How are you?
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It's early morning here, the sky is a blue grey and the SAD lamp is on. In last week's writing session someone asked me if the lamp helped and I wanted to say yes but then I realised me that would be like me telling a friend that the book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living was brilliant, so brilliant I’d read it three times. She burst out laughing: ‘And you don't worry anymore?’
Reader, I do.
Which reminds me of another moment this summer when I went to my cousin’s wedding in Oregon. I was telling someone about my self-help adventure and he looked at me, with total seriousness and said: ‘This is you AFTER the self-help?’
So yes, I am shit advert for pretty much anything promising to change your life… but what I can say for the SAD lamp is that I don't think it makes me worse and it’s a very good light for zooms.
In other news the book edits go on and on and on but I hope that I’m getting there.
I was editing the chapter of self-love the last couple of weeks and so it was good timing that there was so much Valentine’s Day content around that concept. This was the year that celebrated Me, Myself and I instead of The One. You could argue that’s narcissism at its highest, or you could see it as a very healthy thing. I think both.
I have come across a BRILLIANT BRILLIANT podcast called Unf*ck Your Brain by feminist life coach (didn’t know that was a thing) Kara Lowentheil. She talks about loving yourself as a woman being an act of feminism because it is a finger up to a world that tells us nothing we do as women is good enough.
She says that we think we are hard on ourselves because of our real and personal faults but actually we are hard on ourselves because the world sets it up this way. There isn’t a moment in the day when a woman isn’t being told by media how she should look (slim and pretty), how she should behave (nice and kind and accommodating) and how she should feel (perky and grateful - ‘cheer up love, it might never happen’).
Of course most of us feel like we’re not living up to the ideal.
She says that loving yourself isn’t conceited or selfish - quite the opposite because when we love ourselves we have the energy to love others and to change the world. On the flip side when we’re making a full time job of critiquing ourselves, we might tell ourselves we are humble but actually we are actually totally self-obsessed. There is nobody more stuck up their own behind that the one who is judging everything they say, looking to other people not as other people in their own right, but as people who are either rejecting or approving of them.
That rings true to me. Uncomfortably true!
On a similar note I have been re-reading a book called Pussy A Reclamation by Regena Thomashauer which is a book about loving all of oneself, including our… yes, genitals. I know! I know! It’s a bit much… but bare with me… there’s something in it. A lot in it actually.
One of the chapters invites us to think about how we feel about being women. This was something I’d never given any thought to, but answering those questions was revealing and quite disturbing. When asked how I felt about being a woman, I wrote a few lines which used the word ‘nothing’ three times. ‘I feel nothing about being a woman… it’s kind of nothing, like, it’s ok, not bad, but not good either… it’s not as good as a man, but also it’s ok. It’s nothing to talk about.’
I didn’t know I’d felt that way. She then asks us to think about what we thought about the idea of becoming a woman when we were younger (I wrote that being a woman meant periods and boobs and being careful of strange men) and how we feel about the word Goddess (cringe, pink, nonsense) compared to God (true, strong).
Thomashauer says that we live in a patriarchal system (where men rule) and this affects how women see themselves (I had not realised that this was the case with me). She also believes the loving yourself as a woman is an act of feminism because once you love yourself, you have the power to love and raise up other women.
As it is, many of us don’t do that. Thomashauer believes (and you may disagree) that women have traditionally bonded over their woes rather than their strengths. She argues that women often see each other as competition and so we parade our problems as a way of showing, look, I’m not a threat to you. We talk about our terrible day at work, make jokes about being shit adverts for SAD lights and generally put ourselves down instead of telling everyone about our promotion or the great sex we just had.
This, according to Thomashauer, bonds us to our pain rather than our POTENTIAL.
She says that women need to re-learn how to be together, and to do in a way that allows us to express all our rage and pain AND to celebrate all that is good. To that end, she suggests something called SWAMPING - which is when you dance your socks off to angry/sad/sexy music, feeling everything you feel - and then we come together to BRAG.
Most of us are brought up that nobody likes a bragger so this takes practice but I’ve been doing it with friends this week and it’s lead to great conversations. It totally changes the tone. So here we go:
First you say something that you BRAG about - So this week I bragged that I have the most brilliant people in my life. But I might also brag that I went for a walk every day or didn’t drink alcohol or that I my first book was an international bestseller (saying that last sentence makes me feel ick, but it’s also true and why on earth shouldn’t I enjoy saying it?!)
