TGC: The September edition
The mourning in growth, plus what to expect from this space moving forwards...
It’s been a while. A lot longer than I meant it to be, actually. It’s been hot girl summer - lol - or at least the closest iteration to that, by which I mean it’s been existential girl summer. And what an existential crisis it’s been.
There’s been a lot going on in my personal life, and in the world at large, and all that has had me feeling very overwhelmed. There’s a quote I came across recently which reads “Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That's why it's so hard.” In truth, I’ve not been thinking clearly, and so I’ve not been writing. Only in my morning pages, and then only as an attempt to clear my thoughts.
But it’s given me space to think about my next steps, what I want to put my energy and focus into, both with this newsletter and with my work / life in general, and there are a number of big, long-term projects I’ve been working on which I’m starting to feel excited about again. I worried, for a minute there.
Moving forwards and, for the meantime, this newsletter will be a monthly dispatch from me, plus the usual recommendations of books, podcasts, articles and etc worth consuming. I’ll be taking a step back from my journalism work and from weekly newsletters, in an effort to avoid the ever niggling burnout and pour my effort into longer term projects - including Season 2 of my podcast Talk of Shame, which I’m about to start recording.
Thank you to the many amazing contributors who have shared their stories in this newsletter, and thank you for your continued reading and support. I’ve said this before but real talk this newsletter and community helped keep me (somewhat) sane during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. As we, inshaallah, emerge, I hope you’ll stick around because for now my writing will be mostly limited to this newsletter, and all the big stuff will be coming here first :)
In her most recent newsletter, writer Alison Stevenson talks about how she began to confront non-confrontation. How and why she finds it so hard to stick up for herself in life, despite the fact that she manages to do so in her work and in the content she puts out. “How can I be so fearless in saying what’s on my mind in my writing, or in performance, yet so afraid to live that way?” she asks. To say I resonated with it is an understatement.
The truth is I’m outspoken in my work and in my opinions too, but when it comes to advocating for myself and what’s best for me, not so much. Is it weird if I say watching Love Island religiously over the last few months has helped me with that? (And therapy, of course.)
I understand that the contestants are probably compelled by the producers of the show to be a lot more honest and upfront than they might be in real life, but night after night watching them express their vulnerabilities and say how they feel has been illuminating and inspiring to watch. Because I’ve never been able to do that. Until, last month, I did.
The details are not ones I’m ready to share, may never be, but after reaching a point in which not advocating for myself felt more shit and more scary than advocating for myself did, I had a conversation that not so long ago I would have rather jumped off a cliff than have.
I heard myself being vulnerable and honest and - rather than feel weak, rather than feeling like it was a weakness, to have desires, to speak them - I realised, in the doing, that it was actually a strength. Because it’s not about the outcome, but about what you gain in the process. And what you gain is confidence, is self-belief, is a best friend in the form of yourself. And how can being honest with yourself and then speaking that honesty, how can being there for yourself be anything other than a strength?
As Alison Stevenson writes in her newsletter, “When I saw that my world didn’t come crumbling down from the tension from this, I was able to do it more and more. I find it easier now to say things like, ‘Look, I’m hurt that you behaved this way’ or ‘I don’t like that this happened’ or just simply, ‘I don’t agree’….
“Avoidance was never a real solution and I know that having experienced the actual, real solutions by speaking up. What I finally started asking myself was this: do I want people to like me if it means I don’t like myself? Do I care what others think more than what I think? The less I let others sway me, the less I fear being disliked and, from there, the greater my ability to be my most authentic self.”
I hope we all have the courage to advocate for ourselves, to mourn the losses that can come with growth, and to continue growing into our most authentic selves, anyway.
I’ve read some amazing books over the past few months and the one that most blew my mind is My Body Keeps Your Secrets, which is out this week and which everyone needs to read, forreal. I also loved and found great reassurance in This Too Shall Pass. The 100 Years’ War on Palestine and Mornings In Jenin are also fantastic, and essential reads on Palestine. *Affiliate links.
I’m not sure I’m the same person I was before the pandemic.
On the importance of different kinds of role models, including and especially the child-free older woman.
We should celebrate all types of women’s achievements the same way we do their weddings or pregnancies.
Do we have to put a label on our relationships?
Feeling burned out? Try being irresponsible for once. (ngl I’ve been doing this all summer :)))))
I’ve been obsessed with podcasts all pandemic and this, on how podcasters replaced our friends, makes a lot of sense to me.
Speaking of podcasts, I’ve just properly started watching Sex & The City (DON’T @ ME!) and am really enjoying Dolly Alderton and Caroline O'Donoghue’s season by season analysis of the show on Sentimental in the City.
It’s a wrap on season one of my pod Talk of Shame! Throughout the first 11 episodes and with insight from my brilliant guests, we dig into the many nuances of shame. Topics include the burden of carrying family honour @thirdculturetalks, how we can raise woke daughters with Nour Emam (@thisismotherbeing), how shame fosters a toxic culture @salmaelwardany. Plus, @rosaline.elbay joins us to ponder if shame is a necessary evil and Sarrah Abdel Rahman (@sarrahsworld) explores the importance of representation on shame. Plus lots more!
Catch up on the episodes here ahead of the launch of season two, coming soon.
If you enjoy the podcast, please subscribe, review and share, it really does help get the word out there. And shame breeds shame, so we gotta talk about it.