Love, February 2019: Day 12

Mum calls to tell me about her dream
She’s trapped in a cage and phones are ringing outside it. She cannot reach them to answer them but they keep ringing and ringing and there’s nothing she can do about them.
She sees her doctor outside the cage and she begs him to let her out to answer the phones.
He says he doesn’t have a key. Only she has the key. Only she can get herself out.
But she knows the truth. She doesn’t have the key. There is no key, no way out. She’s trapped in that cage, bars between her and the rest of the world for life.
There is nothing anybody can do about it.
I remember the night she first had the stroke.
We went to the hospital. She’d had her clot busting drugs and we crowded around her in the emergency room.
She was awake, alert, bright, grateful to be there. She thanked everyone for getting her help so quickly.
The slurring was gone; her face normal. She was normal. She seemed normal.
Now I realise we were watching her brain die. That clot, unbroken, unmoved, killing off her cells as we watched unknowing.
A black wave washing over her brain as we were talking to her.
Strokes are quick. The effects take longer. What would have been if we’d removed the clot then? If the drugs had worked? If targeted removal had been rolled out through the system? If she’d had her stroke one month later. Two months?
If. If. If.
No. That way lies madness.
Blame was the first thing on everybody’s minds. Guilt and blame. But guilt and blame achieve nothing. They’re emotional dead ends.
Mum went off Warfarin for her overseas trip. But Mum also had the memory of that trip, her dream trip, the one she’d wanted since she was a child.
Which is more important for a life?
The things is, this was all four years ago now. Four long, painful years.
An accident or an illness – however stressful, painful or exhausting – ends. It ends. Things revert. Things settle. Things change but they also change back.
When someone you love dies, a hole is blasted in your life but then that hole fills in. Space abhors a vacuum. The hole will still be there: the edges clear even after your repair. You can see it out of the corner of your eye, feel it as you walk over it. It’s just that now you won’t fall in.
Grief after death, to extend this metaphor, is like earthworks. Done right, your foundation is secure. You know that the work is done: you can see the cracks around it, feel the place where the hole was dug and then filled in. But one day, eventually, you’ll walk over it and realise that you’re no longer in danger of falling in.
Strokes are the opposite of death.
Strokes dig the hole and then ask you to pretend there is no hole. Strokes take somebody you love and know and replace them with somebody else.Those changes can be small, they can be fine, they can be subtle. Impulsiveness. Candour. A new struggle with irony or missing social cues.
Or those changes can be gross, they can be large, they can be stark. Social inappropriateness. Lack of empathy. Self-absorption. Crassness.
As humans we have a great capacity for rationalisation. But trying to grieve and to celebrate at the same time? Trying to be happy a loved one is alive while grieving for the person that isn’t there any more? That is a cognitive dissonance at which even the most nimble of us fail. Strokes ask us to dance on the hole as though it isn’t there.
It’s Christmas and Mum is crying in the bedroom because she has so many things to do for Christmas Day and nobody will let her do them. Anosognosia is a symptom associated with a right hemisphere stroke. It’s a condition where a person who suffers a certain disability is seeming unaware of it. To this day, Mum insists that she can walk, it’s just that Doctors or her nasty family won’t let her. Over the years, her Anosognosia has gotten better but there are still days like this when she’s upset and confused as to why we won’t “let” her do the things she wants to do.
It’s heartbreaking.
It’s exhausting. I’m exhausted.
I love you, Mum
I miss you, Mum
I’m glad you’re alive
I’m sorry you’re gone
Love, February

Love, February 2019: Day 10


I love trash.
I’m a trash roomba
I lurk across the floor of dramaland ready to suck up trashy shows whenever I’m lucky enough to find them.
Why do I like trash so much? And while we’re at it, what even is trash? How do you define trash?
I think it says something that good trash, like good art, defies description. You just know it when you see it.
I may not know much about trash but I do know what I like.
First and foremost, trash has to be fun. It can’t be boring. About Time, for example, was bad trash because it was boring trash. Even the actors looked bored. About Time was one long, unfolding realisation that everyone was stuck in a bad drama and there was nothing they could do about it. Good trash doesn’t know it’s trash or it at least embraces its trashiness with glee.
Risky Romance? Blood? Even Trot Lovers? These are various forms of good trash.
But my love of trash predates Korean dramas by several decades. At Uni, I would celebrate the end of my exams with trashy romance novels. When I was unwell, I would inhale bad sci/fantasy television.
To this day, my favourite piece of trash is the Sci-Fi Channel’s hilariously awful 2007 reimagining of Flash Gordon. Never heard of it? No one has. My brother gave it to me to watch when I was recovering from dental surgery and – maybe it was the drugs – but I loved it. Every cringey awful second of it. It even ended on a cliffhanger but with only three people watching it a second season was never going to happen.
To this day when I’m feeling unwell out comes Flash Gordon. Sure I fast forward through at least the first six episodes (and any time they decide we might want to know what’s happening back on Earth – we don’t). But this is great trash, people. This is a comic book meets a gay floor show meets pulp fiction. This is bad actors running around cheap sets in funny outfits while extras plucked from the local weightlifting circuit pretend to be birds in the background or run around painted blue.
So what makes Flash Gordon good trash while other similarly-bad shows are just trash? For a start, underneath all the silly there’s quite a good, quite an interesting story going on here. Flash Gordon isn’t a hero in this so much as an impetus. He’s a stone thrown into a pond that then ripples out. Everyone loves him, of course, and he’s the ultimate walking American Ideal. But this Flash does nothing alone. If anything, his main skill is inspiring people to act themselves and bringing them together. Flash isn’t Mongo’s Great White Saviour, Flash just believes that Mongo can save itself and so the people of Mongo eventually do too.
Nobody yells out, “Flash I love you but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth”. They’re more likely to yell, “I have Flash’s support in my quest to save Mongo”.
It’s an extremely appealing subversion of the usual superhero tropes. Flash doesn’t save the day and get the girl. Flash is there supporting and nurturing those who save the day and is willing to let the girl make her own decisions about these things, after all she’s been through a lot. Also his love interest is the weakest character and the weakest actor and I kind of hated her so I was glad the romance thing never loomed large.
But there it is, Flash is a nice guy but never a Nice Guy. He was never bothered with strong women kicking ass and saving the day, if anything he admired them for it. His best friend in Mongo is a better fighter and he thinks she’s awesome. His other best friend is smarter than him and he thinks he’s awesome. His ex seems to have moved on but is doing well and he’s genuinely happy for her. And his eye rolling frustrations with the crazy of Mongo were kind of funny, even if Eric Johnston was never the world’s greatest actor.
So maybe good trash is just trash that makes you want to watch it despite it being trash. Maybe it’s just a show that draws you in even with its trashiness. Maybe you have your own type of “good trash” just as everyone has their own type of “good art”.
But for me, I unabashedly admit that I love trash.
Love, February