For the first time in many years I’ve started reading fiction again.
I’m not referring to the inundation of misinformation by various media outlets although I can’t deny that I’ve been jumping from one news agency to another trying to construct more plausible scenarios, but rather, books that contain flights of fancy and imagination.
I’ve always been a voracious reader.
I was constantly read to as a small child and by the age of four was reading by myself and able to consciously dive into the wonderful worlds that books can lead to.
Mundane reality made no sense to me, but reading took me places where anything was possible, where I was inspired to go on wondrous adventures and explore realities, futures and possibilities.
I would hide behind a chair in my grandmother’s parlour devouring outrageous Victorian encyclopaedias, racist religious tracts, stories about sassie girls and wild boys.
I would read in school breaks and lunch hours, read by the light that came in under the bedroom door when I was supposed to be sleeping, and every birthday and Christmas I would receive a treasured book voucher.
The library was my haven and books were my portal.
My reading was precocious and wide ranging and occasionally the school would call in my parents to discuss my too advanced tastes in literature.
In my twenties I shifted my tastes to non fiction. Initially history, biography and autobiography were my primary interests and this later expanded to reference books related to my passion, the phenomenology and study of religions and beliefs systems.
When I became homeless, I lost near all my library so the first thing I did when I was put into sheltered housing was start to rebuild my collection.
I couldn’t afford book cases so I had piles of tomes flowed along the walls and piled in the corners of my bedsit which created a feeling of safety and progression for me.
I spent the following 18 years in a larger flat filled with bulging bookcases which a flood eventually decimated a large portion of, then moved into a static home where I needed to deliberately cull even more of my precious volumes.
So I primarily kept the reference books that I felt were definitive on specific subjects, inspirational art books, and favourite tracts on mysticism.
I try not to add to this collection and if I do succumb, something else has to go create the necessary space.
I will not look at the books in second hand shop unless I desire something disposable i.e the ‘gobble’ read which is generally formulaic crime that I’ll obsessively devour until finished (often at four in the morning) then hand on to another charity shop.Kindle daily deals is my other resource for this fast food literary consumption.
I do buy art books and local mythology and fairy tales when I travel, but that is the only time I allow my passion to be released unless I’m on a particular, obsessive information gathering mission.
When I read I get lost to the outside world and all other activities are curtailed.
I don’t watch television and reading is my way to unwind and switch off.
However of late, I’ve become bored with non fiction and have cracked the formulas of my trash reads and find myself skimming them without absorbing.
So I’ve started reading well written fiction again.
What a joy it is seeing the places that imagination can lead to, the gates that can be opened and the wonder and inspiration that comes from letting the mind and spirit fly free.
In difficult times, times of change, freedom of imagination isn’t an indulgence nor is it a panicked escapism but rather, an inspirational necessity.
For the first time in many years I’ve started reading fiction again.
I’ve worked in the same place for twenty years. Over the last ten years I’ve drastically cut my hours to accommodate my art work, writing, exhibitions and presentations.
Despite the lessened hours, my day job has remained a stability of sorts in a life that tends towards the creatively anarchic.
Yesterday the shop I work in shut for an indefinite period of time, for a refurb. We’ve spent months building up to this point, clearing stock, and packing up jewellery.
The old Georgian building that houses my work-place seems to recognise this wind down and as the space emptied I became clumsier, unable to adapt to the new layout.
The carpet had marks where cabinets had stood for years, someone smashed the front window, customers who had come in as children and now had progeny of their own, would rush in saying ‘but you’re not shutting are you?’
I was working here when 9-11 occurred, when my colleague and dear friend found out that her husband had cancer and later on when she was informed that he died.
I was there when the shop owner heard of her father’s death in South America and when I received the call to go to Singapore to be with my mother as she died.
Lovers came to visit me in this shop. I met my closest friend here, as well as many other interesting, odd and occasionally illustrious and very famous people.
Simply enough this place has been woven into my life: a foundation from which developed both good and sometimes difficult events.
I will receive a very basic wage whilst I’m not working and in many ways it could be seen as being the perfect opportunity to finally focus fully on my art and writing.
