08 December 2009


First off, thank you everyone for the supportive comments on the last post. I have been woefully slow to respond to them. I must now beg your forgiveness for that and also for the prolix tone that I fear has arrived as a result of my having taken a sleeping pill tonight with the aim of curing the sleep pattern brutally disrupted on Saturday night.

That Saturday night was a very good Saturday night. Weeks 7, 8 and 9 were bearish weeks and I had been swept into a stress dumb-striking. My mind deserted conversations in the common room and at the pub to creep into a squelched, folded place nearer the occipital lobe, leaving my mouth empty and eyes blank; my forehead wincing enough to be repeatedly commented on - in concern - by the conversational group. One of those times when the sternum makes a press for the heart.

Sweaty and vaguely asthmatic I would force my clothes upon myself in the morning and march - no, that is a lie, it was much closer to swirling than marching, this swirling of picking up books and the phone and the wallet and the keys and my shoes off the floor - swirl my way out of the door, into the newsagent's for the paper, out again for the bus, wherein I would perch and clutch my knees together and try to keep my eyes on the floor, which is hard when one is sitting straight up and sucked in. Off the bus and along the pavement to the station, heels clipping along briskly and my head up, oyster card at the ready, clipping down the stairs, around dawdlers and straight the way down the end of the platform for the Underground. Once there, things would fall apart. The wind would takeover my hair and my paper, I would put my paper away and turn this way and that to keep the wind in a more favourable relation to my hair and with my hand on top of my head, grope out my mp3 player and clutch it to my chest over my heart and shake out the long cord of headphones.

Into the cramped Central line train permeated by stockbroker Tudorbethan commuter air that the train exhales on its short passage through shabbier abodes, refreshed by a new infusion at Liverpool Street and becoming crisp with our arrival at Bank and sanctified and sanctimonious at St. Paul's and Chancery Lane and all this time myself crushed and crushed again and damp with the rain that drizzles East London, wound into myself with my music - Advent carols, the relevant parts of the Messiah, Magnificat this time of year - trying to stop myself breaking away in clammy globs under the feet of my fellows. Always with cold hands and feet, cold hands that would squirm at the heat of my coffee cup and fumble my cigarettes out, feet that would give way on cobblestones.

I was a choke heart wretch by the time I made my way from Holborn station to the door of the Lakatos building. Then an hour and a half's seminar that I would wrench my mind along to follow up with dumbness of spirit during the group coffee break that follows. Trenchant opinions on Kant's teleology are hard to summon in the most level-headed of times and my mind contained on these mornings only a penny or two, dusty lint and hesitance. That is what I have been dredging essays from these last turgid few weeks.

Deterioration was complete each night after the train journey home with my arms clutched across my chest, bent over, to climb the stairs and form a lump on the couch in front of the telly and the laptop and eat or fail to eat, depending.

It was not a promising state from which to set out early on a Saturday to spend the day here and there with a friend and the exhaustion of changing to the Waterloo and City line was enormous, only to be followed by the disorientation of trying to remember my way, mapless, around the Southbank Centre after a six years' absence during which they removed all of the little brass pointers that direct one from the sure landmark of the Festival Hall to the hidden and unforeseeable entrances to the rest of Britain's cultural showcases.

After two much needed black coffees and with student day tickets for the National in hand, I began to be able to act as a human. Then came an extended perusal of the bookstalls, conversational literary criticism in tow and brunch in Borough Market and more coffee. An adjournment and I took the long, tops of buses way home and tidied up the house with Women's Hour Weekend on Radio Four on in the background and dragged myself less heavily back into town for dinner and mulled wine and theatre in front row seats where we were covered in stray chicken feather particulate by the time the interval came round. It was a Brecht play and long. By the time it ended and the male members of our evening's party drifted away to pursue their own ends, we two went for drinks at a jazz bar and by the time I realised that I would indeed miss the last train, I had relaxed and even become a little careless and daring in conversation. A journey on the night bus is a small price to pay for that.

This was the pleasant origin of my broken sleep that I am lazily remedying by means of pills instead of daytime constitutionals. Only two more seminars, a departmental party and an essay between me and the Christmas holidays when I can work and work and bake and go to church.

