Thursday, 15 February 2018

Cloud Cuckoo Lander

I must try to stop being what I was and try to be what I am now. Good advice but how does one go about it?
You hope that with the right opportunity what you had and how you were, fifteen, twenty years earlier, will return, but that opportunity hasn't found you yet and you haven't spotted it either. How can it, how will you when you're not the same person?
Something inside you has died. Possibly a million times over because sometimes there's a very short-lived flicker. A 'why can't I be that way again? I was that way once...'
Essentially, you're flogging a dead horse. You know it. Others know it. It shows in your face, in your movements. And probably on paper too as in, for example, emails and applications to vacancies you're not entirely convinced you actually want.
You list the positives to make yourself feel better and realise how lucky you are, but still there's a heavy dissatisfaction. A weariness. A dragging. That with each passing year you fail to do anything about, because although you want out, out of this stalemate, you can't conceive of an OUT.
What else can you do? What could you be taken on to do? Nothing is beneath you though you might lack skill and experience, or you might even be told you have too much or not the right kind. So you get mad, then frustrated, then depressed. None of which helps change the circumstances you find yourself in: how you feel about it or what you plan to do about it.
There is no plan. How can there be when all you have acknowledged to yourself is that it's wrong to carry on as you are. Where, however, are the choices not to? Choice, yes, to cast off the old shell, but you'll probably pay a high price. Sometimes for peace of mind the price is worth it, and other times although the price is paid there are unforeseen costs that make the initial outlay seem puny and ill-judged.
You can't be truly free if nothing renews your purpose. In living. In being you. Whatever that you is now. And what if all you recognise is that the YOU is different but you don't know what that means? And neither does anyone else.
Maybe being like this, feeling like this is a luxury. Others don't have the time to give it serious thought, or silence it with activities. Perhaps, unlike me, they have more pressing considerations, and I'm just pie in the sky, head in the clouds. Living in cloud cuckoo land.
But if that is the case, why is it I feel ostracised? Have I cut myself off or has society airbrushed me out? Because the world has moved and I refused, in part, to move with it. Nobody forces me to do anything I don't want. I dig in my heels for as long as I can or until I'm ready. And by then the world has moved on to something else. The Next Big Thing. The next revolutionary development that saves time and takes convenience to a whole new level.
That's how it is with me. I veer between you and I. You to accuse and depersonalise; whereas I personalises, somewhat pathetically, and provides an overly critical or apologetic tone, occasionally revealing more than I had initially planned or even something different altogether. You would think it would be within my power (of key tapping) to control this to-ing and fro-ing, this chopping and changing and put an end to the confusion, but it's not you know. One or other always cuts in just as I think I've got myself straight.
I go through life, as you may have gathered, much the same way. The I constantly jostles the You, though it's the I that feels inferior and, at times, invisible because well, there's not a lot of me to see, at least nothing distinguishing, whereas the You is usually disgruntled with someone or something, if it's not feigning indifference or picking up on others' emotional cues and indecision.
Some years ago if I'd been asked what my superpower would be I would have said invisibility, but now when it's happening organically (and I'm not menopausal or over fifty which is when this mostly female effect is supposed to occur) I want to matter.

Picture credit: In the Wilderness, 1998,  Paula Rego

Thursday, 8 February 2018


Once upon a time (not that what I'm about to tell is a fairy tale) I had a dream on a very small-scale to Martin Luther King's, a dream like thousand of others' about what I might be, what I could become, what life might one day look like. What I, along with my peers, might grow into. The future. Which as a child seemed a long way away; a maddening wait until I was old enough to vote or be considered an adult.
And when I did make it to the States, without my parents, I still wasn't legal. Barely. Though, of course, I adhered to the law. No drinking. No gaming. Just Las Vegas baby with its larger-than-life persona and imitated cities. That however wasn't what I wanted to tell, though you should know I did revisit when I could legally play the one-arm bandits, watch dice roll and chips being lost, not that I won a convertible or any dough, or even met anyone on a winning streak, just ladies of a certain age with glazed eyes and cups of coins which dwindled rather than refilled. And afterwards there was always the Bellagio fountain show. An operatic moment in the madness and spectacular at any time of day, though at night it was perfection, as good as candlelight on a table or a moonlit walk if you were that kind of tourist, there to see the magnificent (and weird) playground inside and outside the hotels and beside the casinos.
But it's not America.
It's a created bubble that's both real and unreal. A shimmering mirage in the desert it sits in. Hotels and attractions gradually sink, are finally brought down and are rebuilt more lavishly than they were before, with more glitz and glamour and big names. The seedy side concealed and shoved underground or to the outskirts, along with real living. People making ends meet, marrying, having children, dying etc. Just the same as anyone in any village, town, city, country.
Life though, at times, doesn't seem much different to that Las Vegas bubble of unreality. A little more gritty perhaps, but often not how you thought it might be. As if it might go pop or it's some strange hallucinogenic dream you might wake up from. A comatose pantomime which for all its acts (and much to your relief) didn't actually happen. You were good enough. You weren't disappointing or disappointed. Dissatisfied.
You don't want to be that person either. The one who constantly seems down on his luck, however fortunate he might appear to others less fortunate than him. History mostly associates and portrays that pitiful figure as male but it's women too, and whilst the causal agents of our downturns today are different our spirits aren't. And neither are our childish fancies.
Often we don't know why we want what we want or think we should have. Sometimes they're not even our own got-to-haves, got-to-be, they're just images sold to us by society – government schemes, commercial businesses, peers or forbears – that indoctrinate us from a young age and continue doing so. Then when a crash or a depression comes it's a game-changer, even if it is of your own foolish making or trivial compared to those others face, because when you're sunk, you're sunk. In a slump. Turned inwards.
How you thought life would look, should look, didn't materialise, or hasn't yet, though it doesn't look as though it's going to, and time's running out, or so it seems. There's younger people coming up behind you with the same dreams, some of them achieving them too and more, or like you realising it can be hard to get by and feel worthy. Tough luck. Rough love. Unusable skills. Human scrapheaps.
Where's work when you need it? Where's relief that makes a difference to your self-esteem and doesn't make you feel shameful taking it? Where is that adult dream? Respectable work at a decent wage, a house (or at least a room) in a tree-lined avenue, a partner, a couple of kids, a nice car and a dog. Where did it go? Why did it amount to nothing...nothing solid?
But it's not a bad life, it just worked out differently.

