreached. 

My theology as question.

Uttered as one sentence, that may be a different sentence on the next utterance, rising in a plaintive peak at the end, curling through the air in abject wonder, now asked, not returnable, concrete in utterance but not meaning, giving the speaker a toe through the door, a jimmying elbow to force a gap. It seeks response.

 

My theology as tree.

Tall, or short, or rough, or smooth and dotted with knots. Its roots dig deep in the ground but it moves gently with the wind. Small creatures, lovely and strange, hide amongst its leaves. Sometimes we eat from it, others, we use it as firewood. It talks to other trees, grows in daylight and darkness, doesn’t always talk easily to humans. Stretching up by virtue of its birth into other spheres, not content with sitting still, its branches can shelter from the heat or support one who seeks a different vantage point, and who will rest against bark covered limbs for hours, surveying the landscape.

A story about a lot of things

A note: This was designed to be read aloud. I co-host a monthly story telling evening and told this story there last night. Imagine if it’s possible, me reading it to you. 

My story is about a meeting.

I spent the last five days in a giant, white walled room in the box hill town hall.

I was there for the gathering of the Uniting Church of Victoria and Tasmania, and because obviously, I know how to get down.

While there, we were treated to an evening of stories. One of them was told by my friend, I’ll call her A, and she talked about her place of safety in the church, her love of it, and her experience of hearing horrible words from another person in what should have been a safe place as a bisexual woman. She talked about her fear, and her panic, and her hurt, and I cried as I heard her because she was so beautiful and sure of who she was as she spoke.

 

My story is about an idea in a small room.

I used to live in Parkville, in a small and wonderful apartment named Yoko. She was my nest for a year and a half a little while ago, the scene of parties and conversations and so much eating and friends planning their future lives and watching Harry Potter and one weekend, the setting for two slothful days watching Netflix- I had a lot less on my plate then? I remember I was in bed watching Orange is the New Black, which will seem clichéd in a moment, because as I watched I started thinking. I was thinking about ladies who like ladies and how that seems ok to me now, after growing up a fairly boring Christian stereotype. And how I love all my gay friends, and while I thought things in a fairly straightforward way a small voice asked me if I would be ok with the gay thing if it was my gay thing.

 

My story is about labels.

I‘ve never liked those tests that tell you what you are. When people who dig such things say “well I’m an IFPJ” or “ha! Classic QXKH” or whatever the fuck, something within me rolls its eyes eternally and I feel a distaste that comes from years of trying so hard at ages 13 through 17 to cope with rising feelings of inadequacy by being ‘an individual’. That stuff is less important to me now but I still feel a strong reaction in my gut when someone thinks they know something about me. Maybe it’s harder to hide when you’re labelled, because you and others know something about what set you belong to.

 

My story is about a word I don’t like

Sexuality doesn’t suit me. I don’t like the sound of the word, I don’t like how clinical it seems and I don’t like it that even though it doesn’t contain other words like penis, or vagina it does hold a certain idea within it, that the possessor of the sexuality in question has certain designs on other persons, and the ability to sort of use this design or action it, in some way? There is to me a dance implicit in it, or at least an ownership, and a sexiness, however small and hidden, that feels removed from me.

 

My story is about it not being a big deal

Scene: my bedroom, circa 2014. Yoko.

A conversation between two Carlynnes

So, Carlynne, what if you wanted to date girls?

Huh. Well. What would that change?

Probably not much.

Yeah you’re right.

Wait- we still dig guys though yeah

Yes.

Cool, more people to check out on the tram.

 

My story is about fear

A part of the Synod meeting was a chance to reflect on the story telling evening which had been a new initiative. I told my table partners that I was very moved by my friend’s story, and her bravery.

I did not say: It touched me, because I too am bisexual.

Another person spoke and we all agreed it had been a wonderful night and a man asked what had challenged us about the night

I did not say: Well, I was challenged because though a lot of my friends know, I am bisexual and I’m not *really* out.

 

My story is about watching

I see you, my lovely, glowing friends.

