Thursday, May 22, 2008

Back To School

Teensy bit overstretched because I've been attending a weeklong playwrights' course.

It is the first time, I'm sure, that I have had such an extended period of grown-up time, 10 to 5 every day, no tears, no tantrums, except of course for my own when I fail to crack some crucial plotpoint or discover my character won't do what I want her to do even if I ask very nicely.

It is, as you can imagine, complete luxury. I'm writing theatrical stuff and drinking coffees and scribbling down notes in cafes before class and hanging out with my writer buddies and I even went to the pub and had a glass of wine last night and it is truly madly deeply thrilling.

The new play with the contrary character and the uncrackable plot points is, funnily enough, about infertility.

Well no, not infertility per se but it is about two couples, two infertile couples, and it comes out of some strangely familiar territory. With some strangely familiar emotional force behind it. And it's actually a comedy but also, as you would expect, a little...well...dark.

Today we wrote an exercise and had to read it back to the class and I wasn't reading anything particularly profound or revealing but I just suddenly started to weep and had to stop reading and gulp and snort and wipe my nose and eyes and then read on. It was very strange.

Except it wasn't.

Because what I had realised was that the impulse for writing this play came not from (as I first thought) the desire to make a very ugly emotional experience into something beautiful (although that is part of why I am writing it) but because I realised/remembered very very early on when our flatmates/friends had got pregnant while on holidays, almost without trying it seemed, and we weren't and had been trying for ages and how upset I was at the time.

This wasn't a new memory, what was new was that I realised (while doing these writing exercises) was that I nearly lost one of my best friends as a result.

This is someone I speak to nearly every day, someone I write with, someone with whom I have many (over 20) years of history and friendship. I was staying at her house when she had just started dating her now husband, she was acting in the same play where I met my now husband. When my mother died I bolted to her house in Melbourne for a week and then went home for the funeral. We have supported each other through career crises and boyfriend dramas and exploding car radiators all the way back to university days when she used to wear spotty leggings and I used to wear a bob and a miniskirt.

Her friendship is one of the most important relationships in my life and it was nearly destroyed because I couldn't get pregnant and she could and did. At the time, no one really knew that C and I were having problems, I couldn't even really admit it to myself.

We were all living together and the household split up several months after that and I can remember the four of us clearing out the kitchen and she was heavily pregnant and we nearly broke up then and there over a fucking lemon juicer, except it wasn't really a lemon juicer it was a hidious big green monster sitting over my head and my heart that kept shrieking over and over it's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair.

When I think over all this and remember that monster and that black cloud that descended upon me, and how my reality became a skewed thing, a painful thing that dragged at my heels and pricked at my heart whenever I saw a baby or a mother or a pram or a bump or a...or a...or a... it amazes me that any of the relationships I had at the time have survived.

So this play, if it gets finished, will be for my friend.

Because even though she didn't know what was happening to me, and I couldn't tell her because I didn't understand myself, I always knew that she loved me and cared about me. And what I think now is that she actually did see that monster in me and she forgave me and it's because of her that we have remained close friends.

We had to write an exercise where a character makes a private speech in their last moments on this earth.

And this is part of what undid me:

...My best friend Meg, I guess that's where all the crying will come from, she cries at the drop of a hat - and that's before all the injected hormones; the guinea pig gonads and whatever the fuck else they crush up to stick into those little vials. She's like my sister, but in a good way, because I actually have two sisters and they're both cunts. Meg, if you can hear me, I forgive you for making me shoot up in a nightclub, I forgive you for fucking up your marriage - your perfect fairytale ending marriage- and I forgive you for hating everyone else with a uterus, even me. I know how hard this was for you, how much this broke you up.

As I say, not profound.

But I guess, for me anyway, it was revealing.

One more day to go...


Em said...

I'm glad your friendship survived despite the green monster's presence (I know him well).

Your class sounds wonderful.

Jess said...

A friend of mine discribed having a child after infertility as losing a leg - you're awfully glad you have one left, but jesus you miss the one that's not there.

I'm glad you can slay the monster (even for a little while) with your words.

Lin said...

