Sunday, 9 September 2018

Gayviation



Airports suck. Is it any surprise that celebrities take private jets? In fairness, I oughtn't complain because despite snuffling out the cheapest flight and obviously selecting 'zero' baggage, my credit card began to tremble as each of every 10 knuckles scuffed the floor as I hauled a puffy princess sleeping bag and another large hessian bag stuffed like cartoon popcorn with superfoods, magazines, books, peanut butter (for the protein crashes on a 2 hour flight obvs) and naturally the forbidden 2L bottle of water. In addition, strapped to a bulging rucksack was approximately a croc dundee straw hat, Birkenstocks from the free shop* and an inflatable mattress.

UK customs: STOP! *surrounded by armed police* I scream, and next thing I'm naked, Birkenstocks busted and bent over in ways yoga could never have taught.

Yet...

Spanish customs: Cabellero, no pasa nada.

No pasa nada, indeed. Flying high, luggage stuffed like foie gras under the seat in front of me because it's approximately 10 times the girth of the overhead rack. None of the stewardesses blink an eyelid. Gotta love Spain.

HOWEVER, the gaycation of these cheap thrills stopped abruptly as I surveyed the food hall (a total mis-moniker). Gillian McKeith would not be happy. In fact, I'm not sure which celeb chef/dodgy nutrition doctor would. In front of me is an ocean of plastics (obvs) and carbohydrates and the airport pootlers are lapping them up until they're literally blue in the face. Gross.

I find a speck of a  tienda sandwiched gracelessly between an overpriced hairdresser and the back of some dodgy foodchain. A middle-aged woman disgraces her post-yoga bod by hunching over the miso avocado bowl, defying the Botox by furrowing her brow in despair at her iPhone. I like it here. It's cool. Populating the shelves are smoothies, fresh juices, salads with sauerkraut, seaweed...the freakin' works. I pause my delight as I survey the Euros. Ah actually not bad. The thickies which are impressively embossed with a singular number as well as the name of the meal that they're replacing: 1 = Breakfast 2 = Mid-morning Munch 3 = Nourish ...but my heart temporarily stops as an elegant label displays that these babies will set you back 12 Euros a piece. A 60 Euro set of pureed meals is basically another flight with 25kg of luggage. So I'm sticking to salad. I'm throw in a cheeky pack of BIO FRUTOS SECOS (dried fruits actually translates to 'nuts') which are basically organic roasted cashews. Soon after, realising that they were 9 Euros, I swallow my shame and stomp back, tell the guy there's no way on God's green kale-strewn earth that cashew nuts were ever 9 Euros. He nods in agreement and hands me the coins that exhale in my hand.

Turns out that I could have got all this stuff, in less glamorous surroundings, for half the price around the corner in the Espanol version of EAT. They are advertising sandwiches a little too enthusiastically, in gigantic type with an urgent font. Note to EAT - Spain already has sandwiches. A lot. In fact, so many, that the pigs can't keep up. Look at them - comic pig legs lining the walls of every other airport tienda, while salivating Spaniards kebab the meat off, stick it in a gauged out "home made" baguette and call it a sandwich. Colonial Brits are still pests.

How did things become so uncivilised? A few hours before arriving in Madrid airport, I was chuntling through Seville airport (layovers are the dark side of cheap flights) convinced that hunger would be a stranger to me. Wrong. About 14 minutes before the Boarding Call, a demonic hunger arose in me worthy of a mention in something like the Bible. And the only thing I could find that was approximating the logo FOOD was a cold slice of pizza topped with the bargain basement phrase, Med veg. It felt healthier as I chased it down with the old reliable H2O.

It's no wonder that when we're ejected from the flight via some craning plastic tunnel that a feeling of relief drenches us, like the inverse of vomiting. We are released from the satanic glass cage of the airport halls, the constant bonging of 3 languages that inform us in all certainty that it will not tell us the flight details. It insists - "You must check the screens". Just tell us, asshole! We're all chomping Ritalin to ease the shattered senses, the prodding, the belt and sandal removal, the compulsion of guilt as we pass under the chalk grey obelisks that may BOOP! at any moment and before we know it, a far too attractive security guard is pulling out the half digested Med veg pizza instead of the imagined marijuana, patting us on the bottom to reassure us that it's finally OK to leave.

