May 2012

Not Funny.

by Lori Dwyer on May 31, 2012 · 13 comments

It’s raining.

I am in a foul mood- my kids are not well, their ears are sore and they are grumpy; the weather is miserable and it’s five degrees colder in TinyTrainTown than anywhere else.

I tap my foot impatiently as I wait at the doctors, haughty and irritated. I’m here for a referral. A general practitioner that doesn’t know me- I’ve only needed to come here three times since I’ve been living in the area- is required to write me a referral for the trauma psychologist I’ve been seeing, in order for Medicare to foot the bill.

The irony of it pisses me off. But I can’t afford the fees myself, and God only knows I need to see Charlie.

The doctor who attends to me is new- brand new, fresh out of internship or study or whatever normal people do to become raised to the level of doctors. He has an extremely thick accent, and I’m normally good at understanding speech that is impaired in one way or another; but I don’t have the patience today. I catch only that he’s new and will consult with a more senior doctor over the phone if needed.

The appointment is labored and boring and seems to drag on forever as I’m asked about allergies, sleep, moods and appetite. The doctor fumbles and flushes when I ask him to repeat his question about my menstrual cycle, and I pretend not to hear him the second time too. It’s intrinsically nasty but sometimes I just cannot help myself- I am so used to making people uncomfortable just by being me that when I sense weakness I poke them harder in that spot. It feels like firmly pinning a squirming moth to a board.

The doctor balks at referring me to my shrink because the relatively new practice Charlie works for isn’t in the computer system of this medical centre, nor in the direct area. He suggests others and I am forced to argue my point frustrated and bored with myself already.

‘Anxiety’, he notes on my file, assuming correctly that this is the basis of my condition, given the heavy dose of the medication I take. “I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I say, wondering why that’s not on my file, haven’t I told them this already, on a previous visit? Maybe not, maybe I’m thinking of elsewhere. I have a script in my head for medical situations… “The children’s father suffered a psychosis and took his own life early last year.” It’s crisp and brittle and costs me very little, emotionally, and I’ve practiced it so it can be that easy, that fluent, and I can say it without seeing things in my head.

“Why? What triggered this PTSD?”, asks the doctor, eyes on the computer screen.

And because I’m a foul mood, and this sterile clean little room and this polite, difficult to understand doctor are pissing me off; I wait just a beat too long to reply, long enough so he’ll look me in the eye. And I say, without breaking his gaze “My husband hung himself in front of me last year. He died. I screamed for help…”

And I think to myself… “Boo!!!!!!!”

I watch with a grim, ugly satisfaction as the doctor’s eye widen in shock, and it’s his turn to wait a beat too long before responding. I know that pause… it’s a pregnant one, filled with dismal expectation. He’s waiting for me to say something, anything, to make that statement not quite as ugly as it is. To make this situation more comfortable for him.

I say nothing.

He can’t print me off a referral quickly enough.


I’ve always had a dark sense of humour.

It was intensified working at the children’s hospital- most people who have worked with or come into close contact with death on a regular basis develop a wickedly morbid appreciation of what’s funny. (A mandatory monthly group counseling session, years ago, attended by all the entertainers I worked alongside at the hospital, and we’re discussing this very thing. Another seasoned entertainer relays a joke told her by the parents of a gorgeous three year old boy named Luke, his blonde curls and tiny eyelashes stripped cruelly by chemotherapy, “We call him Lukie,” says his mother in mirth, “its short for leukemia!” It’s not funny, not funny at all, but it was the only thing Luke’s mother could find to laugh at and we laughed too, until our bellies were aching and we couldn’t make eye contact for breaking into more peals of it; as two new staff members stared on at us in abject horror.)

While Tony was in the ICU, and in the nightmare that was the first few months after he died, that warped sense of humour became invaluable.

Laughter, no matter the source, is light. Let yourself get too heavy, and you’ll sink.

