So here we are, husband and wife, working from home in our apartment in New York. Well, when I say working, the Colonel is working and I am doing everything else whilst he peers at me over the screen of his laptop, giving suggestions as to how I should fill the dishwasher. Need I say that if this continues, there may be an imminent need for the funeral directors and it won’t be due to Coronavirus…
We can’t complain as we have a little bit of space here so it’s not too claustrophobic an apartment and the view is lovely, looking onto the Hudson with New Jersey beyond and of course the strangely quiet streets below. Not too exciting if plane spotting is your thing, or you like watching the cruise ships coming in, but lovely nonetheless and cabin-fever hasn’t set in yet.
Being cooped up here for too long without much exercise and a penchant for making the perfect chocolate pudding may mean that when we return to freedom I shall need an American version of Weight Watchers; but for now, I shall not worry. I’m eating better as the Colonel is around so I can’t skip lunch, (although he has now discovered how many cups of coffee I really drink), and am taking care of my mental health by cleaning like a demon … (yes, it works – doesn’t matter if it’s a room or just a drawer) … Not that I’ve got the urge to hide under the bed with a twin pack of biscuits, the cat and a bottle of wine, but years ago I had my moments like the best of us … And of course it’s very useful having one’s husband at home to explain slowly and deliberately that yes, my phone will behave badly if I have 124 tabs open at any given time.
So the apartment is beyond clean; it’s been hoovered, mopped, dusted and disinfected and while the smell of Lemon Lysol is lingering heavily in the air, I’m not entirely sure whether I like citrus very much after all. Perhaps buying it wholesale at Costco was not such a good idea; we have six month’s worth at least, but I’m assuming we won’t be here that long … will we?
Betty was my black dog, my little cackling demon, the ogre clutching on to my back. Haven’t we all had a little of her from time to time?
The majority of us have suffered from moments of depression, anxiety or a combination of both. I had my fair share, yet whether mine was worse or not than anyone else’s, who am I to say? I had moments of feeling blue, but then don’t we all? Perhaps that’s all it ever was, just a little bit of blue.
Like all the evil bullies of this world, in the end Betty found me to be a rather repellent host and has consequently moved on.
The sun is shining, the world is a happy, if complicated place and I can see Betty and the bullies for what they truly are. Having used every resource available to me, (see my post Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) I can confirm that this slightly unhinged woman has indeed killed Betty and moved on.
“Ha! Don’t you get so cocky!” I hear someone say with a smirk. Perhaps they’re right; but in truth I don’t want to be around that person. I only surround myself with positive people who like me want to live in peace, love and optimism. Yes, I have to be careful and keep an eye on myself, but that’s what we all do anyway.
Life is for living. But most importantly, life is for living in the light and not the darkness.
No, of course it’s not really wretched, I’m simply being a drama queen because I am frustrated. Supremely frustrated.
I’m frustrated because with no published books under my belt, how on earth can I really justify the time I need to write?
I feel as though because I’m not (yet) an author, it’s rather self-indulgent, pompous and pretentious to announce that “I need to be alone!” and mop my fevered brow. Whether it was Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich who said it, I don’t recall, and frankly it doesn’t matter, my point is that I do need to be alone but I feel a bit of a drama queen saying it. Admittedly I don’t need to do the mopping of brow with a delicate white handkerchief, but in case Renee Zelwegger isn’t available for the film version of the book, I’m happy to practise my craft and step into the role …
So, I keep sloping off from the packing up of the house (we’re moving), the cooking, cleaning, washing, ironing and general ‘life’. (Nb This is also said in a woe-is-me type of voice, despite the rather odd fact that I rather enjoy it) So, in order to give myself a little bit of writing time, I am shirking my responsibilities by hiding behind the door of the kitchen, tap, tapping away. Did I mention that I was moving house?
Once I have got book number one done and dusted and it’s flying off the shelves in every bookstore from London to New York (optimism and a total lack of reality are currently my default setting), then I feel that I am justified in disappearing off for several hours to write. I can then type madly, hitting the iPad with such ferocity simply to get out the words, sentences and paragraphs that are endlessly trying to burst out of my head and are longing to get onto paper before they are forgotten and lost in the dusty crevices of the grey matter.
Oooooh I’m exhausted! Forgive my rant, my frustrations and my inner melodramatic diva who has momentarily escaped the confines of my middle class British background. I shall resolve this. A little self control is required. A little earlier rising in the morning, allocating specific writing time and then using that time correctly instead of drinking tea and looking at Facebook. Oh yes, I can do this! Discipline is all it takes!
In the meantime, I think I need a little lie-down in a darkened room with some whale music, except the sounds of running water .. well, I needn’t go into that …
Perhaps I’ll just hide behind the kitchen door again; there’s a socket for charging my iPad, a very friendly spider whom in hushed tones I like to chat to about the benefits of waxing vs shaving (oh yes, that hairy arachnid needs to know!) … and at least the ginger biscuits are close to hand …
I am stuck between two stations in a dark tunnel and cannot therefore leave the train.