Keep It Gay

In an attempt to alleviate the doom-laden scenes of everyone pretending this is normal - no, enjoyable - I head to the Tom Ford stand. In department stores in England, no-one would approach me looking the way I did. But happily the Spanish still know that we're human and are happy to mist me endlessly in blousy wafts of violet flowers, jasmine, tobacco and vanilla essence...knowing that the closest I'll get to acquiring these heavenly aromas is a mere scribble of Santa's wish list. She doesn't care. To make it more professional and ethnobotanical, I ask her if the fragrances are natural or synthetic. Maintaining eye contact, she offers nat-ural in that amazing syllabic way as I feebly donate sint├ętico to remind her she's probably lying. We speak in broken English and Spanish. I want her to be my friend. Only if she has free samples.

I want flowers. I want fruit trees. I want pineapples. I want salad growing off the f*cking walls. This is what my body is screaming for as I push down the feelings with an oversized slice of flan at Paul's. And a hot chocolate that comes from a machine. I even PAY a machine as the handsome but dreadfully bored Spanish assistant gesticulates to a large black machine on my left that I am oblivious to...with a blinking red line, eager to satanically gobble my coins. Well, Mr Capitalism, I'm not quite sure why staff are still even necessary except to bark orders and swan around with fraying patience. Unless the automaton need human friends in order to work? Is the future Support Work for lonely robots? Min wage still. Forget it.

Bog Off

For laughs and being half-serious, I order the Hindu Vegetarian meal on Iberian. It never comes. I look more attractive in their loo mirrors than I ever done in ANY aeroplane toilet EVER. I love Spain. The black girl who is serving us is utterly beautiful, and I restrain myself from telling her that she ought to consider modelling as I realise that I am a model scout for no-one. I write frantically next to 2 burly Spanish men, the nearest of which oozes hair from every part of him that isn't swaddled in man-textile. He can't take his eyes off the furious motion of my nib and, suspicious that he can understand the words, I write in psychiatric doctor scrawl. When I revisit the article to upload on my blog, I have no idea what it says.

I used to buy weekend papers just for the supplements. Partially because I'm shallow with little attention span, and partially to see the ways of the rich and attempt to imitate them. That worked quite well. Now my day, except for the minimum wage part, flows like maybe a C Lister; two daily yoga workouts interspersed with HIIT, superfood smoothies on top, Paleo salad, organic produce from the garden, monthly chamomile enemas, astrology consultations to keep me on track. Off-the-scale anxiety. And I think everyone should live this way. Because it is solid and good, and makes you feel alive. Why can't airports reflect that, instead of bunging us up with all manner of carbon-hydrogen stodge that only brings horror to the colonic therapist? Those choc chips get bloody stuck up there.

Rehab

It's time to de-clog the system... starting with airports aka vast greenhouses. It's time to use all the shit and piss from air travel to do some good - feed the fruit trees that are yet to grow in the vast areas around the flight paths. It's time to get some mycelium spelunking its way underneath that tarmac and bring some beauty back to what is defiantly the largest contributor to carbon, and carb ahem, emissions - air travel. With such a genteel and light combination of words, air travel - if someone upsets you today, turn away and say air travel and your troubles will disappear - how can it be, you ask as you insert another bagel into your bouche. Airports are basically doing to the planet what the tree-ripping-out scene did to you in 3D Avatar when you hid your face so no-one could see you weeping like a kitten. You are the leader of this new world. You have a SOUL!

