Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Morning Thoughts

Morning thoughts. It's a lovely cliche ingrained into our culture to "live like you'll die tomorrow", and certain experiences from the last year have really heightened this realisation in me, of "this moment is fleeting, it will be gone soon, and so will they and so will I."
But I'm not sure anymore if it's helping me to live better. Instead, I feel this huge cloud of worry that I'm not appreciating the moment enough, especially in times of sadness and pain, and every joy is tinged with the reality of it being held in the hands of entropy, and it's actually pretty hard work to be able to step out of the moment with your family, your cat, your friends, and look at the same moment being held in death's hand, and feel joyous about it.
So, I've decided, instead of living like I will die tomorrow, I am going to live like I will live forever, and that entropy will never take my loves, but also with the knowledge that the moment is still fleeting, the moment is still good.

Death is a different beast from other loss, I've learned. I was a pro at taking life's curveballs and enjoying them and rolling with them. This is an entirely different beast, and I draw words from Washington Irving to justify my resistance to "moving on" from this.

"The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal - every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open - this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude. Where is the mother who would willingly forget the infant that perished like a blossom from her arms, though every recollection is a pang? Where is the child that would willingly forget the most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament? Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains of her he most loved, when he feels his heart, as it were, crushed in the closing of its portal, would accept of consolation that must be bought by forgetfulness? No, the love which survives the tomb is one of the noblest attributes of the soul."

On this day 1 year ago, we fell into each others' arms. I knew I would adore him for a lifetime, whether only as friends, or strangers in passing, and to be given the opportunity to love him was a wonderful wave life offered me to catch. I took it, and I'd take it again and again and again. I have to catch other waves now, too. But that wave... that will always be the first time the sea took me into it's arms, and I felt at home, and I felt at one, and I learned the capacity for good life held - if you're willing to ride the wave. How can I turn away from a life, that in the same breath, gave me him? As much as I lament that I am here living in his absence, and that it comes so naturally, I must harness this and use it to push me to live and live and live with joy. To not only catch the other waves that will come, but to be willing to die for them, to sing and scream and let my mind throb with delight on them. Not to sit on them softly, waiting for them to end.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Therapy Night

I have found the grief and trauma that came with his death manifesting itself in the form of overthinking, in the form of picking fights with myself in my own head. I've decided to write about it, to spit it out, to look at my current opponent right in it's angry eyes and take it on, with my metaphorical sword of words.

"Right, you. Let's settle this. Lay yourself down."

Instead of laying down, I want to fight, I want to criticise myself for thinking that this was a good idea, that this would even make a difference. But I buckle and succumb to myself, like a screaming child who is upset from the lack of attention from their parent, and wants to hurt and upset their parents by making noise, yet needs their love and attention to recover and calm.

"Why overthinking?"

My mind has always been incredibly overactive. It would be climbing out of the windows of the school classrooms, running out the door at dull parties, constantly entertaining itself, constantly reviewing itself. I remember being six or so years old, and asking a classmate if she ever spoke to the voice inside her head, and receiving a very odd look in return. I didn't ask anyone about their inner voices for a good while after that, such was the confusion on her face, but I did immediately think to my six year old self "What if I ever get bored of talking to you?" "Hope you don't" I replied "I think you're stuck with me"

At present my thoughts resemble a drill somewhat. Usually, when they swirl and spiral, they're in one or another direction - a simple black and white, up or down, positive or negative. At the moment they are just going INWARD and HARD. I barely have time to process one thought before a counter argument pops up, and they aren't even on particularly worthy subjects, gone are the days when I'd ruminate on potential lovers and what they were thinking, or silly unimportant drama that I might have caught a whisper of... nope, I fight about utter meaninglessness of a completely different variety now. I fight about whether my thoughts are "right" or "wrong", whether my opinions are valid, whether I am impossibly narcissistic when I have a good thought or horribly depressive and no fun whatsoever when I have a bad one. My sense of self has just shattered, entirely, and it's like I am scurrying to connect the dots and pick up all the pieces to make something of myself by late morning so I can continue with my day without too much existential crisis looming.

I digress.

In trying to digest these thoughts, and then these patterns of thoughts forming, and then the purposelessness of thinking said thoughts, I realize I'm doing a lot of thinking and not very much "doing".

Issue 1) I have sat alone, in my apartment, in front of a computer, editing chin after chin after chin, for three days straight. When I am around people, I'm around 150+ strangers at a wedding that it's taken at least 2hours to drive to, and I'm not exactly relaxed and being my informal, often crude and inappropriate, self. Right. So this is probably contributing, not to the content of said thoughts, but to the set and setting. I mean, I've given myself the PERFECT scenario to go fucking insane.

