stop right now. thank you very much.

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this blog contains triggering content regarding abusive relationships, mental illness and personal trauma.

the tattoo is an acronym for ‘be good to yourself x’ as a reminder i have perhaps unwisely placed somewhere I don’t get to see often enough for it to be effective. my twenty-eighth year wrapped up recently and a fucktonne happened in that year – the best and worst – but looking back it was characterised by a strange resurgence of feeling past my prime, and feeling somewhat unimpressed with how i was turning out, although as the year progressed there was unfathomable achievements and risks paying off. so my attitude toward myself needed significant adjustment. and this blog is about that.

the last song to play at Consent Festival – unquestionably the biggest and happiest of those achievements – was ‘Voices Carry’ by 1980’s new-wave band ‘Til Tuesday. It’s a song about an abusive relationship, and a need to be heard, and to be loved. After a day of incredible accomplishment by the team who made the event happen, and a deeply personal sense of gratitude for the dream that I had somehow coming true, it didn’t feel like the most serendipitous final song to be playing as we celebrated our successes. At best it was ironic that a song about abuse and silencing should close a day of community exploring what consent means in different contexts and different embodiment. Over the days that followed I unwelcomely couldn’t get the song out of my head – it haunted me and I couldn’t figure out why I was not only obsessed with it, but feeling catharsis in listening to it over and over. After coming down off the back of such a massive undertaking on top of completing a Master’s degree, family tragedies, cancelled opportunities and having to accept a great deal of help to survive as I lost one job with none to follow it, I took two weeks away for contemplation and discipline, during which time I realised that the reason the song felt so powerful is because the relationship in the song is not unlike the relationship I have with myself.

“he wants me / but only part of the time / he wants me / if he can keep me line”

I know I’m not alone. So many people hear songs like this about relationships and discover the relationship it reminds them of is internal, inescapable, infinite. It was a heartbreaking discovery when my mind turned within itself and cried for a halt to how brutal and cruel I was being in my efforts to meet the expectations I have of myself. A dear friend made similar remarks to me some months ago about how perfectionism and ambition had mutated into a deeply unfair interpretation of what I “should”, what I “ought”, what “by now”, what “when I”, and how much of my worth I place on the doing, not the being, which is far closer to 100% than is healthy or helpful to me or the people around me. mindlessness, in the form of mindless pursuit, mindless panic, mindless distraction, mindless desperation, mindless escapism, mindless existentialism, it all leads to misery. my attempts to be more mindful as I spent the last days of my twenty-eighth year incarnated this way led to the exposing of so many Pandora’s Boxes in my psyche, and my inability to avoid them or externalise them as I would normally due to being on a meditation retreat allowed me to see some patterns. namely three key foes to my mental health. maybe you’re familiar with them, and how they stand between you and an equal, respectful, joyful relationship within yourself.

FURY
it occurred to me that I am angry. not necessarily at anything. but over time I’ve stored up frustrations and fumes, indignation and injustice because to express these things in public can label you a whole bunch of things I was scared to have attached to people’s impression of me: instability, aggression, unprofessionalism, and even masculinity. the thing is that when you don’t address things, when your anger doesn’t do its job of affirming your boundaries, it doesn’t dissipate over time. It absolutely lurks and compounds like lightning in a bottle. you take it out on yourself at every turn because it’s the easiest place for your anger to go. And technically you’d rather beat yourself up than risk hurting anyone else – although it’s likely they can tell you’re keeping your honest feelings from them and i wonder if approaching being mad about something, if addressed vulnerably and respectfully could actually generate more intimacy than privatising your reticence until it becomes rage and resentment and eventually ruins all your relationships. “you claim that I’m a handful when you show up all empty handed / the way you say you love me like you’ve just been reprimanded”.

