Hitherto rejecting the central tenet of postmodernism which professes the demise of metanarratives, my former selves embraced the grandest of narratives. Over the years I have identified as many kinds of “ists” and supported numerous “isms.” Driven by the search for meaning, I regularly argued with eloquence and conviction that it was preferable to follow a belief system than walk the path of nihilistic individualism. I am, now, beginning to rethink my position.
My huge, death defying social conscience has always influenced and, I hope, will continue to influence my attitudes and beliefs about the social whole. However, I have begun to question my sub-conscious motivation for clinging to certain prescribed ideas and ideologies. Subjectivity is lonely when one does not fit-in. Was I imprisoned in a crowd by myself, yielding like-minded others to enter? Was I committed to social change, or merely at an earlier stage of a mission to change within? Maybe I am a bourgeois individualist with thin skin. Whatever the truth and which ever side of me wins, I reject all labels; I am no longer an “ist,” I am LOUISE! Read my words and hear me breath.
In the year 2013, a hundred years after her birth, Virginia Woolf remains one of the most misunderstood and influential writers in the British canonical tradition. Generations have deconstructed her essays and novels, in an attempt to better understand her feminist aesthetics and many have questioned the ambiguity of the ideology encoded in her work.
For me, her feminist credentials are not explicit in her texts, but are affirmed in the recorded details of her life. Her involvement in the suffrage movement, estrangement from the traditional heterosexual archetype and frequent retreats into mental distress, highlight her rejection of patriarchal authority. One could argue, however, that more interesting than her endorsement of feminist ideas is an exploration of the extent to which her feminism was a conscious political decision to challenge the prevailing social (patriarchal) order. Was her feminism really given to textual primacy of her aestheticism? Arguably, it is the aesthetics of her texts which live on, but Woolf’s feminism which makes her seem more real.
The pulse of your touch upon my wrist
Spelled two years of delusion
In which an image resided
Like a flame in darkness
And became you
I hesitated to ask you
How you felt about your life
Or if you desired a wife
For you were an ideal
And I, an impression of a beholder
Who beheld only you
My thoughts were cloudy with your Omni-presence
Yours willing the arrival of 5.30
You never saw through
But you did not catch me
You were looking at your watch
It was 5.30
I would go out-
If I had somewhere to go.
I would be a good friend-
If I had any.
I shall smile knowingly
Inspiration has left me, I am a shell of my former nut. Lost for topics I would like to discuss, I have decided to write about the only subject in which I profess to be an expert, myself!
Born in 1968, a year in which chaos threatened to enter the love shack of 1960’s ideology, I was always a problem; a problem to my Mother who, has always loved me with the ferocity of a lioness, a problem to the world, which seeks to compartmentalise even those, like me, who resist and defy labelling but mostly, a problem to myself. I survived my acute shyness and intangible fear of life and grew-up to be a student of philosophy, English and mental flight. My world of fear was replaced by a voice which rang out loud and clear. However, after two years of studying for a degree, my voice broke.
I spent the next twenty years of my life as a patient, a user of services, a label without a name. I was mad and secretly blamed myself for my inability to survive life and retreat into psychosis. During this time, my consultant psychiatrist whom, I was subsequently to perceive as my sworn enemy and the embodiment of evil(!), made a statement which has always remained in my memory. He said, “You will always be Louise.” To many, this statement might seem trite but anyone who has been unfortunate enough to be affected by mental health issues and the savage fists of the mental health system, will understand its meaningful intent.
Silenced and sentenced to the periphery of life, I have, finally, found my voice. It speaks in the truths that I write. I wrote my first novel, not only as therapy but because I had always wanted to be a published writer, I wrote to affirm my identity and re-claim my life. I know that The General Paralysis of Sanity will make me neither rich nor famous but it has begun a process, writing is now my life. I am…Louise and welcome you all to join me in my discoveries.
The western world, 2013 may be caught in a web of depression and economic austerity but popular culture is dominated by escapist genres and narratives, embracing elements of fantasy. Formerly designated to sub-cultural interest groups, fantastical fiction and film have become part of the mainstream. This development has not occurred overnight and, I would suggest, has rather evolved as a reactive process to changes in the nature of social reality.
