I am tired. Tired of not writing, tired of being blocked. Tired of flagellating myself and living up to an imaginary standard. Tired of imposing writing rules on myself about length, genre and content of my writing. So, fuck it. You know what’s worse than writing something bad?
(Not resolutions! I’m not writing my motherfucking resolutions! That’s just a recipe for disaster…)
Happy 2014 readers! How on earth did that happen? You know you’re old when you start the new year by telling your partner “I’m looking forward to spending 2012 with you.” In my head, I’m still 29 (man, that makes me sound old).
So, I know, I know, it’s been ages since I blogged regularly. I’m surprised most of you haven’t given up on me. Ever since I moved to Toronto a little over a year ago, I’ve been overwhelmed by life. My depression has recurred, I’ve been working full-time, commuting two hours every day and started a serious relationship.
All this has got me wondering, how on earth do people who work full-time find the time to blog?! I swear many productive bloggers must have day jobs but I don’t know how they do it. They must not sleep, or BE MAGIC.
This year, I’m going to do my best to balance it all. Write, love, work, somehow get status in Canada and apply for a PhD. All this in one year? HELL YEAH. 2014 is going to be the year of productivity. Just make sure they don’t release another Sherlock season, because that’s going to fuck it all up. I waste way too much time watching Benedict Cumberbatch gifs on Tumblr.
Goodbye 2013. You were a tough year. You gave and you took away so much:
You were generous:
Getting a full-time job with the miracle qualities of working for a company I actually care about and using some of my skills. Having been underemployed for the previous 3 years, I know how not being employed can weigh on your self-esteem. In a culture where the first question people ask you is “What do you do?”, being underemployed feels like confessing, every time you meet someone new, to what a failure you are.
You taught me how to love:
As of tomorrow, I’m going to have been in a long-term relationship for a WHOLE YEAR (I’m going to freak out and revert to 16 now I’ve written that). Being with my partner has taught me a lot about myself, my use of time, how to be intimate with someone. I feel blessed to have him in my life. He’s been my rock.
You were a bitch:
Even though I appreciate aspects of having a full-time job, this working full-time for the first time in years has me as convinced as ever that the working week is designed to keep you as exhausted as possible. ‘Keep the peasants tired and they won’t have time to rebel.’ Working 37.5 hours a week and commuting two hours every days leave me little me time. I’ve fantasized a lot this year about being rich, and isn’t that telling? The fantasy of being rich keeps us all dreaming rather than criticizing the system that only allows a few to earn their freedom.
You weren’t very creative…
Even though I started off this year with the best of intentions, they were soon buried under the search for employment and demands of actual employment, a relationship, commuting and moving house.
I knew that moving back to Canada would be damaging to my writing career. It would take me away from the group of readers I had built up in Berlin and would leave me, unemployed, in the middle of new city and country, having to start all over again. “Better sooner than later,” I thought and packed my bags.
Although I have struggled to find the time to write this year, that hasn’t been the only reason my blog has suffered. I’ve been afraid of success, of failure, of finding things out about myself I don’t want to know. The usual reasons artists are blocked.
Even when I was offered opportunities to develop my writing – such as posting my blog onRabble; writing articles for theShameless blog; or creating an article for Existere, York University’s creative writing journal – these opportunities compounded my fear of success and blocked me even more.
I was even blessed to have asexual folk from all over the internet submit their thoughts and feelings about being asexual to me so that I could write a representative article on their sexual orientation for Shameless. I never wrote that article. I feel that I have let a lot of people down, and myself most of all.
…in fact, you were the year of procrastination
I saw this marvellous quote on Tumblr about how perfectionists are also procrastinators because they feel like they can’t work until they all the information they need. Which I felt summed me up pretty well, so I just spent an hour trying to find it in my feed. I was like, “I can’t carry on without this vital piece of information!” Until I realized that I just proved my own point, and decided to let it go.
Writing as a perfectionist is hard. Because you expect everything that comes out of your mouth to be fucking fantastic. So I’m going to try and get over that worry because, more often than not, when I reread something I wrote that I thought was terrible the next day I’m like “that’s actually quite good!”
[^^ The syntax in that sentence is fucked up]
So, in 2014, I’m going to give myself permission to write bad things. Because sometimes you just have to wade through the shit in order to get to the good. I’m going to spend more me time, because I need that in order to survive. And I’m going to apply to do a PhD to get me out of the office job. Because it just doesn’t suit me.
The greatest challenge of moving to Toronto has been keeping true to myself. Part one of two on underemployment, self-care and learning to create.
