A friend once asked me ‘What do you think motivation is?’. I thought it was just something people have, something that magically manifests itself in people who go to the gym regularly, or wake up at 6am every day and make breakfast for their whole family, or learn to play guitar, or don’t use drugs and alcohol to cope with how useless they feel. He replied that motivation is just habit. The more you do something the more you want to do it – become motivated to do it – purely because you’ve already been doing it.
Another friend explained to me that mental illness, at it’s core, corrodes motivation away. It destroys your habits and relationships (which, let’s face it, are just ‘habits with friends’) until your only habit, your only motivation, is to be depressed, anxious, paranoid, angry, or some combination of those. She told me the best way to overcome this is to rebuild the habits – essentially, to fake enjoying the things you used to enjoy until you actually enjoy them. You have to recreate yourself, or create a new version of yourself, by rediscovering what you enjoyed about being alive. In this way, you can keep yourself alive.
A few weeks ago, after the whole Kim Kardashian nude photointernetexplosion of 2016, my mother sent me a Facebook message linking to an article about it and asked me what I thought. The article, titled “Dear Kim. Please stop using the term ’empowerment’ when you really mean marketing” is a scathing and sarcastic attack on KK and her selfie by Jacqueline Lunn, who insists:
“Kim’s nude selfies are not about feminism. They are not about liberation or empowerment. They are not about female inclusion.”
I’ve seen any number of angry, hate-filled blog posts skewering Kim as an enemy of feminism, someone who plays into patriarchal ideas of beauty for her own sick enjoyment and monetary rewards, so I was familiar with the whole cycle already. Feminist sees skinny, surgically enhanced woman, is unable to acknowledge the latent internalized misogyny within themselves, begins to hate the skinny woman, and begins to loudly and publicly bash the woman. Rinse and repeat.
Knowing that my mother has an intense hatred for all things Kardashian, I approached the situation cautiously because I wanted to avoid another drawn out argument about what it means to be empowered. What followed, however, was actually a really constructive conversation where I felt we really go to the heart of what makes me so angry about all these people attacking a woman for something so insignificant and harmless as a nude photo.
Gratefulness is a concept I’m pretty familiar with, and something I try to practice every day. As a former Buddhist, practicer of mindfulness meditation, and mental health service volunteer, I find myself constantly discussing the concept of being grateful for what we have and trying to make the most out of what we are given. I often tell people that, in my travels, I have seen people who have less than nothing, who live in what many would consider unlivable circumstances. I remind myself, and others, that we should be grateful for any beauty and happiness we can experience. When one of the people I volunteer with tells me about a negative experience, I make a point to try and tell them how strong they are for surviving it, how resilient I think they are, and how grateful I am that they have come through the other side. This is in the hope that they, too, will come to see the silver lining, no matter how small, to understand their own power, and to be grateful that they are alive.
Recently, I was reminded of this by a snarky friend(?) of mine whilst complaining about my day job. This person felt it necessary to remind me to ‘practice what I preach’, that I shouldn’t complain about my job because so many people would be happy to have any job at all, and that ‘it’s better than being out on the street’. This is not the first time this friend(?) has made a similar comment, and since I have had a difficult past two years it only gets more frustrating every time. This particular unwanted, sarcastic, and frankly infuriating response to what I saw as legitimate complaints, however, really got me thinking. Perhaps, I thought, I should stop complaining so much. But the thing is, I do hate my job and I do feel sometimes that life has dealt me a crap hand. I do not feel that I am being, as the friend(?) put it, ‘melodramatic’ and ‘overemotional’. I started to wonder where the line is – that is, how grateful am I expected to be for things which do not make me happy, and which I do not enjoy? Is it being ungrateful to expect more for myself, to hope for more out of my life? Where is the line between gratefulness and lowered expectations? Continue reading On Gratefulness, and Working for Minimum Wage
Growing up in the American south, I was always acutely aware of accents. I can remember clearly my mother scolding me for adding extra syllables to words, an unmistakable twang that betrayed me as an Alabama girl. “The word is ‘bat’!” she would say. “Not ‘bah-yat’!”
I went to an expensive prep school, well known in part because of the eloquent, well-spoken young men and women it produces. I knew from a young age that the way I spoke sounded more like the people on CNN than the people down my street. I wore this as a badge of honor.
When I decided to come to England for university, it seemed like my accent would only prove to be an advantage. I assumed, somewhat correctly, that an American accent here has the same effect as a British one in the US. I assumed, completely falsely, that everyone in my university would be intelligent, well-spoken, and sound like a BBC News presenter. What I found, instead, that I was hit with a tidal wave of accents that I was in no way prepared to face, much less interpret. I had grown up with two accents: well-spoken and country. How, I asked myself, could there be so many accents in a country so small that it would fit easily inside Texas (with room to spare)? I was flooded with accents that somehow, were all British, and were all distinctly different from my own American-speak.
I am at work one day in the pub kitchen where I used to work, and I have just washed a huge plastic container full of cutlery. Three times I try and fail to lift the heavy box, gritting my teeth, determined that I can do this myself. My back gives a loud pop, and I drop what ever weight I had lifted and turn, defeated, to my male coworker.
“Could you please help me with this?” I ask, gesturing to the plastic box full of utensils.
He lifts it with ease, carrying it to the other room and leaving it for the floor staff to take to the dining area. I am embarrassed again, a frequent moment in my life, by my smallness, my weakness. Continue reading The Cycle of Female Incompetence