And this snow will cleanse the sky

Snow’s falling.


It’s strange, having your feet planted so firmly on the ground, then looking around to find the earth you stand on isn’t what you remember it to be. And I feel strange, unlike I’ve ever felt before. Both more solid and lighter than I can ever remember being.

I think

I think

I think we build up ideas of who we are and who we want to be, and it’s only a dream but we confuse it with the real. We build up a personality, a character, an ego out of our ideas about we are and who we want others to think we are. We form opinions and beliefs and ambitions, and clinging to the coat tails of these come regret, pride, hope. And this ego is only a dream but it’s a dream that explains away our world and our life; a storyline we cling to to make sense of the chaos of it all.

I think that when that self is threatened we feel pain, and we cling to it like a branch in a flood; and as it begins to break apart we grasp and lash and howl, believing we are in danger, believing we are disintegrating. But it’s only our selves, only our ego. It was only ever a dream; and in the dawn it’s less substantial than ash on the wind.

I wanted this life to be so different. It was never meant to be like this, it was meant to be PhD and research science and living in London with all my mates, it was meant to be material sucess because that’s what everyone else I  know from uni has got, in their £40k+ careers and winter breaks to Dubai and honeymoons in Thailand. I was meant to be one of those gays whos fallen in love with Iceland and goes every year, with a boyfriend and a dog and a pub quiz and maybe an ocassional well managed chemsex habit on every third weekend of the month.

Not this. Not late 30s and living in my mum and dad’s attic, no career, a mess of a CV, no savings and over £10,000 gambling debts from a brutal bipolar episode which nearly killed me. Twice. Not living so far from my friends, lonely, working as a temp and getting minimum wage. My trainers are scratty and need replacing and I only have one pair of jeans – I can only afford one pair of jeans! I’m 37 FFS.

Last year I was howling. I was fucking howling as everything I’d worked for and tried for, all my hopes and everything I pinned any sense of pride or confidence or achievement to, it all crumbled around me and inside me and screaming I grasped for it, tears stinging my eyes as I clutched my face every morning, weeping, weeping in grief and shame and guilt at the ruin that I was becoming, this landscape all ash and grease, and hate.

I grasped and lashed and howled, believing my soul was in danger, believing my life was disintegrating. But it was only my ego, it was only ever a dream; only ash on the wind.

Snow’s falling, in the cold freshwater light of dawn.


I’m thinking of moving; I’d rather live in Manchester or London. I’ve been in Sheffield three years now – three years! Three years life on hold, three years psychiatric convalesece, three years not moving, just in limbo! Time to move on. Get on with life.

But it’s strange, having my feet planted so firmly on the ground, to look around and find the earth I stand on isn’t what I remember it to be.

I’m thinking of moving, because I’d rather live in Manchester or London. But I caught my breath the other day when I realised there’s nothing much between living here and living there.

I’ve got amazing friends who have seen me through so much and put up with so much, a family I love more than I can ever hope to say, and almost all the people I’ve ever loved are still living. I’m late 30s and living in my mum and dad’s attic, no career, a mess of a CV, no savings and over £10,000 gambling debts. And I think I’m one of the most contented people on this sad old earth.

Wherever I live, I’ll be standing on this earth with this life. And that’s fine. It has to be fine, because whatever will be will be, and the world doesn’t care for my desires; the world goes its own way.

I’ve had three major psychiatric incidents from my haywire brain and it’s nearly killed me, my god the last one sunk into a sickness deep in my soul and it so nearly killed me.

But it didn’t.

It only burned away all the illusions I held about who I am and what life is, what makes us who we are and what makes life worth living.

Snow’s falling.

The only thing real is this, see? Not tomorrow and not yesterday, not the career and not the retirement plan, not the holiday or the qualifications or the pride, or the guilt. Only this, not the regret, not the aspiration, not their opinions or our fears. We only have here, now, this; this breath, this heartbeat, this moment. And even then, the instant we have it, it’s gone. Because the world doesn’t belong to us; we’re only moments.

I wish

I wish I could explain this better.


Snow’s falling.

Cold light of dawn.

 

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Better

So I’m better.

Somehow solid again, more real. Somehow my feet planted firmly on the ground.

I don’t know how I got here. There was and is meditation, and psychedelics, but they all came as I was settling down anyway. Maybe they’ve kept me here, where better is. Maybe I would be fine without them.

I’m better.

I’m better and I look back on 2017, and it’s white noise, or a picture I can’t quite focus. A person I can’t quite remember being, tho I remember the things he thought and the things he did.

I’m better, and for the very first time I feel like I’m not just better, but wiser. More sure footed. I don’t know how I got here. Maybe it’s the meditation, maybe it’s the psychedelics.

