black and white, high ISO grainy photorealism, chaotic and busy schedule, weekly planner, book

I’ve been trying lately to dedicate myself to projects that may not have any perceivable outcome. To get fully immersed and commit chunks of time that I won’t get back, in exchange for nothing but the knowledge that I did so. Things that have little to no hope of earning money or gaining acclaim.

I have felt time-poor ever since starting work a year ago. And to be transparent I don’t even work full-time. I work on the days I don’t have my son. And on the days I do have him, that’s my work. I am aware that I put much more conscious time and effort into parenting than other people I know, and I’m not going to say that’s the best way to parent, because who the fuck knows, but it’s what I do. I notice myself getting irritable if I try to split my focus while I’m doing the parent stuff, so I avoid even WhatsApp messages during that time if I can get away with it.

My life is dichotomous at best, and chaotic at usual, so I tend to fail at daily consistency. As I have so lamented on many occasions. But, though I lack predictable daily windows of opportunity, I do get periods of time that open up, not according to a particular schedule, where I can dedicate myself to something else. And there are a plethora of projects I would like to dedicate myself to, but I have gotten into the habit of simply not engaging with them, for fear either that it will be, objectively, a waste of time, as judged by its outcome, or that I will reach the end of the opening and it will remain incomplete; pending into oblivion.

So I’m trying, again, to do things anyway. Make progress on some non-linear scale that perhaps only has meaning somewhere within the hidden labrynth of my mind, assessed purely by the sensation in my body at having done the thing.

It sounds like an obvious thing to do, when I put it like that. See, this is why I like it here.


I have been playing with ChatGPT a bit lately. It’s an excellent crutch for people like me who question their every move with cripplingly minute detail.

I can ask it questions I already know the answer to, and have it soothe me with vague validation that henceforth emboldens me toward action.

I can ask it, for instance, if this email is fit for purpose, and when it tells me yes, and reflects back my purpose to me, I can feel empowered to send it without fear. It saves me from having to ask myself that same question, and reread the contents fifty times, then have a break and come back ‘with fresh eyes’, just to make sure I haven’t inadventantly said something offensive, stupid or unclear. It, alternatively, saves me from sending an email without the luxury of those fifty extra checks and a break, and enduring the anxiety of wondering how it is received. Because I actually don’t care how it’s received – I care that I do what I intended to do, and if ChatGPT gives me the go ahead on that front, I don’t need to mind what the feeble humans on the other end think of it, because it’s probably not my fault.

I try really fucking hard in everything I do. I try too hard, in most things, and I know that, rationally. The problem is I have had the misfortune (and often stupidity) of being intimately involved with people who told me that my best try wasn’t good enough. And, sometimes, not only that it wasn’t good enough, but that it was actually a terrible, cruelly-intended betrayal of all that is good. And to be perceived with such blackness was horrifying, every time.

Maybe a few times I ran from that dark judgement, but most of the time I looked it dead in the eye and let the truth of it destroy the parts of me that couldn’t take it. Not the truth that they were right, but simply the truth that that’s what they thought of me.

So, following that dissolution, I can cope with what they think of me. But the idea that, in any moment, they might be right about me, they might be justified, well, it still makes me check myself fifty times over then take a break to come back with fresh eyes, just in case.

Having an impartial adjudicator in my pocket is a nice idea, if that’s what I can trust it to be…but I don’t really know what it is, do I?

“If no-one’s resonating on this frequency…”

The fingers of my left hand are partially numb, partially pained, because I just picked up my guitar for the first time in too long, and grabbed my lyrics book, and played some of my songs, and my fingers have no calluses left, and I don’t remember some of the chords, and I wasted my potential, but there’s beauty there still, and I think I am desperate for someone to hear it. To hear what my soul needed to expess. To hear it.

And I’m not sure anyone ever will.

And I have lived with that understanding for such a long time, that I’m not sure there’s much space left in me to believe that someone ever will.

I’m not sure what my fantasy is. My mother told me when I was young my singing wasn’t convincing, and that the songs I liked to sing didn’t suit my voice. One major ex said it wasn’t that I had a bad voice, he just didn’t like the things I sang. Another said it was a shame I couldn’t really play guitar, because I have a nice voice. Those are the opinions I internalised. The people that said nice try.

I ignored that my headteacher orchestrated extra opportunities for me to sing publicly. Or that multiple family friends fervently encouaraged me to keep singing as though it was important. I ignored the strangers that came up to me after performances to tell me they were moved. I ignored the complementary comments of friends and acquaintances when I displayed my songs in places they could see. I probably even, to be fair to them, ignored more positive sentiments from the people whose lukewarm opinions I absorbed. I never let them reach me, because I chose instead to believe the words that confirmed I was okay, but not good enough to take up space. And I bound myself in the knowledge that I would never be able to dedicate myself enough, to get good enough to take up space.

So probably what I’m hoping for is for someone to look at me, eyes wide, jaw clenched, not quite breathing. Maybe a quiet ‘fuck…‘ Because anything less than a profound, authentic demonstration of emotional resonance will quite likely be dismissed as kindness. I will be grateful for their generosity, but it won’t convince me of anything.

The thing is, though, I demonstrate that resonance myself. Sometimes I play a song and then gape and laugh a bit and have to walk around the room shaking my hands out. So, what more do I need from it, really?

Maybe no-one else will ever hear it. But I hear it.

Unknown love

How many people these days are falling in love with people they’ve never met? Never even had a single two-way interaction with?

I have a proclivity for falling in love with people (and one may argue also objects and ideas) that are incapable of loving me back. So whether or not I fall in love with people I’ve never met is not a particularly useful gauge of anything. But technology has created a very robust category of one-way parasocial relationships, that can come in many flavours. Romantic love is surely one of them.

I wonder how many people, today, are hoping for something impossible. And how many are, secretly, perhaps even to themselves, glad of the impossible. And how many are wondering if, maybe, just maybe, the impossible is possible after all.

Because sometimes it is. But you can only be known if you let yourself be known. And, sometimes, for that, you must make yourself known.

One way relationships are safer than the alternative. I have fun hiding in them all the time. My brain has been delighted by all the excellent people it can watch on a screen from the shadows. But I don’t want that to be the peak of my experience. I don’t want the best relationships I’ve ever had to be with people who didn’t even need to know about them. I want more. And for that, I need to let the impossible be possible. I need to show myself to someone capable of seeing.

Of course, what comprises that capability has always been the conundrum. But my part in it, at least, I have some say in.

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.