LIBERTY is my new companion book to HEXENHAUS and it will be in bookstores from October 29.
LIBERTY is my new companion book to HEXENHAUS and it will be in bookstores from October 29.
A wild roller-coaster ride through the ups and downs of motherhood and mental illness.
At 26, Nikki found herself knocking on her best friend’s door with a suitcase, a jar of coins and two little boys – all she had in the world. Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood is her funny, sad and brutally candid account of her life through poverty, homelessness, child-rearing, friendships, lust, love and loss.
Whether she was cleaning the houses of millionaires to put food on the table, falling hard for The Wiggles, drowning in cask wine, living in a tent or dealing with predatory landlords, Nikki refused to go under and tethered her survival to her love for her children, which pulled her through the darkest days.
In Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood, the struggles are raw but the laughs are loud and the love is palpable. Being a poor, mad mother has its challenges but Nikki McWatters humanises the face of poverty, while arm-wrestling her mental illness into submission and packing school lunches like a boss.
Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood is a powerful, touching and wildly entertaining story of maternal endurance.
About the Author
Nikki McWatters was shortlisted for a Queensland Premier’s Literary Award (2010) and has published a memoir and two young adult novels. She won the Irish Moth Award (2016) and has written for the Sydney Morning Herald, The UK Huffington Post and The Big Issue. She is currently the spokesperson for the annual Vinnie’s CEO Sleepout. Nikki also has a law degree in her bottom drawer somewhere.
I am (basically) the same age as Nicole Kidman and Kylie Minogue. We were contemporaries back in the eighties, trying to kick-start our acting careers. Um. Hold the bus, I want my money back cos I caught the wrong ride and ended up in feckin downtown Oldsville.
What happened? It’s not the genes. My mother looks more like Nicole Kidman than I do. It could be that I’ve lived a life of slothful excess, had five children and never much bothered with moisturiser or any kind of exercise other than belly-laughing and poking fun of women prettier, skinnier, richer and happier than me because they are soooooo fake.
I spent half an hour trying to pluck an invisible but spikey chin-hair off my jawline this morning before doing a weird thing where I scraped a bank-card along my jowls toward my ears because I read about it in a dodgy blog somewhere.
Kylie and Nic became superstars. I became a tragic, bloated, perennially disappointed creature who lives on the sofa eating salt and vinegar chips, flicking at that damn annoying whisker. I coulda been a contender. Where did I go wrong? I’m not going to answer that because I’ve written two memoirs which kind of explain that in gory detail. The fact is, chips, cheap champagne, long afternoon naps, watching re-runs of Hamish and Andy’s Gap Year in bed at night while I eat a two day old curry of the damned and splatter yellow rice stains all over the sheets, is not going to win me the goddamn Academy Award I promised myself as a little hopeful, starry-eyed girl.
I’m about to have my fourth book released, the fifth will be out for Christmas. I’m writing like a crazy dervish now trying to catch up. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans said John Lennon. High-five John. I have written a library full of lists of things I’m going to do. At the top of the list is the Academy Award. At the bottom, pluck that goddamned bit of wire out of my chin.
I’m going to channel Cher now and turn back time like a desperate rat on an anti-clockwise spinning wheel. I still feel twenty, or maybe thirty, inside my brain. My body just gave a wobble-laugh as I wrote that. Okay, thirty-five. So that means I need to shave off about fifteen years. I’m determined to be the hottest, most energetic, power granny on the planet. As soon as my hip stops clicking I’m going to crank out the old Jane Fonda VCR…..see OLD! NO! I am going to bop like a Barbie in front of Tracey Anderson because…Madonna and Gwyneth. I will drink green kale sludge. Whatever it takes. Because I feel like I’m in a canoe that is rushing toward the edge of Niagara Falls and I’m realising ‘almost’ too late that I have to start working hard now or it’s all going to get messy.
I woke up today and looked in the mirror and thought today….today you should get out of your p.j’s and slap on some lippy and get out of the house because frankly this gig as a full-time writer means I’m fast becoming a cross between Hemingway and J.D Salinger when I really want to be a cross between Madonna and Meryl Streep and J.K Rowling.
Writing books was my cunning back-door plan to get back into the film industry. Write the book. Sell the film rights. Star in it. Oscar. Four/five books later and I’ve ended up with my spreading butt cemented to the sofa while I tap out millions of words and eat Tim Tams. Not a Hollywood deal in sight!
