January 25, 2012
It’s not my strongest virtue. At times I have a hidden store of endless patience on which I can meditate but for the time I don’t have access to this treasure trove, I pace, stubborn and indignant. Frustrated. Irritable.
Come on, I say. Hurry up.
Nothing makes me so impatient as having to wait for books. I order them sometimes on a whim, other times in bulk, to satisfy what Lewis Buzbee describes as ‘book lust’ in his memoirs The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Lust always demands satisfaction.
I could swallow my agoraphobia, dose myself on chill-pills and descend upon my local book store but my desire for books often extends beyond their catalogue. Then the paradox comes; I have the patience to search out the best possible deal.
(Note: I do love supporting bookstores but I long for the secondhand store that thrives on people as much as it does profit. Online secondhand stores that donate proceeds to charity are my preferred choice even though they lack that physical, human element. Support your local bookshop, corporate or independent. Imagine the world without them… Disgusting, isn’t it?)
So whilst I’m suspended between contemplating prices for days on end and waiting furiously for days on end for the books to arrive, I find myself thinking about my lack/abundance of patience.
It’s application extends beyond books by the way; I have as much patience for waiting for my root vegetables to sprout as I do waiting for the dentists to send me an appointment; both can take as much time as they need, though for different reasons.
I become devoid of my staying power when cravings are involved. Chocolate for instance, is an insistent addiction. It’s said that waiting five to ten minutes when experiencing a chocolate craving is enough to render it mute but after having waited almost two hours last night, I set upon a long forgotten packet of baking chocolate chips and satisfied myself that way. Not as cathartic as a small square of Lindt, but it put me at ease.
(Note: I didn’t eat all of the chips by the way, just a small handful. They were sickly).
My composure disintegrates when there’s a hole to be filled; knowledge (book lust), sweetness (chocolate), loneliness (friends, letters, phone calls). It’s the expectation, the anticipation of the fulfilment of those desires, all of them base desires, that drive me to twisting my fingers about themselves until their joints are so loose, they disconnect from one another with a gentle tug and then slide back into place.
My grit exists when I expect nothing. I’ve answered a few calls to writing submissions and I’m calmer about this than I am about anything else in my life. Part of it is confidence, part is knowing that there will always be someone better. As long as I have done my best at the time of submission, I have nothing to feel anxious about.
And if I fail to catch the attention of the judges this time, I can revise the works and do my best for the next set of submissions, the effort itself being better than my last attempt because I have learnt more, matured, and am comfortable with perseverance.
March 10, 2011
I used to be the type that freaked out whenever anything bad happened. I’d put myself through hell over the smallest things because I couldn’t get over the idea that I am not in control of my life. Fast forward a few years and I’m pleased to say that I’m much more chilled.
Crappy things still happen, the past week being no exception, but instead of jumping in and essentially drowning myself in things I have no say over, I step back and deal with those events as they come. I make them form a line. If they’re important, I attend to them; if they’re irrelevant, I release my grip.
There are times however, such as today, where I’m ultra-stressed because I can’t control the situation. In my defense, this is a situation that needs control.
I had a tattoo done last week and it’s unfortunately developed a mild (I hope) infection. I’ve recognised that this has come about due to a number of circumstances (I felt the tattooing to have been a bit harsher that usual; I’m run down at the moment, so healing is harder; I made the mistake of using a cream instead of an ointment); and now that I’ve accepted my predicament, I’ve done everything I should do to ensure that I stop this infection before it gets nasty.
I can’t see a doctor until much later today. Generally I thought that things like this are considered important, especially when you take my symptoms into account: inflammation, pain, mild numbness, a slight rash, swollen lymph nodes.
I’d quite like to get this seen to before it goes septic.
I’m more annoyed than usual because I’ve got several tattoos, and piercings, and this has never happened before. I had two done on the same day in fact, and have treated them in the same manner; the other tattoo is healing well.
What tops it for me however, is that nobody will see me ‘out of hours’ (12pm-4pm if you’re at my surgery). I have to go to the A&E or wait to make an appointment for later on this evening. I don’t want to visit the A&E though because I’ll be sitting there for hours when all I need is a prescription for antibiotics. I’m better off waiting to get to my GP later today.
Everything is ‘later’.
Although I’m feeling ghastly about the whole thing, I’m reminding myself to be patient and positive about this. I’m shocked that I can’t get immediate access for something that has the potential to kill me, but I’m okay about it.