Then you say something you are GRATEFUL FOR. I said that I’m grateful that even though the second book is taking forever, I still believe in it and believe that it will get done and be of use in the world. I’m also grateful for my gorgeous flat that lets me look out at the world and the chip shop, my friends in the coffee shop and having big parks nearby.
Finally you say something you DESIRE. I’m not a fan of the word desire, it sounds like something someone would say in a breathy voice for a perfume ad (Desire, the new scent by Calvin Klein)…. ha! But again this is my own limited mind at work. Admitting the things you want is strangely vulnerable stuff. All these thoughts come up about feeling greedy or stupid because it’ll never happen. They are the same feelings I had when I did a vision board during The Secret. All the ‘who do you think you are’ stuff shouts in my mind. The ‘I want doesn’t get’ conditioning from school. But f*ck it.
I desire the book to be finished and to be GREAT. I desire that the book makes people laugh and think and makes single people around the world feel like they are perfectly ok, more than ok they are fabulous.
As I said the desire, I smiled. It’s nice to feel lifted up by a dream, rather than lying in the mud of all your perceived failures.
So that’s it for this week. I thought we’d BRAG in tomorrow’s writing session. Would be lovely lovely lovely to see you. Here is the link to book tickets.
WHAT I’M READING
I’ve started reading an early copy of Ruby Warrington’s new book called WOMEN WITHOUT KIDS. It comes out in April and is excellent. Just as I hadn’t realised how little I thought of myself as a woman, I hadn’t realised until I started writing my second book, how I had devalued myself as a human because I was not a mother. I consider myself lucky that I didn’t want children, so it wasn’t a source of heartbreak for me in the way it is for some friends, but still I told myself that all my friends with children were proper adults living real lives while mine was a selfish immature pretend life. I no longer feel like that. It seems like we are in the middle of a big shift around this idea that women need to be partners and mothers to be full humans. On Instagram I have started following accounts on not being mothers and it’s reassuring. I recommend Trixie Films, We are Child Free and Millennialemma
None of this is to say that being a mother isn’t wonderful if that’s what you want but until now there has been very little visibility of women who decide or have not been able to have children. Child-free/childless women can either be the subject of pity or suspicion, instead of women like any other woman… kind, flawed, doing the best they can. It seems so trite to say it but every way of life is valid.
Newsletter-wise, I’m so pleased that Nicola Slawson’s newsletter The Single Supplement is back. Nicola writes about issues affecting single humans so, so well. She is also a great resource to find other writers/ articles on this subject. Highly recommend.
Also thank you to my sister for sending me this piece about the fall out that comes after publishing a memoir. Terri White’s book is powerful and disturbing and I’m glad she wrote it.
WHAT I’M WATCHING
Pamela Anderson doc on Netflix. Do watch it if you haven’t already. She is a breath of fresh air; bright, funny and almost saint like in her acceptance of a world that exploited her at every turn. I wish she didn’t have to accept so much crap but I’m glad to see she is now being celebrated. I saw someone on Instagram had asked Mike White, creator of The White Lotus to cast her as Tanya’s grieving sister in the next series, genius!!
Friday Night Dinner I like a sitcom to fall asleep to and this is gorgeous and light. It’s set in a Jewish family’s Friday night dinner. The dad is always hot and has his top off, the neighbour is deliciously eccentric, and the two sons lovingly mean to each other. Funny and wholesome. This is a guardian review.
We are on for tomorrow (this Saturday) and next. Would be lovely to see if you if you fancy a scribble in the company of people from around the world. A reminder this is a journalling session for all humans, not just humans who like writing. You can write in any language. We never read anything out loud and you cannot be bad at it. What you can be is surprised by what turns up on the page, often, in my case, a grudge I’ve been holding on to for ten years. Better out than in, as my dad used to say post fart. So yes, let’s think of these sessions as farting on paper... how can you resist an opportunity like that?
Thanks for reading Help Me! Newsletter ! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
This week's newsletter was just JAMMED with fascinating insights and things I'd never considered before. In particular, "On the flip side when we’re making a full time job of critiquing ourselves, we might tell ourselves we are humble but actually we are actually totally self-obsessed. There is nobody more stuck up their own behind that the one who is judging everything they say, looking to other people not as other people in their own right, but as people who are either rejecting or approving of them." Mind opened! Thank you for taking the time to write and share and to be so transparent and open.
One of my favourite reads. ☺️