Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Designing what you dream

Amy Lee of Evanescence once sang: But who can design what they dream? / And dream I do...

It's a beautiful turn of phrase, however I personally find that I have a lot of control over my thoughts and feelings. I am in charge of what happens in my mind, to a large extent, even though I also can't help but be influenced by the home I live in, the neighbourhood within which I reside, the city I call home, the nation or the continent. That said, how I interpret these places is unique to me. I could be in the most affluent of places and feel miserable, or the most humble of abodes and feel like a queen.

I guess I'm starting to wonder how to change my internal processes for the better. For a long time I've been dwelling in dark, repetitive thought patterns, which no longer serve me. I doubt I can change this overnight (and it would probably backfire on me to try), but I believe that with a consistent effort I can bring more light into my day, and make the night less threatening.

So, when I'm looking back on my life, I can choose to emphasise times when I felt good about myself in relation to others. For example, that time during my CELTA course when I was instructed to answer one of the questions on the whiteboard and made a modification to the equation taught which was highly regarded by some of the students. The teacher, being more of a traditionalist, changed the equation back to its original form, but one of my fellow students confided that she liked my version better. Even without this comment, I could tell that the class valued my contribution to the educational environment.

Back to the present, I can choose to remember the loving words of my girlfriend. I can choose to celebrate that I've made new friends recently, and it was all because I opened my mind to polyamory.

I can look at the recent past and choose to celebrate my previous relationship, to know it made me who I am today.

I can be thankful for the alternate bouts of self-doubt and self-assurance that have led me to cultivate the critical cultures I do, including the writing of this post.

I can be thankful for all the people I have touched with my writing, even when I was feeling at my most alone. These past three years in particular, I have been struggling with my blogging practice, but I haven't given up. I have kept going. That in itself gives me hope.

Speaking of the last three years, I have lost some of the weight I gained back. About 9 kgs. Losing weight is hard to do, so I'm happy with myself for that.

There's more; the more I think about it, the more good things come up. It's like a snowball effect. And now I'd like to take a walk outside... before it starts raining. I'll take these pleasant thoughts with me.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

What's the deal with shame?

In one of my favourite songs, Taylor Swift recognises that she could have saved herself the trouble of a turbulent relationship, if only she had trusted her first instinct: that the person in question was best avoided. This revelation is quickly followed by an admission of shame, and is echoed a few more times in the song by the phrases 'the blame is on me' and 'the joke is on me'. I find it interesting that Swift brings out into the open the intense criticism women are taught to employ against themselves in navigating the complexities of their relationships.
It's hard to live in the world as an intelligent, empathetic female without picking up a hefty dose of self-loathing along the way. Our world puts incredible pressure on women to perform a number of roles, and to do so perfectly (e.g. partner, worker, mother, daughter, friend, etc). The self-criticism we engage in is often debilitating. We judge ourselves and others harshly, even as those of us who are feminists seek to empower, love and accept, and encourage our womankind.
My first response to 'I knew you were trouble' was mixed - I loved the melody, but I wished I could ameliorate the lyrics. I wanted to have a narrative about foresight without the intrusion of shame. At the same time, there was something liberating to Taylor admitting she was ashamed, because shame is often something we try to hide. Singing the line 'shame on me now' became a problematic outlet for my own repressed self-loathing.
Eventually I learned to allow the line to just be, and not judge Swift on it. Every human being is multi-faceted, and capable of feeling a wide range of feelings. I made space for the imperfection of expressing shame in my life. It was perfection that was the problem, not the shame. Once acknowledged, shame doesn't have to stick around for very long. It's suppressing your feelings that I recognised to be more damaging.
Every time I sing the song now I have a slightly different reaction to it, one which continues to be complex, and one which I welcome for this very reason. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

The problems with books

People around me assume that it's inevitable that I will publish a book someday, but it's tough producing a long text which is marketable enough for me. Throughout my blog's journey, I have celebrated the short text. I find myself very comfortable working in this format. I suppose there's a lot less pressure to come up with a good blog post, because anyone can publish their writing online with Blogger (or a similar site). 
My friend Martin seems to be the only one who understand that my mind changes so quickly, that by the time I've published something online, half of it feels irrelevant. Writing books, then, is less about getting my message out than making money, and that doesn't feel like a good enough reason to participate in the publishing industry. 
Ideally, I wouldn't have to. That would permit me to continue being a fly on the wall, scooping up those niche books that appeal to me, and not having to worry about making my book commercially successful. 
The irony is that I'm so interested in writing that I want to protect myself from the industry. When I was younger I wanted to start my own publishing house, but I lacked the motivation (and, probably, the contacts). Ah, those days of dreaming with my Danish keypal, where anything seemed possible. Even writing this post, I have to choose my words carefully. I have to be aware of the discourses that might be floating around my readers' heads around reading and writing in 2016, certain inclinations towards upholding the status quo, no matter how slight. (Don't worry, I too am guilty of conformist urges, so non-judgmentalness is a philosophy I live by.) I want to celebrate the quality texts in circulations out there while recognising that the system as a whole needs rearrangement. And I realise that it's all very well for me to call for change while not actually participating within the system. It's a contradiction. But at least I'm calling for change of some sort. It feels like the odds are too against me to work towards publishing a book. That may change. I may feel like things become more workable in the future. But that's how it is today, and I'm trying to be comfortable with that - to find comfort in a world where comfort isn't easy to find. 
Keep up the great work, dear reader!

Monday, 7 March 2016

For Sarah

We begun again
Perhaps you weren't aware
Of my rearrangement of my psyche
When it comes to you
I still cry for you
It's the only time I do
I want to carry you to safety
But how?

Friday, 4 March 2016

The day before Mardi Gras

I liberated myself from my online degree. It seems like this happens every couple of years: I start out really keen to make the most of the study options out there, but once I get down to it I feel a loss of identity. It feels like I have to limit myself somehow, and I'm unable to reconcile the new bouquets of knowledge into an already existing garden which is chaotically but carefully tended to. There is method in my madness, one that can remain obscure to my conscious arrangements, one that I nevertheless prize. To superimpose the university structure threatens to disturb the balance. I know it's not like this for everyone. I respect those who undertake studies without jeopardising their own vision. But for now, I have rediscovered the joy of opting out.

I've figured out where I'm going this year: Germany, Iceland, Ireland and maybe Italy. To be more specific: Berlin, Magdeburg, Leipzig, Quedlinburg; Reykjavik; Dublin; Palermo, Taormina, Ragusa and Cianciana. I'm hoping for a mixture of the old and the new, sunny and progressive, feminist and emotionally expressive. Hopefully La NiƱa's cooling effect will make this summer in Europe more bearable.