Ask Maranda: Am I fucking up my life?

Dave Cave is currently working on Operation AHAP, a small town zinester residency and arts grant. He’s a comedian, a writer, and a weirdo, and recently coined the term “mental illness as performance art.”

And what am I working on? An advice column! This entry is the first installment. I’ll be giving advice on creativity, mental health, being weird, making decisions, communication, etc; if you’d like advice from a weirdo/queerdo, introvert, fuck-up, recovering alcoholic, and encouragement enthusiast, please stay tuned for details, but do not send me questions until I give the go ahead. Yeah!

Dave Cave asked me if I think he’s fucking up his life. The short answer is, no, I do not. I think you’re waiting for it to get fucked up. The next disaster seems inevitable – maybe it is. But your self-awareness and enthusiasm for art, performance, and life, are sustaining you right now; also, you are wisely embracing your mental illness, and using it for inspiration rather than self-destruction. That takes guts! And generally speaking, you need to go through a lot of fucked-up-ed-ness to get there.

I love spending time at Dave Cave’s house (which is also lovingly referred to as Kate Middleton). Last time I was there, I actually wrote a list of all the things I like about being there. One reason we make such great friends is that we don’t need to keep each other entertained all the time. We can be hanging out in the same space but working on our own things. Sometimes we sit at the table and write together, other times we work from separate rooms. He makes me coffee and tea, and gives me Vitamin B. Last Winter, I showed up at Dave’s stressed as fuck because I hadn’t had any alone-time in way too long, and I was cranky. So, Dave cleared his desk for me, disconnected the internet, and went out to run errands, giving me the chance to have a date with myself. “Don’t come downstairs until you’re ready,” he said.

I sat at his desk for three hours, reading and writing. When I came downstairs, he had returned from running errands, cooked us a yummy dinner, and built a little fire in the backyard for us to eat at. When I sleep over, we wake up at different times and maintain different schedules; I still get up early, though, and we write a game plan for the day. Where do we need to go? What do we need to write? What are we gonna eat?

“I don’t know if I’m high, or if it’s just your contagious enthusiasm,” I said the last time we hung out. Dave is seriously one of my favourite friends to brainstorm ideas for creative projects with. We always have pens in our hands when we’re together, writing down lists, and quotes from our own conversations. He also tries to teach me how to zone out and not feel like I need to be a busy bee at every moment, and we encourage each other to cultivate healthier habits (or let them go if they’re just not working for us right now). Amber Dearest also wrote about him recently.

Dear Dave, no, you are not fucking up your life! You have a lot of privileges (white cis male, obvs, but also, you own a really nice house, you have a stable & reliable income, access to meaningful mental health treatment, the ability to cultivate healthier habits, and a ridiculous imagination, among others), and you’re learning and experimenting with how to use them wisely. That’s really rad! I think we’ll all be “fucking up” on some level our entire lives – just as we get our shit together in one part of lives, something else will come along to trip us up; that’s been my experience, anyway. There isn’t going to be a moment where everything comes together, everything is good (not for more than just a few minutes anyway). And that’s okay! Also, when you think you’re fucking up, do you really think you’re fucking up, or are you just afraid that other people (friends, family, “Real Writers,” etc.) might think you are?

Fuckedupingly Yours,
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4 Responses to Ask Maranda: Am I fucking up my life?

  1. Geo says:

    I’m very excited about your advice column! I think it’s a fantastic idea.

    Anyway, on another note… You listed your friends privileges towards the end of the entry… Do you think that his privileges “prevent” him from fucking up his life? And because of these privileges some people may assume that he is someone who doesn’t need help & that any feelings of “fucking up” is over exaggerated on his part?

    Also, I’m curious about how you feel about your own privileges, and how they make your life easier. I can’t recall if you’ve ever written about that, I’d like to see that perspective from you. I’m sure you always check your own privileges, just as we all should, so I assume you’ve made observations about how they have benefited you?

    • Glad you brought this up!

      I don’t think Dave’s privileges prevent him from fucking up, but that’s because I know a lot more about his personal life than what is posted here, and have been witness to his life being much more fucked up than it currently is, or than what this particular blog entry reveals about him. I think he could speak better to that than I can.

      While mental illness occurs in all kindsa folks, I think it is interpreted & responded to & treated differently depending on our various privileges & oppressions & histories; for example, a white cis person with a reasonable income is probably gonna experience major depression or mania differently than, say, a trans person colour with a low-income. And a person who is hyper-aware of their own states of mental health with a long history of various treatments and who has had access to both traditional treatments and radical mental health information is gonna interpret their illness differently than somebody who has never been able to talk about their mental health or have access to treatments and information due to whatever circumstances. You know? Also, we all have different “safety nets” depending on our incomes, how well we get along with our family, how supported we feel by our friends, etc., so “fucking up” in whatever way will lead to different outcomes for each of us. One person could attempt suicide, have a relatively positive hospital experience, recover comfortably at home, and get back to “real life.” Another person could attempt suicide, lose their job, lose their home, become homeless, or get trapped in their parents’ basement. And so on. The possibilities are endless…

      As for my own privileges, I benefit greatly & daily from being white, obviously. I also benefit from thin privilege, and I feel like there are also certain privileges inherent in the fact that I get along well with my family and that they support my art and what I do; I have access to the internet and zines which means I’m able to have access to hell of a lot of information, theory, stories, ideas, etc. And I have a strange, messed up privilege of always always always being mistaken for a cis person, which means I face nearly no threat of violence or (intentional) discrimination based on my gender identity, but it also means I deal with a lot of fuckedupedness & misgendering & awful moments of gender dysphoria, usually in public, and still face sexism and sexist violence when I am read as a Girl.

      I’ve also lately been thinking of Time as a kind of privilege. For example, I have tons & tons of time to write whenever I feel like it, which is a kind of privilege, BUT the reason I have all that time is because I am on Disability for mental illnesses and chronic pain, which is a pretty obvious (I hope) disadvantage, and means that not all my time is actually mine.

      This is indeed stuff I have been thinking about writing more about in the last little while (also wanting to acknowledge having the privilege of “visibility” within certain “communities”), but as usual, I am working on so many projects at once, that it’s impossible to write & share every single thing. I’m curious as to whether you had specific privileges of mine in mind, or if you were just asking generally?

  2. Holly says:

    It’s interesting you mention the idea of time as a privilege – I have been thinking a lot about time lately too. I often wish I didn’t have a full-time job, so that I had more free time and energy to write, etc, but then when I think back to the point when I didn’t work full-time, I found it difficult to motivate myself without the externally-imposed structure and ‘enforced’ time-boxes: ‘you have an hour to write before work, so get to it!’ I am actually MUCH more productive and consistent in my writing and art and other pursuits now than I was when I had more free time… it’s a tricky one. And as you say, what looks like free time may actually not be truly ‘yours’ anyway.

  3. kim says:

    this friendship sounds so beautiful.

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