I sit sipping some camomile tea and enjoying the feeling of a little warming relief. There is something a little liberating about being ill; life becomes focused on the physical and the ‘is this really what I’m doing with my life’ gremlins are too tired to shout. Warm tea becomes a luxury, rather than a desperate grab for something to do.
I look back at the past couple of weeks and want to bury my head under the covers. Memory, patterns, and life lessons seem to leave no imprint; I throw myself into the worst of everything as if life depended on it and then become disappointed at the anti-climax of it all being meaningless – constantly. It all seems so significant at the time. Ask me to do a simple task and I will complicate it and narcissistically twist it to become part of my eternal struggle with meaning. And the fact that other people do not understand this drives me crazy at the time. I become so incredibly sensitive to words of others … I’m not looking for you to be encouraging or supportive I’m looking for some kind of recognition or engagement with these oh so lofty life problems. Yes – you can tell me exactly what it is that I’m supposed to do or want, but I seem to be physically incapable of doing that without churning it through hours of reflection and – if being very honest – panic. I will – frequently at random – pick one thing to obsess over while happily running away from a hundred other things.
Then it just goes away. Life or death situations are neither. Idiocy and naievity become apparent. I have a tendency to throw punishments my own way, in the hope that it’ll stop me disappearing so far up my own arse at some point in the future. It doesn’t. I think it just irritates other people. [not being totally consumed by regret is completely understandable, but I cannot get my head around how other people deal with mistakes. People make them all the time, but justifying why they happened and sharing the blame as widely as possible seems preferable to apologising for them. Do people really feel that un-involved in the decisions they make?]
I think I planned to say something completely different when I started typing. Oh well. The tea’s gone cold.
I am not the world’s greatest planner. My mind doesn’t tend to go in straight lines; it tends to fire off in about 5 different directions at once and this really isn’t conducive to linear thought. Fair enough, maybe there are ways to develop skills or strategies to deal with this kind of thing. Maybe I could work out how to use them. Maybe I could take advice from other people and learn from their experience. Maybe I could just be a perfectly adaptable human being and occasionally do what I’m supposed to …
BUT – I’m not convinced my hatred/fear of planning is solely based on my inability to do it particularly well. It seems to me that the first part of planning is to have some kind of goal that you need to reach. On the rare occasions where I figure out what it is that I want, I’m pretty good at getting it (e.g. deciding that I needed to leave Glasgow resulted in possibly the most productive couple of months in my life). Now, it may be some subconscious fear of rejection or failure that makes this near impossible when trying to figure out my *personal* goals, but that’s not what’s running through my mind. What’s running through my mind is ‘this is one of the things I’m supposed to want – do I want this?’ *thinks about the possible implications, how uninteresting that will be pretty quickly and discards it*. So, earning a decent amount of money is a fairly common goal. And money does let you buy pretty stuff. But having extra money makes me feel insanely guilty and is a pretty quick way to throw me in to ‘what are you doing?!?!?!?!’. So that doesn’t seem like the most sensible thing for me to aim for. I don’t find routine and stability necessarily comforting and there is still an incredibly teenage-angst-like need to rebel against normality. Actually, it’s incredibly irritating that teenagers have managed to annex that type of thought and the rest of us are just deluded idiots who won’t grow up. [Add on top of that the fact that I have been so influenced by Sartre and Camus books that I don’t even question the utter pointlessness of attempting to force a meaning on to life… that might not help my previous point]
Now, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands recently with the whole ‘recovering from hip replacement thing.’ I could have taken a step back and try and work out what I wanted. I say ‘could’ because I clearly didn’t. Time and space to not make me more sensible; they have the complete opposite effect. Instead I panicked that I would waste any kind of ‘new’ life by doing nothing. if I was really pressed to come up with something I want from life, it’s new ways of seeing people or the world. I don’t want the possibilities to be closed down. I don’t want to completely give over to being any specific kind of person. I want to challenge the way I see things. I want to do things I find really difficult and that make me uncomfortable. If I look at the times I’ve had that blissfully ephemeral feeling of ? [happiness?] they were so far from planned it’s untrue. I’ve accidentally ended up in places or situations I couldn’t have imagined … because I could never have imagined wanting them.
so how do you plan for that?
This is the year I’ve finally caved and [after an awful lot of wrangling] got a new hip. It might not be the longest surgery I’ve ever had, but it’s still a little bit brutal and requires the inevitable recovery. As someone who will happily disappear completely in to their own world – frequently involving teenage ‘noone understand me!’ type tantrums – the prospect didn’t fill me with joy.