This was not the plan. My plan was not unlike Nic and Kylie’s. You know….world domination in their chosen field. In the eighties Nicole and I acted in a movie each, both ‘discovered’ by the same director. She went on to be noticed by Hollywood while I cosied up to the cutting-room floor. Kylie bounced from Neighbours to ‘Locomotion’ to infinity and beyond…..and I sucked on a helium balloon and then sang that song at her twenty-somethingth birthday party. True story. Sounds kinda stupid now. Sounded kinda stupid back then too.
But stand back girls cos I can feel a second wind beneath me…(excuse me)….and my time is coming. I’m a late bloomer but just you watch out because I’m coming for you. It ain’t over til the fat lady sings and as I can’t carry a tune well I’ve got all the time in the world. That Fifty Shades book…that sold a gazillion so I reckon I’ll write a new memoir about my overdue rise to stardom and I’ll call it ‘Fifty Shades of Grandma’ and the movie mob will come knocking and I’ll play myself in the fabulous biopic of my life and voila ‘I’d like to thank the Academy….’.
So stay tuned for transformation. I’ll start tomorrow. I’m devoting the rest of the day to my chin stubble. I wonder if Nicole and Kylie get whiskers?
I’m about to release my second memoir out into the wild. Am I completely mad? Well…now that you mention it. I’ve also published two YA novels so I can make some comparisons. I love writing. It’s therapeutic, cathartic, meditative, enlightening, enjoyable, torturous and sometimes even redemptive.
My first memoir was a coming-of-age tale of a wild and willful girl finding her place in the world. Although some of the subject matter was a bit risque (see sex, drugs and rock n roll) it was all relatively painless musings about my youth. We all went a bit off the rails during adolescence, didn’t we? Well. if you didn’t, you should have!!! Misbehaving, experimenting with illicit substances and bodies is a fairly mundane rite of passage and you just cross your fingers and hope that you come out the other side relatively emotionally intact…leaving broken hearts, empty bottles and frazzled, frantic parents in your frothy wake.
But this memoir feels different. I feel like, where I opened a window in my first book, One Way or Another, I’ve opened the front door, wide, with Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood. It’s kinda raw. It makes no literary pretentions, it offers no answers to the big questions and it isn’t a cautionary tale, nor one of triumph. It’s just my no-frills, hold-the-bullshit, nuts and bolts recollection of the nineties. I’d done the eighties thing in the rock memoir, big hair, shoulder pads and that severe line of rouge on the cheek sort of era and all that. Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood, let’s call it MMM, is the gritty tale of my decade of grunge. Seems my life rolls out against the musical background of the day….cos in the era of hip hop my frickin’ hip gave out. I don’t know what genre this decade of music fits into…complete leftover-scum-on-the-dog-bowl nonsense if my teenagers’ music is anything to go by.
Back to books. Memoir. Memoir is very much like sawing open your breastbone to sift through your innards looking for something that might look interesting on the page. I’ve recovered from my first one and waded on through comparatively easy rides through fiction where I just made up stuff about fictional character’s lives. That’s the stuff of dreams. Memoirs tend to be like living in a nightmare while you are writing/editing them. It’s so hard to relive your life and see all the places and situations where you should have or could have done better. Oh to be able to edit and proofread your actual life!! But alas you are stuck with your past. It is what it is. The trick in life is not to let it define you. It may be baggage but we can shed it, drop it by the wayside or onto a bonfire any time we like. But you can also just keep that baggage close by (in my case in a pile of ancient diaries and journals) and you can sometimes revisit and learn from both your mistakes and your successes.
Getting a bad review for a memoir hurts way more than one for a work of fiction for obvious reasons. Hexenhaus, my YA novel, was fiction, made up of fairy-tale forests and villainous villains and witch-hunts and hedgehogs….if someone didn’t like it, I didn’t take it personally. The gratuitous torture scenes weren’t everyone’s cup of tea. But a memoir is your thick, warm blood inked out onto the parchment of your own skin. It’s not about clever metaphors or snazzy literary devices. It’s just your head on the plate, your terrified eyes looking right at the reader, saying, ‘This is me. I am sharing me with you. Be gentle with me.’
It’s visceral stuff.
