found at sea…

observations and musings on life as we know it

Say It In An Elevator

My first conversation at last week’s Youbloom conference was with a super-friendly guy who, as far as I could see, was in charge of keeping things moving along smoothly. His name was Jeff. You could tell that he was the type of guy who could talk to anyone and his energy was so warm and welcoming that he was basically the Sun around which we all revolved that day. I was the first person to arrive at the conference (this is a regular occurrence for me as I am perpetually early everywhere I go, and hence the least cool person at every party) and Jeff just came right up to me and started chatting away. To set the scene, I was playing a show the night before, so I arrived that morning clutching onto a take-away coffee for dear life in a state of under-slept, hungover anxiety; all of which was made slightly worse by the fact that I was the first person there and didn’t know anyone. But all that aside, I enjoyed the conversation as it really pushed me into the gear I would need to be in for other conversations later in the day. The gear where you have to talk about who you are and what you do, simply and with confidence.

Here’s what it looked like:

JEFF: Nice to meet you Pixie! Tell me what you do.

ME: Um… well…

JEFF: Are you an artist?

ME: Yeah, I’m a solo artist.

JEFF: So what do you do?

ME: Well… My music is really hard to define… it doesn’t really fit into a genre, which is a blessing and a curse… I mean, it’s great to be unique but it’s hard to market yourself when you don’t have a genre…

JEFF: Stop! If we were in an elevator right now and I was getting off on the next floor, what would you say?

ME: Um… I make people cry for a living.

JEFF: Good! Now I know what you do and I’ll remember that. I’ll remember you!

I have to say, this conversation – although fast and furious and slightly daunting – was exactly what I needed. A half an hour later we were scheduled in for “speed sessions” – think of it like speed dating for industry people – and if I hadn’t had the elevator conversation beforehand, I would’ve been a muddled up mess when it came time to pitch myself to about 15 people for no longer than 5 minutes each. This is not to say that I didn’t struggle with it to some degree. I do find it hard to explain what I do and sometimes I just couldn’t seem to get the words out. For instance there was one guy that just cut right through my “uhhhs” and “umms” in a way that almost felt aggressive. “Ok,” he said abruptly, stopping me in my tracks, “you have to tell me what I can do for you. Now. Say it!” It was mildly terrifying but we got there in the end.

But what I took from this, is that ‘saying it in an elevator’ is a way to cut through the artist babble and get down to business. And that’s what we have to do as musicians and artists if we want to have ‘successful’ careers. We have to be able to manage the artistic stuff AND the business stuff. We have to understand the nuts and bolts of the industry. We have to know how to market ourselves and deal with the piles of admin that come with managing your own career. There’s a lot to it and up until now, I’ve been quite reluctant to dive all the way in. Because with art, you’re not just selling a product. You’re selling a part of your soul. You’re selling yourself. And on top of that, it takes a lot of time and energy to do all this stuff. Time and energy that we might prefer to spend creating. This week, I haven’t touched my piano once, and that’s unheard of for me. But there are only so many hours in a day. Anyway, I digress. And that’s the point. I need to stop rambling and just say it in an elevator.

In last week’s post, I mentioned my nervousness regarding social media, but I think the elevator thing is relevant to that too. I mean, how many times have you whizzed by a long-winded post on Facebook because you just couldn’t be bothered spending 30 seconds reading it? Life online has made us all pretty impatient. Maybe this is why Twitter works with 140 characters… so we can get to the point fast enough that our followers will actually read what we have to say without getting bored and scrolling on. Maybe social networking is the proverbial elevator.

Anyway, back to the conference. After lunch, Jeff led the room in a rather nerve-wracking everybody-introduce-yourself-in-2-minutes exercise. I don’t know why but ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a bit of a phobia of public speaking, so my heart was pounding as I waited for the 20 people in front of me to tell us who they were and what they did. Eventually, Jeff pointed at me. “Pixie, tell everyone what you do”. I took a deep breath. Say it in an elevator, say it in an elevator… “Hi,” I said from the back of the room, trying to project as much confidence as I possibly could, “I’m Pixie Saytar. I’m a solo artist. My music is dark and different from pretty much anything you’ll ever hear. Someone has to write the sad songs, and it’s me.”

I don’t know if I said everything I would’ve liked to, or if I did my work any justice in those few sentences, but later, as I was waiting for a masterclass to begin, Jeff walked by me and smiled, “Well done Pixie. You did it!” So I guess I did an alright job with it! And I definitely learned something. I’d say that I still have to perfect my pitch for future endeavours, but at least I know now to stop worrying about exactly how to portray my sound and just say it in an elevator. Lesson learned.

open-silver-elevator

The Start of Something New

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending Youbloom Dublin; an event which gives opportunities for musicians / bands to meet other industry folk and take masterclasses centered around career progression. This is something I knew I needed help with. Since releasing “In Hindsight” last February things have been alright – I play gigs and I sell records here and there – but I’ve come across some rather daunting hurdles on my journey. I’m sure this is common but I have a tendency to be pretty hard on myself, and when it comes to art, you’re really putting your soul on the line. You need a thick skin, and mine is paper thin.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggles with bouts of insecurity and a lack of certain skills, so I’ve decided to bite the bullet and post weekly updates on what I’m doing to overcome my personal obstacles. I find the prospect rather terrifying but perhaps by forcing myself to say these things publicly, I can harness the motivation to keep pushing forward. Plus, if there are people out there who are facing the same struggles, maybe they could get something out of this too…

