i’m not sure where this one is. i’m not sure where any of them are, in relation to anything else at least. no country, no city. this one at least was at a beach, somewhere. and it was night.
i remember the sound of the waves crashing on the shoreline and the sound of the wind whipping through the sand and the seagrass in the dunes.
i remember the single floodlight on the combined corner store and lifeguard storage block washing everything in that typical harsh, cheap, stark white glare that comes bundled with the local council’s constant drive to keep costs down.
i remember where the edge of the dunes met the road, there was no kerb, and wooden logs were lodged into the sand every so often, with more logs bolted to them horizontally to stop cars getting in.
i remember the stars were bright, and there were warm lights behind me, so i have to guess the beach road was a residential road. there wasn’t much other noise around, no cars, no parties. no streetlights either.
it was a very comfortable kind of temperature. i was wearing a thin long sleeved shirt and jeans, i think. i couldn’t quite keep my hair out of my face thanks to the wind.
i remember i sat just past the log barriers on the sand.
i remember i was sitting with a girl. i think she had green eyes. very, very green eyes.
i don’t remember what we said. but i remember feeling sorry for her. a kind of quiet desperation. i think something was wrong with her, or her life. i get the feeling i wanted to help, but my hands were tied.
and somehow, i get the sense that whatever was wrong at the time wasn’t that big of a deal. which means, somehow, i’m looking back on this memory. so this is a memory of a memory.
i didn’t really know that i had to, until someone pointed out the pieces.
i used to wonder why everyone else seemed so functional, so that really should have given me a hint. i didn’t pick up on it. i didn’t pick up on a lot of hints.
i used to spend my time in school when i was younger bashing my head against brick walls. i know a lot of people use that as a metaphor, but i mean it literally. i would sit next to my desk and slam my head into the wall over and over again. during classes. and it wasn’t the kind of “pls give me attention” gentle headbutt that you may be imagining, it was a full on whack. to this day i don’t know how i don’t have brain damage. maybe i do. maybe that’s my problem.
i remember some of the teachers i had would try to convince me to stop, and i just wouldn’t. maybe i couldn’t. i don’t really remember. i do remember the dull thud each time. i do remember one teacher in particular (i feel bad for her) tried to get me to stop a few times during one class, and i just wouldn’t, and she threw up her hands and gave up, and left me to smash my head into the wall for the rest of the lesson. so that’s exactly what i did.
i remember when i used to play tennis… my mother paid for me to get tennis lessons. because i liked tennis. i tried to be good at it. but i got frustrated because i wasn’t good enough. there was this “tennis weekend” once, where we had everyone from the club come in (rather than coming in once a week for their usual lessons) and we had a sort of community day. this one coach, nice young guy, probably 20 something, kept trying to help me improve my serve. for some reason, i still don’t know why, i got the shits and told him to stop telling me what to do.
surprise surprise, my serve did not get better.
i remember i played a doubles game against some other girl… she was waaaaay better than me, always had been. it was some kind of a just for fun tournament, i don’t know how i ended up against her. her partner and my partner may as well not have existed. i was laser focused on this girl. i wanted to beat her. i wanted so badly to win. and i did not. we got decimated. so what did i do? instead of focusing and trying to play better, i got the shits and intentionally started hitting the balls so hard they got stuck in the fence on the opposing side of the court, so my team would lose faster. and i was screaming at this poor girl, ‘are you happy now? did you get what you wanted? are you happy?’ nobody knew what to do with me. everyone was quiet. all the other games just kept going. my parents were quiet. the girl couldn’t look me in the face. but i couldn’t win, and and i wouldn’t quit, so i just lost faster.
my past, what little of it i can remember outside the fog that constantly occupies my head, is full of things like this. little bits of stupidity that i bring with me everywhere i go. little bits of me, that have made me who… and what… i am. little things i regret, little things i wish i didn’t do, little things i wish i could take back. little lessons i’ve learned, or not learned. little pieces of the puzzle that is me. and i don’t know how to put it together. and it frustrates me.
i think i’m mad at myself. i think i blame myself for not having done better, for not having known better. for not having tried more. i think i’m mad at myself for not putting the pieces together better. i think i’m mad at myself for ruining all the things i ruined. i think i’m mad at myself because i don’t like the person i am, and i don’t know how to do that.
and one of the many, many, many, many reasons i love you is because… somehow… you let me forget that. you let me forget that i hate myself. maybe with enough time you can teach me to like myself.
