There are kids screaming in the garden next door. They’re not yours. The old lady that lives on the ground floor wanted a conversation yesterday and you smiled in what you hoped were the right places. Have you not got a job yet?
Care-free children and well-meaning neighbours have a real ability to knock me down. I’ve heard a song I like on the radio, I’ve managed to make myself a meal, I even made the traffic wait for me while I used a zebra-crossing. I’ve feeling like everything might not be so insurmountable and then…
Last week, it was worse. A cyclist yelled at me. He was absolutely furious. I calmly walked home and went straight to bed. I tried to cry but nothing came out. It really hurt me. The bedroom was cool, I felt comfortable. There were children playing downstairs in the garden. I finally went down for a cigarette and the old lady that lives on the ground floor offered me a cup of tea. She actually brought it out to me with a fig roll.
It was an invasion of normality. Utter normality. I mean, I hadn’t had a fig roll since school. I didn’t know they still sold them!
She didn’t ask me about jobs, or girlfriends, or which parking space belonged to who. Instead, we had a chat about the weather, her medication, her constipation. It was exactly what I expected from a grandmother figure and in that way, I guess it calmed me down. It was no revitalising electric shock but it was enough of a push to keep me padding along.
A close friend of mine keeps asking me how I never seem to get angry. I always tell him the same: meditation (yes, really), the remnants of therapy, and one thing in particular that my therapist taught me: he persuaded me to laugh instead of cry.
I argued with him, saying that I’d know it was fake. “Doesn’t matter.” He replied. But being angry and self-aware, being aware that I’m just trying to trick myself into being happy, that would just make me angrier, wouldn’t it? I want to be ‘me’ in control not, ‘me’ and ‘other me’ battling it out. Of course, I tried it anyway.
A few months ago, I accidentally cut myself while trying to ‘cut myself’, if that makes sense. Anyway, it bloody hurt!
I just started laughing. My therapist and his advice were miles away. This wasn’t what I wanted to happen, it wasn’t how I wanted it to happen. It was stupid. Dark slapstick. Another thing I couldn’t do right? Well, sure, but then why was I laughing?
Let me put it to you like this: imagine you love someone a hell of a lot and you’re desperate to tell them how you feel. Your chest is full of emotions, maybe you’ve had some Dutch courage and you decide you’re going to go round their place, knock on the door and tell them face to face how you feel.
You go round. There are lights on inside and you get a shock of adrenaline because this is really happening. You’re nervous but you just know it’s going to work out. So you step up to the door, take a deep breath and knock. Maybe you call out their name – is that too much? – you do it anyway. You’re knocking and calling for what seems like a really long time until you finally see someone through the frosted glass in the hallway and your heart beats even faster. This is your moment and you’re going to do it! You keep knocking and calling, getting frantic. Why aren’t they answering? You want to give this person everything, you’re practically crying with a mixture of excitement and agony and then, just as the door opens, you realise.
That’s not the right number on the door. This is the wrong house. You’ve blown it and some poor stranger is peering at you over the chain.
Writing these little things down day in day out helps me to see that yes, there are bad times but yes, there are good times. My life isn’t that different from any others. Writing things down helps me to see the ebb and flow. The tricky part is remembering the good things when you’re crippled by your own mind. Finding the right little things at the right time might make you feel foolish but it might make you stop doing something that will make you feel even more stupid.
Think of the fig roll and shrug it off. Laugh when you get the wrong house. Maybe next week the cyclist will offer me a job.