I have regrets, you know? All these regrets, for how my life has turned out and the endless list of mistakes I’ve made. Frustration at not being where I’d hoped, the usual self recrimination and grief. Anger a how my mental health has disrupted and distorted my life, left me living far from friends and the city I loved and used to call home.

But so what? That’s life, and life is sad sometimes. That’s OK.

I have so many friends, and a loving family, and I’m healthy enough that I can go walk in the world, and feel the cold air on my skin, and breathe. And in that moment, there’s peace.

None of these things will last, and we have only a few heartbeats to call our own in this world. Life is sad sometimes, because life is loss. That’s OK. In this moment, there’s peace.

I’ve tried to kill myself. 3 times. I must have hurt so much, I must have been so lost and so afraid and felt so alone. Maybe I’ll try again, if I ever again get that lost and afraid and alone. I hope not. No one should ever feel that bad. I can’t imagine. I literally can’t imagine how it must feel.

The rain lashed down all night last night, hammering on my windows and keeping me awake. By morning, the exhausted sky was slate gray, and white water blue, ghostly. Starlings chattered in the park, gulls swept overhead.

The world is astonishing. I can’t imagine ever wanting to leave.

Why I meditate

zenAs I say, I’ve recently taken to meditating; every morning, sometimes in the afternoon, evening.

It’s been a month, more or less. Who knows if I’ll keep it up? I don’t even know why, initially, I started. I sure as hell wasn’t expecting it to do anything other than give me half an hour relaxation a day, half an hour ‘me time’. Half an hour sat like those slim white women (always slim, always white, always women) on the covers of books and magazines and in all the stock photography, with closed eyes and that irritatingly beautific expression beaming from the shelves and the screens and the pages of Yoga Today.

OK. I don’t sit like them. I am in some ways preternaturally flexible (hello boys), but I can’t quite comfortably manage a full lotus position – feet on thighs, pelvis square on the floor, stable, strong. I can drag my legs most of the way, and hold the pose out of sheer bloody mindedness while my  feet slide down and my ankles end up twisted at an angle that can’t be healthy (and certainly doesn’t feel it), and maybe even stay like that for a full 10 minutes while my legs go numb and my upper back starts to howl, but eventually I have to admit that I will never be a slim white woman.

Besides, I meditate zen-style. Eyes open.

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Other plans

It’s easy to get upset about things.

I know this is hardly a striking insight from someone prone to profound, paralysing depression. Still.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. And it’s easy to get upset about that.


It was meant to be redundancy, complete MSc, new and exciting job.

No, no, it was meant to be BSc, quit job, MSc, more interesting job.

No, no no no. It was meant to be move to London, get a job, have fun.

I mean, after the original plan had failed, that is. BA, job.

It was meant to be different, it wasn’t meant to be this. It wasn’t meant to be unemployed and skint and living with my family in my mid 30s. It wasn’t meant to be directionless and purposeless.

I didn’t mean to waste all that time and effort. And it’s easy to get upset about that.


Understandable too, I guess. But many understandable things are nevertheless unwise.

I think of suicide – when I think of suicide, which these days is rare but it’s a peculiarly hard habit to break – I think of suicide when I consider how much of my life I’ve wasted, which is a morbidly absurd line of reasoning. Life streams by, gentle, terrible, a single impossibly slim moment which somehow extends on forever.


I’ve taken to meditating.

I’ve dipped my toes into mindfulness based cognitive therapy before; that’s mindfulness rather than Mindfulness(TM), the latter being today’s fashionable false hope. But before mindfulness therapy was even a glimmer in Kabat-Zinn‘s eye, I was drawn to Zen Buddhism.

You try on personalities as a teenager. Try on beliefs and hobbies and ways of being, see if they’re comfortable. Drop and forget most of them, and I mostly dropped and mostly forgot all that hippy shit.


I meditate in the mornings, sometimes in the evenings. Sometimes my mind settles on my breathing with relative ease, other times it’s a butterfly in the wind. Sometimes I get frustrated at how I don’t settle, other times I don’t mind. Sometimes I breathe in and out, and in, and out, and it’s like I dissolve, the world blossoming and falling at once, every moment, endless. Other times I think of shopping lists. It doesn’t matter. The point of meditation, I’m beginning to realise, isn’t anything to do with meditation.


If only I’d been diagnosed earlier, if only they’d initially given me lamotrigine instead of citalopram, if only I’d taken my mental health more seriously, if only if only if only. I could have got the qualifications and the job and the money and the life you’re meant to have and enjoy rather than had years of tears and failure and now this, this, drifting, skint, jobless.

I walk in the park, most days. Pausing sometimes to look up at the ever changing sky, gulls wheeling on the wind, playing. Directionless. An impossibly slim moment stretched somehow into forever.

There are so very few ways, I think, that you can waste that moment. But suicide is definitely one of them.