I wrote a few months ago about how I started writing a story sixteen years ago, and how, despite thinking I was incapable of finishing it, I realised recently I had in fact written much more of it than I remembered. After that point, I decided to get serious about the story. To commit to it. And then I realised how much more work there was to do on it to get to where it needed to be. With an uneasy mixture of disappointment and determination, I resolved to complete my first book in 2022.
And then, yesterday, on the second day of 2022, I realised that, actually, I already have.
So that was a weird paradigm shift.
I have in no way completed the story. But I have passed the natural conclusion of the first book, and sunk my toes deep into the fertile soil of the second. And, contrary to what my very serious self had been telling me, I don’t need to fundamentally change that first book. I had convinced myself I needed to fit the vision of the entire story into the first book, rather than just allowing it to be what it is. But, of course, the first book has its own vision, and it declared it to me quite cheerfully over Christmas. Once I accepted that, I was able to see that it already has all the pieces it needs. It is, at its heart, complete.
So I’ve written a book. First draft anyway. Well, more of a first-and-a-half draft. Well, okay, some bits are already a fourth or a fifth draft. I started it a long time ago, okay?
I don’t know exactly how long it will take me to finish typing the fucker up, let alone buffing all the dents out. But it is clear that my timescale has drastically reduced from initial projections.
Would you perhaps prefer to save your most cringe-inducing confessions for a private journal, instead of plastering them on the unforgiving coastal rockface of the internet where, one day, when you least expect it and perhaps have more to lose, they could be dredged up and aired out in front of a cold and harshly judging audience?
No, I’d prefer it if it turned out Polaris was in love with me. And I would prefer it if it turned out I was in love with him. Not the ideal version of him that exists in my imagination, but the actual person that I can’t claim to know. And, I promise, it’s not because I’ve been watching fucking Christmas rom-coms. Wait, it’s not, is it?
I have long become comfortable with it not happening, of course.
I am not especially concerned with the packaging my future fucking life partner is wrapped within. They certainly don’t have to be him. But they do have to be a lot of things. Things I (probably inaccurately) associate with him, and have yet to associate with anybody else.
So the problem is this – and, maybe, like the mechanic stuff, this’ll seem less like the case when my son is older; maybe this is just a phase of my existence where I am destined to be romantically unattached, with hands devoid of tools – finding someone I don’t yet know to build a fucking life with just sounds like so much fucking trouble. Finding someone who meets the fucking criteria is just such a fucking hassle.
Love is not an issue. Love is fucking abundant. I have no trouble loving. She fucking says. I just can’t be bothered to build up trust. I can’t be bothered to invest time in someone who might not be where I am. I can’t be bothered to go through all the motions of developing the relationship in a fucking healthy and appropriate manner. I have enough of that in my dreams, for fuck’s sake. It would be such a relief to skip merrily through that part, because the person who my brain has already been rewired to unconditionally revere, coincidentally, turns out to be worthy and reciprocating of that in such a way that it facilitates a real world, physical reality, human relationship. That’d be nice, eh?
A year and a half ago, my ex – in some vague attempt to maybe, kind of, get me back, but not really, just maybe see if I was available, I don’t know, just find out, theoretically, if that could be an option, you know, if he decided that he wanted it to be, he wasn’t sure, just putting the feelers out – said it would be so much easier if we were together. And, as much as that didn’t make me swoon, I empathise. I would like things to be easier too.
For me, though, the logistics aren’t the issue. The logistics pale in comparison to the emotional labour. So I don’t much care if I have to cross oceans. I just want someone I would happily cross oceans for. But, more importantly, I want someone who has earned my crossings, so…
I don’t think I’m going to be able to take the easy way out. I think I have to go through the hassle.
I’ve been watching a lot of low brow Christmas rom-coms lately. Let me specify; I’ve watched four. So far. It’s just seemed like the right course of action. So be it. The last one I watched had particularly bad writing, but I went along with it anyway, I stuck in there and, yes, I needed a couple of time-outs to collect myself when the plot holes were just too jarring, or the drama just too unnecessarily artificial, but I still found myself clapping, dancing, giggling with glee, and otherwise being just very silly at multiple points throughout, alone in my house with no-one to witness.
And I like it. I like the simple joy of it. I like that I can access it with such little provocation. I feel accomplished that I have reached the point where I am so easily pleased. Because I am a fucking complex character, and allowing my mind to enjoy simple, unanalysed pleasures was not exactly written into my programming.
