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.

Give me more

There is a part of me – a significant, and close to the surface part – that enjoys a good bit of pain. A part of me inclined toward overexertion, obsession, and prodding open wounds. Most of the time, if you give me pain, you’ll see me smirk with a glint in my eye. Go on, give me more.

I’ve often thought that, if I was ever unlucky enough to find myself in a hostage situation, or being tortured for compliance or something, I’d be quite likely to get myself killed. Because I’d fucking brat. Like, don’t get me wrong, I am terrified of both death and authority, I’ll be a very good girl up to a point, but push a certain button in me and I will resist you relentlessly, I will goad you into punishing me, and all the while I’ll be smirking bitterly with a glint in my eye. I think the term is defiant. It’s like I never grew out of seeing how much I can get away with.

I’ve had to temper that to be a decent parent, because I can’t afford the recovery time. I’ve had to tame myself. But I think I went too far.

I wrote over a year ago about wanting to undo my taming, and I wasn’t talking about this masochistic wildness, but it’s all linked. The ability to both hurt and be hurt is integral to the human animal. The ability to wound, but not kill, and be wounded, but not die. And while that does apply in the macro, I also mean it in a more local sense. If you cut yourself, that part of you shouldn’t wither away; it should heal. And if a certain part of you is repeatedly taking punishment, it shouldn’t wear down to the bone; it should callous. It should resist. And resistance, well-practiced, makes it stronger. That’s a fundamental quality of being alive; it sets us apart from mere objects of creation. It gives us agency. And while we can’t help but be subject to this quality in lots of ways, there are many other ways that we unconsciously forgo it, and instead submit ourselves to external factors.

If we cower from pain, we become less than we are. And if we treat others as if they can’t take the pain, then we don’t give them the credit they deserve.

We’re living in a strange world – a world where you can avoid a lot of pain if you want to. But not all pain. If you’ve gone the avoidant route and haven’t conditioned yourself to withstand it, then what’re you gonna do when the pain finally comes? Because it will inevitably come.

I’ve been living in a bit of a fantasy for a while thinking I could become who I want to be without so much as a bit of chafing. Because it’s so easy to find an existence that doesn’t necessitate friction, and it’s even easier to get used to it once you have. And, also, honestly, I was really fucking tired of pain, so it was nice to believe I could be free of it for a while.

I know that part of my submission was biological – I fundamentally changed in ways I couldn’t have imagined through experiencing pregnancy and motherhood, and my drive to be the soft, warm welcoming arms that an infant needs and thrives within conflicted with any desire to be hard, rough or seasoned. This was probably a phase I needed to be in. But as my son grows, what he needs is ever more complex, and ever less about me. And as I grow, my ability to understand my own needs is ever more advanced, and ever less ambiguous. I need more pain. And I’d better make it good.

Lay me down

Lately, I have been waking up in the middle of the night, because my brain has decided that that is a good time to worry about all the things I’ve said and done the previous day, and how I shouldn’t have said or done them, or should have said and done them differently.

That’s not a usual thing for me to do. And it’s really not helping my already precarious sleeping situation.

But it might make sense. My son started school part-time this week, and thus I’ve been spending a lot of time driving around and whiling away aimless, unproductive hours here and there in between my childcare duties. I’ve also spent a lot more time than usual with his dad, with whom I have a festering wound of a relationship, to be quite frank about it. And on top of that (or, more likely, because of it) I’m feeling an increasing pressure to conform to societies expectations; get a respectable full-time job and a home closer to the city. Be more like Daddy.

But I’m not like Daddy.

And I don’t want to be like Daddy. I want to be like Me. The full and glorious, spectacular Me that Daddy never really understood. There’s a lot of noise and distraction in my head right now, and I probably just have to ride out the turbulence. But I’d be doing everyone a disservice if I caved now. Yeah, I want some of the things that Daddy has. And, yeah, I fucking resent him for having them and that’s an issue I’ll just have to keep working on. But compromising myself to try to get them isn’t going to lead me anywhere good.

And it certainly isn’t modelling the values I want to nurture in my son. He doesn’t want me to be like Daddy either; he wants me to be like Me. He might even need me to be like Me, so that he can learn it’s entirely acceptable to be exactly whoever He is.

I need to get real here. I need to be able to withstand the dissonance I’m experiencing right now. Because this is my life. It isn’t anybody else’s. I have the privilege and responsibility of making my decisions. Past traumas, criticism, external judgements, self-doubt; I need to stop paying attention to them. I need to stop giving them power.

My goal has never been a comfortable life. My goal has been an extraordinary one. And every time I bail out and choose comfort, because I’m too scared that the people who say what I should want is a comfortable life are right, I’m failing myself. I can’t keep failing myself. I only get one shot at this. And I’m a fucking good shooter. Why would I shoot for a team other than my own?

I hope I’m feeling brazen

As soon as I typed the phrase “I have a tendency to hyperfixate on people“, a voice in my head said you’re gonna have to write about Polaris again now.

While my parasocial celebrity fixations are largely wholesome and harmless, my real-life fixations have most often been of the variety that could be labelled toxic. Mainly because my brain loves the drama of emotionally unavailable men, and literally can’t get enough of the fucking chase. Give me obtuse statements to obsess over the meaning of and it’ll keep me occupied for days. Give me imaginary hoops to jump through to get you and I will be gleefully bounding all week. I genuinely enjoy it. It excites me. It’s fun. But, I mean, it’s also clearly interacting with my childhood trauma. It’s not healthy, and it invariably leaves me with the same feeling I get if I binge eat 800g of chocolate. Alongside the inevitable carnage, obviously.

Polaris exists at the intersection of these two breeds of hyperfixation.

