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, more 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.

Sifting sharp pieces

Something I have realised I need to do some serious work on right now is owning my mistakes, missteps and failures more authentically.

I instinctively absorb blame whenever a situation doesn’t go as I’d like. Because of this, and because of the story that blame creates in me, I will ruminate over how to make it better, and how to be better, endlessly, if the wiser part of myself doesn’t intervene. But I am also so cripplingly ashamed of being at fault that I dare not speak it. I want to fix the problem, fix myself, and never make the same mistake again, so I can move on and never have to look at how wrong, and thus unloveable, I was in that moment.

This creates a strange dichotomy whereby my inner world is swirling with blame and shame and deep remorse, usually far outweighing the requirements for the situation, while my outer facade dances around the admission of guilt, and clings to all the reasons why it both wasn’t so bad and wasn’t all my fault. I’m suffering enough, I don’t need you to add to it.

And that’s entirely right; I don’t. But what I’m learning that I do need is a space to openly admit the exact boundaries of my failings; to examine them with considerate and compassionate eyes, and to find validation that they don’t in fact make me the terrible monster my shame would gleefully tarnish me as.

There aren’t many people in the world, I don’t believe, who can hold space for that kind of deconstruction of events, particularly in the throes of conflict, so it’s not that I should try to do this the in the raw, unfolding moment. But I’d probably be better served removing myself before I start to hear the defensive claims of victimhood or rationalisation gush from my lips. Take a breath, take a step back, save it for later. Save it for a space where I can tip all the failings onto the floor, and sift through for the pieces that are mine.

And then fucking loudly announce to the world which pieces are mine, and revel in the freedom of the proclamation.

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.

My slothful soul

I fell asleep yesterday evening right after putting my son to bed. I retreated to my room not long after seven, intending to unwind with YouTube for half an hour, and then it was 22:07 and I was groggily weighing up the pros and cons of dragging the laptop over and pushing out some words.

Cons won. I went back to sleep and woke up at about four-thirty with a trapped nerve in my neck as punishment.

It’s the first time in nearly three months that I’ve wilfully failed to post daily. Once, or maybe twice, I genuinely forgot, and a couple of times I technically posted after midnight, but this was different. This was ON PURPOSE. I must repent before the Devil of Lethargy claims my slothful soul!

Or maybe, whispers the Devil of Lethargy, posting once every couple of days works out better for you anyway…