FEAR
the role of fear and fury in my life is a bit of a chicken and egg equation. they go hand in hand. there is much in this world i know i at times decide to fear: dying alone, the dangers of the modern world, causing upset or offence, sex, and of course the two big ones: on the one side failure, and on the other success. long have i feared making a ‘decision I couldn’t take back’, which is the result of being traumatised and summarily blaming oneself for being in ‘the wrong place at the wrong time’ and ‘getting yourself into that situation’. but as much as we fear failing at what we try, there is far too much comfort in the familiarity of failing and the ability to both vindicate and vilify yourself simultaneously, beating yourself senseless and believing it’s the best way to learn from your experiences. except at the same time you know failure is the most potent key to success. but success means continuing to gamble, and being willing to have things to lose. the understanding goes that when afraid, people exhibit the fight, flight or freeze response. the thing is a fight will eventually dissolve, and flight will result in some landing somewhere, but freezing can go on forever, stasis and stillness and stuckness can last a lifetime. “and i know you can’t tell me / so I’m left to pick up the hints, the little symbols / of your devotion”.

FANTASY
a couple of years ago now during what would prove to be a terrible yet transformative time, I wrote a poem with the line ‘I don’t want to die full of ideas’. I can be angry with myself to the point of imagined violence, and I can render myself immobile with fear of the consequences of expressing myself, but this third enemy is the most insidious because it feels good to dream, to revel in the pleasure of ideas and creative imaginings. I don’t need to grow in terms of my sexual journey because I can dream up a love like I hear in the songs. I don’t need to run the risk of making the art when I can just picture how it would work and how good an impact it would have if I did it. I don’t need free myself from my self-imposed shackles if I just live in the delusion and reputation of being an impresario of some innovation, but not necessarily excellence or follow-through. recently an artist I know called me ‘ephemeral’, to mean that I am a joy that comes and goes so quickly from the worlds I touch, and I’ve heard that from many mouths. Comparisons to Glinda the Good or Mary Poppins, ‘he comes and sprinkles his fairy dust and its’ fantastic and then he’s off somewhere new and exciting’. it’s a compliment that cuts both ways, and while I need to see the good in it and follow the flow of the universe, I also need to find space and consistency to deliver what I dream. “now there’s no point in placing the blame / and you should know I suffer the same if I lose you / my heart will be broken”.

they say relationships take work, for all that they should come naturally, and the longer you know somebody the easier it is to fall into habit and harm. well you’ve known yourself your whole life, so make of that what you will. these three foes of fury, fear and fantasy each putrify my presence within myself and on my own behalf. they manifest as disordered eating, PTSD symptoms and angst, mania, vagary, inability to commit. they need interrogating and the space to voice their purpose so the unfinished business can be managed. As much as I detest quoting Sex and the City, there’s no way I could make the point without plagiarizing, and so my philosophy about relationships truly realizes that “the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself”.

so as I turn twenty-nine my gift to myself is a renewed pledge, a strengthened vow to cherish myself body, mind, spirit in the spirit of forgiveness, compassion, fulfillment. and a happy fucking Valentine’s Day to boot. wow. twenty-nine. “so glad we made it / look how far we’ve come my baby”

Big love.
B.

 

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Portraits of a Heartbroken Head

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Hell isn’t just real, it’s necessary. And if you don’t want to be in it anymore, then don’t be. Remember that the difference between heaven and hell isn’t sin or faith, it’s simply which of them you have the strength to let your life be part of (and what you’re willing to do to build that strength. Are you contributing to happiness, kindness and choice? Or sorrow, pity and dominance? It’s always much more complicated than that, but for the moment simplify what it takes to resurrect your mind from pain, confusion and fear to, ultimately, love.

Mental illness and instability has been on my mind a lot these past weeks. In order to process some of those thoughts, I drew on my face and offer these seven images of it to you, along with my lyrical and ripe melodrama. In the hope that by doing so I can continue to live heaven, and spur those around me to keep the conversation honest, challenging and special to the journey.