So for this week’s entry, I’m going to talk about something that’s been getting me down over the last year or so, and that is: I am not good at social media. I guess you could say that I’m from the old school and I can be rather sentimental about that. But this sentimentality is getting me nowhere and it’s time to step up and join the 21st century. Here’s my biggest issue with life online: I often feel like, “Who cares about what I’m doing? Who wants to see me?”, and that pondering causes me to feel shameful about self promotion and worried about looking supremely “uncool” when no one “likes” my posts. And I hope you don’t mind a momentary digression to say, who the hell thought any of us would still care about being cool in our mid 30s? Yet, on the morning of the Youbloom conference, I experienced a full fledged Mean Girls style snub by a woman at least 10 years my junior, and it hurt as bad as it would’ve if I were still in high school. But here’s the thing: these young musicians are coming up swinging. They find social media easy and natural. They’re still full of fire and hope. And as much as I hate to admit it, I find all of that pretty intimidating. I know I’m good at what I do and I believe in my brand. I’m lucky that my confidence in that area is still relatively in tact, but I have to face my online fear.

Now, in the interest of publicly working through this stuff, I’m going to get real with you. The thing is, I’m almost afraid to ask people to “like” or “follow” me online because I don’t want them to see just how bad things are. The truth is friends, at this point in time I have less than 400 likes on my Facebook musician page. Take a look, the struggle is real: https://www.facebook.com/pixiesaytarmusic/ … I’m sure there are small children with 3x as many likes. I truly believe that this embarrassingly small number is not because of my brand or my music (as I’ve said, I feel pretty solid in that stuff, thankfully), but rather it’s because I feel uncomfortable with life online. I’m just better in person. I like being able to feel out a social situation and respond accordingly. In person, I can talk to anyone. I’m confident and lively. But life online is different for me. It’s not like real life. You can’t see how people are reacting to what you’re putting out there. You can’t see a smile or a cringe. How you feel on any given day shapes how you imagine your audience’s reaction. So if I’m feeling good about myself, I picture people thinking positively about me. But if I’m in a period of low mood, I imagine the worst. I’m sure I’m not the only one who experiences this. This weekend I was told, “Your fans want a window into what you’re up to,” and despite my self doubt, I’m holding onto that advice as tightly as possible. I know that once people hear what I’m doing, things will change, but at the same time I need a bigger online audience, and I need to sell records.

So here’s what I’m doing this week. I’m starting by reaching out to everyone I met at this weekend’s conference. I was told a few times on Saturday that I need to be persistent and not give up when my emails and posts go unnoticed. That means putting my insecurity and anxiety aside and boldly going forth. I’m attempting to get in touch with anyone that might be willing to help or team up with me. This will include people who have expertise that I don’t have, and those who might be able to impart some knowledge or advice. I am bravely asking people to share my music with people they know who might like what I do. I am also signing up for a few online music licensing services which were recommended to me, and I’m going to get in touch with a few college radio stations as I was advised that this is a good platform for getting heard in The States. Finally, I’m going tonhave a long think about my website and how I can use it to its full potential.

I’m not sure how any of this will pan out but I’m hoping for the best. That’s me until next week… If you like what I’m doing, hook me up with a like, follow, or a share. Or get in touch with me directly if you want to trade stories.

xoxo Pixie 🙂

On the road

Dance Like Butterflies

My Friends and The Regulars

When I was a kid I had the good fortune to be sent away to summer camp for six weeks of my summer vacations. If you didn’t have the chance to go to sleep-away camp, it was – I promise you – exactly like you’ve seen in the movies. Activities, adventures, cafeteria food, and friendships built in the beauteous surroundings of cabins, lakes, and forestry. Hot and sweaty days, care packages, communal showering, and bug bites. In a way it was utopian, a place where kids ruled. But in another way it was hellish, like being in middle school for 24 hours a day over the course of an entire season. To think that bullying and bitchiness didn’t happen would be a gross underestimate of the spiteful capacity of the human adolescent.

There was indeed bullying and bitchiness. There were cruel songs, taunting, and last kids picked for sports. But there was also playfulness and camaraderie. Sneaking out at night, using flashlights to communicate with the boys’ cabins, first kisses, and secret cigarettes. And more than anything there were friends and allies. Friends like the one I met when I was twelve years old; a boy who became my pen pal for years to follow.

It’s hard to trust the memory when over twenty years have passed. I cannot swear by any clear memories or stories about this person whom I have not laid eyes on since I was an energetic (and moody) pre-teenager. But I remember his essence. I remember that he was like me in a few very tangible ways. He was “different” in the same ways I was. He had that certain otherness that was so rare to find that, like magnets, we were drawn to each other through the thick pool of laughing children surrounding us; a pool that was forced to make way for the two of us so we might be able to flow into our own private, cool spring.

What I remember most about my camp friend was how I felt when I was with him: no longer alone and unafraid. I was so lucky to have him at that time in my life. Adolescence is hard on everyone. It demands the comfort of others. So this was a time when I truly needed a likeminded soul. Because during all that time I spent standing out in the crowd, I was lost. I needed someone who could reflect back to me, something positive, something good about being “different”.

