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!
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…:
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.
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.
It needs to be said: I stopped writing, because I don’t know what this journal is meant to be.
I got stuck. Yes, perfectionism, but also – I want people to read me. This blog has been more of a place when I come to “write out” my thoughts. Write through the blocks. It’s a me-space that has not become a public space. It’s good enough for me-writing, but if I want an audience, I need to do better than this.
And so I’m stuck. Somehow, the freedom of writing just disappeared. And I’m not here. I don’t know what topic to pick. Picking at scabs, reaching for the moon, writing my play. Not writing my play. Not working. Learning to work. Learning to fly. Learning to crawl. Learning to be still.
I fought with my boyfriend today. Me not working is putting a pressure on us, and it all spills over. There are other reasons, but guilt remains, and is ugly.
I have a set point of misery and just keep going back there. I’m afraid to be what I can be, which is fully, unashamedly
Lifestats: articles – too many; Google – carrot cake vegan icing (no dairy diet); Money earned – not enough; Count of fear – high.
I wish for a lot of things. I wish I were more conscious of myself, more self-aware, more grounded; I wish I were less frustrated and happier. I wish I had better boundaries, better body, better everything. I wish I did more work, I wish I had more self belief.
I wish I didn’t have to write things out, and if I do, I wish for more audience. I wish I had a better blog, about something else, less self-obsessive than my tired mental health. I wish I were less dramatic. I wish I were better at meditation. I wish I believed in my dancing and singing enough to actually practice it. I wish I had the courage to leave social media when I need to work. I wish I had a cleaner room. I wish I could watch Netflix series all day, without feeling the guilt – but I also wish I watched 2 episodes and then followed the inner drive that tells me to do some work. I wish I didn’t try to subconsciously cook and clean more because I’m unemployed and my partner is supporting me – I wish I applied for jobs more, not appeasing some invisible female duties. I wish my partner were less frustrated. I wish, I wish, a prayer of the powerless.
I wrote this poem, about a year ago “Where do you keep your power”. Recently I tried to read it out loud in rehearsals, and man, I break in tears. As most poems, I wrote it for others, but for myself – if I stopped questioning myself all the time, if I believed. I can believe. There is a space for me to believe in myself, and I have to have courage to inhabit it.
I am ashamed for writing this. There are people with bigger problems for sure. Here I am, in this empty space I created in myself, too scared to step out. I’m not fighting for my life – or am I? I’m fighting with my brain, which tells me all the time that I suck. I am fighting with my habits, with lack of self love. I am grateful for all the good things – maybe not grateful enough; I look at everything with perfectionist eye of “things to be fixed” – so the things that don’t need to be fixed don’t even get noticed.
I wished I wrote all the articles I come up with, or at least most. I wish I didn’t lose belief halfway through the thought, nevermind the project. I wish I could help people, I wish I could change people’s lives. Is that naive? Perhaps I’m just the funny girl. Perhaps all that angst is for nothing and I can do some stand-up comedy. Look at me, all dismissive. That is worthy, too. I feel like I have so many sides of me and I can’t create a stable personality, a stable brand, idea. But perhaps I can. Maybe it’s okay to be all that I am. The poet, the singer, the voice. The writer, the teller, the dance. The messy, crying, sensitive, self-obsessed, humorous, witty, occasionally ironic, mostly charming, fucking intense person that I am – nevermind all the things I want to become.
I am capable of change. But if I don’t like step one, change will not satisfy me either. If I can’t celebrate my current self, exercise everyday – despite extra endorphines – will not move me into self-love. It could help, but the thinking of “I should be doing XYZ, instead” will stay.
Perfectionism is capitalism of self. All we want is more, more, more. And better. It’s okay to be more efficient. But conditional self-love doesn’t fucking work, now does it?
Google searches: not in awhile. Just trying to keep up with life.
Dear Readers, life is awesome.
Let me tell you a story: on the last day of work – yes, that job I quit a couple posts ago – I was happy. I didn’t have brainspace to be anxious about not working; I was just immensely happy that the job would be OVER. And I had a customer. And we chatted.
