When Everything Is Broken

Everything has gotten a little bit out of hand, hasn’t it? The EU is broken. America is broken. The economy is broken. The Labour party is broken. The Conservatives are miraculously unbroken, which means that everything else in the UK is likely to be broken very soon. It feels like the past month has been a constant cycle of bad news layered on bad news layered on bad news and it’s hard not to feel as though everything is spinning out of control.

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I don’t know how to fix this level of broken. I really don’t. I don’t know how we get back from this, although I’m sure we will, somehow. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling helpless or powerless, and for the most part, I express this by turning into a giant howling ragemonster. But that’s not totally sustainable. And I’m gonna be honest with you guys, I’m tired. I am rage overtired and it’s making me want to melt into a little despondent puddle on my living room floor. Here’s what I’m doing to stop that:

I’m Surrounding Myself With My People

My Twitter is something of an echo chamber, filled with people who broadly share a lot of my beliefs and values. There are good and bad things about this, but right now, it’s exactly what I need. When it feels like the world might be populated exclusively by terrified, hateful people, it’s quite wonderful to be reminded that there are kind, soft, brave, generous people out there too. My entire Twitter community has banded together, some organising action and protest, some sharing sweet, fluffy news stories among all the chaos, some just offering a much needed hand squeeze. I purposefully surround myself with people who inspire me and god knows, I need a bit of inspiration right now.

I’m Doing What I Can

When you’re fighting a mess as big as this one, it’s easy to feel so paralyzed by the enormity of it that you end up doing nothing at all. When the entire world seems to be crumbling around you, where on earth are you supposed to start?

I’d say, start anywhere.

When the Conservatives won the general election last year, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t let their brutality turn me cold or cynical. I promised that I would respond to their cruelty with kindness. I’m trying to do the same thing now. I give a tiny amount each month to the Trussell Trust and Centrepoint. I buy the Big Issue whenever I have enough change in my purse. Last week, I took a huge suitcase of supplies to the amazing Sisters Uncut, who are occupying an empty council house in Hackney and running free breakfast clubs for local kids.

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Realistically, not one of these things is going to fix all the things that have been broken. Realistically, I probably haven’t made any difference to the big picture. But maybe, somewhere in the UK, someone is eating a hot meal or sleeping in a warm bed or a child is going to school with a full tummy because of me. And that’s no small thing. Among all the headlines and the statistics and the political turmoil, people are hurting. Change can be slow and while we fight for it, people are hurting. There is nothing insignificant about reaching out a hand to someone who needs it, if you can. I can’t fix this mess. I’m not powerful enough or brave enough or clever enough. But I’m lucky enough to have things to share. So what I can do is be kind. And I intend to keep doing that for as long as I possibly can, hoping that some day, all of our tiny baby steps might add up to something bigger. How do you eat an elephant? One damn forkful at a time. Maybe we can eat the Tories the same way.

I’m Giving Myself a Break

More than once in the last month, I have felt like I was drowning. More than once in the last month, I have lain face down on my living room floor because I didn’t know how else to express the hopelessness I was feeling. It is so, so important that we are all fighting the good fight right now, but my darlings, you are of no use to anyone if you’re completely burnt out. I am giving you permission, right now, no matter how grim things get, to switch off. To turn off the news and binge watch a series of Pretty Little Liars. To do a happy dance in the street because you caught a Pikachu in the local park. To go see Ghostbusters and furiously tweet about how much you fancy Kate McKinnon. Just because there are bigger, more important things to worry about does not mean that you don’t get to be happy. Not allowing yourself to be consumed by all this badness doesn’t make you selfish or ignorant. It looks like we might be fighting this fight for a very long time to come, so we need you strong, my love. Take care of yourself. Feed your soul as well as your anger. Keep that little light inside you burning, whatever it takes. Take my hand, and we’ll fight together.

Making Things

I’m a creative fidget. The drafts folder of my blog is a graveyard of half-baked ideas and half-scribbled rants that I thought better of. My dining table is littered with colouring books, a few pages coloured in each. I have a travel journal with four beautiful entries in it. I have a Youtube channel with a few fuzzy, poorly shot videos. I have a scrapbook that tailed off after my first year of university. I have an ever-growing list of happy things that goes for weeks, months without being updated.

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Recently, I’ve been obsessively bingeing on Emma Gannon’s wonderful Ctrl Alt Delete podcast, where she interviews women who have inspired her creatively.

(If you are not also bingeing this podcast, what is even the point in you having internet access?)

In one particularly marvellous episode, she interviews comedian and general creative gal, Stevie Martin and during the episode, Stevie says something genuinely wonderful about creativity. She likens her creative pursuits to when you’re a kid and you’re bored, so you’ll go and make a magazine out of pieces of scrap paper or paint a plate or make a friendship bracelet.

I have this amazing talent for taking something that is really, really fun and making it into hard work. Even now, as I type a blog post about not berating myself, I’m kind of berating myself for only having four entries in my travel journal. If I was a proper travel journaller, I’d have hundreds upon hundreds of entries bursting out of that notebook.

So when I heard Stevie say that about creativity, I genuinely teared up a little. Because it threw all of my little projects into a whole new light. Starting a travel journal doesn’t need to make you a travel journaller. Filming a Youtube video doesn’t need to make you a youtuber. Sometimes, we create just because it’s fun. We create just because we love to make things.

So many people now are lucky enough to make a career from their creativity and that is amazing. But I feel like, for me, that can sometimes push my hobbies into being a chore. Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up in blog numbers, sponsorship opportunities and the grand, overarching creative genius plan. And that’s absolutely not a bad thing. But isn’t it nice to throw off all of that sometimes and just play? I have a huge family with lots of little kids and one of my favourite things about hanging out with them is that I get to create things without any expectation that they’ll be good or important. We paint pictures. We make up and put on shows. We model things out of plasticine. I’m not good at any of those things but when you’re playing, it doesn’t matter. In fact, there’s something kind of nice about doing something you totally suck at and realising that you’re still having fun.

I think that most creative people have developed the creative itch. It’s what makes me start writing another book in the middle of writing my first. Or what makes me decide to film a YouTube video, even though I have no aspiration to become a YouTuber. Blogging is a great way for me to practice and hone my writing, which I hope to turn into a career some day. But as with all of my creative pursuits, my blog is more and less than that. It’s a space that’s entirely mine, and I don’t owe it to anyone to make it professional or marketable. Because it might be useful play, but it’s still play. Everything that I make, from my blog, to my novels, to my plasticine dinosaurs, to my unfinished, neglected scrapbooks is part of my story: the story that I’m writing for myself, a great big love letter from me to me. Often, creativity is nothing more and nothing less than a way to tell our story. So let’s tell it. Let’s play. Let’s make things.