I have so much that I want to say on this, and I’ll be honest, I’ve struggled to get it down here. Not because I don’t know what I want to say, but because I don’t have enough time to figure out how to say it in the way that I want to. In an ideal world, there would be room for me to think deeply, process, write, shuffle around, make notes, scrap it all, start again. Nothing too abstract, in terms of creative process. However, as you well know, the ideal world is not where we live. Instead, where we are, time feels like a luxury. Perhaps more accurately; what is a luxury is the time that truly belongs to us (i.e. that we don’t have to give up, to partake in labour in exchange for money). This is not the time, nor the place, nor the writer frankly, for an intellectually rigorous critique of capitalism and how it impacts our ability to live our lives in the way that we’d like to, or as is pertinent to this newsletter, my ability to write some of the things I’d like to write. There are plenty of fantastic writers/books/articles/interviews out there that do! Although very few, if any, will acknowledge me personally in my struggle to maintain a regular newsletter of equal parts substance, levity and (hopefully) delight.
At the moment, chances to think feel like gasping for air, pockets of thoughts like bubbles that might pop if not handled with care, and quickly. This is, in part, due to my own doing; a necessary period where I’m working extremely hard in almost every regard to build an expansive life for myself. This, among other things, leaves me feeling scattered and exhausted - no place to try and write what I had originally envisioned writing. Which got me thinking about another topic that’s been on my mind lately: having needs, and having them met. Sounds basic, but hear me out. I used to pride myself on the idea that I was “low-maintenance”. I applied this broadly, and would say it was a huge part of my ‘personality’. A construction of my own that ranged from the aesthetic - I didn’t (at the time) take long to get ready, or have an intense skincare or makeup routine, to the more practical - I was ‘easy going’ and was quick to let other people’s desires or needs lead the way, rather than disagreeing or arguing. I would say I didn’t mind even if I did, and I thought what made it even better is nobody would ever have known. Perhaps you see where this is going. I thought this was a good thing, something to nurture and maintain, to brag about.
For a long time, I think I truly was a low maintenance person. And HERE is the million pound question*: At what cost? (*There is no million pounds btw, not here). As I’ve grown and learned and unlearned and found out in the hardest ways, some of the casualties of living that way were my self-esteem, my sense of self, ability to work towards my goals, true intimacy in close relationships and a sense of contentment that felt secure, to name a few of the greatest hits. PLOT TWIST: I have had needs all along, I was just suppressing them!!! Queen of suppressing!
I don’t believe that it’s a coincidence that I lived most of my life believing that being ‘low-maintenance’ was better, because this is reinforced to us throughout our lives. (Women who are ‘needy’ are seen as undesirable, employees who take issue with things or ask for accommodations in the workplace are seen as ‘difficult’ and often managed out, if not fired….lmao literally moi tho?). In these examples, it demonstrates how being low-maintenance, or at least appearing as such, can also be a survival tool. The ulterior motive here is obvious! Let’s say there are two types of people; both of whom have needs (as is human to do) but one asks for them to be met, and will question it if not. The other will say nothing. Who is easier to manipulate/exploit/walk all over? From friendships and relationships, where it is easy to fall into selfish patterns and toxic dynamics, to workplaces, where the power dynamic is more obvious, it’s easy to see how you can find yourself in a precarious position in regards to advocating for yourself. This, to me, seems to show us exactly where we’re going wrong in how we live and work together. It’s sad! It doesn’t have to be this way! But that’s another point entirely. A lot of the language we use in these discussions can be illuminating when the perspective is shifted; are you really being ‘too much’, or are you not being ‘obedient enough’?
It can be really difficult to figure out what your needs are, especially if you’ve struggled with acknowledging that you even have needs in the first place. (Here it feels especially important to acknowledge that many of these struggles are likely to be disproportionately felt by those most marginalised by the society we live in currently, shaped by Cis-White Supremacist-Hetero Patriarchy, those juggling multiple forms of systemic oppression most vulnerable)
Once you figure out what your needs are - an ongoing, evolving process that is by no means static - you’re then faced with the difficult reality of how to try and meet them. And if your self esteem is low, it can also be a struggle to realise that you deserve to have your needs met. That your needs matter! They do, obviously, but you are not to blame for not thinking or feeling that they don’t (This, in part, is why the personal IS political)
It’s been healing, and deeply challenging, for me to try and do this for myself. It is no easy task! This does not mean it is not rewarding. I’ve not yet read the full essay, but whenever I see (in a book or otherwise) this section from Audre Lorde’s essay Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power, I am galvanised to continue to try:
“For as we begin to recognize our deepest feelings, we begin to give up, of necessity, being satisfied with suffering and self-negation, and with the numbness which so often seems like their only alternative in our society”
I am at once excited by the possibilities of these realisations, and exhausted by the limitations of some of the complicated circumstances of life as it is right now. I am trying to do a lot with my life, to transform and grow. Whilst it is invigorating, I am also tired. This is to say: recently, I have struggled at times to balance my needs with my obligations and aspirations. I am trying, and I want to be honest about the fact it is not easy a lot of the time. I have so much more I could, and want to say about this, but this is the predicament I find myself in: I don’t realistically have the bandwidth or free time to dive deeper right now. On the flip side, not writing at all felt like letting myself down, not honouring my need to think deeply, to figure things out aloud, to try and connect with other people whilst doing so. What I managed to do here feels like compromise, and acceptance of my current circumstances. How do we meet our needs as best we can, within the confines of our immediate situation and with the resources we have? This specificity is key. From here, there’s flexibility, and we can find innovative ways to honour ourselves, despite, despite, despite.
Hope! Possibility! Transformation!
I will keep going! I won’t give up! And I hope you will join me. By understanding the value in striving to meet your needs, may you be bolstered to continue.
Have a think this week, about what your needs are. Which ones are you neglecting? Probably through no fault of your own! How can you tend to them more intentionally? I think by default we tend to be imbalanced when it comes to things that we need in life, and as a double Libra it is my astrological duty to help guide you into balancing those scales.
Is there space for solitude, as well as time to be in company?
Are you moving and being still?
Are you thinking and also being?
Are you listening and also being heard?