This and That, Then and Now

One last look backward before I dedicate the rest of my life to being exactly the same person I was for the past 30 odd years. Oops. Of course not. Of course I’ll try to be someone different, kinder, to myself and others, more interesting, less terrified, etc, etc. And, failing that, at least I would’ve tried. (it’s always the trying that counts, isn’t it? hahaha)


Ah. That old Edinburgh bed. Let me indulge in its warmth for ten more seconds.

And that’s it, wipe it out, and onward we march…

Top ten things bothering me and which I wish to change:

  1. The fact that I wake up every morning reaching for a uniform I hadn’t needed to wear for more than a decade
  2. The fact that I’m always flustered, and that everything I did well seemed to have been achieved accidentally
  3. The fact that I’ve grown hard and soft in the wrong places.
  4. Cognitive decline, memory lapses, general dissociation, feelings of non-existence
  5. An alarming tendency towards sentimentality
  6. An increasing need for kitsch, and the failure to differentiate kitsch and art
  7. Weight gain and the utter lack of persistence when it comes to any kind of exercise, even brisk walking.
  8. The fact that I’m no longer excited by words or pictures.
  9. Failure to connect. To people, project, passions.
  10. Utterly hooked on nostalgia as a substitute for actual action. This is the real biggie.

OK so I have no real resolutions, but clearly some things need to shift. Need to lower expectations and set up achievable goals, like trying to exercise away feelings of anger and shame instead of trying to think through the funk and the fog. Like giving up on difficult reads that torture my head. Like meeting more deadlines. Like giving up the ghosts of the past, which is really really hard because I only remember bits of it, so the bits I do remember seem so much more precious than it really is. Like throwing away more objects, even if it feels like a punch in the heart, e.g. the T-shirts I’ve kept since high school, e.g. the old essays to remind myself that I once could write grammatically correct sentences without the need of a word review tool, e.g. the technically obsolete objects surrounding me – the CDs from last century + wires for old phones + the actual old phones from circa 2000.  Like giving up on parents ever understanding the realities of my confusion (and, more importantly, realising that I don’t need their understanding to feel better), which is part of finally growing up I suppose, because ultimately pain is private and we can only share so much with each other. Like being more pragmatic and realistic about work and life, love and sex, but not giving in to pessimism and slipping into ‘I don’t give a fuck-anymore’ mode, which is actually really difficult, because despair is easy and hope is hard. Like stop believing in all that crap about atonement and redemption etc etc and just get on with tasks A, B,C,D…ad finitum. Just…do it, I guess. Even though there’s a limit as to how much I can do.

I’m not extremely stupid, but neither am I particularly smart. Part of being smart is knowing when to stop, and I never quite know to do that. Well, I don’t especially know how to start either! That’s how I got stuck, I suppose. But then I also feel like the word ‘stuck’ is inherently unfair, because it implies a certain degree of willful lethargy, and I think I misspent my energy instead of being actually lazy. When I didn’t apply for academic programmes, here or abroad, it was because I genuinely believed (and still believe) I don’t have the smarts to do so. (spent 10 years being really out of it and everything right now – smartphones, electric cars, Alexa, still seems very….futuristic, which is worrying, because clearly I’m not 99 going on 100) When I don’t seem to make efforts to speak, it’s because I find speech genuinely difficult. And when I disappear, it’s because it’s the only bearable way of existing at that moment. I wish this isn’t the case, but my energy is mostly spent trying to intellecutalise every problem I have and trying to think myself out of situations that perhaps required some actual action.

So…the plan is. Run more. Breathe Deeply.  Stop being defensive. Stop being cynical. Live with sadness but catch yourself before you sink into nihilism and hopelessness.

And don’t look back. For ‘it follows’.

It always does. But that doesn’t mean that one should let it poison everything still somewhat good about this moment – the fact that I am alive and while I breathe, I can choose to hope, and no there is absolutely nothing ironic about this sentence.

I’ll end with this photo, which I’ve always loved. It’s Araki’s Sentimental Journey, a private portrait of his wife on a train. (or was it, in fact, posed?)  It’s that expression on her face, the complexity of the moment. And yet it’s also a moment of repose. There’s something indefinable about it which makes me feel alive and sad at the same time. And that’s one of the better feelings I’ve felt in some time; for a long, long time, even. 

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