Projects all around me, that constant sense of guilt over each one left unattended too long, each email I still haven’t replied to. My work is unconstrained and spills over in all directions, leaving my desk awash in paperwork and my mind bewildered. I’m don’t know where I’m going or what I’m doing or where to focus. I can’t tell if I’ve taken on too much or I’m simply not organising it well enough. The pressure to make income is like a great weight, bearing down on me. I think without that, I’d be feeling merely scattered. With it, I work and I achieve things with a background of constant despair and a sense of unending, quiet failure. Nothing I do is enough.
Today was madcap. The Cat Who Must Not Get Out has taken to hiding near the door and making runs for it. She made it outside twice today, each heart stopping and horrifying. The second time she was determined to escape and we chased her, Rose and I, nearly in tears, around the house and over fences and part the neighbours before catching her and locking her in a room.
I spent the morning washing dishes and cleaning, remembering that this is part of my life too, keeping house and caring for my family, making sure there’s food and enough clean space to think in. I’ve put all our nuts and seeds in jars for cooking and snacking, the grease from our kitchen has made them all sticky, reminding me we need to sort out our terrible extraction fan that blows rather than sucks grease.
I write back to some emails at random, double check dates and make sure my diary contains the things I’ve promised to show up at. If it’s not in my diary, I’m lost. I write the first of the thankyou notes back to those who have helped me over the past few months, put my last stamp on it knowing it will probably be a week or more before I remember to post it.
I pull all the files out of an old magazine folder and rename some – projects, networks, college, hoping to help me find paperwork I keep losing. I make a mental note to buy more files. My to do list drops by two items, four more are added. Some days I start adding things to my list as I do them, so I can cross them out. When I emerge dazed several hours later it helps to have a record of what I did and how the time was spent. My computer is in the coldest part of my home and I’ve noticed I’m frequently chilled and highly dissociative while working. A heater and hot water bottle haven’t much been helping, I need an electric lap blanket or better – to plug the windy gaps around the door. Something else on my list.
I have a master to do list and then an urgent one and then my daily one, and I have a calender to track my week which isn’t being used at the moment because there’s always something more urgent than getting it sorted… The mess compounds. Last week I sorted three boxes of paperwork and recycled half of it. I think spending a couple of days letting the urgent things go and just sorting the system itself – the files, the desk space, the storage, the calendar, will help pull things back together. It’s Wednesday already and I haven’t done any homework this week or bought my printmaking supplies for Friday. I can’t do that until I get paid on Thursday anyway.
I’m trying to understand and prepare marketing resources, but it’s impossible to market myself when I can’t remember what I’m doing or why. So much of life as a multiple is trying to track more than one stream of information, and my life in particular with many things on the go at the one taxes me to my limit regularly. I wake up and everything I haven’t done yet hits me in the face like a rock. I know I’m losing track and that feeling, that sense of things slipping through my fingers, of chronic guilt and uncertainty, of my underbelly showing to the world, it’s so destructive.
Most multiples work so hard to look like we’re not, we conceal switching and hide amnesia and suppress all the clues to our identities… I recall how exposed I felt years ago merely in deciding to put all our DVDs on display… In my mind I’d imagine profilers visiting and diagnosing me on the spot. This is that again, the sense of vulnerability and exposure, the cringing while I wait for the blow, the sense of inadequacy and unworthiness, and that I’m letting down everyone who has ever had faith in me or supported me. That at the end, I’m going to disappoint, fail, not measure up, turn out to be shiny with wonderful ideas but empty and rotten on the inside. Imposter syndrome. Alone, we founder.
What am I doing? It’s a howl in my heart every day. When I wake to the sense of crushing pressure and remember I don’t have to do any of this, I’m not getting paid to, I could walk away from it all… When I remember I’ve chosen to run networks and a business and push myself, that I’ve built this edifice, this creation that is killing me is mine… I feel crazy and stupid and lost. When I sit in Art college, trying to remember if my art counts as art and why… I feel blasted by my own expectations. I had all the answers only yesterday…
I meet with good people for lunch. The time is worth it, I talk, rapidly, face burning, showing both my work and my bewilderment, trying to find somewhere in the world I fit… I feel like the world’s worst business person and entrepreneur, an artist who doesn’t sell art, a builder of networks who feels alone, a teller of stories of hope and direction who feels lost. They are kind and let me see not just their kindness but their sadness, and I remember the cost of wanting to make the world a better place, I remember the sense of loss that’s part of all our stories. Did we make a difference? Did we do enough? What am I doing? What the hell am I doing? There’s a cost. This is part of it, the shadow of the success, the cost of dreaming. This pain and bewilderment, this sense of being small and skinless. To dream of something better is a very vulnerable place to be.
I’m sitting in the mall and I should go home and get to work. The wind is cold and the sunlight is white gold and there’s a busker playing a sad song on an electric violin and I can’t see through my tears.