When I was little my step-father gave me his typewriter as a birthday present.* Yet a few years later, when my family made the advancement into the technological world, the typewriter got lost, redundant in the face of a computer that sprinted ahead in its processes. Even if its aesthetics - grey, plastic, blocky - are not, now, the ones I admire in such a machine, I so wish that I had kept it.
A couple of days ago I found this typewriter on Etsy. If its (though appropriate) postage was not so high, I would consider it as a future purchase. It is one of the most beautiful things I have seen.
*I used to, even then, write stories. And menus for my pretend-restaurant.
Lately I cannot shake the feeling of deja-vu. I am repeating tasks over and over again that I have already achieved on an unconscious level; I am walking or writing or dancing in scenarios I have already seen. And each time, I am looking for meaning, trying to decipher the reason this is here; the reason I am feeling this way again. Because sometimes it is nice; it is a comfort; it is a breath of warmth on an ordinarily cold day. But other times, times like today, I find myself hoping that it won't happen like this again.
I am so far behind on work right now it is not even funny.
And yet I have had a lovely weekend, spending it with: my love, Harry Potter*, a carousel, a wonderful dinner, like-minded friends, boardgames, afternoon tea, cheesy movies, family, a beautiful lady. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is nice to let the work slip and slide away**.
This week it doesn't feel like my body loves me. I ache in too many places and too few things have been achieved. Yet what has felt like a sombre mood throughout seems to be brightening; feeling, but not blocking out. Essays are becoming an expectation again and the books are getting longer, thicker, more dense. I have photographs I am patiently waiting to scan in (of the summer, of the autumn, of more Diana excursions) and cakes I am expectantly waiting to bake. And something spectacular has started to happen. Somewhere, beneath all the worry and the stress and five-hundred-and-one-things that need doing, I have found myself writing again. So maybe, just maybe, what I think of as non-productive and of as procrastination is being usurped by a more personal victory.
How has your week been?
Because it's Friday and I like to share on Fridays, I highly, highly recommend giving this your attention for the six or so minutes that it runs.
"One minute was enough, Tyler said, a person had to work hard for it, but a minute of perfection was worth the effort. A moment was the most you could ever expect from perfection."
Chuck Palahniuk, 'Fight Club'*
Maybe little more needs to be said than this - except, perhaps, how true it is.
I have been thinking a lot about perfection lately and about the individual ideals we are always striving for. Striving is good; it is healthy. But sometimes I think we all beat ourselves up a little bit if things don't quite make it. And maybe I see this most in relationships and in the little wobbles they encounter.
The other day I read another quote about perfection and about how it is actually the act of looking past the imperfection. The idea stuck with me; made my vortex of appreciation widen a little. I don't know what perfection means - and it doesn't seem like anyone does - but I think this is a good way of looking at it. Because maybe if we notice the imperfections diminish, we have reached it. But maybe this can only be achieved by embracing them in the first place, by nourishing them. Because then we won't find them imperfect; we'll simply find them worth loving.
*Fight Club is amazing. And apparently the book is as good as the film.
Today is a day of a little insecurity; a little doubt that pushes against a skull, distorted by the flurry that follows. And sometimes it takes a while to shift these sorts of days. Especially, like today, when no root exists; no spurt or growth of a germinating seed; no obvious or debilitating crack in a pavement. And I could go on and on and tease out similes - but even these feel too self-conscious today.
So maybe I haven't done enough work this weekend or started on the hand-made Christmas presents I said I would and maybe I haven't exercised, properly, in a long, long time.*
But do you know what? Today I stole an hour to sit down with my step-dad and it felt like the best thing in the world. We talked about the war (himself a child of it, a survivor of The Blitz) and about the practical jokes he played on his staff at the bank. It made me happy, as well as sad, at the realisation that whilst I see him every day and help him in the tiniest of ways, I do not speak to him enough; I do not show him the love he deserves or mimic the kindness he offers.
I have many people to thank in the world and he, along with my mother, and with my love, deserves the greatest of it.
*This I cannot excuse. And maybe I say it too often, but this week I will.
This weekend I will be spending time with my love and eventually getting caught up on some reading. This week my attention is angled towards Woolf's "To The Lighthouse". I know I ask this a lot, but have any of you read it? I am finding it beautiful but nervously so; a statement probably fuelled by my anxiety over an impending presentation...
For Christmas this year, I am planning to make my second family a Christmas cake (sponge instead of fruit but similarly festive) but someone suggested that I add to this and make a sort of hamper out of it - basically bake 'til my heart is content.*
If you were receiving a family hamper (parents and adult children), what would you like to see inside?
*And with hopefully fewer catastrophes than the Hallow'een Extravaganza I tried a few weeks ago. I sometimes forget that not everyone has the stomach for the cake-to-icing ratio that I favour. I sure love baking, though!
Usually Facebook is the place for a kind of (not all that important, but important to you) social back-biting. But today things have escalated and it has become the place for political tension.