Last night I got an email from WordPress. It said “New comment waiting approval on found at sea…”. I was surprised because, as you can see, my blog has been lying dormant for quite some time now. I wondered who on earth could be reading it after so many months of silence. Who the hell is thinking about me after I’ve gone to such great lengths to disappear from social networking and the whole world to some extents? And wouldn’t you know, the comment was from my camp friend.

Needless to say, I was beside myself with excitement. I wrote to him promptly, comfortably telling him all my life “stats” and asking for his in return. And, just as he had found me, I googled him. I couldn’t imagine what he might look like as an adult, and alas, I still can’t because that type of google research demands a type of internet searching that I am admittedly too impatient to embark on. However, I did find him. And guess what. He’s an artist. A musician. Just like me.

When I found out that my childhood friend – my magnet of otherness – had also grown up to be an artist, I felt an overwhelming calmness warm me, blanketing me from within. I swear I could feel my heart swell with that feeling of belongingness that was so rare to me as a child, and has been almost equally rare to find throughout adulthood. I found the whole thing an incredible and powerful study of self. In my youth I found so few likeminded individuals that my memories of that time tend to be based in loneliness. That’s the thing about being an “oddball”: you’re the one standing out, you’re the one who’s different. Finding another one like you is like diving for a penny in an eight-foot deep mud puddle. You may die before you succeed in coming face to face with another one like you. So when it happens, you feel so lucky, so exuberant, that the memory of that person stays with you throughout your life while you forget a thousand names of people you’ve known between then and now. You forget people you’ve worked with, people you used to hang out with, even people you’ve had relationships with. Those other people… the regulars.

It’s not to say that we haven’t had meaningful relationships with other people, nor to paint a picture of ourselves as lonely, misunderstood, tragic hermits suffering from constant angst (though sometimes, I’ll admit, it can feel that way). But it is to say that finding a likeminded other can be hard when you’re a strange child. And those relationships with others who are like us, shine like gold on our souls even as we age. Most importantly, to find out that your likeminded childhood friend grew up to be quite similar to you, validates your otherness in a way that is both comforting and life affirming.

And so, I’m awakening my dormant blog on behalf of my camp friend. And I’ll even go back onto social media long enough to make sure people know about it. For now though, I’ll leave you with one final thought: Who would any of us be without those individuals in our life who reflect our specialness back to us? How lonely would life be without those people who see beauty in us when we struggle to see it for ourselves?

The Need you / Don’t Need You Adult Dating Balance

Welcome to adulthood everyone.This is what we’ve all been waiting for! This is the Big Time! You are a free individual! You can now get a dog if you want one, eat chocolate for breakfast if you feel so inclined, or go outside without wearing a coat! It’s all pretty sweet! But, if you’re the last person in your circle of friends who is still single (or, let’s face it, you probably haven’t even gone on a date in the last six months) you may be feeling a little underwhelmed with how things seem to be turning out. Eating chocolate for breakfast by yourself past the age of twenty-five is actually pretty sad. It would be a lot more fun and rebellious if you were sharing it with someone else. Going outside without your coat sucks too. It’s really cold out there and you really don’t have time for a sore throat or a case of the sniffles. And that dog you got is definitely not helping where dates are concerned. Sure, he’s great for hugs and he gets you out of the house on those dark days when you’d rather not get out of bed at all, but his tendency to hump the legs of your guests has made it pretty difficult for you to get any action at your place.
You’ve reached an age where your hope is starting to dwindle and you can be pretty sure that any singletons still left out there (including the first round of divorcees) are carrying some heavy baggage; God knows, you’re well aware of the weight of your own. The game is getting harder. Let’s be honest, you’re at the bottom of the barrel now. Your Facebook feed is swarming with updates by people who are either getting married or pushing babies out. Or maybe it’s you that’s getting married and pushing babies out but your feel REALLY BAD for all three of your remaining single friends and would like to help them find someone who really suits them. Someone who is smart and funny and equally damaged.
Either way, you may or may not know that healthy adult dating requires great intellectual and emotional agility. It’s a balancing act of emotional fire juggling, sexual pirouetting, and nonchalant-don’t-give-a-damn unicycling along a dating tightrope stretched across a pit of angry crocodiles swimming in acid (if you don’t mind my indulgence). Before I begin this very serious lesson, I think it is imperative for me to tell you a few facts about me.

We will refer to this list as Part 1, Section 1.
Article 1: I am a single adult.
Article 2: I am, at this time, not seeking a relationship.
Article 3: I am currently sitting extremely close to (NOT hugging but not far from hugging) a pillow covered in the scent of my part-time lover.

Now, please note that I have no control over what you deduce from those facts; hell, I don’t even know what I deduce from those facts; but my objective in divulging is merely to begin this discussion on an honest playing field. Believe me, Mr Part-time is highly unlikely to think of my exposition as cute (chances are he read the title of this piece and is likely half way out of town already) so I hope you realise that you are my only concern here and now.

More noteworthy facts you should consider at this point are listed below in a part we shall hitherto refer to as Part 1, Section 2.
Article 1: I am stubborn.
Article 2: I am extremely efficient.
Article 3: I do not NEED another person.

