Today I am firmly assailed by the light, whimsical wondering of what this thing of life and living is all about. I’ve popped out of a work document I’m editing entitled “Climate Innovation” where I’ve just written a sentence that uses terms like “capital markets”, “social impact investment”, digital technologies for massive development scale up.” What, I wonder as I sigh out my window to the bobbing daffodils, is this all about?
My purpose is not, as William Blake suggests, to create but rather to clamour towards some glorious narrative arc of conclusion, closure: to resolve the indefatigable push and pull of my instinct and intellect, brain and body, ethics and desire.
At the same time, and thanks to the endorphins of early-morning exercise that I never want to do but that always transforms my day, I am equally filled with an awesome contentment with the world. I mean awesome in the sublime sense – this Turneresque notion of an awe of nature and its myriad creations so tsunamically reverberating it borders on fear.
Birdsong pierces sweeter in this quarantine quiet, the flowers burst louder from the verdance (I made that word up but I like the notion of verdant grass dancing, don’t you?), the clouds have become my new acquaintances to tip a smile to, confess a sin to, grumble a chaste complaint to. They are my new barista, colleague, beautician, cashier – the pillars of the periphery I see every day in the most fleeting of moments and who, in some ways, know the intricacies of my life better than close friends ever could.
Paradox and juxtaposition is the summary of my life. I think that’s why I strive to be a writer. My purpose is not, as William Blake suggests, to create but rather to clamour towards some glorious narrative arc of conclusion, closure: to resolve the indefatigable push and pull of my instinct and intellect, brain and body, ethics and desire. I know that on a subliminal level, in a hope both vain and meagre, I am trying to just vomit enough words until I can one day retch up the warring beast – the Jekyll and Hyde within me who craves stillness while incapable of ever staying still; who envies regularity, security, commitment but goes out of their way to shirk, destroy, and outrun those same things; who is consumed by an ambition that snarls insatiably for the future (even when the summit of that ambition is undefined) and yet strives to live peaceably and mindfully in the present.
The world is so heavy right now that all I want to be, all I can be, is light. But, in being light, I am afraid of miscommunication and misdirection. I am scared you, dearest reader, will assume that lightness is all there is in this.
That is the ‘what is it all about’ of this blog today. The interminable war.
Because this daily posting is both an effort to inject joy and awareness into the present and a safeguarding for my future author self – a burrowing away of content for the rainy-day novel or play or ode to Covid, I one day hope to write.
And I’m using it to go on about mascara.
In these entries, I am deliberately facetious and ridiculous partly because that’s just how I am as a person – overt and ostentatious and a walking over-exaggeration living for the ludicrous. The other part of my levity stems from the fact that the world is so heavy right now that all I want to be, all I can be, is light. But, in being light, I am afraid of miscommunication and misdirection. I am scared you, dearest reader, will assume that lightness is all there is in this, that you will not see what for you is invisible but for me is a given: that is, the context of the unsaid and unwritten, the privilege and inequality these diaries showcase (the luxury of complaining about makeup!) but do not allude to.
Yesterday’s entry is a prime example – an elucidation of how crap I’ve felt about the appearance staring back at me through the whited light of a Zoom screen and yet, accompanying it, was a photo where I think I look, if not nice, then at least normal. Remarkably unhideous. This feels wrong today.
It is like when able-bodied, relatively fit, and “regular-sized” (I don’t subscribe to this term but you know what I mean) people bemoan how large they are, how big or bloated or fat or lazy. I have read so many articles, novels, social media posts of someone I have assumed to be obese with the level of their description, only to afterwards Google them (voyeurism is my favourite past-time) and find they are, at absolute worst, a size 12. I wonder if they know what that does to the self-esteem of anyone, of any age or size, who would kill to be a size 12, or have the ability to run a 5k (no matter how “slow”). Or what that does to someone who is actually affected by this pandemic whether financially, emotionally, medically, or whose physical and mental wellbeing has now been put at risk through lockdown and they find themselves reading this: myopic blather from a fully-employed, happily-at-home, fridge-filled wagon harping on about aesthetics.
The clouds are my new barista, colleague, beautician, cashier – the pillars of the periphery I see every day in the most fleeting of moments and who, in some ways, know the intricacies of my life better than close friends ever could.
Yesterday, I think I perpetuated this ritualistic self-flagellation that honestly I just find annoying from anyone who weighs less than 11 stone. But, at the same time, I found it funny and I think funniness is the most important thing right now. I find it funny because that is legitimately where my brain goes to when I look in a mirror or find myself on a screen – this body dysmorphic reality where all I see are the lumps and bumps and blotches that mortify and humble me. And I think it’s important to showcase that incessant negative monologue alongside the reality of the photo – a healthy, happy, lovely-looking person. It’s being facetious while still being abominably real. Because the truth is, body insecurity and validation through appearance is an epidemic that infiltrates us all. I try to believe that in showcasing my own wars against my looks and figure, I’m not inviting others to criticise themselves through comparison but rather to find solace in the fact that someone who seems comfortable in their skin is really a collection of easily-triggered body issues. Do I achieve this? I don’t know.
I learned the word contumacious today through an autocorrect for another word I invented in this post that I also refused to modify. It means stubbornly perverse and rebellious, willfully and obstinately disobedient. Together, in that one perfect descriptor, you now have a conglomeration of some of my favourite words. What a beautiful word, what a collation of onomatopoeic sounds to describe contention, contrariness. I hope it makes it onto my tombstone someday.
I think these diaries are taking up too much of my time and I need to learn the art of brevity. Part number two of the “what is this all about.” Am I wasting my own time? Is anybody reading this? Are the daily Instagram posts a necessity or an exercise in vanity? When I can’t even remember what I’ve written, what hope is there for this to resonate with another? Am I providing entertainment, solace, to another single being (the thing, the point, the raison d’etre) or am I simply adding to the Instagram noise? Which is better: daily posts that constantly demand the time and attention of an already knackered and digitally-exhausted audience, or curated, occasional pieces that might hold a pearl of worth in their considered execution? If I write but there is nobody to read it, does the writing have any worth? Does it exist? Do I exist?
Do I stop?
Is it ok to stop?
Can I stop?
Ahh, that is the question. Jekyll wishes you a happy Thursday as he goes to taste the air and hear the birds. Hyde is too busy thinking of this human cull and the lives lost to muster a goodbye.
Perhaps my three joyful things should be more serious today, given the above, but I cannot bear to revert to just how much I love nature, my family, my liberty juuuuuust yet (god forbid I conform to the bleats of the masses) so here’s some frivolity which, let’s face it, most of us are probably here for.
- A high-waisted belt and an A-line skirt. I am wearing a quilted dress with the pattern of a particularly heinous 1970’s pub carpet and I couldn’t be more obsessed with the matching-fabric belt that gives the allusion of a waist and the flowing skirt that hides any and all mentions of my period bloat.
- Nice handwriting. This is slightly embarrassing but I’ve really let my handwriting “go” in the past few years to the point where writing itself was no longer a calming or therapeutic exercise because I was so disgusted and genuinely bewildered by the bestial scrawl coming from my dainty woman hands. COVID has taught me to relearn the fundamentals of legibility and I wish there were words for the joy I am experiencing with each marching row of neat sentences now flowing from my pen.
- On the subject of hands, I painted my nails a harlot red a few days ago and I now feel like a sexy typist in the 1940s. Filling out excel sheets or using the medium of mime to express myself (a favourite) has never been more fun. If someone could bring me one of those cigarette holders and a dashing man to drink bourbon with, my existence would be complete.