With your help, I need to find out who owns these airports and bring on a showdown of compost, volcanic dust, raised beds, petunias, wild strawberries...the whole permaculture shebang. If nasty skin-tight uniforms on the overweight staff can pass Health & Safety, and espresso-swigging policemen can keep their trigger finger alert and twitching, then it's time to keep it real with real food, real prices, real water, real life. The world musn't become Call of Duty. Air travel. I want more prayer rooms, more yoga rooms, a meditation pop up, a guru in swashbuckling robes that reminds us to feel in the in-breath and be as light as air in our impact of the earth. Out with the vending machines with their 4.50 Euro water and in with fountains, complete with ornate Grecian-style dolphins and lion's manes. OK, you take the point. Just say no. To Toblerones. No-one wants one although they might coo wickedly at the idea while thinking of Julie Andrews leap-frogging over cows in the Alps. They just make the roof of your mouth sore.

If you want to see the state of airports improved and for them to become future examples of stewarding the environment, offsetting their own emissions, please add your name to my petition (coming soon). Let's make Britain, and the world, GREAT again! Air travel.




Thursday, 26 July 2018

Karma Chameleon

Shimmer on Water Shoshonah Dubiner                                                                                                                                                                  cybermuse.com

I live a double life. One part is enchanted with scent, songs, folding laundry, cooking, being in my garden or in a bubble bath, looking at really close-up things, stretching my body, learning the piano, tweezing. The other goes out to work, brings home the bacon, often cooks the bacon in a cafe I thoroughly dislike, or bashes away at bamboo roots outside houses whose owners pay good money for horticultural titillation. We all have these double lives, right? For so long I considered that I must be strange, peculiar, depressed. I don't connect easily with others. I rush home, or to a fitness class, after work for that lovely haven to drench me with the things I love.

I am deeply fascinated with life and what it means to be alive, to perceive, to touch, to think critically, to taste.  My body is a riddle, a vessel, and our bodies are just a drop in the ocean of who we are, full of fluid clues. I am fascinated with what makes me (and others) tick, with what lies beneath the semi-ridiculous material facade. I wonder if the material world is entirely incidental, just an accumulation of choices.

Feather Pillows

TONIGHT my bike, a gift from my dad a few years ago, was stolen. Reading a few books on angel presences that a friend lent to me, and skeptical about appearances of these angels in every day life, there it was in front of me, as my friends consoled me - another feather on the ground, defying me to remember that it's all, well, small potatoes really. How could I be angry? My body was still, contemplative. I've learnt this year to keep my cool because it's in these strange crevices of life that real life seems to lurk. What's to be learnt in the puzzle today?

Nothing Ever Happened

For as far back as I can remember, life has been such a complex puzzle for me. A supremely self-conscious child and teenager, I wondered why on earth I was in a snoozing suburb of Manchester with parents who didn't look a thing like me, or my sister. They often joked that my sister and I were found under a cabbage leaf but my child-mind wondered what the cabbage looked like and where it was. As a newborn baby, I couldn't even accept my mother's milk, neither cow's milk. My digestion wasn't ready for this, not ready to belong. Some cellular cosmic part of me belonged elsewhere. The boys at school, in the street, knew it and teased relentlessly. Unkind people still do.

Naturally, then, taking flight in the world has been fraught with hellish times, financial difficulty and a willful galvanisation to find what, where and with whom I belong. I, my body and I, exhaled, deeply, soulfully, at Sunseed , a sustainability project where I spent a year. From the moment of my arrival, there was no question of my oddness, my to-ing and fro-ing between the deeply male and female parts of myself, the bird of paradise style yellow blonde mohican hair, the colourful clothes. We were all the same, and very different and unique. I bawled like a baby when it was time to leave. The morning I left I sung a moving goodbye and my beloved community all lifted me in the air on their hands and arms as my voice clamped shut with tears of relief. For the first time in my entire life, I felt like I belonged. I belonged. Yet, I had to move on and follow the challenge of finding my tribe outside of that dreamy bubble.

From that sandy stratosphere, it's a nose-dive into planet earth again but this time, I had a voice and I had found my spirit-feet. I headed to the Algarve where I met other gay guys in Portugal who showed such kindness, a reaction among the gay community I had never felt before. The crevice of insecurity that runs in minority groups ironically can trigger such cruelty especially when one of its members mirrors those insecurities, or simply fails to conform to its brittle conventions. So for now, I wafted around, I ate small snails with garlic, cleaned the pool, worked out. I was a welcome guest. I liked so much being a guest but it was borrowed time. My feet were hovering above ground.

