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my 2022 in review
I wasn’t gonna do this kind of thing, but when talking with my friend Josh about our respective new years plans, he let me in on a ritual he has going with his boyfriend Ricardo (hi Josh and Ricardo!). At the end of each year they sit down and reminisce about what happened during each month, entirely from memory, and call it The Year in Review. That’s lovely, I said. I’m stealing that, I thought.
And I know smart people on the internet say that this, the end of the Gregorian calendar year, is not really the ideal time for deep reflection, excavation and forceful implementation of habitual shifts because it’s clearly cozy bozy time. But I am not one to pass up an opportunity for a fresh start. Oh yes daddy, SCRUB ME RAW AT THE RIVER OF SECOND CHANCES!!!
It doesn’t end there. Simply put, I am an honorary Iranian through blood (11%!) and marriage (Soha) and I’ll relish this exact opportunity once again in SPRING during Persian new year, Nowruz, and again at the Muslim new year if I have to! And while I happily abandoned religion many years ago, I do still live in a muddled fear of a life without the warmth, depth and playfulness of ritual or tradition. People say it’s ok, we’ll make up our own! But will the emails actually stop long enough for us to do that?? So while The Year in Review sounds like something you’re more likely to find in a boardroom than an elder’s embrace, it will totally do.
Here’s a completely non-dramatic retelling of some of my memories of a chaotic year during which I went on t and off t and off meds and then back on meds, just to give you a taste of my internal world.
I have a bit of a new years eve tradition. Wait, maybe I do have traditions. But I feel like rather than intentionally beckoning ritual and tradition into my life, they kind of creep up on me. Like the one I'm about to tell you about, or the decade-strong but thankfully now defunct ritual of repeatedly obliterating myself by dating fire signs. Anyway, this is a tattoo thing. I’ve been tattooed and tattooing for nearly a decade now and it’s such a fun and precious and personal thing for me that kind of happily exists outside of other stuff I do. Jacqui gave me my first tattoo on her bed with a needle lashed to a pencil with thread, and I’ve given many in much the same fashion. I’ve thought about taking tattooing more seriously before but 1. I’m simply not good enough and 2. I realized I've never accepted money for giving one, and now that too seems like a tradition I'd like to uphold. Thinking back, it turns out the last four new years eves I’ve given and sometimes also received tattoos. In 2020 I gave Soha their first tattoo on my sofa just before 2021 and it’s my favourite one ever. You don’t get to see that though. Instead, I offer you this foot pic!! (Maybe now you’ll upgrade your subscription to paid?) This is a tattoo I gave myself in the early hours of the morning on January 1st 2022. It says, ‘the body remembers joy too’.
In February a show opened at the ICA in London which was all about decriminalising sex work and I had an installation called the best dick i ever had was a thumb & good intentions at it which was cool and new for me and an unexpected “career” milestone of sorts? Like the rest of you, I have rabid imposter syndrome so internally downplayed the whole thing to the point where it was kind of like I wasn’t even part of it. But I have a vivid memory of Soha and my friends, once they knew it was happening, really punching through the thick dissociation I had built around the whole thing and forcing me to be present and step into it and celebrate for god’s sake which was actually nice once I managed it. And loads of people went and sent me photos. So February is for them. Thank you, I love you. Totally would have missed the whole thing without you.
In March I nearly died twice in Mexico and not from the heat although during our Year in Review, Soha did describe us in our first week there as simply “hot & begging for fans”. My first near-death experience occurred at the place I probably loved the most during our time on the coast of Oaxaca which was Playa Del Amor, a beautiful nude cove on the gay part of Zipolite beach (gay beach, Gay Beach, GAY BEACH!!!! My two favourite words). Despite the very intense waves and my swimming capabilities being average at best, I got a little cocky with the ocean, swam out too far, had a panic attack when I struggled to swim back and promptly started drowning while pretending I wasn’t. At this time Soha was busy “shell-hunting” near the shore and tbh I respect that. A tall Icelandic man noticed me struggling and called to me three separate times asking if I needed help. Each time I ignored him because despite feeling death come closer with each of my weak and futile strokes, I assessed the situation and decided I would rather die than be rescued (naked) by this white man. He came and rescued me anyway which was fine I guess. I’ll save the other near-death experience for another time.
This is the month Soha fell in love with New York. I’ve been in love with New York for a long time and it’s been a dream of mine to be in love, in New York. Grateful for this busy, fun, stressful, beautiful time. It’s giving eternity.
Back in London, Soha moves onto my boat with me in May! The boat is comically small for two people and while I knew my baby loves me, their willingness to embrace an extremely capsule wardrobe for the first time in their life was real, hard proof. Trying to do renovations on a 25ft boat with two people living on it is a challenge no-one should have to face. On top of that, everything on the boat broke, one after the other. Toilet, water pipes, engine, shower, water tank, and eventually, yes, even our souls. I look back on this time with the awe of a kid reading a comic book they love and we are the main characters! Though a very special shout-out is due to those in important supporting roles i.e. the people who took us in when the boat was inhabitable. Nice one guys!
