I get tired. I work; often more than 8 hours in a day. My kind of work means doing emotional labour; focusing on others, listening to them very carefully. Holding their feelings, sitting witness to their experience. Figuring out if people are safe, and finding ways to make them safer. There are big expansive moments of real human connection that make me feel massive joy. And also there are expansive stretches of time spent typing and stressing and trying to meet targets, that totally don’t. I’m learning that meeting targets and helping people are two very different things. The doubt is growing in my mind that they could ever point in the same direction. I feel exhausted with concern as I watch the structures of this country that are supporting the most vulnerable people being destroyed with each cut to funding. At the end of the day my head feels like its contents are trying to force themselves out of my skull while my body feels like it wants to shrink, curl up and sleep. The physical tiredness still surprises me. It shouldn’t; what have I learnt if not that emotions use the body as their stage?
In my time off, I have to study, write things, learn and reflect on my work. When the subject of your learning is the human mind, you can never escape from your subject matter. Your own gets in the way. So I often fall into the trap of not wanting to do anything in my ‘free’ time. Mostly I desire to withdraw from the world and shield myself from stimulation.
Thankfully I have people who pull me out of my room to see stuff, good stuff, nourishing stuff – like art. Last Friday we went to see Missing Organs at New River Studios.
In theory I was really excited because Missing Organs accompanied me on many a bike ride through London, filling places with awesome sound. In practice, it was Friday evening and I was super tired from everything that happened during that week. Travelling from Tooting to Seven Sisters seemed like another big thing to do and I really didn’t want to (the London syndrome.) But I did (thanks J.) New River Studios is basically a friendly warehouse inhabited by a sleepy ginger cat, old encaged television sets, a bar and pizzas made by a chef who looked pale and perfect in the neon kitchen light. We met the lovely Adam who had supercool glasses, had pizza (4 cheeses yum) and a drink and then the music started. And it reminded me of why you go to art.
You go to meet yourself; not like when you’re trying to observe yourself like how others see you, but from the inside. To connect with your own senses. To close your eyes and focus on the sound filling your ear canals, reaching inside to pull out some movement in your soul. The sounds were LOUD and stretchy and created a good space where my thoughts got lost and I was able to just hear. And you know when you are at a gig and the artist plays a bit that you recognise and it makes you so happy – that also happened. The noise forced people into silence. There would’ve been no point in talking cause no one could hear anyone; a cocoon that made me feel comfortable.
And then the performance is over and that means people can talk again. In fact they feel compelled to talk. Sometimes this scares me. I find a lot of social interaction scary, or uncomfortable or awkward or strange. I do not know how I should stand, I’m too tall, thoughts of what others might be thinking of me keep crowding my mind, plus usually a meta-layer of what ‘me thinking these thoughts’ means and how it makes me ‘uncool’ wraps my brain and I can’t even see things clearly anymore. I lose connection with my senses, my mind is floating somewhere around me. The temptation to distract myself or escape becomes very high. Why the anxiety and discomfort? I suspect that it’s linked to an apprehension that each interaction is loaded with the potential to change me. Do I want to risk a change? Where are my edges? Things get messy in the space between me and another person and that is scary.
I’m trying to gather some courage so I remind myself of how the Gilmore Girls would act; they would be witty and confident. Not afraid of attention. This seems to work until I realise a major difference between me and the Gilmore Girls; they are not trying to copy the mannerisms of some women on TV. They ARE the women on TV! They go about their own days, being themselves in their world, being fabulous, doing things. I, on the other hand, am standing here, trying to converse with someone whilst focusing on channelling the spirit of Lorelai. Why can’t I just be here? It is so very hard to focus on things without distraction! My mind keeps getting in the way. Finally I give in, I mutter smiles and goodbyes and aim my steps towards the station. I feel relieved walking in the night. I actually feel safer than when I am talking to people. Calm is restored; I am filled with a soothing glow coming from a cavity inside that’s shaped like missing organs.