In the nineties, I was poor, I was mad and I was a single mother. Quite the recipe for disaster. And yet my story isn’t unusual. I’m not a famous person penning my gallant life story, I didn’t circumnavigate the world in a bathtub, I wasn’t the first woman to discover the invisible hairy marmoset lizard in the Galapagos. I just lived hand-to-mouth, making ends meet, wrestling the demon of depression, running amok on girls’ weekends, cask wine and crackers, Prosac and pizza….I still managed to drag home a famous muso but because it was the grunge era there were cockroaches all over the walls!! You’ll have to buy the book to discover if this said muso was from Cold Chisel or The Wiggles. There’s a scintillating hook right there for you. Yes, you have to buy it now!!!
Anyway….I will gnaw my fingernails to the knuckles as I wait to see how my pound of flesh in a book is received by the blood-thirsty, book-reading masses, shivering in me boots, hoping I sell enough to get my hip fixed (just kidding)! And I am grateful to have the distraction of editing for my new YA novel in front of me begging for attention. It’s due out later in the year. Not one drop of my own blood was spilled in the writing of that one!!!
Madness, Mayhem and Madness. Out in bookstores on July 2nd this year (2018)
I’m a writer.
I’ll let you in on a secret. I’m only a writer because I am utterly crap at everything else. Everything else. I have been many other things and failed miserably. I was a bank teller briefly but I harboured a sneaky desire to be a bank robber and that wasn’t going to work so I quit before the inevitable happened. I was a cleaner but I’m quite hyperactive and never took the time to do the job very well – a bit of spit and polish and a spray of air freshener and that was it. I never managed a Savoy corner on the bed-sheets or a completely smudge-free mirror. I taught kindergarten kids but I really don’t like small children unless they share some of my DNA and I often laughed when they fell off swings. I did a law degree and nearly died of boredom. The thought of being an actual lawyer made me break out in life-threatening hives. I almost got a job writing dating profiles for people looking for love but I did not impress with my sarcastic and slightly offensive trial sample-profiles.
I always wrote stories at school and spent a life living in a world of make-believe. The nuns called me a day-dreamer. I could string a sentence together and liked writing and developed a weird fantasy about being Jackie Collins or Judith Krantz because they wrote wonderful smut that was banned from the school library and they made bucketloads of money and looked frightfully glamorous on their book sleeves while I was then a pimply teenager with a libido going haywire. But somewhere along the way, the fantasy fell flat because after many futile attempts, I realised that it was actually hard work to write a whole book.
But, after living a life like a headless chicken, trying a bit of this and a bit of that, and pretty much exhausting every other avenue, I decided to have a stab at being a writer and forced myself to write a book-ful of words in some semblance of order and started sharing it about….
Only to discover that the heady world of publishing that had routinely doled out six figure advances to writers and built them up into glossy celebrities…..had died and been replaced by some austere fortress being guarded by accountants. I learned that in the cold hard real world of ‘now’, writers have to compete like beggars for a low four-figure advance and will be lucky to ever make a cent past it and will be forgotten and chucked in a bargain bin in the blink of a teary eye. No amount of bouffed up hair and eyeliner is going to make you a literary star…you have to write brilliantly and yet still make it something that people want to read en masse.
I don’t think I’m a particularly good writer. Every time I read a book by someone else, I wish until it hurts that I’d written it. Other writers weave words together so effortlessly, spinning humour and suspense while keeping the reader spell-bound and transported to other worlds and times and places. I love books. The look of them. The smell of them. The way they suspend belief and reality. How they sculpt my mind and emotions. I even love how they sit on book-shelves, upright, sideways or all in a pile. I’m a bibliophile. I love books more than cake. Every single book.
No. I lie. I actually really hate anything written by Neville Shute. I know that sounds mean and a little bit blasphemous. But I was forced to read one of his books as a school-kid and it felt like water torture and I’ve never forgiven him for writing it and can’t bring myself to try another. Like that time I got food poisoning from a fish-burger and can’t even look at another or Dimple Scotch which bruised me permanently with my very first hangover. I’m sure Neville’s books are wonderful but the childhood trauma won’t leave me, so it is what it is. Everyone has a favourite writer (mine is Emily Bronte because she writes like a mad-woman) and I suspect everyone also has a least favourite. Oh, I also hate Beatrix Potter. Another sacrilege. But it’s more about the illustrations. I don’t trust those small water-coloured animals and I keep reading between the lines of her text looking for something really nasty and sinister and I always end up disappointed and faintly nervous.