You are derided, and picked apart, and divided and demoralised because of that word I don’t particularly like, because you love.

I see you named, and because of this signal they come for you. I see them think they know a thing about you because of a word.

I see you.

 

My story is about what matters

I don’t date much, so it feels like it doesn’t matter. I pass for heterosexual (whatever that means) and often feel as I’ve always felt, so honestly it feels like it doesn’t matter. In Christian circles often assumptions are made that you’re straight, and that doesn’t really matter I guess, though if you’ve got short hair, never talk about having a partner and are vocal in your support of LGBTIQ concerns, other assumptions can be made, I don’t ever know which of that matters… The current shit-fest of a debate about marriage feels like it’s not my fight, I’m still the same Carlynne, I’ve not paid my dues, I don’t want to assume my point of view matters. It’s only a wee part of me, why would it matter? And if it doesn’t matter I don’t have to talk to a dear friend who asked me if my theology could line up with my life if I dated girls (side note, I’ve had time to consider and yeah, it could), that doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter that I don’t really know what my classmates would think.

 

My story is about a meeting.

Some guy who people hadn’t seen in the room much said bitterly to me over morning tea “they’d notice me in the room if I was gay”. I told him blankly I didn’t know how to respond to that and he said we spend too much time talking about “that stuff”. I wondered how he knew I wasn’t “that stuff”. When I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I wondered if there was something else I should be thinking about.

 

My story is about my friend in a white room

 A in the white room in Box Hill with wings and a Valkyrie shield saying who she is and what she is and staring us all down with a laugh and soft, brutal honesty. A causing me to wonder if I could claim things for myself the same way, if I could step into a word that way, if I could wear it like a cape.

 

My story is about labels

Because I’ve wanted to avoid what people will think they know about me, being looked at, being told I’m not the thing I think I am.

I still refuse to believe everyone is either an extrovert or an introvert, I do not want to do a fucking myers-briggs test, and no, knowing that I could cheerfully date a boy or a girl doesn’t mean you know anything about who I actually am. But labels help you know what set you belong to, and honestly I think my 13 through 17 year old selves would approve.

 

My story is about the fear I didn’t know I was responding to until that table conversation, and how I’m quietly, in small steps, telling it to leave.

 

This story is about my sexuality (it took a lot to leave that there).

 

This is a story that might not be a bit deal,

 

This is a story about my not wanting to just watch any more.

 

This might be a story about what matters.

 

 

 

 

 

For Vicki

It’s my mother’s birthday today, falling as it always does inconveniently close to Mother’s Day. When we were growing up as far as I can recall, and still now when she gets a bit fired up, she was very clear about us getting her two SEP-ER-ATE gifts. We were not to combine our well meaning thoughts and benign good wishes into one thing, not matter how two-present’s-worth we thought it was. Though, knowing what we were like I’m sure we often forgot, or counted cards as presents, or didn’t take it seriously, and were eventually forgiven.

So on this, the one of two occasions designed for me to remember my ma, I wanted to write something about the woman who has shown me often in unappreciated and completely ignored ways what strength looks like, what the slow and small and humble and faltering giving of yourself to those you love can look like. Then I remembered I’d basically done that for a biography assignment at Uni, so I dug this out from 5 years ago.

To my mum, who loves her kids unconditionally, who has remained proud to be our mum no matter what we do or how we live, who has not once asked me when I’ll give her grandkids, Happy Birth and Splendid Mother’s Days. This is not really a gift, Mum. There are two SEP-ER-ATE presents coming, I think.


The Leaving

 

“So how did you feel when you saw me driving away?”

“It was sort of… a heartbreak.”

“… Mum, are you crying?”

“No. I’m trying not to.”

 

My mum started it all.

At 18, my mum is told to leave. She is told by God and it’s good timing because she needs to leave her family but isn’t ready to become a nun like she thought she might. She sees an ad for a children’s home called Bethel in Dalby, Queensland. She asks for a sign, opens her bible up, and reads about Moses being told to leave his family.