But there’s a weird yet predictable thing that happens when I catch myself being so joyfully, needlessly silly. Because I do like it about myself, and the observer within me enjoys to witness it. But some different part – the analyst, I would posit – immediately wonders what other people would think about it. And veers off on a tangent wondering why we aren’t all like that around each other. Because surely I’m not the only one being so weird and silly when no-one’s around. It’s even a device used in the very films I’ve been watching to endear characters to the audience. So why is it socially unacceptable when people are around? Why can’t I feel comfortable being joyfully, needlessly silly in front of people who aren’t my four year old son? Even with people who I know, rationally, love and accept me for who I am; I’m not going to fully unleash my joyful, needless silliness upon them. Presumably because I don’t want to test it. Because I’m not sure they are quite so weird and silly behind closed doors. I have a suspicion that their weird and silly stops far short of my own, and revealing the true extent of my fucking weird silliness would somehow alienate them.
Why? Why is the world this way? Because I am nothing more than a not-so-neatly packaged product of it, so I can’t take full responsibility. But I don’t think we were supposed to stop playing.
I mean, I do very, very silly things in very, very public places with my son (and sometimes other stranger-children who join us, like that kid who demanded I be a moaning, eyes-half-closed zombie rampaging around the middle of a bustling Newcastle square. Your wish is my command, Child-I-Have-Never-Met-Before). But the truth is, I would like to do those very, very silly things in very, very public places without my son, without any reason, and I am (many would argue, quite fucking rightly) simply too scared. The only time any of us ever seem to do that is when we’re in a pack, and that pack is still largely shunned by the rest of society.
But imagine a world designed for adults that play! That is a world I want to experience.
I have an email from a friend that is long overdue a reply. I’ve been sitting on it for months at this point. And now I’m writing about it in a blog post before I’m actually going to reply. How embarrassing. Mainly, the reason I haven’t replied is that, like most of my social obligations lately, I only seem capable of remembering about it at times when I can’t act upon it (mainly in the middle of the night). But the other reason is that, in the email, he made a perfectly fair criticism of Sufjan Stevens in the context of our conversation – basically along the lines of his music isn’t that sad – and the one time I did remember at an opportune moment, I looked at that criticism and, in trying to form a response, was so flooded with Sufjan fangirl feels that I couldn’t cope with it and had to go away.
Now, prone to fangirling as I am, I am a person who, when a completely different friend said he felt disappointed with the outro of a Tame Impala song, emphatically retorted, without missing a beat, ‘yeah but that’s how he wants you to feel!’
…Oh really, Yve? Have you discussed this specifically with Kevin Parker, have you? Did you have a nice little one-on-one zoom chat about the minutiae of his musical intentions?
I probably get a bit carried away defending the artists I have chosen to deify as sublime vessels of Universal consciousness. Maybe take it a little bit too personally. So I’m going to catch myelf and not send my friend a long-winded essay on the virtues of Sufjan Stevens. No, apparently I’m going to gush about him on my blog, instead.
This is gonna be a niche read.
There are some Sufjan songs that provide instant, easy access but, for the most part, he demands labour. Which is why, with little spare bandwidth and precious few hours to devote, I had failed to enter the sanctum of his album The Ascension back when it was released in September 2020. What I did do was immediately wrap myself in one single song – Video Game – on a sort of infinite loop. It became my mantra and my armour. A sonic touchstone, orienting me through challenging territory. I listened to the rest of the album a few times, but I could tell it wasn’t reaching me, because it didn’t yet sound like a thing of revelatory beauty. And I for sure had more faith in Sufjan’s ability to deliver that than my own ability to receive it.
Then, the other day, while I was driving to pick my son up, I remembered the forgotten email. So, I decided, not to set up some kind of reminder to email later, but instead to listen to The Ascension. And, heading over the Newcastle Swing Bridge, five songs in, I thought fuck, I want to live in this. Not the bridge, although I do find it charming; The Ascension.
A few trips later, The Ascension now the infinite loop, I realised this was the Sufjan album I’d been waiting for.
I am a Sufjan fangirl for many reasons. His voice is my ASMR. He embodies himself in such a way that he’s fundamentally inspiring to me in his very existence. He’s just kind of brilliant. But also, he is a person who has surely peered into The Abyss. And he didn’t run from it, and he didn’t let its vast horror break him, he just stood his ground, seeing it. At least, that’s my perception. And in his songs, I hear the strength of that, but there’s also always been a fragility. The limitation of trauma, perhaps. Self-aware ego. An admission that he can’t go all the way to where he wants to go. In The Ascension, he goes. Somewhere, at least. Maybe not that place, or maybe not all the way, I don’t know, it’s audacious of me to even speculate this much, but in the right direction. It’s not that everything’s good, or that he’s safe, or that he’s saved, but there’s a subtle shift of that last remnant of fragility to something else. Perhaps to deliberate vulnerability. Which, paradoxically, makes that part of him invulnerable.