So I’m a writer. It has its up side…I never get out of pyjamas. I work in bed. I am thirteen paces from the kitchen pantry. I don’t have to speak to other humans. I can kill people and have wild affairs…on the page.
The down side is that I think my butt cheek has died. No, really. I think my gluteus maximus has atrophied from sitting in the same spot day in day out, tapping words into a laptop. Also three of my fingers (the ones that hit the most popular vowels and consonants like a and t on the keyboard) are showing signs of deteriotive erosion. I’m not even making this shit up although I’m a writer so I’d forgive you for thinking so.
Also, being a writer is very, very bad for your self-esteem, your ablity to get along with other flesh and blood people and your general mental health…and your body parts. You will pour your heart onto the page and send it full of good cheer and hope and wishes to those living in the impenetrable fortresses via the wire and you will wait and wait and wait and wait and wait…..ad infinitum….until maybe….someone tells you that your work is CRAP. They rarely use that word. Usually they will say something like ‘good luck but not for us’. Most politely pretend they never saw your words and you will just wither forever waiting for that never-coming response. Rejection will become so common that you stop being disappointed when one comes pinging into your inbox like a fart-bomb and you’ll throw your head back and laugh like Jim Carrey and scream ALRIGHTY THEN!
Or….rarely….like once in a polka dot moon….someone will like what you wrote and contract it and then change it to be more like what they want and less what you thought it was and you will end up with a book that is loosely what you started but with the fingerprints of many others on it and you will look at it and sigh….’I’m a real writer now’ and then you will discover GOODREADS and learn that you only think you’re a writer and anonymous people with profile photos of cats have realised immediately that your book is a sham and it sucks and you should go back to writing dating profiles for losers that no-one could ever love.
But maybe I’m just being cynical.
It is all worth it. The dead bum. The gnarled fingers. The abject poverty. The smell of my week-old pyjamas that are gunked into my crevices and will need to be showered off, leaving raw patches of skin.
I have a new book coming out and I am so, so excited. This one. Maybe this one will be it. I’ll puff up my hair and slap on some lippy and put on real clothes and go out and flog it to the masses. I’ll pretend I don’t read the bad reviews while using the reviewer’s name as a character in my next novel, the character who has their entrails unraveled by the dashing serial killer….and I’ll walk past the bargain bin the very next week and pull my leftover books out and buy them all and give them as gifts to family members for the next few years.
No…I’m sorry. I seem to be painting this picture of being a writer all wrong. It’s actually a dream come true. My name on an actual book. In a book store. A library. It is a thrill. An incredible thrill, to hold your very own book in your hands. All the words came out of your heart, your head, your soul. The thrill is like…so thrilling…it’s…there are no words. But it’s short-lived.
I love being a writer because it teaches you things. It teaches you humility (and a bit of humiliation); it teaches you courage (and a little bit of masochism); it teaches you resilience (and a little bit of naivete)….
But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Who’d be a writer? Me.
Sometimes writers run out of ink….
That’s where I find myself today.
It’s not writer’s block. It’s writer’s bleak.
It’s raining and the ‘bleak’ has set it. I know it’s diaphanous. I can put my hand right through it like it’s Caspar the Not-so-friendly Ghost. And yet it clings to me. A cold mist. And it feels so real because its breath summons the hairs on the back my neck, bristling them like the quills on a frightened caterpillar.
It will lift. I know this because I am the ‘bleak’ and the lighthouse.
Today I have no ink. I’ve run dry.
With two books scheduled for release this year and two more being considered by people in the world of publishing, I can afford to rest a notch. I will relax and sink into the softness beneath the ‘bleak’ like a dive beneath the breaking waves that roll tumultously above without buffeting me about in their chaos.
The ‘bleak’ is like the Nothingness in The Never-Ending Story. It rolls in like a thundercloud, dark and menacing and it obscures the ‘everything’ as it envelops and laps over the terrain of my mind.
But I have learned to read the weather-charts and can smell the petrichor easing up from the soil beneath my feet, up, up, into my nostrils, the tinny scent that heralds rain. I am ready when the ‘bleak’ rolls in. I rug up, take a deep breath, put down my quill and batten down the hatches. Sleep is good. Reading other writers’ words is good. Today is for soft, downy pillows, a blanket fort and some David Sedaris because god knows I’m not in any mood for Virginia Woolf.
It is actually raining. Out of the sky. A Lorikeet, fluffed and soggy, sits at my window, staring at me and I know exactly how she feels.