That didn’t sound right, did it?
I finally got to see a doctor. I have a course of antibiotics and all shall be fine. The consultation took less than five minutes.
January 8, 2011
We all knew it’d happen. I’m still trying to figure out the link between ‘loss-of-interest’ and ‘forgetting’ but let’s not make this too complicated because it can’t be any simpler than this: I almost screwed up on my ‘one new post a week’ promise I made at the start of the year. I think I’m in time to catch the last moments of a week, aren’t I?
What matters is that I’m here now. Actually what matters is that I have something to say, should have something to say, and I think I do. Something about being dissatisfied with what I’m doing at the moment, that is, trying to write the first chapter of this novel. Again.
I changed a bunch of things; I’ve figured out some decent imagery instead of groping at bored clichés and hoping they’d work for me, and I’ve started the process of letting my main character be herself (which is in part me but tenfold) and call the shots when it comes to her own details.
The plot has changed again but has simplified which I’m pleased about because it was all getting out-of-hand and becoming a farce rather than a genuine exploration of an existence that in part seems alien to me but one that I wish would cave in on itself so that I can experience it fully and then find a way out of. Because escape is so much easier to practice when there are gaping holes.
Things are working out in a haphazard way and I’m guessing that this is okay as long as I produce something (which I am) so why the dissatisfaction? I’m going over the same old stuff again and again, trying to reshape it when I’m close to scrapping the whole lot and starting again. I hear this is common practice but I’m whining about it because
- I don’t have the luxury of time; this needs to be completed soon or I fail the module
- I’m getting restless; I want to move on and explore other chapters
- Everything I’m writing is hollow; the inner critic is trashing everything I do and this isn’t helped by the fact that I keep reading exquisite novels by published authors including Bret Easton-Ellis (Lunar Park), Scarlett Thomas (PopCo), and Amy Sackville (The Still Point), my most recent expedition into the land of ‘They’re So Much Better Than Me’.
- I’m discovering huge gaps in my knowledge and worse, my memory. There’s a residue of all the things I should know and a bunch of faint memories where I was learning these things but apart from the occasional scrap of detail that arrives as an epiphany, there’s not much going on upstairs. I learn and then forget.
The real plus out of all this is that my notebook for the project is intense and detailed. I can trace (hehe) how everything has been changing from those weird seed moments right to trying to figure out the formation of a family tree where fathers and mothers are really aunts and uncles.
I think I’ll take a risk today and begin the novel again. I’ll aim to reach 5,000 words by 6pm. I can only gain. Even if I don’t use it as the opener, I’ll have plenty of new material to work and adjust the original chapter with.
But first, lunch.
Until next week (if I remember).
September 27, 2010
The art of learning any lesson is to get down off your horse and suck ‘it’ up. Of course it isn’t as cruel as it sounds (although sometimes it’s a trial).
How many years have passed? I’m still learning. I’m still learning that I need to let go not only of past hurts but also things that haven’t even happened yet – the notorious Future Worries.
I’m still learning that with every episode of insanity (for want of more apt term, although I’m quite fond of reclaiming it seeing as people are so terrified of it now) an episode of reprieve will follow; the disconnection itself is not the problem, but the feelings of dread and sickness are.
I understand, now that I’ve let off a little emotional steam, that it’s been several weeks since my last bout of ‘not on this planet’ which lends reason to why I’ve struggled with it for the past five days. Regularity breeds familiarity, breeds ability to cope? I’d not like to suggest learned helplessness.
(But why does becoming familiar with difficulty mean learning helplessness? I’m not helpless, I’m off my rocker and quite happy about it! It still astounds me how even the most subtle and apparently caring language can disable anyone who acts or exists contrary to the status quo; enrich your minds and read Foucault.)
Having been so long since the last time, I’ve virtually forgotten the ecstatic euphoria, the hunger to read and learn, the fascination with the shapes and colours of the world around me; the pink rose that looked like a sodden wedding serviette, the fence that was missing new paint in a very haphazard place that took on the shape of a cat and the old telephone poles that intersected the brilliant skies with their thick wires and housed jars filled with ancient, glowing insects.
And then the sudden thrashing of the mind as it begins to become too aware of the immediacy of the world. Coming back to a dull, unnoticing reality when you have spent days in stunning places free from worry and despair is a grim shock.
I don’t blame myself for having such a difficult time.
