These days, if you see me and ask how I am, I’ll say that I’m fine. And I’m lying. I’m lying through my teeth. But what is the alternative? When is it ever a good time to tell the truth about how you’re feeling, when you happen to be lost, in the darkest depths of depression? How do you tell the truth, when you can’t find the words to tell the story of yourself, to yourself? The truth is, depression has made me reclusive. And I’m so very lonely. Solitude I can deal with. Solitude I can enjoy. But not loneliness. That’s the real kicker, the real killer, when you long to hear a friendly voice, but cannot ask, dare not ask, for anything. I’m isolated. Desolate. Broken. Being with other people is physically and psychologically exhausting. But I have to get on with it: I have responsibilities. So when I must, I put on the mask, the polish that makes me look like…me. And I get on with it. Thank god for lipstick.
But there are the days when I am not obliged to put on the mask, or at least, not straight away. These are the days when I pay for the expenditure of positive energy; when I absolutely cannot move from my bed. I cry, and cry, until exhausted enough to doze a while, and then I wake and cry again. And then I get up, and transform into me – with a great deal of effort, rather than the ting! of a fairy godmother’s wand – and go out to collect my daughter from school. Thank god for lipstick.
2014 has not been an easy year, and I am thankful that soon I will be done with it, and can begin again. Time to make something better out of what has been broken.
Having said that, a few rather lovely things did happen this year; most notably my youngest brother getting married in Portugal, and having three stories accepted and published. Yay!
Yes, three. The third went up on Boxing Day, at Zouch Magazine. It’s a sort of fairy tale, about what happens after the fairy tale ending fails to live up to expectation. Which, really, is rather apposite. Life imitates Art? Art mirrors Life… Anyway, click on this link, and you can read it, if you want to. I do hope that you enjoy it, and that Christmas has been kind to you.
What do you do, when you write and write and redraft, and edit, and do it all again and again and again, then send the resulting stories out into the world, and no one wants them? What do you do?
I think I’ve got used to rejection. It still stings*. Sometimes I even cry – those emails always seem to arrive when I’m depleted. And I’d be lying if I said that I don’t sometimes toy with the idea of just giving up. BUT I HAVEN’T. And I won’t. I keep looking for somewhere else to send those stories, my stories. It’s an act of faith in my work, in my worth as a writer. Even if
I don’t fit my stories don’t fit anywhere.
*Actually, it hurts like hell.
N.B. This is a rhetorical question, by the way.
You may have noticed – or you may not, and indeed, why should you? – that it’s been a while since I posted anything here. And there have been good reasons for that. Perhaps too many. But the summer was hot, and I was quiet. Books were read, stories drafted, thoughts were thought, and mostly not acted upon. Autumn was harder, but with more of the same. And I got older. And I cut my hair. That last thing is a thing I am incredibly happy about. I know it’s only hair, but still… it’s been more than a decade since I last had such short hair, and it makes me feel sassy, and sophisticated, and possibly other things beginning with s (stylish? silly? saucy? serene?).
Around the same time I discovered a little snippet in the wilds of the internet – oh all right, it was Facebook – a quotation from Carl Gustav Jung:
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
It isn’t a cure, it isn’t even a complete answer – to a question that is both unaskable and unanswerable – but it HELPS. So I’m choosing. I don’t pretend to have reached any particular destination on my personal voyage in order to begin the return journey. This is just a way station.
In the meantime, there is Christmas to prepare for, and satsumas to eat (the one I’m eating right now is a bit of a disappointment; too watery and not sharp enough. Perhaps the next one will be better), and words to write and edit, and I still haven’t written the Christmas cards. But my hair looks fabulous.
Today is Kate Bush’s birthday, so of course – OF COURSE – I have been listening to her pretty much all evening. Moments of Pleasure has always been a favourite, but it resonates with me particularly because it reminds me to think of those moments of pleasure, big and small, shared, and solitary, that in my darker days are so easily lost.
So here is the video to what is, in my opinion, a perfect song. It is, for me, a moment of pleasure.
Today, for the first time in a long time, the year has felt like it is at last where it should be. Today has been one of those idyllic July days; infinite blue sky, heat without humidity, the scent of cut grass, good coffee, lingering honeysuckle. All that was missing was the old fashioned tang of creosote – it was a good day for weatherproofing your exterior woodwork – the thock of leather on willow, and the low hum of a light aircraft crossing from there to elsewhere. And neither unfeasibly wet, nor unseasonably hot. Really, that’s how good it felt, like one of those perfect days that seemed to last forever when I was a child.
And the night has been a good one too. I went to see The Dark Knight Rises with my friend Nina. We loved it. I’m not going to bore you with any attempt at a review – there are enough both glowing and detracting out in the wilds of the net if you want to judge by other people’s opinions. All I will say is that it hit square on all the plot points it needed to hit with the character ensemble, and it did it loudly, and stylishly. It made me – and a large number of the other audience members – jump in our seats. It pulled no punches. But some of the little details… the minor things that niggle, or distract you from the full suspension of disbelief… come on Hollywood; you don’t have to get such simple things wrong. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter. That, and that I REALLY want to go and see it again. Now, preferably.
I enjoyed it so much in fact, that I danced all the way home along Slad Road. It helped that my iPod shuffle threw me Hallogallo; vintage krautrock doesn’t come much better than this. And walking away from the orange streetlamp glare, into the tall shadows cast by dark houses, high hedges, framing the night sky away from urban light-spill, the stars shone clear in all their millions, strung across the sky. The night breeze and the stars, and the music and me. The kind of night where it would be so simple just to keep on walking, into the darkness until the sky turns light again. And I stopped, mid-step, and gazed and gazed. And I saluted the sky. I did. And then I carried on dancing. And yes, there was a lone cyclist who doubtless thought me completely mental, but I really don’t care. Because all during that homeward dance, I was perfectly happy. And the stars shone, for me.
It has been a while since I managed to complete even a first draft of a story. It is not that there is a dearth of ideas, far from it; I have several pieces that are waiting for me to able to get back to them, and several more waiting to be begun. But as I sit here in the near darkness, poring over my notebooks, it occurs to me that the problem is an existential one, and absolutely linked with my depression. It is not simply writers’ block, though <insert deity of choice> knows that’s bad enough. If the writer is no longer sure, absolutely sure, of who she is, what becomes of her voice?