There are, however a few exceptions to Part 1, Section 2, Article 3 (which clearly states, “I do not NEED another person”).
Exception A) Except in the event that something is required from a high shelf.
Exception B) Except in the event that something is heavy.
Exception C) Except in the event that something is a spider.

Now I ask you, assuming that you are a relatively self-aware adult, if you combine Part 1, Section 1, Article 1 with Part 1, Section 2, Article 1, in the event of an occurrence such as Part 1, Section 2, Article 3, Exception B, how likely is it that I (being a single, stubborn person with something heavy to lift) will actually seek another person’s help? Well I’m going to be honest with you here, Reader, it’s pretty unlikely. You remember that I’m stubborn right? The fact is I hold a firm belief that Mr Part-time might NOT flee town if I resist calling him every time Exceptions A-C in Part 1, Section 2, Article 3 occur. What I am concerned with now however, is this: How dangerously close is Mr Part-time to becoming Mr Full-time or Mr No-time? Let’s look more closely at that example.
If I, an extremely efficient person (as Part 1, Section 2, Article 2 clearly states), come face to face with the likes of Part 1, Section 2, Article 3, Exception B, what is the true likelihood of Mr Part-time fleeing town if I ask him to lift said heavy object? I’m guessing there’s about a 10% chance. Even if we factor in that Mr Part-time is also not seeking a relationship and fleeing town is ALWAYS a possibility, it is unlikely he’s going to be scared away by a request to lift a heavy box. You’re following, right? Good. So that leaves us with a hypothesis suggesting that Mr Part-time is NOT going to F-off just because I’ve asked him for a favour. However, we can assume that regardless of the situation, Mr Part-time does come with a 10% base level flight risk score which we should probably attribute to all future equations.
Now… what if we multiply those favours that we’ve decided will not scare Mr Part-time away and set them in a different equation all together like so: Let us work under the assumption that Part 1, Section 1, Article 3 becomes known and Part 1, Section 2, Article 1 also rears its undesirable head. Then let’s throw a damsel in distress act due to the likes of Part 1, Section 2, Article 3, Exception C. Now how likely is it that Mr Part-time is going to flee town? Well, I figure we take our “10% base level flight risk score” and multiply it by three for Part 1, Section 1, Article 3 which, if you’re not following along here, clearly states “I am currently sitting extremely close to (NOT hugging but not far off hugging) a pillow covered in the scent of my part-time lover”, then multiply that product by a further two for Part 1, Section 2, Article 1 (Again, for those of you finding this hard to keep up with, that article clearly states “I am stubborn”) and then add a further 20% flight response for bothering Mr Part-time with something so inconsequential as Part 1, Section 2, Article 3, Exception C (simplified here for you slower kids in class as “a spider”), what we’re then looking at is an equation that looks something like this: 10% x 3 = 30% x 2 = 60% + 20% = an 80% chance Mr Part-time is halfway out of town and not looking back.

Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “No Problem! I get it. Dating is EASY. I’ll just never NEED anyone ever again! Problem solved!”. But no, we’re not there yet. We’ve talked so much about me and you that we have’ve forgotten to consider a few very important things about Mr Part-time.

Let us refer to this list as Part 2, Section 1.
Article 1: Mr Part-time’s self-worth.
Article 2: Mr Part-time’s charm and adorability.
Article 3: Mr Part-time’s genuine care and concern for other human beings.

Let us not forget that even though Mr Part-time is just as happy to be single as I am, he is still a human being with a beating heart and a conscience. Let’s say I go around flashing my independence and sassiness like a new handbag and everything backfires like so: let’s start with Part 1, Section 1, Article 2 meets Part 1, Section 2, Article 3 in the occurrence of Exception A. And let’s say that Mr Part-time attempts to help me in a clear display of Part 2, Section 1, Article 3. Well seeing as – according to the last equation – I’m not supposed to NEED him (if you’re not following here, Mr Part-time is attempting to help me get something down from a high shelf because he cares; PLEASE keep up) I guess I should start jumping up and down like a lunatic trying to get that item off the top shelf right? Well, that will likely lead to a display of Part 2, Section 1, Article 2 (Mr Part-time’s charming, cute side comes to play). But no, according to the first equation, I should just keep on refusing help because I don’t want to risk scaring him away so I continue jumping up and down and swatting him away until finally Part 2, Section 1, Article 1 gets trampled beneath my stubborn (and albeit, ultimately inefficient) refusal to accept help! Suddenly, the equation changes and looks more like this: Maintain the same 10% assumed base line flight risk score for NOT accepting help as we did for accepting help, then multiply by two for rejecting Part 2, Section 1, Article 3 (Mr Part-time’s genuine care and concern), multiply by another two for failing to recognise Part 2, Section 1, Article 2 (Mr Part-time’s charm and adorability) and add 50% to your product for pissing all over Part 2, Section 1, Article 1 (Mr Part-time’s self-worth) and what we have is this: 10% x 2 = 20% x 2 = 40% + 50% = a whopping 90% chance Mr Part-time is going to tell you where to shove your pie chart and apply for a part time position with another lover.
Now, Reader, if you haven’t learned anything from this extremely simple piece of writing, which CLEARLY illustrated how to need your part-time lover just enough but not too much, maybe this will make it a little easier to grasp: 1,700 words = 4.25 pages @ 2.5 minutes reading time per page + “scrolling up out of confusion” time estimated at 2.2 minutes per page = 19.975 minutes you’ve wasted allowing a single person to teach you, effectively, how to remain single. Well done class. Really, well done.