The only benefit I could find to feeling like a walking zoo exhibit was the ridiculous nature of it all. I viewed people’s reactions to me through a veil of wonderment, watching the real world go on while mine caved in. (“Am I real? Do I exist? Did I die, too?”) Some people seemed to stare at me, waiting for me to explode, or scream, or cry… (“I’m not going to do what you all think I’m gonna do, and just… flip out, or something.”) and through my veil of surreality, there was a part of me that wanted to make them jump, to engage them in uncomfortable conversation… to draw them into the whirlpool of this reality of mine, rather than have them stare at the puppet show that was my life from the comfortable boundaries of their normality.

The fact that they could look at me look like, that they were people who Didn’t Understand, it just made me jealous.

And it tickled some dark, wicked funny bone I have. It felt like a precipice… scream “Boo!!!!!” and watch the normal people flee, while I laughed.

Hysterically. So hysterically it echoed all the way to the asylum.

Liz, my other shrink, she understands, as much as someone can who hasn’t been there can. She stands with me in the hospital, the last day in the ICU, and together we watch.

In rolls a tiny Asian man with a massive x-ray machine, to take a photo of my husband’s dead lungs. In strolls a group of organ donation coordinator, all ribbons and pink and roses and whispers of “Sign this, please…”. In waddle two coppers, one short, one tall, and the short one is in tears when they leave.

In and out, in and out, a string of people. Some of them weeping, saying goodbye to man who was their world… some of them just work here, and this is just another day that will blur into the rest.

I can’t stand it. My husband has been dead for hours, days in reality… this feels ridiculous and it’s pushing that funny bone the wrong way. Liz can see it through my eyes, and she verbalizes it for me where I cannot… this is farcical. This is comedy. This is a Shakespearean play where the ship’s run aground but everything will be OK in the end.

I’m still waiting for the
punchline. I’m still watching the play.

It’s just not fucking funny anymore.

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“What The F*ck…”

by Lori Dwyer on May 30, 2012 · 13 comments

If you leave my Tiny Train House and turn away from civilization, rather than toward it, you’ll find yourself following an overgrown, rusted train line, the sleepers rotted and filled with termites, an occasional piece of abandoned rail machinery dotted the lines.

Blink, and you’ll miss where the traffic zone changes, signalling the end of TinyTrainTown– it’s easy to fly right through here and barely even recognise it’s a village.

You’ll drive through a few more like that, too- other tiny train towns, little villages with one multipurpose general store that have continued to grin on, if not to thrive….

The train line has been deserted for the better part of fifty years. What was once a bustling area of chook farms and orchards, a wholesale feed company that made constant use of the train line nearby; is now a sleepy grouping of towns made up of a handful of streets, used mostly only by locals as a short cut to the nearby freeway.

So… you’re driving along a bush road at one hundreds click an hour. The scenery is nothing but scrub, and it all looks the same… it’s no wonder people get so lost in the Australian bushland.

And then, suddenly…

“What the f*ck is that!?”

What the f*ck, indeed.

As we can see, there is quite literally nothing on either side  of this… oddity… except for road, scrub, more road, and more scrub.

And this…. thing… on the side of the road. (The rules of writing tell us that there is always a better word than “thing”. But in this case… I’ really not so sure.)

You can tell people who aren’t familiar with this road if you happen to be driving behind them when they pass it. Their brake lights will suddenly flash red as the driver pumps down in shock. The more adventurous hit the brakes hard and swing in to check it out in detail.

Not that detail helps much… it is as it appears. A great bid chunk of concrete. On top of another chunk of concrete.

My mum assures me that it is, actually, a sculpture, and apparently it used to have a plaque on it dedicating it to ‘human endurance’.

Human endurance, my butt. After much thinking and theorising over this (Bunny‘s best guess was that it was osme kind of alien spaceship, and thousands of people had driven past and said “What the f*ck is that!?” but no one ever actually stopped to check it out in detail. Plausible) the best I’ve got is… human laziness. And rampant cost effectiveness.

The sculpture/ alien craft/ thing sits in a very close proximity to where the Tiny Train Road intersects the local freeway, and a whole big chunk of earth has been cut out to allow it go through uninterrupted. Which means Tiny Train Road effectively became a bridge…

Held in place with massive concrete struts.

