Tag Archives: passion

Finding my joy

If there was a time when I didn’t want to write, I don’t remember it. As soon as I knew books were a thing, as soon as I had a pencil in my hand, I wanted to put things onto paper. I knew from very early on that I wanted to write with purpose, to have ideas that might change things for people. It frustrated me not knowing enough to yet have those ideas, but the impulse was good.

I experimented. The things I wanted to write were unsellable. I tried writing what I thought people wanted, but I wasn’t very good at it… girl meets boy… girl has a severed head in a bag. Romance was never going to work for me. I got some terrible reviews early on when I was writing erotica, because my stuff was dark and weird. Slowly, I found my people, the ones who wanted dark and weird. I found Tom and his Hopeless Maine project, which wasn’t sexy, but certainly had room for any amount of dark I might want to bring.

I tried writing for money, and I failed. Somewhere in that process, I lost a lot of my passion. I stopped believing in much of what I was doing. I didn’t write much for me. For years I have quietly written for other people – here on the blog, and around other projects. If it helps someone, or amuses someone, that’s enough.

Then, unexpectedly in the last week, my joy flared back into existence. I was working on a project and suddenly realised that I really wanted to be working on it, that my heart was truly in it and I felt excited about what I was doing. That was a startling experience. 

I already knew that this summer I would have to give some serious thought to how I work and what I’m doing. I had no idea it even could be framed by this sort of feeling. I might be going to focus on passion projects, because I might have enough passion for that to be a thing again. I do have things I want to say, and I think fiction is going to be the best way to say them. 

At the moment I’m mostly stretching, testing ideas and wondering about how I want to work and what I want to do. I’m hoping to switch over to four day weeks, at least for a little while. I’m waiting to see how the economic side of my situation pans out, and there are reasons to be hopeful. And I’m writing, because I want to write, and need to find out what happens, because there are people I want to impress, and people I want to share with.

My creative identity was, once upon a time, a really big part of my identity as a whole. I’ve had some strange, barren-feeling years where although I’ve been writing, I’ve not felt like I was inhabiting that space. I’ve not felt like myself. I think all of that is changing now.

What do I love?

I started falling in love with people when I was about fourteen. I did not know then that I had already found my adult form in terms of how I would love, but I’ve never changed. I was always plural, always passionate, able to love for the long haul from early on. My first attachments lasted years, some lasted decades. I wish I’d know that my heart deserved to be taken seriously.

One of the curious reoccurring themes is the number of people along the way who have told me that I can’t possibly love them because I don’t know them well enough. It is not them that I love, they tell me, but an idea of them that lives in my head. This raises so many interesting questions about what we think love is, how we think it happens, what we think it means and in what ways we will accept it from other people.

I’ve done love at first sight. I’ve done love at second email. I can fall for people slowly over time or in sudden heart explosions of dangerous proportions. Usually I know exactly what it is that I love – it tends to be about creativity, imagination, intensity, originality of thinking, kindness and generosity. I’m responsive to other people’s passion, to the folk who are inspired, driven and perfectly themselves. These are the things about people I fall in love with and by the time I mention it to anyone it will be because I’ve had time to be sure that what I’m seeing is probably real. I’ve made the odd mistake, but not many.

How I see people is not always how they see themselves. I know from experience that it can be challenging to have someone love you in ways you don’t recognise. Tom’s perception of me remains a long way from how I see myself. But, I think he’s entitled to that perception, and having known me closely for over a decade, differences of opinion are not measures of misunderstanding. Sometimes we see things in people they do not see in themselves. There is a loss of power, potentially, in someone loving an aspect of you that you cannot even see. It is confusing, but maybe it isn’t terrible and maybe they aren’t wrong.

How well do you need to know someone in order to love them? Can you simply love them for the fact of their existence? Can you love them with a spiritual love that sees the spark of the divine in all things? Does it matter? How much do we need to understand the exact reasons why another person undertakes to love us? Do we overcomplicate the natural affection of our creature selves?

