Sleep

I basically gave myself an anxiety disorder to finish my masters. I knew I was doing it. I knew I could fix it afterwards. I figured that’s what I’d use the month between submitting and results for, and it’s taken a little longer but it pretty much worked out. I didn’t like that I had done it to myself but it seemed the lesser of two evils. What I failed to reckon for, though, was the fucking sleep disorder. Another example of a side effect obvious in hindsight but completely overlooked by me in the planning phase.

I am ridiculously susceptible to sleep disorders. If I was to total up my childhood memories, most of them would probably be of night-time. In my early teens I became aware of ‘sleep phase delay syndrome’ which explained my night-time wakefulness and reluctance to rise at an acceptable hour. At university it progressed into full insomnia, which I honestly probably didn’t believe truly existed until I experienced it – night after night I’d just lie there, all fucking night, totally awake, bored out of my mind but scared to disturb my partner. The days were totally surreal, just like Fight Club had warned me about.

Then, after my relationship broke down, the exhaustion syndrome kicked in and I slept at every opportunity. For about six months it felt like all I wanted to do was sleep. Then the years that followed were just a chaotic haze of disorganised sleeping, a feature of the disorganised way I was living as I let everything I had built liquefy and tried to find a new path.

Years later, for sure oriented on a new path, hello pregnancy insomnia. And ever since, of course, I have enjoyed a more than standard level of parental sleep deprivation due to my new inability to sleep through any fucking noise at all because, as far as my body is concerned, I am on call and must be immediately prepared for anything should I hear a rustle in the night. So not only am I awake but I am fucking ready for action, adrenaline mobilised and awaiting instructions.

I had a few blissful months last summer where balance was restored and, oh my fuck, life was beautiful.

And I relinquished my peace to attain. Because that’s all I know how to do, really. That’s my unfortunate default mode. Achieve. Impress. Prove you deserve to exist. And I knew I could handle a little anxiety and depression; I have all the tools I need to see them off these days. But the sleep. I am not good at sleeping. It’s the sleeping I should have been worried about.

It’s 2:42am. I am not good at sleeping.

Eighty-fucking-five

I got my master’s thesis grade this week.

I’m normally pretty accurate at ‘marking’ my own work – I can often predict within a few percentage points what my mark will be, and I can usually guess what the feedback will be too.

In this case though, I have legitimately spent four weeks thinking I might in fact FAIL. I’ve done a lot of self-talk around how, if I do fail, it won’t make me a bad person; it won’t doom me to eternal failure; in the grand scheme of things it’s not that important; life will still go on. I’ve done quite a few calculations of various grade scenarios to prepare myself for what the lowest grade would be that would let me retain my distinction, what would permit a merit, and what would happen to my average if I just barely scraped a pass on my thesis. In my most optimistic moments I chanted ‘seventy-three, seventy-three, seventy-three’, because 73%, for some reason, is my comfort benchmark.

I have never in my life been so fucking neurotic about grades. I’ve never had to be. I’ve always trusted myself to deliver academically. I’ve always known that my half-arsed, last-minute, crash-my-bike-and-hitch-hike-to-the-submission-box efforts outpace most people’s very best work. I have always had the luxury of being very arrogant about my academic prowess. I’ve always known that, even though I’ve fucked myself over getting to this point, I haven’t fucked myself over enough that anyone else is going to notice.

But, this time, my brain broke a few months before the project was due.

Usually, if my brain’s going to break, it breaks after the deadline. After three consecutive all-nighters with sustenance derived primarily from energy drinks and pre-cooked quinoa eaten out of the packet. Surrounded by piles of debris, financial peril, and myriad evidence of how all other areas of my life were forsaken in favour of completing my assignment. I break when it’s over. Because I’m good in a crisis.

But this time, there’d been multiple crises dragging on for at least two years already. I’d wanted to quit my master’s back when lockdown first hit because I knew I didn’t have the reserves to see it through in my usual style and would instead have to resort to flogging myself across a scorched, barren landscape to make it to freedom. But I couldn’t bring myself to quit, so flogging it was.

