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Things To Remember When Life Feels Like A Losing Battle

Sometimes it feels as though, everywhere you turn, the people and events in your life are deliberately out to get you. In the words of Kurt Cobain, “Just because you’re paranoid, don’t mean they’re not after you.” I am particularly prone to interpreting patterns in people’s behaviours towards me in a negative light. Whether this is the case or not, I’m not entirely sure I can say. People are often completely clueless about the impact of their words and actions, and I am as guilty of carelessness in my interactions as the next person. I haven’t a clue whether anyone I speak to is upset or offended by anything I say or do. All I know is that I never deliberately set out to make anyone feel the way I am so often left feeling. Such is the human spirit, that the majority of us huddle over our down moments and would rather turn the sadness in on ourselves than confront things head on. Whilst this is obviously unhealthy for our self esteem and general mental health, the alternative, of telling someone how their behaviour has left us feeling, is not only emotionally difficult, but also fraught with potential peril. I can make educated predictions of how such conversations might go, and they inevitably leave me feeling worse than I did initially, with still more hurt and bitter memories to take away with me. A such, there are a few lessons that I, certainly, could probably take away from those instances where some interaction has left me feeling about one inch high and aching with misery and self doubt. If any of this rings true for you, then maybe you, too, can take some assurance from the words I offer.

We can never know what anyone really thinks of us.
My experience of the world is inevitably different from your experience. We are, as it is often pointed out, the sum total of our experiences, and as no two people on this planet have experienced the exact same external influences throughout every moment of our lives, it is safe to say that how we interpret and choose to deal with situations that arise in our lives will vary enormously from one person to the next. Whilst some people seem to be on a perpetual mission to manipulate, undermine and cause pain, who are we to say that this defines who they are as a person? If you could look into their hearts and see the fragile being quivering inside, in most cases, I guess we’d understand a bit better why they are the way they are and be able to find a common ground to work from. Perhaps we could even help them with their own happiness in the process. But for the most part, whether someone intended to hurt you or not by their behaviour, we can scarcely say. Even when someone’s behaviour is obviously offensive on a racial, sexual or other level, can we really be sure that this was their intention? Even if we ask them outright, how can we be sure that they’re being straight with us? As people are the sum total of their experiences, those experiences can sometimes lead people to behave in pretty antisocial ways. This is their pain trying to get out. If we can learn to take it as such, and walk away, simply pitying them for their need to pass that pain on, or go further to try and help them through that pain, then we can limit the damage that other people’s negative experiences of life can have on our own. This is, obviously, an idea that is problematised in the case where demonstrable violence (whether verbal, physical or otherwise) has been perpetrated. It can be very difficult to learn to live with the memory of abuse. However, there is some evidence to suggest that being able to humanise the perpetrator of such violence can have positive results on being able to move on.

Know thyself.
This is an ongoing journey, something that many of us struggle with from day to day. Sometimes, being able to bolster yourself against attack from within is much easier said than done. The odd mis-spoken word or perceived indiscretion against us can easily unwind any good feelings we might have had of ourselves. When self esteem is only skin deep, it doesn’t take much to break the surface and have an oozing eruption of self hatred come pouring through the gap. Why do we think so little of ourselves? Social norms, even within the context of an alternative or particularly liberal social circle, have a lot to answer for on that front. There is always a sliding scale of goals in any way of life up to which we feel we have to match. Most of us, even the most supposedly accepting and liberal, can be incredibly guilty of judging others within our circles for their perceived ability to hit the markers set for them. These markers exist outside of ourselves, and yet are never objective. Just as we can never know exactly what someone is really like, or what they really mean, so we can never ascertain how fully they meet those external expectations. One of the common markers of a ‘good’ person is the ability to be non-judgmental. However, there are, I believe, only a minuscule, tiny, microscopically small percentage of people who are truly thus. It is true, you can’t escape, you are being judged wherever you go. Whether you choose to deal with this by trying to adhere to the guidelines set out by the social norms of your particular social circle, in an attempt to limit the way you think you are negatively judged by others, or whether you know yourself enough to realise that these standards being set for you are bullshit to the core, to know and be confident in what your own intentions are, is a good way to shake off that sense of judgment. Forgive them, Lord. They know not what they do.

Have faith in your own self-worth.
We are stronger, kinder, smarter and more beautiful than we ever give ourselves credit for. This does not depend on comparison. This does not depend on what others tell us of our own value. If you know what you want to do, even a bit, or who you want to be, even a bit, or what you want to achieve, even a bit, then you’re fine. If you find yourself stagnating, talking yourself out of change that could lead to greater happiness or fulfilment because you simply don’t think you’re up to the task, then think again. You absolutely, definitely, completely, are up to the task of finding your happiness. Many of us will crawl through life, thinking that what we seek is out of reach, that satisfaction is only for a lucky few. That’s why there are so many office drones out there, whiling away their time for people in suits who couldn’t give a shit whether they live or die. Some of those drones will be happy, but the others will be handing over their pound of flesh just to keep their family from poverty. What a mean way to live. There are alternatives, but they are hard-won. With every choice you make in life there is a compromise. Just don’t stop checking yourself to make sure that the compromise you’re making is worth it. You are not stuck. You just need to push harder. And you can. The human spirit is stronger than you might think. Good things take time, and nothing worth having is ever an easy ride.

