The call

I’ve been writing a story since I was sixteen. It started out as one thing and evolved into many other things. The world unfolded itself to me; the characters revealed their intentions; their actions shocked, disappointed and delighted me. The story has taken up space in me this whole time, existed within me, in some sense complete and yet still unrealised. I’ve been scared to look at it, honestly, because I felt incapable of finishing it. I expected it to leave me at some point, and find a home somewhere else. But I’m starting to believe only I can tell this story, and that’s why it’s still here, waiting for me to breathe more life into it.

I took the plunge and looked at it today. And then I spent the entire day engulfed in this world that revealed itself to me, over years, bit by bit, word by word. And I realised I’m already at least sixty thousand words deep, though not even close to the end of the story. It’s probably more like eighty thousand. Hand-fucking-written. And I’m invested in these people living in my story. I know them. And I want to see how it all turns out. And it’s not enough to think about it. I have to write it.

I typed up about five thousand words today, and edited the existing twenty. And I’ve read through everything I’ve written, and thrilled myself at what exists there. It’s getting late, but I’d like to keep going.

The idea of spending ten hour days immersed in this world of my creating is really fucking nice. I don’t think there are many other things I’d like to spend ten hours doing. I’ve been flip-flopping incessantly for the past couple of months, trying to decide what to do with myself, unable to commit to the fact that what I really want to do is fucking write all day. Because it sounds too fucking nice. I have a huge problem with even the idea of permitting myself such an indulgent career. So I’ve been faffing around trying to find a compromise-job that I can bear the thought of for even the short-term. It’s not even about whether it’s ‘realistic’ to make a living as a writer. Whether I’m good enough. Whether I could do it. For some reason I’ve made it about whether it’s moral. Because I’d be having too nice a time. Who the fuck am I to enjoy my fucking life?

What the fuck is wrong with me?

I probably could have written it by now if I’d stopped fucking about.

Retrieve the fucks

Someone keeps stealing my fucks.

I had a nice week of writing and running the week before last. And all those steps and all those words were pulling my life into order. And all that directed effort was coalescing into a sense of purpose. I was sleeping better, I was eating better, I was doing better. Instead of just bobbing around in a haze of complacent contentment, which belied the undercurrent of anxiety that told me I couldn’t stay there forever, I was proactively steering my ship toward faster waters and clearer skies.

And then my ship was broadsided. The impact was jarring and scary, not least because it was so naively unanticipated. And while the crew in my head took up their action stations, the vessel itself spun soundlessly back into the safety of the quiet haze.

Apparently, liking metaphors as much as I do is a sign of trauma. So that checks out.

I tried to keep writing and running. But it was taking more effort, and creating more pain. My life had been pulled back out of order, by something I couldn’t control, and writing and running were small by comparison. I am a writer, so I kept on writing. But I’m not a runner, so I stopped running. The fucks I’d given to running, I relinquished to my attacker instead.

What a fucking stupid mistake. Claim the fucking fucks back, Yve. They are your fucks to give. Don’t let that fucking fucker steal your fucking fucks! Fucking not again. Fucking never again. Fucking no.

Okay. Okay. Let’s get them back.

Blanket inhibition

I attended a writers’ talk this evening and, while I was listening, a few questions bubbled up that I wanted to ask. But the time for questions didn’t come until the end. By which point I’d forgotten all but one, and I was second-guessing whether it was relevant, whether it was a question that would contribute to the discussion, whether it mattered, whether it was selfish…let alone how to word it. So I didn’t ask it.

I had made the decision on my way there that I would ask a question because it was a show of support to the writers giving the talk. But I rationalised not asking the question because I thought no one would be interested in the answer except me, or maybe the writers wouldn’t want to answer it because it was a bit sticky.

The thing is, this sounds like anxiety. And in past similar situations, it’s felt very much like anxiety. But I’m beginning to believe it’s fabricated anxiety. The underlying problem, if I excavate my psyche, was that too much time had passed for me to be connected to the question anymore. At the point in the talk where I got curious, I had to stop myself interjecting or raising my hand to ask it there and then, and I was disappointed and frustrated that I couldn’t, but this is such a common occurrence for me that I didn’t even notice it until I came to write this post. By the time I was able to ask questions, it didn’t feel important anymore. But I knew that I’d decided that it was important, at least enough to ask, so I was rifling through the sock drawers of my mind trying to find a justification compelling enough to sway me. And I found plenty of justifications, but they were all for different things.

