life well spent

now playing: high all the time by 50 cent

sometimes i forget that pseudoliterary is for me, too
which is ironic, because right now i comprise the entirety of my intended audience
(freaks, weirdos, the comfortably disturbed)

here are some mostly-unrelated thoughts
for me
to think about
and forget

My therapist tells me I’m ‘on fire today’.


I. talking therapy / therapy talking

cognitive behavioural therapy (cbt) is a type of talking therapy which aims to help people cope with their problems by changing the way they think and behave. think: thoughts and actions (and reactions). think: mind control. it’s like advertising, but not evil. 

cbt is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. and although, at the time, i was undoubtedly anxious and depressed, these were the broken-stem symptoms of a more basic root cause. think: incurable, debilitating, chronic pain.  

fortunately, cbt is perfect for incurable shit like that. and by incurable i mean medically incurable. once you’ve found out that there’s nothing to be done, what do you do? 

i’d tried drugs. 
i’d tried other drugs. 
i’d tried giving up and becoming a poet slash bum. 

nothing worked. 

so it was that in november 2022, i tried therapy. 

and i was good at it. really good. 

i’ve always been good at things. 
in the interests of modesty, i should point out that i’m not good at everything. 

i’m a things person. 
i’m not a people person. 

but i’m good at most things. 

i obviously don’t have the specialised knowledge or skills to perform an autopsy, or drive a bus, or build a brick wall. i think i could learn though. and i think if i’d grown up, all else being equal, dreaming of dead bodies, buses, or bricklaying, by now i’d be outdoing it in whichever way i decided to subsequently go out and do it. 

right now it’s pseudo-philosophical self-reflection. 
back then it was therapy. 

and before that, i was good at school, at university, at work. i know because they told me. or if they didn’t, they gave me pieces of paper that amounted to the same thing. i have them in a box in the attic at my parents’ house. 

all that changed when i decided to do a phd. not at first. at first not much changed. but then my supervisor went away to have a baby, and then she went away to have another baby. most of the time i was working entirely independently, with minimal supervision. nobody told me i was doing a good job. nobody noticed. 

note: it turns out this was perfect preparation for being a writer.

a big part of therapy, for me, was being told, once a week, that i was doing a good job. 

everything else in my life was going to hell in a handbasket. my mental health, my physical health, my socks. fucked, fucked, and full of holes. in that order. after a lifetime of being good at everything, now, for no good reason, i couldn’t do anything right. except this. therapy was the one thing i was doing right. 

here’s the question. Is being ‘good’ at therapy the same, or even positively correlated with, getting a ‘good’ therapeutic outcome? In other words, getting better?

for me, a qualified* yes. 

*qualified as in ‘not completely’. but fuck it, i’m probably more qualified to answer this question than than most people anyway. 

for example, not every session was a success. two months in, i disregarded my ‘homework’ and instead spent several days researching specific suicide methods and browsing online for deals on disposable barbecues. this was about two weeks after the best session i had during the whole course. i didn’t sugarcoat it. it needed to be said, so i said it. but after that session, instead of feeling energised, i felt drained. i felt like i’d let my therapist down. i felt like i’d disappointed her. 

in the sessions that followed, it wasn’t that i felt unable to talk to her about the negative thoughts and feelings i’d been having. it just felt better to talk about the positive ones. i was chasing that dopamine hit i got any time i received praise from someone. 

and for me, it worked. 

i’m still here, after all. i wouldn’t say therapy is the reason why. there’s so many reasons. but therapy is one of those reasons. 

it worked. and i think, in a way, it worked because of, not despite, my dopamine-driven desire to focus on the positives. 

i’m not talking about some bullshit panglossian ‘all is for the best’ in the ‘best of all possible worlds’. i’m not talking about ‘god’s plan’. not everything is for the best. and this isn’t the best of all possible worlds. and there is no god, and there is no plan. but i have found that looking for (and finding) the positives in a situation, however seemingly insignificant, can be helpful. 

which, as a philosophy, is nothing new. i didn’t learn to [always look on the bright side of life]. instead, i learned that there’s something to be gained from allowing myself to admit, occasionally, that such a shiny surface might exist. 

