Tired Friday With Cake Potential

It’s Friday….! Which means that I made muffins for breakfast (black banana from the fridge finally utilised), had a coffee (I ration the stuff) and got through my swimming class (instructor was very concerned because I was tired – kept asking what was going on. Aside from a busy week at work, and aren’t they all, the answer is simply PMS; should have said so).

Swimming and blogging are the weekly staples of my Friday diet, but I always try to do something more. In fact, I had so many ideas today, that I wound up on Facebook, because it all sounded like so much work! Sample idea:

  • making a cake! lemon loaf again? or that difficult apple pie that I fancied?
  • finish my registration for European elections – that one’s in the calendar!
  • watch RuPaul’s Drag Race – but not before other work!
  • do two-three loads of laundry (okay, one of those even happened)
  • footbath and scrub! ooh, and a facemask (I never do any of these)
  • look up the next slow cooker sensation and plan shopping, so that lunches for next week are done (steady on, got a couple of days yet…!)
  • ….more…

The problem is that Friday is duvet day for me. As in, the one and only rest day I allow myself in the week. I always make plans for Saturday, I work Sunday nights as well as Monday-Thursday – there is literally no part of the week when I’m not DOING SOMETHING. So maybe – just maybe – making a cake that I fancy eating and watching Drag Race is not the end of the world. I mean. Maybe. I can’t quite make myself believe it.

In fact, the one thing that is steadily suffering in my new world order is socialisation. Oh no, make that two things: socialisation and gigs. I all but stopped doing comedy, and while I get lots of human contact from my dayjob (yay kids!) and evening job (yay quizzers!), seeing my friends seems impossible. I did do pilates, yoga AND swimming this week, so maybe I can give myself a break…?

In any case, by writing this down I want to give myself permission to both Want All The Things and Not Achieve All The Things. I’m tired. I’m sitting on the sofa. I really fancy making a cake. Maybe there is nothing wrong with that.

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!

What Is A Treat?

It’s the middle of my working week – which starts Sunday evening and finishes Thursday afternoon – and I am pondering this query: what is a treat?

See, I like a treat. I enjoy treats a lot. I like a bit of chocolate, a frothy cappuccino, a drink. Sometimes I discover I don’t enjoy the taste of some of those things (down with milk chocolate!) as much as I enjoy the very idea of a treat.

To discuss treats, I have to mention what I eat; have to mention specific dietary requirements, so if you don’t like reading about any food restriction, maybe stop at this bit. Continue reading “What Is A Treat?”

The Life Equivalent Of Being In Between Haircuts

It’s Saturday before half-term. I am in flux.

2019 is definitely an in-progress year. While that applies to all of them to an extent, I am putting a lot of things in place – new routines, goals, thoughts even – that will look amazing a year from now, but are rather unremarkable at present. Examples?

I’m writing this blog because I miss writing, and I’m unwilling to wait for it until I figure out what exactly the writing should be. I just hope that when I do, this burgeoning writing habit will serve me to achieve it!

I started swimming again, or more precisely realised my dream and signed up for a swimming class. It is absolutely awesome and my delight at being in water is only growing. On the flipside, I’m only three classes in: all the benefits of this habit (except the immediate unbridled joy!) will be visible on the other side of 12 months or so…

I have a job with a pension. What that means, exactly, is something I need to investigate – I always found these things rather overwhelming, but it’s time to bite the bullet and understand them. There are also financial routines being organised. I have binders with invoice print-outs. No, really.

In addition to sorting out my physical health (which, next to swimming, features physiotherapy, blood tests and a fearsome-looking foam roller), I am doggedly pursuing better mental health. I try to rest more (whatever that means), be careful about creating and maintaining mental health routines and manage my news exposure.

I am (kind of) (sort of) (maybe) growing my hair (a bit). It’s a strange, reluctant feeling. I don’t look like me anymore. I’ve changed on some deep level and I feel the need to reflect that in my hairstyle. I am a bit uneasy with it; not yet sure whether I like that brand new me… but exploring this new instinct the way a dog sniffs at an unknown object.

Perhaps the whole summary could be that I’ve changed and I’m trying to keep up with it.

Setting boundaries is a thing – particularly with myself. Sorting out how much I am able to work; how much I am able to own in terms of physical objects before I get overwhelmed; how much I can achieve, especially if I narrow down the amount of the decisions I make on the daily basis… all of this doesn’t happen spontaneously, it is legitimate painstaking work.