For a long time I had assigned my timidity when it came to asking questions to the bracket of social anxiety or shyness. I’m realising more and more how much it seems to be a feature of my unofficial ADHD. For many years I’ve had to repress my natural inclinations in order to conform to society’s expectations. But while I got very good at blanket inhibiting the ‘wrong’ response, I’ve never gotten all that good at the ‘right’ one. I often understand what it is, but I almost just as often still fail to execute it. This created a sad vacuum of inaction in my life that I’ve harboured a great deal of shame for, and while I’ve been working to deconstruct both the vacuum and the shame cage around it for over two years now, I still don’t fully understand its mechanisms.

If only I could have accepted I was different, instead of convincing myself I was worse.

If only we could all.

Sifting sharp pieces

Something I have realised I need to do some serious work on right now is owning my mistakes, missteps and failures more authentically.

I instinctively absorb blame whenever a situation doesn’t go as I’d like. Because of this, and because of the story that blame creates in me, I will ruminate over how to make it better, and how to be better, endlessly, if the wiser part of myself doesn’t intervene. But I am also so cripplingly ashamed of being at fault that I dare not speak it. I want to fix the problem, fix myself, and never make the same mistake again, so I can move on and never have to look at how wrong, and thus unloveable, I was in that moment.

This creates a strange dichotomy whereby my inner world is swirling with blame and shame and deep remorse, usually far outweighing the requirements for the situation, while my outer facade dances around the admission of guilt, and clings to all the reasons why it both wasn’t so bad and wasn’t all my fault. I’m suffering enough, I don’t need you to add to it.

And that’s entirely right; I don’t. But what I’m learning that I do need is a space to openly admit the exact boundaries of my failings; to examine them with considerate and compassionate eyes, and to find validation that they don’t in fact make me the terrible monster my shame would gleefully tarnish me as.

There aren’t many people in the world, I don’t believe, who can hold space for that kind of deconstruction of events, particularly in the throes of conflict, so it’s not that I should try to do this the in the raw, unfolding moment. But I’d probably be better served removing myself before I start to hear the defensive claims of victimhood or rationalisation gush from my lips. Take a breath, take a step back, save it for later. Save it for a space where I can tip all the failings onto the floor, and sift through for the pieces that are mine.

And then fucking loudly announce to the world which pieces are mine, and revel in the freedom of the proclamation.

A mild quarrel

I had plenty of sleep last night, and woke up feeling lively. My son and I danced, and made stamp pictures, and talked about Pokemon, and were out earlier than usual to get some things to supplement our breakfast from the local shop, which we then enjoyed as a sort of mini morning picnic on our picnic step close to where I alarmed some passers-by the other day. I was having a lovely time.

And then it all changed. And not because something terrible happened. But because I was involved in what was, probably, from the outside, a mild quarrel, but what my brain perceived as me being accused of being such a terrible mother and all round person that it was barely believable.

I won’t be so uncouth as to go into further detail, but it’s fair to say that, while my brain had plenty of fodder saved up to fuel that interpretation for me, it probably wasn’t what was actually happening, and even if it was, my body did not need to take it so personally.

I always feel ashamed when my trigger gets pulled. For being so weak as to allow it. Giving someone that kind of power over me is a deeply troubling occurrence. But I also get inarticulate and kind of stupid; I lose all the faculties that my most primitive sense of self-worth is attributed to.

The shame is compounded when my son is a witness. Yuck, I never want him to see me like that. Disempowered. Reactive. Defensive. Small. I want to be able to lead him by example through difficult conversations with equanimity, compassion, curiosity, and integrity. In those moments, I fall woefully short of the standards I strive towards. I worry that all the good work I have done will be somehow undone in a moment of weakness.

I am fairly confident this shame spiral is an over-reaction. I am fairly confident that – based on everything I know about trauma, shame, people – if I was an outsider looking in, I would deem it a gross over-reaction. But I’m not an outsider looking in.

I have spent the day trying to recover from this fucking mild quarrel where nothing particularly bad happened. Luckily (or maybe unluckily), it happened on a Sunday, when my only expectations of myself were to run and to write. There was plenty of time to dig in.

I can always tell when I’ve been thrown out of myself because I roam the house looking for anything and nothing. I also do this when I’m excited, but when I’m excited the roaming is an attempt to regulate the surge of energy coursing through me. When the gun’s been fired I’m looking for something to fill the void where the bullet once was. I caught myself doing this within minutes of being left to my own devices, at about half eleven this morning. It took me until half nine tonight to get myself back.

And I am back. I’m good. If that’s what it took then that’s what it took. It used to take longer. Be nice if it didn’t take anything.