i’ve been tired for a decade now. it sounds melodramatic, but it’s true. i’ve got medical issues related to sleep and sleep quality, and i’ve worked various jobs which had me up and down at weird hours.
another part of the issue was multifaceted. i’ve also been struggling with mental health issues for the better part of that decade. and one of the most fun parts of that is working really takes away my fucks, and makes it hard to give fucks about anything else. so when i’m not working, i am trying to relax in order to regain my fucks. this of course results in a cyclical phenomenon wherein i spend my fucks working to get money, because i need money to live, then i spend my downtime trying to regain fucks instead of doing important things, then i feel bad about not having done important things, so i don’t regain any fucks, and then i’m back to work.
it’s been like that for a long time. either i’m working, or i’m trying to recover from/for work.
really makes me wonder how we put up with it.
makes me wonder at what point we collectively said “fuck it” and just decided to let our entire lives be dictated by “gainful” employment.
makes me wonder how it makes sense that most of us have to slave away and live payday to payday while a smaller minority of us get by on things like interest on capital stashed in the bank, or owning 3 properties and charging “””fair””” rent, or as a perfect example (which i’ll find later) a newspaper article which decried millennials as lazy and unproductive citing the example of a “”self made”” property magnate who got to where she was by leaps and bounds on the backs of luck and/or her parents but who somehow is an example we should all look up to (sorry i don’t have daddy’s money to put a deposit on a mortgage.)
makes me wonder how much we are expected to take before our sanity starts to erode, ever so slightly, and then we’re blamed for being weird or unstable.
i, for one, am fucking sick to death of my whole life being commodified. i am fucking sick to death of being a “market segment” or a “target audience”. i am so, so fucking sick of everything, everywhere, telling me what to buy, what to think, who i should care about, when the Next Big Thing ™ is coming. everything is so manufactured, so carefully pinpointed, so planned and fucking fake and it’s sickening.
every part of my life is marketable. the clothes i wear, the technology i use, the medical and cosmetic products i use (and in some cases need), the food i eat, the places i go, the websites i visit, the porn i watch, the games i play, the jewelry i wear. facebook knows more about me than i do sometimes. my god fucking damn reproductive system is marketable. fuck you and fuck pads and tampons.
there exist degrees and positions and teams and managers of teams which are dedicated specifically to finding out how to get their marketing bullshit into my brain, over and on top of everyone else’s. i’ve long had a cynical laugh about people being employed specifically to find annoying songs to put in ads, but the older i get the more i think i may not have been that wrong after all.
they want to get in my head. they want to make sure i remember their dishwasher tablets over the other guy’s. they want to own a part of me. a tiny part, sure. a part i can overwrite. but it adds up, doesn’t it?
everything is trying to take a piece of me. advertising is everyfuckingwhere. and guess what?
so on top of not having won the genetic lottery and being Normal ™, and having to spend parts of my day managing my brain (gee i wonder what it feels like to be normal.), on top of not having won the family lottery and being born into wealth and never having to work a day in my fucking life (hello kardashians), on top of media telling me how i should look, how i should act, what hobbies i should have, what interests i should have, now i get to have advertisements and commercialism ripping little bits off me all the time every day.
that’s why i don’t run ads on any of my projects. not a single fucking one. i don’t track people. i don’t give a fuck about your Universal Advertising ID ™. i don’t give a fuck about google adwords or any of the other bullshit that everyone is constantly fighting over and spending hours upon hours trying to optimise to squeeze that last little cent out.
because i’m not doing this for money. i’m not doing any of this for money and i never will be.
because if you’re anything like me, you’re sick of it too, and i don’t want to contribute to it.
sick of being commodified and commercialised and marketed.
sick of being a unique anonymous advertising profile.
sick of being a preferred audience.
i am a god fucking damn person with wants and wishes and hopes and thoughts and dreams and interests and i don’t give a fuck what you’re trying to sell me.
dear anonymous, it’s been a while since i’ve spoken to you. nobody’s fault, of course, and i know you operated slightly outside your scope of practice for me, and i’m thankful for that.
i remember i wrote down this website on the back of one of your contact cards, and gave it to you before i left our last session. i actually didn’t even tell you what it is or what it’s for. i wanted to ask you to check it from time to time, because for some reason i wanted you to read this, but i couldn’t find the words to ask you. and more than that, i didn’t want to obligate you to remember me. but some stupid part of me hopes you did.