To return is to make a mental note detailing how to land on your feet:
- Always have herbal tea at the ready
- Don’t fear cancellations
- Keep warm
- Eat foods which bring comfort
- Read a book which confirms your reality
- Sleep lightly through the day
- Avoid television at all costs
- Listen to music that feeds your soul
- Become aware of the world again through the radio (BBC Radio 4 is my choice)
- Don’t rush back to socializing
- Re-familiarise yourself with pets as they are much more understanding that humans
- Have a cry if you need to
- Speak truth
- Ask a true friend to confirm love
- Harbour no resentment for yourself, or any other being
These things happen and I have a choice to make now that my head is clearing: shall I fall into misery or shall I sit gently, allow myself to recover and come through this more prepared for the next wave?
May 12, 2010
I must be a complete mug because it seems that my efforts regularly come up against people who just don’t give a toss. Of course this doesn’t mean that I’ll give up and resign myself to sitting here bitching about all those who have failed to follow through on a request, because that isn’t very nice (and in these dark days, expressing any form of disgust or unhappiness is a cardinal sin, punishable by complete social ostracization).
Instead, I thought I’d explore this little matter in a way this is as non-specific as possible. Here’s the scenario:
You arrange something, open communications, execute your intent with clear language, outline your ideas and plans. You answer questions, propose ways to overcome problems. You do all of this and you’re quick about it – the recipient will have to wait three days max for a reply.
There are things sitting neatly on a line here, like a bunch of starlings crowding together on the telephone cables.You’ve done your bit and now you wait.
Honestly. Is it really that difficult to get back to me? I spend a decent amount of time planning emails and phone calls – phone calls especially because I hate them so – and then I find that nobody gives a damn. I’ll be lenient for those who are actually quite busy and may not have time to reply, but when I hear nothing for over two weeks after telling the person that I’ll be in touch via email within 2-3 days, I kinda expect them to maybe, oh I don’t know, check their email? Or – they could pick up the phone and call if they’re having an uncomfortable day with technology.
Sometimes a quick message to say that they’ve received the communiqué and will get back to me a.s.a.p. is a nice gesture that goes a long way. It shows they’ve bothered to fulfill their employment description and that they might actually care.
Perhaps the reason why people fail to get back to you after such a long time is down to sheer embarrassment. A week has passed, they’ve been meaning to get round to it but there have been dozens of distractions. Maybe they didn’t understand the initial message or have changed their mind. That’s all OK. Really. Just write back explain the distractions, the confusion, the change of mind. Disappointment may follow but at least you’ve done the right thing. That’s right – you’ve done your job.
I want to hold up my side of the bargain most of the time. If I don’t want to do something, then I’ll say so. It’s simple. You open that mighty hole in your face and say ‘I’m not interested’ or ‘This isn’t something I want to do’.
I’m not obliged to go through with any of the things I’m trying to manage at the moment. I could very easily drop everything and declare myself inaccessible to all. Come to think of it, that sounds really appealing. However, I don’t want to do that just yet. I’d like to get the major things sorted out. And more importantly, I’d like to approach the people who have ignored me for the past month and ask them why.
Even if I get incoherent answers or a bunch of excuses, making them feel dreadfully uncomfortable as I stare them down and demand an apology for wasting my time will make up for all the agro.
March 20, 2010
Catching a gnarly cold is one of the best ways to make you stop and take stock of your life; nothing says ‘chill out, man’ than the left side of your face feeling like it’s suffered a minor stroke because your sinuses are swollen shut.
Nothing brings you back down to earth than having to stay in bed. Nothing reminds you of your body like a full-blown germ invasion. Nothing makes you feel more alive than laying awake, until the sun rises, with a fever, aching and unable to breathe properly.
Then you have that really amazing moment where you take a shower after three days of festering, and you’re standing there under the scolding jets of water trying to remember the last time standing still, butt-naked, ever felt so good…
I’m unsure whether I’d be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and quite honestly, I don’t want to talk about it (just add another log to the fire…) but I recognise most of the symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance, emotional numbing, being on-ball all the time, 24-7, look over my shoulder, just in case anything like that happens again…
Someone did say it to me before, asked me if I’ve ever had it investigated. I’ve never thought about it.
I don’t like pyscho-babble and so avoid it where I can: have you guessed one of the facets of this trauma?