While it’ll still be about a year before I’ve recovered to whatever ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ is going to look like for me, I think I might have made it over the initial stuck-in-the-house phase. I’m back at work. I can go to the pub. I managed a trip back up to Glasgow myself. And, to be honest, this has definitely been the easiest recovery I’ve ever had. While there’s a whole heap of stuff I can’t do at the moment, this is the first time I’ve had real hope that I will be able to at some point. Just being able to stand up straight with both feet on the ground is something that still makes me internally giddy from time to time.
And the biggest thing – the constant pain is gone. Yeah, there’s some muscle niggles and stiffness, but it is absolutely nothing compared to the constant dull ache or the feeling of someone stabbing you in the hip with a shard of glass repeatedly. When you’re going through chronic pain it’s so easy to doubt yourself and feel like you’re being weak or exaggerating things. I now know that I wasn’t. I can sense the total impact it had on every part of my life and that using it as an ‘excuse’ for why I found so many things difficult was actually a reason.
It’s surreal to have this massive weight lifted off. Options open up – I could be whoever I want to be! I might be a gym go-er in the future. I might be less angry. I might join the circus ….
The downside of this is that I’m a little bit terrified of what to do and who to be right now. I’m not the same poor little person who will need help with everything forever and I’m scared with how to handle that big a change. My biggest concern – anything I’m ‘good’ at is something I’m only ‘good-at-for-a-sick-person’. I’ve spend so much of my life justifying pain and difficulties that I’m not even sure I’ll know what to bloody well talk about, let alone do. Any kind of recovery does involve stepping out of the world a little bit and figuring a way back in to it is inevitably …. interesting.
Hello world. If you want to point me in a direction, that would be great.
Being wrong about most things isn’t really that terrifying experience; that blank confused face is often reflected back to you by those who are supposedly older and wiser. It’s been a while since I’ve cowered awestruck in a corner unable to say anything intelligible to some unattainable all knowing creature. My theories about why this is (I can’t let anything rest; once it’s flitted in my brain it needs to be captured and crushed – I really wanted to add catalogued, but my brain is about as organised as my sock drawer) include i) maybe I’ve suddenly become more intelligent; ii) maybe I’ve suddenly become less intelligent and can’t appreciate it in others; iii) I’m older – most chat is less impressive when you’ve heard it before and can quote something that said it better; iv) everyone around me now is just less impressive than the folk I knew when I was young and impressionable. I’ve just re-read that – my god I’m such an utter delight.
I dislike being so badly wrong about myself. This is inconvenient, given that whole ‘you’re not the best judge of your own character’ chat. The battle against hypocrisy (which i fail at, constantly, obviously) seems to have conditioned me to have some kind of internal twitch every time I say something utterly ridiculous and at odds with what I said five seconds ago. I do it a lot. Sometimes I think it’s just collateral damage to the torrent of nonsense I can’t seem to hold in. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve maybe changed my life view (or, you, actually properly adopted one) without realising it. I have the urge to scream corrections to previous statements – or just explain away everything with alcohol/tiredness/pain/some disaster, etc.
Today I’ve had a little bit of an ‘oh my god, the things I’ve been criticising you for are things I do too.’ My inclination would be to hunt down everyone I’ve spoken to recently and share this revelation. I realise noone would care, so I might just about be able to stop myself. The bit that bugs me is that this seems to be a sign of weakness – occasionally you see people crack and admit a mistake, but usually it’s brushed off or ignored. The confidence to keep ploughing on isn’t dented at all. How can you be so confident, knowing your wrong? How can you look at me like I have two heads when I ‘admit’ to all this stuff? Has it honestly never crossed your mind?
I’m getting a little fed up of performing to an empty room or of constantly speaking some untranslatable language or something. I’ve read books. I’ve watched films. My god, I’ve even listened to rubbish pop songs. It really cannot be that weird.
This ‘we’ with its sanctioned sanitised signifiers irks me. [side note: I do not understand why uncontrollable rage at a statement or situation is such a terrible thing. Yes you can tell me to calm down or get things in to perspective, but what kind of perspective is it when you stop caring? I want to know what I think. I get there by feeling angry or happy or sad or any other basic emotion and asking why. I find getting to the why one of the most enjoyable parts of living. So you can tell me, according to your grand scheme of things, this is an over reaction or ‘unhealthy’ but that just doesn’t really work for me.]