I don’t have enough money to travel, so I can spend all my time immersed in my home, the people around me, and my creative expressions.
Huge changes and quite unnerving as in many ways this is the situation that I have long yearned for; the time and space to commit myself to doing what I love.
I’m aware I’ll need to create a structure and routine of sorts as it would be way to easy for me to drift into an unemployed, agoraphobic, depressed teenager lifestyle.
There is an expression, ‘be careful what you wish for’ and in some respects I have had a wish granted. I’ve been given the opportunity to be a full time artist and writer and need to move past the grieving of what was and the fears of what could be, and learn how to appreciate this gift to the nth degree.
I’m an intensely seasonal creature. As the days get longer and the odd glimmer of green appears, I start to wake up and ideas and plans start pouring forth for adventures,exhibitions and happenings.
I try and ground myself and not get caught in a tsunami of excitement, as when I start talking and pulling others into my exponential accelerations, these ideas become reality.
Sounds good perhaps but in truth it can easily become too much. Suddenly I find myself bogged down with other people and their needs. Politics, logistics and organisation and accompanying stress override any joy in the creative act.
Interesting, intelligent people are often tricky. I’m one myself, so have first hand experience of this.
In the past my tangential ideas have led to books, week long art fairs with multi national attendees, world wide meditative e groups, zines and long running spiritual activist discussion and art events.
However they’ve also led to a personal breakdown, death threats by maniacal unhinged artists, physical collapse of overly sensitive pets who couldn’t cope with every available floor space in my house covered in sleeping bags filled with partying visitors, financial burnout and loss of my own creative direction.
Thus my trying to tread a sensible middle path, something that doesn’t come easy for me.
I’m presently trying to calm myself by bulk reading crime fiction that is well written but formulaic, with a somnambulant comfort found in the repetitive, familiar patterns.
Every now and then I slip into another more challenging book, perhaps populated by straw stuffed changeling children, animate pet milk cartons, or middle aged apocalypse survivors with protective weapons crafted from selfie sticks, which will prod me to dance again off on wonderful tangents.
The year is waking up, but finding the world even stranger than usual I find it very necessary, to take it slow and keep it simple.
Whether I can adhere to this for long is another matter, but for now, I’ll try.
I’m in standard Boxing Day recovery mode. Dishevelled, half dressed, filled with self-loathing and body hate tempered with relief that I survived the celebrations with relationships intact and no major burn outs or disasters occurring.
Christmas started with Carrie Fisher’s near fatal heart attack and ended with George Michael’s fatal one. Sandwiched between, my sister and I ate, drank, watched American Horror Story and waited for a friend to arrive. Sad to say the friend never turned up as she was relapsing on alcohol, a nasty and often tragic behavioural by product of the season.
Celebrating Christmas has never been a big thing within my family, even before my non-Christianity and jaded working in retail attitude evolved.
Often, we would be on the move at that time of the year and unpacking suitcases in a new town or city where all the shops are shut and you don’t know anyone, doesn’t encourage the most festive of attitudes.
Living in a warmer climate also didn’t foster the most seasonal of moods either. Warm weather doesn’t condone rabid gluttony although it can bring inspiring creative interpretations such as Santa Claus on water skis or strange and celebratory beach wear.
If I was staying with my rabidly Catholic grandmother or attending one of my fundamentalist school there would be a frisson of cheer, complete with nativity stories, religious crafting work, carol singing and an exciting array of priests in glamorous jewel like robe wear.
My junkie days tended to weave the necessary feast, famine aspect of the occasion into the proceedings.
As chemist shops were shut over the holiday period, myself and my peers would pick up our takeaway scripts then binge and be immobilised until we had run out of drugs. This would be followed by several days of withdrawal and necessary miserable socialising to try and find substitute drugs to tide us over until the chemist shops opened again.
Living in Hong Kong at Christmas meant, simply enough, dressing up, and getting trashed in a variety of nightclubs ranging from the uber glamourous and very high end at the beginning of the evening to the most squalid and tawdry by early morning the next day. Eventually I would stagger into a dim-sum restaurant populated by traders with their caged birds on the tables next to them as they ate their breakfast congee and I had my life restoring strong brewed coffee made with sweetened condensed milk.