So, answer? Finish up massive workload (yay!), schedule fun activities*
*read: go for walks, go take 365 in new places, see friends, go to the gym, go buy healthy food instead of ordering pizza, etc etc

Issue 2) My grief is changing. I recognise these weird, in-between-stages well, now. When he first died, I was flooded with one thing: Agony. It was a pretty easy emotion to process. It was just unbearable. I understood it, I could deal with it, it was shit, life was going to be shit, just bad, very very bad. In a way, because this was so easy to understand, it was easy to forgive. I didn't berate or argue with myself about feeling like that, because I understood it. What I couldn't get my head around a month later, was the weird sense of normality that had returned to daily life. I felt myself start thinking about other things surrounding his death, how my methods of grieving might be appropriate/inappropriate, or misinterpreted by people I wanted to have like me and support me. I noticed my thoughts flooding to THESE subjects, not him, and it terrified me.

That's actually when the inner arguing began. I felt like I'd had this huge surge of perspective on what was truly important - to live, to love, to notice all the small tiny wonderful details, to be grateful for them, to notice my own place in my life whenever and wherever I can, to be kind kind kind and make others' journey's easier... and here I was trying to work out whether someone I have never met approves of me or not.

I felt pathetic, but it seemed so huge.

The lack of support I received in the aftermath of losing him has really damaged me.
There, I said it.

Now, enough of that, let's work on healing that damage.

Answer? Let it go. You can't control whether what you do is right or wrong in someone else's eyes - you can only have good intentions, and I certainly have/had them. I only wanted to grieve in the way I know how, in the way that helps me. I wanted to lay out to others that life can be hard and it isn't always skipping in fields and smiling in nice hats. I wanted people to recognise what I had lost, the pain I was feeling - probably because I have some messed up need for validation but YOU KNOW WHAT, THAT'S OK! I'm human, I need support, and I deserve to be able to tell the truth about my own life and to ask for my needs to be met, especially since I'm lucky enough to have 20 odd thousand people who actually care and want to help. I felt like I was denied access to them, or at the very least shamed for wanting them.

Issue 3) I don't have all the answers

And I don't think anyone ever does. My desperate scrambling to find them seems understandable, I think we all search for purpose and meaning in our lives. I've done so for years, I find it fulfilling to learn and grow and expand myself. It used to be a very positive thing for me, these days less so.

I don't like this inner critic that I seem to have grown myself. I don't like critical, judgemental people in general. I used to stay away from them, reminding myself that people who cannot be empathetic or compassionate are probably unhappy, and that I should not take their opinions about myself as The Truth. But you cannot take anything as truth, and then I fight and say "But their opinions ARE valid, they need understanding, they need love, they need what you need."

Then I bow my head, and the sadness sweeps in.

There we have it. I needed support and understanding, I got silence and it wasn't an enjoyable experience.
But now I have to let it go.
I have to let all these thoughts go.
I promised him I would be OK, he said it with such worry in his voice:
"I don't want this to fuck you up. I don't want to hurt you."

I would like to howl from the tops of the rooftops that you never hurt me. You gave me all the sweetness and light I could taste. I am OK, I will be OK, and I love you, I love you, I love you. How could it be any other way?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A thought in the present moment as a plane soared above

The present moment, for all of us, is actually always a very peaceful thing - unless of course we're being mauled by something hairy or faced with physical unease. The plane soaring overhead in the night sky will continue to soar whether we choose to tune into it or not. The peaceful present moment is a wonderful thing to be part of, but remember carefully - it never comes to us. We have to come to it.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A poem for my cat

I should be so lucky
to let my senses fill
with you
It is that moment, when I open my books
and scan the words of the poetry I love,
that I keep for myself like a schoolchild hoarding their favourite sweets
That I see the ink printed so neatly, the words dance on the page
and hold my feelings better than the black tar holds them inside me
sticky and fluid in my chest
I see that these words are a better reflection of me than my own face in the mirror
these poems and stories I collect, they hold myself more than my body ever could
They reflect me, ignite me and turn me to ash all at once
And I weep
And I laugh
And I smile
And I keep on reading

Monday, 5 September 2016

A Battle Between Happiness and Peacefulness

As I pounded my feet on the treadmill this afternoon, I made progress but I got nowhere. Physically and mentally. My thoughts floated to the elusive "Happiness" that is so ingrained in our language and culture. "I just want to be happy" must be thought in billions of minds, countless times, all day, every day. Yet, we all grasp and understand that happiness is an emotion, fleeting, like all others. What we seek is an underlying peacefulness, contentedness, that is a result of what, exactly?

