I fucking hate positive thinking and all that happy pop-psychology become-a-smiling-consumer adjust-yourself-to-a-profoundly-sick-society bullshit.
That brigade seem to have co-opted the concept of gratitude, which kind of sucks, because counting your blessings can be helpful. Especially for people like me, with a very emotion-dependent memory. When I feel bad, my brain only goes to bad things, a never-ending referential wormhole of backwards-looking negativity. So finding something to be grateful for can arrest that spiral.
Today I’ve been feeling like shit, exhausted and coughing, like I’m an automaton made of lead and my movement mechanisms haven’t been oiled in the last 100 years.
So, here is a gratitude list. Right now, I am grateful for:
My room, my own room.
My house and my parents and not having to fend for myself in the scary world
My brother, who just sent me this and cheered me right up.
My cool as fuck tarot cards which I’m just getting to know. It’s a journey into a whole new world, and the art there is amazing.
I have friends
I have a cool Bullet Journal to try organising my life with, and the motivation/capacity to try. I didn’t have that a year ago.
Never get bored. So much to do, so much to dream…
Ooh, today is my one year anniversary of DBT group! Thank you Facebook memories for reminding me. I can’t believe so much has happened over a year. I’ve met and shared support with amazing people who have become real friends. I think I’ve made progress. If you’d asked me a year ago to make a gratitude list while I was in a mood like this, I’d probably have tried to glass you. You know what, just writing that, I realise that I don’t feel bad anymore. This stupid shit actually works. Anyone reading this who’s kind of on the fence about therapy and trying, because it’s uncool as fuck and also really hard to care when your mental illness is distracting you with how much you hate yourself, you should totally try. As a bitter and cynical person, sometimes you’ve just gotta make an idiot of yourself, do things you think will never work, but do them wholeheartedly, or as heartedly as you can muster, and eventually, something will change. Something you try will have some kind of effect.
I’m not promising miracles, but well…
This was my Card of the Day. Everything changes. The wheel always turns.
Has seen some blessed times, but now I’m sad and sulking for missing my first gig of the year because I’m ill and skint and just not up for doing things. 2016 exhausted me. Had a beautiful time last weekend seeing friends though, drawing on happy memories to drg through. That and plans of better times ahead.
So, here are my plans/goals/wishes for this year:
learn to drive
perform at some more places
get some performance videos done
perform at festivals
get my show on the road
write a new book of conceptual stuff
actualise some visual/video/multimedia creation
get some decent boots and walk
walk long ways
get strong – lift weights, run, yoga, eat food that isn’t cheese
blog and diary and record everything
get some proficiency in tarot reading
graduate from DBT having learned all the skills and able to use them in life
carry on helping out at Derbyshire Refugee Soidarity
do more Belper stuff
get new glasses
get my stupid painful tooth sorted out/stop moaning about the tooth
go to more amazing camps and festivals
visit many friends, especially the ones I haven’t visited in years
learn/revise Basic First Aid
learn a few tunes by heart on the tin whistle
learn to crochet
sell a load of stuff to declutter and fund all this
apply for a Masters (finance permitting)
don’t drink all the damn time
get some independent self sufficiency
get some community
Edited to add: Run the Tenby Half Marathon again! What am I even doing?! My family talk me into these ridiculous things.
I think that’s enough to be going on with. I’ve made a start today by putting a couple of things on ebay, and I’ve been keeping organised with a Bullet Journal and to do lists. I know Bullet Journal sounds like an enraging gimmick, but I was doing the basic form for half of last year and found it really helpful,so I’m carrying on. Got no memory in general, so writing it down helps.
Keep your peepers open though folks, maybe some interesting things will happen this year…
I made goals a year ago. And then reviewed them on my birthday. There may be a sense of deja vu starting to set in. Spoiler alert: I did not yet become a cyclist, or a journalist. I still can’t knit or play the violin. I have started playing the the penny whistle though. I’m sure the neighbours love it.
So, let’s start with some positives. 2016 was a good year in a lot of ways. I started, and stuck at therapy. DBT seems to be helping. I love the people I share a group with, and the camaraderie we have in learning to live in our lives, and make lives we want to live in. It can be all kinds of hard work and sometimes you find out things about yourself you’d rather not face, but better that than the previous mess. Still a bit of a mess, but… maybe, slowly, I’m getting there. It’s an upward spiral, maybe. A labyrinth, possibly. But despite the wrong turns and confusion (and the odd Minotaur hiding in a dark corner), there does seem to be some kind of change. And a change is as good as a rest, right? I don’t feel so constantly crazy. Though I’m definitely not “cured”, whatever that would mean.
