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A Short History of Nothing

9 min read

This is a story about a boring and uninteresting life...

Concrete bunker

I hate writing with constraints. I hate having somebody looking over my shoulder while I write, commenting on my half-formed sentences - writing is not a spectator's sport. I hate rushing to finish a piece of writing; I hate trying to squeeze in the time to sit and write. I hate having to consider who's going to read what I write and to second-guess what they're going to think. I hate having to write with a filter and to write in anticipation of how people might interpret things if they were to take my words out of context.

The context is that writing has been my stable and secure companion - my trustworthy and reliable friend - during some very turbulent times. The context is that during the period which I have been writing almost every day, I've been on one hell of a journey. With writing as the only constant in my life, the progress that I've made becomes more apparent - if you read my earlier writing then you can dip into periods where my life was quite profoundly different, although the words on the page don't really give that away at first glance.

To me, sitting down in front of the keyboard feels the same today as it did at any time in the past. To me, I'm every bit as coherent and articulate and compos mentis as I ever was - I can't perceive any difference in myself between who I am today and who I was at any previous time when I was writing this blog. If there have been changes, they've been to subtle to perceive in myself, given I have to live inside my own head for 24 hours a day. "You're looking well" or "you sound well" my friends say to me - they have the benefit of dipping into my life periodically, so they can see the trends, but I can't do that.

I suppose there is a great deal of improvement in my life, even if a lot of it remains merely potential at the moment - there's still a lot of hard work to do. I suppose if I was to think back to where I was a year ago or so, things are a great deal better than they were.

I didn't write yesterday but it's rare that I skip a day. Two years ago I accidentally destroyed an iPhone and a Macbook, on this day. A year ago I didn't even write for a whole week and when I started writing again I told some random tale of historical events from my divorce, seemingly to nobody in particular. It looks as if I was wrestling with the feeling that I was letting my [ex-]girlfriend down. I know what was going wrong - every single winter for several years, I've struggled.

I can see from the archives that I was away skiing back in 2008. March used to be a great time to be kitesurfing in Venezuela. This would be the perfect time of year to spend a couple of weeks lying on a beach. I wonder how far I am from those better times, when the years fly by because my life has regular holidays to hot countries. I wonder how much more hard work it's gonna take before I get back into a sustainable pattern of work, which largely depends on being able to have nice holidays to look forward to. I've chosen a lifestyle that is mostly miserable during office hours, but does carry substantial rewards during leisure time.

I'm not sure what to write about. I'm pretty sure what not to write about, but it's hard. To not write anything that's personal and could make me identifiable is really hard. To not write any of the detail of recent years is difficult, when I'm still processing those events. To break the habits I've gotten into and to lose the catharsis of writing about what I went through, is a big change. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to be entirely forward-thinking and live in the future when it comes to this blog, because the future mostly holds anxiety for me. I'm anxious, for example, about the day when this blog is stumbled upon by somebody who I'd prefer not to read it.

This is a weird transitionary period. I presume I'm writing with reasonable clarity, except for the fact that I'm being cryptic and omitting any of the gory details that already exist in the archives. I presume that my life - which seems stable to all outward appearances - is now becoming something valuable that I don't want to damage. I'm getting the things I need quite quickly now - there has been a lot of very rapid change; improvement.

Potentially, I'm shifting from the intolerable and unsustainable, to a life that's liveable. Potentially, the destructive patterns of the past have been vanquished - I've overcome some pretty insurmountable obstacles and I'm beginning to get a whole load of things lined up in my favour. Life is getting easier.

Historically, I've done a lot of moaning. The archives contain a lot of complaining. I've whinged a great deal about how awful things have been, but now my luck appears to have changed. I'm terrified that something's going to go wrong, but at the moment things seem to be going right.

I could erase my written records. I could expunge my digital identity. When I think about what I've written, I'm glad that I have created some evidence that I existed; I'm proud that I've documented my struggles. If I re-read what I wrote in the past, it's difficult for me to re-live that experience... I struggle to relate. There's a lot of stuff in the past that wasn't exactly brilliant, but I don't think that the answer is to pretend it didn't happen. No good ever came of pretending that I've got a blemish-free past and I've not got any baggage.

I feel reasonably well-adjusted, because I've exhaustively documented what's been happening to me. I feel more secure knowing that I've attempted to capture a little bit of myself at regular intervals. I feel like I understand myself, and that I know who I am. I feel like I have an identity.

It's a difficult changeover period. I'm moving towards a more 'normal' life that you would recognise. I'm moving from a profoundly dysfunctional place to a functional one, even if it appears like I've been getting on with life just fine. I can still have a disproportionate reaction to the most ridiculously mundane stressors - having to buy a birthday present, have a haircut, get to work on time - but these things can leave me paralysed... without help I'd give up and refuse to leave the house.

I don't know what my life is now. My life is still taking shape in its new form; there are big changes that are happening. I need to learn my new routine. I need to prove myself all over again.

Suddenly, I have a girlfriend, a local job and a car. Suddenly, my life looks worth living, but it's also something that I could inadvertently damage. I have to be careful that I don't say anything that might prejudice my future. Before, I was writing urgently because I needed to get as much of myself down on paper before I died. Now, my big fear is how I'll react if something major goes wrong, but it might be me who precipitates my own downfall. I'm starting to have to pretend like I'm Mr Normal and my past is absolutely perfect, like everybody else does. I'm starting to feel the pressure to present a sanitised version of myself that's fit for corporate consumption. I'm starting to feel the pressure to put on the 'boyfriend material' mask that's suitable for introducing to parents and the like. My 'good' life carries with it a great deal of fear of failure.

There's a small part of me that wants to continue to make changes really rapidly, and to continue to fix up the broken things in my life. I want to rush out and rent myself a place of my own, and move out from my friends' place so that I'm living independently - standing on my own two feet. Part of me is in a big hurry to regain the self-esteem that's been lost due to my atypical living arrangements. Part of me is in a big hurry to encumber myself with societal obligations - such as paying rent and bills - that I've been lucky enough avoid for a while, because my life was so dysfunctional. There was no way that I could cope with much stress and responsibility, and my friends helped me... they continue to help me. It's embarrassing. I'm ashamed that I needed charity.

My past is not compatible with my present. My living arrangements are not compatible with forms that need to get filled in - I'm neither renting nor a homeowner - and middle-class dinner table chit-chat. There's a huge contradiction between the work I do and the difficult personal circumstances that I've been escaping from. Work colleagues, girlfriend, new people I meet... they're not going to understand. I don't fit neatly in a box. How can I be so successful in some areas, and have other parts of my life that are still undergoing repairs?

This is not a case of "fake it until you make it". I've already made it. I know the way - I've trodden this path before. However, there are undoubtably a whole load of things that got very messed up and I'm in the process of fixing. People don't really like the idea of recovery, improvement or otherwise escaping our fate - we're very keen to label and abandon so-called no-hopers; we're very keen to leap to the conclusion that somebody's of a certain 'type' and label them for life.

I'm changing. You've caught me on the hop. You're peeking behind the curtain. You're ruining the magic. This is the trick, you see: to fix the unfixable.

I can't write any more at the moment. I need to keep fumbling through this difficult transitionary period. I need to find a new voice, which acknowledges the past but doesn't drag me back there. I need to make sure that my identity doesn't depend on a certain amount of drama and destruction. I'm certain that my future depends on a return to more tranquil times.