How The Light Got In

1. Crack of Dawn

For the last week or so, I found it so easy to be joyful and productive. I’ve been waking up at 6.30 am and doing my physio exercises – the kind of behaviour I always WANTED, but never managed to do. If you’d asked me, I’d have told you that I like winter and don’t suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s hard to explain the recent lift in my mood. The early mornings are my favourite time of the day right now, I’ve been packing my lunches immediately and with no complaining, I’m just beautifully organised. Since the last blogpost, when my mood was conversely shitty, I’ve been able to clean up my room (with the support of Manbear) and more importantly keep it clean and that is probably the only other reason of this inset of blessed joy. I do not seek to question it, really – except in hopes of understanding how to keep it, and/or bring it about again….

2. Cracking On

This week I met up with a friend to do something we talked about for LITERAL YEARS: a twoprov.

What is a twoprov, might you ask? It is meeting of two minds on improv stage. My friend and I have a very particular chemistry and I’ve been wanting to explore it. We set a rehearsal for every second Wednesday and just had our first one this week and I am so very excited.

3. The Story of the Cracked Mug.

Once upon a time, I bought a mug.

I bought it from my then-workplace, Pylones – a quirky French brand of colourful everyday items. It was yellow, in a pattern we called Dahlia and I really liked it. And then I broke it.

That would have been in 2016 the latest, maybe earlier.

I still have that mug. It broke in such a way that when I looked at it, I thought immediately that it would make a great candle holder. I figured I’d Superglue the two separate parts together, and the tiny hole where some smaller bits of ceramic fell off will be fantastic for creating light.

I held onto it for at least three years.

When I first came up with this blogpost, I figured that I would either write about completing this long-awaited project (and that would be powerful) or letting go of this long-held-onto project (and that would be powerful). But I didn’t account for creative process. Yesterday, when I pulled out my precious ceramic friend and a small tube of Superglue, I had a sudden thought: is Superglue flammable? Is it heatproof? The corresponding answers turned out to be yes and no. It’s hard for me to evaluate the precise risk, but I decided using this particular glue would not be the safest option in my room full of wooden furniture, books and papers.

Stumped, I called in reinforcements (a.k.a. my flatmate) and asked them about different kinds of glue. We stared at the mug for a bit and had a conversation about making it a vase (I vetoed it – I wanted a tealight holder!) or piecing it together with various means. And then the realisation came: the mug was already a functional candle holder. It just needed a base, so that one part could be stuck to it and another secured in such a way so that it wouldn’t easily fall apart! So the mission parameters changed: I am now hunting for a base. But my mug is already functioning as a candle holder and it’s BEAUTIFUL.

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Amongst my struggles with “I Own Too Much Stuff” and “I Do Too Many Things”, there are moments like this: when I dared to ask for help and got some, and suddenly life gets a little bit easier. I can’t say how blissful that feels – like a heavy weight, lifted. In wading through my general problems with executive function, I want to take this time to be happy because This Week Things Worked. The work is slow, but I am reshaping my relationship to my body (physio! pilates! swimming!), my space (declutter! cleaning!), my creativity (play! blog! comedy! improv!), and it’s all beginning to show results. I will write my play this year. I will start a Polish-language blog this year. I might yet publish some essays, this year. I broke some things apart, this year, to put them back together. Slowly, slowly, slowly, things are becoming possible.

“There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.”

 

The Ministry Of Unfinished Tasks

I’ve been sitting in my room for the last three days, trying to get stuff done. It’s been a bit unsuccessful.

I inadvertently skipped blogging last week. It wasn’t by design – rather, because I was travelling through Poland, I lost the sense of time and routine and simply forgot about days of the week. It probably didn’t help that I drafted a giant essay about online activity (called “Live from my browser”, I’ll post it at some point): I did that on the plane to Poland, and it probably contributed to me feeling like I’ve already done my writing for the week.

Another half-term, another blogpost about how I can’t get sh*t done. There is a pattern here: it seems that when faced with large amounts of unstructured time, I simply panic and dive into the nearest screen face-first. It also doesn’t help that I spent one week visiting family (which, while pleasant wasn’t always necessarily restful) and after I got off the plane, I pretty much had to start packing for what turned out to be quite an emotionally taxing rehearsal. Even though I optimistically planned to do a bunch of stuff during the Easter week, it turned out that… umm… I couldn’t do a goddamn thing.

This is a thing I struggle with: prioritising large tasks and making them into smaller tasks; remembering to do things when I’m outside my usual routine; getting started on large overwhelming things when I’m on my own; finishing multi-stage tasks (i.e. I’ll do and hang laundry, but then won’t fold it for weeks); ASKING FOR HELP, because all of it has a hefty dollop of shame, of the “you SHOULD be able to HANDLE YOUR OWN STUFF” variety.

