glass walls

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. 

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What am I doing?

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?

Don’t believe the hype

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. 

age of resignation?

I haven’t looked at this for months. I see a clutter of unfinished drafts and would mourn lost potential, but it’s a disturbing hospice of all the ideas I periodically try and resuscitate anyway (and some semi-colon adoration). So no great loss …

One of the fundamental flaws to my life approach is the bizarre assumption that anyone would want to know the crap that goes on in my head. I have this desperate urge to purge it all from myself; I will make more sense and everything will be better. Why I need to make any sense remains the greatest mystery to myself … alas the world is stuck with internet-based ramblings and much rehearsed conversational splurges. To explain the latter – I’ve found living and working in London extremely difficult and felt so unbelievably alienated (to the extent that I wondered why I had ever complained of this feeling before in my life). Also, I’m fairly sure good social skills and confidence are essential for my job. I do not have these; why I decided to torture myself trying to develop them is beyond me. Yet, I still cling to the idea that if I bombard people with ‘me’ it might all be fine. I’ve now taken to just hi-jacking tea point conversations as an excuse to attack people with ‘I’m really shy and self-conscious’ to try and cover any past awkwardness (missed hellos, leaving in mid conversation, not speaking in sentences …). The response is generally ‘you don’t come across that way at all.’ I am. It means, however, I must either seem crazy or rude. Or I’m just worrying about things that don’t matter (like will I look like an arsehole for going to a leaving night for people who I don’t really know or will I look like one for not going). Urgh. I wish I could just completely embrace the crazy.

Perhaps I’m getting better at conforming. That idea disturbs me too. I have spent far too much of my life chanting ‘your age of reason is the age of resignation and I’ve no use for it!’ There is a fine line between resignation and accepting that some of your adolescent ideas don’t align with who are/want to be now. Clinging on to everything seems wrong; letting them all go seems like giving up. I’m struggling to ‘grow-up’ in a way that doesn’t repulse me. Not sure how my career choice fits in with this (having said that, I do kind of love it at the moment); I do not think there is a lot of room for my existential ramblings. I do not have an audience for ‘me’ here and I’m finding this difficult.

Finding space to explain avascular necrosis and not being able to walk is one of the things I struggle with most. I feel like all I do is gibber on about it and draw folk’s attention to it (accidentally hitting people with the crutch on a daily basis, etc). Yet there’s been an increase in the question ‘does it hurt all the time?’ Yes. It really, really does. I did not think I hid that, but there must be something I’m missing. It is fairly energy draining to survive a day without bursting in to tears and a lot of the time I would like a party for making it through the week. Tapping in to some deeper resources to actually do it well seems an unrealistic ask. My head can’t cope. I keep dreaming of a time when I will be rested enough to sort out my head and come up with a way to catch up with life, rather than just surviving. This is never coming, is it?

Default faces and some confessions of self-indulgent nonsense

Yesterday, while in a total dwam, I was asked why I always look angry. Now, for a change, I wasn’t feeling particularly irate at that moment (any break from the mindless repetition of explaining grammar is an incredibly welcome one), but it reminded me how often my default face is remarked upon. I would have commented on how often it is at odds with what I think, but a derisory snigger from my brother on the subject has opened my eyes to the possibility that I really am always angry/snipey/a freakin’ delight to be around. I might be the worst judge of my own character. This is quite worrying, given how often I like to judge myself!

To return to the idea of a default face – it’s that look folk have when they forget to control their face; your ‘off-time’ from the desperate attempt to communicate any kind of meaning or feeling in a disconnected world (note: sarcastic tone in previous cliche-like sentence). I kind of love sitting in a cafe or something and watching the ‘off’ people trudge down the street before meeting someone they know. Usually, it’s like someone has just turned the power on in the back of their head and they become a person; the blank becomes something. I say usually because some people have faces that don’t move (and I don’t just mean through botox). I am afraid of these people. I don’t trust them. Having a face that is dishonest to your feelings is almost as illuminating as having an authentic one, so please move it!