My fellow passengers initially started expressing their irritation by merely sucking (deliberately audibly) the breath between their teeth. Then, the sighs of annoyance became louder as if to alert everyone within earshot of their displeasure. Now conversations are being started between complete strangers and it must be said, that this is most unusual behaviour for the Brits. Each person however is relating why their own potential tardiness is of greater importance than the next person’s. We all want mutual sympathy, hand-stroking and a way of expressing our frustration … which is not being helped by the dreary voice on the loudspeaker telling us he knows even less than we do. Marvellous.
The lady opposite me who brought her entire makeup bag and had given herself a makeover is now repeating the exercise. Lipstick first – most peculiar. Now she’s plucking her eyebrows which frankly are sparse enough … I hope this won’t encourage any others to trim their nasal hair or cut their toenails.
Sadly the little boy who previously occupied my seat got off at the last station with both his parents. He entertained us all by telling us, complete strangers, with a deadpan and utterly sincere face about his holiday to the swimming pool yesterday and how he’d like to go again; but this time just with daddy because Daddy is more fun. This resulted in snorts of laughter around the carriage. Daddy smirked. Mummy didn’t look best pleased.
The man beside me has rather obviously cut himself shaving three times presumably due to a blunt razor blade. He has little pieces of loo paper attached to his chin, but one is rather dangling down, hanging on by a single whisker which he clearly missed .. I’d love to pull it off. Perhaps the lady with the tweezers could oblige.
I love people watching. Others watch me but I care not. A little observation is no bad thing, too much is deemed creepy and anything beyond that is obviously stalking! So I think I’d better get out my book and amuse myself that way …
If only I could just tweak that teensy bit of dangling loo paper off his chin though …
Are you a keen people watcher? What do you think people see when they look at you? (Don’t worry, I know that others see a batty, scatty, ditzy thing with a dodgy haircut when they look at me … if that makes you feel any better.)
I am a sucker for beauty products. I have, shall we say, a fair few in my cupboard under the basin. Thankfully the Colonel and I do not share this cupboard. Indeed, if we did, he would be allocated two and a half square inches, or if you’re metric, ten square centimetres … or something along those lines. I know not; I am old school, or perhaps just old, hence needing the beauty products.
I see these sumptuous creams in their heavenly packaging with promises to erase lines, cellulite and imperfections and I drool. And from time to buy, when I’m feeling flush, I open my dusty purse and buy them.
And, as the Colonel waits for me to come to bed, I am still applying cleansers, toners, creams and serums as he scowls and harrumphs and the usual, “What are you doing in there?” can be heard through closed doors, occasionally, though not always, with volume.
I must be the only woman in the world to have cycled for twenty six days non-stop from the north to the south of France with the entire Clinique range in her panniers.
Why? Vanity, delusion and a smattering of hope.
And do they make any difference? I know not, but if I didn’t use them, I might look considerably worse and that’s too great a risk to take for a muppet like me.
Yesterday, I allowed myself an afternoon off from writing (and reading your blogs, sorry) and mooched around the beauty counters of Peter Jones in Sloane Square (the posh bit of London). No, of course I don’t live there before you even start to ponder. I’m from Wandsworth and not the smart part.
Peter Jones for the non-UK residents is middle class shopping for the yummy mummies, the rich, the poor-who-want-to-be-rich and now even for those who own a dog and can’t bear to leave ‘Fifi’ at home. This has allowed many a handbag pooch to enter and generally speaking they behave far better than the majority of the children.
It’s a safe haven where the older staff have worked there for donkeys years and the younger ones are doing a ‘season’ whilst on their gap year having finished at private school. Not quite the same as a ‘ski season’, but with equally well-off customers but obviously with less snow.
You can buy everything and anything there, and to be fair, it’s not all expensive. They take into account every type of bank account, healthy or ‘minimalist’ shall we say. (Although if you bank privately, you’ll feel more at home – handing over your Coutts card will give you no better attention from the staff however, but you’ll feel part of ‘the club’).
Sadly, I did my mooching yesterday whilst having a rather empty bank account moment. Of course this is a guaranteed disaster, for as soon as I have no money, everything looks so appealing. When on the other hand I’m feeling flush (a rarity I hasten to add) I can never find anything. C’est la vie.
So I went from one counter to another and foolishly let each and every beauty sales person try their hand and products on my unfortunate face. They rejoiced after having given me a full makeover at the transformation in my skin, spoke of how my eyes were ‘popping’ (WTF) and were craving for me to hand over my purse. I simply looked in the mirror and muttered about how lovely it was and that I should now see how it looked in the outside light, and hurried onto the next counter, begging them to repair the damage. And then the process began all over again.
Eventually I left Peter Jones, empty-handed, but with a face so covered in serums, moisturisers and foundations, that I resembled an oompah loompa who had fallen into an oil slick.
I welcomed the Colonel home who peered at me, frowned and looked faintly fearful as I kissed him hello, but was wise enough to say nothing, probably quite difficult anyway as our lips stuck together with my peachy lip gloss entitled, ‘Glamour Puss’.
