The Greatest Gift

I haven’t spoken to myself in 7 months.

I quit my job. Then I went on vacation. After that I started training for a new freelance job. And finally I discovered that I was pregnant.

I’m tired. Tired of this never ending introspection. I think I finally realise that my interior isn’t as interesting as it used to be. I needed to switch off, and forget about myself. It doesn’t feel like actively ignoring oneself, it just means that some kind of mist appears over the deepest parts of by consciousness, and I just pretend that I don’t know what is under there.

I’ve done this before, and it usually works well for some time, often for years. But it always ends in disaster.

When I discovered I was pregnant, a switch was turned on/off in my head (depends on how you see it). Suddenly I felt lighter, more relaxed, less anxious. I felt like I had a purpose. God, how I’ve been longing for something like this. All those years thinking, and feeling, like my life didn’t mean anything and I could just as well disappear. Now I have a job, an important job. I am to be the mother of this being inside of me. It is huge! It is beautiful! It’s the way things are supposed to be.

All my doubts about motherhood are gone. I used to think I was too crazy, to depressed or just unable to take care of a child. But once I know there was a life growing inside me, I suppose my subconscious, kick started by pregnancy hormones or whatever, just glided into this new role. Had I known I would react like this, I wouldn’t have been so nervous in the past.

The first three months were tiring and full of days on the couch with nausea. I’m ever so grateful to be working at home now. Had I still been in my old job this wouldn’t have been a good experience. I also know that I would never have quit my job like that with a baby in my belly. I wouldn’t have dared.

So here I am now, 5 months pregnant. The little one is kicking around in there, and I feel her every day. I’m having a blast. My usual anxieties show up from time to time, but I’m better equipped to handle them now. If they get worse after the birth I know I’ll be able to seek help and work on it. I’m not scared. I spend my days thinking about what I should eat, when to exercise, sleeping badly because of leg cramps, buying cloth diapers, even thinking about learning how to knit (I never would have thought THAT possible!!!) I only care about myself as long as it is connected to my baby. It feels great to ignore oneself, absolutely fantastic, but I know it’s a trap.

My boyfriend, and the father of my child, has been warning me from day one. He says: “You cannot be only a mother. You cannot forget about yourself. You need to put in place a system where you are able to do your work as well”. By “my work” he’s obviously talking about writing, singing, playing the piano. He’s not talking about earning money, meaning translation etc.

I love office work, I love having obligations and I’m grateful to have the health to be able to earn my living. I know it’s a fantastic privilege to be able to work from home. But I cannot go on using the need to earn money as an excuse for not having any interior life. I don’t know what happened. The flame just went out. Last year was so complicated. The year before that as well. But I was able to write from time to time. Song lyrics, stories… I’d take singing lessons, went to choir practice. I’d play the piano every day before I went to work.

I guess I’m just tired of being mediocre. I can’t stand it any longer. I can’t.

A couple of weeks ago I met the professor who supervised my Master thesis. He presented me (albeit laughingly) as one of his “star students”. My first thought was that he was joking, but maybe he didn’t. That would mean that I at least spent a moment ten years ago when I wasn’t mediocre. I’d like to remember how that felt like, and I’d like to tap into that feeling. I don’t need to be a star, or a genius, or famous or glorified in any sense of the word. I just want to not feel like a little shit, and I would love it if my child could be able to see me as a whole person, as someone who is comfortable in her own skin, and someone who isn’t ashamed of herself. To accomplish this I need to learn to feel good about myself, and not keep away from the things I love to punish myself or to avoid feeling anything. I can’t hide, because it won’t work. I can’t hide behind work, and I can’t hide behind my child or my role as a mother. She doesn’t have to feel pride, but I would love it if I could teach my little girl to love herself and feel good about her life. That, to me, is the greatest gift a parent can give to her child.

