Friday, 17 November 2017

To friends who are hurting,

It's funny how you can go through a lot of your life on your own with a happy attachment to the things that you like such as music and books and poetry. You don't think much about the things you enjoy because they are a part of you. They're just there.

And then someone else can come along, even for the briefest of moments, and with one enormous paintbrush they taint your songs, and your books, and your films, and your places with a deep sense of aching loss. That is, when they disappear. For the brief moment that they are there you start to absorb them into all the parts of you, because you share all the parts of you, and it's wonderful! And then, suddenly, it's not.

I've spent entire years unable to listen to a certain song because of that sense of loss. I've hidden things away from sight so that they don't bring about a twinge of sadness every time I look at them. It's funny, isn't it? How a book of poetry is just something that you really enjoy and then it becomes an object, and a collection of words, that you can't even bear to think about.

But eventually time just wipes away this feeling of pain attached to your books and your songs and your poems and you forget that it was there at all. Well, not quite. There is always a little bit left of that feeling, a little distance away in your mind, because that person, whoever they were, became a part of you too. In the moment that you share yourself, in the moment you absorb another person into yourself, they become a part of your history. And that's okay.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Feminist revamp.

I am in the process of revising my feminism. Or revamping it, regenerating it, growing it. However you want to put it. I've noticed that this happens in a big way every few years. Of course it grows continually as I read more and learn more. But every few years I find myself re-evaluating what it means to me.

I'm calling my feminism "it" as if it were some inanimate object I possess, something I hold quite dear. I'm calling it "my feminism" because it is absolutely part of who I am and incorporates pretty much everything I believe in.

But, of course, what you believe in changes and develops as you get older and so my feminism changes and develops as I experience life, as I absorb life.

I remember very clearly being told what my mother believed to be feminism when I was around 10 or 11 years old. My life changed then when she opened my eyes to the prejudices and injustices I would have to face as a woman. I remember feeling angry and passionate. I haven't stopped feeling angry and passionate ever since.

What I understood feminism to mean then is almost a whole world different to how I understand it now. Aged 10 the basics were that women in the past had been seen and treated as lesser than men and things were better now but there was still work to do. Aged 19.9 there are no basics. Well, everything should be basic and simple and easy but it isn't. It is complicated and enormous and I think about it every single day.

My current feminist revival is exhilarating. It's about self love and confidence and being proud of my existence and my achievements. It's about not being talked down to and not being quiet and not regretting not speaking up when I should have done. It's about exploring all the intersections of feminism and learning how I can use my own privilege to give a voice to the women who aren't white, straight, cisgender and socio-economically privileged like I am. It's about reaching out to other women and gaining strength from them. It's about allowing my anger, my passion, my emotion to show as clearly as it needs to and not feeling guilty or sorry about it afterwards. Unless I was wrong. It's about love and loneliness and desire.

It's about collating everything I have learnt over the years and sorting it out in my head and relearning who I am and what I believe.

It is about my existence as a woman on this planet and making sure that my tiny life can make some tiny difference.


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Do you ever forget to breathe?

Do you ever forget to breathe?

What I mean is, do you ever let your mind stop and your body stop and just breathe? I keep worrying about all the things that I have to do. I worry about the deadlines I have, the commitments I've made, the niggling, little chores I wish would just sort themselves out. And then I look at the news, or I get worked up about something in a discussion with a friend, and I take the world's weight on my shoulders letting all its agony and injustice push on my chest. And then I try and listen to audiobooks or podcasts telling me the solutions to these problems to better myself, to make sure I know more, because I don't want to read because I do that all day but I must always be learning and thinking. Mustn't I?

I need to remember to breathe.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Me Too.

I forget my 'Me Too' moments easily. The hashtag went viral a few days ago and only now did I remember being harassed in the street at 4 in the morning in Edinburgh when I was completely by myself. I forgot it because it wasn't traumatic. It wasn't traumatic because it was normal. I pretty much expected it to happen. The minute I started walking back I checked for anyone following me, looked around for people who might be trustworthy nearby, kept my hand on my phone ready to call a friend or my mum or the police. That is my default. The aim was to get home without being spoken to by a strange man with unspeakable intentions.

As I write about that experience I remember lots of others. I remember feeling afraid in broad daylight, I remember thinking out action plans in my head, I remember talking myself through how to defend myself. I remember being touched and then having a kind of sick, revolted feeling like I needed to wash.

I have put my keys between my knuckles just in case the man behind me in the dark isn't a kind one. I have struggled out of grasps intended to hold my reluctant body closer. I've been very close to thinking my assertive attitude wasn't going to help me out this time.

I have been shouted at,  I have been made to jump by white van men beeping their horns at me, I have been pushed into uncomfortable situations or conversations I have to try and get out of.