Say there’s a strut- or two- leftover? Being cut or molded or whatever to a custom size means it’s not useful for anything else. And hauling something so heavy back to the CBD or any major township would cost a small fortune.

What do you do with two tonne of concrete so it doesn’t exactly look like industrial littering…?

You make it into a huge, f*ck off ugly sculpture. And sit back and laugh to yourself at the thought of thousand of people driving past it, almost causing rear end accidents, muttering to themselves…

“What the f*ck is that…?”

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by Lori Dwyer on May 29, 2012 · 6 comments

We seem to be missing a few words, in the English language. Other cultures have developed words and phrases specifically for feelings and events that we only vaguely identify.

‘Esprit d’ escalier is French for “Dammit, that would have been the perfect come back but it is far too late to say it now!” (erm… literal translation “the spirit of the stairway“. I don’t know why, either.)  The Scots use the word ‘tartle‘ to describe that awkward moment when you’re expected to introduce someone but can’t remember their name. And any good Simpsons fanatic knows that ‘schadenfreude‘ is German for shameful joy- the bitter happiness that comes from watching another fail.

And, as Homer says.. those Germans have a word for everything.

I discovered ‘weltschmerz recently, and it’s a word I’ve been seeking for years now. It describes that feeling I’ve helplessly tried to articulate previously here- a depression caused by the weight of the sadness of the world.

The feeling of a whole Universe spread around you, and everyone suffering, everyone hurting.. and wondering what in God’s name the point of living is, if everyone just hurts and then dies again.

I like to name things, clarify them… there is a strange power in finding the perfect word for what you mean. The pen that is mightier than the sword.


Speaking of words…. I write and publish, on average, about 4000 of them a week. And I do my best to weigh every one of them, to own everything that rests on the pages, and I try to be aware of what I’m saying in the spaces, too- or what I’m neglecting to say at all.

But words are funny things… one of them, written late at night (massive) changes the whole context of what you were trying to say. (Mind your language… we’ve played this game before, folks.)

I’ve been meaning to write a post about how strange it is, being Professional Blog Lori, answering emails, submitting posts, putting myself out there. Rejection of any form In Real Life crumples me into a snotty mess of warm tears. Rejection online, professionally, barely causes me to blink- it doesn’t seem to bother me, and I don’t know why; but it’s such a relief, to have a small space in my conscious mind that isn’t a pressure cooker all the time.

But yesterday, I just didn’t have my thick skin on. As Maree says… it’s a heavy thing to carry. If I don’t feel like I need it, I put it down. Some comments felt like an actual physical dull thud in my abdomen.

I’m tempted to write a whole new post about breastfeeding, outline my beliefs (again)… but, quite frankly, I’m bored with it and can’t be fucked right now.

So I’ll just say… as someone who is fortunate enough to earn money off my writing, I’m more than aware of how careful I should be with every word I type, and how much potential scrutiny it’s under.

You will have to forgive me if, out of four thousand words a week, I fuck up one or two of them.


And now, onto the words I didn’t fuck up.

As part of my bid to dominate the world through pro blogging, I’ve contributed to an e-book. It has exclusive stories- meaning the only place you can read them is in the book– from all the best Aussie parenting bloggers; and includes such topics as school lunches, replying “In a moment, dear” to inanimate but noisy toys, falling in love with your newborn and quenching the urge to strangle your three year old.

Things They Didn’t Tell You is $.4.99, which you could probably raid from your kid’s money boxes right now if they’re at school, and all profits raised go toward getting a different type of kid to a different type of school altogether- Foundation 18 is an Aussie funded orphanage in Bali, started from the ground up by the arse kicking Cate Bolt– she’s got a story in the e-book too.

E-book? Check. The only drawback is- I’d actually forgotten all about the somewhat distressing incident I described in the Things They Didn’t Tell You, my memory being like a pair of trendy jeans with rips right up and down the front for things to fall out of; right up until I read it back to myself two weeks ago.

Memories, words, e-books… all those conceptual realities. They are strange and interesting things.

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