Reading/Breathing

In these post-work-in-an-office-and-leading-a-life-without-meaning-times, I am trying to calm myself down. I have given myself a couple of weeks of vacation, because I so easily get over excited and nervous when I start to ask to much of myself to quickly. There are things that needs to be taken care of (the kitchen bench needs to be oiled, the apartment needs a serious dust-down, my papers are not in order), but the last couple of years have been so full of stress that I need to wind down first.

In the morning, I sit down with my tea and my breakfast and I read. I love to read, because it’s like meditating, and it lets you breathe softly and regularly. Reading, to me, is entering into a state of perfect peace (I wanted to say bliss, but I can’t stand that word, it has too many new age connotations).

Sitting there reading, I reflect upon what is being asked of us in modern life. All this running around, gathering of gold and buying things. All the pressure, all the noise, all the time being asked to “get in line” and do as you are told. It’s not for everyone.

I feel slightly ashamed of wishing that I could spend my life in a house by the sea with my books, and just keep learning and gathering knowledge until I die, but then I remember that I’m not alone in yearning for this perfect state of being. I know there are people who live like this, but they must have worked hard to get there or inherited money to sustain that kind of lifestyle. Still, oh, how I wish…

I’ll be ready to work when autumn comes, but for now I want to spend my days breathing and drinking the words of great writers. Finally life begins to make sense again.

Oh, Alice… (Studying Failure and Sense of Self Worth)

For years I have been interested in the concept of failure. There is nothing extraordinary about this of course, I think any person who try to make something will be slightly obsessed with this concept.

I’ve felt like a failure for a big part of my adult life. There was a time where I would be on stage, singing, hearing people applaud, and feeling good about them telling me I’d done a great set. I felt proud of myself when I received good marks on my Master thesis in Comparative Literature as well. Then, at some point, after having to dedicate all my waking hours to earning money to pay my rent, doing things that I didn’t want to do (read: when the realities of adult life kicked in), something just went terribly wrong. I couldn’t find the energy to do anything. I was too afraid to apply for a grant to do a Phd, I was too afraid to sing, to be in a band, to write, to get to know people. I left my country and my home town, and wasted a couple of years working as a waitress in a big city on the continent (I could have written in my spare time, but I didn’t). Then, when I finally started my first office job, something in me just shut down. It’s been ten years now, and I still haven’t been able to produce anything of value besides my Master thesis.

I should probably let it go. I should make a child so that I can think about something besides myself. I should go to my office job and earn my money, think about buying a house… I should do whatever I can to stop this excruciating introspection, whatever I can to concentrate on other people, on the wellbeing of my partner, of my family, on the poor if you will (I’m not joking, I’ve often thought of this).

Should, should, should…  In those darkest moments when I wonder why I am alive at all, what the use of it all is, and why I should continue to live when I’m not able to do so with joy and with some kind of purpose, the only thing that really means something to me is music and literature. There is nothing that makes more sense to me then telling stories and entertaining others with songs and words. Music and literature is what makes me want to continue my life. Not love. Not other people.

Art. Work. Storytelling. Imagination. Knowledge.

I can’t let it go. If I let it go, I let go of my feeling of purpose.

But let’s get back to failure. It doesn’t make sense to talk about failure without understanding what success is. I think every person makes his or her own personal definition of success. I think my definition of success would be to live a whole life filled with interestingness and knowledge, without being crippled by fear of failure. I would like to live without feeling like a failure, without feeling like a nothing.

It is frustrating to feel like I have all this unused potential inside of me which can’t come out before I learn to tackle life differently. I don’t think talent means anything if you don’t know how to navigate and understand the social sphere where your work is supposed to exist. I’m constantly worried about other people, and how they will look at me if I present something that doesn’t have quality in their eyes. They all see me like this talented person, and I don’t want to disappoint them. I don’t want to be the subject of ridicule… The press is so mean these days. The internet is a jungle, it’s filled with abuse and mean people. I don’t know, it all just freaks me out.

If you don’t feel like you’re not worth something, how can you see your work as anything but garbage? How can anything substantial be produced by a person who doesn’t have any self worth?

