Of Monsters and Men

While watching the official trailer for Marvel’s upcoming series Jessica Jones, I discovered a new band named Of Monsters and Men. They’re an Icelandic chamber pop group, and they sound ethereal, chill, and peaceful in the sort of way that you might feel yourself before a storm breaks. The song of theirs used in the Jessica Jones trailer is called Thousand Eyes and is fantastic.

A pretty fitting song for Halloween too. The lyric video is particularly odd, but interesting.

Can you change the world?

That’s a tall order contained in that question, but it’s something that everyone’s thought about at some point or another. The realisation that you don’t have to settle for being a bystander, that you can do something that will affect the world, is a potent one, and one that forms the basis of most great stories.

On a literal and slightly pedantic level, we are changing the world in minuscule ways every time we buy a coffee or walk past somebody. Those small changes we make – how hard we push past somebody, whether we roll our eyes or look interested when someone talks to us, how much we tip a waiter or waitress – can affect others in small ways that, like sand grains, contribute towards the bigger changes. But that seems obvious – we can’t exist in the world without interacting with it, and even the decision to not interact has implications. So what about the bigger picture?

There’s a story I’ve been wanting to write since I was fourteen. It’s a big undertaking, so it won’t surface for a good few years yet. But the route those characters take ends up with them affecting their world in a big way. And, like most people I’ve met in most jobs and most places in the world I’ve been to, they never set out with that end goal in mind. They sort of stumbled in to it, then tried to make the best they could of it as they discovered more about themselves and the values they hold dear.

I hold my characters up on the road ahead of me when I’m uncertain. When I’m feeling despair – as in the previous blog entry – those moments eventually pass and my mind starts searching for reasons to continue, for motivation, for promise that I can potentially do something about the things that make me sad. So I put the characters from this future story up there and I say, ‘They aren’t particularly special. They lucked out in a few ways, they ended up with some privileges and some misfortunes, but most importantly, along the way, they noticed something was wrong. They noticed people were getting hurt and they tried to do something about it. They had no idea what they were capable of, but they tried anyway.’

And if only I can catch up to them on the road. I can see them up there, not heroes but just people, and it’s comforting. It feels like there’s hope there. I sometimes wonder if this is why I write – so that the dark feelings of the previous blog entry are not all there is – both for me and for anyone else who might have felt similar dips in their outlook. I have to try anyway.

Last night I walked under the trees by the harbour, and golden leaves showered over my head in the breeze. It felt like being on that path. I wanted to share that with others.

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One Place Left in the World / Optimistic Pessimism

I saved this one from a few days ago, because it’s not good to publish when you’re in a depressive episode. But I think it’s important, as a thought, a concept, one way of looking at the world – one side of a many-sided die. 

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Let me preface this by saying that I probably shouldn’t write during a depressive episode, but I would like to get some thoughts out my head. It might help, or something like that.

I like how hopeful Peter Garrett sounds when he sings the lyrics of Antarctica. 

“There must be one place left in the world
Where the skin says it can breathe
There’s gotta be one place left in the world
It’s a solitude of distance and relief.”

It’s something to believe in, even if it doesn’t exist. And today is one of those days where I’m pretty sure it doesn’t. I’m bemused sometimes when I read social commentary these days, particularly around safe spaces and the decrying thereof. Safe spaces have never existed, and they never will. People are too cruel, and that is the honest truth. When have I ever had a safe place to run to?

Never. Not even in my own head, because even if I make imaginary havens, memories still have the power to rush in there, to find me in the dark of my subconscious where I have no control and no way to repress.

Safety is a lie. So it’s funny to see people talking as though it’s something people get too much of. As if it’s something people even get at all. I’ve never been safe, despite the best efforts of those who love me. And I’ve long since given up thinking I ever will be. Like that’s going to happen. I don’t think I deserve anything. It doesn’t matter. We’re not important. Every time an attempt will rise to create safety, the counterbalance will fall and it will be reset. It’s a Sisyphean struggle, and more than a little pointless.