We often speak of trauma  as a bad thing. If something's traumatising, what follows must be something deleterious and irrecoverable. And yet, what if the scars of trauma are necessary for a hard pruning of the spirit? Where is the point at which we break? Only we, as individuals - or, adults - can know. I often justify stress because the outcome is learning all the time how to be kinder. Is it a deceit? Is kindness the same as learned behaviour on how to be polite, hidden? I was unhappy with so much and for so long, while constantly working and thankfully distracted on becoming happier. I'm happy dancing wildly to loud music. I'm profoundly happy singing jazz and blues songs. I'm very happy when I bounce on a trampoline. And written words are my world, while conversation can knacker me out. I'll do my best to make you laugh, though, cus I love to make you smile. Is happy the only gauge I have?

Future People

This weekend, I say a final farewell to my childhood home. A few months ago, in preparation, my family and I watched footage of childhood holidays and Christmas and birthdays, and I marveled curiously at the smiling boy on screen while my heart unexpectedly sunk; the colours, the indescribable browns and greys of it, the smallness of it, my mum's oversized tinted glasses. What didn't she want to see, or look at dimly? This was pre-internet, where a children's birthday party was literally your semi-detached living room with a record player which your mum switched on and off by hand for sleeping statues. I felt at once tremendously sad, and also full of gladness that the little boy I could see, me, was not bothered one single jot. The past is firmly in the past.

I serve so many seniors at the cafe and they move almost as slow as sleeping statues. They reach for their purses as if penetrating lunar dust with thick white boots, perhaps the might required against the youthful gravity of life. They quickly confuse with the jangling clinking coins in there, they wonder exactly what amount their goods came to. And a part of me wriggles again, and fights against this impatience, and bodily complains. Why? Do I envy their slow ways? How do they get anything done? Am I sad that they are dying? Here we are, face to face, occupying the same world that is planets apart. We can learn from each other. Do we?

The modern mind at once values speed and efficiency, haring around like diarised lunatics. For the thrill, to conquer, to continue, in a contemporary way, the Victoriana that my grand-dad and his brutal peers propagated almost 100 years ago. The colonial, the learned hunter, imagines that everything in-sight and on the horizon belongs to him, if only he could arrive there, even covered in sweat, or blood, even half-dead. He, we, did it. And the world, temporarily, is ours. Is mine. But it never happens that way, because there's always one more corner to turn, one more door to open. Without sugar, my morphine, I need to learn how to be softer and more light-hearted in my navigation. The stamina he thinks he has is just a nerve-gas of second, or even third, wind. Then, the stillness of my miniature pond delights and stills me, its glass reflection of the grasses that surround it and the immovable sky. I could stagnate here. I sometimes pretend that, outside of the garden fence, nothing is of much importance.

CANTERBURY this is my hymn to the mostly appalling 9 months of life that you have birthed through me. The Hebrew tarot-style cards showed me last summer, when I asked about my fate, they showed me an image of a man diving into a blue pool. They showed me the word "excellence" and "courage" and my imagination roared with possibilities of how excellent I could be. I fell at the hurdle, I didn't prosper...I scraped by, ticking or barely scratching boxes. Did my spirit survive? Barely, but I am here and only fools dismiss this as extravagant nonsense, as over-reaction. A friend took her life, my nana contracted pneumonia (recovered), I smashed my leg (fully recovered), I got tennis elbow (almost recovered), my hairline continued to recede. I can call no-one here a close friend. I have stuck to my old friends through WhatsApp and trips; I have stuck to social media, to those I admire and who inspire me. Praise be to technology, to music, to natural beauty. To dreams that keep our body alive when, darkly, the spirit whispers of a better place.

