People who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know of my adoration of Amanda Palmer. I found her by accident, through listening to an interview with her husband, Neil Gaiman. Yes, him. He wrote his book ‘The Ocean At The End Of The Lane’ for her, I looked her up as I’d never heard of her and slowly she crept into my life. I read her book ‘The Art Of Asking‘ and it broke me open, I’ve downloaded the audio book, spending a voucher Hubs had given me for a present on it. I want to savour listening to it, so it’s sitting there, waiting patiently. I don’t want it on while I potter about the house, so I think I’m waiting for car trip to listen. I’ll know when it is the right time.
Take the donuts. What on earth does that mean? Ask for help. Be grateful for what people offer to help you get through. Amanda Palmer has just said goodbye to her best friend of 30 years who passed away this week. Anthony, she wrote about him in her book, he was her next door neighbour, he was also her mentor, guide, friend and a second father to her. Both she and Neil Gaiman were in the UK, fulfilling work commitments when they got ‘that’ call. The one that says you need to come now, don’t wait.
Squeezed onto the last row of a flight to Boston. Not pulling the ‘Do you know who I am / we are?’ cards so they turned left on the plane; just get us home – please. Collective fans on patreon, facebook and twitter held our breaths, willing them home while holding Anthony and his wife within us all around the world. Support was sent to them both all over social media and so on to Anthony and his family. They got there in time.
It was a remarkable use of social media; for good, not evil, no trolling, just an outpouring of love and support. They both said that it helped that so many people were thinking of them while friends and family rowed a loved-one out on his final journey.
Take the donuts.
I used to follow various famous people on instagram, less so now as I got fed up of the pleading, jumping up and down ‘Notice me please!’ from people in the comments. Celebrities are more accessible than ever before, they can tweet news about a new film to millions, they don’t have to sit in interviews to get their projects publicised. Journalists are now often rehashing twitter feeds for ‘news’; you almost know everything within minutes of it happening. Whether it is news, or not. Most often not.
People who are famous for being famous; famous for sex tapes; famous by association as a sibling or parent of someone else who was/ are famous; are now listened to intently. Whether for good or evil. Kardashians, I’m looking at you. Please, start doing something constructive with your lives, for the sake of the millions of teenage girls who think that contouring is now an appropriate level of make-up to wear to school. Please use your influence for good. Not spawning a phase of girls sucking their lips inside a shot glass – FFS.
Both Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman, from the beginning of their careers recognised that fans were important. They got the word out, shared stuff ‘All the things’ with their fan-base. They’re open, honest, very sweet and adore each other. Watching them on stage and the goofy looks they give each other, the interaction between the two of them was heartwarming. Was it any wonder that so many of ‘us’ reached out to ‘them’ – when ‘All the things’ they make, songs, music, art – whatever, touch us? When someone hears you; when their use of words or music and something in you resonates loudly, you hang on to it. We feel connections deeply, that’s why they’re connections, they’re more than just glimpses of something familiar.
I’m not very good at asking for help. It takes a deep breath and a leap of faith to admit that you’re drowning, not waving, struggling with life and being vulnerable. We’ve a lot of friends who are struggling at the moment, families with cancer affecting day-to-day lives, I can offer help easily. Will run around like crazy after someone else, but less so after myself.
Take the donuts. When you need help, reach out and ask for it. Call someone. If you need some wallpaper hung, a birthday cake made, your car washed, dinners cooked, whatever it is, whatever someone offers you. Take the donuts. Here’s an extract from Amanda’s book where she explains it:
Thoreau wrote in painstaking detail about how he chose to remove himself from society to live “by his own means” in a little 10-foot x 15-foot hand-hewn cabin on the side of a pond. What he left out of Walden, though, was the fact that the land he built on was borrowed from his wealthy neighbor, that his pal Ralph Waldo Emerson had him over for dinner all the time, and that every Sunday, Thoreau’s mother and sister brought over a basket of freshly-baked goods for him, including donuts.
The idea of Thoreau gazing thoughtfully over the expanse of transcendental Walden Pond, a bluebird alighting onto his threadbare shoe, all the while eating donuts that his mom brought him just doesn’t jibe with most people’s picture of him of a self-reliant, noble, marrow-sucking back-to-the-woods folk-hero.
Taking the donuts is hard for a lot of people.
It’s not the act of taking that’s so difficult, it’s more the fear of what other people are going to think when they see us slaving away at our manuscript about the pure transcendence of nature and the importance of self-reliance and simplicity. While munching on someone else’s donut.
Maybe it comes back to that same old issue: we just can’t see what we do as important enough to merit the help, the love.
Try to picture getting angry at Einstein devouring a donut brought to him by his assistant, while he sat slaving on the theory of relativity. Try to picture getting angry at Florence Nightingale for snacking on a donut while taking a break from tirelessly helping the sick.
To the artists, creators, scientists, non-profit-runners, librarians, strange-thinkers, start-uppers and inventors, to all people everywhere who are afraid to accept the help, in whatever form it’s appearing,
Please, take the donuts.
To the guy in my opening band who was too ashamed to go out into the crowd and accept money for his band,
Take the donuts.
To the girl who spent her twenties as a street performer and stripper living on less than $700 a month who went on to marry a best-selling author who she loves, unquestioningly, but even that massive love can’t break her unwillingness to accept his financial help, please….
Just take the fucking donuts.