I will start my new writing project soon. Not today. Probably not tomorrow.
But deep, deep down in the subterranean cavern of my grey matter, a little bell rings and a tiny golden speck of light glows. My lighthouse is there. I’ll navigate my way past the rocks tomorrow. Or maybe the day after that.
It’s okay to ride the ‘bleak’. It’s okay to be grey.
Pen down and breathe…..
The warrior woman has awoken.
No longer will she polish her husband’s shoes, bring honour to her father’s name, pamper and praise her little boys. No longer will she sit silently while men decide her fate. She has been silenced and shouted down and shoved into subservience while being polished and pinched and powdered pretty in pink and poked and preened and pawed and played for cheap thrills.
She is not a plaything but playful. She is not a trophy although you can earn her love. She doesn’t nag, she expects respect and says so. She won’t let men make rules that hurt her. When she says ‘enough!’ she means it and ‘no’ always means ‘no’ no matter how hard you try to bend it.
It’s 2018 and it is an awesome thing to be a woman. As the dawn of Aquarius rises, it brings a chariot with a new breed of Boudiccas, waving and shouting and singing and celebrating…the fact that they are strong and smart and hopeful.
I am a writer and I have written young adult books with strong female characters, girls who inspire, girls who make sacrifices and work to make the world a better place for not only their daughters but also their sons. They build a world for the future where women and men stand beside one another without the handicap of sexism or racism or ageism or any other ism.
In the wake of the most recent school shooting in the US, a new chant has arisen led by the youth who will be our future and for the first time in a long time, I have renewed hope for that future. I listened to Emma Gonzalez so powerfully speak out against the system that allowed a 19 year old boy to buy a gun and kill seventeen of her school-mates in cold blood. Gonzalez is the role model young women need today. She is standing up to the conservative white men in suits who line their pockets with money splattered in children’s blood. She is owning the President and the NRA like a boss!
In the wake of the election of that misogynist scary clown to the position of US President, a wave of women’s voices began to roar. A ‘man’ who admitted to sexual assault so casually, so flippantly, was elected to the nation’s highest office. He stepped into the shoes of great men. But he was a scab on a diseased society, a man-child with grabby hands and a petulant pout. Women picked away the scab and let the pus pour out. #METOO was born. Women are being heard. More importantly, women are being believed.
I have a teenage daughter and I said to her this morning, ‘In a world of Kardashians, be a Gonzalez.’
Don’t back down. For so long, these old white men have run the joint with their power-hungry, gluttonous greed and trampled over women’s rights, immigrant’s rights, refugee’s rights, almost every basic human right that didn’t directly benefit themselves. It’s time to stand up and tell them that we don’t live in their small world. The ants are resisting the grasshoppers. The crumpled suits may well represent the one percent but we have the numbers. We are legion.
The revolution is here and Boudicca is on the frontline.
My book Victorieux, a young adult novel about three powerful young women who resist the patriarchy and wave their swords confidently, shouting ‘Bring it on! BRING. IT. ON’ will be released in October this year.
My three Boudicca-babes are
Jeanne Hachette – a poor French maid who led an army of women in resistance against the Burgundians, who sought to sack her town in 1478.
Betsy Grey – an Irish lass who was a part of the underground Irish movement against the British occupation of her beloved country in 1798.
Fiona McKechnie – a girl who gets caught up in the power and passion of the protest movement at a Brisbane university and marches against conscription into the Vietnam war (1968).
It’s never been a better time to be a woman. Or a young adult writer. Catniss Everdeen kicked down the door and strong girls are rushing through it en masse and it makes my heart glad. We write stories not to entertain but to inspire young people into action. They are our tomorrow.
The fight is real. The power imbalance is still unacceptable. But when a tragedy occurs that unites us all in grief and anger, it is heartening to hear the voice of a woman like Emma Gonzalez bursting through the ashes…
We are women….hear us roar. We have the blood of Boudicca pulsing in our veins. Don’t stand in our way or we will eat your frickin’ entrails!
VIVAMUS FEMINUS TEMPORE
Planet Earth, we have a problem.
It’s called the United States of America.
Yesterday, I watched, with the rest of the world, as the horror of another one of your school shootings unfolded in real time on our screens. Children running in fear, the heart-jolting terror in screams recorded on teenagers’ phones laid over the somehow unreal sounds of the patter and pop of gunshot. Aerial footage of SWAT teams, ambulances being loaded, the raw grief on the faces of the mothers and fathers and teachers and students, the shell-shocked Sheriff.
