Each time my heart is broken I feel more adventurous.
- Meditations in an Emergency, Frank O’Hara.
A tender heart (like mine) aches and breaks often. Sometimes multiple times in a week. I’m trying to be gracious and grateful for challenges as I navigate them. I trust that my heart and spirit is resilient. It’s proven to me so over and over again. May it be so that the urge to be bold and brave and adventurous always returns.
This month has been….complicated! Which is to say, I’ve been extremely stressed, emotional and instead of hiding and avoiding, I’m here to extend an offering that reflects that. It’s less of an essay and more of a compilation of thoughts that have been spiralling around my head. When I found some quiet, I unravelled them, stitched them together, joined the dots and found some things that felt worth sharing. Maybe you recognise them in your month too. Thanks for being here, as always. I couldn’t be happier to be writing again.
Are we genuinely going to continue to upload our data to the cloud ad infinitum for the rest of our lives? Is that the plan? I guess it must be, because I work in production and there’s no way everyone is going to be working with those hard drives that are bright orange. Production girlies know what I mean. I can’t stop thinking about this TikTok where this (quite frankly GORGEOUS) girl tells us that in Italian, you don’t say “she’s in a bad mood”, you say “ha ha luna storta” - which translates to her moon is crooked….I’ll let that sit for a second! [pause for reflection] what can I say? Bitch, me too!!! I love asking questions and nothing makes me happier than when someone really considers the question before they answer. This is especially joyful when the question is ultimately simple. Sometimes the every day makes me feel so alive that it’s overwhelming. And you have to treasure those moments because it doesn’t always feel like that. Maybe the answer to being happy and experiencing deep pleasure in your life is to try and work through feeling embarrassed. Or at least, not let it stop you. My life has improved significantly since I cared less about things that don’t matter. I want to try things and be cringe and basic and forget the rules and be earnest sometimes. Saying I don’t care and meaning it is very powerful! Random things make me very happy like remembering Joan Didion had salted almonds and Coca Cola for breakfast. Incredible. Recently, I’ve realised that when the things that I desire feel far away, my heart beats fast, like I’m running towards them, as if it will get me there faster. It frightens me at first but then I remember that isn’t how it works. I am not behind, I am not early: I am perfectly on time. I am here, now. As I should be. Like God herself intended!
One of my close friends has been doing some intense work on healing. I am so proud of her. It is incredibly brave, but vital, important work that is so worth it. And it sparked this beautiful conversation about how we focus so much on the mind, about thinking and talking and requiring the brain - which is important, of course - but we so often forget the body.
It makes me think about the word embodied; what does it mean to you? Another question: how often do you forget you have a body? For me, recently, it’s been too often. I’ve sent too many emails and not held enough hands or held enough people close or paid enough attention to things that really matter. Before I had a corporate job I could never quite comprehend the fatigue everyone described about the culture of working in that way. It felt abstract. But let me tell you, there definitely are too many emails, too many meetings, too many meetings that should have been an email. Too many urgencies that aren’t urgent at all. Urgency that loses all meaning when ostensibly everything is urgent. It definitely isn’t good for the nervous system. Although let’s be honest; the challenges for me in this kind of environment are multiple, given I take great effort to say what I mean, and am generally sensitive. No further comment at this time, LOL. Every time I remind myself I am not a machine (which is required more than I care to admit), it hurts, because it’s true. And because having to remind myself feels sad, like I’ve forgotten the point of being alive. Still, to forget is human. And then when we remember, we return to centre.
I’ve come off my anti-depressants which I want to be honest about - but it’s also important to me that I say they changed my life and saved me in a dark moment. It’s like, I want to come off of them (for various reasons that are my business and do not wish to share) but I also want to say that I don’t think this decision is good, or bad, it just is. Taking them isn’t bad, so therefore you shouldn’t need to strive to come off of them or be congratulated for doing so. I’m just doing it because it’s right for me at the moment. Moralising health, mental or otherwise, is fucked and we should resist it at every opportunity. This, I’m afraid, is a perfect example of how I’m afraid of being misunderstood. Which means I have a tendency to over explain. I’m working on it.