Get out of your country,
from your family and from your father’s house,
to a land that I will show you.

Moses was told to go to Bethel, and so is Vicki.

God was probably my mother’s first love. An awkward and self conscious teenager, smiling quietly under a thick black fringe, she doesn’t have boyfriends for years, but she is saved at 15. She sees in her new faith a huge and spacious welcome, an acceptance she didn’t know could exist. She goes on retreats and spends days in silence. She knows God is calling her.

I left her when I was 25. I drove away in an overfull car to Melbourne. I headed off to follow God amongst the homeless and broken and Vicki watched me leave, her heart breaking. As I went she thought two things; that this is what Merle must have felt, and at least it’s only for a year.

I broke her heart a second time when I told her I wasn’t coming home. My leaving was therefore a little more cruel, but Vicki’s was carried across three states.

At home, she is one of six, three boys and three girls. She lives in Port Lincoln among hills and ocean and family. Vicki tells them all about Jesus. Once in the arms of her savior, it had seemed rude to withhold salvation from them.

Like all the saints, this dedication doesn’t do her any good; her father is particularly resistant.

Her mother, Merle can’t understand why Vicki wants to leave. Vicki knows it will be harder for Merle but tries to explain that it is something she can’t not do.

“Why does God need you so far away?” Merle asks. Her daughter thinks they must be speaking different languages.

On the day she leaves to board the first of three planes that take her to her new life, Port Lincoln is green. She looks at the faces of her family, most of whom think her decision is ridiculous. She looks at Merle who says nothing. She looks at her youngest brother, to whom she’s been a second mum, and she leaves.

Three planes transport her from the water, the green and the known, to another world of dry, red, flat dust spreading out to the horizon. She is in a biblical landscape. She’s as far from her home as she will ever be. She is Alice down the rabbit hole, Moses in the promised land.

And so my mum begins her new life. She lives now in a flat looking blue house, with a slanted roof. She is surrounded now by orphans who are only a little younger than her. In their faces she sees the momentum of her decision, the choice she has made.

Two Baptists, kind but severe, run the house where Vicki lives. She is to help with the cooking and the cleaning and the looking after of the children. Soon it is easy to forget to miss home. She is amongst the adventure of her lifetime.

While the children are at school Vicki moves from room to room gathering clothes and bedding. She washes and irons for 16 now. When that is done she cuts carrots for stews, and helps the children with their homework. There is a place out of town where the homes can get a whole cow chopped up. They use it all. Cheap meat and big freezers mean they eat pretty well.

On Saturdays she plays with the kids, and on Sundays she gets a day off. She walks to the dam and looks at the water, she reads books or sometimes the bus goes into town and she hitches a ride to find and walk along the creek. She builds herself a life here, and it seems to fit her well.

Wrapped in my new life, I too cut carrots in a kitchen, and cleaned up after those whose care I was entrusted with. I too saw in their faces the place I was supposed to be. I too didn’t miss my mother the way she missed me.

And 37 years apart, we on occasion remembered our old lives and shook our heads.

Dalby is the perfect container for Vicki. She has function, and a divine purpose, she has many children who need her so she cannot feel bad about leaving her brothers and when she doubts, she remembers Moses.

They organise a walkathon for the children to raise money for the homes. With the proceeds they buy a trampoline and my child mother jumps on it, her dark hair flying.

She visits Lincoln maybe once a year. It’s a long bus ride back to South Australia, and she doesn’t have a lot of money. Vicki was close to her mum before she left. They had spent a lot of time together when Vicki’s Dad was drinking. They grew together, bonded by the absence of one man. She still knows that her leaving has made some things more difficult for her mother and she sometimes feels the twist inside that all who are torn feel, that I felt every time I saw her again.

I decided to stay in Melbourne for a number of reasons, chiefly because I felt to go back would be a reversal. I was thrilled by the anonymity of my new city; that it was mine and mine alone. I felt my mothers prickled resignation but could ignore it.