We all ask ourselves these questions. Why write if you don’t have anything important to say? Why sit down every day and write if you’re not worth anything, if what is coming out of you is nothing but clichés and bullshit? Who would want to read your pointless babble? What’s the point of doing it? The more you ask yourself these questions, the more absurd it becomes to sit down and actually do it. Finally you just don’t do it anymore. You don’t write, and you stop feeling ridiculous. You feel better for a while, a couple of weeks, a couple of months. But while you just sit there and do nothing, the sense of worthlessness grows and grows until you’re an old bitter lady who hates everything and everyone (if you even make it to old age that is. You might not if your life doesn’t have any meaning, any purpose).

This is my solution: I still do it. Even thought I feel like a fucking idiot for imagining that anything of quality will come out of it, I do it. If I fail, I want to fail as an artist. I don’t want to die of grief, and fail at being a human being, but I can accept to fail as a writer. At least I’m a writer. A failed writer is still a writer. A kind of writer anyway.

I try. I fail immensely all the time, but I try again. And while trying, I keep being a student of the concept of failure. I guess I’d like to try to understand why people end up like me. What the fuck happened? I was such as successful child, such a successful student, before fear got the best of me.

I’ve been wanting to read about Alice James (the younger sister of Henry James) for a long time. I’m attracted to all sorts of tragic figures, especially women. I want to study them, study their lives, study their minds, to figure out what happened to them so that I can avoid ending up like them. On my summer reading list I have put “Alice James – A Biography” by Jean Strouse, and I just started reading it this morning. After the first chapter I had to get up and write this, because what I read sounded so familiar to me. It’ll probably be a painful, but important read. I feel a lot of love and compassion for her, and a lot of rage when I think of all her unused potential.

As I’ve already said several times, I don’t give a shit about succeeding in the official sense of the word. I don’t necessarily need to publish or make an album. I do need, however, to succeed at living a life where reading, writing and music has enough space to flourish and nurture my soul. That’s the only life I know how to live. It’s the only life I feel is worth living. If I’m able to use some of the potential hiding inside of me as well, that’s a bonus, but first of all the goal is this: To feel good about myself, so that I can love others, and contribute positively to their lives. And then I want to die feeling like I’ve lived, not feeling like I’ve spent my life hiding and excusing myself for existing.

Now, let me get back to my book, and that big cup of exquisite green tea waiting beside me. This rainy Sunday has just started, and I mean to enjoy it to the best of my ability.

Alice James

Alice James (1848 –1892)

 

Late Night Thoughts

Photo by Emmet Gowin

Photo by Emmet Gowin

I don’t live in my country, I left. I cannot bear the thought of ever living there again. My little town is beautiful, but it is full of all the things that makes me remember that I’m a failure. Also my parents are there, and they are too much to handle on a permanent basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love them, but I cannot stand their eyes on me all the time, the way they scrutinise my every move, my every choice.

I love hiding down here on the continent. It allows me to live and to breathe. If I’d stayed home I don’t know what would have happened. Best not to think of that.

Being far from home helps me dull the shame I feel almost every second of the day. Sometimes I feel like I should get into a fight with, and wrestle my shame, until it lies there dead on the ground. But then I get worried about thinking violent thoughts, and decide to stroke it until it purrs and falls asleep in my lap again. Oh god, let it sleep for a while this time.

The idea of doing something cutesy and perfect just to be accepted puts me off. It’s not like I’d want to shit or self mutilate or fuck on stage, but I would want to wear leather and scream and bang my head in a Polly Jean kind of way. And then I want to pick up my guitar and sing “The Lady” like Sandy Denny. I want to move through the spectrum of all my colors.

The other day I went to a gallery, and saw some photographs by Emmet Gowin. In one of the photos his wife was standing in a barn pissing on the floor. I am in awe of that kind of shamelessness of expression. Gowin photographing his wife is the truest art I have seen in years. I went through the exhibition three times.