I have had the hardest time recently keeping on top of things. As you’ve probably noticed, this blog has been seriously affected. It’s been such a struggle to move to a new city and try to build a new life, find employment. As always, getting a job has been the hardest challenge. I have such low self-esteem when it comes to employment. I’ve never had a job that I both enjoyed and that paid me a fair, living wage. Some of my most fulfilling ‘jobs’ have been volunteer positions and I have only ever been paid a fair wage for the drudge of administration. In every other situation, I feel that I have been taken advantage of. And, of course, I co-operate in that.
Recently, dating someone new has given me the perfect excuse to ignore myself. I thought that 2013 would be so easy. Now I’m 30 I will be so mature and sorted. I will approach every situation with diligence and a balanced mind. Turns out, keeping perspective has been the hardest challenge of the past 2 months.
I have a tendency to prioritise others over myself; the classic habit of a blocked artist. These days, I try to put myself first. The balance of doing this while acting responsibly towards others in my life is something I am constantly thinking about. Refusing to put myself second place, recently, hurt someone else who was vulnerable at the time.
In other ways I, every day, put myself second. I distract myself by messaging my lover instead of writing. I spend time with them outside of our allotted dates instead of job hunting. This leaves me feeling frustrated and angry with myself. I know I am using them as an excuse and that is neither fair to them nor me. This is something I struggle with every time I date someone. I would really like to develop healthy relationships that support rather than undermine my creativity.
My lover asked me recently if we could stop freaking out now and just spend time enjoying each other. And I was, like, I don’t know! Maybe I like the drama too much. I know I am using the drama as a distraction from myself; where would I be without it? Oh yeah, a responsible, calm adult; living (working and playing) in the present.
I am afraid of silence. I am afraid that if I sit, in silence, even for 15 minutes, all my pain will come bubbling up and I will have to act on it. What will this mean for me? Does it mean I will realise I need to be by myself more? Does it mean I’ll need to change a relationship, end a friendship? Responsibility to myself entails change.
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron notes that some blocked artists are afraid to create because they are afraid they’ll be forced to undergo radical change. If gay, they’re afraid they’ll be struck straight; if straight, they’re afraid they’ll realise they’re gay. I also have this overwhelming fear. What will I be forced to realise when I sit, just for 15 minutes, by myself every day and listen to the sound of my heart?
Oh yeah, and my lover’s idea for a new Tumblr: ‘Now That I’m 30’ and all the ridiculous things I feel that I should do now I’m in a new decade.
Hello 2013! Hello dear readers! It’s so lovely to see you again this side of 30. As you have probably noticed, I just took an unintentionally long break from posting. I guess this is a symptom that things are not 100% alright with me and I have, once again, been putting my creativity on the back burner. This is definitely an unhealthy behaviour, so I am making myself get back on the creative hobby horse, as it were.
A lot has happened in the past month. Not only have I walked into a new year with my head held high and a bunch of work to do, I have also started dating again. This is a major event for me and I have found it distracting, sexy and painful. Oh, the excitement of dyke drama. The seduction of losing myself in another. Forgetting myself has always been dangerously seductive for me. I call it the Disney complex. The dream that another person can rescue me from myself, without me having to do any of the work.
I have to constantly remind myself that this dream is a mirage. We all know, these days, that princesses have to rescue ourselves. We have to get down and dirty with our pick axes and our shovels. We have to hike up our skirts and create our own adventures. This is something that I know, but also that I have to teach myself again and again. No matter how wonderful another person is, they can’t fully entertain me. They can’t exercise my brain in the same way that I can. They can’t write for me. They can’t live my life for me.
So, this is my trying to be healthy. I am, in fact, insisting to myself that I must be healthy and put my nose back to the grindstone. I’ve thrown my petticoat over my shoulder and I’ve started hacking into the dirt. Who knows what I’ll find down there? Some rusty reminders of a former time. Fossilised tins of food. An undetonated grenade. And perhaps, underneath the rubbish, some clean, fertile soil.
The problem with only writing about yourself when you are a literary genius from History is that you only know that you are a literary genius from History when you have been dead 200 years. And then it’s a bit late to start writing about yourself.
You may have noticed that I am a feminist of the personal is political kind. If not, you should probably read this post to fill yourself in. While some people say that writing about yourself is indulgent, and should only be done if you are some kind of literary historical genius, I say it is a political act.