Merle Ransom aches to see her middle daughter but it is not like her to gush. She remembers Vicki’s certainty and still doesn’t understand why a loving God would pull her child away.

Vicki visits Port Lincoln for Christmas in ’74. Her Father is a different man now; a stroke has robbed him of his ability to be cruel and has left him fragile and old. She doesn’t know to balance the man who made her want to leave with the frightened and broken man left in her home. He dies that January while Vicki is still around. She is 24. She does not stay and it might be this leaving, or any of the others, or none at all that Merle remembers when 40 odd years later, it is her turn to go.

Merle was old and longing for her home, she didn’t know that her leaving was contrary to how things were supposed to work: Vicki had by now come home to her, for her. They needed each other- this was the time they had been denied. Merle told Vicki leaving was something she needed to do, Vicki thought they must have been speaking different languages.

After her father’s dying, my Mum spends another year in Dalby. She then migrates to Newcastle and Bible College. After three years of learning to hate college food via too many sausages and learning to hate rules via the wearing of skirts, my mother meets a man called Colin. He is tall, black haired, much older and already divorced. He is to be a minister and he surprises my mother by marrying her. She has left the girl with the fringe behind it seems. They have wedding on the beach and move on back to Queensland.

They head back to Dalby where Vicki is reunited with the children’s homes again. This time she is a house parent- she has a minister of her own now.

They stay that way long enough to look after many more orphans in one house, to foster at least five children in two more, and to bear two of their own and adopt one, across five towns in two states. Colin stays for seven more years but leaves the four of us in Gladstone, at a two story house with a poinciana tree and a puppy. It is this that drives my mother finally, back to her family. She longs for their known shapes, for their safety in a way she never has. 43, broke and broken, she packs us into a car and trailer and pulls herself down to Adelaide, her mother, her brothers and sisters. On the trip my mother and I grow closer, bonded by the absence of one man.

We arrive in Adelaide and I cry at the new house. It is ugly and red and I am too young to care that as much as I hate the house, my poor bruised mother probably hated it more simply for being hers and hers alone. She does not let us know how weary she is, that something has gone wrong at the end of her story. She sees this arrival as a bridge of sorts, I think. She sees herself coming home to Merle, and maybe this means she can have never left.

By the time I left, my mother had long been the one my grandmother relied on. They argued, Vicki told me things Merle had said and sometimes longed for freedom, for a weekend without their usual shopping trip, for a night free of phone calls.

And for a while there, I am in Adelaide, and Merle and Vicki, and we all exist in codependence, grounded in one another.

But then- it is my turn, and I tell my mother I have to leave, it’s something I need to do. She knows.

The day I leave Adelaide it is bright out, a few puffs of cloud in a perfect blue.

Merle, whose last few months back in Port Lincoln are widely known to have been a success, died in September of 2011. Vicki is wracked with guilt over not supporting her move back home, and I tell her that Grandma would remember all the times she was there for her, not the one time she wasn’t.

“I remember her saying I know it will be hard but I have to do this for me-

I remember saying the same thing to her.”

Dry Bones

Someone once said that in the beginning were light and sound. But here in

this valley it is quiet and dark.

It is still as death and empty as thirst.

I wonder about the bones. About what they were before the valley, before the

earth, before the sun leached away their life, before they lay down.

What last heavy thing was put upon their shoulders? What last piece was

taken to lay them low, ready to undress their naked bones?

Were they like paper, like tissue? Did they feel like they had been dug out?

Did they remember when they felt anything at all, long before the heaviness

had settled in?

 

Did they remember when they used to glow?

 

Oh the exquisite sound of life, the lovely ache of caring

Oh the time when you wanted to dance when you weren’t filled with lead and

the unrepentant uselessness of all endeavors.

When those were gone and they were untethered did they wonder why they

didn’t just dissolve?

I wonder if in the valley they knew that it was death’s shadow.

Those bones who used to move and shake and who were colours and

sounds-

When the wrongness of it all the hopelessness was poured into the empty

packet of them, is that the moment; is that when they lay down and can we

even blame them-

Can these bones live?