Sometimes I’d like to just not give a fuck, but I’m worried that I’ll go to far. I have no sense of proportion. Maybe that’s why I’m not a real artist. I worry too much. About everything.

One day I’d like to go home to my little town, lift my skirt up and piss in front of them all.

 

 

On Anxiety and Its Daily Workings

Resistance has got the better of me the last month. I find it exceedingly hard to get up in the morning. I find it impossible to get my story to go anywhere. I keep playing the same Bach invention day after day after day, even thought I know I should start something else. My therapist has suggested I start meditating, but I can’t get that done either. I’m tired of failing, and of not trying hard enough.

In a month I won’t have a steady job anymore. I’m glad I quit, going there every day made me want to jump off a tall building. My finances are in good order, and I have some savings to create a buffer between now and my freelance existence, but I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m doing some terrible mistake. I know this to not be true, but I’m so used to waiting for the next disaster that I don’t know how to be positive about this.

It’s so easy to get up in the morning, check your mail, read the paper and then let the day waste away in front of the computer. There are so many things to see, and to learn. But I’ve come to identify that the internet is my enemy number one. Big surprise, huh? Wow many times haven’t we heard other writers say the same thing?

Sometimes I think that I just don’t want it enough. But I’ve sincerely tried for ten years to live without creating things and performing, and it just doesn’t work. It makes me not want to live.

It will work, I know. I’ll make a life for myself where I can create and perform and not feel like a fraud and a failure, or at least where I can do it even though I feel like a fraud and a failure.

As I’m trying to find work as a freelancer, I have to put myself out there in a way I haven’t before. I’m so scared. I did a test to be a translator this week, and I know I didn’t do very well. I’m horrified by the idea that they might tell me I’m not good enough, but I still did it. Now I’m waiting for the verdict. I regret doing it SO MUCH. Why couldn’t I just have stayed in that stupid office and made it work? Fuck!

This morning I listened to this fantastic podcast with Seth Godin I found on Brainpickings:

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2014/05/20/seth-godin-debbie-millman-interview/

I particularly liked these parts:

Anxiety is experiencing failure in advance. Tell yourself enough vivid stories about the worst possible outcome of your work and you’ll soon come to believe them. Worry is not preparation, and anxiety doesn’t make you better.

 

Vulnerable is the only way we can feel when we truly share the art we’ve made. When we share it, when we connect, we have shifted all the power and made ourselves naked in front of the person we’ve given the gift of our art to. We have no excuses, no manual to point to, no standard operating procedure to protect us. And that is part of our gift.

If I don’t put myself out there, nothing is going to change.

The next step now is to record some demos and put them on Soundcloud. I’m going to do it, even though I’m not super happy with my songs.  They are probably more than adequate, and I’m just talking myself down again. I will stop doing that.

One step at a time. And don’t forget to breathe…

So, I Finally Quit My Job

I’ve just quit my job. In August this year I will be a freelancer again.

I’m so excited by this! I feel like having champagne, and a cigarette! I feel like getting really drunk!

Sometimes when I think about it I need to take deep breaths. But then I think, what is the worst thing that can happen? I’ll have less money for a while. No Chanel. No Fratelli Rossetti. Who gives a flying fuck? More guitar. More piano. More writing songs. More family. More friends. More reading. More thinking. Less crying!

I feel like recreating myself. I’m celebrating with moving into this new blog home. And I’ve bought a plane ticket to New York.

I hope this is the beginning of a new life.

 

Forget About It (Or "The Speech" If You Want)

Just forget about it. They won’t have my ass, they won’t.

Who are they? They are the mob in my head telling me that I’m a worthless piece of shit who shouldn’t bother getting up in the morning.

Here is a good old cliché for you: Life goes up and it goes down, that’s just the way it is. When things start going better you always get a slap in the face, and when the setback is a fact what do you do? Do you sit down an whine about it? Hell no. You just start again, until the next slap in the face, and you keep starting over again until you die. Because that’s life. It’s just a series of setbacks and failures and disappointments. There isn’t a human being who doesn’t experience life this way. What differs is the way we deal with those challenges.