In the last few months, there was a thick layer of transparent sludge between me and my project. Like that jelly they put on you for ultrasounds, but about twenty inches thick. I had to reach through to work on it but I couldn’t really see what I was doing and my arms started aching very quickly. The quality of the end product was anyone’s guess. But it probably wasn’t good.

Now I have been rewarded for the flogged muddling with 85%. Despite months of sleepless nights with a three year old pushing me out of bed. Despite my supervisor leaving two months before the hand in and having to renegotiate my report for new eyes. Despite needing to complete another module left over from last year alongside. Despite all the reasons that it only made sense that my grade should suffer, I got 85%. The first adjective used in my supervisor’s feedback was ‘exceptional’.

This wasn’t what the story was supposed to be. This was supposed to be a cautionary tale. That pushing myself past breaking point could not yield success. That sacrificing myself for the grade would not only lead to misery, but also underachievement. That I had to find a better way.

I’m actually not sure what to do with eighty-fucking-five. Don’t get me wrong; I did fucking earn it, more than I’ve probably earned any other grade. And, yeah, I’m probably capable of ninety-five with a gentle tailwind, so I can still be dissatisfied with my performance if I want. But what exactly is the lesson here?

Learn to take a win, Yve?

Exposure

I am the type of person who physically recoils from the idea of you reading my diary. But I’m also the type of person who forgets to put her diary away and instead leaves it open on the table when visitors come round. I’m the type of person who walks along the street and blurts out what she’s thinking about to herself before she realises she’s not alone. I’m the type of person who may or may not leave sex toys on display when her grandparents come to visit and who won’t notice until at least the second time everyone has been exposed to them.

Privacy is not something I am good at.

The side-effect of revealing myself to the ‘wrong’ person I talked about the other day, whether real or imaginary, sent me into something of a tailspin at the time. Realising that I had unintentionally, yet intentionally, made parts of myself public made me feel excruciatingly exposed. I started becoming contracted and brittle, stuttering through my business endeavours, entirely conflicted about the right course of action, hypersensitive to every indication that people were seeing me. I was too self-conscious to commit to anything. I had chosen to reveal myself, but I hadn’t thought through what that might actually mean, and now that I was, I didn’t like it. I wanted the benefits of feeling courageous, but none of the other consequences.

Bit by bit, I shut it all down. I’ve talked about this before too.

I’ve been diligently trying these past few years to get acquainted with vulnerability, because I’m so very terrible at invulnerability. Vulnerability is a thousand times more healthy than invulnerability, I know, but I guarantee if I was better at not accidentally exposing myself that would be the choice I would make every time. If I could control all the variables, I would.

I am perfectly happy to expose myself on my own terms, in a very controlled, curated way. But not so much in a vulnerable way. I don’t want you to see me make a mistake. I don’t want you to see a side of me I didn’t specifically choose to show you. But I will, and you will. So I’ve been trying very hard to be okay with that. To be okay with all of myself, so that if you don’t like it, at least I still do.

It’s a fucking journey.

Unintended

At the culmination of a convoluted train of impulses, I searched my own name in Google images. One photo of me shows up, but what really made my day was that next to that photo is a Polestar 2, a Toyota C-HR and Edward Cullen standing next to a C30.

Unintended consequences. I wonder where Noel Edmunds wandered off to.

I am often falling prey to unintended consequences.

Once Upon A Time, I was deep in the thrall of my numinous experiences, catalysed by He Who Does Not Want To Know Me. I fucking love giving people organically occurring pseudonyms, but that might be a bit much. After hitting the floor over it, a day or two away from declaring myself psychotic, I had accidentally come across some ‘information’ about ‘twin flames’ – essentially a kind of soulmates-on-steroids situation. The experience described by so called twin flame experts was bizarrely, disturbingly, exactly what I was experiencing. Stunned by the resonance, I bought in. But I kept butting up against the fact that it very much appeared my experience was not reciprocated by He. The twin flame experts had explanations for why this appeared true, but was in fact not at all true. As much as I wanted to believe that, it was too easy, and too fantastical.

