Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Please Write

I didn’t send Christmas cards this year.  There.  I’ve said it.

Normally, I send well over 300 cards to just about every corner of the globe.  It costs us a small fortune in postage and is a huge effort.  Every year I struggle to get Marc and the children to sign them and very rarely do I manage to get them all done in time to get them to their final destination before the big day.
I don’t mind the cost.  Or the effort.  I don’t even mind that I receive less than 50% of that number back.  I am happy just knowing that I reached out and said hello.

But this year I wanted to do something more than just say hello.  This year I wanted to reward and recognise the effort that those of you made when they sent us a card/letter.

Since I usually manage little more than a scribbled, illegible note and our signatures, I have vowed to send a handwritten, personal, old fashioned letter to everyone who sent a holiday greeting card to our family.
My Grandmother was a great letter writer.  In fact, the entire family regarded her letters as an informal family newsletter.  She kept everyone up to date on what was happening with everyone else.  When my Grandmother died, I found great comfort in discovering the stacks of letters that had been written to her in response to letters she had written.  But most comforting (and painful in equal measure) were the stack of letters that I found I had written to her over the years.  Most of them span the timeframe from when I left university and moved abroad. 

The changes I underwent as I faced the challenges ahead of me make for some hilarious and some excruciating reading.  But then I brought those letters home and matched them up to the letters she wrote back to me.  Every single week.

They are an invaluable collection of advice and guidance given and taken.  They are filled with comfort and encouragement.  They are full of the tidbits of our lives as they were and reflect our growth.  They are the perfect picture of her and me.  They are my most valuable possession.

In that spirit, I embark on sending a proper letter complete with illegible handwriting and mundane details of the weather.  But also, I hope, a little bit of me and my family; a little bit of what happened and what lies ahead.  You will receive one of these letters if we received a card from you.  And if you failed to send a card, don’t worry.  I promise to reply back with a handwritten letter to every hand written letter we receive.

Facebook, tweets, emails and ecards don’t count.  Whilst I am a big fan of electronic communication tools, in fact I would be lost without them, I still believe in the pen and paper.  There will come a time when I will leave this world, much later than today one hopes.  When that time comes, it will prove next to impossible to recover the emails and ecards sent to me.  I doubt that anyone will even bother.  These digital records of our relationships will be lost along with our heartbeat.

But a soul lives on in the letters we write and send on paper.  They are tangible.  They are real.  You can take them with you on the long journey of life.  And I hope you do.

On my darkest days, and I have more than I would like to count, I reach into the box that contains my Grandmother’s letters, the cards from my mom and dad, my sister, my friends.  It is the ones that tell me what they have been doing and what they want for me that lift me up and help me to take the steps I need to continue to move forward.  Without these letters/cards I dread to think what would happen to me.

Please write.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Rough Music by Patrick Gale

My reading is far outpacing my writing and posting of reviews on this blog.  I refuse to apologise.  But I absolve to correct this imbalance of priorities and set myself the task of catching up.  No promises though!

Patrick Gale is quite simply one of my favourite authors.  I love everything he writes so it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I loved this novel.  I loved the way I got sucked into the idyllic setting and the idea of a perfect, happy childhood.  I was sucked into believing everything the characters believed.

Mr Gale writes clear exquisite detail without losing his readers in long wandering, aimless paragraphs of prose when your eyes glaze over.  Instead he skips the through his plots and before you know it you are fully engaged in the outcome.

Will invites his parents to join him on a beach holiday not realising that he is about to step into a hornet's nest of powerful memories.  His mother suffers dementia.  Will is having an affair with his brother-in-law which he has tried and failed to end.  This could so easily have become all a bit of a soap opera as we travel back and forth in time to Julian's (Will's childhood name) messy childhood and Will's messier adulthood.

But it doesn't become melodramatic in the least.  Instead the story reminds us that we all have a bit of a mess inside of us and lived messy lives at various times.

Julian (aka Will), as a character, is not all that easy to like.  I never quite trust people who tell me they had a perfect childhood and have a perfect life.  I suspected all along that the reality would be revealed in time.

I was mildly annoyed with the stereotypical representation of Americans but I let that wash over me.

I highly recommend reading this book and gave it a 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A Million Shades

The day begins one eye at a time.  