I try to understand me and I hope somewhere along the way, it’ll help others experience that ‘it all fell into place so beautifully’ sensation for themselves.
I’m not diagnosed with PTSD and I personally don’t care about the labels here but it puts a name to what I want to share with all you lovely people: reliving bad things that have happened isn’t like getting upset over the death of your kitten Fluffles two years after they got squished by that huge SUV. On your birthday. Admittedly though, that’s pretty traumatic…
Reliving the bad things brings it all back – the guts flipping, the sweating, the swearing and shouting, the twitches and the smells and the overwhelming sensation of ‘get the hell away from me’. You don’t want to cry so you choke it back and then start to distract yourself in unusual ways – rhythmic body movements are so soothing, like turning your head one way, then the other.
They’re not even memories, they’re a constant stream of images like someone has gone and hammered a photo slide-show into the center of that bit in your brain where you visualize things. You know the place…
Nightmares are worse because you can’t push them away like you can the images you face in your waking day – in a nightmare, the bad things happen whether you like it or not and unlike a good dream, you never wake up when stuff gets nasty.
You have a hard time remembering the good things. Good things? There are a lot of those about and there are amazing people you know who remind you of them and make you feel free and alive and loved… but you can’t help feeling a bit silenced. Blank.
Reliving the bad things is not a choice. Nobody would put themselves through it if they knew they could let it go. But this is like getting stuck in a great black mass of living tar. You can pull all you want but for every tendril of hurt you manage to escape from, there will be at least three more wrapping themselves around you.
It takes patience and skilled breathing to be released for even the smallest amount of time.
I said to a friend that suffering is for the same people who believe sacrifice is necessary for happiness; suffering can make you strong but only in that you survive it. Even better if you can resist making it your identity.
It’s not always a matter of being able to let go; I can let go, with time especially, but that doesn’t mean it’ll let go of me.
February 14, 2009
You’re this indistinct image, a sort of gloss covering the surface of everything I see around me. Nothing is left untouched by the possibility of your presence. You’re a phantom that leaves strands of your hair on my pillow, an empty glass left with the faint print of your lips around its edge. The unrecognisable yet on the tip-of-my-tongue smell that I can barely remember from somewhere, a place that I’m yet to be. You’re there.
It’s hard to think of you.
You’re not an object, you’re not anything at all; only a gathering of thoughts and feelings and sensations that stir about in me, remaining wordless and formless until I take the time to push aside the things that get in the way of having you.
I sit down to think about you, to write you and I find myself getting nowhere; the only time when you’re really there is when I’m half asleep and trying to ignore the empty side of my bed, and what I think is the edge of a pillow pushing warmly against my back, becomes you; your shoulder curled into me, your chin resting just behind my neck.
You’re gone when I wake in the morning; I stay in bed trying to keep hold of the warmth you’ve tucked under the pillows, small bits of paper folded in two and quietly trace the outlines of where your hands have been before letting you go and getting up.
It’s still impossible to concentrate on any of this, to bring your far enough into my mind to reach out and touch you; you’re not concrete, not visible or physical. You’re indescribable and effortless, a series of corridors that wind about in all directions and mislead me, leave others unconvinced because half of your lights are blown out and they can’t see you.
I twist my fingers around themselves, squeeze them into the shapes of my distraction and flex the joints further than they’re supposed to be flexed and settle into work. You walk up behind me, silent and rest your arms about me.
I spend hours struggling, trying to overcome the disappointment of your absence and when I finally reach a stage where I can move to achieve something in my day, you turn up unannounced and rob me of any ability I had to form ideas and words and images and sentences and all the things that resemble a working mind; you strip me of my drive and make me abandon all convention, expectation and conformity. You make me leave the strain behind.
So don’t stop. Keep distracting me from the things I’m supposed to be doing because you’re not here yet and there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever arrive and I don’t want to go through any part of my life knowing that I’ve never felt you beside me. Pull the book from my hand and make me look at you, make me pay attention. Drag me from myself because there is nothing else that anyone can say about me, there are no more insults that can make me doubt you.
You’re still keeping back from me as I write this to you, waiting until I’m drowsy so that you can lay beside me and whisper into my ear, fragments of dreams that play out how we first meet and how for once, I am not the bravado I pretend to be. For you, I am shy and this is what you show me of myself; the things that only you know. I’m on the verge of screaming for you.
Don’t ever stop haunting me.
February 1, 2009
Two blogs in one night? Nah.