I could leave write diaries and accidentally-on-purpose leave them lying around for an intellectually curious niece to find when I’m dead (Oops! You’re just going to have to write a memoir about your crazy feminist Aunt now aren’t you?) but then I wouldn’t get credit for all the awesome things I have to say now. And I like credit. Anyways, wanting to be heard is part of being an artist. A friend of mine, who is a well-known musician, said to me the other day that part of what makes us artists is this burning desire to tell our stories, to be listened to, in whichever medium we work.
I have never really felt heard, but I guess that’s a subject for another piece.
Women’s lives involve a lot of drudgery. As well as being whatever we want to be (bloggers, writers, doctors), we also have to be what we are supposed to be (mothers, housewives, good lovers). Even if we want to be some of the things we are supposed to be, it’s still hard to find time to be them. (Isn’t that sentence really hard to read?)
Because of sexism, women have to work extra hard in order to be seen as successful women. Because of sexism, men just get to be men without any extra effort at all, it would seem. (Or do they? I only half believe this and I think it would be a great subject for an upcoming post. How hard do you have to work to be seen as a ‘real’ man? Quite hard, I guess.) By that, I mean that men don’t have to prove themselves to be good fathers, househusbands or lovers in order to be successful in their career of choice. Men get away with being complete shits in their personal life, while being celebrated as a good writers, doctors, whatever in the public sphere.
I have a Wonder Woman keyring. In some ways I find it empowering to look at (hell yeah I’m Wonder Woman!), in other ways it puts me under a lot of pressure (Oh no, now I have to do EVERYTHING.). It makes me remember that I not only have to be what I want to be – a good writer, artist, friend, lover, feminist, ally, sister – but also what society and my family think I should be – gainfully employed for money (none of this volunteering bullshit), a good daughter, beautiful (read thin), wife, mother, and a whole bunch more. Sometimes I feel like Wonder Woman. Sometimes just thinking about all the things I want to do, plus all the things other people think I should do, makes me want to explode.
And people think women are the weaker sex? We must be superheroes in order to be able to keep all this shit together!
These ideas make me think of the stereotypes we have about men when they’re ill. When my Dad has a cold he stays in bed feeling sorry for himself, stops working so much, and tells everyone he meets just how ill he is (I do this too). When my mother is ill, unless she cannot physically stand up, she will carry on doing the cooking, cleaning, farming, working and looking after my Dad. She also doesn’t complain about it. This isn’t because she wants to, but because she has no choice. She is a woman, and she needs to keep her shit together.
I want to be a writer, filmmaker and photographer. Society (with a capital S) says I have to be a good daughter, career woman, heterosexual etc etc etc. I also have depression. I am pretty sure it is the overwhelming coming-together of all these conflicting demands that has made me ill. I think I have depression because at some point the weight of all the things I should be crushed all the things I want to be under a big heap of sexist concrete. I feel like I am stuck underneath a fucking concrete mountain and now I have to dig my way out of it using a tattered self-help book and a spoon (obscure T-Shirt potential: I got buried under a big pile of concrete and all I got was this lousy spoon.). (You know when you can’t tell whether a metaphor is genius or incomprehensibly obscure to anyone who doesn’t live in your mind? That was one of them. )
Talk about being a superwoman. I am supposed to be a successful blogger, put on a party and make a zine while ignoring the fact that I have depression? I don’t think so!
I think that ignoring the superhuman effort it takes for someone with depression to even get dressed in the mornings is part of the evil ideology that makes people like me depressed in the first place. If I weren’t a woman, if I weren’t gay, I honestly don’t think I would have had to go through all the bullshit in my life that made me this ill. And not talking about depression only contributes to the conspiracy of silence that keeps people like me ashamed and putting ourselves under a lot of self-hating pressure:
‘I need to get better now! I need to get better now!’ Why? To please myself or someone else? As a woman, I am always spending my energy trying to please other people. Even when this effort exhausts me.
It is a fact that LGBT people have more mental health problems than straight people. It is a fact that people of colour are more likely to die from stress-related illnesses than white people. Racism literally kills. And I am sure it’s a fact, even though I can’t find a link for it, that sexism kills women too. When I think of brilliant female writers, I think of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf. It’s pretty sad that, as a female writer, some of my strongest role models are women who are equally famous for having committed suicide.
That’s why I am writing this now. I’m not going to wait until I’m dead, especially as I am hoping that time will be way in the future.
So, when I sit here in my bedroom, beating myself up for not having written anything for my blog, maybe I should remember; I’m not Wonder Woman. And maybe it’s even feminist not to be. I shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone – Laura the blogger, Laura the good daughter, Laura the good friend. Maybe I should just give myself a break.