This week I had an in person doctor’s appointment - it’s giving 2019 vibes - and whilst I was there I experienced such care from the doctor I felt like crying. It was simple but incredibly powerful. I was actually honest with her and said what was on my mind, even the embarrassing stuff, like how I saw something on TikTok that made me think my testosterone was low. (Don’t worry, I also told her I’m typically against, althought clearly not immune to, self diagnosing via social media). She also assured me that isn’t what I’m experiencing, without humiliating me for worrying I might be because of the internet. It takes an angel to resist that impulse! Anyway, does anyone know how to nominate her for a Pride of Britain? I genuinely want to.
Life has a funny old way way, doesn’t it! It feels as if I’ve waited my entire life for spring. Longest winter of all time, surely? I am full of ~emotion~ and overwhelmed by nostalgia, even for the present. Or perhaps what I mean is that I am acutely aware of how formative these moments are, as they happening instead of only realising retrospectively. This time of year is almost always meaningful in some way or another, and each time it arrives I feel more tapped into some sort of rhythm of being alive. This time last year I was writing stuff like this. Which makes me feel so tender and also eager to run into this Summer and see what might be round the corner (I hope I fall in love!!!! Sue me!)
Recently I had dinner with a friend and I thought about how many times we have walked this road before -and I mean that literally! We moved to London 7 years ago, together. I was struck thinking about how many versions of us there have been and yet here we still are, trying, dreaming, laughing, walking back to the train after dinner. And there’s meaningful coincidence everywhere: like the resurgence of Blond(e), Frank Ocean’s album which came out when we arrived here; young, naive, impossibly full of hope and lacking direction. Unaware of how continually humbled we were about to be.
I joke about the word sensitive, but I think I really am. My other friend told me that’s a good thing because so many people are shut off to feeling. That felt nice. I reached for a joke and said in a silly voice, it’s because I’m an artist. That’s what I call a coping mechanism! But he said yes and smiled and nodded in an earnest way that made me feel possible (thank you Patch, I love you.)
I used to think I wanted freedom but I know now what I want is meaning. To live a life that is meaningful to me. That’s all I want. Happy for that to be a life’s work. And whilst I do, I hope to make the world (around me) better than it was before, somehow. To try my best to harness all of this wisdom and knowledge I’ve been able to learn from those who left it for us or teach it to us now (how indebted we are!), and do something with it. To lead with love, reject the harmful structures that are presented as the only option and to choose something else. There is a better way to live, and love each other. I believe it, and I want to live it.
Maybe, the only real freedom that exists is within the meaningful life. If this is true, then ‘freedom’ is not how I typically had imagined it; with no strings, individual, perhaps even isolated. Real freedom, I think, is community. Interconnectivity. After all, no person is an island! We need each other and that’s beautiful. I think often about Nina Simone describing what freedom is to her. She answers in such a perfectly profound way, but what sticks with you is the way that she stumbles upon her answer: “no fear”.
All I know is I feel the least afraid when I am safe in the knowledge I am held by community, friendship, love. That can and will protect you and carry you through many things that feel impossible. Giving a lot of love in this life brings a lot of love back to you. It does not save you, of course, from pain or uncertainty or distress or even being scared; that’s being alive, my darling! It doesn’t always come ‘easy’; it requires work, and vulnerability, and showing up and not hiding. But it’s worth it.
Because when you know I’ve got you and you’ve got me; we have each other. That you don’t have to do it alone, the storm can be weathered together. When you have that, when you know you have that, there is no reason to be afraid.
What else can freedom be other than that?
Thanks for reading Portrait of a Gay on Fire! You must be really cool, smart and good looking. Please subscribe, and if you have the means, consider becoming a paid subscriber.