I will never understand how someone as lucky as me can be so depressed. I have everything. It’s a disgrace. There is war, starvation and violence everywhere. There is absolutely no logic to it. It is shameful.

And then it stops. My argumentation stops. I don’t know what to say anymore. What is there to say? How long am I going to continue having this conversation with myself?

I feel weak who cannot change this current of self-abuse, self-loathing and depression. Am I not trying hard enough? No. I don’t take good enough care of myself. I don’t sleep well. I don’t do things I care about, I don’t meditate, I don’t write, I don’t sing. I just keep doing the same mistakes over and over and over again, letting my life be overflowed with office problems and stress.

Every time I tell myself that I should make an effort to change things I just feel tired and I can’t be bothered trying. I’m tired all the time. Tired and weak. There is no strength in there, neither in my body nor in my mind. I’m so sick of it all, sick of having to deal with myself and look at my face in the mirror every day and listen to my whining voice and listen to myself crying. Maybe I am a worthless piece of shit.

But no, I’m not. Or at least I’m trying to teach myself that I’m not. So every time I get a slap in the face, and I fall back into the old patterns, I get up again. I try to think positively, try to exercise, try to write, try to approach the piano, try to not get discouraged. I try and try and try and try.

I don’t give a shit about being famous or rich or a professional anything. I just care about making stuff, creating stuff. I was born this way, what do you want me to do? It’s my nature, even though I may lack the talent or the self-confidence of other people. What the fuck do you want me to do? If I don’t create stuff life has no meaning. That’s just the way it is.

The minute you stop trying you’re dead. Trying again and again and again is the only answer there is.

And then there is gratitude, being happy for everything which is working in your life. When we are  filled with gratitude and love, the world is so exceedingly beautiful.

There. I did it again. I gave myself the speech. Now I’m going to take a piss, make myself another tea, and enjoy the rest of my Saturday.

 

Waiting For Contentment

I dragged myself out
Of a hole in the ground
With the breath of a lion
The roar of a child
A flowers contentment
To be alive

How tall is my joy
Only let short by the
Rumbling night
When did everything
Become such a fight
The heavy morning sings

My story is the story
Of a lifetime of regret
Like a lake brimful
Overflowing

To Be Inspired

There is not much I love more than to be inspired by someone I admire and love. I look at my friends sometimes, and I feel so proud to know and be close to people who have initiative and make things happen. I know people who, professionally, are everything I ever wanted to be. These are people who make music, who take pictures, who write, who make movies. They are passionate idealists, and they work to spread information or to simply just spread joy. Some of them work to make the world a better place. There is no higher calling than this, to try in a small way to make the world a better place.

I strive to become this kind of person. I don’t want to spend my precious time on earth going to work every day just to put money in my pocket and buy things I don’t even need. This is why this lifestyle society forces us into bothers me. We are supposed to wake up, take the train to work, sit in front of a desk for eight hours just to get home just in time to eat and sleep, and then get up to do it all again. Consumer society is constructed to make us all zombies, to bow under to this insatiable need for money and luxury and comfort. You only have to take one look at the news to understand that many of the human beings on this planet have other things on their agenda. How to avoid a bullet. How to find food. How to not freeze to death. How to find water. How to avoid going insane in the midst of hell and violence.

It is getting more and more difficult to maintain the life I live. What I do professionally doesn’t have any importance. I realize that I need money to eat and pay rent, but I see so many of my friends doing different things and still getting by.

I am harvesting inspiration. One week from now I go on vacation, and I will spend this time thinking about and preparing next year. I have some ideas, and I hope I’ll be able to make some of them happen.

There is so much to do. Life is a gift, we should spend it spreading joy by being in a state of joy as much as we can. I strongly believe this, and I hope to change my life so that I can become this person I want to be.