What was I wanting to write about? Possibly the meaning of words. It’s not straightforward and one word is not interchangeable with another (in the case of the opening sentence, it might be as simple as sibilance). They all come loaded with hundreds of years of meaning and association ‘baggage’ (note: all). For goodness sake it’s one of the reasons poetry works. Very rarely do you feel like they completely align with these lofty sentiments you have in your head (or maybe it’s just good enough with them). Words betray us. But we betray them too (yes, I’ve disappeared back to Godard references – what a shocker). We (I definitely) use too many of them too frequently and unthinkingly and when we do achieve those wonderful moments of perfect form and structure it sounds just the same as all the other crap we talk; the words and ideas we throw away sound no different to the ones we live by. This bother me. I’ll actually curtail my quotation rant, because I’ll end up sounding like Molly Bloom.
I might eventually return to my original rant. I’m not convinced ‘we’ write the dictionary and have control over meanings. I’m definitely not sure that because ‘we’ say it is the case. I don’t believe the feelings are eradicated with the word. Maybe you can talk yourself happy by avoiding destructive words, but are happiness and destructive not the first words you think about in this case?
I really struggle being part of a we.
I spend a lot of time strangling myself with the lose knots of ideas. The process is too long and drawn out and I look at each bit of rope from every angle for hours because I’m not smart enough to make sense of it straight away. When someone does a pat on the head style ‘there, there, this is how the world really is’ on something that I know I’ve been mulling on for years I want to scream. Please stop assuming that because I don’t agree with you I don’t understand and you or the basics of human conversation. Thus far, in my experience, the people who really have a strong grasp on what they mean recognise and appreciate someone grappling with the detail and are willing to lend a hand to their branch (they’ll have thought of it that way before and recognise how they countered it internally). People parroting cliched emotionless babble do not fill me with that confidence. I realise engaging with the reason for disagreement is difficult (I’ve recently been wanting to bash my head off a wall because I feel like I’ve been trying to explain ‘x and y, therefore z’ for weeks only to have ‘omg, so ‘x and y, therefore z’ finally appreciated back to me. I am baffled at why it took so long; but I’ve never been very secure in my own branch).
Maybe I don’t need to respect what I’m told; I’m probably supposed to respect the authority.
I am sure that the following isn’t a massively unusual sentiment; I want to know what I think. Literature, cinema, and personal experience have hammered home the message that other people do not necessarily know what they’re talking about and that questioning authority or expertise isn’t a ridiculous thing to do (does anyone actually want to be duped into ridiculous positions?). My underlying position seems to be that everything everyone ever says to me is wrong and I want to know why. If this is the case, then I don’t see why my opinion should be free from such rigorous questioning (from myself, or others) because I have toss all reason to believe that my position is worth any more than anyone else’s (painfully aware that, while not being stupid, I’m hardly a genius). Basically, I am looking for things I can say ‘yes’ to without that nagging feeling of error (and I say oh so many things I disagree with). I don’t think these things exist. But that feeling when you get close to something you might be willing to say yes to is probably the best one I’ve ever experienced. Possibly should stop trying to attach any permanency to that ephemerality and should tone down the blind rage I feel when someone presents their own ‘yes’ feeling to me as a fait accompli. It’s exhausting …
Sound like utterly deluded self-indulgent ill-thought through nonsense? It probably is and I think I’ve always had some awareness of that. This may sound ridiculous from my behaviour, but I really wish I didn’t have to inflict this kind of selfishness on others (alas, their input is necessary). Recent conversations have made me painfully aware that I seem to articulate my questions and challenges considerably more than I thought I did; other people’s views of you are so incredibly, fascinatingly, strange. I would really be quite content if I could go have a wee flaky in a darkened room somewhere, without seeming like I am demanding help or answers or expecting responsibility from others.
That becomes increasingly difficult in an open plan office, or in any kind of situation where anyone is relying on you for anything. I seem to be in these situations more often now.
Well, the office part, I got fed up of railing against an ill-defined ‘system’ (because that’s what the status quo is and that’s what a contrary person does) without some understanding of what my rage was against. So I didn’t think finding out was a bad thing. It is more interesting than I imagined and feels no more like blind submission than the previous railing felt. But, it makes interaction with other people more necessary. I don’t feel like I can have my full scale questing frenzies in quite the same way; feeling immense guilt for some of the more recent existential crises. Some questioning seems good, or useful even, but is much more focused on reaching agreement, an objective truth, benefit for all, god knows what to call it. Trying to work out if, after years of trying to work out what I think, I want to aim for this instead. Or maybe I’m trying to see if I can first.
This could all just be the result of my exhaustion and doesn’t express what I think at all. Although I don’t remember the last time I didn’t feel the need to qualify my thoughts with tiredness.