Love remains to be.
Love. Sits at my desk, holds my pen and writes to the cosmic ordering service.
Love keeps me awake at night with ghost arms around me and ghost lips upon me.
Love looks out over the mud flats in the freezing winds and watches the gulls hang upon the air.
Love stands in the kitchen and pours itself into cake mix so that it can warm and rise in the oven.
Love flows across the reed, one long breath that vibrates and brings my sax to life.
Love plays with the edges of the blanket, ignoring time and the television.
Love stops the surge and looks about to see that the walls are silent.
Love settles in my room and makes it warm.
Love warms me.
Love observes the ones who got there before it.
Love never stops wanting.
Love never leaves me.
Love regrets nothing.
December 4, 2008
… that I have. Begrudgingly.
I’m as patient as the virtue gets. Externally. The projection that I give of my being is at its best, accommodating and composed. However, nobody is perfect; it is only natural that I will at times become frustrated and indignant. But even in this state, the collected side of my nature urges me, in a very soothing voice, to be patient. Do what is required, and do it well.
I am a patient person. I am also the sort of person that makes the efforts to justify my patience, by providing every scrap of material, information and time that I can give so that others may continue on with their work. Work that usually involves helping me.
I feel that it is time to shed my stoic exterior and reveal the chaotic individual(s) that reside within the apparently impenetrable walls of my hard-nosed attitude toward progression. Let us begin…
Waiting for responses, whether by post, phone or email, is the most excruciating ordeal to endure. I am currently awaiting for several responses from various systems, some of which are to be forgiven as I understand the pressures of bureaucracy and the dripping of time that draws our attention to the end of the working day.
However. I am unforgiving in other areas.
I am waiting for decisions to be made, decisions that will aid me or, further cripple me. I am waiting to be recognised as an individual in this world who is asking for help to make the best of an existence that they don’t understand, don’t feel comfortable in. I am waiting to get on with my life.
I am waiting for a tardy company to make up their minds and let me go.
I am waiting for meetings to discuss my possible future. I am waiting for paperwork to be reviewed with cold eyes. I am waiting to sit before strangers and explain to them the contradictions between my functioning experiences and the perceptions of those who know nothing about me and nothing of the world that I live in.
I am waiting to be told whether or not a certain institution will assist me, even with the most meager of acknowledgements, so that I can achieve what I am capable of. I have to wait until November 2009 to know if another institution will support me through what is the biggest commitment I have ever made.
I had an appointment cancelled at the last-minute on Wednesday. I only get to see the psychiatrist for one hour a month and I am currently (unsurprisingly) waiting for other forms of support to be put into place. How long I will have to hang around for another appointment is unknown. After all, I don’t have the gift of foresight, just the standard ability of now-sight.
As I sit and bide my time, filling my days with reading, studying and being alone, the pressure slowly builds within me. I’m told by others to keep pushing, to keep fighting but I can’t help myself; I remain patient.
Because what I do not want these people to see, whether they be the decision makers or those who are supporting me all the way, is the congealed fury of having to tarry in the wake of the efforts I have made to further my prospects in this dismal life.
What I don’t want these people to see are the others who are tucked neatly in situ, the recessed spaces of the mind; the others who, given the chance, will drive home the degrading state of having patience as a virtue with vigour and precision.
The tranquility of such a virtue also only goes so far in assisting others. You can give someone your complete attention in order to resolve an issue; it doesn’t take long for your temper to degrade. The same can be said for those who you do your best to help, but are completely incapable of helping themselves because they won’t consider advice given to them. They won’t hear the truth.
You’re most likely scoffing at me for saying this. I’m happy to admit that my egos often stamp out the wicks of salvation in favour of stubborn pride until we are all but ruined and ready to accept that we are wrong, and that we are going to listen, make the effort.
The ones who stand with me in my body urge me to remain insistent and calm, assure me that losing control of those of us who are volatile will be a last, devastating resort. It’s not hard to see though, that they too are on the verge of cutting all ties and leaving gifts of spite on the doorsteps of those who have caused us suffering.
Patience is a virtue indeed, but it is not one that should be favoured above abilities that curtly guide the hands of those that should be doing the right things. Does it not strike you that the guiding principle of “patience is a virtue” achieves nothing but the ability to hide the insufficiency of working organisations and the ineptitude of people?
People are flawed. There are too many. I am flawed. We are too many to be handled. And we are furious.