< back


wednesday 16th november 2022

the lovely matthew ⧉ was so kind as to poke me to write, so i am, even though i feel a bit like i'm forcing it right now (as i so often do when i'm smushed between deadlines and new things and day job and all of that). thank you matthew, this quote resonates.

a screenshot of a screenshot of an instagram post, that reads 'In her widely lauded essay, 'Sick Woman Theory,' Hedva argues that, 'The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care fr yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, and caring. To take seriously each other's vulnerability, fragility, and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it; to protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care'

interdependence is a wonderful word. i spent a lot of time as i grew up seeing people around me fall into codependent relationships, and slowly destroy each other from the inside out. codependence rots. it can create something of a fear - you see it happen and want to avoid it so badly that needing anything from a partner, or close friend, can remind you of those codependent feelings - but that's not always it. there are healthy ways to need things from each other, and there are healthy ways to meet those needs.

for a few months now, i've been carrying a weight i've not spoken about in public. those close to me know, but i've been keeping it in, to protect those who it directly affects. it's starting to become more apparent that it's not just going to spontaneously go away any time soon, so i'm going to take a moment to write a little bit here. carefully, sensitively.

in april, my dad had a brain haemorrhage. i was with him, and with friends took him to the hospital. he's not been able to go home since. he's actually very, very lucky to be alive - but it's clear now that he will need some degree of care for a very long time, maybe forever. he can't do things like he used to - and the most frustrating part of all - it's become very difficult to communicate with him.

i feel like this all would be so much easier for everyone if we could just sit and chat about it, laugh about it. it's felt almost cruel to be writing, thinking, researching around communication, improvisation, complicité, while i can't seem to work out how to reach my own dad. even crueller that he is an accomplished musician, competently able to improvise (though he'd call it a jam). it's like everything got muddled up for him, and now he speaks a language nobody else on earth does. he can enjoy things, he can enjoy socialising, but it's all different now - more passive.

i find myself searching for ways to engage. sometimes we find something that seems like it's the right thing, like it excites him, like it's what we can do or should do or must do - and then we try and it's not quite right. and we hit a frustrating, emotional wall. it's hard not to feel like we're not doing enough, or if we just tried harder suddenly everything would make sense, and it would all be okay again.

i try to hold in my mind the lessons i've learnt around listening, improvising, 'yes, and' - but i'm still not quite sure how to say yes to things i don't quite get, without causing frustration when my lies of comprehension are inevitably found out. i respect him too much to 'play along' - but then we get caught up in the real emotions of it all, rather than having a transformative and fun journey to somewhere a bit removed from the realities of an NHS rehab unit. how do i say yes to a question i can't understand? should i even try?

it's hard not to let it turn into guilt. why don't i visit more or why don't i just try harder to work out what you're saying or why don't i just understand you like i've got a babelfish in my ear because surely we should be able to understand each other perfectly intuitively because you're my dad. the endless Why Don't I Just.

at the same time as all of this, so many wonderful things are happening too. i'm being invited to speak on podcasts (i'm recording one tomorrow with some friends, watch this space), being headhunted to support on arts events, and just secured literally a lifelong dream of a physical space to create and share art collaboratively in the community with my partner - but i feel like i get crushed in the gears on the way to enjoying and embracing all of these opportunities. every day i don't have time to go and see my dad is another day of guilt on the tally, even if i spent it doing work which fills my heart in so many other ways. i feel like i'm being pulled in so many different directions right now.

yet, i still try and hold space for the work of interdependence, care, nurture. i'm still much more likely to say 'yes' than 'no' if someone asks for my help on a project, even if it will get me nothing material. it's just not in my nature to not prioritise that way of being. but it goes on the pile, with the guilt, and the joy, and the endless pulling.

i don't know if this post has a point, per se, but i think i needed to write it. to have someone other than gem bear witness to the pull. i feel quite lucky to have such a caring, sensitive, and worldly cohort on my MA programme - everyone is willing to be quite real, and quite present, and i couldn't ask for a more wonderful group of people to be in contact when when processing something this big. it helps, it always helps, to know that even if i'm not able to write about it, i can read one of my colleagues' thoughtful and sensitive blogs, probably about something similar in their own lives. i like that we can be real with each other.

i think one of these cords will snap soon - i hope it isn't one i like.