There’s a certainty on the album; a directness; a willingness to talk about one single thing and let it be known. Where in the past he defied boundaries and deftly, stubbornly represented a multidimensional view of everything he touched upon, in an almost evasive way, here he is comfortable communicating ‘this is what it is’. And there is something more transcendent about that for me. Like his humanity integrated with his divinity. Like he fucking ascended, I guess. There’s power in it, more than there was in his music before. But he hasn’t sacrificed any of the parts that made his music beautiful to me before.
Plus, there are straight up love songs here. Like, I’d say To Be Alone With You from Seven Swans is a straight up love song, but we can be fairly confident that it is, at least partially, specifically about Jesus, and I like that it’s about Jesus, but, I don’t know, it creates a sort of tangential feel. Futile Devices from Age of Adz is a straight up love song, but the fragility of it is excruciating; the love so acutely felt yet so self-denyingly understated it’s nearly unbearable. I have been waiting a long time to instead hear Sufjan Stevens sing “come run away with with me…and I will show you rapture“. You’re damn fucking straight you will, Sufjan, own that shit you magnificent Christmas Unicorn. And after traversing the desolate abyss I was so sure he had peered into on Tell Me You Love Me, the exaltation of hearing ‘I’m gonna love you anyway’ is everything I ever wanted in my life. And yes, I do mean I want someone to say exactly that to me. And yes, I do mean I want Sufjan to say exactly that to somebody. And yes, I do mean just the sound of it was exactly what I wanted.
I read some reviews of The Ascension while I was writing this, because music is inextricably tied to my most crippling insecurities, and I instinctively believe I have no right to comment on or participate in it, despite it being such an important, enduring part of my life. So I was seeking validation for my point of view. And I started panicking a bit, to be fair, that I was hearing stuff that isn’t there. Because no-one’s talking about love songs; they seem instead to be focussed on the pessimism; the anger; the politics. And even Sufjan himself, in interviews, was alluding mostly to that. And there I am, saying I want to fucking live in it! But then, at the very end of the last article I was permitting myself to read, I found him say
And so, I think I can be comfortable that at least part of his intention was to convey what I so keenly felt upon hearing The Ascension, and perhaps what I have so keenly been longing to hear. That, even as the world around us descends, as it has been for so long, and as we face the barren blackness of The Abyss; the more we choose to ascend through Love, the more beautiful, more powerful, more actualised we become.
Rather than exploring love in its many boundless forms as a subject, a study, or even a confession, on The Ascension it becomes a goal or destination. An aspiration. No.A commitment. And that’s what I’ve been waiting for. I don’t know why, exactly; I just want to hear people commit to Love. People who have some understanding of what Love truly is. People who know the risk, and see the peril, and Love anyway. I never doubted that Sufjan loved, but that’s exactly why I’ve been waiting to hear him say it like this.
So, maybe I’m reading too much into it. Maybe I’ve completely missed the point, or muddied it beyond recognition with my own biases. Maybe this is a sign I’m starved of Love in my everyday life. Or, at least, starved of a certain kind of Love. Maybe this is really fucking boring to read. But maybe my view is valid regardless of whether any of that is true. So maybe I should just post it anyway.
I have recurring dreams about being in a romantic relationship with Tim Ferriss. This is not by choice, but it is my reality nonetheless. While I’m not attracted to Tim Ferriss, I do like and admire the version of him I have been exposed to, and so I suppose that accounts for some of it. But he’s, not like, you know, Guy Martin. Or David Tennant. Or Sufjan Stevens. He’s not even Jason Mraz or Elon Musk. He doesn’t capture my fascination or make me giddy with joy. He’s just a very steady, positive, peripheral presence. Somewhere between Andrew Huberman and Seth Godin. I’m just having fun listing people now.
They’re not sex dreams about Tim Ferriss, exactly, although there is sex; they’re specifically about having, developing, maintaining a romantic relationship with Tim Ferriss. I don’t recall ever having that kind of dream about anyone else. Only Tim. Always Tim.
That’s all. No conclusions. Just thought you should know.