Look in the mirror and tell yourself that you’re strong, confident and can do anything to which you put your mind; the act of saying it is supposed to help make it so (then there’s that whole balcony-esque ‘play at something long enough and you’ll become it’). I think I am saying conversational equivalents of this too often and am disappearing up my own backside. For a long I’ve gone to the opposite extreme; I could only spur myself into action by telling myself (and the world) that everything was so utterly god awful and depressing that any action couldn’t make it worse. That was never true; but it was occasionally a useful piece of self delusion.
I’ve become fed up of being so negative. While I realise nihilism seems to come naturally, if I’m lying to myself anyway I may as well attempt an attitudinal change in there too. Alas, I still need to go to an extreme to motivate action. In order to do any work or anything I’m splurging out any compliments or encouragements I’ve received like all those around me are just in awe of the fact I bloody well deign to grace my oh so wonderful intelligence on them. Now, I am aware of what utter bollocks this is; I’ve got such a achievement crippling intellectual inferiority complex that no amount of external affirmation can erase (it’s not necessarily that I think I’m less intelligent than folk around me; more that I’m not as intelligent as I should be). I wonder if anyone, when talking themselves up, genuinely believes it or just uses it as a useful little lie. Not that it makes an outward difference; you still look like a conceited idiot. I’m not sure that knowing you look like this makes it any less true …
I complain a lot about not being able to walk properly and being in pain all the time. Sometimes I feel like I over egg this. I know that other people face much greater challenges with far more positivity than I do (how the heck do folk do this?!?) and I just feel like I’m awkwardly chucking my issue in people’s faces in a way that sounds like a bratty toddler. I don’t know how much it affects my life because I don’t remember what it’s like not living with this and I do try and force myself to remember that ‘normal’ people probably aren’t that different. It’s easy when I’ve got a routine I’m comfortable with to forget there’s anything wrong; that’s obviously the ideal situation.
There are times, however, when I feel like there’s a massive glass wall between me and the world; when I’m in a new situation with no control and am completely dependent on other people. For example, when you’re with people you don’t know very well going somewhere you don’t know and they walk at warp speed; there are only so many times I can ask you to slow the hell down or pull pained faces before I start to hate you (taxi drivers who take the piss out’ve you for getting a cab for a 10 minute walk can piss too by the way). I realise I should accept that people don’t necessarily understand and that I should be more direct, but when I do the latter I get a lot of looks that make me feel like the bratty toddler I mentioned earlier. If you can cope some of the time, why can’t you cope all of the time? I should get less angry, but I always wonder ‘if this is how you treat me, how do you treat other people?’ and it worries me that huge swathes of society could be so pointlessly marginalised (I realise I might just be being a bit of an arsehole even thinking I’m representative here).
One of my least favourite things in the world is day long meetings with bloody networking and buffet lunches. Sitting for that long in uncomfortable chairs hurts (probably unpleasant for everyone, but it has a tendency to force my leg into stupid spasms which have been contemplating amputation with a bread knife and panicking about how to stand up). I’ve been trying to work out why it’s so much worse than everyday life in an office (which I don’t find anywhere near as difficult) and I do think part of the problem is my compliance with the expectation that you’ll be polite and sit there. Maybe moving around more helps and I need to get over the self-consciousness I feel when loudly shuffling out my seat and asking folk to move their piles of crap. Then the idea of pacing round the back of the room like a caged animal contemplating a prison break doesn’t seem appealing. I don’t want to seem like I’m attention seeking (to be honest I want to disappear; I feel like it’s a sign of capitulation). Thank you joyous teenage taunts and angry women in disneyland bathrooms for loading me with these delightful hang ups.
To return to networking and buffet lunches, they involve a lot of standing. And holding things. At the same time. I have one free hand and, to be honest, I’ve bloody well given up trying to juggle this crap (especially since, as I said earlier, these days are particularly painful for me). I can’t even carry a bloody drink and food back to a seat at the same time and I get fed up feeling like I need to beg folk for help (again I realise this is yet another psychological issue). It’s nice when people think of it on their own and I don’t feel invisible.
Now, once you are sitting down with said drink and/or food you become entirely reliant on some kind soul agreeing to give up flitting amongst the influential type folk and speaking to you. Otherwise you look like a grumpy bitch ignoring everyone in the corner (which I do very very easily become in this situation). I get it; the fluidity of conversation and opportunity to listen to and contribute to multiple people at the same time isn’t there when you’re sitting down (‘a girl hasn’t got but two sides to her at a table’ after all). I feel so massively excluded from this for reasons that I think are outwith my control. I think the way it makes me feel is more within my control and I know that as soon as I feel I can’t physically do stuff I get so unbelievably angry; there’s only a small gap where I would actually let someone help/be understanding/not be an arsehole before writing off the whole human race. I know I need to work on widening that, but I find it hard.