Picture credit: Downtown Stoneleighville, P. R. Francis

Thursday, 1 February 2018


In afternoons, usually after four, my mood can sour. It doesn't matter whether it's winter, spring, summer or autumn; a sunny afternoon doesn't make my mood any less disenchanted with life. The world.
Some people talk as if sunshine is the remedy to these ills. I haven't found that to be the case, quite the opposite in fact. I'm more introverted when the sun's out, more apt to pessimism, because even if I'm sitting inside the sun makes me feel more exposed. More likely to have judging eyes cast upon me. Somewhere. I can't even escape them in my flat; I can escape even less from carrying voices.
These eyes and voices are just going about their business aren't they? Yes and no, because should I want to be near the window I'll be an exhibit, despite the filmy curtain drawn to ward them and the light off. And their sonic voices break any silence I might have had until the midnight hour.
The curtains are really for the light and summer heat, when it arrives, and for saving the artwork on my almond-white walls, rather than the fact (or problem) of often feeling pried upon. I knew the score when I moved in nine years ago, but it was either this or a darker, smaller courtyard-facing flat and that I didn't fancy.
I must be quite tolerant mustn’t I? Though it has at times been through gritted teeth, particularly when a car alarm cries, engines rev and bottles clink in the dead of night. However, my patience seems more stretched during the day when I want to be productive. When I want to drown the world out to a certain extent to muse, but then due to unanticipated interference silently fume. My once coherent thoughts now thoroughly muddled, and which attempting to untangle only makes worse.
It couldn't happen at a worse period. Because it makes the hours of three till seven (when I finally give up) feel like the longest stint of time. Ever. When it's not, it's nothing. Though when you're firing on all cylinders you can get a lot done. An article written. The flat blitzed, as in cleaned top to bottom. Everything straightened and neatened. Ideas popping so you have to leave off tasks to jot them down. Constantly.
The opposite of that is: stuck. Anything you thought of gone to some far off land. Inertia and lethargy buddying up, and though you try in vain to fight against them hopelessness sets in. Creativity turns into a mushy substance and negatively redirects its unspent energy. At you. Its co-creator.
The afternoon quickly becomes a questioning session of everything you've done, where you're going and who you are, as well as everything you've haven't done, where you haven't gone (in spite of offers), who you're not and why aren't you, whilst outside the clinking and chattering continues oblivious to the big questions you're asking. Not only of yourself but of everyone. Because everything you ask yourself you wonder if others ask it of themselves also. Or even if, as implausible it seems to you, it never even crosses their minds, at least not while they're in the act of Doing. Doing something other than just sitting around contemplating life and humanity. Oh, if only we had the luxury, they might say, to waste away precious hours.
So, less about the how can I and more about the why do I? Because life, lived day-by-day, gives me that unreal feeling. I don't feel I'm living, I'm play-acting 99.9% of the time. Just making it up as I go along. A part of me always a step removed from myself. And wondering when, if ever, the roles I take on will merge seamlessly with my full person. Or will there always be some fuzzy disconnect?
There are too many moments to count where I still feel I'm playing house, where all that's changed is that I'm taller and older because the responsibilities that come with being adult don't feel any more real than they did when as a kid I played at them. Nothing is rehearsed, everything is improvised. A run-through on your own is only an indicator of how you want things to go and not how situations unfold when others involved also have their own script.

Picture credit: The Boarding House, Eric Ravilious