What now? Will I return to the Masters in September? Do I want another harrowing year? I considered myself the luckiest guy in the world until the end of 2018 but then the circus tent caved in on itself. Now the fun, the real fun, can begin...without masks, without etiquette or shame. My spirit reminds me that I came to conquer, not the world, but myself through an urgent and profound need to self-actualise. No excuses. What does that mean? No idea, but I guess it looks like another layer of authenticity, really looking at myself and my life and being fully accountable in a way that is alien and new to me, terrifying. Community was wonderful in its way, but it was too easy to be invisible. The masked hero is but a coward. The real one has wrinkles, scars, trauma, deep regret, a hearty soulful laugh and a veiny love for life that isn't swayed by a dose of bad luck.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Hard Work

"Endo", cybermuse.com

It's my birthday exactly a month today. I'll be 37 and by that age I should expect myself to understand what working hard means. Hard work. But I'm none the wiser.

There's a notion of swimming through the day, breath held and vision blurred by water over our eyes. Our legs push away the water behind us, arms outstretch to pull the water towards us, to affect motion and immediately realise that there is no back and forth; just a vast expanse of water that we're trying to orient in. We're not really going anywhere. Just moving, trying not to exhale.

We've chosen the elements of this gigantic fish tank, or somehow they've appeared anyway. There's the obligatory brightly coloured castle, the bridge, the fake grass, the sand and pebbles at the bottom. And we come up for air, for food. We don't know who feeds us but it tastes good and we're satisfied once we have our fill. 
Discombobulation

The bulging to-do lists that knock on our doors - insert anything relevant to you here - seems irrelevant if the basic architecture of care is absent. When I find myself grumbling that there's just too much to do or too little time, I must be tethered to another person's calibration of time. We all must take as long or as little as it takes. Sure, we could show up at the right time, rushed, out of breath, hot, flustered, de-centred...but what then are we able to give of our true selves to any particular situation? 

We weren't made for 'work' but worth. We are worth more than the demands that life places on us. The moment it all gets heavy, we can lose our ability to be playful and ourselves. And wake up when we're older, finally come up for air, glad to retire so we can figure out who we once were and get help to find a trail back to ourselves. 

I don't like the coaxing and ushering I attempt when I have an essay deadline looming or something pressing. I'm not a fan of force after many years of forcing showed me the suffocation of holding my breath for far too long; I never missed an undergrad lecture, for example. I was never late or sick for work. That brutalising voice of musts. And inevitably I woke up very sick and sad and couldn't quite remember my joy. I'm still in the process of piecing the exhausted self I destroyed back together. While I can still say 'yes' to everything that somebody asks or keep up with the infrastructure of my small life demands, I know that doing so is detrimental. 

Outer Space

Time and again, I see evidence that our natural being and selves reside in joy, in ease, in playfulness, in enjoyment of the world in spite of what is happening externally. Our processing is always internal, the dream world through sensory experience, through taste, thoughts, feelings, connection to ideas and others. Perhaps the hardest work in every day is finding that head space, the body space, to create a pool of absolute stillness - to begin with feeling, to be guided with a natural compulsion to succeed rather than a contrived one. 

Matching and correlating that internal idyll with the perceived world is no easy thing. And at times, I've felt like I could never match it. But it's made infinitely harder by forgetting or ignoring its importance; when we do, the day becomes this dreadful guessing game of what's right or wrong, what's good or bad, shoulds and shouldn't according to other voices. Looking outside ourselves because we have made clear to the inner voice that we distrust it or think it's less worthy than feeding it with outside ideas. 

We're deeply connected with each other and our environment. The authenticity and value of those connections is greatly enhanced by our ability to respect our own experience, attitudes, values and find them all a seat at the table. Only then can true innovation, creativity and easy breathing come. 

Saturday, 3 February 2018

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"You're one of the most dissatisfied people I've ever met,
said one character in Prime's Transparent last season, words that rumbled and resonated with me since. That haunting hooking quality of those unexpected occasional phrases, the jangling that they create, is being investigated by the mind way before the brain catches up. Similarly, a friend said at the pub last year, as she was approaching fifty: "You can see patterns as you look back through your life, patterns that point to who you really are".