I’ve Got Insomnia. You’ve Got Mail! (A public apology.)

This is just a little note to offer my sincere apologies to everyone whose inboxes have been bombarded with slightly incoherent ramblings of self indulgence and existential ponderings from me between the hours of 1 and 6 o’clock AM.
The thing is, friends, I have insomnia. And I am sorry, but when I suffer, you suffer with me, because that’s the kind of pal I am. I lay awake until my body aches. My eyes are dry, red, and itchy. I moan in frustration. I become religious. I pray to God to please let me sleep. I make a deal with Him. If you let me sleep I’ll believe in you, God. I swear I will. But sleep never comes.
I knock back a few valium with a half bottle of red wine. I wince at the taste the first few nights, but after a while I barely notice its metallic sting at the back of my throat. My forehead throbs with a 72 hour headache. I watch TV shows and movies that I find “comforting” in the hopes of being lulled to sleep by familiar voices. I listen to Monica and Chandler, Miranda and Carrie. I watch When Harry Met Sally again. Then Pretty Woman. All my favourite characters play their parts. They live through their awkward phases. They each have their montage. They each find their fate, their loving and honest embraces. But I’m still awake.
That’s when I email you; lost inside the everlasting purgatory between night and day. During these hours it’s like nothing is real, like anything I do or say won’t exist come morning. In my delirium I become invincible. I talk about things I struggle to keep contained during the hours of 8am and midnight. I deconstruct lyrics of my favourite songs. I talk about poetry. I wonder if you remember me. I wonder if you’ll be able to shed some light on what’s troubling me. But there is no light at nighttime. The hours are long and slow. I beg myself to let go. Just close your eyes. The space between my skin and my muscles crawls as if infested.
I write you another email. Dear Friend, Do you ever feel like you might just open your eyes and find out this was all a dream? I thought that the other day. Really. I FELT it. Like I was going to wake up and be in seventh grade again. Like I had been given a gift. I was able to see what things COULD be like, and then I could go back and try a different route. Take a different path. But I haven’t woken up in seventh grade. Because I haven’t slept in weeks. It feels like years.
Dear Friend, Have you ever wanted to be able to look over your life and see how many times you could’ve been killed by a speeding bus? I wonder about that stuff a lot. You know, like if I hadn’t have cancelled my trip I could’ve been killed in a plane crash. That type of stuff.
Dear Friend, Do you ever think about how futile this all is? Really. What’s separating us from the rest of the animal kingdom? We’re just dust in the universe. What makes our lives any more important than a squirrel’s? Do you ever feel like there’s just no purpose? What if we’re wasting it all? Why do we take it all so seriously? Why don’t we just stop all the games and all the nonsense? Why don’t we all just realise there’s nothing but this: Here and Now. Why can’t we all just have a little more balls? Why don’t we just steal the kiss we want? We don’t we shout from the rooftops if we’re sad or angry or so happy we feel like our eyes might burst out of our skulls?! It just seems so… pointless.
Dear Friend, Have you ever tried mixing granola with a lighter cereal like corn flakes? You probably think that would never work. But actually, see, the granola is heavy right? So it sinks to the bottom where it can get some extra soak time in the milk. It gets a bit softer, becomes a bit easier on the palate while you’re enjoying the corn flakes. It’s one of those things you think will never work but then it does and that’s when I start thinking, why do we put so many restrictions on ourselves you know? Why can’t we all just lighten up a little bit?
Dear Friend, When was the last time you listened to a song 15 times in a row? I’m doing that right now. Actually I think this is the seventeenth or eighteenth time now… who’s counting? Who’s even listening to anything anymore? Ugh.
Dear Friend, I almost died five minutes ago. I decided to brave the cold and head to the kitchen for a snack. I choked on a piece of cake. My whole life flashed before my eyes. And all I could think was, “could this possibly be any more embarrassing?” Single woman found dead in kitchen eating 3am cake. What a cliche. I’m so scared, Friend.
Dear Friend, I think I’m gonna take a trip. You know? I think I just need to get away for a while. Maybe I’ll just hop on a plane. I’m so sick of feeling RESTRICTED.
Dear Friend, I’m so so so tired.

Well anyway, you get the drift. I just wanted to apologise okay? But thanks for listening one last time, Friend.  I still haven’t found God or my “purpose”, and I’m definitely never going to eat alone at night again, but maybe I’ll sleep tonight… maybe.

*Please note that any emails written in a similar tone, received at more sociable hours of the day, are NOT included in this apology. Separate apologies will be made addressing drunken emails and moments-of-temporary-insanity emails.*

Good night!

