Husky mind

Recently, I was rejoicing quietly about the fact that I had been communicating with people in a professional capacity without excessive post-comms rumination. I didn’t do anything directly to attain this freedom, though I thought I might be able to trace its provenence. Regardless, it felt like I’d magically put things in their rightful place, instead of amplifying their importance and peril.

And then my grandma took bad and was taken into hospital, and there was not much for me to do to help. So, what little I could do, I did, peripherally and imperfectly, and then I tore it apart afterwards for every imperfection. The situation itself was, of course, important and perilous. But my part in it…largely uninfluential. I tried my best to help in a situation where people more capable than me were already handling everything, and that was all I could do. But it triggered my self-absorbed belief that if I’m not the MVP I don’t deserve to be playing. So I wasted a bunch of thoughts retroactively optimising my conduct – wishing that I’d been, at the very least, flawless in my execution of said peripheral tasks, so I could escape the fate of being considered, by any objective measure, a net loss.

And then I went to read to kids at my son’s school, and failed to maintain an appropriate level of order. The teacher handed me a pile of books and directed me to a room with the kids, which was not exactly what I’d expected things to look like. Straight off, I made the mistake of being ambiguous about what behaviour would be acceptable, because I hadn’t figured how this whole thing was going to work. So I spent most of the rest of the time trying to convince them to stop playing with toys and listen to stories instead. And then I sat in a tornado of self-criticism for most of the following night, unable to sleep for thoughts of how I should have handled things better, what this said about my parenting, when and how I could redeem myself, how irritating my incompetence must have been… A violent stampede of thoughts, altogether too concerned about myself, unable to simply accept my conclusions and go to sleep.

And I know this is why, generally speaking, I’m better at the things I do than most other people. Because I literally obsess over my flaws, at a rate completely out of proportion with the attention they deserve for normal human functioning. That does result in accelerated progress. But it also results in needless suffering. And, sometimes, it’s not worth it.

It’s why I also have a tendency toward avoidance; avoiding things that don’t matter because my brain will act like they do, and avoiding things that could matter because I’m scared I’ll crumble under their weight. If I’m going to do things, I prefer to have no choice in the matter. I’d volunteered for the school reading, and that was what made my inner critic more vicious, because to be anything less than perfect when I’m inflicting myself on others is a mortal sin.

But I am wondering if the problem is that my brain is built for bigger, tougher problems. Perhaps I’m like a husky without a sledge to pull. So I’m fabricating sledges to give myself something to do.

The only way to test that hypothesis, though, is to hitch me up to something heavy. Voluntarily. Are there any easier hypotheses to test first?

A hard fail

Lately, I keep turning up here with some burning desire to write abut something but, once I arrive, the impulse drains way. It seems, all of a sudden, so meaningless. It feels self-indulgent, and not in a ‘who do I think I am?’ way, which was actually once a driver for me to keep this endeavour alive – now it’s a ‘why am I wasting my energy on something this unimportant?’ flavour of self-indulgence.

And part of this is definitely fallacy, not least because it tips me into a strange sort of paralysis of meaning. By not doing this, I do not make space for myself to do something ‘more important’ – I often in fact find myself doing nothing, or less than nothing even; siphoning my energy into a scrolling screen of someone else’s devising. I don’t know, precisely, what the ‘more important’ would be, so I allow the vacuum to fill with detritus.

For a long time this space was very meaningful to me. In a very personal way. It was me standing my ground, after years of letting other people’s opinions erode me. It was an act of reclamation, and the fact it stood barely and starkly, with my full name across the top, and no inclination to appeal to the market, was intrinsic to its usefulness. But, now, I’m not sure what its usefulness might be.

I’ve thought about relegating it even further into the backwaters, detaching it from my name and making it harder to find. And equally I’ve thought about making it bigger, brighter, bolder; making it try to do a thing. Making it more important.

The real issue is I don’t know what to do with my life, let alone this tiny part of it. I have been flapping around, slapping the waters of a wave rising within me for several months now, and I am still unclear where it’s headed.

So much of my life to date has been sub-optimal. I don’t feel I’ve done enough with the time I’ve been given. I once had material promise, but I took a huge sabbatical from achievement, in order to become a person I was happy to live inside. Now that I have accomplished that, it’s starting to feel like maybe that was a distraction from the harder work, of doing something worth doing.

Truthfully, I don’t think I was capable of doing anything worth doing as the person I was before. I could do plenty, but it came from the wrong place. I have never been more capable than I am right now, of doing something worth doing. And that is why I’m paralysed with fear, and seeking to hide in the shade of regret and self-criticism. The work I did was work I needed to do. The writing I did here was writing I needed to do. And I’m proud of it, even though that makes me uncomfortable to say. But now it’s time for something different, and I don’t know what that looks like.