Do the bones still carry this apathy, as close as skin?

Can these bones live?

How can we ask what is already dead to dance with the spirit?

Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up

from your graves, O my people…

What can stir us when we are deep in the earth, where we long to stay,

already swallowed?

 

Perhaps it’s the memory of light and sound

And perhaps it’s

breath.

The promise of the spirit. The promise of life.

And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring

you up from your graves, O my people.

I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live.

A letter to all ministers, regarding their use of Facebook.

Dear all;

Facebook, that wily, time sucking minx, has been a part of our lives for some time now. You lot, hearing this letter will no doubt have at most a slavish, worshipful relationship with the book, and at least an opinion about its being a blight in which you have no interest in partaking. If you are the latter, please ignore what follows. If however you are a minister of some kind who uses Facebook, it’s likely you can be placed in one of four categories.

The minister that hates it but got a profile because several people kept saying you should and now whenever it’s mentioned you murmur something about not being “up to all that internet jazz” and render your token interaction with the platform near useless.

The minister who interacts with it the way they would a polite grandchild, popping in several times daily to tell their eager followers that “the begonias are coming along thanks God for the rain” or “my latest batch of marmalade is done”, regardless of how few people care about the begonias or the marmalade.

Still others use it as a forum for their political rants, attempts at wit, and the only evangelism they engage in- that being of their favourite band or author.

But the last and most evil of all the types of Facebook user, Ministerial or not, is the over-sharer. The person who has taken the word ‘friends’ –shockingly misused in this context- to heart and who tells all of theirs daily of their thoughts, complaints and emotional states.

Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps this is a perfectly legitimate way to express yourself and to receive succor from the bosom of those intimates whom you have allowed into your digital circle. But, beloved, let us not forget that Facebook can be, and is often, three things: Useful, public, and treacherous.

You lot can make good use of a forum that allows the easy and informal dissemination of information to many, with options of interactive commentary and a function for organising event invitations.

Let’s not forget though that this is a public forum. It’s not you telling your neighbour Marge about your other neighbour Kev. It’s you telling your “friends” and potentially more depending on your privacy settings and on the respecting of those into the future, about your neighbour Kev.

This is not an admonishment about privacy in the vein of “be afraid of hackers” or whatever other hysteria some people find themselves prey to, I personally don’t care at all about the faceless identity thieves/ stalkers combing through my information, which we can talk about at another time.
My care is for those who have become, however it has happened, connected to you on this platform. I have unfollowed family, due to persistent oversharing. How much more will I unfollow a minister who does the same!

The crux of my letter, dear ones, is this: think carefully about what type of user you want to be.

You aren’t taking a close friend aside for a debrief. You’re talking to possibly upwards of hundreds of people.
Furthermore, if you’re friends with members of your congregation, which I would also council thinking about, and you are interspersing your “oh three meetings down and the rain has stopped crying with laughter face” with “church council is totally draining where is the life of Christ here sad face with single tear” or “Pastoral visits are really hard” or “really struggling at the moment” you are inviting your congregation to provide some sort of pastoral care to you- however insincere, and I believe it struggles not to be at least a little- which I would suggest could be inappropriate, not to mention the potential offence and or breaches of privacy that could crop up.

I’m not trying to say that as a minister there is no place to be authentic- that is the last thing I think. But this portal is not authentic. It is almost by definition a curated, doctored arena of personal performance and mediated interaction. It is treacherous. I understand the temptation to vent, particularly after a frustrating meeting, and particularly when it can be done with such ease, and with such a resulting satisfaction when all your likeminded buddies can like and comment. But I urge caution when making your emotional complaints into a sphere where one can offer “support” simply by clicking a small button. You, I hope, have other avenues of actual support available to you. Use them. Leave Facebook to its other evils, the dull and the overly political.