Pavement Cracks

I'm seeing a peculiar pattern in my own behaviours that is distressing. I'm being reminded, especially recently, by this droning low mood, that something in life isn't quite constellating. I drift to memories of the summer, in a picturesque forest garden, an arch of climbing roses at the entrance. The horror hoops I passed through, the risks I took to get there. I think about the despair that took me to a cheap package holiday abroad so I could sort out my life a few years earlier. The result was the start of a life, or a chapter, in southern Spain. The final few pages as I remember, without irony, how little I wanted that unforgiving sun in November.

I look back at the time I spent at the Sunseed community, and how much bliss, amongst the challenges, was there. I think about the horror of art school before then, how uncomfortable I was, how I drifted, vaguely and drastically unable to focus. And just a few years before, the awkward stays at strangers houses while I was WWOOFing, not a clue what the difference is between a spade and fork, peculiar exchanges between hosts - one, a trained psychotherapist - where the tears wouldn't stop. What had she undone within me. And inevitably the end of that adventure to take a minimum wage job in England, to save again, to go back at it again, try again to get on the train that I liked to imagine was missing me.

Bare

I think about my difficulty as a graduate, with the flamboyant outfits, the teasing, the dis-comfort and un-ease within myself. The identity crises, the lack of boyfriends, the hours with magazines and music. The car crash year out after that, in which I gathered the odd pieces of my life after a brief stint at fashion college in the Big Smoke went disastrously wrong. Where I cried non-stop for almost 10 days. Where I couldn't look in the mirror or, rather, when I did, I couldn't see who was returning my gaze. The full-time summer of saving, serving coffee and pastries endlessly, to save for my Canada Water houseshare, all over in the blink of a banal undetectable trip back from London Euston to Rochdale. I responded by spending my last London money on singing lessons in Manchester and practised melodies from a very bleak Annie Lennox album.

The goth years at college, blank and uncomfortable. Skin caked in white make up, homemade black oversized outfits. Leather boots. The angst-ridden poetry. Where was I? Where was my spirit? An old photo of when my friend and I went to a Greek island after the exams,how I look a mess. But I tried. I tried to write, to connect, to paint, to sing, to get fit, to speak French, to be a human, more at ease. But something was never right, and I never knew what it was. I put it down to the difficulty of growing up. Stability would come soon, I knew. A job, the elusive feeling of easiness. Did I remember when I last felt that?

17 Again

Today? As always, the fine calibration of my emotions means the slightest thing sends me spinning into the ether, for days, weeks. I'm floored. The drama queen, apparently, the over-reactor, the 'old man' as my mum would call me when I expressed dissatisfaction as a child.

On an around-the-world ticket, trying to be the healthiest I could be, I was a screwed up mess. Jobs were difficult to come by. Money a constant concern. Relief, temporary, from food and occasional sexting someone I didn't intend to meet. I took up bikram yoga. I wrote astonishingly brutal, crude and long emails to friends. I couldn't bring myself to go to gay clubs. No-one was ugly there. A guy I dated firmly reminded me that I was not a pretty boy.

Despite all this terrible sequence of events, I am despicably happy when some of my smallest needs are met, namely - s p a c e. The primal frontier. Space gives me sanity. A bath (usually over 90 minutes), silence or singing, doing absolutely and utterly nothing. And then, like a wild fox cub's little snout sniffing the air to come out, deep joy from this incredible natural well uprises. And for those precious moments, like now, I feel utterly at-ease, sane, of sound mind, normal. What on earth yanks me away from this?

Travelling has always knocked me sideways for miles; when I arrived in San Francisco after a 13 hour flight from Sydney, the waitress's expression captured everything I didn't dare believe when I caught my reflection somewhere. I'm so easily dismantled, devastated. Recently, back in Autumn, I took a 3.5 hour round trip to see an exposition on British woodland. The following day, despite a lie-in, I looked exhumed. Haggard, one person said to me. Safe to say, I have minus resilience. WTF am I going to do? How can I live this way?