First I check the time.  Have I slept too much?  Too little?  Too late?  Do I care?

Then I check the weather.  Do I need to turn on my lumi light?  Will it make a damn bit of differene?  Will this rain ever stop?  Do I really need to turn on the heating in June?  The sun is shining so I am going to need to come up with a bloody good excuse to not go for a walk.

Finally, I ask myself the dreaded question:  HOW DO I FEEL TODAY?

Am I "fine"?  Unlikely.  In fact, I'm not entirely certain I remember what fine feels like.

Am I "shitty"?  Quite possibly but perhaps a wholly inappropriate response to a socially conventional question unless my desired outcome is to alienate those who care for and love me.

The trouble begins in the million shades of grey between "fine" and "shitty".

I close my eyes again wishing that everything was different.  Wishing that my battle with the darkness had never begun.  Wishing the war was won and that I had conquered that foreign land forever more.  A conventional happy ending.

Alas, I return to the fight everyday, sometimes donning my mask of armour to face the ignorance and cruelty of others and sometimes just my own anxieties.

Other times I can't bear putting on the armour and I remain metaphorically naked for the day unable to leave the security of my home or my head spending my times wandering around the rooms and wondering where the time  when I'm absent.

My armour is honestly a lousy garment for protection.  It doesn't stop my own thoughts from hurting me.  I recall the days when I felt invincible, strong, and happy; when I felt the future held such promise.  I didn't dread the sun rising.

Now I refuse to think about the future because it frightens the shit out of me.  I can't plan a party.  Or a holiday.  I can't plan what's for dinner.

For me, the future is dark.  The future is frightening and I start cowering in the corners of the day when I first open my eyes.  Every day.

Monday, 8 July 2013

Does writing about my depression help me?

No.  Or at least, it doesn't feel like it does.

So, why do I do it?

Partly because I always write, if not on paper, then in my head.

Mostly, I do it for my friends and my family.  I do it to help them understand the torment inside my head.  Somehow it comes out better in words I write than when I speak.  Speaking is difficult.  I get lost in my thoughts and my words become all jumbled.  And sometimes when I get frustrated trying to express myself I start to stutter.  Then I get anxious and here we go on a downward spiral.

When I write it is all just a bit easier to make sense of it.  No one is looking at me.  No one is nodding their head.  No one is finishing my sentences for me.  No one is interrupting.

I also do it for others who know someone afflicted with this horrible illness.  Maybe if they read what I've written, it will give a tiny little insight into our spectrum of darkness.

Finally, I suppose I write it in the hope that it reaches out and touches someone who is struggling today and helps them take one step towards the light. 

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Not Good Enough

The greatest gift my depressive illness has given me is that I don't really care what other people think of me so much any more.

I used to want to fit in so much.  I wanted to be liked by everybody, to be friends with everyone, be invited to all the dinner parties, coffee mornings, and after-work drinks.  The fact is I wasn't.  And I didn't fit in.

Maybe it was because I didn't have enough money to go on the spur of the moment girlie weekend trips to the spas or far flung trendy beaches.  Maybe it was because my body was too big and just doesn't look great in the trendy designer fashion (as if I could even afford that).  Maybe my sense of humour is a bit quirky.  Probably it's because when I get a few too many drinks in me I can be a bit loud. Even sober I can be a bit loud.

Don't get me wrong:  I have many, many friends who love me more than their luggage just the way I am.  But my mind always focuses on those few unfortunates that just didn't quite get me.  Then the paranoia sets in. The ones who don't quite get me are trying to convince those that did to not get me anymore when I reality if they ever did discuss me, my friends would have told them to fuck off.

In my mind I feel I am just simply not good enough.  I grew up thinking I wasn't good enough.  I've had a series of setbacks that told me I wasn't good enough.  It doesn't matter how many times I've been told that I am amazing, outstanding, interesting, extraordinary individual with a limitless capacity for compassion and generosity.  All of those fade into the background over the shouting of "not good enough".

In my depression, I cling to that like a self fulfilling prophecy.  I have every reasonable excuse to never ever be good enough again.

But if I focus on just this very moment, right now, and not a moment longer, I am good enough to write this and hope someone finds that they were good enough to read it and it helped.