Friday, 19 May 2017

"Today I hate Shakespeare"

I wrote on my hand, about a week ago, the words 'today I hate Shakespeare'. It was intended as a reminder for something I could write a blogpost about. I was in a class having some sort of existential crisis about my degree and I wrote that on my hand to probably be profound and make myself feel better about the situation. 

Today I do not hate Shakespeare. I'm a big fan of the guy, in fact, but on the day I decided that we were not on good terms I think I was really having a wobble about all writing ever. The feeling came from sitting in a class about glossing. Glossing Cymbeline to be precise. I haven't actually read Cymbeline yet, and I still have no idea how to gloss. This, I thought, is what I'm paying £9,000 a year for. What, exactly, is the point? 

I spent the entire hour and a half not paying attention to any of the intelligent conversation going on and instead questioning whether I was just spending three years learning how to make things up. What benefits was I receiving from studying Shakespeare? How was this going to enrich my life? 

I decided to go to a bookshop after the class instead of doing the work I was supposed to to reinforce my love of literature. It did the opposite. There are a lot of books. There will continue to be a constant stream of books and stories and ideas probably forever. I am never going to read all of these books, so why should I care about them? I want to write books, but why would anyone care about them? It's all just words put together in different orders, isn't it? Different people trying to be clever, different ideas, different opinions, clashing and mixing and overlapping and repeating. Why should I bother? It's all too much. 

I walked out of the bookshop feeling more disheartened than when I'd entered. Never before had my dad's voice in my head saying "so many books, so little time" been so oppressive. 

But I think I just like the way things make me feel. And by things, I mean books. I managed to remember, having spent the entire day wondering what I was supposed to be doing with my life, all the ways that books had made me feel. And whether that was sad, or happy, or angry I realised that was how they enriched my life. Like music, where the patterns of sounds and notes evoke powerful emotional reactions, literature puts words in different orders to see how we respond. Literature is the ability to explain humanity ad infinitum. The study of literature is an attempt to understand all our aspects and ways of being, all our patterns, all our language can say, all the ways we can feel. 

I think I'm okay with that, you know. Sure, it's an expensive way to read, but I think I can read better than I did before and I will continue to improve at it. And maybe one day I will be able to put words together in a new order, and explain humanity in my own way, and help some teenage girl in her room when she's scared or alone or doesn't know why she's there. I think I'm okay with that, with that being why I'm here. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Alone is sometimes lonely.

Sometimes I find being alone a pleasant experience. I find that the sense of self is grounded, and I can feel myself being one tiny spec a part of the universe. I can work out thoughts in my head, I can test the feeling of absolute independence, I can be my own self without being anyone else's. I am me in the whole sense of my body and my mind and the way I look at the world.

Sometimes I find being alone an absolutely hideous experience. The feeling of being a tiny spec in the universe becomes overbearing, squashing me. I've actually considered whether I've become invisible before when I've been in a town for several hours and not said a word to anyone. I start being overly friendly to shop owners and cafe baristas as my only form of human contact. Working out the thoughts in your head is all very well until you realise you keep going round in circles unless you discuss them with somebody. Hearing yourself say thoughts out loud, and having someone respond to them is just a nice reminder that you definitely exist.

This is all very dramatic, I know, but recently I've been a bit afraid of being alone. As if all my friends are the little weights on the end of helium balloons, and when I leave them for a while I begin to float up into the sky with my own thoughts going higher and higher, further away from the grounding comfort of a smile or a hug or a laugh.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Things That Your Mum Can't Fix.

The thing about shifting yourself out of the family home and into the world is that you have to start to deal with the Things That Your Mum Can't Fix. Of course, I'm not actually in the world yet, I'm in a sort of pretend one, at university, where I can still have meals made for me and if I really need it a real adult will help me sort things out.

It's still a step up from mum and dad being in the next room, and there's still a sense of launching yourself into adulthood without the instruction booklet or a helmet to help with the crash landing. You arrive in the world alone, ready to force strangers to be your friends and hope that they like you. You arrive in the world really hoping that at some point these strangers will be able to look after you.

Thing is, I'm not talking about having to do the washing up every day, or making sure you clean the sheets regularly, I'm talking about the emotional labour of putting your lifeline at the end of a phone and throwing yourself into the hands of people you've only just met.

You're not reinventing yourself, as such, but suddenly you find yourself peeling back layer by layer to friends you have decided to trust. You watch people learn about you as an almost fully formed adult. There's a lot for them to catch up on, a lot for them to get to know, and it all happens at double speed.

The Things That Your Mum Can't Fix are the things that made me realise that nobody can read my mind except for my mother. I've had to learn to ask people for help, to allow myself to trust, and to allow myself to be completely vulnerable in front of brand new friends.  The learning about each other happens at double speed because no one else is around to take care of us. Okay, Mum is still at the end of a phone call, but she's not there to hold you when you cry or when you're scared or when you think you need some helping out. You've got to both be that for other people, and let them do it for you.

It's a gamble when you meet new people to know whether you'll be able to trust them with all sides of yourself, but when you get it right it really, really works. It's a new kind of love, a new kind of friendship, a new kind of being. And it's great, and it feels great, and I am very lucky.

Friday, 28 April 2017

I've been here before.

I feel like I've been here before. These thoughts are familiar, as if I'm having deja vu but with ideas, words, stories. I was thinking about what to write today and each time an idea came to mind I realised I'd already written about it. Looking through past posts I found myself disappointed by all the unanswered questions I was still asking myself. Conclusions I thought I'd reached still only loose ideas floating about, coming back to haunt me.

