November 15, 2012
For some reason, I'm doubting everything. And I mean everything. I don't want to name the root of this feeling because that would bring it into the realm of the real – I'd rather it remained a thought-form so that it could sink back down and become buried.
But wouldn't that be worse? It'll be there, ready for another time and place.
No. No names or specifics. Just, I'm uncertain. It's deeper than you assume. And I'm not panicking.
October 14, 2012
If I were to choose a picture which personified me, it would be this one. I took it on a bright day during the Spring months, when the sun was mistaken for its Summer sibling. It was a day when I felt well enough to venture out and sit on my own for a while.
The stick is further out than you'd expect; the camera I used was at full zoom and it took me several attempts to frame the shot I wanted. It's a marker, the stick. It guides boats moving up and down the river, pointing out where the deep starts and the mud ends. Boats still end up stranded on the flats, regardless.
It's a thin thing, easy to ignore, though it has a lot to say. It's out there in all weathers, even now as I type, bent over and bearing the weight of the tide as it pushes up the estuary to join the Thames. Beneath the mud, the stick hides metres of itself from the world. It has a good anchor and needs to have one if it's going to remain upright.
Birds don't land on it.
You might think that it's just a stick in the mud and it doesn't mean anything. Nothing happens, nothing changes and even though the stick is there, it has no genuine impact on the world as it comes and goes. People in their boats ignore it, after all.
But it watches. The river smoothes every inch it can touch, washes it in silt and chill. Fish pick at algae that forms on the wet sunlight when the river has finished caressing it. Winds are sliced by it, and the mud shifts all about with each tide, providing new landscapes for it to guard in the night.
Beneath the surface, other creatures rely on it for the water and food it secretly funnels down the sides of its shaft.
The stick doesn't need to be near the shore. It isn't meant to be. Out of reach, the stick is in a world that doesn't exist for anyone else and it is happy there. Speed boats, jet skis, flocks of Oyster Catchers and gulls – these things just happen. Their presence, their meaning, holds nothing for the stick in the mud.
A boat could ram the stick and snap it, it's true. The river will eventually rot the shaft and it will fall one day, it's true.
Until then, most keep their distance because the stick says things, quiet things, about the world that it lives in and the world that it doesn't.
It'd stay there for ever, crooked and surrounded by salt and sky, if given the choice between that or coming inland. Who would want to come inland when home is out there?
To live slow and quiet. To give warning, to feel the movement of the moon in the water, to give eveything to things unseen; to watch the world go by. To one day disappear and be forgotten. To be simple. To be a stick in the mud.
August 14, 2012
Danuta Kean, Mslexia's Guest Editor, has no need for a hammer. Her recent article on how women cope with working, parenting, earning enough to get by and then finding the time to write should be read by anyone who thinks writing is easy but most of all, by those who profit from writers, especially women writers who weild their pens. But something bothers me.
A significant demographic of writers female, male, gender neutral, transient – the lot – are missing. And as a disabled writer, I'm missing too.
Most of my readers know I was diagnosed with Fibromylgia / M.E. / CFS a couple of years back but have lived with it for over four. I'm lucky to have not been confined to a wheelchair like some people who live with the condition, but I have my regular share of days confined to bed because it's too painful to move and exhausting to breathe.
I read Danuta's article, thrust my fist in the air … and then slowly drew it back down as pain ricocheted from my elbow, down my arm to my fingers, and back up to my shoulder and into the blades of my back. The pain touched every bit of my arm on its journey: nerve, muscle, ligament, joint, bone.
If women feel guilty for not coping as well as they should, then I, along with every other writer out there who lives with ill health, feel twice as guilt-ridden. Not all of us can break through and earn our way.
Kudos to those who do storm the path by the way. You're an inspiration.
I haven't written for days because I'm riddled by my condition. How do I cope with that? I don't. I shut everything off and forget about writing and finishing my novel. I would trade a hectic lifestyle and all-nighters for the briefest of feature articles if it meant I could slip in an hour or so of writing, free from pain and sickness. It feels as much of a dream as my novel does.
So I want to know, if you're like me, how do you cope? How do you get through the day with your illness? How do you react to being told not to let it beat you when you feel like a thousand leagues of shit has been beaten from you?