What has been bothering me, though? I've spent the day ruminating half-assedly instead of writing my essay and in the bath I concluded that it was fear. It would be easy and incidentally true to say it was a mild depressive episode following a mild manic episode. This was, however, an episode full of content and the content is real enough whatever the underlying physiology might be. This is not always the case for me - mostly these things just come upon me with a moth eaten jumble of bog standard thoughts that do not feel internal. And it is the case that I am afraid.

Whence this fear? I imagine it has something to do with the heartbreak of this summer; rejection, longing, hopelessness, abrupt interruption and eruption of dreams and anger. I imagine it has something to do with the now ingrained cautiousness over my health. I imagine it has something to do with the way none of my clothes fit me at the moment and money and debt and missing the people who used to spend acres of time sitting on my porch.

What is it I fear? Failure, for one. The external part of my life hangs fairly heavily on what I do this year and the knowledge of that makes it hard for me to write essays because I become anxious. I fear rejection, which makes it hard to venture anything - friends, essays, clothing, talking, dating, saying no, saying yes, declarative sentences - because it feels as though everyone is waiting for me to make a tiny slip so that they can criticise me in a devastating way. I fear, in a way that is unfamiliar to me, my own sexuality. In some ways it is a fear of vulnerability and obviously connected to fear of rejection but it is not solely that, and the other part is the part that is unfamiliar. What the other part is I am not sure I know how to say. It, along with the difficulty I am having with writing essays, what preoccupies me the most at the moment. I am not having difficulty with writing in general, which I don't quite understand because usually if I am confident about my writing, which I usually am, then I am fully confident of all my writing. I need the space of the Christmas holidays to investigate my essay problems but the weirdness of this sexuality fear is more invasive and more complex and more unknown and thus more obsessing.

Part of it is the voracious character it has lately taken on. I have not previously experienced it so directly and so immediately. I have looked at other women before but never like this - unremitting distraction - and never before has lust so quickly and constantly followed on. I'm distressed by it: it is pleasant and enjoyable and yet simultaneously it suggests parts to myself that I didn't know were there and which I'm not sure I like, entirely. It seems that being gay is more deeply seated in me than I realised and I hope that the reason I am partly uncomfortable with it is because it is new and not because I have struck upon a new seam of self-loathing. I feel that I have lost some measure of control over it.

This unexpected part of my sexuality has formed a locus around a new friend of mine. I cannot sit next to her without shivering with attraction. That is not unusual in itself. What is unusual is that it is not accompanied by an at least somewhat idealising crush. It is more like a fascination. The other strange thing about it is that I still haven't made up my mind what to do about it. Even in high school when I was more shy and much, much more inexperienced I had an easier time figuring out what to do or not do. It, this fascination, this urge, has nothing to do with incipient or inchoate love, which is not to say that it feels as though that couldn't follow but just that it is not now present.

It feels more naked, somehow. What does that mean? By naked, I mean that I don't feel that I must or should become a more perfect version of myself. Surely that's meant to be a Good Thing? That I feel I need be only myself? Perhaps that's what's scaring me so badly. By naked, I mean that desire has the prominent place and for once I have no other conspicuous emotion to cloak it in nor pair it with; neither affection (though it is there) nor admiration (though it is not absent) nor anything else. Then, for various reasons of personality and shared background, there is a quality of affinity that really scares me because it is so drunken. Is that quite the word? What does it mean to feel that - to feel an affinity - and yet at the same time experience the other person as an opaque and truly and finally separate being? It is a contradiction.

The whole of this weird attraction has no surface and has no exclusivity to it. No surface? No exclusivity? Do I mean that it is immanent, rather than transcendent? It feels dangerous, dangerous and explosive. It feels like life. Again, an almost non-sentence. Feels like life? Am I sentimentalising? Or am I referencing intensity? Or salvation?

What is it? Why am I so scared? How do I move on from it, from here?


  1. Hello,
    I intend to comment big-style on this post but my brain isn't firing on all cylinders just now so i fear I might make a hash of it. To my dull mind and senses, much of what you describe re. the distracting frissons is enviable, if a little disconcerting. I understand all the concerns re. the future and what it hinges on and how things so often seem to be hanging on a fragile thread.
    I might have to email my response to this as I'm not in a good state to expose myself in public just now.
    Best of luck with the essay and such.

  2. Kate, I hope you feel better soon! In the meantime I will just look forward to hearing from you as and when.