For a brief moment in time we had a paper-thin, at-a-distance reciprocal connection. During that time, I recognised the familiar sensations of a very powerful hyperfixation developing, only at that time I just called it love. And honestly, experientially, hyperfixation is love as far as I’m concerned. Who knows what it would have become if allowed to run its course.

Much like Guy Martin, I found myself sort of uncomfortably attracted to him, because I couldn’t quite figure out what to make of him and thus couldn’t decide if being attracted to him was an acceptable course of action. Over the years I would come to understand; acceptability was entirely irrelevant. Reading his messages made me feel like the fourth minute of Hot Knife by Fiona Apple, on 1.5 speed, loud and through good headphones, and the sensation didn’t wear off on the rereads. If I still had access to them, I’m willing to wager I’d still feel like that. I was, and always will be, profoundly elated that he ever existed in the same Universe as me and I got to know about it.

And then he bounced, so naturally, the chase was on. Why did he leave? Was it something I said? Let’s analyse every word and figure it out. Was it something wrong with him? Let’s list all the fucked up things about him that might exist that could account for this behaviour. Am I a worthless piece of shit human and that’s why he disappeared? Probably, but maybe we can convince him that you’re not if we carefully craft some sort of outreach initiative. My faulty programming had a fucking field day strategising the hunt.

But that’s just the surface level. Simultaneously, something deeper was happening. Something…spiritual.

The day after my first message from Polaris, I wrote a song. I’ve written quite a lot of songs in my life. I don’t exactly write them intentionally – they just sort of come out of me sometimes, when they’re the only adequate way to express myself to myself. I don’t know what to do with most of them, so they get stuck in the limbo of just being a vocal melody that I’m too scared to reveal to anyone. That’s what happened to this song too. But when I started this blog and I needed a tagline, the only thing that seemed right to use was a lyric from that song: following the flow, the flux, of living, breathing days. I always thought I’d change it because it was a lyric, not a tagline, but nothing ever rose to supercede it. That line neatly encapsulates my intention in a way I will fail to if I actually try, and for the purposes of this post, it demonstrates that Polaris awakened in me something I’ve been trying to nurture ever since. His impact endured.

Thus, my life is demarcated by Polaris. Before and after. The way I’ve chosen to live; the discoveries and recoveries I’ve made; the things I’ve created…everything I’ve become beyond who I was before can be cleanly and unequivocally traced back to him. That should be a fucking uncomfortable statement to make, but it’s not. Polaris was a hyperfixation. But Polaris was also a soul-changing event. Polaris was divine intervention. If you’re sensing biblical vibes here, then yes, I am living in the year of the Lord.

There hasn’t been a day that’s passed since I ‘met’ Polaris that I haven’t thought of him. And I have object permanence issues; I forget my own son exists sometimes when he’s with his dad. I’ve never met this person – as far as I’m concerned, he has no physical form. Yet, long after I was starved of any new Polaris-related input, there he is. It isn’t about him. It could be about him, too; he might be as magnificent a human as I believe him to be, I simply do not know. I had to learn to live with the agony of not knowing. Fucking Schrodinger’s Star. But I don’t even remember him at this point. He’s just a nebulous mass. It’s about what he represented for me. And will probably always represent.

So many things converged to create the experience I had with Polaris. It was nothing short of magical, and it was also too fucking much for my human self. It obliterated me. And then it transformed me.

And because I am who I am, if I was going to transform, then it only made sense that it would be through connection with another human that I would access that transformation. But this was certainly not how I imagined that kind of thing would go. And, my god, what an awkward aftermath.

Sympathy

Recently, I talked about misplaced sympathy. But, actually, I think I have a bit of a problem with even arguably well-placed sympathy. Sympathy, to me, is a crutch for people incapable of empathy. There is a world of difference between “aw, poor dear” and “there, but for the grace of God, go I”. Sympathy is phoning it in. It’s a superficial, and usually judgement-tainted, cop out. It’s an inadvertant diminishment of another person’s humanity. Because it’s more effort for you to think of them as a full and gloriously complicated equal, so you don’t bother trying: You don’t bother trying to imagine what it’s like to be them. You might think about how ‘people’ might feel in their situation. You might even imagine what it would be like to be you, in their situation (and perhaps subsequently deduce that you would never get into their situation). But you refuse to expend the emotional labour that could create a true bridge between the two of you. You disconnect, but you wrap it up in niceness and hope they won’t notice. You might not even notice.

At face value, this doesn’t really track with the official definitions of sympathy and empathy. By those measures, empathy is something to be employed in situations where you can’t employ sympathy. Sympathy is where you actually share emotions, and empathy is where you don’t share them, so seek instead to understand. Empathy is for when the distance between you and another is too great for you to directly relate and so you have to employ imagination. This implies that the compassionate outcome of empathy is somehow inferior to sympathy, because there’s bound to be some error in your making up of the difference.

But what if the other person is not nearly so close to you as you imagined? What if the experience that on the surface seems to so clearly map to something you yourself have experienced is actually miles apart from it? What if a person’s expression completely belies their inner state of being, at least from your point of view? What if you don’t understand like you think you do?

Sympathy is shorthand. It’s built on assumption. If we are part of an homogeneous group, then the shorthand of sympathy will be relatively effective. So maybe that’s why I have a problem with it. Because I have never been part of an homogeneous group. Any group with me in it is inherently heterogeneous in meaningful ways. Now, I don’t know if that statement of truth is more reflective of my position on the bell curve or my definition of sameness (especially because my position on the bell curve directly affects my definition of sameness), but it does mean that, in my experience, the compassionate outcome of sympathy is profoundly inferior to that of empathy.