Love your story.
Some stories are roller coasters, with stomach churning dives and long, clunking, groaning ascents. Some stories are sad, but never always so. We are all stories, and yours is no less readable than the next. In fact, physically sitting down and writing your story to yourself everyday – i.e. keeping a journal – is an excellent way of both cleansing your psyche and documenting the story as it unfolds. It won’t take long to notice how things unfold are as compelling as any literary masterpiece, whether you write it ‘well’ or not. Keep it private, stashed away under your bed, or write it in a blog for the world to see (ahem), either way, it’s worth writing. It is always, always worth writing.

These thoughts come off the top of my head, and I make a point of not editing my work before hitting ‘publish’, so what you’ve read are just a few pointers I’ve found for myself tonight, sitting under a blanket on the sofa as the February winds whistle cold around the house. I’m, in case you haven’t already gather, in the midst of trying to process a few interactions that have left me feeling like total shit. Writing is the way I come to terms with experiences, and try and find a way through my feelings. That I choose to share them in a public space is often a good way to end up generating more of the negativity I’m trying to dismiss. But, hey, it keeps me typing. You may have your own ideas on getting past the bad inner sludge. If you do, I’d love you to post them as comments, or write a post of your own. God knows, we could all do with some help when it comes to letting go.

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Happy Accidents and Embracing the Disaster

Isn’t it always the way that when you create something you’re proud of, the universe steps in and finds a way of snatching it away? That lost sketch from college, the hand-made birthday card that must have fallen out of your bag when you went to get out your purse for the bus, or the blog that mysteriously disappeared into the vapour…

I’ve suffered one such loss so far this year, and that was my blog site vanishing – pop! – overnight. I’d written several long posts into which I’d put a lot of creative energy and time, and received a lot of positive feedback and comments from friends and peers. The words and the sentiment of these posts meant a lot to me, and now I’ll never get them back. I’ve mourned them now, and though still grieving somewhat for those lost words, I’m preparing my relaunch into the blogosphere in my turbo-powered starship of joy and sadness and wonder. Not to overegg it or anything.

When I was in art college, back in my late teens, I had a tutor whose catchphrase was ‘happy accidents’. By this, he meant all those times you lost a favoured creation and had to start again from scratch, only to create something more authentic and original next time around, or spilling drawing ink all over the intricate illustration you’d spent a month on, only to find a way to incorporate the accident into the artpiece itself. When I was studying creative writing at university in my mid-twenties, I had another tutor, and his catchphrase was ’embrace the disaster’. When he spoke about embracing the disaster, he meant that I should look to all the obstacles and stressors keeping me back from creating, and harness them as the material for the creation itself. “You lost your blog and all your writing? You’re in despair? Write about it.” And he was right. When you embrace the disaster, whatever it may be, you make it part of yourself and become its master. That tutor’s advice has been my mantra ever since, both on- and off-page.

I’ve always suffered from erratic moods: a neurotic, depressive, highly strung demeanour. During the time I was studying for my Masters, it came in like a wrecking ball, and threatened to stop me writing, full stop. I went to my tutor and explained how I could barely drag myself from off the floor, and that all I could manage to write was self-indulgent, miserable shit. I’d have a good day and charge into a new interest or research angle for a creative piece, only to wake up the next day completely disinterested in the work I’d done. I filled up notebooks and notebooks with self-hate and paranoid delusions and bitter diatribes. My lack of focus, and impending deadlines, were making me a nervous wreck, prone to crippling anxiety attacks on a weekly basis. But in the sweet, musty cocoon of my tutor’s book-filled study, he reiterated the mantra. Embrace the disaster, he told me, patiently, knowing well he’d told me at least a dozen times before. And so, I did. I found all the little fragments of shattered promise scattered throughout the pages of my manic notebooks, and I pieced them together and found the story. It was not my story anymore. By taking all those shards of pain and rearranging them, sewing them carefully together in the right order, someone else was born. A happy accident, hiding in the pages of my most downhearted days.

I began this year high on the idea that I’d document One Hundred Happy Days, an online trend for blogging about the places we find happiness from day to day. Sometimes, those things are hard to come by, but I persisted, and found joy waiting in the disasters around every turn. Life, for me at least, is always a disaster because I’m erratic, and I charge and spin my way through days like a hurricane, a writer trying to narrow herself down to being just one person. Sometimes it gets me down that I cannot seem to be more stable, more unified or tamed, but so long as I can embrace the disaster that I am, and understand that my life is made up of a million happy accidents strung together to make my story, I can rise above the gloom, and carry on creating…

Writing in response to 1000 WORDS on the subject of creativity.