"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".
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.
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?
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