I’m struggling to maintain a coherent thread here, largely because I’m trying to simply continue any train of thought, but also because I’m getting lost in point-making or setting up arguments or attempting to draw conclusions. What I should just be doing is writing. And the more often I miss days the harder it’ll get to keep that cohesion.

So, back, attempting to hook into the run of memory and exploration I was on at the beginning of some of these entries. I’ve had another few days of reeling back and forth thinking about writing and what I want to do, why, how, what I can do… I’ve had a week of avoiding this, and it’s been more than a week, almost a fortnight perhaps, since I wrote anything.

I think the end of the last post did more harm to me than it did anything else, flying off the rails completely and ending up, as drolly observed by my better half, as a sub-par GU article. She worried I might take that as a compliment, but in this case I’m terrifically disappointed with myself for not pushing on. I had something good happening.

But this is well trod ground. The answer, the only answer, is to get back to work, to put the effort in, to keep going. It’s all so easy to decide only to write when I’ve something to say, or only to write when I think I’ve got a good post in me. But I keep, keep, keep forgetting that while this journal might hit some real heights, its purpose is to keep me writing. Whatever extra comes along is a bonus.

In essence I went back to this being a blog again, which daft as it is always prevents me from sitting and spooling and actually getting somewhere. I want to write something good, something meaningful, not just words that grasp at just-out-of-reach philosophy or thought.

It’s not healthy, because it leaves me pent-up and waiting for something to appear out of the morass. When instead I need to be putting in the legwork. I’ve fallen out of the flow I had going, and there’s no way to get back into that place without slogging through the messy, unattractive chaff and wrenching myself back into a productive frame of mind.

The path I’d followed, though, was really getting somewhere. Somewhere with me, and with what I wanted to be expressing. I’ve little idea now how to transport the emotion wrapped up in those distant memories into a work of any coherence or vision, how to meld the crashing storm of my feelings into narrative. I’ve little clue to anything right now.

Not to be overly negative, though – I’m writing once more, which is a positive start, and without cracking this and pressing myself into simply, merely, basically putting one word in front of another and making sentence after sentence, without doing this I’m cranky, disillusioned and I’ll never get anywhere. Passive writing is creative death.

After any positive reaction to this I’m moved to aim higher with the entries, to push them into corners I might otherwise ignore, but that doesn’t always sit well. I’m learning the same lesson again and again about being natural, about not automatically conforming to expectations. Someone liking what I’m doing shouldn’t be a prompt for me to attempt anything other than a continuation of that thing I’m doing.

There’s little here, other than blowing away the cobwebs. Part of me feels job is done, that I can stream on toward the word limit and I’ll have rehabilitated myself, got back on the road, but I know that’s both untrue and unhealthy – more so perhaps than not writing at all. This entire entry has taken me to this point, a point where I’m asking questions again. To stop now would be stupid.

Where I’d been driving was my relationship with my dad, and how that influenced me being a man, and the sort of role model I wanted. It’s hard to write that my dad didn’t provide me with the role model I wanted, hard to know it, and I am sure it would be harder still for him to hear it. But I needed something different, something stronger.

My father is a sensitive, incredibly intelligent, kind, generous, caring and loyal man. Any of those things would be admirable in a role model, but as a sensitive boy growing up what I craved was strength, decisiveness, confidence, ego, a role model who persuaded me that feeling good about myself was a natural state, not a place to aim for.

When your parents do nothing but tell you how wonderful you are, and you can see that there’s a happy family around you – even if as a couple they have the tensions all couples have – and yet you realise you’re a young boy who feels as if everyone else appears to have more information than you, more insider knowledge… I was left bewildered by people, by what happened around me. By what I wanted.

How could I have everything but feel like everyone else understood how the world worked? I couldn’t lay the blame at my parents, because I had been given everything, a perfect childhood, all the support anyone could expect. So I blamed myself, without once thinking that it might simply be a case of me needing different things than your average kid.

Only now, ever with hindsight, is it clear what I was crying out for. I looked in every friend for a literal role model – I shifted through styles, trying on the image of the most ‘dadish’ friend of the time. I took up hobbies that reflected these people. I asked them for advice. But if any of it stuck it was because I had, accidentally, found something in them that was actually already in me.

Advice is easy to receive, but I’ve found most of it impossible to act upon. Well, let’s be clear here – I’m talking about girls. The fact I feel the need to say women immediately illustrates a key point, that I became lodged in the emotional/pyschological cage of an early adolescent, nervously peering at attractive members of the opposite sex, hiding my sexuality.

The advice passed on made no sense – Wait? Try not to think about it? Believe it will happen? Just talk to people? Don’t show you’re desperate, or better yet give away nothing of what you’re feeling at all? Would you give this advice to an 11 year old? Doubtful. You’d sit them down, talk to them in a seriously unpatronising way, explore their feelings.

Things are different now, but only because I’ve an incredible W2B who’s helped exorcise a lot of deep baggage and give me the clear vision to clear it all out for myself and realise what a parasitical drain on my being it is. But for years, my teens, my entire university life, my first real relationship, the fall out afterwards, I was graspy, desperate, eleven years old.

I’ve never seen it in this way before, but it does explain a lot – words I use or avoid using, unfortunate tics and expressions which loom up from my immortalised puberty, my sheer shocking physical reaction to situations involving the opposite sex at times in my teens and 20s, when approaching someone I was interested in would have taken the equivalent miracle force as passing discorporate through the front door of my house.

I know myself so well but occasionally I can skip over the more sensible and natural observations I make of my own nature. I know, really know, that if I want to be the big gun writer I so aspire to be that I must drop videogames right now. Perhaps in the future I’ll have worked my mind into a position where they won’t swallow my urge to create so wholly, but I can’t worry about that. I know they’re bad for me (for me, not for everyone) because I know my escapist numb-chasing nature. But still I doubt my conviction.

As a young boy, perhaps 8 or 9 even, I encountered my first porn. If I’d witnessed anything approaching porn before this remembered time it had zero impression on my psyche, but this ‘awakening’ I remember with vivid recall. Especially given the bizarre situation of discovery – in the belly of a cobwebby castiron stove in the kitchen of a crumbling derelict terraced house on the grounds of my family’s church.

Weird. As. Fuck. It was an issue of Playboy, and if I saw the pages of that issue now I would recognise them in an instant – the model in jodphurs being a particularly clear rememberance. In a way, it’s good it was Playboy, which is hardly the most shameless of pornographic magazines. But, let’s face it, seeing your first naked woman in a dog-eared copy of a soft-focus rhythm mag you and your friends found in an abandoned oven has got to be the opening chapter to a decidedly unconventional thesis on male sexuality.

And this is where I ought to be exploring…

About Ben Catley-Richardson

Writer, reader, husband. Father!
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