And then came your whining, glib, pathological call to not ‘politicize the tragedy’ and your heartless, diseased, ice-cold and calculated plea to blame ‘mental illness’ for the tragedy because guns don’t kill people, dontcha know? People kill people. As Alan Alda said, we can all agree that people kill people but it’s also true that they do so, and far more effectively, with guns, than with their own bare human hands.
Some of you agree with me. Keep shouting the good shout.
But to the America that believes it has a god-given (that’s a bit rich) right to bear arms and worship at the teat of the NRA….
YOU ARE THE PROBLEM. YOU. ARE. THE. PROBLEM.
Yes, people kill people and the YOU are the people doing the killing with your tools of death….your toys…your rifles and shotguns, your machine guns and sub-machine guns, your automatic, assault, personal defense handbag-sized, lolly-gobble-bliss-bomb bullshit pistols. The most recent boy to inflict such pain into the community of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was definitely not of sound mind but he had one thing in common with you…a love of guns. And it was that that killed those school children. An irrational and deadly love affair with guns.
Guns are good for one thing only. Death. That’s it. Oh sure you can go and play target practice….it’s just a game…sport….(go for it….you get more points if you hit the human outline in the head). So it makes sense eh, that where you’ve got a lot of guns, you’ve got a lot of death. It’s really pretty basic. In the US gun deaths are off the chart. Here in Australia, they are rare. I’ve never seen or held a gun outside of the war museum. Never once in my entire life would a gun have helped me out of a situation. Not once. I am the mother of five and grandmother of one and none of us has ever needed a gun…or seen a gun…or held a gun…other than an over-sized plastic water gun.
Civilians are safer without guns. Civilians would be more civil, without guns.
But, America, you have more than just a problem of having way too many metal death sticks firing bullets into every man, woman, child and pet; more than your politicians being owned by the big NRA dollars; more than disenfranchised, frustrated and confused young white men with questionable racist tendencies hammering bullets into the bodies of innocent school students, children killing children; more than your paranoid fear of immigrants….
more than that
I believe that you, the United States of America, may be a psychopath. Like every human body, countries are made up of good and bad bacteria that have to co-exist. It’s naive and counterproductive to call it red and blue, right-wing and left-wing. But when your showy, loud and angry voices demand that you be able to cling onto your precious gun-rights, while a troubled teenage boy can legally buy a AR-15 and wander into a school and not only take seventeen lives but destroy hundred of others left behind, then there is a problem and you ARE THE PROBLEM. Your bad bacteria is out-of-control because you have more than 300 million guns floating around in your body!
You numbskulls offer your fricking thoughts and prayers while your head honcho sociopath wearing the orange crown of antisocial postulating, decries the terrible problem of ‘mental illness’, all the while having his butt kissed by gun lobbyists. You people make me sick and not just me but the whole rest of the world. We felt sorry for you once, twice, hell repeatedly, but there comes a time when you have to start taking responsibility for your own health and broken condition and admit it and start making amends.
This time, America, you’ve gone too far. You are that parent who is so dysfunctional they can’t look after their own kids. You need to wake up. Stop loving your guns more than your own children!
STOP LOVING YOUR GUNS MORE THAN YOUR OWN CHILDREN.
We had a prime minister who was largely a giant jerk but after our worst massacre, he banned guns, tightened the laws. BANG! And now, I don’t have to worry that my toddler is going to blow my brains out all over my peanut butter toast at breakfast time.
I DON’T HAVE TO PANIC EVERY TIME I HEAR A SIREN DOWN NEAR THE LOCAL HIGH-SCHOOL.
If I lived in your diseased country, I would be too afraid to send my children to school…any school. EVER.
America. Your schools are not safe. Your streets are not safe. America, you are not safe.
I’ve long wanted to visit you and see your Grand Canyon and shop in New York City, go to Disneyland and surf at Malibu but as long as you are suffering from this dangerous mental disorder, I just can’t risk coming anywhere near you.
America, you are a psychopath and you need help.
Your antisocial behaviour, impaired empathy (because after Sandy Hook….Vegas….Columbine….YOU DID NOTHING BUT PRAY), impaired remorse (you should feel guilty, really guilty), egotistical sense of self-worth (you are not that great and are in no immediate danger of becoming so)…..
it all points to the one diagnosis of ‘psychopath’.
