Jesus, I feel like a right bloody selfish, moany bitch tonight. The sense of shame and guilt inspired in me is probably a universal effect of watching BBC’s Comic Relief. How many hundreds of thousands of words have I written about petty, surmountable first world problems while there are children dying from a lack of mosquito nets and vaccines and clean water and food? The education I have been lucky enough to have had; my daughter’s education, taken for granted; the roof over our heads; drinkable water, a fridge full of food; access to healthcare. What the fuck is wrong with me? With us? Depression; anxiety; BPD; PTSD all seem so… small, so glassy, so intangibly conceptual in comparison.
Ebola; malaria; HIV; high rates of maternal and infant mortality; FGM; rape as a weapon of war; abduction; enslavement; starvation – these are real, concrete dangers lurking, no, not lurking, screaming in the faces of women and girls, mothers and daughters everywhere, every moment, throughout our scarred and broken world. Of course men suffer too but for now, as we approach Mother’s Day, and in the aftermath of much speech making and petition signing for International Women’s Day, and picking up my thread of woven thought from a couple of posts back, I’m thinking about the women.
My insignificant gripes are just that – trifling. My little world of pain exists only inside my head. Physically, I am safe. More importantly, my child is safe. I have the power, the autonomy, the resources, the social support of my government and my family to keep her alive and more than that: healthy, educated, happy. Luxuries, by the standards of most of the world’s population.
There have been many days when I scraped together ten euro for the electric meter, or made a dinner from two fifty in change gathered from sofas and old purses. I’ve put off going to the doctor because sixty euro is a week’s groceries. But we’ve never gone hungry. We’ve never been in the dark. We eat dinner together, we watch TV, we read our books, we sleep in our beds, we wash in clean water and we have the full use of our bodies.
Why? Why is my child luckier than a child born in Malawi or Uganda or India or Mexico? Geography: proximity to white Europe. History: early escape from colonialism.
Of course there are problems here in Ireland.
Yes, I’ve seen first hand children coming to school with nothing in their bellies and no “I love you” at the door as they left for a miserable day at school: bullied and alone, no hope for future escape and no interest in learning.
I see soulbroken homeless people everyday on the cold streets of this tourist thronged city.
I’ve seen people who’ve worked and struggled for their country and their families their whole lives abandoned like useless, bony dogs at a pound, ignored and resented.
I’ve seen friends bereaved and miscarry: their hearts falling out of them like a million crystallised cells pooling on the floor into a pond of memory.
But we don’t know pain. I don’t know pain. I think I do. When I’ve written the things that have happened, when I think about the things I’ve done: the damage inflicted upon me and the destruction I’ve left in my trail, I’ve felt vindicated in my sense of injustice, that I had cause to feel sad, or angry, or afraid or ashamed. But in context of this world – this cruel, battering, depraved world, it’s nothing but a pinprick in a well fed belly.
I desperately want to make my life useful. Productive. Not for my own glory, recognition or reward but to save something, someone. I try with the social media pages for this blog to encourage others who are suffering to seek help, to foster understanding, to provide a forum or a platform for open debate. Nobody can get away from the suicude statistics in this country, in the UK, throughout the western world but what if that’s not enough? What if it doesn’t help anyone? How do you make your life count? How do you make your time worth something?
I wanted to die. I planned my death. I was stepping towards it, eagerly and with relief. Sometimes I still think about it, fleetingly, with a distant longing, like for an old, lost lover. But I’m here and it should bloody well be for a good reason. I don’t want to get to the natural end and think, “Well, you had a perfectly good opportunity to do something and you wasted it because you were scared, lazy, selfish, busy, or tired and now you’re dead anyway”.
Does it sound like I have a god complex? Dotty can save the world, all hail Mother Rocker. But I need to do something in return for my healthy, literate child; our vaccinated immune systems; our warm beds, our living, loving family; our clean running water (that I absolutely think we should pay for). Our basic human rights are not denied. Not like the ten year old girl who scavenged day after day on a rubbish dump for bits of plastic and scrap metal to sell and food to eat with her grandmother while fending off sexual predators.
I am filled with guilt and shame and the impulse to do something. Something manifest, quantifiable, physical – build a house, dig a well, teach a child, administer vaccinations.
Instead here I am, thinking about poetry, and that never saved any child’s life.
I’m not sure about donating possibilities from RoI but you can download the Sam Smith/John Legend Comic Relief Single here for €1.29 and 100% of the profits go to worthy causes. http://www.comicrelief.com/news/sam-smith-and-john-legend-single-revealed
With much love and wishes for your safety and health,