I went through a phase of trying to eliminate my default face from any kind of public outing (it was a fair while ago). It’s something akin to that dance like nobody’s watching bullshit; act like you’re always on camera. I am a bit in love with a camera shoved in someone’s face when nobody should be watching, like those Andy Warhol films of Edie Sedgewick or like Nana’s tears in a lonely darkened cinema as she watches Joan of Arc…

Anyway, I would do things like cry whenever I goddamned felt like it and start laughing at myself when my stocking fell down as I crossed the street. I would stare at a cup of tea as if it had a Proustian greatness or focus on a sugar cube with a Kieslowskian exactitude. Needless to say this was rather exhausting, pretentious and a little bit strange.

I did, however, catch myself doing it again today in the supermarket. I accidentally knocked over some Jesus candles (yes, I do not exaggerate, there are candles with Jesus’ face on them sold in the supermarket here) and after restoring them to their rightful place I deliberately scrunched up my face in a kind of ‘oops, my bad’ expression. There was nobody else in that aisle (otherwise I would have been less willing to pick up the aforementioned candle to examine it for further mocking potential) and not even a Catholic upbringing can make me believe that Jesus was judging me from his wax prison , so who was I pulling the face for? Maybe I did succeed in getting rid of my default face and I am just an angry bitch all the time …

maybe it’s just that Mexicans are nicer

My leg is sore. There is nothing unusual in this; my leg has been sore everyday since I was 12. I’ve got avascular necrosis of the femural head, which means that the top of my femur is dead and instead of being a lovely round ball shape it is a jaggedy mess. After 14 years you have to learn how to live despite being in some kind of pain all the time. There are, however, some days when it is just too sore to do anything and you can feel perfectly justified in giving in for the day. I have to be honest and say I really quite enjoy these days. I can ignore the washing, cooking and cleaning and not feel guilty about just staying in bed all day. At first these kind of days used to scare the hell out of me – ‘my god I will never walk again and my life will be ruined.’ I now have at least enough faith in my mental capabilities to not really be that bothered. I think being able to disappear into your own wee world is actually quite a useful skill in these kind of instances!

I have a tendency to get very angry at the existence of other people when I’m in a lot of pain (I turn into a self-obsessed emo kid with an ‘omg, noone understands me’ mentality). I do not want to have to explain myself and there is no way to distract me – just leave me alone with a supply of painkillers (and – yes I realise what a bad idea this is – some alcohol) and I may emerge as something akin to a human being in a few hours. Trust me, this is for your own safety.

Mexico City has actually been pretty understanding, surprisingly. I’m already getting stared at for being so pale that it doesn’t really occur to me that they’re looking at the limp or the crutch of whatever. I’m not even sure they are, because I’ve seen a lot of people with mobility problems here without the usual embarrassed look they tend to have in the UK. This is an incredibly strange thing: in the UK we have universal health care, equality laws protecting the disabled and increased access to buildings, transport, etc. Yet I feel an awful lot more comfortable here. Don’t get me wrong, you’re not gonna get much state help, the pavements are godawful to walk on and most disabled parking spaces have cones in front of them and are no bigger than a normal space. People are a hell of a lot nicer though; they don’t ask that extremely patronising question ‘what have you done to yourself then?’ (this question makes me want to punch you in the face till you cry btw). They rarely ask anything at all; they just seem to accept it. When I do struggle with my ‘la cabeza del fémur es muerta’ they don’t stare at me awkwardly and I really like being given the choice whether or not to have to explain myself to people. I fell outside of one of the supermarkets here and five mexicans came to help me up, help put my bags in the car and offered me drinks/painkillers/any help they could give. Now, I fell on ice in the middle of a road in the southside of Glasgow one winter and countless people and cars passed me. When I eventually got to the library I was supposed to be working at and said I needed to go the hospital I was informed about how inconvenient my absence would be for the staffing.

