Living in the Moment


Thursday, 24 September 2015

It is not long till midnight. I am typing in the dark, the deep dark outside a chink in the curtain, the screen illuminating enough for me to see the papers on the grotty desk in front of me, the outline of that cool porcelain sculpture I did quite a few years ago now, the still-unfired one, which makes me happy when I look at it and reminds me that I really need to go and buy another bag of clay and start doing something more now I have some extra bouts of energy in which to do so.

Oh, man, I love that sentence.

Creative commons - free to use but please link back here.

There is something to be said, I suppose, for health issues that force you to see how you're always walking on the edge of where the ocean meets the land just like you're walking on a wire in a circus (thank you, Adam Duritz). That line that is invisible but weaves its way through every single day. For a long time it's been a particularly drab and shabby line, like it's made out of old wool that's got balls on it like an old jumper that's been around too long, and it would lead from the bed to the couch and to the kitchen and the bathroom and often back to the couch.  Other times, like recently, it's been a line that's opened up forests on one side that I can trip off into.  Nothing major or extraordinary for anyone but me. Going to the supermarket and going for a walk in one day.

Other days I walk along that thread and fall into the sea.  Sometimes it's a bit heartbreaking. I never know when I've overdone it.  I'm asked again to give up what I've been given.  Which is the whole of life but with so many couch-filled days in recent years I have a tanty and lose perspective when I fall back into the fog again.  Even if I know that these days it's not going to be a life sentence, that I will climb back out at some point.

On Sunday things were good enough that I went with my mum to see a local Aussie muso, Billy Miller, play live at the Caravan Club. We stood for about three hours. That's nothing to people who do that every day but for me it was a really big deal. There was no way I would have been able to replicate it the next day.  My feet were so fucking sore.

The recplication the next day is the biggest test of CFS. The point isn't so much whether you see me today, walking in Belgrave, coming from the doctor's, into the Book Barn to buy pens, to the library to drop off a book and pick up a new one, to the post office. Doing chores. Flittering.  I would have seen quite chipper to you, I'm sure. But you see the adrenalised version, not the ATP-deprived one the next day who spends more time on the couch.

Still, I've had lucky days recently where I've done something like that and had No Payback The Next Day.  That feels miraculous but really it's just functioning mitochondria.

It's not what happened on Monday though. The day after Sunday's three-hour-standfest the world had that greyness to it unrelated to the sky.  As did Tuesday.  Feeling the anxiety running through my body, different from a mind-manufactured sort.  A buzzing kind that at the same time puts a sense of doomish urgency into everything.  Why are you sitting on this couch?  You need to be not sitting on this couch, or else if you just sit here like this that will be a terribly wrong thing to do and something bad will happen.

This kind of anxious body-fuelled thinking is problematic at any time, and I can generally take steps to ease off its push.  But Tuesday it was difficult because the next day was the funeral of my ex-father-in-law, which I very much wanted to attend. We still kept in touch from time to time. The last time we spoke was via email a few weeks before.  We had great conversations when he lived in the granny flat and Mark and I lived in the house.  He was a gentle man, a kind one too, and I wished to go and pay my respects not only to those who are living, but to him.

I don't believe that we are gone from the earth when we are gone from our bodies.  In our age of one-size-fits-all knowledge, the sort that is peer reviewed, double-blind, placebo controlled, many have little time for the perceptions that come from the subjective space.  That sort of knowledge is good but it brings with it hubris if it's the only kind you ascribe to.  It upsets me, really, this disrespect for our subjective life.  It's my life in here.  It's just as real as the life that is out there.  It can't be branded, it can't be monetised, it can't be shared, it can't have its privacy taken away from it, and I won't allow its dignity to be annulled by those who claim the experience in here is inconsequential just because they cannot measure it with a measuring device.

My ex-father-in-law is gone, but I don't think or feel that he is gone. Even anxious, fatigued, inflamed, the strange toxicity that comes when these fatigue situations happen, as if something in my body is struggling to work and instead is spinning its wheels, splattering genetically dysfunctional mud all over me.  I wanted to be there.  Even though I began worrying about what other people would think.  Paranoid things.  Like, would my ex's sister glare at me at the funeral and refuse to say hello?  Would they all think I was a freak, in my childless, cloistered life?  Would I drive off the road halfway there and cause a multi-car pile-up because I was spacey?  Would people believe me, if I didn't go, that I wasn't pikeing out because funerals are difficult but because I actually didn't physically believe I could get there?