And I am lucky. None of this is that bad. None of this has scarred me. None of this has damaged me. I can talk about it. I am lucky. Millions and millions of women all over the world have had their lives changed for the worse. I am lucky to have been just touched, just a little bit frightened, just a little bit horrified.

I feel quite upset because I have all these memories of unwanted hands and catcalls and stares and I forgot about them because they are just what happen to women. They are what have happened to me since the age of 11. I always expect to have to push away a man who starts to grind on me at a club. I expect that he won't go away the first time. I expect there will be several similar men throughout the night.

I don't know what to do. I laugh sometimes, in their faces, but by accident because I'm genuinely shocked by the derogatory thing they've said. I've physically pushed them away. I've told them to fuck off. They've told me to fuck off back, and I'm not really sure how that works.

I've done all this for my friends. I've gone and I've grabbed their hand and pulled them away and stared the shit-head down with a glare reserved for a special sort of protective anger.

I forgot how this wasn't normal until this hashtag, phrase, movement allowed me to remember the hideousness of it all. It's hideous, it's awful, it's wrong. And I don't know how to stop it, but I will absolutely continue to say fuck off as much is necessary in the hope that someone gets the message eventually.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

(ir)rational.

I have irrational thoughts all the time. I get into patterns of irrational thought where I obsess over things that don't have any logical grounding and yet they make me feel scared and alone and angry. To counterbalance these irrational thoughts I make stories up in an attempt to rationalise. 

I have this fear of being alone. Of being not found by somebody, of being left unloved. I have this irrational idea in my head that it is too late, I should have had some great and glorious love by now, I am somehow far behind in my experience of life. How ridiculous, how silly to be so young and so afraid of being alone. 

At the same time I have this story going that I am much better by myself. Sometimes I even convince myself that it is unfeminist to want to be loved, desired, needed. I should be able to stand by myself. I should not need this extra thing. This, supposedly, is the rationalised part of my thought process. 

I've made up a story of my own independence, of my life against love, to counterbalance the horrible feeling of loneliness. The terrible suspicion that I am unloveable, that I am not good enough for that kind of love. 

My thought patterns are made up of irrational and "rational" ideas. One tries to cover up the other. I rather suspect it's a vicious cycle instead. 

Of course this is all really quite ordinary. People feel this way, people have always felt this way. They feel lonely and irrational and unconvinced by their own existence. But it's not too healthy, to have a cycle going on in your head. And sometimes I'm not sure how to break out of it, I just hope and wait until it fades. 

Friday, 6 October 2017

Envy.

Envy does not sit well with me and yet I feel it frequently. I rarely feel envious of another's possessions, more often of their qualities, their achievements. I could shake my feeling of envy off as competitiveness but then I could not explain the bitter taste of self-pity that comes afterwards.

This is possibly entirely unfair on myself. The feeling of envy does not always lead to self-despairing and I almost always do something about it once I feel it.

In fact, rather than qualities, it is almost always achievements I get jealous of. If it is something I know I can do I will berate myself for not having done it sooner and vow to make it happen. One day.

But it's funny how I forget everything I have already done in moments like this, forget that someone else might be envious of me, focus entirely on the person or the thing which has made me jealous.

If only envy did not indicate a lack in myself it would be a useful feeling. It is unattractive and unpleasant and selfish. I suppose that vowing to not feel envy is a vow to appreciate myself more. To only feel inspired by other's achievements, and to not compare them to my own.

Vowing to not feel envy, I suppose, is a vow to simply like myself more.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Boys.

I don't think I have any particularly "masculine" friends. I never have. Or, at least, I've never had a male friend who doesn't defy some sort of gender norm. I imagine I wouldn't get on very well with a man who felt he had to cling desperately onto his masculinity. I'd feel too sorry for him.

It's funny though, despite their brilliance, my most sensitive male friends are still sheepish. There's the self-consciousness of having mostly female friends, or of enjoying "feminine" things, conversations, feelings. I don't think they're ashamed as such, just aware that they are on the outside of a very small box.

I don't think femininity is as emotionally and mentally harmful as masculinity. Not in the way that these opposites are drummed into boys and girls. It scares me, really terrifies me, to think that boys are still taught to suppress feelings, to not cry, to keep things on the inside. As a great believer in the power of crying, of the release it can bring, I can't bear to imagine what it must feel like for a man who must not cry.

I'm not sure how to go about it. How to go about encouraging my male friends, encouraging any identifying male that I know, to carry on being human rather than masculine. I want to make sure that they bring boys into the world who are not afraid of crying, of expressing, of being. I always find it funny, funny sad, that to be a man is to suppress feeling, and therefore to suppress being.

I want to always make sure that my friends who are guys know that they can be entirely expressive in my presence. They can always cry, they can always talk. They can always just be.