which is selfish, i know. it’s selfish of me to hope that you wonder how i’m doing, because i was far from the most important thing you had to deal with, between you literally doing your job and everything else that was going on in your life. but that’s the fun thing about emotions, isn’t it? they rarely make sense. and i experience an awful lot of emotions. so there’s an awful deficit of sense.
i’ve kept up with my medication. it seems to have levelled me out a bit. i almost can’t remember the last time i wanted to kill myself.
but something i said to my fiancée when she was suffering through some stuff keeps coming back to bite me in the ass. “sometimes, better is enough.” and i’m trying to apply that to myself. which is hard sometimes. i had a long conversation with her about how our lives have changed since i started this new job (btw, i got a job.) and how i actually feel guilty that i have forced our lives to change since i got it. she told me that she can’t forgive me for it because i haven’t done anything wrong, and the person holding me accountable for this is myself.
which, of course, is true. (she’s very good at being right.)
but even though i know she’s right, i can’t shake the guilt. i did something that a) she wanted me to do, b) i needed to do and c) is advancing our lives, all of which are good motives to fulfil, yet i feel guilty for doing it because it’s changed how things are.
and it’s changed the way i support her in her life and in her times of need. and i feel like it’s maybe my fault that she hasn’t been coping well lately.
and she told me i am wrong.
for once, it’s nice to be wrong.
anyway, i’ve gotten a bit off topic here. what i was really trying to say, was thank you. i couldn’t have started again on this new path without your help. i don’t know if you will ever read this, but if you do, please know that you have been a part of my recovery up until now, and however much further i get, it started with you.
there is something to be said for the comfort of ritual. it makes hard things easier, new things less scary, and can often make bad things just a little bit better.
one of the rituals that most of us recognise, even if not all of us partake in, is coffee. there is something about coffee that people seem to respect. being late to work because you were getting coffee is generally an accepted excuse. in kind, excusing yourself from work to get a coffee rarely brings unwanted attention. some offices have their own coffee machines, around which employees share parts of their day. old friends will meet for coffee, and there’s a little bit of magic in that: everyone knows they are meeting for each other, not coffee, but the comfort in the ritual brings them closer.
there’s something to be said for making coffee too. i’m a qualified barista, but sometimes being a barista feels more like being a psychologist. i remember when i used to work coffee stalls at events which were less than busy, people would tell me all kinds of things about their lives while i made their coffee. who they were, what they were doing, what’s keeping them up at night. by the end of it, i sometimes felt like i knew more about their life than i did mine.
you can tell the character of a person, too, by the way they order their coffee. it’s a small thing, but the way you speak to me when i’m taking your order or making your coffee says a lot about you. some people think i’m a robot. and for them, i am. i’ll make your coffee exactly the way you told me to, and you will take it, and go away, and i will never see you again. some people treat me like a person, others treat me like a friend. it’s an interesting microcosm of personalities, working as a barista.
there’s more still to be said about the making of coffee. setting up the machine, getting all your implements out in order so as not to waste time and burn the coffee, adjusting the grind for optimal percolation, texturing the milk so it’s j u s t r i g h t , a bit of latte art on the top because #wefancy and then finally, after it’s all done, you get to sit down and enjoy the fruit of your rewards. even making coffee for others can be rewarding, because if you do it right, you know they’re enjoying it as much as you have.
i think we can all learn something from the art of coffee and all its different aspects. i think we can all learn something about connection, closeness, subtlety, attention to detail, comfort, ritual, communication and maybe just a little bit about life… if we pay attention.
i think the biggest issue people have when trying to interact with each other is a lack of meaningful and mindful communication. note that communication and meaningful/mindful communication are not the same thing. an awful lot of people only seem to talk for the fun of it, don’t engage with the other side of the conversation, and don’t put a lot of effort into what they’re saying.
social interaction can be one of the most confusing, murky things people will ever deal with. there are a lot of rules and etiquette expectations, a lot of subtextual cues and markers, tone, vocabulary, intent, etc… it can be hard for people, even the best intentioned people, to get right. and it can be harder still for other people to identify when communication is used without intent, or worse, with malicious intent.
i think words should be treated like tools, or weapons. used with purpose, used skillfully, and practised mindfully to hone one’s art. communication can be hard, but it can be made a team effort. take some time to reach out to the people around you. have a conversation, talk about something real. get to know how they communicate, read below the surface. make a connection. it’ll be one of the best things you’ll ever do.