Basically, I don’t think it’s fair that any kind of social situation is constructed in a way that could physically exclude anyone. But that’s not how the world works. We don’t all know sign language. Not all pedestrian crossings beep or have pavement bumps. Wheelchair users can’t get on buses if they’re busy with people or pushchairs in that one space they can actually use (bit of a random mix of examples, but ok). I realise how utterly unrealistic this total inclusion is and I’m ashamed to think of all the times I’ve been an arsehole to people when I haven’t understood that they were struggling.
I ask myself this a lot. It’s exhausting and probably irritating for anyone anywhere near me but I’m probably now at the stage where it’s too engrained for me to even try and stop. I have been attempting to adapt it to ‘am I doing whatever the hell this is well?’ but I’m kind of failing at the shift and still undecided if I like the question.
More irritatingly vague ramblings … what a surprise!
I’ve spent far too much time excusing myself from actually trying (you know, trying to achieve your full potential or some such nonsense). It’s easy enough to be passable at school or uni or get a decentish job and pat yourself on the back because you’re doing ok (despite being stuck in hospital or at home for long stretches; despite being in pain all the time). No idea why I chose to put the ‘despite’ bit in parenthesis given that it was the main thrust of what I was saying, but oh well …
Anyway, I’m now trying to do something I find difficult (i.e. my job – not writing this blog). I want to know if a constantlydruggedwonkyleggedhighlystrungpotentialcrazy person can be like the smart successful kids. There’s problem number one – my wonderful intellectual inferiority complex makes me value that skill above all others (could it be that some of the others are more important!?!?) and that’s the bit I want to find out if I can do. So if I take on a whole tonne of things I don’t understand and don’t end up cowering in a corner then I’ve succeeded. Right?
This is where it might be useful if I cared more about doing things well (you know, did you do things on time, in a way that didn’t irritate the hell out’ve everyone else, that incorporated other people’s views, that wasn’t just something you personally saw as being logically sound and could no longer pick holes in, etc) I’m a little bit too blind to that at the moment but, given that I really can’t believe I’m here, maybe I’ll get there?
This may be somewhat at odds with my general woe is me self-flagulation, but I’ve recently had a run of things that I think I’ve actually dealt with pretty well. Suddenly the world doesn’t seem so impossible and things can be dealt with without a hissy fit and running away to go hide in a corner. For a ridiculous example, I stupidly ate a banana flavoured sweet the other day (I’m allergic) and spent a significant proportion of my morning in the less than pleasant bathrooms at work (by the way, I’m forming a very poor view of Londoners based on bathroom cleanliness – maybe this is unfair?). Yet, I still managed to sit through a rather painful 3 hour meeting (my god, you could even argue I made some useful contributions) without prefacing it with a pathetic ‘I’m not well, waaaaaaah.’ This is a fairly big step forward for me. I realise this is probably standard for other people and I’m coming to the conclusion that a lot of my pathetic hang ups are far more common that I have been assuming. I just talk about them constantly and don’t like hiding them (I’m all about the surfaces). Oh dear, I’m less special than I’d thought (and more shallow).
While on my roll, I’ve been cheered on by some positive comments. It’s nice to hear you’re making a good impression; that you’ve shown great potential; that people are grateful for stuff you’ve done; that you’ve really intelligent and pick things up quickly (I have a bit of a mutual adoration society going with the woman I sit next to); that you don’t need to compromise who you are to be successful (that one’s my favourite actually), etc. Even better when this stuff is said multiple times by multiple people senior to you. I wish my confidence levels weren’t indexed so closely to what other people thought, but apparently they are.
Having this excess of confidence makes me far more likely to speak whenever I have an opinion which, while sometimes being productive and useful, can also make you sound like a bit of a prat. I wince when I think about some conversations where I know I’ve spoken like a know-it-all who’s disappeared so far up their own arse it’s untrue (if I could tone down some of the showing off that would be quite nice too!). I am painfully aware of the mountain of things I don’t know enough about and I don’t want to pretend that I do understand them.
Basically, I’m scared of buying in to my own hype and forgetting that a lot of these compliments are caveated; you need to continue not to mess up and a fair chunk of them might just have been said to counter your negative attitude and get as much out of you as possible (as opposed to you being the greatest thing to have ever happened).
If I could find the balance between having enough confidence to function and being a self-important twat I’d be a happy bunny.