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!

I Want More Life And Other Dilemmas

It’s Friday again and I’m standing at the border between my two lives.

I live a double life of sorts. Monday to Thursday I am a trainee teaching and behaviour support: I am devoted to productivity, eat batch-cooked lunches, try to rise on time and go to sleep early (skipping out on sleep has major consequences), manage my moods by reading stuff online in my lunchbreak. I occasionally attempt some self-reflection – journaling on the Tube or writing the odd poem – but by and large those habits don’t stick; I can’t read books, I have no time and if I tried it on the Tube, I’d spill my tea on them or something. I do my physio, stop by the pool, wolf down a dinner, try to squeeze out maximum efficiency out of my hours, try not to be too stressed, watch a show to wind down and go to sleep.

Then Friday comes.

Friday is my twilight zone. Actually it starts Thursday night. Thursday night I will either go out or attempt to Achieve Something Meaningful, which may mean staying up until 2 am JUST BECAUSE I AM NOT TEACHING NEXT DAY AND I CAN. Friday morning I will go swimming; let the water take my weight, beat my body, create some pleasant lassitude in my muscles. I come home, eat some food, and – this is important – I don’t have to do a goddamn thing.

I do occasionally clean; I write a blogpost; I may cook or go out; but I don’t have to do a goddamn thing.

This guilt-free zone protects my sanity. Saturdays tend to be busy – I’ll go to a gig, be in a gig, sometimes both. Tomorrow there is a march and a birthday party, with a date thrown in the mix. Sunday I’m wrapping up some podcast editing of yore (there’s nothing more horrible than unprocessed old footage or audio!) and of course hosting the quiz. Tonight is the night I get to myself.

And I. Want. More.

*************************************************************************************

There is a necessity to the way things are in my life right now. Or what feels like necessity. A led to B led to C and I made it all the way to L; is it worth finishing the alphabet? I’ve got a job that is incredibly engaging (god knows many of my previous “support jobs” were very repetitive and dull); I’m good at it and developing within it. A part of me thrives on the speed that I can achieve on Monday through Thursday. Yes, the work made my physical problems escalate, hence the constant physio/swimming/should-I-do-pilates-yoga-or-both convo, but that was a long time coming; at least they higher-ups at work are supportive. It’s nice to have a steady paycheck. And yet. And yet.

I want more life. I want to see friends without trying to convert it into doing artistic work together; I want to have time for both. I want to afford the luxury of messing around with writing, or songwriting, or dancing. I want leisure; I want creativity; I want my first thought not to be about how to turn things into an ambitious project. I want the speed of exciting things, but with maybe slightly less stress that the two hour daily commute and actual risk of injury that my current dayjob provides. I want to stop having to cut off bits of myself to fit within my life. I want to design a life that I can live, not just survive.

I want rehearsal rooms; I want comedy gigs, poetry gigs, music gigs; I want to take songs out of my head that live there, homeless, in-between; I want to take a honest look at that essay book I’ve got knocking about there, that play I already assembled a team for. I am a fountain of creativity and I have no space, choking a little, even though rationally there is only so many hours; rationally a lot of effort right now goes into re-routing my body from its path to further injury, into creating a healthy and sustainable muscle structure. Between that and the work, even though I want to write and create, I simply need to sleep more than I need to write; my body needs to heal, but meanwhile my brain tries to eat itself. The balance isn’t stacked in favour of creativity right now, and it hurts.

I guess there are Fridays. On Fridays I get to take a breath and rest. But the second part, the part when I take another breath and embark on my full creative journey, that’s the one that doesn’t fully happen. I may need to reframe it; I may need to rethink it. “I’m not standing still, I’m just lying in wait….”

I Love Swimming. I Don’t Love March

Quick note in addition to my Wednesday blog: this week has been… a bit not good. Tough, even. I expected myself to Do Stuff to do with my permanent residency – something that I am beginning to accept might not happen, because as I do the research, it turns out that the way I worked, earned and survived might not be good enough for the British taxman. I am still looking into it, but also trying to let it go slowly. I wanted this. Settled status will still be a option, later. We will see.

It is a very strange thing to think of the years I’ve spent in this country – growing up, learning about myself, trying, failing, designing my artistic career – as a retroactive audition for citizenship. I certainly didn’t “perform” my life to earn a passport, I haven’t come over with that in mind. I’m not the most business-minded person, although I am working to change that: that means that when I registered as self-employed, it was to find out whether I could hack it as a performer and get legally paid. It doesn’t mean I had what is considered a “viable business idea” or knew how to realise such an idea. Or earned enough to prove that in retrospect I was The Correct Kind Of Potential Resident.

