Tuesday, 8 January 2019

One Extraordinary Thing

If you could do one extraordinary thing, what would it be?

It's 2am and I'm listening to Lou Reed's Transformer album (a Christmas present from my pa), doing a pretty ordinary thing for me at this hour of writing a phrase down on a post-it note and thinking - there is something in this; or rather, here we go again, there's something in me. It's like a kind of itchy thought that makes me get out a fresh sheet of paper or a notebook or in this case, go straight to my fucking blog like Carrie fucking Bradshaw.

So, hi, and welcome to this new and exciting episode of Baked Beans & the City.

I am currently coming through a very uncool week of being ill in bed, which has driven my mind to despair and back again. Making a peppermint tea after a nice hot bath (s/o to anyone who thinks I don't relax, because lord knows I'm trying my best these days) I was dreamily thinking how I'd love to host a little party and make cocktails from a new book I got from SJI, filled with recipes inspired by noteable women from throughout history. That would be quite an extraordinary thing to do, though, I thought. I'm learning, I also thought, because I was acknowledging that this would involve me doing quite a few new things. Whilst, a la Carrie & co, I am an avid cocktail fan, they're not particularly something I've made myself, and I never host gatherings where I live, other than a pair of house parties that became infamous across my college purely for their levels of nonsensical destruction. This little soiree would therefore be something quite special to me; not something that happens very often, and the effects of which would potentially be felt for a while too. (And I don't just mean the hangovers.)

This got me thinking that, by their nature, extraordinary things can't just be bashed out all the damn time because there may not be a known way to do them, or if there is, the whole point is that you may be looking to do them in a different way, a different place, or it may be quite a surprising, bold or stretching thing for you to do it personally. By definition, they are beyond ordinary; something that takes you, and potentially others, beyond an aspect or multiple aspects of your current existence in some way. This also means they are, surely, very relative. I think it makes total sense that we would find one another quite extraordinary as people because of all the different things we do, think and are. This also means that the more different people's extraordinariness(es) are put into something, the more it multiplies, beyond what any of them may have been expecting to be possible.

Now for someone who really digs ordinary, mundane, everyday things that are proximate to me, extraordinariness is also a trait that I value and actively pursue in virtually all of my endeavours. Creativity is like extraordinary sauce, where nothing needs to be as you'd expect, and you don't need to settle for how things seem. I guess I like ordinary stuff so much because it's the perfect site for an extraordinary intervention; primed for juxtapositions or reimagination between dreams or ideas and our current realities. Something I've done a lot of thinking about, though, is just how much I expect myself to be extraordinary, in everything, all the time, as, ironically, a base standard. I've not known why I'd draw something or design something or write something that wasn't extraordinary in some way; that didn't add anything new the world hadn't already seen, or that I personally hadn't already grown in or learned from. But, I've started to do some reframing of what extraordinary means to me. It's started to mean something new and deeper and more intimate. It's started to mean things that sometimes no-one can see. It's meant turning up and being brave when I'm scared, holding back and questioning when things want you to race ahead, and being as compassionate as possible to others even when there doesn't feel there's capacity in your headtop. In relation to illustration, it now feels as apt to consider extraordinary verbs as well as nouns; to keep on turning up and trying and making, in addition to considering a piece of work as an extraordinary artistic outcome.

My pinned tweet from a couple of years back reads: "Let's do unbelievable things every damn day, like getting out of bed, being kind, eating colourful food & actually being proud of ourselves", reflecting some of that shift, and it felt in some way in response to something that's come up again recently; an idea that younger generations (dare I say, the m word) want a medal for doing simple things when we've never had it easier. Without dwelling on that world of judgement and debate too much, at best that dismisses the experiences of so many different kinds of people and experiences of mental and physical health to make any damn sense, and personally I know how unhelpful it would be to beat myself up for any more things, particularly for taking a moment of lightness in overcoming that which had been belittled to basically, being nothing, but to me was definitely something. The thing is, in an increasingly complex world for all of us weird, wonderful, complicated, strong, interesting, and ultimately emotional earthlings to navigate, I reckon some of the most extraordinary things we can do are also the simplest, and involve us all changing the stories about ourselves and one another in small ways, much more than some huge, dramatic happenings that others can quantify. It also means we get to decide that we or those around us did something that went beyond, rather than waiting endlessly for a more distant external force to validate us.

A question like if you could do one extraordinary thing, what would it be? could refer to one thing every hour, every day, perhaps once in a decade, or a lifetime, or anything in between, depending on how we view extraordinariness, but at the start of a new year, when there always seems to be a lot of unsolicited advice and consumerism and associated ideas about a need to change flying around, I instead wanted to share a question that I was exploring, and present one extraordinary thing I did in 2018 and one extraordinary thing I'd like to do.

In 2018, the thing I still can't believe that I did was bring together Brum Zine Fest, which involved a whole system of things that were new and uncomfortable and made me want to run and hide, as well as making me feel like a bold motherfucker afterwards. The photograph for this post is me addressing those lovely folks that came along to an initial meet up, with caption thus: Tonight was terrifying for me but worth every bead of anxious sweat and note of nervous laughter. I'd only stick my head above the parapet like this for something that means the most & knew that's what it was gonna take to make #BrumZineFest happen.

As for 2019, so I've got this cocktail book yeah...?

I'd genuinely really like to hear if you have any responses of your own to one extraordinary thing, little or big, short or longer term, so do comment in some way if you wish or use this very long hashtag #OneExtraordinaryThing wherever you may please to connect with anyone else who also wants to share their ideas. Otherwise just hold them in your heart and crack on with being your excellent selves, and I'll leave you with a quote from a novella about a dog by J.R.R Tolkien set on the moon that I didn't know existed until just now:

"Rover did not know in the least where the moon's path led to, and at present he was much too frightened and excited to ask, but he was beginning to get used to extraordinary things happening to him."

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