After a while the energy required to not be yourself becomes so much that simply living is exhausting.
When the exhaustion got too much, I chose to be myself — sometimes I have to remind myself why — and I hope anyone else struggling on this point will, too.
Some people come to hate themselves so much they would rather die than be themselves. I wish I could take every one of these people by their gentle, calloused hands, lead them to a therapist and make them drink.
Even these fragments are composites. I’ve written them in short stochastic bursts, a line about one topic here, a quick sketch, then editing and chopping. I can still come back later and change things. Insert a missing hyperlink, or fix a typo, for instance. So these things are woven, rather than chunks, and not even in their final form. Or their only form. If I change this one in two months time, there’ll be two versions of it. That’s not to mention all the opportunities for other people’s input – comments, online annotations or simply copying, pasting and editing. I’d rather they didn’t, but what’s to stop them?
The gravel pile of fragments is very very porous.
Writing turns me from one person into shards of multiple people bound by nothing but a single skin.
‘Find your voice’, they says, ‘write like you,’ they says, but when you’re several different voices depending on what you’re writing and how seriously you want to be taken, or whether you’re feeling flippant today, or simply just pouring the junk out, feeling like one person is hard enough, let alone one voice.
Fiction is even worse. It requires you to get into the head of a character enough so that when someone reads a voice on the page, they can’t see me moving their mouths or my face behind their mask. After a while you begin to lose track of where you stop and they begin and vice versa.
At least, that’s how it is for me, anyway; it’s probably not a sign of something worrisome.
And sarcasm never comes across properly.
Some of these will be bad. Some might be good. Some might be dull, or confusing. I hope many will be interesting, or at least, entertaining. Some will relate to others. Some will stand alone. Some will be strange – sorry, it’s just the way I am. Some might try for enigmatic, but I don’t think I have the right energy for enigmatic. Enigmatic implies something reserved enough to slink just out of sight. Frenetic yeti, vibrating with anxious energy, rarely slink and certainly not just out of sight.
This list is not exhaustive.
Chaos is an organising principle for peanut brittle. You spend time bringing together the ingredients, mixing them all up, heating them in the pan until they’re a thick, caramelised, unctuous substance. Then you spread the mixture in a sheet pan and let it set until you’ve got this shining, dark brown plain, rolling with hills of little hidden peanuts. Bringing order and uniformity to the whole mess. You wait for it to harden.
Then you smash it to bits.
My uncle makes peanut brittle at Christmas sometimes, and distributes it in little jars through my grandmother. They’re full of chunks and shards of peanut brittle, some tiny little crisps of sugar, others a nice balance of brittle and nut and others just a peanut or two stuck together with brittle. Variety is the spice of life.
When my brother and I were kids, our grandfather used to buy us pic’n’mix from the sweet shop in town, Ricci’s. They came in little white paper bags (as all good sweets do) and always had a good mix – Raspberry Ruffles, Strawbs, these white mint discs that turned into a fondant like substance after a minute or two in your mouth, and tasted like spearmint at first, then toothpaste (they were one of my favourites), barley sugar, butterscotch, Everton mints, humbugs, fruit jellies. And peanut brittle.
This peanut brittle was two peanuts encased in opaque, beige hardboiled sweet mixture, to make them look like two peanuts still in their shell. They were printed with a peanut shell pattern that was too uniform and reminded me uncomfortably of fabric sticking plasters.
They were possibly the only part of the pic’n’mix that I didn’t like. The type that came smashed up like gravel in a jar, were much, much better.