#21 All Of This Is Ordinary
‘All of this is ordinary. / Do not mistake that for normal.’
With support from Creative Scotland, we commissioned three writers and artists to produce original pieces for the 70 Stories project.
We are delighted to share the first of these, All Of This Is Ordinary by Jenny Lindsay, a poet and regular SMHAF contributer who explores mental health through much of her work, including the recent multi-media project This Script. This new poem forcefully expresses the impact of violence and trauma on women’s mental health over the last 70 years into the present day.
All of this is ordinary –
Never the default but ordinary,
Backlash insidious in its banality,
Black biro penned
in collective memory
Applause: a single hand
high-fived in legacy.
All of this is ordinary.
Do not mistake that for normal.
For all of this and that was ordinary –
Chain-sinked shackled ordinary
Fog of the day-grind ordinary
Role-spun, apron-strung ordinary
Little helper gin-downed
hide the evidence, it is
hard to measure self-censorship –
Hide the evidence
afore the gravel crunch of
this life is the desideratum.
All of that was ordinary.
And all of this is ordinary.
Anxious lives lived
strung-out constantly –
Roles pegged on the cultures
washing line and
many flapping uselessly
never quite drying comfortably,
Fousty damp clothes
worn thru necessity,
Told all of this is ordinary
Told all of this makes you secure –
Leisure-less mind-fucked plate-spinning
Gaslight me this is ordinary or
desirable or security –
Your mind is tricksy, ladies,
don’t trust it –
your liberation will
just make you nasty.
Here’s some science to back up
legitimate rage and
and scraping you and
all of this is ordinary –
A few drops of freedom
viewed as a downpour…
In my grandmother’s past,
life of fear was ordinary;
fight-flight-freeze to fists ordinary
Cannae dae a hing, likes ordinary
Captive living in monstrous silence ordinary
Do not tell me
her response was anything
other than absolutely ordinary.
Do not mistake that for normality:
captivity is never humanity
But all of that was ordinary
All of that was ordinary,
And all of this is ordinary,
Bones break, starvation ordinary
Police self, police thought ordinary
It is hard to measure self-censorship
when you’re gawking over toilet bowls
and internalising cultures hatred
of your absolutely ordinary
frame, sold sickbed aesthetic or bronzed
goddess from the 2D
lived online and encouraged as if
all of this is ordinary – to never converse
eye to eye hashtag Insta-fucked-up
Be young be social be anxious
Perfect your outer presentation always
Burn your own books now, sisters ordinary
Never trust anyone over twenty-six:
The past silenced twice
The past silenced twice
Don’t tell me all of this aint ordinary
Because all of this is ordinary
And all of that was ordinary
What is it about me that is so wrong that such things shall always happen to me?
Set up to fail by individualising when
my story, my story, my story, my story is
absolutely ordinary – because all of this is ordinary
a natural response to
clear injustice, please –
gaslighting and sexual violence
leads to rage eventually, policed
not through jail but diagnoses:
mental illness rather than a case for endocrinology,
or an imbalance, internal only
even though we see the monkeys
in captivity tearing their hair out.
All of this is ordinary
Two half-lives lived
one public and one privately
as we skid about relentlessly,
our voices never heard as authority
without simultaneously hearing victim
Or batshit madam harridan
or simply shhhh now please…
Tell me: is this bravery?
And I conclude: perhaps men feel
they have heard our stories too often
for them to be believable. So common
they are cliché. As ordinary as toothpaste.
As ubiquitous as oxygen.
How we long not to have to invent
new and arresting ways to tell them –
and we are/ I am trying not to be
too personal for you will reduce this to an ‘I’ only,
Oh, for our stories not to be as ordinary
as the need for nail cutting and face cleansing.
Our never applauded resilience, re-framed as
a story of monsters and victims.
Let us rewrite these stories constantly,
Though all of this is ordinary.
I have no faith in this diagnosis.
There is no normal or neat ending when
I speak. She speaks. We speak.
70 Stories is an online project curated by the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival to mark the 70th anniversary of the Mental Health Foundation. The project connects stories from our Writing Competition, stories from SMHAF participants, and more in a compelling portrait of mental health in 2019.
Keep an eye on mhfestival.com/70stories for new entries in the series. If you are connected in some way to SMHAF or the Mental Health Foundation and would like to contribute a piece of writing to this project, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.