Checkmate

This morning I had a special talk with my favourite barista  – you know who you are – and he gave me a hard time for not blogging for a while. The fact is, I’ve been sitting on some material and laying low but I feel like I owe my most faithful reader a little something to sink his teeth into. So, here’s to coffee and being “born” :::Clink of take away coffee cups::: and away we go…

 

Checkmate

So you’re having a great time with the person you’re dating. But you’re not really “dating” because you’re definitely not subscribing to societal norms. Your relationship is “open” but you’re not about to call it an “open relationship” as that is clearly not what you’re in. No. What you are in is something that has not yet been ruined with a title. You really don’t feel the need to classify what you’re doing. What you and your lover have is undeniably different from anything any two people have ever done. It’s unconventional. It’s free and easy and you love it. You love the fact that when you’re busy, you don’t have to text to apologise for being so. You love it when you’re drunk and foolish and have no one to answer to the next day but your hangover. You love the fact that you can still watch the cinematic masterpiece “Friends With Benefits” (starring the adorable-yet-attainable Justin Timberlake and the doe-eyed, smart-funny-beautiful-but-down-to-earth doll that is Mila Kunis) every night for months and no one is complaining about it or calling you out on the strangeness of your habit. You love being able to spend at least one entire evening per week slathering creams all over your body, taking special care of your face, hands, feet, hair and nails while wearing a t-shirt so old it’s now little more than a loosely fitting grey rag stained with decades of wine and coffee spills and bearing a hole that unattractively surrounds your left nipple. You love that you can take advantage of the acoustics in your empty house by singing “We are the Champions” as loud as humanly possible (which you obviously follow with a full set of a cappella renditions of dad-rock-classics). You love living life on your time. Except when you’re on their time. But you don’t mind being on their time sometimes and anyway what you’re doing together suits you perfectly well thank you very much.
After a while though, no matter how hard you fight against it, things will be different. The world can only bend so much, and it can’t seem to bend all the way around your terms and conditions. Your friends are the first to go. Of course they’re unsupportive of this weird non-relationship. They obviously don’t get it. They want you to have something that’s definable. They start looking at you with disbelief. Their half frowns are tinged with pity. They remind you of how much time you’ve spent on this thing that’s not a relationship. You poor thing. You deserve better. You must be fooling yourself. But it’s no big deal. You don’t need their support. You’re happy! Screw them! Why should you have to define anything anyway?
If you’re both honest though, you’ll admit that you do miss each other accidentally throughout the course of a text-less day. You’re not consumed with it. And it doesn’t affect you negatively. It just creeps up sometimes like an emotional sneeze. Whoops! Where did that come from?! Anyway… you admit that sometimes you do think of each other when the sky is pink and purple and a golden sun sets across the city dividing you. You do think of each other when a drunken man sings Whitney Houston’s greatest hits on the bus or you accidentally set loose a pyramid of apples in the supermarket. You would have a great laugh together about things like that. You do sometimes (and only sometimes), crave the warmth of another body in your winter bed or a hug after a stressful day. But this isn’t exactly Mount Everest. You cuddle up with a hot water bottle and a cup of tea and the moment passes just fine.
If you’re not careful though, eventually, everything can unexpectedly become part of an interior existential drama. Everything you WANT to share with this person, you don’t for fear of sending the wrong message. A message that unintentionally says, “I want more from you.” Your lines and rules are clear and you seriously do not want to risk blurring them. This is working! And so as your mind cycles round and round with the wanting to share and the suppressing of the wanting to share, each one of these experiences becomes a reminder that you are experiencing them alone. The setting sun cycles from beautiful to lonesome to beautiful to depressing in half a second. Being alone with someone on your mind somehow equals twice the aloneness. And if you’re not careful, soon, nothing will be safe. Everything will become a reminder of the one thing you’re trying to forget. You can’t wear those ridiculous cartoon underwear you were wearing that time you had no time to change after work and your sex date turned into a romcom-esque giggle fit; at least not without thinking of that day and the passion you felt in that moment. You can’t listen to this song, or that band, or watch this movie because you listened to it or watched it with them. You can’t walk down certain streets anymore for fear of the memory of an awkward kiss you shared at that bus stop, or a certain thing they said on that street corner, or just that one time you went to that pharmacy together and nothing particularly interesting or romantic happened at all but you were there together. You are now avoiding locations in the hopes of forgetting (or at least not remembering) the fact that you’re not with the person you’re in this very fun, extremely easy going, fantastic non-relationship with. It’s a labyrinth with no exit. It’s arithmetic that doesn’t add up. (Me – You + This = Me – Two).
The world becomes a game of chess and you are always in check. But you keep pushing. Keep playing the game. It’s a hell of a match! You keep yourself extra busy. The normal busyness of life isn’t enough to keep your mind from wandering so you give yourself even more daily tasks. You’re actively and consciously KILLING time. You clean out the fridge, bake, rearrange cupboards. You write another to-do list. The only solace you find is in art and literature which coincidentally make you think even more about this thing you’re trying to forget. But it softens it at least. Art takes the sting out of life. Art is a friend who has been there before, who nods and smiles and hugs you the right way. Art gets you and the feeling is mutual. And when there’s no one to curl up with in bed, you sleep with your favourite author or you let Chet Baker sing you to sleep.
So what’s the worst that can happen really? You know you don’t want a conventional relationship; despite what your friends want to believe. Your lifestyle and your priorities simply don’t allow time nor energy for it. You don’t want someone who robs you of your time nor your individuality and that is your most honest truth. You have someone who gets to have the good side of you; the giggly, adorable, sexy, sometimes smart, very together side of you; and whom you can shield from your less attractive qualities (your temper tantrums, your fat weeks, your intolerance of the sound of another person chewing, your peanut-butter-on-a-spoon moments, that time you ate Cap’n Crunch with Bailies instead of milk, and the fact that you cry every time you hear music being played on the street (even when it’s woeful).
So you’re in check. With a mate. And what?