For all of that, I feel content with my life. It is small at present, but mine to own, mine to design. I may be an anxious human, prone to distraction and trying to do everything at once, but I’m also capable of learning. I am done with frustration, a feeling that has defined majority of my adult life: I’m finished being unhappy with who I am. The question isn’t what I could have achieved if things were different: it is what can I achieve exactly as I am.

How To Rest: Role Models Wanted

It is another weekend and I’m trying to rest.

It’s not going so well. Weekend is traditionally a work event for me. I do my artistic work, I work as a quizmaster on Sundays… gigs and catching up on admin, not to mention housework, are the name of the game. I also tend to see The Gentleman Caller on weekends (okay, totally borrowing the name off Captain Awkward…. I’ll write about naming confusion another time). Overall, weekends tend to be low on me-time and high on “clean up debris of the week/write some invoices”-time, with a date or a gig thrown in the mix. And I keep realising that this resting thing… I don’t know how.

There are articles on this. How millenials have to manage diverse career portfolios as well as actually survive, which – coupled with a capitalist outlook in which you should be productive at all times, and our constant connectivity (email 24/7!) – cause us to be in work mode basically every second. So that, plus my current model of life and work is a “muggle job” and my creative career and you can tell how that would mean some overtime. And all artistic role models I have ever followed tend to say the same thing, which is: YOU BETTER WORK. WORK HARDER. WORK HARDER THAN ANYBODY HAS EVER WORKED. And oh my god, I want to. But I might need some rest.

Over the years, I have tried several different types of work, creative and not. I feel the need to take some time and figure out what it is that I should be doing to survive and thrive. Has Beyonce ever taken a year off to Find Herself? I don’t actually know. I do know that my body has finally rioted, so I need to prioritise workouts and physio; my mind is not far behind, hence media fasts and getting recommendations for therapy; and every time I try to rest, I default to reading something on the screen, or doing more work (conversely, I often procrastinate when I HAVE to do work, which leads me to believe that I’m tired). I tried to take a nap the other day, it was so unnatural. I used to really enjoy drawing with a friend, but these sessions tapered off, and whenever I try to do anything like that, I get attacked by guilt because I’m Not Being Productive. There seems to be no way out of it.

I don’t mean to sound all that hopeless. But this mythical beast of Work/Life Balance seems exactly that, mythical. How do people do this? Some days I move seamlessly from one kind of work to another and it’s kind of nice that way – I’ll do housework, than admin, then cooking and I feel like I achieved something by the end. Other days, especially when I go to work for 8 hours (well, I leave 7.30 and come back 6 pm or later), it’s very hard to do anything more. I want to instill habits in myself – meditation, exercise, cleaning, frequent writing…. so far all I managed is a weekly blog. Which is a start.

Or maybe I’m just too tired? It’s hard to tell. So far, 2019 has seen me reduce sugar intake and increase exercise (hello, weekly swimming classes, how nice to see you), as well as change my contract from fulltime to 4 days a week. I quit one quiz. I hardly ever gig (and I miss it…). But I still feel the need to take time, to rest. What would it take for this life of mine to actually function? I have no answers yet.

From Borderline Burnout To Something Like Satisfaction

This story begins sometime not now.

I’m not sure when it started or what are its actual ingredients. But the symptoms have persisted through the years. That is, I may be bad at resting. Or maybe: my priorities can be really out of whack. Or maybe: if I can’t summarise it, I can’t tell it fully. But I can tell you the results.

Last two months of 2018 were the hardest ever, workwise (aside from first two months of 2018, but that’s a separate story). I had two shows, two pub quizes per week, an emotionally and physically demanding full-time job with autistic children and my own artistic practice. Rather tellingly, all the work I was doing required being very Out There for other people: whether I’m hosting a pub quiz or working in the school, there is always an audience that I perform for. And I love that; it plays to my strengths. And yet.

Above me in the shows: Behind The Scenes at Studio Mandelbrot (a charming improv sci-fi set in alternative 70s) and Snow Q (a blend of fairy tale, poetry and performance art, in which I was the solo actor). I loved doing both of those!

There are people who routinely work 70-hour weeks. I have the greatest respect for those people and I presume that it takes a unique combination of endurance, determination and balance in creating efficient work routines as well as building in self-care. This is something I understand in abstract, but when it comes to work, I just expect myself to take everything on and excel. To make this more complex, I really do enjoy a demanding, fast-paced environment: I cook lunches and organise myself ruthlessly and – thrive. But in the last months of 2018 things got out of control: my motivation was flickering, I was angry, sad and got sick all the time. I kept trying to rest; I reserved Wednesday evenings for soothing baths; I refused social invitations, because between quizes and rehearsals I was out way too much – but I was also missing my friends and had no time to see them. All of these attempts were too little, too late. I was hoping that I’d rest during Christmas, but despite a wonderful holiday I came back to work with a sense of doom and unhappiness.