Soha and I (alongside some precious others) run a QTIBPOC mental health charity called misery based in London. Every month of this year misery has run a programme called misery medicine: plant magic which is among other things, a herb foraging and medicine/art making walk/sit in a public green space led by incredible community herbalists and fungi specialists. June was the first time me and Soha were able to attend one of these walks despite having helped organise them all so it was very special. I went to as many as I could for the rest of the year and always left buzzing from the very distinct balm of community mental health support. I cherish that feeling and use it to help guide my life and work. Also, I’m just so proud of Soha who has held this whole year-long programme down.
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I’m a July 4th Cancer and sorry but I love my perfect summer birthday!! (American friends… celebrate ME instead! No seriously, put it in your calendars now). Soha told me about a place called Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire which is in the North of England and is apparently the Lesbain CAPITAL of the UK?? Naturally I felt scared and suspicious but soon learned that in the 60s the mill town famous for producing specifically trousers fell into decline and lots of lesbians from neighbouring cities bought property there! Love! And so my birthday week was spent hiking in the lesbian hills of Yorkshire which was super fun once I made peace with the fact it was probably going to be my coldest birthday ever. And it’s true, there are dykes absolutely everywhere <3. On the first day I kept a tally.
white dykes: 15
brown dykes: 9
black dykes: 3
joan armatrading records in the local antique shop: 7
Two of my dear friends Jacqui and Kira had a Lesbian Love Ceremony in the Archipelagos of Sweden and Soha and I got to go! Having only previously been to Sweden with an ex during Winter, I’m really quite pleased to have now overwritten that memory with this one. Highlights include: swimming in the Baltic Sea, Soha painting my toenails Barbie pink in the teeny weeny cabin we rented on a BOATEL while I wrote a not-speech for the not-wedding, and Kira’s whole family surprising everyone by spontaneously assembling into a small choir and singing in two languages, with so, so much love, for their gay child. I cried so ugly that when I then had to go onstage AFTER THEM to read the little thing I wrote in front of everyone, I had no choice but to just submit to the snot that would not stop dripping from my nose. Not a highlight. But on the up side, now I know those little Swedish islands exist, my escape-plan for the purge is really coming together.
One thing has led to another and Soha has left for NYC to begin a masters, mubarak!!! I stay in London to work and do boat stuff. It’s chaos. I’m paying men to help me do things on the boat. I should never be paying men for anything. Everything feels worth it for one second after I finally rip the boat’s very old carpet up with all the force I have left in my weary body, hack through the LAYERS of SOLID carpet glue enough to sand the remaining gluey wood down to reveal what is maybe the most beautiful natural wood grain I have ever seen? This wood brought me peace in a way I can’t explain.
More, different chaos in October, in the form of a 4 month old terrier mix named Cherrie who Soha and I fostered for a month in New York despite neither of us having finished unpacking. We loved Cherrie but she totally had worms which is something I could have done without experiencing. One night at 4am Soha and I stood in the kitchen after cleaning up her worm-speckled diarrhoea for the 5th time that night. Soha looked at me sadly and said, “I want better for you”. And sure, I was deeply sleep-deprived and nothing short of traumatised, but I meant what I said when I replied, “I don’t think it gets better than this”. I just really love my wife. She makes everything feel gentle and fun.
I also started this newsletter in October which I literally procrastinated from doing for like THREE WHOLE YEARS so I’m just tremendously thankful for each and every one of you for signing up and humouring all this.
In November Soha and I got cutlery for our new york apartment, two months after moving in there. Soon after arriving in New York I became pretty much too depressed to leave the house and when I suggested buying some cutlery online Soha made the valid point that there was no way we could do that as they needed to experience how it felt in the hand. Following that, no attempts to buy cutlery were made by either of us, to my knowledge. We washed and reused one set of plastic take-away cutlery and one set of chopsticks. I told my therapist and they said we should get some cutlery. The next week they asked if we had done it because they have a great memory and I said we had even though we hadn't, which is the first time I’ve lied to my therapist about anything in eight years. Then one day in late November Soha was leaving the house to hang with pals and I said they should come home with some cutlery and they did and it’s so pretty and now we have cutlery.
I’ve had a kind of perfect December, which based on the latter part of this year I really wasn’t expecting! For me, this has been a year fraught with exhaustion, depression, grief, homophobia, basic needs not being met, a relentless untetheredness and complete dissociation from body (you know, as well as all the nice stuff). I went cold at the thought of the impending “end of the year” sentimentality because in my depressed brain it kind of loomed like a full stop on a story I didn’t want to end like this!! I’ve been gifted a moment of reprieve this month though, as my meds settle, bones rest, old hands hold me down and love comes back into focus. Discomfort is becoming reconfiguration which is becoming growth which is becoming peace. And yeah, that’s perfect. Thank you to everyone who loves me. Seriously!! Thanks!!! PLEASURE is the word of the year to come.
hny xox aisha