I still help out with Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, in the warehouse. Just last night, 40+ people were there, making a heroic and successful effort to load a shipping container full of clothing and other needed supplies for Syria. I don’t feel like this is something to boast about though, more something that I’m honoured to be a part of, even in a small way.
Oh, and I did run that half marathon, and do that abseil for sponsorship money. I also ran a stall at the Padley Festive Fair? which collectively raised over £400 for the Padley Group charity, which works with some of the most vulnerable people in Derby.
I am still living in Derbyshire, and have somewhat made peace with that. So much beautiful countryside, and some really good people doing brilliant social activism and creative works. I’ve been travelling more lately though, mostly within England seeing friends, but to Italy as well for Christmas.
I got a poetry book published, and done something that I never really thought would happen: I’ve developed a certain amount of confidence performing live. I’ve actually got on stage and enjoyed it, rather than just feeling overwhelming dread the whole time. (Although the dread is still there.) This spoken word/reading out loud/actually speaking my words to real live people thing is beautiful. Sharing energy, communicating, that’s powerful. Thank you to City-Zen and Word Wise especially, for hosting such powerful and amazing nights.
I’ve loved and lost and suffered and learned. I’m grateful for the good times. And there were so many good times. Hopefully I’ll learn the right lessons, from the bad times. Twice this year I’ve left a man. Now I’m single and need to be. Not for rancour and isolation. I just need to turn into a real person, before I can be good for someone else. I need to learn my own edges before I blur them into someone else’s reflection.
Friends are love. I’m sorry for neglecting you and missing you and the trials of living scattered across counties, countries, continents.
Thank you all for the good times. We’ve had some adventures.
I’m grateful for my family. I’m back living with my parents. I’m amazed they’ll still have me. I lose count of how many times I’ve come crashing back down to here, to rebuild in this nest. There have been many gatherings and events and meetings, not least the wonderful wedding festival of my cousin. Just, love to the whole enormous crew who I am not going to list and name because we are a sizeable tribe and you don’t want to be here al day.
This year has left me feeling depleted. I’ve known for a while I was running out of energy, burning the candle at both ends, failing to nourish and replenish and all that. There have been some truly horrible times where I didn’t know how I could possibly survive. But, I did. There have been people lost. Real people we knew, not celebrities. Although their families must be suffering the same grief as any, and damn I did love Leonard Cohen. But it’s not at all the same. I’m not going to do a list of loss and trauma and fear. But it’s always there in this life, ocean always wearing away at the sand, chaos always waiting to spin us off into the void. It’s dark out there.
In a wider context, this has been a frightening year. We watched with grief and rage as Syrian children drowned, as Donald Trump was elected, as racist attacks and hate crimes rose as fear and rage seemed to convulse a world spinning wildly between the end of one era and the beginning of the next. What the fuck is going to happen? Who knows? 2016 has been a year where running away to live in the woods has seemed like a more attreactive option than before.
Running on mania, running on fumes, then running out of fumes, running on gritted teeth and coffee and alcohol. Eventually everything crashes. So I go into 2017 with less energy than before, feeling old and foolish, but with optimism that I’ll be able to come back from this.
Nature has nourished me deeply, has been a refuge and saviour and source of deep joy. This is what I plan to delve into more deeply, to return to and explore this year and all the years.
Much love. May 2017 open for you like a flower, and may you learn what you need to, before you are forced to.
As for 2016, I rate it 3/7. 4/7 if it hadn’t killed Carrie Fisher just at the end, just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse.
I’m in Turin. Church bells ringing midnight, calling in Christmas. I just cracked a cold beer and nestled under the blankets on a sofa-bed that creaks every time I move.
My parents bought me here. Dad is renting this apartment for a short-term work contract. He’ll be moving out in a week or so. They paid for me to come and spend Christmas with them and see Turin before he goes.
This is the first Christmas I’ve had with my parents but no brother. It’s different. No partner in crime.
Turin is beautiful, historic and grand with the joins showing where history and war and modernity have built palaces, torn them down, added and removed bits according to the whims of kings and the visions of architects, the necessities of time and change. Streets are grand avenues wider than anything in London, in this city with a single Metro line. Walking through, you can feel dwarfed by the scale of the huge buildings, rising solid and ornate, ten stories high. That is, until you see the graffiti tags, the stickers on every lowered shutter. I even spotted a few posters for anarchist federation demos plastered in the grand arcades.