And so I had to deal with it.

First week back to school I asked for risk assessment for my injury – something I postponed, because the injury didn’t seem very serious and me being put on risk assessment would put pressure on the rest of my team. I followed this by three days of sickness absence and a decision to go from full-time to four days a week. I quit one of my two pub quizes. I quit the improv team I was heavily involved in. I started quitting things left and right, and saying “no” to more things cropping up. I quit media (as you know if you read my previous posts), I quit reading about politics especially, I quit trying to make all of my art projects at the same time. I quit, I quit, I quit. And then I quit some more.

There is more to it, of course. I have injuries that needs physiotherapy and general dealing with. I’m in my thirties now, which seems like a good time to get some spine muscles and improve my posture: I will likely keep that spine for next 30-50 years, so it’d be nice to maintain a decent user experience. My mental health could also use a tune-up – another thing that I’ve been postponing, but inevitably will need more if I don’t look at it sooner rather than later. All these things require time and effort and I had to make space for them.

And there is British citizenship – something I keep being scared about and need to do research on. Miraculously, my tax return actually affords me the money to pursue it. I hope that’s a sign of some sort.

So what now? Last week was my first week on a 4 day contract. On Friday I slept in, did some admin and went on a date to a museum and to see a show. Saturday was taxes, Sunday – brunch with friends and quiz. I try not to worry about citizenship, if only because it won’t help. I think twice before accepting any invitations, but also have more energy to be social as well as some actual time to enjoy London. Chances are I’ll be earning less: on average this move cost me some serious money that I hope my freelance work will absorb a little. But overall, I am happy: my personal life is thriving, I have plans to finish a play this year and maybe learn how to apply to Arts Council. I found some small satisfaction in things being as they are. I keep reminding myself to enjoy it.

A mostly vegan brunch: large frying pan with chickpeas, a smaller one with tofu, also olives, hummus, tomatoes, guacamole, goat cheese (non-vegan), fruit, tea and several mugs. All set on a table with some feet/legs visible around.
May 2019 include more brunches with nice people!

I’m Going Offline! Well, Kind Of. Mostly.

My name is Rita. I am a solo artist.

There is a chance you knew this about me. I do solo shows: comedy, mostly, often with swear words in the titles, but also theatre and poetry (got something cooking right now!). As a solo artist, the only way to work with others is when I get cast in somebody else’s work, or when I hire someone. So most of the time, I work alone.

I. Can. Not. Get. Stuff. Done. For The Life Of Me. And if you tell me that I do, I’ll rephrase: I get Some Stuff Done, Sometimes. The ideas/creation ratio is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.

fuck-it-instagram
Me in 2017, swearing in my first show’s title.


Facebook and their compatriots put some serious work into reprogramming my brain. I will humbly admit that I may be on the susceptible end of the spectrum: I like to read, I’m procrastination-prone… I was made for loving you, baby…! (Internet). My intense reading habit – something my family spoke with half-admiration, half-exasperation when I was a child – has shifted online almost completely. I’ve been paying library fines for about 6 months, because I do, in fact, want to read those books about history of hip-hop and British class system (two different books, though that would be a fun read….). Bottom line, I NEED TO STOP BEING ON-LINE, PRONTO.

Am I deleting my Facebook account? No. Not that simple.

As an artist, I need an Online Presence. As a human, I enjoy easy access to my friends and finding out about events I might attend. Overall, I can’t be fully offline – I have work that comes via email, I have things that need to be promoted. Rather than disappearing, I want to show up consciously, when I have someting to say.

So what I’m choosing to do is, from 4 January for about a month, get on Facebook once a week – to publish a blogpost. Twitter and Instagram will also benefit from my blogging, but that will be the extent of it; there will be no Netflix, YouTube or NowTV. I even plan to download albums off Spotify, so that I can remain offline from it, too.

I’m leaving my burgeoning podcasting habit alone. I tend to clean when I listen to podcasts, so that makes them good in my book.

Will it be worth it? Will it, as I hope, shift my focus a bit?

