The Whole Intimate Mess

I came across this excellent memoir, The Whole Intimate Mess: Motherhood, Politics and Women’s Writing because the author, Holly Walker, sounded familiar. Indeed, it turns out that Holly and I crossed paths briefly at University when we both worked for its student publication, which Holly went on to edit. She then went on to be a Rhodes Scholar and a Greens Member of Parliament. Overachiever much?

What I love most about this concise, well-written book is how candid it is without being oversharing-y. While it must’ve been terrifying for such a public person to lay her struggles bare, Holly navigates the personal and the political with grace, warmth, humour and vulnerability. In a nutshell, she opens up about the perfect storm of events and conditions that led to the brave decision to step down from her parliamentary role: her struggle with becoming a mum while working in parliament, her postpartum depression, her husband’s chronic illness, their rocky marriage, and the anxiety and self-harm that came along with these stressful life events.

In her vulnerability, she is down to earth and relatable. Holly also weaves throughout her at-times harrowing story quotes from other female writers from around the world who speak to, and contextualise, her struggles, and it is with the fusing of these excerpts and her writing that bring a universal quality to her work. I certainly identified with elements of her story as a white, NZ/western, working woman.

This memoir is ultimately hopeful – Holly gets help and rebuilds her life in a way that is more workable for her and her family. She acknowledges her privilege and that she has more options than most people. As a fellow lefty, the memoir is littered with examples and anecdotes of how New Zealand is not doing enough for children in poverty and the widening gap between the rich and the poor which is having a detrimental effect. Still, it gives me hope that people like Holly are working on these issues. Thanks Holly for all that you do, for reminding us that the pen is mightier than the sword, and for being such an excellent role model for the women of Aotearoa/New Zealand!

Rainy Season

And the rains they came. The monsoon season has started here. A day earlier than expected. Shows how much we silly humans know. It’s grey, humid and wet. The sounds are soothing. The repetition is somehow comforting. I’m sleeping better although I have less energy. Walking up the hill to my place from the subway station feels like my legs are made of concrete. Feeling wild, I ordered a latte with half a shot of espresso and the next day had a pounding headache. My joints ache. My life right now could be an advertisement for all of Pema Chodron’s books: When Things Fall Apart, The Places That Scare You, Taking the Leap, Comfortable With Uncertainty. You get the idea. It’s a time of transition, of uncertainty, of stepping outside of my comfort zone, of making choices and putting my agency behind them (as Ruth Chang would say). A group of friends I’ve leaned on these past few years has sadly disbanded. Although it wasn’t sudden, it’s still sad. What was sudden, though, was my friend’s loss of her twin fetuses at almost twelve weeks. I was able to offer her some comfort. These things happen. Nature is cruel. It’s not your fault. Still it rains. Then there was the death of my friend’s brother who was walking to meet his friends near the river where I had been just a few days before. It was a taxi, they said. It came out of nowhere and now he is no longer. Silly humans. Inside and outside are grey. But rain is good. It can cleanse and help things grow.