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DIS/ARM
The beginning for me is the ability to distance my mind from my body, confuse the power structure between the two. For the mind to treat the body like its vessel is the most intimate form of domestic abuse. Eating becomes incidental, hatred of flaws intensifies, heart rate becomes rapid, heat floods and self-care eddies away. Some people feel this distance so consumingly they can take a blade to their body, or a rope, or pistol. Some people feel this distance so suppressive they turn those weapons on each other. It’s a simple difference between recovery and ruin: putting the weapon down.

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NOT/HER
It does always come back to blame, and the harder it is to handle the impact of your choices in the present moment, the further you will run to the past to apportion the harm of who you are outside of yourself. But your parents cannot resolve who you feel now, and your past cannot be anything other than how you reacted based on who you were at the time. You can resurrect it and make the past the present so you can reattempt a resolution, but redemption will always come from what you do now to transform the future for what it can offer not torture the past for what it can’t change.

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SYCO/PHANT
Ambition hurts. Dreams, when applied to the present day, can corrode at your sense of self-worth like an acid addiction. This doesn’t mean you should abandon all aspiration; it means who have in your one life a serious decision to make. Do you focus your energy on satisfaction, or gamble everything on getting the goal? Before you cut your path one way or another, better know yourself so you know you can take one road without regretting the mystery of the other. Your decision isn’t irrevocable, you can double back, but wandering between admiration of idols and fighting for survival will exhaust. Remember as well that some people would give their lives to have lived so long as to still be able to choose.

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DISS/EASE
Other generations call mine weak, and selfish. Apparently that will shock us back into a sense of ourselves that can forget our species’ history of corruption and pollution, that can withdraw from the enormity of the world that we’ve been thrust underneath the scrutiny of, completely exposed to. One mistake makes a meme and civilian turns to celebrity turns to suicide. With the connectivity of the modern age, came the anonymity with which people could gleefully and liberally dispense stigma upon each other to distract from the impending destruction of our planet, and our very selves. This waste of time, waste of soul will be the key to regret and the type of barbarous, murderous ignorance that the threat of stretches our brains beyond breaking point.

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FREE/BODY
Sex is as much the enemy as the remedy. No currency is as valuable, no robbery as abhorrent, no plane as politicised by every system from civil to religious. The limitations of our most basic understanding of our own mechanics is not far from personal feudalism, whereby the mind does not respond to the environment, but weaponises it. My explorations of sexuality have led to a diversity and discomfort for which I’m grateful because it is a kind of liberation my heteronormative counterparts cannot name as they struggle with respect for the bodies as elemental, evolving. They can only be swallowed up by fantasy.

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CHOICE/CHANGE
It is scientific fact that we are creatures of two components: chemicals, and storytelling. We can be slaves to the narrative we recite to ourselves which some disguise as prayer, others as pep talk, and as far as our emotions are concerned, the things we tell ourselves become truth. There is a distinct difference between spending our lives writing our own story, owning our own plot highs and lows, and copying out what others wrote about us in their story. Or we might just read other people’s biographies and pay no duty to our own opus. Taking control hurts because we know what we’re gambling. Losing control hurts far more because we don’t know what we’re gambling. Like the man caught between the two cliff faces, our lives depend on our faith in surviving any trial of mind. Regret is the ultimate killer.

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GIVE/LOVE
Bearing in mind that there is only one way to learn, and that for all your hardship is relative to you, incomparable to another person’s pain or suffering, the only driving force away from trauma or fear, is love. I don’t mean romance, or sex, or even friendship. I mean a willingness to fall on your face so hard your nose breaks when your nose is the only thing you like about yourself, and still believe that your relationship within can still be filled with laughter and care and compassion. There’s little more frightening than knowing that of all the love you have, none of it is your own. It is a basic need we must provide for ourselves, however that is calibrated. For me it’s eating, and appetite suppression has long plagued me as a symptom of self-loathing and disappointment in myself. What I didn’t know, is that this refusal to sustain myself in order to get where I wanted to go is precisely what stands in my way.

Thank you. Gratitude is our easiest gift to ourselves, as forgiveness is to others.
Share you. In whatever way that looks like for you, and permits your simplest happiness, and therefore your most remarkable survival of this incredible place.
Love you. I know I do.