Women writers are pulling it off one way or another and I reckon they deserve proper recognition and space for that, but so do all of the writers out there, published or unpublished – famous or not – who live with long-term physical and mental illness.
At least recognise us.
I want to continue typing after I'm done here but the pain and the tiredness and the effort is too much for me today. Maybe tomorrow it will be better, for all of us.
July 12, 2011
I thought I was overdue for a winding, miserable post, so here it is.
I’ve probably said it before but there’s only so much smiling and ‘happy-happy’ I can do before I want to drop the facade and do something out-of-character. A lot of people will tout inner peace and personal responsibility, blah-blah, and so they should. Those things are good. My gripe, the cynic that I am, lies in the obvious problem with this type of thinking.
Inner peace is all fine and dandy but why neglect the world outside of that ‘inner-ness’? I think, no wait – I know – that real happiness comes from not just our attitudes but also from our surrounding circumstances. What good is a warm, cosy feeling in the bottom of your gut when you’re in an unhappy relationship? Does serenity alone really negate constant disappointment?
I suppose it could be said that being in a better state of mind when going through those things helps but how long can they hold for? The environment finds its way in eventually.
I try to adapt. I try to change my circumstances where I can. I put up with the things that I can’t do anything about (at the moment). How long do I have to wait for these things to bear me fruit?
And here’s the emo tag.
I’m without a voice, still, despite everything I’ve done to grow one. But you have a voice here, you say.
And who hears it?
Who listens to me when I express concern, anxiety, frustration, or my desire to do things my way?
Only the people who tell me to smile and do it their way.
But having the attitude I have, I’m optimistic that I’ll break free of all this tripe of my own accord.
March 24, 2011
Sometimes I avoid things because I don’t want to face/do/experience/deal with them.
Other times I avoid things because I’m acute and aware of everything I have to do, confident in my movements.
It’s not really avoidance in this case; it’s arrogance.
Not the nasty type of arrogance though, but the innocent type that you allow yourself, that small space where you remove yourself and observe, with a sincere and smug smile, that for this moment in your life, you’re managing.
Today I’m touching everything.
A word that sticks: glacial. Reminds me of Fox’s Glacier Mints. Small, translucent blue cubes.
My world is a small, translucent blue cube that I can suck and roll about in my mouth for as long as I like, or turn it to shards in one bite. Look into it. What I see and what you see will be very different things.
March 8, 2011
You can’t be ‘on’ all the time. There’s a reason we turn lights off, and not just to stop them from burning out before their time; switching off reveals everything that is smothered.
I think we can officially declare my ‘post-a-week’ promise a failure, but I’m not upset because I think I’ve done significantly better than 2010. And I’m still working through my list of things to do during 2011.
Allowing myself to become dormant, to let the shadows fall on me for the past two weeks, has given me a lot of room to think. I can’t think like this when I’m in the thick of things, I need a bit of introversion to tease circumstance apart. So with a retreat, a sleight of hand, I’ve turned my face away and discovered.
30% interaction, 70% isolation. Nice round numbers that work for me but probably mean very little.
It’s not personal when I shut down.
January 23, 2011
Ah, overshot this one by a few days but forgive me because I’ve had one of those mind-altering, snotacular colds that put you in bed for days. And anyway, you got two in the space of a week so ner.
Disease has a way of making me lose focus so as you can imagine, everything I had planned for the past week has been replaced by a waste basket full of sneezed-in-to tissues. But now I’m feeling better and I’m taking advantage of this lack of direction because when you’re standing in the middle of a disaster, you can see everything in detail. It’s got me thinking.
I’ve been making the novel too complicated and when things start to get sticky in my writing, they also start to become implausible. With people vanishing and origins being thrown out of sync, it’s no wonder I can’t finish the first chapter. Reading shouldn’t be easy but it shouldn’t be soul-destroying either.
I’m now trying to reform the plot so it’s simple, whilst searching the top cupboard of my brain for an important answer to an essential question: what am I exploring in this novel?
I’m not sure (lie). I can’t make it out in all the mess of ideas (another lie). I don’t understand it (blah blah blah).
In truth: I’m exploring the absence of a presence.
