There’s an Italian proverb that says: ‘chi di speranza campa, disperato muore’, which more or less translates as ‘the person who lives by hope will die by despair’. Then there’s another version which says ‘the person who lives by hope will die taking a shit’. It’s not clear who said any of these things. And I’m not sure what the meaning of the latter is, but the former probably means that you can’t live all your life hoping for something to happen. Sometimes you need to act on it. Or, in the case of a heartbreak, you better let it go. That is what a psychologist giving a TED talk about heartbreak says. I know I shouldn’t watch that stuff. But a friend sent me the link and I couldn’t resist. When you’re heartbroken, that’s pretty much all you can think of. And actually, if for a moment you forget about TED’s unchallengeable format, evangelical approach and elitist nature, the guy says it like it is. He explains how people with a broken heart act and think, and I pretty much tick all the boxes. He says hope can be incredibly destructive when you’re heartbroken, because it keeps you going, when really what you should be doing is let go of the damn man. Stop thinking about how it could have worked. How amazing he was. Blah blah blah. Maybe I actually didn’t need a privileged white man to tell me that, I had already more or less figured it out myself. So what then?
I have taken a heart-shaped poop this morning, have you noticed? It’s quite incredible. Maybe that’s a sign. No, it’s not. No. It’s not.
Found myself saying that quite a lot over the past week or so. It’s only been ten days since I’m living on the boat, and yet it feels like I’ve been here for much longer, my life in the warm flat where I’ve lived for three years now oddly foreign. I’ve waited with anxiety the day (today) when I’d have to move the vessel and now that I have done it (with the invaluable help of a friend and without drama), I can’t believe it’s done. ‘Do what you fear and fear disappears’, says a little piece of paper on my friend’s fridge. My neighbour boater also told me something along those lines yesterday. So many times I’ve looked back and thought: holy shit, I’ve done that! That’s probably not a very good sign, because it means that I’m constantly surprised by the fact that I CAN do many things I thought I couldn’t. If I was a man I wouldn’t be so surprised, probably. But I’m not going to go there now. It’s been a nice day.
On another note: this boat is very, very holy. I have a shiny metal Jesus lying down just by the front entrance. A postcard of a radiant Sun-Jesus hanging by the other side of the same entrance. And a rosary with a small Jesus on the cross hanging from the window by the bed. I have not put them there, in spite of my Catholic upbringing. And even if I don’t think I believe in God anymore, I’m somehow glad they are here.
I’m not sure about that, but today I didn’t have to go to work. So I had plans to stay in. I woke up and thought: how nice, I will light the fire and sit here in the boat, write, go to the giant Waitrose just around the corner to buy some fancy reduced food, cook, read, write a bit more, call a friend or two who are far away.
I’ve been truly enjoying my own company since I’ve moved on board. And in fact, I haven’t really been going out since before Christmas. At the risk of sounding like one of those irksome life coaches, it’s really important to be able to stay alone with your thoughts without becoming restless. It’s part of that loving-yourself business.
But then I nearly broke the key to start the engine, because I’m obviously so zen thanks to all this staying in and feeling good about myself that I turned the key with so much gentleness that I bent it. So I had to run around all day to find a replacement. Which I haven’t found. But I spoke to some lovely people during this mission. And I’m glad that people still exist and are not extinct like dinosaurs.
Not today. This morning I decided to take it with me to the underground. But I wasn’t so brave to walk around with it in its see-through bag, so I put the bag into another, darker bag. It was there, still warm, but no one knew. Which really is what happens in big cities, or maybe even in life in general. We travel so close to each other, our bodies often touching, yet most of the time we have no idea what goes through other people’s minds. Or what kind of shit just happened to them. Maybe that sad person is sad because their cat died only the night before. Or maybe they just need someone to tell them to cheer up because they’re still alive at least.
You don’t know which kind of shit people around you are going through or which kind of shit they had to go through at some point in their life that has made them become the way they are now. We are all damaged, one way or another. Some more than others. We should really try be more gentle to each other.
PS: After taking the picture I went to throw the bag of the bag of shit in the bin. But because Kings X is so heavily policed, I started worrying that one of the policemen watched me take a picture of my little goodie bag, then walk back to throw it in the bin and concluded I was involved in some form of terrorism. Although probably a white woman wearing a white fur coat is not considered a suspect. But you never know. #policestateinducedparanoia.
3. Shake the bag with conviction, so that it’s well open
4. Make sure the bag has no holes
5. Lower the plastic bag in the toilette
6. Wrap the bag around the toilette edges, just as you would do to replace the bin liner in your kitchen
7. Put down the toilette seat so to seal the deal
8. Sit down and relax
9. Once you’re done, lift the toilette seat
10. Take the bag and quickly make a knot
How-to is a fashionable approach to pretty much everything. In these days of oversimplification and loss of direction, everyone wants to know how to. How to make slime, how to wipe your dog’s eyes, how to eat a peach or how to eat human souls. You can ask google, and google will tell you how to. And so for Christmas, I got a book which is called How To Find Love by one of those Guardian readers’ kind of things called The School of Life. It’s a pretty, pocket size book and I was really quite happy when I received it. I still have not read it, but I will very soon, so then I will be able to tell you how to, too.
As of the 1st of January, apart from having moved on a very cosy boat, I also changed my privacy settings on WhatsApp. You can now no longer see when I was last online, and neither can I see when you were. It had to be done. Things were getting out of hand, and I am sure most people would know what I am talking about. Why has he not been online for so many hours? Who is he with? I’ll stop here, no need to humiliate myself further. This whole ‘last seen’ business was driving me mad. And it was completely useless.