Ideals in love

Teenage me didn’t just want to be understood. I wanted someone with whom I could entirely merge and in whom I could lose myself. I wanted my twin soul, my soul mate, my one true love, the one perfect person who would be all the things. It would be fair to say that I did not find these qualities in any of the people I fell in love with.

Twenty something me wanted a sense of connection, an intuitive bond that would bring magic into my life. At that point I was very much more interested in the possibility of a wild and fulfilling sex life, although a fair way from achieving that. I was much more interested in who I could love than who might love me in return.

In my thirties I started to learn what it could mean to have someone love me in return with the same kind of depth and passion I bring to my relationships. I stopped wanting the ease of automatic understanding and became much more interested in the work of understanding people who are not like me, and loving people in a way that includes much more room for difference.

A few years into my forties and I note how far away I am from that young human who wanted a magical connection to just happen. The separation from others that once felt so desperately lonely, now seems like the starting point for adventure and discovery.  I’m very relaxed these days about doing the work to former deeper relationships with people – in all kinds of contexts. I’m more relaxed about how I love and less worried what anyone will make of that. I’m interested in what can be shared and exchanged, not so much in what was similar to begin with.

I have no idea where this journey will take me next, but that’s part of the fun of it. I’ve experienced more recent shifts as moving into states that are more open and less loaded. Oddly this hasn’t dialled down the intensity, instead it’s made space in which far greater levels of intensity can be safely held and explored.

Romance, passion and consent

It’s a popular scene in romantic tales… One person is passionately in love with the other and acts on this. In a sudden, overpowering move (likely to involve kissing) the one who is in love emotionally overpowers the object of their desire and afterwards nothing is the same. The object of desire is persuaded to fall in love, too. They may change sides in the conflict central to the story. They may betray their family and friends, or give up everything they have known. I am seldom persuaded by this bit, but that’s a story to take apart on another day.

We’re all creatures of reason and emotion. However, our considered choices about who we are and how we want to be can be – especially in the short term – totally derailed by our emotional and physical responses. Is that love? Or is it just a short term chemical response to stimulus? I’m pretty sure it isn’t consent. We’re shown persuasion of this kind in films and novels, where it’s usually presented as a good thing. It goes with the story that women say ‘no’ when they mean ‘persuade me’, that women find it hard to say yes to sex and passion and need to have their boundaries overcome, and that overcoming those boundaries by force of desire is romantic, and not rapey. If a man seduces a woman it is most usually depicted as a good and romantic thing. When it’s the other way round, the woman is more often depicted as evil. I do not like these stories.

In a seduction scene, we aren’t often shown the focus of desire being given chance to properly express their consent. For me, consent is both romantic and sexy, and verbalising desire is exciting. I find willingness to wait rather than overpower is much more romantic than seduction and that emotionally overpowering someone who has expressed an interest in that happening is much more engaging than using sexual power to strip away someone’s defences.

Power of course is a big part of it. There is power in being able to make it difficult for someone to say no to you. There is power in being able to persuade, to get someone else to submit to your desire or be so overwhelmed by what’s happening that they can’t figure out how to say no to you. To have the looks or the skill set to compromise someone else’s decision making ability seems a lot less attractive when framed in those terms. What we often see presented as romance has a lot more to do with power and persuasion than I feel comfortable with.

The open heart

Fear of pain is an important trick we’ve learned, and it does a very useful job in terms of keeping us alive. Aversion to the experience of bodily pain encourages us not to take stupid risks, to learn by observation, and to avoid things likely to hurt us unless they confer some necessary benefit (like not starving). However, the useful fear of bodily pain also predisposes us to a fear of emotional pain. It doesn’t help that heart wounding is often worse, torments us for longer and takes longer to heal.

Emotionally speaking, we are most at risk of pain when we care. The person who doesn’t care, doesn’t hurt, but they miss out on a lot of other things, too. The person who protects themselves simply does not pour heart and soul into anything – not human relationships, spaces, communities, or work. Being deliberately mediocre can be very unchallenging and comfortable, but it is also an unrewarding and meaningless state to be in, and I consider that too high a price to pay for ease.