B.

Beauty is the Beast

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This is her. The one who showed me ever so dazed through the door of beauty, and upon my discovery of how tiny, claustrophobic and torturous the room on the other side was, swiftly locked the door and left me there. This is her. She is a crack-team of digital specialists, cosmeticians, marketing sharp-shooters, managers, their managers, their managers, and an innumerable force of people willing and proven to be counted upon to throw money up in defence of the obliteration done to their self-esteem. This is her.

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I have been measuring myself to this standard since I saw this advertisement at the age of twelve. Twelve. While most boys were looking to transform themselves into the Herculean hyper-masculine adored by the opposite sex doing as they were told, I was following suit. Same-sex attraction in the age of well-meaning ignorance, where my educators knew what the word ‘gay’ meant but still weren’t sure how to use it, created a vacuum where pursuit of the heteronormative standards was the surest road to romance. I knew what boys liked, and I could totally see why in this picture. But how on earth was I ever going to achieve it for my own? This question would haunt my posture, weight, gait, mannerisms, gender expression and self-esteem all through adolescence and well into adulthood.

They don’t necessarily call it body dysmorphia when although your perception of your body is inaccurate, you love it all the same. It’s hard to explain that when I look in the mirror, I see her. The reason I see her is because I learned somehow that as much as it was the shape of the body that created the attraction, it was the shape of the spirit and the sensuality that created the confidence. I know I couldn’t make a body like that no matter what I did at the gym, or what I ate- or didn’t. What I could do is invest in the inner parts of myself that believed I was as sensual, as sexual, as proud of my body as the woman in the picture.

http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/lifestyle/sa-lifestyle/in-their-own-skin/story-fnizi7vf-1226707612934

I don’t make a habit of being naked. The body has been politicised and commoditised to the point where thousands of jobs depend on our own dissatisfaction with the body we have. The only one, I might add. We can augment and amend it, but all too rarely we have no idea what it’s doing, what it’s asking of us. Some people think of their body as a bag for their brain. Some people think of it as their summary value proposition. I think of mine as a work of fiction.

To me the key to beauty is the willingness to confront your fears about your body, your comparisons to other bodies and in spite of every single thing telling you your body is insufficient or offensive, you don’t believe it. You better believe that the only thing ugly about you is a magazine, the only thing wrong with your body is a spring fashion show, and the only c-word you should find offensive is cosmetic.

Now don’t mistake me: being healthy, being strong, the best you can be is all incredibly worthwhile. But know the difference between genuinely feeling good about yourself, and feeling good about your appearance. That could be anything from your body, to your diet, to how busy people think you are, or how accomplished. When your whole self, flaws and all, become completely inseparable and you can truly love all of it and feel stronger for it, that to me is true victory. Fucking beautiful.

B.

#TBT: An open letter to every guy I just unfollowed on instagram. All 541 of you.

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Dearest,

By the time you’re reading this letter, you may have noticed that I have unfollowed you. Trawl though you might through the countless thousands of people who have hitched their wagon to your sexually-charged star, you will find my name is missing. I only hope you know that my leaving you does not in any way diminish the special nature of our former relationship, nor how much I value our time together. It’s just that I’ve become a different person, and it is time we went our separate ways. I hope this letter gives you some clarity as to why I’ve made this hard decision, and if you still can’t bring yourself to move on, then please snap out of it because you have thousands of other people eating your shit up with a spoon, and thousands more on the way I’ve no doubt.

It occurred to me recently as you flashed by on my phone screen, that the standards for male aesthetics are still very high – much as they are for women – and when it comes to the sexually diverse community, the permission we’re giving you to direct our consciousness by sole virtue of the fact that you’re fine as heck to look at is more than substantial. Men are feeling more and more incompetent, incapable, and unimpressive because of these standards. Further, our society is worshipping the standard more than I believe we ever used to.