That night however, whilst scrubbing my face clean of all the muck, which was quite some feat, there were no questioning words of why I was taking so long. Instead, as I did my usual leap into bed, putting my freezing feet between his legs to try to warm them up (NB The higher up your husbands/partners legs you can get your cold toes the better, but you may meet with resistance as apparently it’s painful in many ways). So with a yelp of apparent agony from the Colonel, he then turned to face me, breathed a sigh of relief, stroked my cheek and whispered, “Hello beautiful.”
Gosh! I think in future I shall stick to au naturel.
Ladies: Are you comfortable without makeup?
Gents: If you’ve read this far, your thoughts please.
You are in a well. A deep, dark well with murky, warm water up to your thighs. If you look up, you can see a tiny chink of light, but it’s a long, long way away.
You are not alone down there in the well. There are many others. It is not frightening because it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. It almost feels quite comfortable, perhaps even safe.
Around the inner sides of the well are ladders, ropes and the occasional handle of all shapes and sizes. Some are short, some long, some a little broken and some sturdy. But not one of them reaches the whole way up to the light at the very top.
And on every ladder and rope, there are people trying to climb up. There are young people, old people, black, white, rich and poor, all heaving themselves up, slipping down, knocking others off as they fall. It’s utter carnage. So it’s easier here at the bottom in the warm water, because anyway who really knows what dangers lurk up at the top? Life at the top can be a perilous place.
Each ladder, rope and handle represents a lifeline.
First you have to haul your heavy wet body out of the soft, warm water. It is now cold and uncomfortable and your body is heavy with all the water, but you try. You reach for the first lifeline.
The first ladder is marked ‘doctor‘. It is a solid, strong and quite easy to climb up but as you progress, the rungs become narrower. So you need to move one of your feet onto another ladder.
This one is labelled ‘exercise‘ and is a little creaky, but seems to be helping you up a little further. As someone falls beside you, you reach out to the rope with the name ‘social interaction‘ on it. You start to feel enthused and energised and begin to look for other ladders.
There are some little handles on the wall with the name ‘meditation’ on them. You grab them. And all the while you can hear a wonderful voice giving ‘group counselling‘ to encourage and teach you how to reach higher for the ladders.
Yoga, Pilates, medication, therapy, exercise, medication, reading, writing, fresh air, light, gardening, baking, cleaning, cycling, good food … There are dozens of them …
Yes, there are ladders all around, and they are there to be used. All of them. Because one alone will rarely work. Each of us is different and some ladders work better for some whilst different ropes work better for others.
But despite our individual differences and needs, there are two factors that unite us. And they are:
It’s up to us to WANT to climb out of the hole, and it’s up to us to DO the climbing.
Have you ever suffered from depression or anxiety and was there a trigger?
A fellow blogger and friend Chelsea, wrote yesterday about friends and being judgemental. (How to win friends … ) Excellent post and something that I suspect a lot of us can resonate with. I know I did.
Historically I struggled to make friends. I was a loner and I didn’t feel as though I could fit in anywhere. But, at that time I was very unhappy. I was hurt and angry with the world and subconsciously I believe people were picking up on this, which made me more isolated and consequently more unhappy. I was on a little miserable hamster wheel of self-indulgent misery!
And alongside this (as if it wasn’t bad enough), I was extremely judgemental. I was like the bulldog looking over the garden fence and seeing the pretty little cat in it’s pretty little garden with it’s oh so green grass. And I hated that cat and all it’s friends with a venomous loathing and frankly wanted to eat the little blighters for lunch.
Yes, I was indeed a bulldog.
At social events I would stress beforehand, arrive in a jitter, and become the infamous wallflower, desperate for someone to talk to me. I’d leave early and then berate myself for being so unutterably wet. But I simply didn’t think that I had anything worthy to talk about and at that time small talk was an anathema to me. What had happened to the carefree young woman of years ago?
However, a strange thing has happened. I have now got a busy little life and what with one thing and another, my days pass in a blurry fizz of happiness and often exhausting, but well received brain-overload. And having of late been forced into a flurry of social occasions with people from different situations, backgrounds, parts of the world and dare I say it, social and class status (I’m in England, it exists) my entire mindset has changed. People are fascinating, and they all have a story to tell!
Most of the time, people do ask about us, and we ask about them. It’s a rather symbiotic relationship, however fleeting, but I guess that’s just small talk for you.
And sometimes, we’ll meet someone completely fabulous who becomes a true friend. There’s that saying, that if you throw enough muck at the wall, eventually some of it will stick. Like online dating, if you meet enough people, probability states that eventually, you’ll meet someone that you gel with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not really referring to people as muck, but you get the point I hope. Neither am I promoting multiple dating, bed-hopping or anything quite so insalubrious … again, I hope you get the point.
So perhaps now I’m not quite the bolshy bulldog that I once was. And, because there’s no need, I don’t bother looking over the garden fence (unless the neighbours are having a bbq).
I’m more of a little, green happy, hoppy frog bouncing around in my own little garden pond. Yes indeed … I think I’ve found my inner frog who loves everyone. Well, mostly … I am human after all.
Are you a grumpy bulldog or a happy, hoppy frog?
Do you like socialising? Or do you find it difficult?