The above is obviously not the worst experience I had with work and AVN; the blessed chair-gate takes that wonderful honour. To explain a bit about the limitations of avn; I can’t walk or stand for very long. When I do either of these things I feel like someone is stabbing me in the hip joint with a rather large kitchen knife and it encourages my anger issues to surface once again. I asked for a chair to help stop me wanting to inflict equal pain on random people and waited over a year for one. Perhaps to justify myself a bit more (yes, things like this make me feel like I need to keep bloody justifying myself) I have never been to a doctor, nurse or any other medical professional who has not done a sympathetic head tilt and offered me any painkiller I so choose. It’s a proper medical condition for the love of God! However, the constant battle for something which would help make everyone’s life easier drained a lot of my faith in humanity. The mistrust from people and the idea that you are out to get some advantage is extremely disturbing. Another example: when I was a teenager I went to Disneyland not long after getting out from one my extended hospital stays. I had to use a wheelchair. In one of the bathrooms a woman starting yelling at me and telling me what a disgrace I was for using a chair when I didn’t need one ‘ain’t noone gonna put me in a chair before they have to’ etc. You get to skip the queues if you use a wheelchair in Disneyland.

I think that the more developed the state help with disability is, the less helpful individual people seem to be (I realise this is a fairly flawed idea – Russia is terrible on all fronts re: disability). Here in Mexico, what would the point of faking it be; you don’t get any obvious advantage. I think folk in the UK are turning on each other in times of recession and cut backs and constantly comparing themselves to others and judging whether or not you are ‘worthy’ of helping. There seems to be an air of mistrust and bizarre jealousy. Or maybe it’s just that Mexicans are nicer …

A Tale of Two Cities

I’m going to be honest, I don’t really understand most technology. The social awkwardness I feel going into a new restaurant where pretentious waiters refuse to explain a strange new way of dining or going to a gig where I am not personal friends with the band and everyone stares at you with that ‘you didn’t go to school/college/university/work with us – who the hell are you’ suspicion extends to cyber etiquette. I feel slightly like I’m taking a shit in someone’s back garden. It’s just that the need to find out if I can still mould ideas into coherent sentences is greater.

As the previous admission of social awkwardness may suggest, I am not always the most adventurous or confident of people and am usually in awe of the new. This has had to change; I upped sticks from Glasgow to Mexico City. Actually, my limited (despite the smugness I feel in class when I understand almost all of what’s going on) spanish has been a great help on this front; I won’t notice when people think I’m being an idiot (also, ‘idiot’ is easily synonymous with ‘foreign’ in this context). Having said that, people tend to smile and be a lot friendlier here. You go into a shop and stumble over your previously prepared statement and the assistants gibber back to you at an incomprehensible speed. ‘Lo siento,   solo hablo un poco español. ¿Puede habla mas despacio, por favor?’ does not slow them down, but it also doesn’t stop the smiling. I have worked with people back home who would be ready to punch someone for tripping over english when there’s a large queue behind them. Thus far I’ve only seen one gloomy bitch (in Superama) and a couple of truly unhelpful folk (at the pharmacy in Mega).

When I was back in Glasgow a couple of weeks ago the grey unfriendliest felt overwhelming. We’re known for being pretty damn friendly in UK terms but it fell so short of here. Folk in my close would desperately scurry up to their door if they heard the sound of another person’s footsteps; in my building here I would surprised if I saw someone and they *didn’t* say buenos días or buenas tardes/noches (there were only 4 floors in my close; 10 floors in the building here).

Now, I am not saying that I can sum up an entire people from the way some folks’ faces are arranged. ‘One may smile and smile and be a villain’ after all. I have seen enough corruption and backstabbing from said smiling villains first hand myself (never mind all the stuff I’ve read, particularly during election time) to have a bit of a growing suspicion. There seems to be a greater emphasis on show here – if you’re in a couple and not groping each other constantly it is assumed you hate each other. I’d like to know what’s under all of that, but I doubt I ever will really.

I doubt I will ever know most of this city and that is something that I love about this place. Having worked in almost every library in Glasgow I feel like I know the place pretty well. I feel like I’ve been to most of the places. I feel like I understand most of the people. Here I don’t have a clue and I constantly feel like there’s so much more to see and experience. A lot of it isn’t good, but as a devotee to the idea that I’m a child of Marx and Coca Cola I love the contrasts.