I can't think of a better work experience than one that offers you a break from the everyday, coffees with friends, a big girl drink after class and a cathartic journey as well. Keep it up,'re a hero to so very many. And you and your friend...aren't you just the luckiest two girls in all of Australiadom to have each other as best friends.

Grit said...

life is perverse, isn't it? there i was with three kids when even one would have been a shock... green with envy over women who had one child and could cope. we live in crazy places.

LL said...

you write what's in my heart OG, goddamn it.... a big green bitter, bile flavoured monster is my daily companion.

PS I love that you used the word "cunt" you rock!

Sparkle said...

Ugh that green monster - if its not too impertinent to ask - is it making a reappearance again with those having a second baby?

Anonymous said...

Monsters are for slaying.
Friends are for keeping.


Specially ones who can wear a killer bob.

Anonymous said...

I am going through this right now with one of my closest friends. We started trying the same month and she has a two year old and I don't. My infertility is a mindblow for her and we have had many, many almost breakups because we were just not able to hear each other, or even speak to each other. Jealousy was (is) also our issue. Mine, not hers.

Reading this post is incredibly good for me because it reminds me that even though I some times make it insanely impossible for my friend to keep loving me, she somehow still does.

Thank you for sharing this raw moment so that I can work on my own fucked up shit.

I hope you will share more about the play as it unfolds.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. It has indeed been cathartic and inspiring and quite a bit of fun as well. Now I need to find the time to rewrite the play and this might not happen until we go on holidays in a couple of months. I am officially back on the cops and crossbows. Which is great.

Yes, i do feel the monster regarding the second child but it's a smaller monster that I can kick in the head most days. I can live with that monster.

Cal thanks for your comment I'm glad this does help in some tiny way...(xx)

And MO... these things that bubble up are very wierd, and see I was wondering if you still read my blog and now I know. And in my heart I'm still be-bobbed and you're still spotty legged. vxxx

Anonymous said...

I can relate to this - when I was first trying a few years ago the one person I thought was completely disinterested in having children (and I know this because she kept repeating this fact to me), fell pregnant and at the time we were both close friends & work colleagues. I remember when she told me we were out walking at lunchtime and I felt like someone had struck me in the guts with a sledgehammer. It took all my mental muster to feign delight and joy for her. When we got back to the office I immediately walked out again and sat in front of a nearby church and bawled my eyes out. I didn't even think I could ever look at her again. The saving grace was that she was not a gushy pregnant woman and preferred not to talk about it and I think that saved the friendship. I kept my infertility a secret for a long time from everybody so I don't think she ever twigged to my angst. We're still close friends and she now knows all the gory details of my infertility trials. Now that I've finally cracked the pregnancy puzzle (16 weeks along) she is overjoyed for me. But yes your post brought back all those memories when I felt the universe was parading pregnant bellies in my face left, right & centre. Great post.

Anna said...

ah, a beautiful post! i'm very happy that you and meg survived infertility; so many friendships do not.

i love that australian phrase "confronting" because it so perfectly describes what it's like to look back on those horrible feelings of jealousy and self-loathing that i felt when my friend m. was pregnant. our decades-old friendship didn't survive my infertility (although i think it was already in trouble before that); while we both contributed to our break, i can't imagine how hard it must have been to deal with the sad/raging/bitter/self-loathing person i was at that time. (it gives me the willies just thinking about it!)

here's to you and to meg and a friendship that will last a lifetime. i hope you'll share your play with all of us whenever it's done.

as always, best wishes to you, ova girl.

Mima said...

I as the unmarried, and never even tried to get pregnant person shouldn't be able to relate to this, but you see I can, and do to a huge extent. You see I always wanted children, and I know now that I won't get to have them.

It has been a really bitter pill to swallow as all of my friends have gone on to have them, my best friend has three. Don't get me wrong I am so pleased for her and her hubby, and they have a wonderful life with them, but I wanted them too.

It is one of the things that can give me real down periods, often just after friends have been to visit bringing their wonderful little ones with them. It is one of the things I try very hard to put on the back burner, but it still rears its ugly head every now and then, I wont get the chance to even try.