Arguably infrastructural changes are reflected in the superstructure of a society. Popular culture, like ideology, is a facet of the superstructure and is not an autonomous movement; not only is it shaped by the superstructure but it, also, helps shape the superstructure. The relationship is one of reciprocity; in my world one way causation is mythical!
I wish not to resort to a vulgar form of Marxism and would, thus, centralise the role of the individual as the human agent of change and the producer of cultural meaning.
We as writers, readers and viewers have embraced an alternate cultural universe in which vampires and zombies, spirits and wizards represent our hidden desires, supressed by our empirical roles as women and men interacting with and surviving the turmoil of the life process. Thus, the ascension of sub-genre fiction, film, etc should be applauded by the educated masses and accepted by the establishment as a counteraction to outmoded cultural snobbery and a positive consequence of the new cultural world order.
Having been raised in the Christian church, I am burdened by the weight of a conscience, guilt trickling through my veins like blood. Thus, I have lived my life in pursuit of goodness and unachievable absolutes which contradict the fleshy and impure thoughts of my furtive psyche. This sense of duality has defined my adult life and persists in my vacillating moral and political principles. I think I know, then I change my mind.
As a student I found the perfect outlet for my belief in Marxism; I joined student political societies. However, although I was hungry for social change, I never felt fully connected to my comrades and lacked their single-minded drive. For over twenty years, I have remained haunted by a casual remark made by someone, whom I still respect; she said that I was “too subjective.” At the time, I was mildly offended, perceiving myself as weak. In time, however, I realised that I could not be an automaton, dedicating my life to the pursuit of the greater good. I was an individual and if I wanted to improve the world I had to be kinder to myself. Political activism preceded my breakdown of self. Henceforth, I have struggled to re-build my identity. I am, perhaps, more fragile, these days, but I am, also, more knowing.
Like the sun that shines
Before an impending storm
A human form was born
A human form-me.
In the womb-like embrace
Of a life
Where the possibility of death
Had lovingly impressed
Its effect on my soul’s reality
During nine months spent
Without paying rent
In the most luxurious of places-
The space between nothingness and being
And the all seeing prophecy
On deliverance and delivery.
How warm was I?
How safe was I?
How many times had I immersed
Of the world beyond?
A sense in which existence had gone wrong.
Of a Mother’s pride
A historic moment
In which she surrendered her body
To produce me
I proceeded to assimilate
Her anxiety state.
An organic reaction
To the relationship of kinship
Part of my pathology.
Thus, I entered the world
In a mixed state
A screaming hole
In the bipolar
“Things will get better
When you get older”
What became of me?
I read a book
And took to writing poetry.
If you enjoyed this poem, you may be interested in reading my novella, The General Paralysis of Sanity. It is available on amazon and from my publisher, Chipmunkapublishing. If anyone has read it, I would be grateful for any feedback. Keep reading…and writing!
There is a fear which haunts all writers and that fear is loss of inspiration. We all experience dry periods in which words, ideas and the construction of plots elude us; our waking hours punctuated by non-productivity and night time by the sweat of non-fulfilment. Over the last few days, I been firing blanks of concepts, refusing to build into a seed of a form embracing a composition, deserving to be heard. I am tired. However, I need to write. Please forgive my stream of consciousness style.
Two days ago I returned from my holiday in Malta. When abroad, I would like to have experienced a touch of the culture of the country I have visited. Unfortunately, on this holiday I learned more about British culture than that of Malta. Initially, piqued by the attitude and demeanour of the non-British staff at hotel where we stayed, as the week evolved I realised that they had been stereotyping us based on their experience of other British holiday makers. I felt embarrassed by the behaviour of my fellow Brits and doubly embarrassed by my own embarrassment. These were people, similar in social and economic background to many of the people who had populated by younger life. I felt not comradeship for these, my working class brothers and sisters but, frustration. Uncomfortable in my own skin, I had behaved exactly as the hotel staff had towards the other British holiday makers, I had stereotyped them. In this instance, as the kind of working class people who would stand not with defiant fists clenched at the boundaries of a picket line but, would push aside honourable strikers and lay with management. When I heard voices raised, from the “English style,” pub next to the hotel, in a chorus of, “There’ll always be an England,” I knew not whether to smile or frown. Stereotyping is reductive and objectionable. We all do it.