The clearest answer of course is circumstance. When all our circumstances in the world are "on our side" - the future looks solid and undaunting when we have a stable lifestyle, a nice home we like to live in, a safe financial future, travels plans and trips to look forward to, a lover who adores us whom we adore in return, good health and good family and friends. It is very easy to assume a full hand of these cards to be the remedy to peacefulness - and, whilst they certainly do contribute to a wonderful day or week or month, once you get used to having these things, we can find the restlessness settling in. We feel unsatisfied. We want more. What if there is a lover who can stimulate my mind more, or one who loves me more, who needs me more? Someone who needs me less, who lets me be. What if I had a better living situation, a bigger house - more room to breathe? What if I lived in a van, nomadic, romantic? Perhaps then I would feel so full and empty, all at the same time. We invent problems because it's natural, progression is an exciting part of living, stagnation and peacefulness are not one and the same. Happiness and peacefulness are not one and the same.

Like the majority of the world, I realised pretty early on that circumstances (material or otherwise) aren't what will give me peace. My attitude towards circumstances, my attitude towards the day, would do this. But then my mind would spiral - sometimes because of my circumstances - either positively or negatively in either direction. On a good, clear day, I would wake up with a sparkling mind, work out, eat well, finish up editing pictures, be productive, notice all the sights and the smells and sing to the music and feel at peace. I felt grateful for the day, for all days. My previous sorrows would feel laid to rest, accepted, almost sentimental. On a bad day, I could wake up and argue every negative about myself and my mind and life like a cynic with the worst stung heart. I would try to counteract myself with hope and gratitude, just to slam it back into the ground with the force of a thousand thoughts exploding in my mind like a firework display backfiring.

I still can't work out what determines a good day or a bad day, they just are. Today has been mediocre, leaning towards the bad. I'd like to think my week of chaos and busyness has kept me from being in touch with my mind and emotions, and left me vulnerable to an avalanche of sorts, which has toppled (or begun to?) today.

I ignore my friends and family and retreat inside my cave of myself. No one is enough. I only see the flaws. I only see my own flaws. I feel like a terrible person. I try to go easy on myself - my boyfriend is gone, and I miss him. I've had this argument with myself a thousand times, heard his voice chime in inside my mind: "I've not gone anywhere. Close your eyes and I'm there, you know that." I feel petulant and childlike. He always loved my petulance. The memory of him saying so with mischief in his eyes comes flooding back, and I'm a puddle on the floor again.

I sink into my sofa and think some more about peace. I'm sure it's to do with gratitude, that gratitude holds the key to it all. Being awake enough to see how precious the moment is, the moment of where you are in your life and all the things you hold - no matter what is lost, no matter what is mortal. And then I fight myself with the sad reality that the moment is already gone, cannot be saved, that there is only more loss and more grief and more hopelessness in store. This is my fight, and I am losing it.

I counteract my wallowing with an emergency poison dart, filled with magic and love and cliches. "Aha!" I laugh at myself. "Yes, it all dies. But it also lives! And that is what must be celebrated. And when did death become so morbid? Death should be so wonderful, you can lay down your misery and your baggage and feel the grass waving above your head with no yesterday, no tomorrow. It's peace. Love death, you fool. Love it all."

I sigh and curl up some more. I am not used to giving in to sorrow like this. I know I will become strong again - tomorrow, maybe. But the periods of time I am peaceful for, is that what determines peace? If I fail to be peaceful today, am I no longer a peaceful person? If I die today, will they forever remember me as a sad girl with boots filled with water? Or will they remember the majority of my days - the days they didn't even see, they didn't witness, that I may have written about or photographed, the lost days. What about them?

I drink some water and decide that I should probably stop thinking, today. Who would ever love a mind that can unravel like this? I don't know how to sell myself to someone. Yesterday I was baked with fresh fruit, cream, sugar, love and peace, love and peace. Today I am expired milk and spilled on the carpet.

I suppose this is all part of the human experience, my brain comes with my flesh prison, and I must succumb to it, the bad and the good. I find some peace in that. I should probably go to sleep now, clean up my war wounds and give them a chance to heal. I am exhausted, and I haven't even left my flat.