And then there is the fact that outside of one million things I need to get done (re-organise my room! throw things out! cook ahead! laundry! writing! tidy documents!), I also needed the rest. And those two pressures – for discipline and for unstructured time – simply cancelled each other out for the last, oh, four days.

In the end, I did ask for help. And I am lucky: when I was younger, these feelings of not-good-enough-ness could last for weeks or months. I remember having these struggles much more frequently – it was a rule, not an exception – and in fact it’s been a while since my inner dialogue descended in such an unpleasant direction. I do have a lot of shame to do with how I manage my household (cleaning, laundry and the like), but I managed to overcome. Even if it meant asking my flatmate to hang out in the kitchen while I washed the dishes – and later, ringing my boyfriend (a.k.a. Manbear) to process some of the asking-for-help shame.

As part of this whole thing, I wound up going back to online bingeing, something that I’d successfully reduced with my previous “almost offline” project. Who knows, perhaps I’ll have to do such projects periodically, just to remind myself to be more mindful about engaging with internet world. Frustrating. But also the only way, aside from going fully offline – something I’ve contemplated before, but can’t yet bring myself to do. So this is an in-progress blogpost. I’ve done things this half-term that can’t be measured – I met with some family members I see very rarely and I actually met two young cousins for the first time – but I haven’t done a spring clean. And I’m still a worthy, good-enough human being. And I’m writing that down, because I definitely need the reminder.

 

 

Taking Yourself Seriously: A Lesson In Progress

This weekend there was a meeting of Rita The Company.

Friends smile when I mention that. They ask me “are you paying yourself dividends” or “was in one of those useless meetings”. But. They don’t get it. I am a self-employed artist. It’s my job to create my work, present and produce my work, offer my work for hire. Invoice for my work. Pay taxes on the money I got paid for my work. And in order to do all these things effectively, I have to take myself seriously.

Hence Rita Suszek, the company – one person, one business, one CEO, admin, employee. All of the things are my things. I own all aspects of myself, and pay special attention to documents and finances. I now have an in-tray – a little gift bag where I put random papers that show up in my life during the week, so that I can sort them out later; I have an app to mark out my expenses; I am creating processes and workflow that a regular company already has in place. I am becoming a businessperson, because I. Have. A Business.

Gone are the days when I thought I was too artistic to understand money. Gone the moments when I chose to float around claiming that “all that” was “beyond me”. I can read the writing on the wall. My artistic practice may not fit a conventional earning model, but it does bring money, the amounts rising steadily through the years. As Rikki Beadle-Blair remarked in a workshop I took once, success looks like more work. So laugh all you want: if I can implement good habits when I have twenty or forty invoices, things will be easier when I have two hundred of them. By the time it happens, I will have files. My files will have dividers. My dividers will be laminated. And I’ll be over here, ironing whatever passes for a business suit within my artistic practice.

Is it perfect? God, no. Did I fulfill all items in my business agenda? Forget it. Did I sit down for four hours and name the date for the next business meeting? You bet. Increments are important. I am moving, will continue moving.

There is a book titled “Why Are Artists Poor”. I’m afraid to read it. I’m more afraid to be in it. Rita The Company – taking myself seriously – fighting for my life.

My Favourite Failures (Pithy Post On Perfectionism)

Aside from Brexit failing to materialise last Friday, I have had some failures this past week. I failed to post a blog on either Friday or Saturday (my usual schedule), I failed to achieve creative goals I set for the weekend… and yet, those failures contributed to a pretty good result.

About the goal: I’ve been banging on about Brexit (in blogposts, poems, comedy, podcasts…) for almost three years. And I decided to release all the backlogged content I have about it during the Brexit weekend! On brand, on time, everything done! Go me! I was excited: the idea was pleasing to my perfectionist brain. It had a feeling of achievement paired with the idea of a clean slate: it’s practically perfectionist catnip.

Spoiler alert: I failed. But what does failure mean? It means: I published an episode of Jobstealers podcast that has been languishing on my hard disk for years – an interview of another European human right after Brexit, when we were both despairing and hopeful, unlike the beat-up tiredness of the present. I also figured out how to do audio editing on my shitty cheap laptop (the answer is paid online software, but hey, it worked!), figured out YouTube’s editing software, rewatched my solo show on Brexit (“F*cking European”) and edited my YouTube channel. How is that for “failure”, considering that a lot of these things needed to get done for a while?

I have a tendency to take on too much, but this weekend it has served me. Sure, I fell short of my goal. But I am still working on publishing my videos, the podcast has premiered, another podcast is on the way and I am re-energised in my creative practice, even if a lot of this is essentially admin, and admin long overdue at that.

I’m cosying up to failure. I’m learning to reframe. Frankly, perfection only exists in not-doing (as I keep learning again and again); “perfect is the enemy of the good”. Perfect, pfft! Ain’t nobody got time for that!

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