Hayley

The only woman I’ve ever really viscerally wanted to be is 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.

Happy Val Day, Sab

Some things stick with you, I guess.

Like that episode of Sabrina The Teenage Witch where Harvey made her a Valentine’s card but he was so obsessed with it being symmetrical that he kept cutting it smaller and smaller, and in the end he could only fit on ‘Happy Val Day, Sab’, but then the knowledge that he liked symmetry became crucial in a test of Sabrina’s love that would decide his fate. Or something.

I thought about that episode when I was hitching a ride from a shady older lady who was scared to give me her real name so called herself Sabrina, and I thought about it today when considering the possibility of a Valentine’s Day post.

For a long time I had a story that I’d never received a Valentine’s card. That changed in 2017, courtesy of my son’s father. He even wrote me a poem inside. It was an excellent first Valentine’s Day card . It was small and simple – tasteful, even – and the poem was sweet, but suitably tongue in cheek, and admirably executed. It was a truly beautiful thing he did for me and, despite the torrent of sludge that followed between then and now, I still look back on it with pleasure, gratitude and a kind of quiet awe. I keep it in my box of memories, and I imagine I will keep it there for as long as I have a box of memories.

There was never a follow up though. And I don’t mind – it’s not a thing that troubles me, and it’s not a thing I hanker after. But it’s sobering, sometimes, to think, on the one hand, how eager I am to just fucking pour out love onto somebody else in every way I can imagine and, on the other, how easily fucking pleased I am with the smallest of affectionate gestures. How little it takes for my mind to be blown.

It honestly probably scares me more than anything else to imagine someone giving me the kind of love that I want to give to someone else. Not because I don’t want it. Not because I think I don’t deserve it. Rather because it is so precisely, exactly, exquisitely what I do want and deserve that it would catapult me into some other plane of existence that I can’t fully comprehend.

I have earned a person who wants to pour love onto me. And I have earned a person who values the love I want to pour onto them. Not that you should have to earn that, but I fucking have anyway. I have earned a new plane of existence. And I do want to go there, scary though it may be. But I wonder…if I’m still scared of it, are they too? Is the person I am theoretically seeking to exchange with mirroring my apprehension? And, if so, where do I go from here, to get to there?

Paid dues

I think I’ve made a decision.

It’s a decision I’ve made a bunch of times before, and then gone back on. But I think – finally – life has lovingly, firmly, backed me into a corner. There really is just no weaseling out of it now. If I don’t make this decision now, I’m categorically doing myself a disservice. Trapping myself in a life I don’t want. Denying myself a chance at what I do want.

And honestly, at this point, if I don’t make this decision, I don’t know what other decision I could possibly make in its place. So. Here we are.

The thing that has been holding me back most utterly is self-doubt. A lack of trust in my own ability to execute. A fear that all I’m good at these days is floating through the nebula. A fear that I’ve lost my agency. That my try is too atrophied to function. That, if someone won’t tell me what to do, I simply won’t do a thing.

Part of me is still succumbed to the track that broke me a few years ago, that I’ve been trying to undo the damage of ever since: That I’m doomed and defective. Doomed because of my defect. Undeserving of the life I desire but, what’s more, fundamentally incapable of it. It’s a track I had been playing in my head for all of my young life, until a personal cataclysm split the Universe in two and The Truth spilled out of the cavity. But before I could erase the last corrosive traces from my being, a man I loved and trusted whispered it back into me in my most vulnerable moments. My mistake to listen. My lesson to learn. I’ve been paying for it ever since.

How long will I keep paying for it?

When will I, instead, start paying myself?

Miracles

When I was eleven or twelve, someone from my old school got in touch with me out of the blue because they knew I liked horses and they were part-loaning a horse whose mother was also available for part-loan. It was an acquaintance rather than a friend, and not someone I would have chosen to hang out with necessarily. But the promise of a horse was all I needed to be sold on the idea.

After visiting and finding out more, I asked my mother if I could part-loan Mother Horse. She said she’d think about it. It was too much money, really. I was far from hopeful. Part-loaning a horse seemed impossible, primarily because I wanted it so much. At that time in my life, there was probably nothing I wanted more than a horse. If I want something that much, said my brain, logic dictates I mustn’t have it.

I stayed up all night praying at my window to whoever or whatever might hear me to please, please, somehow, someway, let me loan the horse. Sitting on the sill with my feet on the roof as I was wont to do, I bowed to the night and clenched my hands together in a sort of manic, energetic desperation. Please, please, please, please, please, please, please.

The next day, my mother said I could part-loan the horse. It was a miracle! My praying had worked!

Looking back objectively on the situation, it doesn’t look so much like a miracle as it looks like a woman with a tendency to overspend, who wanted to please her daughter and would soon go bankrupt. But at the time, it was a miracle.

And I think about that sometimes, when I’m wishing for miraculous things.

My whole life could change in an instant, and the change could be enacted through incredibly mundane, predictable to some, nigh-on inevitable avenues, and it would still be a miracle.

There are two things I want so much right now that my brain tells me they’re impossible. But if I consider them dispassionately, they’re entirely possible. They don’t even involve that many moving parts. There is not much that would need to align to have them manifest. They’re no big thing, despite how big they are to me. I could wake up tomorrow, and someone could have decided to grant me a miracle.

Picture postcard

As I had failed to capitalise on the actual opportunity, I decided to pull the thread of my art show attraction in the comfort of my own bed.

And, no, I don’t mean by masturbating, I mean by lying in the dark coming up with ideas.

I followed the pathways my brain wanted to pursue. Naturally, the primary problem it wanted to solve was how to find this person, so that it could have a second chance at probably not talking to them. It wanted to find out who they were, so that it could orchestrate the best chance at happening upon them. Very familiar territory. I’m an internet sleuth in recovery, so I nixed that line of inquiry pretty sharpish. But then I have nothing to go on, my petulant brain did wail. Well, if you’ve got patience, Brain, there’s a pretty obvious way you might see him again – by attending a similar such art show in the future.

And then I had what I needed. Because, actually, something that is apparently far more engaging to my brain than devising plans to meet this stranger it liked the look of, is planning a piece to submit to the next art auction. Especially when it’s a silly, tongue-in-cheek piece that I can whip up in half an hour.

Much like emotions, I have learned that whims and attractions are best submitted to, rather than repressed. So long as you can set your expectations and interpretations aside. Because, at least in my experience, they don’t usually take you where you think they will, but they definitely take you somewhere you want to go.

And those destinations may not turn out to be satisfying to anyone other than yourself. But I think we, as a collective, need to get a whole lot more comfortable with that outcome. And I, as an individual, most certainly do.