I sought comfort, as December 2020 drew to a close, by reaching for all the things I’ve done in the past year which 2019 Sakara would be proud of. Then I realised, I wouldn’t have been proud of myself at all. I can’t romanticise a past version of myself and make her out to be a self-loving angel. She’s me. And I don’t give myself any credit. [Please click here for an audio file of me (quietly!) reading this post aloud. Some devices will ask you to download it first but it’s simple to do and should play without issue, let me know if you run into any problems]
She’d ask if I’ve made progress on the piano (I haven’t).
She’d ask if I’d been paid to perform in that charming, clothes-will-stink-of-fire-for-days-after-this pub I played an open mic at once (I haven’t, but then she didn’t know what a coronavirus was, let alone covid-19).
She’d ask if the house was all sorted now and I didn’t have to give cosy seating space over to stacks of old toys and hoarded papers any more (it’s… Still a work in progress).
She’d ask how many songs I could play confidently on guitar (confidently? None, not all the way through anyway).
She’d probably ask if I managed to record anything professionally this year, because I know she tends to set those dreams high.
However, I’m not really as mean as all that. I think 2019 Sakara would hug me for the adoption of two cats. She’d sigh and cry with relief to know I’d sought out a counsellor (all be it 8 months after I first went to the doctor at a time of crisis).
2019 Sakara would fall in love with this version of me, who repeats points raised in Feminist Queer Crip (an extended/book length academic essay of sorts by Alison Kafer) and The Deepest Well (which I talked a lot about in a previous post). She would smile at the hours spent listening to playlists featuring “Our House” (a song that mentions cats by Crosby Stills Nash and Young), I’ll Come Running Back To You by Sam Cooke and “Vienna” by Billy Joel, the evenings spent exploring Tracy Chapman albums and that fortnight when Laura Marling was recommended to me 3 times from totally disparate sources.
One of the things I repeatedly wrote to myself in lieu of more traditional goals was that I wanted to accept love from people. That I wanted to believe those messages of “how are you” and “you might like this song” were really meant for me, and were written by people who do know me better than I imagine is possible. I’m still not where I want to be with all of that, but I’ve also replied to messages, submitted work to projects, published articles on this blog and responded to praise with thanks and happiness at the connections formed, rather than with guilt and anxiety over whether I can really live up to those kind words with any consistency. Because I can’t. I can’t be the one thing I long to be: I can’t be consistent. I’m sick. I don’t control the way I speak to people when I’m exhausted, be that because I’m strained and snappy or hyperactive and unfiltered as though drunk. I can’t live to the schedule I desire, I can’t upload all of those singing videos BECAUSE I HAVEN’T THE ENERGY TO FILM THEM. I can’t publish weekly or even fortnightly posts, because I’m unable to write and edit that quantity of work without dedicating my entire life to one blog. I can’t. There is such a thing as can’t (take that, old primary school teachers).
There is such a thing as Can’t.
So what are my aims and desires for the year to come? I want to set sustainably sized to do lists. I want to live a life that’s manageable for me. Even though what’s manageable will change week by week.
I want to enjoy existing. I feel like I “get nothing done” and yet “have no time” for that September issue of Vogue I still haven’t finished, or to brew up some loose leaf chai tea I’ve had in a pot for 2 years. I don’t want to live like this, saving books for when I’m “more settled” and putting the nicest tea aside for when my sitting area is tidy.
I don’t want my comfort and self respect to come at the end of every to do list.
I feel like I’m endlessly absent from my day and anxious about every task. I say once they’re done I can start living, but this is life. This is all I’ll ever have. Daily to dos are never done. And, while I‘d like to phrase this in a less dramatic way, it’s true: if I can’t learn to settle in a life unfinished I’ll die unsettled. And I don’t want that. I don’t want that at all.
I can’t meditate myself out of chronic-illness induced disassociation, I can’t cat-cuddle myself free from pain in my own body, I can’t sing away exhaustion that often stops me from singing at all. I know all this. These things shut me out of this idea of the perfect, Instagram-style meditatating, resolved fantasy being who is equal parts organised and serene. But if those are the criteria for a contented life, no wonder we’re all so miserable. I don’t have to be perfect before I drink the perfect cup of tea. I don’t have to be serene to ‘deserve’ quiet time to myself.
I’m tired of trying to earn that self respect when it’s mine to give. I lead a life where I have a fully stocked tea drawer and cats that are unquestionably cuter than I am (one is currently using the other as a pillow, while nearly falling off of the storage heater). I want to enjoy all of that. But it’s not always easy to do so alongside pain, personal trauma, health, troublesome relationships and external factors like a flipping pandemic, never ending ableism and suffering of so many kinds.
As for this blog, I want to continue it. Though I’m dropping my aims yet again, hoping to post once a month now. And I want to shift my focus more resolutely towards music. It’s somewhere I feel I can make being myself count, somewhere I might find a greater sense of purpose
Thank you for staying with me this far, I hope to tempt you back next month!
All the best and a belated happy new year to you all,