Dear Harry, Where Are You?

I have often thought of my life as a movie. Not in the sense that I think everyone’s watching me (which, let’s face it, a narcissist was born in each and every one of us when The Truman Show came out and we subsequently inherited the very real fear that WE were in fact the star of our own TV show). No, I am not discussing what I will henceforth refer to as The Truman Complex but rather something a little further away from the person. Something more likely to be experienced by the self as a viewer if you will. 

Often times I have found myself referring to parts of my life as if I were simply watching it. I have said in conversation, ‘This part is a montage right?’ Meaning, this is the part that will be cropped down to one song’s worth of viewing action. Here’s a shot of me crying in bed, red faced and surrounded with tissues. Here’s me examining my sullen face in the bathroom mirror attempting a face lift with my fingertips. Here’s me in pyjamas thrashing wildly to loud music in my living room surrounded by pizza boxes and blankets. Here’s me eating a box of chocolates and watching Sleepless in Seattle looking hopeless. Here’s me staring at the phone. And at the end of these two minutes of viewing the words ONE YEAR LATER appear across the screen and Look! There I am strutting down the street in high heels looking emotionally together and more fabulous than ever before! 

In these moments of unabashed personal indulgence, it is as if I believe my life is entirely out of my control and somewhere lurking in the background there are script writers, a production crew, and an editorial team all working to bring to my life a sense of rhythm and rhyme; a meaning or purpose; and it is they who will ensure everything “works out” in the end. All my dreams and aspirations will be fulfilled, my conflicts with others will be resolved, every intention sitting on my life’s to-do list will be checked off, I will be absolved of all feelings of discontentment, the man I’ve been waiting for will finally tell me he loves me, my children will be perfectly well rounded high achieving academics at a top class university and I will die happily and peacefully surrounded by friends and family with no regrets and nothing but a love in my heart. And thanks to my production team, it’s out of my hands! I’ll just float along and leave it to them.

I have found myself often ‘in the montage’ and heard myself saying more times than I care to admit, ‘Come on! Let’s fast forward to the good part!’ And here is where I realise that I am unintentionally wishing my life away because I’ve grown tired and impatient. In this moment I’ve grown sick of the parts of life that are uneventful or disappointing. The parts that feel like too much hard work and not enough pleasure or reward. In this moment I’ve grown sick of my own neuroses; my worries and fears. Sick of my own failures and misunderstandings. Sick of waiting for the script writers to bring into my life someone who laughs lovingly at my Sleepless in Seattle tears, who understands when I need space or closeness and acts accordingly, who knows when I’m being irrational and deals with it by simply nodding quietly for three minutes until the moment has passed, someone who finds my high maintenance qualities endearing, who makes me feel less awkward, who brings me flowers and a box of sugary cereal when they know I’ve had a hard day, and who simultaneously finds me the sexiest creature on earth. The Harry to my Sally if you don’t mind my indulgence. 

The thing is, I know (as we all do) that I’m the writer of my life and I have to take control and make things happen for myself. I know I have to make life work for me; do it my way and stand by my decisions. But sometimes it must be okay to let go and imagine the production team working hard while I take it easy. Don’t we all need someone else to take the reins once in a while? And so now, feeling the Truman-ism rising into my being, complacency taking the bounce out of my step, still questioning all the ‘why’s’ of my existence and still not finding any answers, I’ll let go and let the writers take over. Just one more time, I’ll give in to the montage.

Try a Little Tenderness can be heard gently playing in the background while I spread butter on my toast. The organ creeps in as my disappointed mouth takes a slow bite. The lightest tap of the snare drum, the pouring of tea. The barely noticeable bass line as I stare out my window at another grey day. Otis’s voice now smoothes the furrow in my brow, soothes every move of my reluctantly chewing jaw. And then… And then…

HORNS! 

ORGANS! 

COME ON! 

YES OTIS! TAKE ME THERE! 

And… here I am! I’m back! 

I’m dancing again. 

12 Things I’m Going to do when I’m Too Old to Care

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s list time again! As my birthday is looming, creeping, lurking, inching ever nearer… As the tide of life swells higher each day, its tiny wave lapping gently at my feet… As I chemically peel away the top layer of skin on my ageing face and slather cream atop cream atop cream meticulously over each part of my body repeating moisture is the key to youth, moisture is the key to youth, moisture is the key to youth again and again massaging away this fine line, that mark of cellulite… As I stare into the void of my own pores in an evil magnifying mirror and accept that time is still marching on and the seasons are still changing, I know that all I have, all I can do now, is accept it. 