being able to communicate mindfully is one of the best skills you will ever develop, because it will allow you access to paths you couldn’t otherwise take. it will help you negotiate, it will help you explain, it will help you teach and learn, and more than that, it will help you understand.
i am privileged to have some people in my life with whom i share good, open, honest and mindful communication, and it has been very beneficial to my mental health. but also, it’s helped me grow and develop as a human. it’s been a long road to get to where we are, but i’m a better person for it… or at least i’d like to think i am.
we need to talk more. we need to talk properly. we need to communicate and make connections with each other, because if we do, we can help make the world a little brighter, one conversation at a time.
this recipe will result in a delicious and saucy bolognese with a smooth texture. serves 2-4 people depending on portions.
500g beef mince of your choice
350g pasta of your choice (I recommend spaghetti, fettuccine or spirals if you’re feeling adventurous)
500ml jar of Dolmio Italian Herbs and Red Wine pasta sauce
100g tomato paste/concentrate
coat a large saucepan with a sparse layer of oil, I prefer spray oil for a thin application
cook the mince well (if you notice the mince losing water and mixing with the oil, you can cook this off a bit then drain it)
add the pasta sauce to the mince and mix in
add 2 tbsp of powdered onion and mix in
add a dash (or two) of red wine and mix in
add the tomato paste and mix in
add approx 2 tbsp of sugar and mix in
bring to a low boil on moderate heat, stirring consistently
once everything is mixed in nicely and the sauce has begun to simmer, lower the heat to minimum and let the sauce rest, stirring occasionally to avoid the sauce burning. you’ll notice liquid rising to the top of the sauce between stirrings, as well as small vents of hot air, this is good. it’s cooking off the wine and extra moisture. don’t stir too much or the moisture won’t cook off and the sauce will be watery.
simmer as described above for approximately 30-45min, more if you prefer a stronger slightly more dry sauce.
about ten minutes before you think the sauce is cooked to your satisfaction, cook your pasta. (does this need additional instruction?)
serve as preferred.
part of what makes this so delicious is the pairing of tart, rich tomato flavours offset with sugar to soften the acidity. powdered onion is used to enhance the flavour without the necessity for annoying crunchy bits in the sauce.
suggested variations: try different pasta sauces. add some herbs during the simmer stage. finely chop some vegetables (ie broccoli, spinach, mushrooms) in a food processor and add during the simmer stage. if you’ve got fussy eaters, try chopping them so finely that the sauce hides them. hidden nutrition!
during our lives, sometimes people will leave. this is the nature of things. our entire existence is rooted in impermanence. we do not exist, for a time we do exist, then we do not exist again. we move in and out of people’s lives, as people move in and out of ours, like a dance that nobody can hear the music for.
I heard a little while ago that people moving through their lives are like lines on a graph plot. if they intersect, they’re bound to move away from each other, no matter how slowly. this means we all have to get very good at saying goodbye.
unfortunately for me, I am not very good at saying goodbye. I think there is a kind of art to it, a certain resolve and tactfulness that one must have when saying goodbye, to really mean it. so far, I’m not very good at it. I find it hard to leave the past in the past, and tend to bring everything along with me. some people would call this “emotional baggage”, and they would be correct. if life was an airline, I would probably need another plane to carry the baggage.
I have struggled with my mental health for a very long time, and have tried to take my own life on multiple occasions. one of the things that really gave me pause for thought in moments like that was how much baggage I would be giving to other people.
the strangest thing about progress is that it looks different to everyone. for me, I haven’t had a job for almost four months now. I got approved to drive for Uber, which I’m going to do to bring in some money while I’m functionally unemployed. but when I was employed, driving for Uber was the bottom of the barrel from where I was standing.
I got engaged, as well. while unemployed. which many people have told me is a horrible idea. but I think it’s a good idea. I’m running out of money and quickly running out of patience, but I thought about it, and I think I made the right decision.
progress happens a little bit at a time. sometimes we don’t even see it happening. every day, I wake up a little closer towards my goals, and it often doesn’t feel like it thanks primarily to some delicious mental conditions which I’ve lived with for years, but I’m changing those too…
progress comes in many forms. today, it was in the form of cleaning out my car to drive for Uber. tomorrow, it might be in the form of drinking more water. the next day, it might just be in the form of stopping to smell the roses. maybe literally.
the point is, and I’ll borrow from history here:
it does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.