7am is not so much of an issue for some people. For me it's been one for more decades than I care to count. Perhaps this was one harbinger of the CFS that would come in my late 20's, the endocrinal dysfunction that made getting up such a holy horror. 7am for me feels maybe like what 3am feels for some other people if they've got drunk the night before. I dunno. Maybe. How can we compare our own internal experiences to each other?

What happens when you know you have to get up at 7am and you're worried how you'll feel? You wake up at 5.30 and don't go back to sleep.  And so I finally conceded that this wasn't going to happen for me.  That to drive when I felt like that was an irresponsibility.  I would have had to leave home by 8am, drive for two hours in peak-hour traffic, and then turn around and drive back again a few hours later.

And so I just had to be there in spirit instead.  I guess if I'd died and some people couldn't make it to my funeral but were willing themselves there in spirit, that would be fine with me.   Maybe I'd see their colours anyway, flowing out like ribbon, connected to everybody and everything wherever they happened to be.  Time and space not always so constraining.  Do we sense people after they have gone? I feel like I had some kind of communion with Mike in the days after I learned he died. (How lovely of Mark to let me know. He didn't need to). How can we tease out the strands of what we wish to be true about life continuing after life, what we may be inventing, or what we may be perceiving on a plane that's not visible to us, not parked at any airport, not existing at all according to many and yet which many others claim to swim in their whole lives?

These kinds of experiences are between you and yourself.  They are the last bastions of privacy in an internet age :)  Nothing to be proven.  Nothing able to be proven, just felt, or sensed, and wondered at.  A space, like the negative space between two objects that you are taught to see when you are drawing.  Once you see it, you can't not.  You draw better when you draw the shape of the space in-between.  That nifty little technique brings all of the world into the fore.  All the empty spaces fill.

Staying On Message


Sunday, 20 September 2015

Back in the throes of 2007 when I first began blogging, the internet was a different beast. Websites with frames abounded with glittering flashing GIFs. It was, in hindsight, kinda homely. This internet, pre-Snowden revelations, had an innocence about it that makes it seem like it was 100 years ago. At least.

These days, your kids' lemonade stand has a website with proper SEO customisation and a fully-integrated shopping cart. The monetisation of the net ~ massively increased when the money that never did trickle down ran out further in the 3D world with the GFC ~ made all of our website pages slick. Sometimes, when I'm  tired and thinking cold and Boston isn't helping, I look at all of the shiny online personas and so many of them feel marketed, packaged, lopped off.  I feel like people online have lost their levels of complexity, because of fear of whose eyes will be watching and judging.  I may be sentimentalising the past a little strongly here, because really the net never felt completely safe, but these days, with so many more people on it and with what's happened politically and economically in the intervening period, we know it's not safe in a way we didn't then.

Our internet cherries were long ago popped and money is getting tighter.  Those two aspects are reflected, I think, in the way we've all started 'sticking to message' more.  Now we've all Googled ourselves and seen, despite our carefulness, how easily accessed we are, how the web is becoming more and more interlinked, how what we do in one place online can reflect back onto us in another place online, and right down into Monday morning at the water cooler. I don't really have a great deal of professional persona at stake, to be honest, but even I feel the pressure, the self-consciousness, even while it chafes and constrains.  This blog, where I have talked so much about my malfunctions, is linked back to from Weekend Notes, with my full name, as does my Twitter account (and as would my Facebook account if I didn't find it so alternately overwhelming and irritating that I've removed myself now ~ again ~ for over half a year).  How do I know that something here won't bite my bum in the future?

I don't.  But I have consciously decided to refuse to be limited by that fear. The other part of me cringes.

It's understandable and sensible that now we know how far-reaching the internet's tentacles are that we will have cleaned up our online personas to prevent any harm to the selves that walk around in the world and earn our livings. Not so much for us now yearning, open-hearted keening into blog posts about our inner worlds, our struggles, our fears, our complexities, our contradictions.  At least, not in our own names and with our own avatars.  Or not without giving a thought to how it will appear if the boss happens to read it.  Even if we have been greatly careful to ensure that our online confessional presences are shielded from our bosses, present and future, from affecting our careers, our shininess, we cannot be so ... ourselves, unselfconscious, online in the shiny new net.