I look around and accept each sign of growing old that surrounds me. There are flowers and candles in every room of my home nowadays. The laundry is done and it smells fantastic. Sauces and baked goods are stored in my freezer. And my plants. My plants are not dead or dying. They are thriving. I know these are hard things to hear, but this is the truth and eventually we’ve got to face it. All of us. So, in the spirit of ageing and acceptance, I offer you the following celebration of things to look forward to:

12 THINGS I’M GOING TO DO WHEN I’M TOO OLD TO CARE

  1. Stare. Stare at whomever and whatever I want to for as long as I want to.
  2. Shoplift. No one looks at old women. Their skin itself is a disguise. And if I get caught? “Oh, didn’t I pay for that? Silly me. I’m so forgetful these days!”
  3. Push to the front of the queue. Every queue.
  4. Talk to myself on the street narrating everything I see: “Look at this idiot over here! Who does she think she’s impressing in that outfit? Not the RIGHT kind of men, that’s for sure.” And, “Bloody kids, acting like fools… If those were my kids…”
  5. Judge. Judge. Judge.
  6. Start smoking again. With a vengeance.
  7. Generally not give a damn. When other people come to me with problems they’ll be greeted with: “And? Who do you think helped me when I was young? I’ll tell you who! No one! And look, I survived! Now on your way. And grow a pair!”
  8. Get really messy when I eat. Like a child my face will be marked with chocolate or jam most days. Spaghetti sauce will be a sign of a good day.
  9. Wear weird clothes. I’ve spent a lot of my adulthood wearing clothes that I find amusing around the house just for a good laugh. I’m taking this hobby outdoors in my old age.
  10. Hit on young men and women ruthlessly. Flash my toothless smile at them and sink into a good wrinkled wink and say things like, “What I would’ve done to the likes of you when I was a younger woman!” or something more blatant like “Some ass you’ve got on you! Wooooowoooo!”
  11. Cocoa Pebbles, Fruity Pebbles, Cap ’n Crunch, repeat.
  12. Scruples? What scruples?

If It Makes You Feel Any Better: An Appeal

How many times in your life has someone tried to offer you condolences using this phrase? You’re probably guilty of it yourself; we all are. A friend or loved one comes to you with a complaint of one kind or another and it just comes out, naturally. 

’Well, if it makes you feel any better…’ you begin, and then go on to express your own discontent, undoubtedly topping that of your friend. The phrase itself masks your agenda. It insists that you have your friend’s interests at heart. It disguises whatever selfish drivel you follow it with as being helpful. But it isn’t. Really. It isn’t. And I am asking you now, please, when you feel yourself uttering this phrase STOP RIGHT THERE and explore your motives. Or, if you can’t be bothered with that, just stop. Because you’re not helping. This saying is bound to be the preposition to the least helpful thing you can possibly say to your troubled friend. It is entirely nonsensical to believe that your misfortune will in any way take the sting out of another person’s. What you’re about to say will not only be unhelpful to your friend, but it will also expose you as the insensitive, self indulgent ass you really are. You don’t believe me? Please, allow me to illustrate.

When was the last time you stubbed your toe and thought to yourself, I know what would make me feel better… If only I had a friend here right now to tell me a story of a time HE stubbed his toe and it was much worse than what I’m experiencing right now. That would make things so much better…? Or how about those days when your mood is, let’s say, slightly below par? You’re feeling like you could easily stop treading water and just let yourself drown. You’re feeling like your spine might crumble beneath the weight of your own heart. You’re listless. Let’s face it, you’re in a state of full fledged depression. If only you had a loved one nearby to remind you of their misfortune, right? That ALWAYS helps! In fact, it helps so much the authorities have actually deemed your friend’s misfortune to be the cure of all depression! Didn’t you know? Depression doesn’t even exist anymore! Go on, give your friend a ring. Tell him how you’re feeling and set yourself up to feel a LOT better. 

‘Well if it makes you feel any better,’ he says, (Oh yeah, here comes the cure…!), ‘I’ve had a really shitty day. I didn’t have the right change for the bus. I was late to work and the corner store ran out of my favourite glazed donuts. I had to have cream frilled instead. Man! What a day!’ There. You’re feeling much better now right?! Grey skies are blue again! Right? Huh?!

Now if that analogy was difficult for you to grasp or if you’re somehow not catching on to the rather thick layer of sarcasm in my tone, you’re probably the asshole with the cream filled donut. For you, asshole, I’m going to dumb this down even more. Pay attention. Try this one out: you’re hungry. REALLY HUNGRY. And I say to you, ‘So you’re hungry eh? Well if it makes you feel any better, I haven’t eaten since breakfast and I barely had a thing to eat yesterday.’ Do you feel better? OF COURSE YOU DON’T, ASSHOLE. Is your tummy satisfied and full and warm because I too, am hungry? Has your blood sugar evened out? Has your mood lifted? Your headache been soothed? NO. If you did feel better world hunger would cease to exist! Babies would stop crying! In fact, the whole need for food consumption would be abolished! 

Do you see what I’m saying yet you self obsessed twat? The next time you feel the words, “If it makes you feel any better” gracing the tip of your tongue, please shut your mouth and do not let it escape your lips. It’s time to face the fact that you’re not trying to help anyone. You don’t want to make anyone feel better at all. All you want is a piece of your friend’s pity party. You want to have all the attention on yourself? Well go on and have it. Take it! Because do you know what I’m going to do when you’re feeling low, or hungry, or you stubbed your toe? Do you? I’ll tell you what. I’m going to hug you. And I’m going to say, ‘ah mate, I’m sorry to hear that. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.’ For now though, feel free to shove your cream filled donut up your ass. 

 

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