I get seriously hurt on a regular basis. I take risks, throwing everything I have at unwinnable fights, work that is beyond me, and people who are threatened by excess care. If you’ve battened down the hatches, determined not to give a shit, then someone turning up with a passionate, open heart is a real threat to your quiet stability. I take on the impossible, but just occasionally, it turns out that my madness and ferocity are enough to turn the unfeasible into the achievable. That’s plenty of reason to keep trying.

What I have to learn to do now, is manage not to be afraid of the inevitable breaking. If I can accept that what I do makes heartbreak inevitable, I can learn to cope better. I won’t hit those dreadful walls of impossibility and rejection with the same devastating force. I can perhaps learn how to melt on impact, and to accept and forgive the people for whom I really am too much. Critically, perhaps I can forgive myself for being too much in some situations.

Recently, someone elfed me. Elfing is a magical practice, and refers to all those fairy stories in which pixies turn up in the night and magically do an impossible task and save the day. Usually I elf other  people, but recently someone elfed me. It was a small, sudden, potent gift, a piece of work offered because a thing needed doing. Pure elf magic. I was stunned, a bit overwhelmed, a bit in awe, and it took me about five  minutes to realise this was fine. An amazing thing had happened, and it was utterly right to be unsettled and a bit intimidated by the grace of that small piece of magic.

And so I learn that perhaps I do not need to apologise to anyone for giving too much, doing too much, and scaring them by being willing to care in ways that they do not. Maybe unsettling people a bit in this way, is actually a good thing.

Rescued by beauty

I burned out this week. It’s not an unusual experience for me, although I’m managing it better and it’s a good deal less frequent than it was. I tend to work up the edges of what I can sustain and then stay there until I fall over. Repeat. I’ve got better at pacing myself, and I’m reliably allowed to sleep, which makes me more viable, but there’s always more that needs doing than there is time and energy to achieve, and I’ve never been good at saying ‘no’ to things that looked important.

In the last few days, other things have happened, cutting through the exhaustion and the attendant low spirits. On Wednesday, the beauty of cranes and swans. On Thursday, the remarkable fiction of Professor Elemental, the gorgeous, sublime poetry of Jay Ramsay, and some online things funny enough to elicit tears of laughter.

I use landscape like a drug. It’s easy round here because there are so many places with epic views, big skies, dramatic hills. I’ve always done this, seeking out beauty and places where the horizon is large. Stargazing works, too. Finding those places where I am lost in the enormity of a landscape. Just a small and irrelevant little blot, able as a consequence to be unaware of myself for just a little while.

I get lost in other people’s creations, in the beauty and wonder of things made. I get lost in work; at the moment that involves a lot of heavy duty factual research, and keeping up with politics could be a full time job in itself. Busy, doing and overwhelmed.

Much of why I seek passion and emotional intensity in others may be based on this, too. It is a loss of self, an abandonment, when what is felt in the moment is so much bigger than anything carried with me, so much more important than any sense of should, or must, that I am just alive and present and being.

The funny thing is that I’ve always been highly resistant to Buddhist ideas about the surrender of self as religious journey. When I’m not lost and overwhelmed, that loss of self seems like a cheat. Non-existence has always been a tempting cheat, the ultimate get out clause. Still being alive but having some kind of non-existence, would work in a number of ways, but I’ve never deliberately sought it. I’ve hung onto this self-awareness, this personhood that does not ever allow me to stay comfortable for long, or feel good enough or shrug and say ‘not my problem’.

I’ve tried removing bits of self and personality. I’ve tried subduing all the bits other people have problems with – the being too serious, too intense, too emotional. The net result has, invariably, left me feeling that it would be better just to die, rather than living the grey half-life that gets me. If I took away the obsession, the drives, the sense of must and should and ought to that kicks me along on a daily basis, what would I be? Who would I be? I suspect the answer, is that without those spurs, it would be so easy to quit. To decide that my body is too sore to get up today. To accept that it’s too hard and to recognise that I probably wouldn’t make much odds anyway, and to let it go. To be ok with all of that. Would that be better? It’s one of those things I cannot have both ways. Either I am mad and driven, or I am not. I’ve never known how to be measured.