I have a pretty good idea of my priorities. I have a pretty good idea of the moves I want to be making. I’m just not sure of the tactics, and I’m not sure of the timings, and, frankly, I’m not sure of myself. I have always been over-ambitious, and when I was younger, I had some evidence to back me up, but all that momentum has long since lapsed. I’m worried I’ll end up wobbling around in mid-air, unable to commit to the jump I’ve taken. If I’m going to fail, I want to fail hard. I want to fail trying. I want to fail with my whole fucking heart.

The only thing I’ve ever failed that hard at is loving other people. I’m not sure how that generalises.


“Will you still love me if I don’t finish my PhD?”

It was such a bizarre and preposterous question that I surely pulled a face.

Firstly, why would I, or my love, give a flying fuck about his PhD? In fact, I probably deserved bonus points for loving him despite the fact that he decided to do a PhD right after I’d given birth. The PhD was more problem than solution in the equation that was our relationship.

Secondly, he was treating me with such contempt by that point, that I was fairly convinced he didn’t give a flying fuck about me or my love. But I could see on his face he was really asking, and he really needed the answer.

Day after day, I told him what I needed to be able to stay in the relationship, and day after day, he told me I was wrong. And now it turned out he thought what I needed was for him to have a PhD?

How very odd. I wondered what other things he thought.

Whether or not he had a PhD was completely unimportant to me. He didn’t finish his PhD. I still loved him. And I still left. None of these things related to the others.

…But I can’t say for sure that whether or not I have a PhD is unimportant to me. It’s not clear that I would be loving me if I allowed me to keep on sacrificing it in favour of other things. And I’m not sure I wouldn’t be abandoning myself if I ignored the fact it still keeps calling me.

I believe in action

I don’t actually. It’s just that I once had a travel blog, and I decided, because I don’t like coming up with titles, that the titles would just all be song names, and as I was thinking about this blog post, it reminded me of this song title, and so now that is the title. Old habits and all that. I’ve probably already done that a few other times on this blog, come to think of it. And explained it then too. But hey, we’ve passed 300 posts now, I’m allowed to repeat myself.

So, at this stage in my life, I believe in action only with a heavy caveat. I believe in inspired action. Action when it feels right. I don’t always live by this belief – the more involved you are in conventional society the harder that is to do, I find – but I try, and I fight with myself over it regularly. And then I try to stop fighting, because that’s counterproductive.

But I am being inspired to action lately; the wave is rising in me and when we reach the crest I’ll have some decisions to make. Do the scary things I’m being urged to do, or let it pass me by and wait for the next one. I believe in doing the things, but when I think about doing them I make myself feel small and stupid. I am going to fall over, aren’t I?

Let me explain

I have an unhealthy desire to be understood. Somewhere deep inside, I believe my life depends on everyone else giving me permission to have the perspective I have, to make the choices I make, to live the life I live. And I also believe, every time that permission may be denied, that if I can just explain myself, they’ll see. And they’ll tell me I’m right, and that it’s alright.

So I want to explain to you why I’ve been absent. You, the handful of people still apparently showing up here regularly despite me giving you absolutely no reason to. Or, alternatively, the trickle of strangers miraculously finding your way to this dusty outpost in steady succession. Hard to tell.

I want to tell you so that I can imagine you reading approvingly. Oh yes, that makes lot of sense. That’s incredibly valid. She’s clearly a good person. Everything is alright by me.

That’s stupid. So I’m not going to do it.


The only woman I’ve ever really viscerally wanted to be is singer-songwriter, Paramore frontwoman and ‘hair dye tycoon’ Hayley Williams. And that’s not a thing borne out of fandom, especially, though I have come to appreciate her work in recent years. It’s because part of me resonates so keenly with her, in a way I can’t really explain. Part of me believes I could have been her – should have been – if only, if only I hadn’t failed at being, in all the necessary ways.

When I was younger I was downright jealous of her, and I masked it with disdain. But I was the one who was scared to sing. I was the one who was scared to be in community. I was the failure, and I knew I had no right to criticise her, so the disdain ate at me, and wouldn’t let me forget it.

As I grew older and wiser, I let myself admit that I even enjoyed Paramore a bit. But they remained a ‘guilty’ pleasure. I didn’t want anyone to know I listened to them, and any time I did, which wasn’t often, I felt oddly on display. Who can hear this and what must they think!? As if anyone would think anything at all.

Her solo material was what let me reconcile my complicated feelings about her. We have some important similarities. We’ve had some importantly similar experiences in our lives. We have similar faultlines. We’ve learned similar lessons. But through that and despite it, she was able to continue becoming the success that she is and deserves to be. And I…well I never even seemed to begin. I had been holding that against myself, and she, more than most, reminded me.

What were the differences between us that led to our divergent paths through life, even as we traversed similar terrain? How was she able to build and maintain a fulfilling career, while every avenue I even thought of pursuing collapsed around me in short order? Why could she sing and I couldn’t? Why could she integrate and I couldn’t? We were both in pain, so my pain wasn’t the reason. How could she do it, and do it so well, and I couldn’t do it at all?

Well, there are very good explanations, of course. But that’s another tale.