Yesterday a student protest* ended in a riot (and perhaps I use the term 'riot' loosely) which ended in a perpetuation of the student stereotype. It wasn't big, it wasn't clever and, most of all, it has not helped our cause. But Facebook has become the place for people to vent their anger; to allege themselves to the cause or to detach themselves completely, either in apathy, in dejected disbelief or in understanding of the government. No longer are we placing in view our social standings - our lists of friends, our photographic memories, our marital statuses - but now we are also shouting to the world our political viewpoint. And as to this, I am in two minds. I am all for debate and a polite battling of opinions, but I am not sure Facebook, often rowdy, is the facility for this.
*In England the subject of university tuition fees is always, always hit with contention. In our last General Election, the Liberal Democrat candidate (now half the coalition government) signed and promised a pledge to 'cap' tuition fees. This gave students and prospective students hope which, because of increasingly large applicant numbers and an impending deficit, has been dashed. Perhaps students wouldn't be quite so angry if they thought they got their money's worth of academic contact at the price of university now. Yesterday's demo - or 'demolition' as the Student Union dubbed it - was a fairly peaceful protest until a few ruined it in a rowdy handling of Government property.
I am an English Literature undergrad incapable of writing a good essay. I cannot connect my points in the clever, coherent way I dreamed of. I cannot propose interesting and engaging points without faltering a little, without taking my reader on a wildgoose chase.
Sometimes, quite often actually, I do not feel like I deserve my university place. Give it to someone else, I want to say. Someone who does not procrastinate, who cites as she writes and gets excited by whatever text she is handling.*
Sometimes my writing feels a little sloppy, a little uneducated, a little like a child's in an academic world.
And do you know what sucks? Grades count from now on. They do.
*Sometimes I get excited. Quite often, in fact. Then I execute it poorly and do not do it justice. Sometimes I am a little offender to the literary world.
Twenty or so minutes ago, I finished watching a documentary on The Gulf of Mexico oil spill and realised that the phrase "lost in thought" has never had such poignancy. Because I am just that; I am thoughtful, now, but I am lost inside those very thoughts. The complexities of the issue are astounding; the hypocrisy, the sorrow, the expectancy, the rueful hope. Throughout it, I found myself empathising and agreeing with the delicately oppositional points of both presenters: the one who frustratedly named BP the greatest villains and the other who reasoned that they are actually doing their best. Yet it is the crab fisherman who said BP weren't to blame that first stole my heart. Because he is right. I am to blame, you are to blame, him and her and him and her and her and him are all to blame. Because everyday we use that oil in some shape or form. We did not set fire to the rig or forcibly spread the oil across the ocean, but we facilitate it. Our very demand is what caused it and our very demand is what caused the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill to still be felt today. And yet we are so far stuck in a rut of using oil (or coal, or gas for that matter) that we do not yet know the way out or the way to change. It is no exaggeration to say that our lives are, at the moment, dependant upon it. And yet we can very legitimately sit and criticise BP for their dealings with it; we can say that they shouldn't drill where they don't have the measures to protect against its failings, and we can say that they shouldn't be the capitalist predators that they are. But until we change it, until we are strong enough to recognise and alter our behaviour and fund our future in another way, we are just as much to blame as they are, albeit in a slightly different way.
Our planet is beautiful and often, very often, I do not believe we deserve everything it has given us.
Right now I fail at the essays I have to write and the books I have to read. I fail at relaxing, taking my time and enjoying the rush. I fail at drawing, at crafting, at writing. I fail at buying enough vintage and at the same time, saving enough money. I fail at waking up early enough or saying no to an afternoon nap. I fail at planning ahead and keeping cool. I fail at returning library books on time and not bending the spines. I fail at swimming, at running, at working out. I fail at being the perfect daughter, sister, girlfriend, student. I fail at giving enough back and enough away. I fail at combing my hair and colour co-ordinating.
I also fail at sticking to a healthy eating plan because now, right now, all I really want is one of these.
During the past few weeks, I feel I have learned a lot.
I have learned that as much as I think I work hard, there is always another inch to give. I have learned how to develop photos in the dark-room and simply how to let things go. I have learned that I can cope on my own but that I am much healthier, much happier, much more content with my love in my life. I have learned how to enjoy reading poetry aloud and how to get caught up in its rhythm.* I have learned how to make my own fondant, and that whilst it isn't that hard to do, it does not have the edge that the pre-packaged world gives birth to. I have learned how making conversation improves train-journeys and that a little politeness and a little thought cracks the toughest cookie. I have learned that standing up straight hurts, but that there is fun to be had from a successful spin-turn. I have learned that I lean, intrigued, towards feminist literature and that modernism (of the literary kind) is the perfect combination of the baffling and the inspiring.**
But I guess what I really have been learning is that life is just a path of little victories, built up and shaped over time.
What have you been learning lately?
*I think reading aloud is the only way to find Alexander Pope bearable.
**At least, these are my literary views today. Expect change tomorrow. I do.
I have recently started to fill a baby Moleskine with the things I see that make me smile. Some days the melancholic veins in my body pump most of the blood; I don't see the good things or the cute things or the world's greatest virtues. And it's funny because as much as I talk of opening my eyes more, I am still guilty of not doing it enough.
So maybe I'll start recounting them more.
And I'll start with how the other day, as I walked home, I saw a businessman, stiff in his suit, deliberately alter his path to step in a pile of leaves. And how that was the sign of autumn.*
*Or is it winter now? I can never tell where the seasons differentiate. It still feels like autumn.