Yours sincerely,

Carlynne.

up to the knees

Hello. I wrote the below (minus a few edits) in August and then of course abandoned it. I’d very much like to write about a host of things I’ve thought and done over the past year but am a little overwhelmed by the task, so my brother advised me to start small. Here is me starting really small, hopefully more little thought farts will join it later and make a sort of story of my one-thirds-minister-ship, for any that are interested.

—————————————————————————–

I wrote a really terrified confession over 6 months ago, secure in the knowledge that I would be updating my blog regularly and you would all benefit from my learning and from my finding of everything to be marvellous and from the stories of my Wonderful New Life. It’s comforting I guess that I continue to overestimate myself.

I was starting my formation as a minister and was- rightly it turns out, but more about that later- a bit apprehensive. Mainly it was the unknown that so concerned me, but my propensity for laziness and the fact that I’ve never once had a Direction or thing that I was properly aimed for but have changed my mind and floated around etc etc were playing a part.

After I wrote the confession I went off and met the rest of the candidates and had a few days away with them. Which I hated. I had a very mediocre time. Not, thank God, because the others were horrible, but because (in part) they were new, it was all new, and all around me, and I need a bunch of alone time to not be a huge cow it turns out. I heard people laughing companionably or saying ‘no after you’ and like, getting along, and I felt my lack of the desire to be constantly polite as an inditement on my spirit. I felt, too, my lack of experience walk up beside me and place its arms elegantly around my neck, felt my fear that the whole year, three whole years, would be unfulfilled self examination, missed messages and the hiding of my cynicism.

Then I came home and saw my friends and breathed a bit.

The semester started in earnest and I found myself startled by an ocean of knowledge I had been granted access to, by the humour and goodness of my classmates and teachers, by how much I could be myself.

But you see, as much as the feeling of a gorgeous architecture of belief and passion filling up and out in my mind was and is wonderful, going through the motions of becoming a minister is, frankly, super weird, and the stubbornly present, slight but heavy self-doubt which had moved in the moment I met the others and asked myself if I was as clever as them, hung around for longer than I wish to admit.

—————————————————————————

Note: This is not a story about me disliking myself, or my time at college. Far from it. But it is a story about all of it, and all of it includes the times I fumble, doubt and have to talk sternly to myself. And the only way I can get to the cool, shiny parts are by starting small, with the parts that made me go to Sufjan Stevens for healing. Bear with me.

 

Confession

Tomorrow I go to a college up the road and meet with some other students, some teachers and some others and we begin a little journey together. We will learn a little more about what it means to be candidates for ministry, go away for three days, get to know each other, begin our year. And maybe sing? Probably we’ll sing.
I decided to do this whole ministry thing around a year and a half ago, and my church decided that was an ok idea last September. I have known this point in time was coming. I organised a desk, because I will be studying, I ordered text books, because I will need to learn things, I quit my job because I will need my time.
I have known this was coming but also not known much at all. I still don’t know what my year will look like, what the blood and bones of it will be, how I will have to function to make it, if I can learn all that I need to, if I can do it.
I am very scared. Partially because I still carry a childish fear of Christians, which is stupid for a lot of reasons, partially because it is new and and I’m alone and partially because I am worried I won’t be the sort of person needed.
I have heard much (so, so much- I am very blessed) from people who love me that I will do well, that I am the type of person who the church needs, that this is a good great thing, that I can do this. Often I believe them, and often I know I’m just one person going off to college and it’s not a big deal and often I’m so excited because I miss the feeling of New Things rolling around in my head, and my mind is eager and I am thrilled at the thought that come three years time I might know how to love people better and to not be such a large spaz. But there are other times when I know who I am and how good I am at sitting in front of a laptop watching sci-fi shows and I worry that the time will come when I will look back and realise I’ve not changed my life at all, I’ve just stuffed some classes in.
These are the quiet fears of someone used to doubting herself, and who has never been trusted with so much faith, so much opportunity.
I really want this to take.
I really, really don’t want to look inside and realise deep down I’m just lazy.
I want to honour whomever gave me this chance.
Let’s hope I do.
I’m going to do it anyway, obviously. I’ve already got the desk.