He Who Does Not Want To Know Me was distinctly silent, and so, like a pesky mosquito, I landed on his shoulder time and time again saying I’m still here, are you going to swat me? Because silence wasn’t enough – I needed rejection. Eventually, cordial, beautiful, transcendent rejection came. Thank you.

Two years passed. A lot happened; I met someone, got pregnant, we moved in together and had a baby. I reached a sort of distant equilibrium with He Who Does Not Want To Know Me, and we shared a few messages over that time. I had stayed on the periphery of the twin flame community, fascinated by this collective, deluded, delicate, beautifully human phenomenon that I was undeniably part of. I was convinced there were deep things to gain from the experience that I and all these other people were having, and that there was profound meaning being forsaken in favour of a focus on The Other Person. And I, myself, was still rather more focused on The Other Person than I cared to admit.

I decided to start a YouTube channel about it. The grand mission? To change the rhetoric around ‘twin flames’ to something more useful than soulmates-on-steroids. To challenge the idea that just because this intense thing happened, it had to mean something romantic. And also to challenge the idea that if it didn’t turn out to be romantic, that must mean the experience wasn’t real or meaningful. To take the focus away from The Other Person and place it where I thought it belonged: On The Self.

At this point, I’d pretty much gone full woo and was also a practising Tarot reader and Reiki practitioner. I was completing a business course in the hope that I could make a living from it, and it was recommended that I brand everything in my own name, so as not to limit myself to any one arena in the future. So I changed my YouTube channel to my name too. It felt a bit weird, but was actually a good business move as I started attracting clients who were going through similar mystical journeys, and I found a niche.

What it also meant, though, was that, should anyone – anyone at all – Google me, these videos would show up on the first page.

Now, I don’t know if these two things are related, but the next time I sent He a message, he didn’t reply. Someone in his vague location, however, did view a bunch of my videos all at once. And, I can’t speak for everyone, but if, out of context (or maybe even in context), I saw someone I’d never met talking about me and twin flames in the same breath, I might not be inclined to reply to their message.

Unintended consequences? Did I accidentally terrify an innocent man? I have long hoped it was just coincidental that I never heard from him again, and the fact he didn’t outright block me or report me or tell me to stay the fuck away from him in a panicked font was a sign that he was oblivious. I told myself he wasn’t interested enough to Google me anyway. Still, I wonder – was this the moment he changed from being He Who Does Not Have A Strong Opinion About Knowing Me, to He Who Does Not Want To Know Me?

Either way, that moment really brought my attention to all the unintended consequences I had failed to forsee in my life. What seemed an obvious risk in hindsight had not even occurred to me. What else was not occurring to me? I began becoming more aware of my digital footprint, and how other people may perceive the slivers of me that I revealed to them. How little my intention actually corresponded to the results of my actions in some situations. How impossible it was to judge the consequences of a choice. How impossible it was to ever know every far reaching, obscure, bizarre consequence of a choice.

I’m not very good at forseeing all possible outcomes; even when I expend inordinate energy on trying to do so. I’m often caught out by the side-effect.

How do you go about anticipating a side-effect? Is it even a healthy endeavour to try? Maybe I should consult a pharmacologist.

Insignificance

I’ve spent a lot of my day poring over data for my master’s thesis. The data is messy, and deciding how best to deal with it has required some furrowed brows.

In the end, my furrowed efforts were not fruitful – at least not in the traditional sense.

I have yielded insignificant results.

Now, the level of insignificance is actually rather startling, so I’m not over the paranoia that I’ve in fact just gone wrong somewhere. But, assuming the insignificant results are truly insignificant, well, that’s actually rather significant.

The thing one would expect based on existing knowledge is not true. The thing one would expect based on intuition and common sense is not true. Something else is true instead.

A research paper with a question mark instead of a full stop is not desirable. It’s acceptable, but not favourable. It’s disappointing.

Much more satisfying is to tie everything up with a neat little bow. This is what we seek to do. This is what success looks like.

We are rewarded for the successes.

But we are rewarded by the failures.

It’s the failures that keep us moving forwards.