The thing I’m unsure about is what this means and that’s an uncomfortable thought because it carries a hint of irony in it – that anything means anything. Of course it does! But only because we layer meaning over things. The idea that there’s an inherent meaning to anything is problematic. Pick an object, an emotion, a situation – whatever you want – and then open it up. Go on, don’t be shy! Right open. Now have a good look at it and tell me that the thing you’ve chosen has one definitive meaning. It doesn’t, does it?
Of course this is a bit of a farce because you’ll get the gurus (authority) who say (kinda snobbish in my head): yes yes, we’re all multiple and it’s all quite normal to be that way; there are many things but they all essentially boil down to one thing…
And then I lose interest because they’re doing it again, drawing all the multiplicity into a single point, a bit like this sentence just has. I’m stumped by this point too.
It’s too easy to say that nothing has a presence and it’s too convenient to say we’ll change it when we need to because presence never sticks around longe enough for us to a) recognise it and b) think about changing it.
This is why I need to keep it simple. For some reason my fingers started typing ‘complicated’ when my head was saying ‘simple’. There’s a conflict going on in my head and at the moment, there’s nothing I can do about it. Asides from stop trying so hard and let it go.
- Finish chapter one and polish it so that the narrative makes sense
- Begin chapter two so that Faith finds herself in a new situation and so that I stop rotting in my own boredom
- Gently, gently, contemplate what it would mean to explore absence (TRACE) within the text itself and how this could be done
- Generate a lose and simple plot for the whole novel
- Write a synopsis based on this new plot.
There, simple. Over-and-out.
November 23, 2010
I thought the multiverse was something external but apparently it’s within, next to or somewhere very close to the universe we think we live in now. I’ve not read enough on the subject to go into depth (though that will probably be remedied by January) but I’ve heard enough from Derrida that it’s not possible to entirely escape metaphysics, that we remain inside of it (whatever it is) whilst trying to figure it all out into a straight line.
I have visions of paper bags and many people trying to fight their way out of one. What are we so determined to prove? That there’s something bigger than us? Something outside of our crappy little system whether it be solar, universe or language, that will confirm us?
I’m personally more concerned about getting on with things in this universe but that’s not to say I wouldn’t jump ship if the opportunity arose, on account of my thirst to vanish from this awful reality once and for all. No not suicide you ninny; there are countless ways to escape ‘reality’ without having to resort to death. You’re engaging in one of the methods right now if you’re reading this.
Which makes me wonder if we’re being too tactile when we try to find alternate universes. Maybe we make them all the time and billions of the things are floating around waiting to be taken home and loved but we’re all too materialistic and desperate to be ‘real’ to notice.
What inhabits these places? Lost words I reckon. Things that we’ve forgotten (like how to be polite and smile) or maybe some grand secret that will finally reveal the meaning of our existence and then hurrah! We all find out and then what? We drift. We become aimless. A few of us might rebel against it and start screaming ‘No, no, no! There must be more! I don’t believe a word of it!’
You don’t believe it now but you invested an entire system of belief into it before? You really believed, before you found out the truth, all of that other rubbish? You believed in money, love, honesty, truth and authority but now you refuse to believe in… you?
I’m working on a project designed to turn me into a ghost. Not a dead one, before you start with that clap-trap again, but a ghost of a former self (okay so a little bit of death is involved but nothing serious).
Derrida bangs on about ghosts be like a sort of reminder about our responsibilities to each other and I reckon that if I can pull this off then maybe I’ll remember the things that I owe myself like learning how to change and live despite the awkward predicament I’m in with the madness and all.
So how to become a ghost? I think you have to lose something first. Let’s see… my marbles? Check. My faith in our consumer-lead society? Check. My patience with those with their heads buried in the sand? Check. My lack of compassion for even the most awful people? Yup, getting there.
But being a ghost isn’t about sacrifice (which is handy because I don’t believe in sacrificing anything for anyone); being a ghost is about letting go – of everything.
Spectral impermanence. We’d love to think that ghosts hang around all the time just for us but if we take a closer look, it’s us that hang around for them. Becoming a ghost means getting on with things and not being compelled to stay in one place. Ghosts move.
They move like a plot. Plots change as you think about them, invent them and break them apart. They come out of nowhere and scare the snot out of you. Then they run off tee-hee-ing, glancing back before morphing into something you can barely recognise.
I lost a plot but four days ago it turned up and split right in front of me, wide open and said:
‘Take a look at me now.’
How could I resist?
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?