There is another side of me, alive in response to beauty and landscape, and the creativity of others. There are parts of me that exist only when there is someone else’s passion to ignite them. If there’s enough of that, if it’s part of my daily life, not an occasional add-in, then the drivenness starts to take a different shape. It feels less like masochism, and more like an aspect of something bigger, more potent, more worth having. It feels like possibility. However, life in practice is littered with banality, with people who tell me off for being too serious, and the people who inspire me most have other things to be doing, and cannot forever be propping me up. Somewhere out there, is a possibility of turning this into something, of taking the fragments of my dysfunction and re-weaving them into something else. It is, I think, worth trying for, at least.

Too much

One of the things I like about blogging, is that if I prove too much, I don’t have to watch any given individual trying to back away from me. Out here in my actual life, that has always been an issue. I keep the majority of people I know at a careful arm’s length, I’ll give you a light hearted, moderately serious, Nimue, and I may in fact come over as a bit cold, aloof and poker-faced. There have been people in my life who, due to this, thought I was incapable of feeling emotion in the first place. I have a fair capacity for self-control when needs be, but even in that I am often too much.

I was fourteen the first time someone told me I was too much: too serious, not enough fun. It’s been a recurring theme, and in my darker moments, it is often those events that come back to haunt me. The looks on people’s faces, tones of voice, words uttered. I was less cautious as a young human, more willing to risk my heart in the quest to find someone, anyone, who could accept me as I am. By the time I reached my early twenties, I had stopped believing that was even possible, and started learning how to hide it.

I feel everything keenly. I’m not good at casual disinterest, I take everything to heart, and despite more than a decade in the flaying realities of the publishing world, I have never grown a thick skin. Everything gets in. I feel my own shortcomings and mistakes as sharply as razor blades and what I forgive readily enough in other people, I find intolerable in me. That my actual nature causes other people distress is one of the things that has, on more occasions than I care to number, left me wondering if the world would be a happier place were I to absent myself from it. I mention this because I am fairly confident that a couple of the people who read this blog have crawled into similar pits, and might be able to view that differently for hearing it from someone else.

In the Druid community, I have found there are other people who love and cry and whoop to excess. I’ve found at least the possibility of being acceptable, and sometimes the definite, tested reality of it. In my bloke, I have found someone who will gladly accept what I have to give and who is able to see what I am as a good thing, not a problem. Beauty and the Beast is a story that has always resonated with me, but I never cast myself as the pretty one in that arrangement. The person who can see you as you are, monsters and all, and love that, not in the hopes that it will magically transform you into a Disney prince or princess… that person is a rare and precious find. You exist, you brave and beautiful people who are not horrified by intensity, by passion and dedication and who will not be shocked into running away if I say ‘I love you’. And I do love you, a great deal.

To those of you who howl, and who cry until snot comes out of your nose. To those of you who can laugh so much you end up quite literally rolling about on the floor. To those of you whose happy dance is not a typed comment, but a real, leaping exuberant mania cast into the world to offended the jaded apathy of the many… I salute you. There are days when just knowing that you are out there, mad and chaotic, wild, daring, passionate and not cowed yet, makes it possible to keep going. I’m not going to name check you, but I hope you know who you are and what you mean to me.

Contemplating relationship

Some of the most important emotional relationships in my life, looking back, were with people who were not lovers. Some of the lovers, in retrospect, had little impact on me at all, and several were quite damaging. I was pondering this late last night, because I have a fondness for looking for patterns. I’m also on a quest for self-knowledge. So much of who I am and have been has been shaped by the people I was in most intimate emotional contact with.

Those soul deep resonances with others had the effect of tapping in to things that are intrinsic to who and how I am. Through music, literature, creative thinking, sharing ideas and beliefs… looking back those connections were as much about meetings of minds as anything else. I’m very much a thinky person, although also deeply emotional, but intellectual connections are really important to me.