Dear Facebook, I don’t love you.

Hi. I know you’ve probably not even noticed that I’ve been gone, but it’s actually been a whole month since I’ve seen you. And I don’t want to hurt your feelings but I’ve not really missed you at all.
Look. It doesn’t have to be personal. A lot of people love you, I certainly think you’re really helpful, in the right circumstances. I’m really really grateful for the opportunity to tell a close circle of 400 plus people that I’m a bit peckish, tbh but it got too much. I just found myself wondering what sort of person I appeared to be, how I would look to someone who was leafing through my online photos. I was scrolling through others’ profiles and wondering how they got their lives so neat and cool. I don’t need that sort of help to be insecure. I’m pretty adept already.
And you know, I deleted Insta as well. It’s not just you. I’ve not even been on Twitter. I’ve just been… thinking my thoughts, and not caring if I told people. And messaging my really good ones to my friends, obv.
It’s actually been really nice. I have been watching some Netflix, and staring at screens a little, but I’ve also been pausing and thinking and not being able to distract myself from the present and reading books and being alone with whatever’s going on in my head. I’ve sat on public transport and looked at people, relished the fact that I was going somewhere. I’ve taken less photos, and I’ve really, really, loved the stuff that I’ve seen and the moments I’ve seen them in.
Every now and then I was a bit tempted. I’d think a Cool Thing or see something hilarious and ask myself: Don’t the people need to know?? But the answer was always no, they frigging don’t. They don’t need my (attempted) wit, or to know how I felt when I had a coffee the other day, or for my outrage to be added to the whirling cesspool of inflamed opinion. I need that, not anyone else.
I just changed my life significantly you see. I am wallpapering a lot of myself anew right now and trying to figure out if I’m the cream and paisley or the floral and I felt like there was no better time to extract myself from a portal where I can pretend to be whatever sort of person I’d like to be, where everything can be a performance.
So, as much as I appreciate your eery, personalised greetings and promptings to tell all my peeps about my feelings associated with public holidays,  I’d love it if we could see each other casually from now on. I don’t mind what you do with other people, I’ll just pop by every now and then to invite people to things or to brag about seeing Sufjan again. Also we all know you’re just a collection of algorithms designed to market people’s private lives, so.
All the best,
Carlynne Nunchuks
(this is not my real name, just while I’m being honest)

Love me tinder

I wrote the majority of the following over a year ago, and didn’t finish it and forgot I did it and obviously writing about Tinder is pretty redundant now. Stay tuned for my novel thoughts about the ebola virus or girl group Bardot. Mainly posting because the title made me laugh out loud; I am not the sharpest.

Spoiler alert: I’m off Tinder now, ‘Tis a hell-scape.

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I don’t date a lot? Like at all really. I have had relationships in the past (two of them!) and once I thought I was dating a guy (I was not) but not a lot of dating goes on around Carlynne-town. Which is fine really. At a lowish “I don’t need anyone! I’m amazing!” point of last year I inexplicably joined OKcupid and spent too much time talking to inconceivably ill-suited boys. Twice. Then I left and that’s all fine now.

I was first introduced to the idea of Tinder when a much younger friend told me they were on it. I thought that was dumb as they are of sound mind and no small amount of wit and should be meeting real people in the real world and talking with their real face but apparently this is how it’s done now. And who am I to judge, I feel like I don’t meet people who want to date my face either and have been known to talk about being on fire with guys I find cute.

Recently I was talking with a newly gay friend about his Tinder experiences. It was going really well for him, he was two dates in with a really sweet sounding dude. I expressed my standard Tinder opinion- that people making decisions about another person largely based on what that person looks like is some sort of nightmare from my individual hell- and then in the course of about forty minutes was somehow convinced to sign up.

The first thing I want to say is- Tinder is HILARIOUS. Secondly, I wish the ego boost that comes every time you ‘match’ with someone (a term preposterously misused in this context) wasn’t a really solid and gratifying thing but unfortunately it is.

