I got another surprise comment in my inbox yesterday. It was from someone based in Canmore, where we were playing over the weekend, responding to yesterday’s Dollop about the woman who was intrigued by me being able to type without looking at the keyboard or screen.
“This is an outrage,” said the commenter, “I shall complain to the festival and make sure you are never booked again.”
I then spent the next half an hour trying to work out why this person had got so annoyed. I reread the blog and didn’t think I’d said anything particularly offensive. I called the woman “bloody weird,” but that was a playful, jocular statement; I didn’t think it warranted this kind of outraged reaction. I then spent some more time pacing around the room, mentally composing responses to this person. Maybe I would just be all contrite and apologise for any offence caused and state that it wasn’t my intention to offend. Or maybe I would pick them up on their use of the word “outrage,” and then include a load of news headlines about terrible events that have happened this week. Maybe I’d include a load of quotes from Trump, and ask the person what word they’d use to describe those statements, given that they’d used the word “outrage” to describe my innocuous blog. Surely they’d lost their sense of perspective.
I tried to grapple with how this person had come to this conclusion. Presumably they had seen us at the festival, liked us enough to Google us, and then found my blog, and decided that they were interested enough to give it a read. But then, somehow, they had gone from being a fan to being a foe, due to these few hundred words I’d written, and they were so incensed that they messaged me to say that what I’d said was an outrage and that they’d complain to the festival so that we were never booked again. I read the blog again. Was it just that one line that had offended them: “thanks? but you are bloody weird.” Was that it? If I hadn’t written those few words would this person be angry? Or was it the whole thing? I was feeling rather down that someone had managed to get offended by this.
Why is it that the only time we ever get a complaint is when we’re performing outside of Europe? When we were in Australia, one woman complained to the festival that I was sexist, because of a comment I made on stage (see this Dollop for more on that) and now we’re in Canada, and someone is going to make a complaint to the festival because of a little blog I’d written.
I decided to wait until the morning to respond, but then, unable to sleep due to this person’s comment, I decided to go into the web stats and see where the comment had been sent from. There was something niggling away at me about this comment. I was starting to doubt its authenticity. And then I saw it, and my niggling suspicion was confirmed. The web stats tells me the email address of the person’s comment, and I now knew that the comment had been sent from the UK, not Canada. And I knew who it was: it was regular Dollop contributor Katherine. Relief flooded my body. It was quite a messy business, but once I’d got cleaned up I was able to sleep soundly, safe in the knowledge that the comment had been a wined up and wasn’t genuine.
My sound sleeping didn’t last long because I was disturbed my a disconcerting dream. I’ve dreamt this same kind of dream for years, and I’ve spoken to other people who have this sort of dream as well. I get a letter in the post or a phone call telling me to come into school next week to sit my exams. At first I am totally confused. I am thirty-one, why would I be going into school to do exams? But then, slowly, I begin to remember. How could I have forgotten? I knew I had exams when I was thirty-one. I’d had all this time to revise, and now the day of the exam was almost upon me and I’ve done nothing towards it. I look at my life. What the hell have I been doing with my time? I’ve been wasting it writing blogs, travelling the world doing gigs. I am an idiot? But then I get a feeling of indignation. Surely I am doing well. I have created a life for myself, and I don’t need exams to validate me, because I am living my life perfectly fine without them. There must be a get-out option. I try calling the school and explaining to them that I work for a living, that I’ve got gigs in the diary, that I’ve got commitments and important things to do, and that surely I don’t need to do exams in school when I’m clearly doing fine. But they are resolute and inssistant that I have to take these exams. I am thrown into a mad panic. I am a failure, I’ve been wasting my time, frittering it away with gigs, blogs and podcasts. I thought I was doing well. I’d moved away from home, to a different city, I travel the world performing, we’ve won awards, I have loads of friends all over the world, I am making enough money to live. But now my life has been thrown into disaray, because I have to go back to school in Hartlepool to sit some exams. I try bargaining with them, telling them that surely I don’t need to sit the English exam. After all, I write a blog everyday. But they just laugh derisively and tell me that I’m hardly helping my cause with that argument.
I hate this dream, and I always wake up feeling really down. It seems to me as if this dream is a way of highlighting my vulnerability and fragility. I’ve built up this construct on which I prop up my feeling of self-worth and identity. I do what I can to give myself the feeling of having choice, of being individual, but this dream taps into my fears and insecurities that my life could crumble at any moment, that the facade could come collapsing down at any time, and I am forced to confront that other part of me, the scared child who is back at school sitting his exams, waiting to be judged and compared to everyone else. That small scared child who never really went away. I’d pushed him to the back of my mind. I’d forgotten he was there. But then I have the dream, and I am reminded of his presence.
Sometimes our own brains can be our greatest enemy. Why couldn’t I have had a nice dream about flying, or sex? Or even better, a dream about having sex while flying? But no, my brain would seemingly rather remind me of the fragility of my existence instead. Thanks brain, you are bloody weird.