You have some decent, intelligent voices over there advocating for strict changes to gun laws. They are the voice of reason. Listen to them. For the sake of your children.
Over 30, 000 people in your country die each year from gunshots. Yes they are fired by human beings but your addiction to firearms is fuelling an epidemic and you are so bound up in it you don’t know that you are sick. But take it from the rest of the world ….you need help. You can change and you need to urgently.
Don’t let those seventeen beautiful souls who were murdered by a gun yesterday become just another one of your many, many, many, many, many, many statistics.
Admit you have a problem and seek to cure it.
Love the rest of the outraged world. xx
The really exciting news is that I have a new book coming out on July 2nd.
Yes. I have done the unthinkable again and decided to chainsaw open my chest and spill out little bits of my heart all over the page for strangers to pore over. Am I a complete masochist? A complete narcissist? A complete exhibitionist?
Yes. To all of the above.
You need to be all of those things to be able to write memoir.
For the last few years I’ve been focusing on writing for a young adult audience but this one, ‘Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood,’ is for an older market. For mums and for those who’ve had mums or mother figure’s in their lives. That is most of us.
My journey through motherhood has been turbulent but also brilliant. I am the mother of five children. Five! I blame the Sisters of Mercy for failing to endorse contraception. I’ve grown three boys into men and still have two saplings under my roof. I’ve been a single mum and a partnered mum. Partnered is easier. But I also have fond memories of raising my boys alone. We were a tight unit. A team. I also have bitter, nightmarish memories of that time, when I struggled daily to pay the bills and keep food on the table; when I sat up rocking a sick child to sleep, soaked to the skin with their feverish sweat, alone and frightened.
There was and still is an enormous amount of stigma around single parenting and women cop it worst. A single dad is often seen as something of a hero while a single mum is looked upon as something of a failure. But having sailed the choppy sea myself and having witnessed many strong women bringing up wonderful kids on their own, I know that these parents, doing a double load, are incredibly courageous and inspirational. Champions.
To make ends meet, I cleaned houses, took in ironing and babysat.
But what makes my story a little different is that I was mad as a frickin’ cut snake.
Yep. It took many years for someone to slap a label on me. Bipolar. And let me tell you, juggling a household with small children on a budget made up of found rocks and feathers, with an invisible enemy living inside you like a malicious parasite, is no picnic. I called her Bad Nikki, She’d come to inhabit my body during my teens when she tried to kill me. But she was hot and cold. Not always bad. Sometimes, just mischievous. At times she picked me up on a wave of manic euphoria and sailed me way out to sea while we screamed with laughter, the wind in our hair….and then she’d dump me and leave me to drown. She’d help me write an entire book in two weeks and then stare at me from the mirror and tell me that I was worthless and the very worst mother/person on the planet and that I should jump off the nearest cliff.
But there were also many good times in my roller-coaster life of madness, mayhem and motherhood. The profoundly funny gems of pure joy that came out of my children’s mouths. The Wiggles (I had a massive crush on Greg…you know…when the Wiggles were real Wiggles). The strange and misshapen mother’s day gifts that came home from the school art and craft department. Those moments when you wake up next to your child and they turn to you, all sleep ruffled and tell you that they love you. Child-free girls’ week-ends of champagne and man-watching. Especially those weekends.
But there were yuckier bits. Losing love along the way. Being evicted for being poor. Bank fees for bounced cheques. The electricity being cut off. Eating dry weetbix all weekend….and BAD NIKKI getting in my ear to tell me to end it all. Especially that inner voice.
But I’m still standing. And the kids aren’t completely broken. Fortunately, people are pretty durable and resilient. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger ….and all that.
The book is almost at the first pages stage…..we’re fine-tuning a cover, looking for endorsements from writers that I deeply admire, and I’m just beginning to freak out of my crazy brain about how the book will be received. Will I be strong enough to deal with the haters? Because there are always haters. When you get a one star review for a work of fiction, you can shrug it off. Not everyone likes the same sort of books. But when you get a one star review for a book about YOU, YOURSELF, YOUR VERY SOUL….then it’s pretty hard not to take that personally.
I view writing memoir as a form of ‘therapy’. It flushes out some stories that need to be aired because waving them in the fresh air and sunlight dries them out and stops them from festering into a deep infection of the psyche.