It’s history but not a theme park. People live here, really live here. Christmas Eve, and the centre was packed. Last minute shopping, enjoying the Christmas lights. We walked all afternoon, walked for hours just looking in windows and at buildings and statues, at a culture similar but different.
No Christmas traditions this year, apart from eating and drinking too much, and exchanging a couple of gifts. Which is, I guess, the essence of the thing. Gluttony and goodwill, a shout of drunken defiance against the long Winter nights, a warm hug to hold us until the Spring sun thaws our hibernating hearts.
I’m not going to pretend I love this season. Yule, Christmas, Winterval… it’s always been a source of anxiety as well as joy. I know some of you are suffering, while others are loving it. And many more are somewhere inbetween, fighting life’s stresses and darkness to claw out a nest of happiness and ragged tinsel, a drunken sanctuary, a holiday holy day for the holes in hearts and minds.
As I grow older, it becomes clearer how valuable, how absolutely essential it is to take time out to connect with your people, to take a moment away from the usual hurry and distractions of life to say: “You are important. You are loved. Your love gets me through the dark Winters, and I share with you alike, the warmth of my heart.”
So, from Turin, I send you my love.
Merry Christmas, buon Natale, Winter wishes, and may Spring come soon.
“Try to think calming thoughts. Non-agonizing thoughts.” You croon into the face of the man lying on the ground. You avert your gaze from the jagged end of shattered femur protruding from a bloody hole in his thigh. “Don’t think about the pain. You can overcome this. I believe in you.” Slowly his moans of pain go quiet, his face white with shock and pain. His skin loses its colour, goes cold and clammy. “That’s better. Don’t focus on the pain. Think strong thoughts. Think of how much you want to be well. Take hold of your goals: you will walk!” He lapses into unconsciousness. Pain, shock, and massive physical trauma have taken their toll. Soon his heartbeat fades. “Why aren’t you trying?” You demand, as he takes his final breaths, “Why don’t you want to be well? If you wanted it enough, you wouldn’t die like this!” He dies. You wonder why he didn’t love life enough to overcome his problems.
“It must be so depressing, being a cash cow for Big Pharma,” you tell your friend as she injects her insulin. She’s had diabetes since childhood, and has it pretty well under control with a careful diet and regular injections. “I mean, you’re basically an addict, right? You’d be a different person, without the drugs. You can’t even function without them. They’ve got you hooked.”
“Actually, I need insulin to allow my body to function normal- ” She tries to make excuses, but you have to tell her.
“You’re letting yourself rely on artificial drugs. How will you ever learn to be resilient if you don’t push yourself, learn to be self-reliant? I believe in you. You just need to believe in yourself.”
Worn down by your constant moaning, your friend begins to doubt herself. She skips one dose of insulin, then another. Her partner finds her one morning, collapsed on the bathroom floor. She never wakes up from the coma. You wonder why she was never able to make that final step into true self-reliance. One more death caused by the evils of Big Pharma 😦
You find a growth on your side. It’s sore and painful. It seems like it fits all the warning signs for cancer. It’s still small though. You go to your GP and they frown. “We’ll just give you paracetamol. Until it’s seriously affecting your quality of life, we don’t have any services funded to deal with you.” You go home. Months pass. The growth… grows. You stop going outside for fear that people can see it bulgig under your clothes. It hurts, constantly. Sometimes it bleeds. You can’t eat. You can’t sleep. Finally, emaciated and frail, you fall and hit your head. An ambulance rushes you to A&E. You need complex surgery and end up spending six weeks in hospital. Although they successfully remove the tumour, you never regain your full strength. Health problems plague you for the rest of your days. This costs the NHS a huge amount of money, but luckily you are declared Fit for Work so at least the state saves on benefits. You die in poverty.
Sponsor me here, if you so feel. It’s for Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity.
I was kind of hungover for abseiling, because the night before was a truly uniquely beautiful night at City-Zen One Mic. So many talented people, and I got up and did a couple of new spoken word bits. People come together to create and talk bollocks and drink and dance and it’s magic. And raised £100 for Rojava Solidarity.
Spent the rest of the weekend with family, which was really nice. We all live kind of far apart, so it’s great when we do get together. Stayed up way too late putting the world to rights (and I managed not to get into any terrible political arguments even though my family are not yet woke to the true necessity of anarchism).
These things have been good beyond measure. In between times, things have been bad beyond measure. I don’t know if I’m actually losing it. Fuck abseiling, this is the real extreme sport. The mood graph prickles like a porcupine and shoots a facefull of quills into my idiot life. Trying to hold while everything spins. I’m too dizzy to run anywhere. My hands hurt.