Feelings Notebook


Two nights ago, while sitting in a pub with my ex-partner, a stranger asked if ‘we had children’. The ‘we’ had been together more than seven years and had never considered children… I could only blink and point at the dog. The stranger continued, “So, how long have you and your husband been together?”

I left the pub, my head full of thoughts about the expectations and shame of A WOMAN YOUR AGE, or a woman any age. Marriage, picket fences, children. There’s a complete lack of understanding if you get off the relationship escalator. The escalator is one of many social scripts — customs for how people are “supposed” to behave, and how we “should” think or feel, in certain contexts, situations or interactions. These customs benefit many people, but not always, and not everyone.

This week Emma Brockes interviewed Sheila Heti about failure and self-belief for the Guardian. This was a timely article to read, and it speaks to me so much. As someone who never wanted children, then found myself single and pregnant (via a regretful rebound situation) – only to lose my desperately loved baby, I feel the shame quite keenly. A loser with a foot in both camps, a traitor to both through forces of biology.

There is shame attached to not wanting children, Heti says. But I also felt shame for the fierceness with which I wanted kids. “Maybe there’s a basic shame women feel and it just attaches to anything,” she says, laughing. “It’s kind of how I feel about anxiety; when you’re an anxious person like I am, I realised at a certain point, it’s not the thing I’m feeling anxious about that is making me anxious, it’s that I have a feeling of anxiety and it attaches to whatever it can. Maybe if we both feel shame it’s because it’s shameful to be a woman. Whatever you choose you feel shame.” She pauses and drily adds, “I wonder if it’s ever going to change, or if women will feel that way until there are no humans ever.”

Perhaps though, there is a glimmer of grace in my failure to comply with the expectations of both the child-free and child-bound:

There is a good section in Motherhood about the value of failure, not in the Samuel Beckett sense of fail again, fail better, but in the true wildness of failing in a society that puts so much value on success. “Only in our failures are we absolutely alone,” writes Heti. “Only in the pursuit of failure can a person really be free.” She concludes, “Losers may be the avant garde of the modern age.”

Motherhood is the new novel from Sheila Heti.


The Laughing Heart by Charles Bukowski

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

— Charles Bukowski


The five whys for your personal life

The Five Whys

Ever had an uncomfortable run-in with someone, for example, a disagreement with a colleague, only for the same issue to pop up three months later? Sometimes it can be easy to fix a surface problem, and not look too much further into it. And as humans, we love taking the easy route.

Until of course, your problem springs up again. This problem could be a communication issue in a relationship, a mystery sports injury, or perhaps one of your more negative habits. But how to find a lasting solution?

The Five Whys is an iterative interrogative technique used to explore “the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem,” (Serrat, 2009 | PDF). It takes an issue, and drills five layers deep, asking why to find opportunities and lower-level causes. The technique was developed by Sakichi Toyoda for Toyota, but like many excellent models to come out of Toyota, it can be applied to the problems of everyday life, too.

There are three key things to remember about the powerful use of the Five Whys technique:

  1. Accurate and complete statements of problems – writing a problem down helps clarify it.
  2. Complete honesty in answering the questions – the truth about yourself and others!
  3. Clear determination to get to the root of a problem

Five is a good number to start with to ensure you are looking deep enough into a problem, plus you can use your hand as a visual/physical reference to count down the levels. Or you know, think of burgers – Five Guys – cheese, lettuce, pickle, patty, and bun. Done 🍔


Instead of Killing Yourself by Derrick C. Brown

wait until
a year from now
where you say,
“Holy fuck,
I can’t believe I was going to kill myself before I etcetera’d…
before I went skinny dipping in Tennessee,
made my own IPA,
tried out for a game show,
rode a camel drunk,
skydived alone,
learned to waltz with clumsy old people,
photographed electric jellyfish,
built a sailboat from trash,
taught someone how to read,
The red washing
down the bathtub
can’t change the color of the sea
at all.

So far I’ve made an IPA and rode the camel to drink…