In a way, it was easier getting over things when I was thirteen. Outside of the expected fallout of superficial verbal abuse, I only had to deal with the in-depth cross-analysis from my own brain. I had no way of knowing what another person truly thought without a good few hours of deep conversation. I had limited access to newspapers. And so, I could hold the delusion of the world outside my immediate situation being ultimately a supportive place.

But I think I am grateful, now that I know more. It’s better than not knowing, because life would be shit if you kept moving forward only to have your hopes dashed each time. I’d rather move forward with more certainty. So, some things to remember: Everything is hostile. Don’t expect anything from anyone. Assuming kindness will only make it hurt worse. Assume it’s all terrible, and you might get the odd nice surprise (but don’t hold out for it). Optimistic pessimism. It’s not safe, but nothing is, and it’s better than hope. It might even keep me alive longer too, because apparently that’s a thing people care about.

And yet, I’ll still listen to those songs, because make-believe is nice to indulge in.

A rejection and a promise.

A while back I entered the MsLexia First Novel competition for the first time. I’ve known about this competition for years, but never bucked up to do it. And it was a real heart-sinking feeling to get the rejection letter, because I had been feeling incredibly confident about entering City of Dis.

But every cloud is not without a silver lining, and I did get a nice rejection letter with a view of overall trends in this year’s submissions, which is useful if only for the fact that it makes it easier to forecast what kind of approach I should take towards future submission cover letters and the like. In addition, there were some nice comments about the quality of writing in the genre I wrote (dystopian) although I’m worried they may have mistaken my first 5000 words for YA, which the novel is not, as the content is far too adult in nature.

So: I’m checking off the bonus points for writing quality, and the bonus points for starting the dystopian adventure straight in the middle of the action, which the judges seemed to like.

I am interested to see who won the competition, as it would be good to compare their work with my own and see what I can learn from it.

And regarding MsLexia itself, it’s the first rejection that’s left me feeling this positive. I’m potentially going to be subscribing to the magazine as it seems to be a good place to nurture confidence.

My current peak of confidence might just be a case of good timing, however. I’m feeling stronger than usual after letting a friend read the first chapter last weekend. Her review was positive, and she wants to read more. So I just have to keep trucking, and will be using NaNoWriMo as a creative space to get some serious editing done.

Forty eight hours with only half the truth told.

I’ve got stories to finish but the motivation is not there. It’s nice that people say I’m good at stuff, but last weekend my motivation was stolen by a ghost.

Isn’t it sad that old friends hold the power to rewrite your history when they talk to others? Isn’t it sad that those others actually believe it and take it as truth? The truth those others now hold in their heads is a half-light in late autumn; a mirage, and it’s cold. I want to reclaim that truth but I feel I’d just be screaming into a void. At the same time I just don’t want to be a fast-track route for people who once acted horribly to get to feel better about themselves now. I have nothing more to give.

Isn’t it sad that people think ‘being the better person’ is more important than being healthy and getting on with your life? I was so close to being healthy again. There’s people I don’t want to talk to any more and that should be respected. Just like who I have sex with, it’s my choice.

That never maps out to reality though. I mean, in the past, sex has not always been my choice either. And this leads to one final fact. If enough things are forced upon you and enough people keep saying I should forgive, forgive, forgive, it grates enough I want to leave everyone behind.

There’s his voice in the back of my head that says just let it happen. let them tear the skin. let them rip it from you. you’re not important; they are. let them take all your gifts and then take more. will they feel sad if they destroy you? that doesn’t matter – just let them, just let them. it’s easier this way, let them have it. I hate his voice, despite the fact that he saved me many times before, and I want to shut everything out.

The saddest thing of all is, I know of people close to me who have spent years, even decades, trying to get away from unhealthy people, and even when they manage it, start new lives, gain self-esteem again, they get followed by these people who won’t take no for an answer. I don’t want to get to my fifties and still be in this situation.  I wish it wasn’t happening to them. Closure is a bullshit concept and doesn’t taken into account their feelings.

Today, I don’t feel like eating is worth it (his voice is very commanding), but I will try to convince myself. I promise I’ll try. I don’t want to hurt anyone who cares about me.