As I get older, each Christmas becomes a multi surface that shines back reflections of the fifty years of celebrations that came before.
I see the Christmas’ spent in detox units and rehabs, the attending of AA and NA meetings on Christmas day with their brightly shirted attendees and table groaning with recovery related literature and sweet indulgences.
There was a brief time when I accepted invitations to celebrate the day with others, as people would feel sorry for me and anxious about the possibility of my spending Christmas alone.
I spent one Christmas cheering up a friend who was a solo mother who had thrown her all into creating a magickal feast for her two daughters, only to be devastated when they stayed in bed all day recovering from several days of taking ecstasy and raving.
For a time, I would accompany a long-term boyfriend to huge family gatherings in Cornwall which would get smaller every year as drunken arguments caused dark skeletons to come tumbling out of the closet, causing permanent animosity and massive relationship rifts.
Eventually I learned that plane tickets on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day were cheaper, so I made a point of always being in transit on the day.
Occasionally I catch a glimpse of what I believe is the true seasonal spirit amidst the misery and consumerism, in an act of kindness or unconditional love and the excitement of very young children. However, this is so often obscured in anger and stress and greed. I believe that the feast day has become lost, just as my own years of memories of the occasion can too easily obscure my present experiences.
I had my first boyfriend, in the most flexible use of the term, in my early teens. He was large, homely, sub normal intellectually and a member of the ‘Satan’s Slaves’ motorcycle gang. We had nothing in common and he had no redeeming features whatsoever aside from having a penis and seeming to be a progression from teenage crushes on poster image men.
Despite the low quality of this male, I felt it validated me in some way and that I had become more acceptable to my peers by ‘having a someone’.
Fast forward 35 years and hundreds of relationships (yes, hundreds, I have neither staying power nor taste, although standards of a sort did develop later in life when my drug and alcohol consumption stopped).
In sobriety I started going out with consistently intelligent creative men, with the occasional abusive or horrific one sneaking into the mix to provide fantastic sex, stimulus of low self esteem and a huge reminder of my obsessive compulsive personality.
I just couldn’t seem to maintain an intimate relationship for any period of time without eventually finding the need to run.
In my early forties I thought briefly of Internet dating but I couldn’t imagine how I would condense my personality into the necessary précis and I’ve never been part of a culture that revolves around dating so the concept was an anomoly for me anyway.
My sobriety also removes the alcohol fuelled sexual initiative that often seems necessary in first stages of most relationships, and lack of drinking skills can intimidate some future partners.
I have friends with similar histories as sex workers, one of whom who is in recovery also (she was the one who when I said that I’d fallen in love exclaimed understandingly,‘o you poor thing!’) and one of whom isn’t.
The woman who is in recovery is sexually active but has given up on finding someone to be with permanently. The other friend was involved with someone, but unfortunately he reacted badly to the revelation that she had been a sex worker and threw up then fled when he was told, though perhaps she did give him too graphic an example of her working years.
Actually my years as a prostitute I didn’t find to be an issue when I have become sexually involved with most men, although they would rather not know the details (if they did I think it would be a tad disturbing). The main problem that blocks intimacy for me, isn’t my past, my madnesses, my constant need for adventure and stimulus or even my art work that uses road kill; rather it is something broken in me that no amount of therapy and self help books can fix.
So in my mid forties I chose to be alone as being involved with someone always seemed to result in my becoming lost in the life and needs of another.
For a long time as a single person, I shone. I developed creatively and emotionally and was incredibly happy.
Then I went and met someone that pressed all my buttons, someone so much like me that every time I knew I needed to walk away I instead thought… but I do that and did that too…I also hate phone calls, I’m unreliable, I’m manic obsessive controlling and addictive but hey- he’s got a job which is a first for me amongst my rather left field partners, so maybe that makes everything okay.
This pseudo relationship with the type of person I tend to call ‘the punisher’ (not in a BDSM sort of way but more in a let myself be put down and feel less than, sort of way) did have one advantage.
It reminded me that I do have a capacity to love, and you know,I would actually like to be close to someone again.
Change is always possible if I’m willing to take the risk, and risk taking is something I’m incredibly good at.