So many of us. Doing cash-in-hand jobs, floating, trying to be free, trying to survive, trying to be artists, performers, to add beauty to life. In this new world order, we are so vunerable, so unpractical, considered unnecessary and extraneous, of low value. Kafka-esque paperology. Good thing I know that my value doesn’t rest on it.

And today is Friday. So I went swimming. I love swimming. For now it’s enough.

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?”

Rest Your Weary Bones, It’s Weekend

This week has been a week. I kicked ass at work if I say so myself – I feel more confident and overall better at the job, which is great; I got a haircut, which… suits me pretty well, but is a departure from my usual style and I feel a bit weird about it.

aunt
A “cool aunt” apparently. Is it too early for midlife crisis?

I also got my place into a kind of chaos: I flew to visit my Mum previous weekend, so there was no cleaning done – between the job and two quizes, I’m just happy I got away without a major organisational disaster. The only thing is, I got a bit sick as a result, so had to skip my swimming class today. Which I’m not happy about. But you can’t really cheat lack of sleep and this is how it caught up to me.

So what’s the first thing you do when you’re on top of  Mountain Chaos?

The first thing you do is: rest.

Counterintuitive, I know. I get to the point when I feel quite aggravated by the mess, if overwhelmed by it. But today… today me and Manbear slept in and crawled out at some unholy hour in the afternoon. There was coffee, naps, conversations, I made fluffy pancakes, and somewhere in between all of it I felt myself unwind.

pancake
Exhibit A: fluffy cloud pancakes = relaxation.

And that feeling, right there, is what Fridays are for. This is why I took a paycut from my (not substantial!) teacher pay; this is why I am creating a blogging habit and trying to cultivate things that don’t give me immediate career returns. Capitalist millennial bullshit aside, today is my day to breathe and maybe get my hair stroked, and watch last episode of Marie Kondo.

And if I just so happen to make a pot of tea, put a podcast on and meander through my room folding a random article of clothing, well – I don’t have to do that; nobody makes me do that. And that, all in all, makes a difference.*

 

 

*I have not in any way committed to folding any clothing. I might try playing the piano instead.

A Blogpost That Took Roughly 3% Of My Phone Battery (At The Time Of Typing The Title)

It’s Sunday. I have about 24 % on my phone battery and the charger point at my EasyBus seat is broken. I’m taking an A7 from Stansted to Waterloo, typing this up, because it’s the weekend and on weekends I blog. I need to close the loop, even if I’m tired and it feels like I have little to say.

I flew to Poland on Friday. It was my Mum’s birthday, and instead of sending expensive flowers I sent myself via a cheap flight. My Mum doesn’t really need extra Stuff that gifts bring, so I went all experiential. She was delighted. I should do this more often.

When I was on the plane I came up with a phrase “sexual loser”: provocative, something that gives me feelings and thoughts. I’m not in a position to write that essay, it feels: I don’t have the space required to approach it. Perhaps it’s possible to shove deep writing in the margin’s of one’s life, but I’ve never been able to do it with anything longer than a poem. This is an essay: I have mottos and quotes. Perhaps something to throw on my Medium profile when I resurrect it.

Instead, I have this blogpost, sandwiched between commitments – as am I, between the window and my seatmate. I will get home via Tesco, hold the Manbear briefly and go do my Sunday night quiz. It is the stuff of my life, this pay-the-bills work, but today I’d like to read “Queer: A Graphic History” and be held and do some writing instead.

Dear Diary, I Can’t Get Sh*t Done, Am I Broken (Also: A Gig)

This is a post about when things go ever so slightly wrong and you can’t deal with them, because you PLANNED this and the plan was PERFECT and now everything is a DISASTER and…. what was this blog called again?

Yes. That. So.

I am ever so sliiiightly frustrated this week.

It’s half-term week. A week that, as special school teachers, we count the days to. Every so often, in that ten minutes before children arrive, we do the math of weeks and days and half-laughing, half-seriously say: can’t wait. Because the job is exhausting as well as f*cking magic, and beautiful and great. We count the days. We get tired. We get a week.

Being me, which means – set to productivity (a.k.a. a human brainwashed by capitalism, also ambitious and hungry for success); amazingly busy; with a lot of errands; – I made plans for half-term. Frankly, I made more plans than I knew what to do with. I made too many plans. I overplanned. But there were errands that needed doing, that I’ve been really dragging my feet about. I needed to buy glasses (done, FINALLY), do a blood test (nope, it’s been only 1.5 month now) and work on my citizenship stuff. Oh, and also, there was a gig.