“What do you do? – I’m a documentary film maker. – Oh, that’s so cool. I didn’t get there yet, I’m a writer. Mostly comedy. I just quit my job and I’m writing as of tomorrow.” This is a shortened account of the conversation that took place. There was no pressure, no mercenary focus; I didn’t want anything from anyone. I was content, shooting off my mouth, just talking – sharing – re-confirming in my mind that it was happening: I was quitting to become an artist.
So what happened? Exchange of business cards; invitation to pitch; creating the pitch, winning the pitch and first project meeting!
Of course, I confronted the perfectionist beast right away. I want to be this effortless genius, whereas in the meeting I had to reign my ego in, strongly, when the animator – the expert – told me straight up my story is too long and too involved, and we’d better start over. But I know how nuts ego is. This is me, learning the creative ropes – creating ideas, presenting ideas, backing them up AND letting them go. I wouldn’t give this up for anything – especially not for dreamed up perfection.
This is real. Hard-won confidence starts here. My job is to listen: to my creative team-mates; to my creative gut (NOT to my brain that alternates between: “…they don’t even need you here, you’re obsolete” and “….you have to speak more”). My job is to work-out (which I’m doing), eat well (which I’m doing), do the work and not to take myself too seriously.
Here we are! I said “I’ll write more!” and basically legged it, drowning in the aforementioned Other Job. There are reasons for that: long story short, I got stuck in my own thinking. Behold:
The “Get It Right” Paradox
… Do you know that feeling when you’re finding your way on a crossroads? You’re pretty sure left will get you where you need to be, but just in case, to avoid being wrong, you walk right for a bit.
Is it just me who does this? This whole idea that you’re not allowed to be wrong can result in some interesting routes. Basically, I was so scared of embracing my artistic identity (doing what I felt was right but feared was wrong), that I ran in opposite direction. Man, did I suffer for it. Trying to get life right because perfectionism. Incidentally, this blog is called Good Enough Diary for a reason…
Perfectionism is the most unhelpful thing EVER. So is a mortal fear of being wrong. Combined, they led me down this path: from a job I kind of tolerated/was getting bored of… to taking a full-time position. What the actual fuck. One of the more misguided things I’ve done.
The Trap of “Reasonable” Thinking
I do remember what I was thinking. It makes a twisted sort of sense – what we call “reasonable”, “real world”, “money doesn’t grow on trees”, “you have to eat”, self-preservation, OMG SHUT UP WHY ARE YOU FEEDING ME CRAP GET OUT OF MY HEAD. We all heard that shit and had it stuffed down our throats by well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) parents/grown-ups/society, who often had had it shoved, ad infinitum. Amanda Palmer sums it up as a “Get a job!” feeling, as if art wasn’t a real job and did not require effort. Add to it the crippling shame associated with being creative (=not a Real Adult), connected with this weird idea that being creative for money is somehow unethical (oddly, the reasoning seems to intersect with sex work, somehow; that certain things are too precious to be sold and should therefore be donated. Too complicated to develop here, but nonetheless interesting). Add all those up, and I found myself in the middle of mental gymnastics, explaining the unexplainable: why doing something completely against myself is a Good Idea (with footnotes).
It’s second of January. I quit the job about a month in and now know I should never have taken it in the first place. But I’m going easy on myself: I had to know. I had to learn that no matter what I do, the full-time “normal”, non-creative job will never, ever give me any satisfaction.
What next? My last day is on Wednesday. This month I’m writing. The challenge ahead is constructing a sustainable creative lifestyle, which is relatively free of perfectionism and procrastination. I’m looking for a sweet spot between stretching myself and over-reaching; for example, I’ll not be working from home, as it’s too distracting to begin with and might result in not doing stuff and/or depression; similarly, I will not expect huge achievements from tomorrow, as intimidating myself into not doing anything is a one way trip to Guiltland. I want to be loving, gentle and unstoppable. I want to be relentless like a wave.
Google searches: (insert names of actors cast for second table reading) (results very positive)
Today is the day I stopped punishing myself for not being The Perfect Playwright That Could. Because I had this idea that writing since age 7 should have made me a pro at what I’m doing now, right off the bat. #seemslegit
But now that I’ve let that go…. I’m an imperfect, existing, real-life Playwright That Can Give Her Best And More. And that’s a much nicer thing to be!