My True Love

Get real is advice I've often received and binned. I feel authentically real, "too" real and 'too' able to feel, to sense. It's psychic TMI. The generic advice we hear a lot is that we should all feel more, turn to those in need more, give more; but how can we turn to anyone else when we feel such distress? What can we possibly have to give? This constant feeling forces me to feel and act like the selfish one, the abrupt one, the aloof one, as I struggle to just get up and gather a feeling of normalcy. If other people share this feeling, then no wonder many of us want to be left alone, to our own devices, lost with our earphones plugged in, glued to our screens. Thank God for the internet. Some of us are magically and terribly dissolving in the presence of others, the many voices, the many priorities, the many to-do's of the day, when all we want to do is - breathe, stop. And then, eventually - ah, go again.

I'm studying a part-time Masters supporting myself with part-time work that doesn't, in any way, support my highest values. Without a drip of hyperbole, the moment I enter one place - relentless artificial lights, an unrelenting pace of work, the 15 minute pump of the artificial air freshener. The dress down Fridays, the half empty bottles of Dr Pepper on desks and empty cans of Red Bull dead in the bins, the kind smiling tone thinly veiling the relentless urgency of the tasks. I reach for a coffee, a sugary snack, anything, to push the feelings away although there've been constant promises to myself to listen and respond more attentively. For my sanity, I wonder if UBI has yet been invented and am I entitled. I commit to playing the weekly lottery.  I take some breaks in the large unused disabled loo, lights off, doing Legs Up The Wall pose, Head Down Dog and taking deep breaths. Because I have to be here, at least for a few more months, as I pay for my post-grad. Does this skew my feelings about study?

I Saved The World Today

My hands are tied to try anything more in attempts to be better at this. I've always gone out "as the actress" because I value decency and kindness and our lives here far too deeply to not show up, to not engage my patience. I pushed through every undergraduate panic attack to attend every lecture. I pushed through the unease as I imagined the other side would offer something more golden, less frantic. I get a lot, "You're so happy" and I just smile. I'm hopeful and in love with life on earth, its wonders, its true beauty. Despite our complex use of the "natural world", its presence in my life has ushered my spirit to be strong, calm, full of courage. To strive for nothing really, just sit and look. Yet the architecture of the human side I have so desperately tried to want and belong to and need to inhabit smarts on me, the constant stream of anxiety about income or rather, the value and self-worth attached to a profession, a vocation. At 36, might I have to let that go? What now?

A Thousand Beautiful Things

This weekend I'm back home visiting my sick grandma in her room as she recovers from second round of pneumonia. Just her and I, we sat side by side, her in an easy chair, a close up of her snowy flossy hair, my warm hands on hers. We said little, sometimes just before she nodded off she seemed to access something deeper within herself where I could ask more intimate questions about how well she was, if she was being 'called' by those she had lost. And that gorgeous joy of life again, the authenticity of this slow, beautiful, entirely familiar and unstrange moment, creeps into the two of us. We are connected without contrivance, without etiquette or the superimposition of any other world; no plastic happiness, but a palpable real-ness. I ask her gently, as she is half awake half asleep, if she feels looked after, cared for. And she tells me that she has the world. And for that moment, firmly, we both do.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Night Hungry

"Baby we both know
That the nights were mainly made for saying things that you can't say tomorrow day" - "Do I Wanna Know?", Arctic Monkeys
Self-portait, 2012

Before going to sleep, I enter this dream state where everything seems a little clearer than it does when I wake up. It all starts to dawn from 5pm. Now it's approaching 1am and here I am unable to sleep because I'm excited about getting ready for tomorrow's party. Trying on outfits earlier, automatically I plump for a soft Foxy Brown-esque alter ego - it never occurs to me to go as a boy. I went for a baby pink afro and leopard dress.

My Big Fat Greek

A few years ago when I was invited to a fancy dress party - the invite vaguely said, "Come as someone European" - I went as a Greek bride. It wasn't until I entered the Hall at the last moment - in my local average town - that it dawned on me that a full bride's outfit was a step further than others had gone.