I have a lot of work on my plate this month – completing my tax return for one. It will definitely be interesting to see whether I feel any different or function better. For now, I invite you to hang out with me as I’m trying this thing out. The next post might be all about my favourite YouTube shows, just because I’ll miss them…!

#TimeToTalk – #BreakTheSilence on mental health


It’s Thursday morning and anxiety is being a bit of a bitch. I slept badly – too cold, rough dreams – and struggle to make myself do things. I talk myself through it – through shower, nice breakfast, a bit of calming exercise – but I still fail at time management. I’m late. A bit mad with myself. Make that very mad. I don’t know what to do. 

I’m late to a very nice workshop that I attended last week too. It’s made for and by refugees and free (donations for food) and it makes me feel conflicted. Those familiar with my situation know that I’m not earning much and haven’t been for a while. It might change soon (fingers crossed), but doing anything nice that isn’t a gig (or otherwise directly career-related) makes me feel guilty. Nevermind that if I want to help refugees, here is the thing I can do – donate time, attention, workshop-leading skills and some English language conversation. So on top of all these feelings now I have being late, which is a particular emotional bruise – I’d say trigger, but who knows what could crawl out of the depths of the Internet to accuse me of being a snowflake? – and so, I struggle. To go or not to go.

After provoking an argument with one of my nearest and dearest (argument that didn’t need to happen, only I was so mad) I sit down with myself and hash out a solution. I’ll go to the very end of the event. Then I’ll have shown up but I’ll sidestep being late AND still
leave the house. The mental labirynth required here is still better than curling up with my phone, reading about politics for the rest of the day. I curled up for about an hour an a half, but it’s still a win.

This blog, Good Enough Diary, is a bit of an homage to writer’s block – after all, suffering writer needing something to kickstart
creativity is a figure we’re all familiar with. It’s harder to admit that I likely suffer from some species of anxiety mixed with previously diagnosed moodiness and depression. When I’m low, going out of the house is hard – but being around people tends to make me feel better. Conversation, speaking out, expressing – those things make me feel better. And yet it’s so hard to say this, what I’m saying now. It is so very hard. Yes, I have suffered from depression, but I don’t like even saying that. So many people have worse problems, worse bouts. I’m not self-harming, my self-neglect tendencies are presently manageable (mostly I tend to go the other way, making healthy food and such) and people with “real” problems would laugh me out of the door.

Except what is real? And why do I invalidate my own reality?

I’m currently on a no sugar diet (health-related), but if I’m not – an argument with my partner could be a box of cookies, or binge watching a show. I enjoy both of those things, but they can be abused as well. Externalising emotion, guilt, blame – and on top I’d rather say that I’m fine. English culture is not helping here – does anyone ever expect an honest answer to a “How are you?”. I don’t like to complain and when I’m sad, being candid feels like laying my problems at someone’s feet.

There, I’ve said it. Not all. People who know me as a chatterbox could likely be shocked by the presence of hidden depths. I talk a lot, but there are things held back, too. Things I’m scared to talk about, or reluctant. Ashamed. Like when I’m late or cancel, caught up in my brain, I often make a story up because I can’t bear to admit I’m feeling too low to struggle through the door. Or how I numb feeling by reading too much. Or eating, or watching. You throw stuff at feelings you don’t know how to deal with. I’m not alone in this strategy but it feels like I am, sometimes.

I’m reading a number of wonderful books (Brene Brown is a particular favourite) that make me realise that my problems are legitimate and I’m adding to them by my silence. By self-shaming. Well, I’m talking now. My problems are real, but their weight wouldn’t be so heavy if I wasn’t ashamed, if I didn’t feel alone, if I wasn’t scared that they make me unlovable. And I am a person with a significant support network. So if you’re reading this, please know that I love you and am grateful for you, just my brain was not socialised to treat me well.

We’re retraining, brain and I.

So now it’s time to apologise for the missed workshop. And later a friend will WhatsApp from Italy – she’s somebody with whom I can talk about all this. And it’s important, people – because you need to hear the right message again and again if it’s to stay in your brain, especially if your default setting is the opposite. If you’re set up for shame, guilt, invalidating your own emotion – if you can’t deal with sadness or anger or disappointment other than burying it under sugar or alcohol or Facebook – there can never be too many times to hear that you’re alright, you’re valued, you’re allowed to speak out.

Beautiful people, love yourselves. Learn to, slowly. Patiently. Time to talk. Time to talk. Time to talk.

Good Enough Hack: Name It, Don’t Shame It (Con Artist Syndrome)

When I started writing this blog, there was one aim, one and only.

The aim for this blog was: to write it.