Perhaps that's unfair, I have reached conclusions but new ideas layer themselves over old ones. I keep coming back to thoughts I've already had because they interest me. I'm not done with them yet. Stuck with thinking about them until they settle in my mind, and I move on to the next fascination.

It's no bad thing, I suppose. I forget that I am learning how the inside of my head works still. Thoughts keep coming back because they are still new. I am still new. It can't be boring already.

Friday, 7 April 2017

The feeling of love.

I know the feeling of love. Of being loved. I know where it comes from, that waves of it happen randomly and sometimes without reason. I know that it starts in the pit of your body, the middle of yourself, and it undulates outwards through the tips of fingers, the tips of toes.

Love feels exciting and sweet. It tastes sweet. I want to dance with it, and jump, to stop myself from bursting or squeezing the person who is loved by me to death. Involuntary smiles the whole size of your face. That's what love is.

I don't speak of romantic love, not yet. I'm speaking of the love that comes from the pit of you. The love from holding your sister's hand, from kissing your mum on the cheek, from your dad coming home after long trips away. The love from watching friends who you would die for dancing and losing their minds to music. The love that comes from the pit of you, when you're driving over that hill and in the distance the sun is bright red and ginormous and you can see it right here, right now.

I know the feeling of love, of being loved, and it feels very happy.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

I am mostly fine.

I am mostly fine, at the moment. I am mostly fine because I can go day to day without feeling afraid or unnerved and I can leave the house and go places and it's all fine. Of course there are moments when it feels a little bit not fine, but even those moments are okay simply because I say they are.

See, that's the first step, to being fine, accepting that it is okay when you are not. Not berating yourself, not trying to find a time limit, not hating yourself for it. All of those things increase the bad feeling, the tightness of your chest, the stinging sensation of tears about to come in your eyes.

But the other day I was on the tube in London and I was able to remind myself that I was absolutely okay in a moment where I felt absolutely not. I was on the tube in London and it was hot and it was busy. I kept having those awkward encounters with people's faces and my backpack because the train was packed and the air was just recycled from other people's lungs and it was unpleasant. And then I started to feel sick, and my palms started to sweat, and I was managing to convince myself that I couldn't breathe properly. An awful, sickly, panicky feeling started to manifest itself in my chest and I was convinced that I was going to throw up or faint and get lost in this tiny sea of people and feel humiliated and need desperately to escape right now.

It could have been a really terrible moment. I could have decided to get off at the next stop and go home and give up on my day out with myself. But I didn't, because I made the decision to completely accept the feeling inside of me and stay on the train all the way to where I wanted to go. I'm pretty sure that's how it eventually went away, because I let the feeling wave over me and didn't fight it or resent it. It happened and I moved on. I didn't tell myself when I had to feel better by, I accepted that eventually it would go away. I didn't tell myself that I was silly for feeling it, I accepted that this was my mind and body reacting to something. I didn't tell myself that I should get over it and pull myself together, I accepted that it was happening and that everyone feels not okay sometimes and I let it ride itself out.

The feeling, of course, did go away and I got on with the rest of my day. I didn't hate myself for it, I wasn't embarrassed. It was just the way my body and my mind had felt for a moment and that is fine because that's how human bodies sometimes feel. You know how no-one really has an answer for the feeling of love? No-one really has an answer for the feeling of anything.

Accepting that human experience does not just involve constant happiness and joy or that sadness and fear is something you 'shouldn't' have is a healthy start. Unfortunately it doesn't solve everything, and it doesn't make the bad things stop, but it makes them more bearable. It lets you to know that painful feelings will end, and it allows you to observe them in a new light. This is me, this is what is happening to me, this is my present. And that is okay.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Fear sells.

This is sad, again. People have died when they shouldn’t have done, when they didn’t expect it, when they woke up and expected to come home later on. This is sad because it is tragic. But it is not scary or terrifying or worth any more than mourning and grief for innocent death.

Ok, so the public are interested in what’s going on. I get that, I’m interested too. Who was the attacker? Where have they come from? Why were they attacking? I want to know and understand, naturally. I just can’t bear to look at the news or the papers because they keep telling me that I need to be afraid.

How much superficial emotion can they squeeze out of this event? How much can they ramp it up? You really must be SCARED and OUTRAGED and DEFIANT.

BBC News yesterday morning had so little to get from it that they stood in Westminster filming grieving policemen asking useless questions interspersing this with footage of the event repeated over and over again. You know, the unnecessary images of people dying on Westminster bridge. This is what the TERRORIST did.

Sky News is one of the worst culprits. “Terror” this and “terror” that. Be scared be scared be scared. I don’t have anything to be afraid of. What happened was awful but it was not a massive, successful attack and our services responded immediately and effectively. We should be feeling much less afraid if anything. Look how pathetic those attackers are. It is only “terror” when you allow it to be. It is sad and unnerving and for anyone there I don’t doubt for a minute that it was terrifying. But it is not “terror” for anyone else. That’s the point.

Fear sells and that’s how the press keeps going. It gets by when it tells you that you can get cancer from eating carrots. It is absolutely brilliant when something like this happens. The press manipulates how we respond to events like this. How we talk about it, the language we use, the emotions we feel towards it.

Ah so maybe I’m being grim about this. Perhaps I am unfair about journalistic response. Perhaps, even, there is real reason to be afraid!

There are reasonable media sources that I trust simply because of the lack of emotive, titillating language. I don’t need to be told how to feel, I just want to be informed. But so many things keep doing just the former even before I get past the headline. And it takes away from other headlines, and we miss all sorts of news, and we end up just feeling pointlessly afraid.

I wouldn’t mind so much, you know, if feeling pointlessly afraid wasn’t so very dangerous.