The relationships that went awry involved pressure to be things that did not resonate with me. That included dressing in ways I felt uncomfortable with, acting in ways that were unnatural to me, and basically supressing my own nature for the benefit of others. It’s really that legacy which has created the need to do this whole ‘quest for self’. Picking apart what is me, and what was put on me from the outside, I’ve come to a fairly simple conclusion. There’s a thought form in comics art that goes ‘if it looks right, it is right.’ I think that may have wider life applications. If it feels right, it probably is right – at least in terms of being a reflection of your own nature. If your nature is sick, twisted, depraved and cruel, that’s going to raise a whole other heap of issues, but I don’t find that in myself.

I responded to playfulness and creativity, to deep thinking, inspiration, and people who were passionate about the things they were into. Part of me wanted simply to be on the receiving of that kind of intensity, I was attracted by emotional capacity, in part. To be what fires someone’s imagination, to be the focus of intense desire and to inspire fierce passion, has considerable attractions. I wanted to be there. I wanted to be muse and playmate, and all that. Being in that place now, I can look back and see more clearly what it was that I hankered after in those previous connections. The people who loved fiercely, even if they didn’t bestow that on me, were wonderful and inspiring. The people who just wanted to make me small enough to be unthreatening and easily managed, I could have done without.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, of course. It’s easy to look back and see patterns and relevance that was wholly invisible to me at the time. I’m also aware of how much that went wrong for me had to do with my not understanding my own nature or paying enough attention to my own needs. I let people tell me who and how to be, because I thought being loveable was the most important thing, and it looked for a time like being loved was conditional on modifying myself. Turns out it isn’t. To be accepted as I am, found good enough, adored not in spite of my nature but because of it, has been a revelation. It makes me realise, looking back, who the really important people in my life have been, and they were not in all cases the most obvious suspects.

The trouble with love

I love you. I love chocolate. I love the gods, my cat, the duvet… love is such an awkward little word that gets stretched to cover far too many things. I talked yesterday about my love affair with Ronald Hutton, painfully conscious that ‘love’ was the only word to use, and at the same time, misleading.

I’ve always been an intensely emotional person, and I tend to form deep attachments to people. As a younger human, these were often confusing. I did the crushes, fiercely, I fell in love, and I also fell into other things that there aren’t any words for. People I adore, and need, and want to spend time with but where it’s not about sex or necessarily anything very physical at all. Affairs of the heart and mind have always been as important to me as connections driven by physical desire.

There have been amorous entanglements that lacked some of those other dimensions, and they didn’t entirely work for me. It took a while to find the person who I can connect with in every way, creatively and emotionally, physically, in practical space sharing, in life sharing… one person who can be all things to me. Does that mean I fall out of my entirely head-based adoration of Ronald Hutton? Not at all. There is room.

The trouble with love is that we only have this one word, and we use it too much, especially in advertising. We devalue it by attaching it to things we kind of like. We erode language by misuse. I bought some crisps last week that, according to their packaging, were ‘epic’. They aren’t. They are bits of flavoured potato and I like them. I am supposed to find them epic, and love them, but if I do that to a bit of thinly sliced spud, either my whole perspective is going to get horrible skewed, or I end up with the words meaning less to me. Meaningless, even.

I love passion and creativity in other people. Really love it. I respond to beauty and wonder with intense emotion, I cry over things when a lot of people wouldn’t. I’ve learned to be careful about how I share this, while holding my boundaries and keeping space for myself to feel it. I’ve never found it difficult to love. By this I do not mean ‘like’, I do not mean the love of epic crisps, but an intense emotion that sweeps through me and inspires me to do things. I fall in love with books and rush to tell people about them (Fiona Tinker and Graeme Talboys in recent weeks). I fall in love with the integrity and compassion of other people, with acts of courage and heartbreaking sacrifice. I find my soul stripped bare by the bleak loveliness of a winter’s morning.

Over and over, I come back to those limited, useless words that tell people the wrong thing. Wanting to walk up to people and say ‘I love what you do, I love you,’ and knowing that more often than not it will provoke confusion and not convey what I want it to. It is love, but not a request to get into someone’s pants.

You don’t know who you are, because I’ve never worked out how to tell you. Some of you read this, some of you comment here. Maybe you’re wondering. If you’re reading this and even considering that you might be one of the people I’m talking about here, the odds are good that I do indeed mean you.