So I’m feeling emotionally refreshed having spilled my guts again…
Can’t wait to hold the book in my hands and sigh….somehow I made it through the wilderness….yeah I made it through.
I haven’t blogged for a while because after years of thinking I was largely invincible, I discovered…that I’m not.
I got kicked in the body by a wicked combo of evil autoimmune diseases that seemingly swept up out of nowhere and started gleefully destroying my joints and my muscles and my joy, to the point that I was unable to walk or function like a human being at all. I tried to write to escape from it all but found that the words all came out in a jumble, and pain punctuated every sentence instead of the usual commas and full-stops and whatnot. And I mostly just wrote swearwords all over the page in angry, fist-held, red pen!
You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.
Ain’t that the effing truth. I was a lazy, cranky woman before this thing hit but a hurricane 5 autoimmune flare turned me into a blob of vitriolic bile and misery. Pain makes even the most polite person a raving maniac. Think of those cliched scenes of women in childbirth screaming expletives and generally behaving like Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist. That has been me on a good day for the last couple of months.
‘Get me another f@#*king cup of tea, you bastard who can walk and laugh and do things, you miserable sack of man,’ I would scream at my long-suffering husband from my bed where I lay sweating foul-smelling-pain-perspiration into my scrunched sheets.
It really is a wonder the lot of them, husband and kids and dog, didn’t just sneak out one night and leave me to die in my own cantankerous bubble of agony. Pain killers did nothing but make me constipated. My pain was too hard-core for even Hillbilly Heroin. Nothing but a chainsaw was going to put me out of my misery. (I noticed my husband scanning a brochure for them, God love him).
I got a wheelchair so that I could be pushed up and down the aisles of the supermarket making a spectacle of myself.
‘Faster,’ I would scream at whatever poor servant was pushing the thing. ‘Stop! Back there! No, not that coffee, you completely useless prick-arse. Come back. Don’t leave me in the middle of the aisle…..’
And the housework. Nobody could do anything right and it annoyed me even though I never left the bedroom except to struggle to the shower where I would sit in a plastic chair and wash myself imagining I was a gargoyle in a fountain.
I watched that movie, ‘August Osage County’ and realised that I was fast becoming the Meryl Streep character so I threw a book at the television and determined to stop being so revolting. Pain and sickness make you a self-obsessed monster sometimes. Just look at a man with the flu!
So, to distract myself, I forced myself to write, because it was the only thing that could take me out of my own life, which had turned into a D grade horror movie. So I wrote a whole book in two weeks and I really like it. It’s not completely terrible. It has promise. A Young Adult book. A little dark (of course). And I read it aloud to my 13 year old son as I completed every chapter and for a little while I forgot the pain and we bonded and the sun started coming out. My son loved the book and loved me reading it to him and I loved reading it to him and we all started to smile again. Awwwww.
And then the doctor put me on a course of steroids that would make a donkey win the Melbourne Cup…that was two days ago and
I am…..in some kind of drugged mania and I can walk (a bit) and feel like I might be a hybrid of Wonder-Woman and Roger Rabbit. And while the potential horrific side-effects that may come raining down on my parade (like glaucoma, diabetes, osteoporosis and psychosis) don’t sound like a picnic, I’ll take the immediate effects and take this opportunity to write this blog and to spring-clean my wardrobe and maybe put all my books in alphabetical order and cook all the food in the house and put it in neatly labelled plastic containers for the freezer. I’ve got this other idea for a book as well…and might start that as well today….and an exercise DVD because I’ve been so sedentary…and…
I’m sorry. I just took a deep breath. I’m okay.
On a more sensible note, I have a new book coming out in July. It is called Madness, Mayhem and Motherhood. Hardly surprisingly, it is a memoir. It is being published by UQP.
I am looking forward to my health stabilizing so that I can enjoy the journey. The manuscript is off to the type-setter and I am awaiting (excitedly) for the early cover-work.
If and when my family come home from school/work this afternoon, I will present them with a sparkling clean house and a big smile and now that I am almost pain-free and mobile, I will apologise for having been a torturous beast to live with for the last (ahum) three months and beg their forgiveness.
If you live with someone who has a serious health condition, please understand that it is their pain and frustration talking and moaning. Inside there is a healthy person just trying to get out. Give them a foot rub.
I feel like I’ve found the escape hatch. For a time, life may go back to some kind of normal. Hahahahaha….as if my life could ever be normal!!!!!
Happy Friday. Have a nice weekend.