As it happened, the week came to be dominated by The Gig. The gig in question was Sing It Wrong, a fantastic song parody night that I really wanted to do. I SANG TWO SONGS OKAY AND I AM SO PROUD, I DID A THING! First of all I sang about being in my thirties and looking for meaning of life, and I thought that it wouldn’t be funny, but it really was…:

I was in character as a silent, staring Pippi Longstocking-esque clown. Then I sang.

The second song was The Song – the one I was most scared of, most excited about. The one that I stayed up to edit the soundtrack for, the one that I spent over two hours writing the lyrics. I rapped to Missy Elliott’s Work It. Specifically, I rapped about Brexit. To Missy Elliott’s Work It. You read that right.

“Boys, boys, Tory boys….”

The gig was absolutely brilliant. It also threw my entire week plan off the cliff.

The first two days of half-term I got up at 8, did an hour of work on citizenship from 9 (okay, on Tuesday I did 4 hours, I got a bit single-minded) and tried to rest or get errands done for the rest of the time. But Tuesday night I stayed up to mess around with Audacity (yeah, my Missy Elliott track was creatively edited). So on Wednesday there was no early morning or citizenship work. I did go swimming though, so one win there. But then!

I COULDN’T GET OFF THE INTERNET.

In addition to my typical post-gig hangover (no, there was no drinking, just a slight emotional exhaustion), I wound up watching my videos all the time and sending them to people. Artistic self-promotion is really tiring (and it was also not in my plans at all), but I suddenly had this very strong and manic need for Everyone To Love This Thing I’ve Done, Right Now. I was bursting with it, and despite being embarrassed, wanted to share it ith everyone!

(…I get that way sometimes when something creative just WORKS. The high tends to be directly proportional to how excited and nervous I was about doing something (in this case: VERY). I just kept watching this person on the screen being seemingly super confident with her clown persona (video 1) or with her sexiness and dancing (video 2), moving the mic stand about purposefully to fit her needs (something that I actually don’t remember doing, that’s how automatic it was). I couldn’t conceive how easy it all looked on the screen – even though I was so nervous during the second song that I didn’t HEAR people cheering. If you watch the video, mid-song I am asking the audience to “give me some love”, because I physically do not perceive it at that moment. But at the same time, I am clearly inhabiting myself in this larger-than-life way and it’s facinating.)

But here we are on Saturday and… post-gig exhaustion persisted on Thursday: a social day when I had meetings with friends. It’s lucky it included someone cooking me breakfast….! Whenever I was not with humans, I was looking at a screen. I relaxed my normal social media habits, because of course you get excited about a gig video and it’s been awhile since I’ve had something fun to share! But it quickly morphed into reading about Brexit, about women being discriminated against in design and OMG ALL OF THE THINGS ON ALL MEDIA. MY BRAIN. OW.

Result: aside from my swimming class I did fuck-all on Friday. Well, except cooking and inhaling a large amount of food. Today (Saturday) I delayed leaving the house for two hours (and also slept eleven hours, what the hell). And now I’m writing the blog, not cleaning or doing laundry or whatever, because of all the things to do, this one was the most accessible. It is clear to me that I am tired. It is also clear that tomorrow’s date with Manbear (previously described as Gentleman Caller) will consist of me putting laundry loads in and dusting and things, and that’s kind of not how I pictured it.

Tally Of Frustration

This is the moment when I should probably stop myself and look at this week’s achievements. Look at me, being all mad because I didn’t clean and cook lunches. True: these things do matter in terms of setting myself up for a good working week (I think I have only one evening off!). But I’ve made considerable headway into my residence research, played a gig, chose a glasses frame (after months of dithering, because I didn’t like any of them. I just had to pick something in the end) and wound up getting some likes on the old Facebook page. Frankly, if I were in my depressed phase, making it to a swim class would definitely be enough of an achievement for one day! It’s just because I’m not, my expectations for myself are high. Too high maybe. Possibly the expectations don’t match reality very well.

In the end, half-term meant to be restful and all, I found myself missing my regulated work existence – 7 am wake-up, the same breakfast, the same hours. Waking up whenever and choosing a long-to-make breakfast is nice occasionally, but perhaps part of my anxiety is here simply because I’ve had too many choices this week. Perhaps at some point I’ll make like Obama or Jobs and have a set amount of the same clothing (I’m not far off with my work wardrobe). So it could be that the tally of frustration is here, because I had way too much choice and I need less of it. Go figure.

I’m still tired. And hungry. And a worthy human being even if today I struggled to get sh*t done. I have to keep writing to remind myself of that.

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