A few years ago, around the same time as now, I spent the day with a treasured friend and we made videos as different characters; her a Halifax mum of two, me Beau Bow, an Amy Winehouse-esque East End girl who played Heads Up! on my phone (a digi take on charades). We had tremendous fun, laughing all afternoon, no shame or embarrassment (or similar) from me whatsoever. It felt so natural.
Heads Up

I've always had a habit of wearing hats. I've always felt super exposed without a hat on and it resulted in becoming an apprentice for 18 months to the fabulously eccentric Mrs King in Hebden Bridge then taking on a commission for a local theatre. Wigs seems like the next best thing. I've considered a helmet but that is a step too far. I wanted a big glass fish bowl, like an astronaut. Maybe next party.

Heavens Above

So now when I ask the heavens, as I am always inclined to do, to show me where my happiness lies, it asks me to surrender. And uncover the cause of my dissatisfaction, the reason to scratch an itch I can't seem to find the origins of. As a teen, I would be drawn to documentaries on transvestites and transsexuals, dated labels they had 10 years ago. Fast forward to a time where the word trans is much more in the every day sphere and the subject is no less fascinating to me. And, in conversation, my nana still refers to me as 'she'. No-one corrects her, including me. My BFF made the slip the other day and I enjoy it.

Self-portait. Mexilhoeira Grande, 2015
To be clear, it's never appealed to me to be trans. Or dress in women's clothes for sexual pleasure. My journey through gender as a child is well-documented on this blog and now as a adult, a real proper man adult on my way to 40, I still wonder about identity and its fluidity, the massive spectrum. The most brutal procedure I chose was at 18 when my facial hair began to thicken. I underwent painful laser surgery to have it removed. Once blisters healed and all the hair fell out, I couldn't have been more content as my fingers stroked a smooth face. But it soon returned and I couldn't face, or afford, more treatment.

Earlier, on holiday at 14 or 15, horrified at the sight of my legs getting hairier, I just felt humiliated, somehow. As if my body had let me down, that's the closest I can describe it. I feel very differently now and appreciate body hair but what a peculiar turn around. And what the catalyst? I really have no idea. But if my niece were to feel out of sorts and "like a boy", for this reason alone I would advise waiting, seeing how those feelings transform so the physical body doesn't have to undergo life-changing surgeries or lifelong medications.

On the badminton or tennis court, or when I am weight lifting, the hilarious thing is that I feel my most aggressive, the most cis-gendered. My muscles respond very quickly, I am super competitive and I bellow despair and victories. And then, off-court, a transformation - the elegant dancer, maybe, the studious reserved reader, the loner.

I'm still dangerously in love with the myth of the man. Recently, experiencing a friend opening the door for me, holding my shopping bags, paying for lunch...I was absolutely thrilled. I have never experienced that and I felt so in my role, he so in his. As much as I question the Hollywood-fed love mythology around us in films, storybooks, theatre, I am its victim well and truly. Not intellectually, but hormonally, bodily.

In relationships, the EQ levels of the partners I've had had altered, depending on the moment and the person as it will with opposite sex couples. In the last serious relationship, coming out of the shower with a turban towel around his head and another bath sheet pulled up under is armpits, I was forced to laugh then become to the archetypal man. I felt genuinely moved to care for him and treat him tenderly, and vice versa when I entered a softer mode. Beautiful, really.

Self-portait, Lancashire 2017
And so I continue to be in love with the idea of love, of the 2 doves, the swans, the elegance and intimacy of 2 people together, the private nest in the sky as clouds pass by. Tomorrow night, I will boogie with my girls as a the foxiest girl, absorbing all the attention that falls on me from the men who for one night only will hold all the glamour and restraint of the vintage men from the Fitzgerald books I cherish so dearly. And as the morning must come, so will reality again with its shattered slipper and stack of books and pdfs to read for uni; the soil, the flowers, the seaweed will call again to a person dressed simply as a man who no-one would suspect is still a girl underneath, somehow. A 2-4-1 Human Being. How cool.