I was doing some research a few weeks ago for a piece I was writing about professionalism, about how what is constituted as professional changes like our fashions.  At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, when people came off their farms and from their cottage industries and into the factories, the concept of gearing the beginning of your workday to when the big hand was on the 12 and the little hand on the 6 was anathemic. The newly-powerful mill owners had to start spinning the idea of punctuality as akin to professionalism for the workers to conform.  Now, with the net so new but so much a part of our lives, I can't help wonder if it's not the new way that those with the bucks who pay us keep us held in line. Constraining us with our own selves, rather than with the clock.

These days, slick with marketing, we understand that all of our words are a shingle, that too much openness may affect our clients', our coworkers', our line managers' perceptions of our professionalism.  It is still really not considered professional to be too human, no matter how many programs the HR department implements.

Well, fuck all that shit. The mark of professionalism, in its creepy constraining fashion, is so often the mark of a robot. You can perform your actual work as professionally as you like, but if your humanity happens to seep slightly out the sides of your costume, the perception of you will diminish automatically. These days, in the corporatocracy, you are only as professional as your bland brand. And unless you find yourself in some field where it's acceptable for you to be a Trump brat, or a rock star, or a literary bohemian, if you're not in one of the professions where your personality traits are allowed to be a part of your own personal brand, then you better lock yourself in and stop any of the seepage and get on with being that bland little robot.

Whether you're a marketing consultant or a bohemian rock star, you're still locked into your brand though. And while the latter has a far wider and more colourful turning circle, they would still feel the pressure of conforming to spec, of not causing confusion by going outside of what is expected of them by what has come before. Your brand must be clearly delineated from the other brands. Uncluttered in its message. You gotta stay on message. The worst thing you can do for your brand is to go off message, to contradict yourself, to vacillate, to change your mind, to hold two conflicting opinions at once, to say you don't know. That kind of mess harms your platform. It makes you more mistrusted. Your brand must be something that people can trust or they will switch off.

Despite the over-reach of the professional brand tentacles, you are not that. You are That. Your brand is your shingle and it's also your protection. It hides your soft guts and your fluttering heart from the trolls and the NSA eye. It both promotes you and hides you. It is your vehicle for moving around in the world.

But you are 16,356 times bigger than that vehicle.  You are a person. You are messy. You are contradictory. And that's alright. You never could fit into a brand, even if you try. Even if you have the loveliest and shiniest brand and we all love you (hi Nigella) you still have messy relationships and foibles. You'll likely shit your pants once or twice before you're gone out of this world and you will feel ashamed. You will feel and perceive beautiful things and your heart will skip when you see the unity amongst everything. You will grasp at varying degrees your right to experience your life as you experience it without an expert validating your experience. You will be real, like Pinocchio or the Velveteen Rabbit and at times you will look upon your brand with some disdain or some despair because you will know that you are legion and you are one and there is no brand in the world big enough to be able to contain your crazy, beautiful, messy, sad, special complexities. And you will be right.

Thought by Tostofs (creative commons 3.0 - noncommercial, no derivs)

The Pain, The Love, the Desire


Monday, 14 September 2015

I went visiting a few of the blogs I regularly read today.  There are so many people struggling with so many different painful things.

Sometimes life just feels like a constant battle to stay above the waterline.

My heart goes out to everyone who is struggling. Including myself.

Ouch. I have lost myself again.
Lost myself and I am nowhere to be found.
Yeah, I think that I might break.
Lost myself again and I feel unsafe.
Be my friend.
Hold me.
Wrap me up.
Unfold me.
I am small, I'm needy.
Warm me up and breathe me.

I wish I could ease other people's pain. I can sure feel it. I wish by feeling it I could transmute it. Then I would sit on the couch all day, turning people's pain into gold like Rumpelstiltskin.

Some people do believe that we can take others' pain and help to heal it. I believe that too, in the times when I am feeling more grounded and hopeful.  Not today, but maybe tomorrow.  That's how connected we are.