My friend has compared this so-called online ‘stalking’ (which however is nothing like real-life stalking*) to squeezing pimples: you know it’s bad for you, your skin gets red and you’re probably going to get an infection. But you do it anyway. Because it makes you feel good, for, like, a second. Then straight after you regret it. You look at your red face and you think, what an idiot, I’ve done it again. But you keep doing it anyway, over and over and over again.
Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over
Checking the time.
Checking the time.
Checking the time. it’s 4:42am. Wide awake.
Checking the time.
Checking the time.
Checking the time you were last online.
Scrolling up to the source.
Looking for crumbs
Crumbs of bread, of cake, of croissant
scrolling down scrolling down scrolling
The unpalatable truth of your silence.
I do not care for an answer. I just want.
But I can’t have.
So I check the time.
I check the time.
I check the time.
Over and over and over and over and over
and over and over and over
Ever-reaching like roots my thoughts
run deep in multiple directions towards you
But you can’t see them I can’t possibly
show them to you you would not understand
You would not want me to
Check the time.
A long, silent wail
Sharpened ends penetrating the soft walls of my skin from the inside.
*my friend says that in-person stalking is so different from the online that the online version should actually not be called stalking. She has a very good point there. Usually stalkers who wait for you outside the house or follow you in the street or send you texts or leave you messages want to be seen. They want your attention. Conversely, you really don’t want to be caught checking your ex online – hence, when you hand over your phone to your friend to show her his picture you make sure they know they should be VERY careful NOT to press anything by mistake.
One other consideration on this topic, from my very clever friend. When we were younger and all these social media tools of misery did not exist, we still used to ‘stalk’ people, but we would do it in person. We’d maybe happen to be nearby where the bloke lived or we’d pass by where he hanged out at strategic times. But at least we would get out of the fucking house. And it was actually quite fun. Now, you can ‘stalk’ people comfortably from your bed first thing in the morning. Which really is not quite fun at all.
I’ve used the ‘noir’ filter for this morning’s humble offering.
It’s so easy and tempting to use filters. In Instagram, to make your shit look cool. But not only there. How many times do we put people on pedestals, refusing to see who they are, creating unrealistic perceptions and expectations of them? That’s certainly not how you love someone.
This blog could have been about anything. It could have been about more ‘political’ stuff. It could have been about how more people chose to live on boats because they can’t afford to buy a flat. It could have been about using too much plastic, too much coal, or about why we should or shouldn’t worry about these things as individuals. But I chose it to be about shit. And love. And for me, that’s a way to love myself. To allow myself to possibly go completely wrong, to do something which may be self indulgent, which may be shit, which may be I don’t know what. But I need to do this right now. It’s a form of self-discipline. And it makes me feel good.
This picture of my morning poo reminds me of the yin and yang symbol – that black and white circle with a bit of white in the black and a bit of black in the white. I came across some references to yin & yang last night in what Amazon describes as a ‘classic of personal development’, The Art of Loving, by Eric Fromm. I found the book at my parents’ home in Italy, along with a few more books on love which I bought many years ago when I was still living there and I was looking for answers, for someone, anyone, to tell me what love was about and why it hurt so bad. The impulse to take these books back with me to London is more or less the same. Except I think I may now be a bit more open to try and understand love beyond romantic love. Which is sort of where Fromm goes with the book – you can’t truly love someone if you don’t feel love for everyone, including, of course, yourself. He packs quite a lot of stuff in the small book. Some things which I don’t necessarily understand or find a bit questionable, such as in relation to gay love and Indian ‘religions’. But he also unpacks so well how the logic of capitalism kills love. Which is obvious, but it’s good to be reminded of that all the time. And although he opens the last chapter by saying he does not provide people with ‘how to’ instructions on learning to love, he actually does that. And probably much better than any self-help book. To learn the art of loving, just like any other art, you need three things: discipline, concentration and patience, Fromm says. These are all things which we have lost under capitalism because we’re so tired after the stupid jobs we have to do that we feel the need to ‘relax’. But without self discipline life becomes chaotic and lacks concentration. And if you lack these things, you can’t love.
I nearly didn’t finish this post because I kept getting distracted by, like, everything. Is the electricity running out? If I charge mobile phone and laptop at the same time, does the battery level drop faster? How much faster? Is there enough coal? Learning to live on a boat seems to require some capacity to love.
In Italian, ‘3 mesi di merda’ means 3 bad months, or what in English would translate as ‘3 shitty months’. But it could also mean, literally, 3 months worth of shit. And this is what this blog is about: it’s about shit. Both literally and metaphorically.
3 months is the average length of time it takes to start feeling better after a heartbreak, according to some dubious self-help website.
3 months is the the length of time that, as of the 1st of January, I shall be living on a boat alone, slowly heading west of London and trying to get over someone.
During these 3 cold, winter months, I will shit in a plastic bag because I don’t want to have to rinse it off my plastic box toilet. And because I like this idea a lot. I will record the event in the form of a daily picture, keeping track of what went into it. (and will aim to use biodegradable plastic where possible to placate my own liberal guilt).
During these 3 cold, winter months, I will try to get my shit together and reflect seriously on what it means to love, what it means to give a shit, why it’s important to give a shit about shit. And hopefully it will be about many other things shit-&-love related which I cannot possibly anticipate.
I will try my best not to be self indulgent or to end up doing a confessional blog. I promise I won’t use the word shit all the time. But I will do so now, one last time: below you can see my very first shit after my very first night on the boat. That’s a tuna-colinflower-potato-egg-salad shit. Enjoy!