The former standards for men’s beauty was shaped by physical labour, which gender equality has somewhat distributed across the sexes more. Now, instead of allowing male beauty to change to reflect the new structure of life for men, we made gyms and kept the old constriction held as idol.

Anyway, I worked out that I’m part of the problem. Our relationship is fuelling this cycle, with you as the Adonis-influence, and me as the lowest-common-denominator-consumer. I can’t be this to you any longer. Your “fitspiration” didn’t get me into a gym, or out for a walk at all. Truth be known, our relationship is purely sexual, stimulative. And you deserve more, for all you may not want more. I definitely deserve more.

Let our breakup not take away from the work you do – it is hard, unrelenting work in a highly competitive industry of social media engagement. I admire what you do, there’s no way I could do it. The fact is though, that in spite of the inspiring quote in your bio, your content is focused almost exclusively on you naked, or at the gym, or naked at the gym. Intermittent depictions of the meals you make, clothes you buy, brands you sell with sex appeal appear as diamonds in the rough.

Somewhere along the way, your particular shape attracted hordes of thumbs double-tapping and following your progress, compelled as I was once by mild arousal, perhaps envy, perhaps encouragement. That number that reigns and ranks you at the top of your profile has got the attention of agencies, product companies etc who then pay you money, ask for your endorsement, and encourage you to increase your activity. In turn, you feel rewarded for your work, and some of those followers will feel the need to push their own physical forms to also become an “opinion leader” as you are.

By this new order, the development of your mind, networking of your thoughts and investment in your sense of self all come secondary to what will place you on a platform to distribute your influence upon the world. Your six-pack makes you credible, which I find incredible. So I set about to end our relationship.

I suppose it’s fair I tell you, ours isn’t the only tryst that I have called time on. I looked over everything you have contributed to our connection, and having discovered that nothing really inspired me creatively, I had to end it. Don’t be mad or jealous if you discover other men that you think deserved the same treatment are still carrying on with me. The truth is that somewhere those men still made me laugh, or made me think, or just interspersed their naked ambition with something, ANYTHING, else. I don’t feel like I asked a lot, and I would’ve appreciated more effort on your part in the past; it became very apparent you took advantage of how unlikely I was to spend the time and battery and brain to check up on you and really evaluate who we are as people, and what impact we make on the collective consciousness. In truth, I feel quite betrayed.

You know, it wouldn’t have been hard to keep your promise to inspire me by throwing in something intellectually, artistically, politically, spiritually interesting. It’s like you don’t even know me, like you couldn’t even take a couple of minutes to give me some credit and try to spice things up. But no, you just kept calling yourself an actor when you’ve shown no interest in the profession, or saying you’re an artist or fashion photographer or beauty blogger when really you just do nude portraiture. That’s OK, just be honest! Worst of all is when you say “welcome to my life” but all I see is the parts of your life when you’re kissing someone else! At least the other guys make the effort to pretend they’re being random!

I’m sorry. You should know this was hard for me. To look over all our delicious moments together and walk away. I even got rid of the one Kardashian I follow because she was guilty of the same crimes you are. Please understand, I had to do this. I need to be needed, and there are smart, creative geniuses, political brains and sustainability causes that need my thumb-work. I’d like to think that I’ll come across you in my Discover feed someday and see you’ve changed, and if you haven’t tagged twenty other aggregate accounts, of course I’ll reconsider our relationship. Until then, go with my blessing, and I wish you all the best.

Before I go, I will say this. For all that I want you to succeed, I hope that you will take my advice. Take responsibility for the unbelievable volume of people willing to be influenced by you, don’t mistreat them as you did me, give them something to be activated by, show them a way forward not just physically but also for the benefit of our communities, our countries, our planet. Sure it may not get as many Likes, but when this whole celebrity-for-no-reason thing comes to an end, you’ll feel like a better person – for all that you’ll likely have retired by then.

Yours no longer,
Brodie

 

NB: Bearing in mind how my relationship with social media has changed in the six months almost to the day since I posted this, seems like a good time to run a throw-back! This piece first appeared on papabayj.com.