So I went to the park (instead of punishing myself for not writing), and for a coffee with a friend (instead of punishing myself for not writing) and to a swimming pool ((instead of…. have you sensed a theme yet?). I celebrated Will’s birthday (shut up, de Vere) in good old sunshine, made new friends, dog and human, and – who knew – wrote a bit, too.
Now back at my computer, for more of the good stuff! My arms are like cooked noodles and I feel full of #swimmingwisdom (like that feeling when you stop fighting the water, and it carries you. That’s how I feel).
So yeah, today is the day! And I’m free to love my life again.
– Well, don’t worry about it – he says, dark eyes widening. – You’ve done well. Poets are quite cerebral usually, and I’m doing acting workshop kind of stuff.
I sit there, halfway through from my previous boneless sprawl. My experiences in local poetry nights have taught me that I can fit in with being cerebral. But I don’t want to. I always want to shake things up and roll around the floor. Reading from page (which I’ve done) makes me want to scream. Does it mean I’m not a poet? Does it mean I’m doing poetry wrong?
I’ve been thinking that way my whole life. I thought that when I was too artsy for my uni group, but too “thinky” for actors from workshops I attended. Too “in the head” or too physical. Too “dancey” for physical improvisation, not fit enough for dance. And so on. What am I? I kept wondering. Whatever I tried on, I seemed to be doing it wrong.
It’s the hardest thing. It’s the easiest thing. It’s the thing: I am enough for all I do.
I can fill any label the way I want. This is how I am: as an actor, a dancer, a poet, a singer. A body, a voice.
Or I can reject the labels. I am no poet, actor, dancer. I am Rita. A Rita. The only one. The best one. I am a happening. A work of art.
Whichever I choose, the constant comparison will cease to be constant. And then it will cease to be. I am. I work. I do my work. I feel my way through. I love working with other people.
It may not be easy, but it is simple.
I can always do My Best.
So let’s get on with it! 🙂
(The workshop happened courtesy of Apples & Snakes and was led by Ali Gadema. It was great! and – thought provoking….. 🙂 )
Thought content: activity increased by 50 % (based on roughly no calculations)
Today was…. well, great. And I’m saying this firmly ignoring the little voice pointing out the imperfections. I’m hoping it will eventually go away, but to be honest, the imperfections were tiny anyway. So – we got to go to a rehearsal for a show called Bromantics(soon to have a reading at Royal Theatre Stratford East), written and directed by Rikki Beadle-Blair. I am a huge fan of Rikki’s and participate in his projects and workshops, so it was brilliant to shadow him in a rehearsal (twice, no less!). My brother got to tag along, we were included in all physical and vocal warm-ups and I donated my street-find teddy bear to the show 🙂
Next – we went to town. Now, my brother hadn’t done much “touristing” before; he mostly had been hanging out at the house, resting. But today we wandered ’round central London, had an overpriced dinner (mostly because restaurant was by the theatre) and.. went to see Wicked! I hunted down 16.50 tickets for the stalls, and it was absolutely worth it. I really enjoyed the show.
For those of you, who – like me before tonight – have been living under a rock, Wicked is a retelling – you can be feminist and call it a herstory, you can be a fan of Wizard of Oz… and call it a fanfiction. However you call it, it’s a musical with powerful female characters, fantastic voices and enjoyable story line; we get to see the backstage of power, and it ain’t pretty. Wicked witch turns out to be a rebel/animal activist, and while she ultimately has to resign from power (my only quibble with the narrative: she gains power but then seems to be punished for it), we get to identify with her struggles, first as an outcast, then as a well-intentioned, but inexperienced player in the political game. While the politics get lost in the second part of the show (were the animals set free? we’ll never know…), it is so valuable to see a perspective of the underdog! I’m sure I’ll be thinking of this for a long time yet (like, take Glynda. Everyone seems to assume she’s an airhead with no talent to speak of, but she’s incredibly shrewd in using her talents to gain and maintain popularity… and she’s a political player in her own right… yawn….. sisterhood, engaging and thoughtfully explored…. mmmmmrrrph….. zzzzzz……) .