And the more I wrote and achieved, the more my ambition woke up to it. I started wondering whether I should have a website (I should; I attempted one at http://www.ritasuszek.weebly.com; of course, it’s unfinished), whether this blog should be my online presence (debatable; also, do I feel comfortable sharing that much of myself as official?). In short, I started expecting things.

I stopped writing.

Time has passed. I need to write whether the blog is “ready” or not. I deviated from its mission of casual while-you-wait creativity. So I am back, with my Good Enough Hack, which is… name the problem.

I have a recurring mental health problem. You could call it a version of impostor syndrome; I privately call it Con Artist Syndrome: my feeling that I’m cheating people into believing I’m worth something as an artist, as a professional. Surely if they saw me – the real me, scrambling for deadlines, wandering the house in yesterday socks – they would scorn the picture I make. So I scorn it for them. I hurt myself as I fully believe I deserve, before I get hurt by others. In a preparation of sorts.

I want to be the early-morning-rising, writing-at-her-own-tidy-desk, excercising-four-hours-a-day artist. Nothing less will do. Nothing less is worth it. And truthfully, it’s not impossible – I have been that person (well, the four hours is usually in a workshop, and I don’t own a desk, but details). But I’m not that person right now, I’m not that person all the time. Nothing else will do. I don’t deserve help if I can’t make it on my own.

See this? This, this knife’s edge either-or black-and-white obsession has been haunting my days. Whenever I start small – and I need to start small to start at all, sometimes – I preemptively scorn the effort. Can you picture this? Picture a child, stumbling on short legs to give you a hug. Now picture turning away and saying: you don’t get a hug until you stop holding the walls. Take yourself seriously, now. Practice. Maybe one day, you’ll deserve the love. Be ambitious, dream big. But how can you start your engine without fuel?

I’m saying all these wrong-headed things to articulate just how wrong-headed they are. I’ve had them for years, and they come and go: company of good people will chase them away, or when I sustain a meditation habit, or when I dance frequently. But I’m in a crisis now, and writing is all there is, in a sense – I can’t keep asking my partner to love me out of my blues. His love can’t reach places I don’t love, myself.

I’m sitting in a cafe and crying discreetly. This is a win: I left the house. When I’m gripped by those feelings, one thing that helps is leaving the house, meeting people, social activity. Simultaneously, when I’m gripped by these feelings, I cancel meetings, call in sick at work, postpone walks. I say to myself: you can’t leave until you clean your room, do the work, shape up. You don’t deserve the reward. You have to earn it.

Self-punishment, self-sabotage, scorning of the body – I sometimes stop eating/eat badly, postpone showering or getting dressed. Postpone writing, say all these things in my head. And of course, read a lot of stories, watch a lot of shows. It is a time-honored coping mechanism for me: escaping into my head and imagination. Perhaps it started in childhood: I got bullied and I loved books, so going outdoors stopped being attractive pretty quickly. (later I got bullied because I loved books and talked “funny”).

Again: this is a good day. I started getting it together yesterday – I did indeed clean my room up a bit, put together a load of laundry. Today I’ve been working on being okay with everything that’s been happening. (Got up late – okay. Had breakfast – okay. As opposed to low-level murmur of “you already ruined your day by getting up too late, now it’s not worth doing anything”). Interestingly, my brain tends to play hide-and-seek: whenever I come up with a solution to a made-up problem, my brain throws a block at me – it’s like a scene in an adventure movie, you know, when the hero is about to be trapped and all those walls come down wherever she looks? My brain is a labyrinth and it keeps itself entertained. Wherever I turn to, a wall comes down. Except the walls aren’t real, and whenever I venture  outside the confines of my tortured brain, I re-discover this: I can walk through walls like a ghost. Because things in my brain are as real as I allow them to be.

 

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Now I’m in a cafe, about to work on a grant application that I SHOULD have sent weeks ago, because it’s been ready, but I dawdled, because I need advice on a detail or two. Frankly, if I’m writing, I’m already on the road to recovery.

So, recovery list:

name the problem. Writing helps. I’ll try and name/refute the limiting/fearful statements that keep coming up (or down, like walls).

for the love of all that’s holy, leave the bloody house! You deserve it! Parks are good. Theatre is good. Friends are great.

purge some emotion. I always cry while watching cartoons. Also, Fried Green Tomatoes – guaranteed fountain.

exercise if you can – if you can trust yourself not to turn it into “I should work out more” baseball bat to bash yourself with.

 

 

 

 

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