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.

Hayley

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, most 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.

Someone

Sometimes I try to work out if I could still be someone. Do I still have time to become Neil Gaiman? Or have I already fucked it? I definitely can’t be Elon or Sufjan or Jason or Guy. But there are a few options left on the table.

Why are all the people I want to be men? We’ve grappled with this before, Yve, and now is not the time to get into it.

Good enough

There is this concept of the good enough parent. The idea is that you don’t need to be perfect, exceptional or outstanding to raise relatively healthy children, you just need to be good enough. It’s intended to present a more reasonable, realistic and forgiving standard than some alternative paradigms, particularly in regard to expectations of motherhood. It’s also backed up with fairly solid evidence, which should make it more reassuring. Fairly solid evidence is about the best you can hope for in psychology, the majority of the time.

But the Good Enough Parent raises in me a fear. What if, despite my efforts to be outstanding, I’m not even, in fact, good enough? What if, after all the toiling, careful consideration and eager sacrifice, it turns out that my parenting is not even sufficiently mediocre? What if I’m trying this hard and failing to meet even the lowest recommended standard?

Can you tell I’m used to being an overachiever? Can you tell that that overachievement has historically been fuelled by a deep-seated insecurity in my own worth?

It would be far easier for me to face trying to do a very difficult thing. I’d even have quite a bit of confidence. But I have, in contrast, very little faith in myself when it comes to succeeding at a merely reasonable thing. I expect myself to get distracted by some exciting difficulty, and completely miss the easy win. I know I don’t work the way I’m supposed to. Exceptional goes both ways.

My saving grace may be that one time, years ago now, I heard Richard Branson, of all people, advise that you must cover your downside. And I hated that idea so fucking much that the wiser part of me latched onto it and wouldn’t let me forget it. And now it’s always a factor: Remember to cover your downside. It’s always a question: Have you covered your downside? It certainly hasn’t made me rich yet, but it has probably informed my parenting.

So, maybe I have covered my downside as a parent. Maybe I’ve buffered my son from extremities. Maybe it’s possible to both lean into the exception and still follow the rule.

Unfortunately for me, there is no objective answer to these sorts of queries. The what ifs will never cease. Such is life.