How it works: you sign up and pick five photos from your Facebook cache. Some people find this part difficult and a lot of folks on Tinder repeat photos of themselves twice or even thrice in the course of a five photo viewing which is baffling to me. Or, they choose a series of five photos of their face, at four different angles and one with a hat on. So illuminating! Thank you for thinking about how I might better judge you based on the left side of your nose.

Anyway, you do that, you write a wee bio about yourself (I opted for short and witty, counting on mystique to get me places my painstakingly crafted lists of likes and dislikes on OkCupid didn’t) and then you go to town. People’s photos come up based on your decisions about age range, gender and distance from your location and you can swipe them away and into the pit of men who think posing on cars is still cool (left for no) or swipe them into your hopeful -often bearded- pile (right for yes) OR look at their photos and read their little thing in the vain hope that you will somehow be able to make a decision about if you would like them to be a part of your life based on the fact that they’re all about 420 bitcheeees. If you both pick yes a delightfully well fonted message appears, telling you that you are a match and you are free to message, fall in love and be wed within weeks.

So at first, an average Joe like me can find herself seemingly swimming in a sea of possibilities. Over a week I quickly built up a collection of around 50 matches, a lot of whom I messaged. I know what you’re thinking, Kim Carl-dashian, right? I’m so sorry. That was awful. But- if you think someone swiping right on Tinder implies they have any desire *at all* to converse with you, you are sorely mistaken. I anxiously look at my match list, having the same feeling I get from an out of order inbox, wondering what about my carefully chosen Beastie Boyz lyric says “I can’t carry conversation” and if dudes on Tinder just what- try and like every girl in the world? To what end? WHAT GAME ARE YOU PLAYING, MR DENIM NECK-TATTOO?

I’m not immune to being heartless, obviously. Tinder is a game and you have to treat it as such. I have compiled a fairly stringent list of immediate swipe left offences:

  • photos of or with cars/motorbikes
  • Photo of you giving me the finger
  • The classic, and widely loathed, pose-with-drugged-tiger
  • Life advice in place of a bio. I do not come here to be told that today is a gift and that’s why they call it the present
  • Looking bored in front of five different monuments
  • Speed dealer sunnies
  • You have forgotten your shirt
  • You have forgotten your head
  • You are in a drum circle (I am not a perfect person)

I have got some messages, relatively few containing pictures of penises! Some have been polite, others are a delightful escape into a world of completely superfluous lols:

‘jus finished work lol you’

‘not much on this weekend just the footy lol’

‘Hi how are you lol’

Ugh. Hilarious. These will lead to a. a feeling of being a world in which I do not belong, and b. the inevitable unmatch.

As much as I judge these people (these poor people, trying in their own horrible, grasping way to find a human connection) and as demoralising as I found my most recent experience of Tinder (the web really does not like chubby, growing-out-hair-Carlynne), it’s not all bad- I even went on a real life date with a lovely girl* I met on Tinder. The main problem I have is me, and that inevitably I feel disconnected from reality in a damaging way when trying to clumsily force connections with people I just don’t know in one of the most contrived ways I can think of.

I may eventually change my mind. Maybe future Carlynne is super pumped about her online presence and ready to mingle. Maybe there’ll be a drugged tiger at my wedding.

 

*oh yes, that’s not a typo, I’m into girls sometimes.

She’s over there

Some nights I sit and I swear I feel like an old lady, as if ageing stretches itself in my limbs.

Today I wanted to talk to everyone. Today I saw them move and speak and touch their hands to their hair and make themselves a drink and I loved them all a bit at least and wanted them to tell me things.

Today the sky was full of soft fire and made my windows shine pink.

Today I cooked a meal slowly.

Today I ate a half a piece of cake. Actually two thirds.

Today I was pleased with myself.

Today I was not sad to be alone.

 

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I wrote this in February of last year apparently. I don’t remember the specific day I’m referring to, but I do remember many instances of the desire to know people so well and so silently that you live in them. I hope I was writing about the good folk of the Olive Way.