II. 6.5 inches

why not lie?

why not say seven inches?
eight inches?
ten inches?

i want to write dangerously. 

i want to feel myself hesitating before pressing ‘publish’, like i’m sixteen on a schoolbus, psyching myself up to press ‘send’ on a risky text to a girl i like. i want to wonder whether something is a good idea, and do it anyway. not in spite of. because of. i want to be afraid. 

but what have i got to fear?

what shouldn’t i tell you?
what wouldn’t i tell you?

my name, for example. my date of birth. my passport number. my bank details. my passwords. my mother’s maiden name. my first pet. my favourite primary school teacher. my ‘memorable phrase’. 

but that’s just basic internet hygiene. 
how about something more… personal?

what about how i lost my virginity?
years too late, drunk on smirnoff green apple, with a first-year medic on the floor of her university dorm room

what else?

how about a list of my worst fears? 
my greatest regrets?
how about a detailed description of the worst moment of my entire life?

or the best?

i have been advised to write as though my parents are dead. 

i want to take that further. 
i want to write as though everybody is dead
not just my parents
but all my loved ones
and everyone else

i want to write like i’m the last person on earth

so here i am
the last man standing
writing big words with a big stick
in the sand

and how long is it?

long enough, i’d say
on a day like today
and most of all
it packs away 


really, really small

III: life well spent

some people collect coins, or stamps, or fine art
or not so fine art
or historical artefacts

some people collect money, or power
or cars, or houses
or holiday destinations
or friends, or wives, or children
or other people’s wives (frowned upon)
or other people’s children (very frowned upon)
or likes
or consumer electronics
or dead moles in a jar

some people have more esoteric tastes. personalities, for example:

I’ve never been sure of my own personality. 
I’m a collector.
Um, and I’ve always just seemed to collect personalities, um, ideas. 
I have a hodge podge philosophy which really is very minimal.

David Bowie – Moonage Daydream (2022)

I too am a collector, in my own small way. 

i’ve collected beanie babies, pokémon cards, transformers. i’ve collected funny pictures from the internet. i’ve collected merit-marks, commendations, gcses, a-levels, a masters degree, a phd. 

i’ve kept the personalised filter papers from almost every joint i’ve ever rolled, ever smoked. i’ve kept almost every word i’ve written since 2019. 

i collect quotes. 
i collect stories.
i collect stickers.
i collect songs.
i collect movies.
i collect books. 

in most cases, not the actual, physical artefacts, but lists. lists of songs with whistle solos, lists of movies with abstract light sequences, or lighthouses, or dinosaurs, lists of books with unreliable, drug-addicted narrators, or lighthouses, or dinosaurs. 

collecting, to the casual eye, can seem secondary to creating. i’m talking in particular about collecting artwork. good taste is nothing to be sniffed at, and curation can certainly be done competently or incompetently, even masterfully. but we all know, in the van gogh museum, where the work of real genius resides. 

however, sometimes a collection is so singular, so spectacular, so unprecedented, that it becomes a compelling piece of creative art in its own right. it becomes more than just a shitload of stuff. it surpasses the profane and touches the sublime. 

it becomes [the world’s largest star wars memorabilia collection].

this collection is, in a way, bigger than star wars. 

how so?
well, a thing can be both part of, and also encapsulate another thing.

this thing is a collection of star wars memorabilia. 
therefore, it is part of star wars.
but at the same time, it also encapsulates everything that star wars is. 

it’s pop culture, capitalism, consumerism, random fandom. 
it’s the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. 
it’s who we were and who we are.
it’s a history of the world. 

it’s humanity. 

I’ve spent my entire life doing nothing but collecting comic books.
And now, there’s only time to say, ‘LIFE WELL SPENT!’

comic book guy – the simpsons movie (2007)