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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Day 33: Bioluminescence

It's a hot, still night and the cars aren't moving and my tummy is rumbling and I have nothing to get up for tomorrow. I'm going really easy tonight. No pressure tonight. Loved writing that last post, the most alive I've felt in ages, but it took everything to grind it finally out. I'll burn myself out with too much of that. I don't want to burn out I want to be a glowworm in deep caverns converting enzymes from the dirt and matter around me into light. A soft light, a pale light, but one that shows the way down into depths we could never find alone.

Wrote yesterday's piece during the day, then went to work at 5 for the close, back at 1am and sat in my room at the top of the house on the top of the hill with a ginger and lemon tea typing frantically to get the post finished before bed. Hit publish around 4am, a few hours sleep and back up for the pub open this morning. Worked through till 5.

So here I am tonight with a pot of Sri Lankan ready meal and my feet snug in slippers and no forcing anything to come. I will be the branch that doesn't push away its blossom before it's ready nor cling to the blossom when it's time for it to fall. I'll be a copper pot stained in silence. I'll be runner beans saved for winter. I'll be a cabin creaking lonely in the rain.

No energy to make a theme around this, rewrite the post with this as the through-line, but here's something I think I'm learning, in case it's of any use to you: It is so much better to tap meaning in your life from a process than from results. Find something that is worthwhile to do, that sets your bones singing with the holy music, and force yourself to do it over and over, to please no one but the solemn ghosts. When not one other human gives a shit: just go and do it. When they love you and throw parades in your honour: go and do it. Success brings as many difficulties as failure, it's all the bubbling river, there is nothing that matters save the work.

I'm too tired to write. There's nothing coming out. That's fine, I'm happy, I'm going to go and pass out in bed.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Day 32: How to gain mainstream appeal

In an effort to make my work more desirable to publications such as Buzzfeed and LadBible, I have written a list detailing the fifteen habits shared by all bartenders. Everyone knows a bartender, or was him-or-herself a bartender, or is still a bartender, stuck in an endless cycle of depression and self-loathing and alcoholism. So here, without further ado, are fifteen common behaviours that I've personally witnessed in bartenders the world over:

1. Holding up an attached barrel in the cellar, giving it a shake, and saying, "I reckon there's about another three pints left in that," despite no one having asked how many pints there were left in that.
2. Forgetting that the distance across the bar top is not actually soundproofed in any way, and discussing the intimate details of sex lives and bodily functions while preparing a margarita as if the customer a mere foot away was not able to hear every word said.
3. Opening bottles with a bar blade gripped in a style that is to regularly-held bar blades what the sideways gangster pistol is to just holding a gun the normal way, yet with a nonchalance that suggests the bartender has no idea they're doing anything to draw attention to themselves, and certainly didn't practise popping off bottle tops using this grip every day for the first six months of having the job.
4. Becoming instantly critical when leaving the home bar and going to an away bar on a rare night off. "Christ, that absolute amateur never even offered me a glass with my Rochefort 10, and when I asked for one he gave me, get this, a Stella glass! Harrfff harrfff harrfff," is what the bartender with the night off is custom-bound to say.
5. Laughing disdainfully at the mangled ways customers pronounce esoteric product names, because the idea of someone having, say, a full-time job, or a family, and not spending every moment of every day surrounded by beers and spirits learning what they're all called is, to the bartender, something too tragic to comprehend.
6. Putting the word "ware" on the end of the word "glass" to produce the phrase "glassware", out of a mistaken assumption that referring to glasses as "glassware" will trick anyone overhearing into believing bartending is serious profession. It won't, and it isn't.
7. Walking home at 2am and sucking the nutrients from the linings of discarded crisp packets found lying in the street because minimum wage is in fact not enough of a wage to live off.
8. Uploading flaming cocktail pics to Instagram late at night, alone in bed, in the hopes of attracting a regram from a famous bartender in the field, thus validating the bartender's many poor life choices up to this point.
9. Going for a sit-down wee mid-shift because pretending to wipe the back bar for an eighth time would surely attract the attention of the duty manager, so going into a cubicle and locking the door and pulling out the trusty phone, having a cheeky peruse, and seeing a notification of a new comment on last night's flaming zombie pic from Derek Nugglins. A beat, then a double take. What! The Derek Nugglins who can stir down six negronis in ten seconds? The one and only Derek Nugglins who was in '08 part of the Perfect-Serve Seven who turned a raw-fish fiasco on Mad Friday into the biggest Christmas sushi event the North had ever seen? The same Derek Nugglins who the bartender's own bible, the discerning Difford's Guide, named "Best at Banging on the Speed Rail in Time to the Killer's Mr Brightside while Pumping His Fist in the Air to Attract Swooning Middle-aged Women" three years in a row? Yes, it's really him. The comment on the screen, lit by the flickering toilet bulb, simply reads: "We have been watching you. We are pleased. Be at the ice machine at 0600 hours if you believe you are ready."
10. Going to the ice machine the next morning, a coffee clutched groggily in hand, to find no one there. Waiting fifteen minutes with a rising sense of self-doubt, before finally kicking the metal panel in frustration -- and watching as, with a mechanical groan and a hiss of escaping gas, a small door swings slowly open on the back of the large, whirring machine. Looking around, seeing the usually busy pub eerily empty, hearing only the sounds of the cleaner off somewhere buffing the tiled floor, and so with a hard swallow crouching and pushing through the waiting door.
11. Crawling down the clammy, moss-covered passageway onto which the door opened, feeling a lump in the throat, reaching out on the twisting downward path to grasp at jagged, cartilage-like protrusions jutting from the earthen walls, slipping occasionally in pools of clinging mucous, until finally, with a rush of fetid air, finding the tunnel give out onto a dark chamber lit only with the lambent flames of a ring of torches rising from the spongy ground.
12. Hearing a chilling voice mutter, "Welcome, my child," as a cloaked figure steps into the dancing pool of light, whereupon a thick, hessian hood is thrown back and the face of Derek Nugglins arranges itself into focus, but slowly, as if the light itself was giving the features form, and in the same place moments ago there would have been nothing save a thick, dripping blackness.
13. Listening to the voice -- a shrewd, serpentine voice, seeming to not arrive through the ears but grow instantly in the mind -- continue: "We have watched you for many years. You felt alone and yet you were not. Our eyes eternally have looked upon the dark places in which you slept. We saw your dreams. We caressed your thoughts. And now we sense that you are ready."
14. Turning, as if in slow motion, to find the entrance to the chamber has sealed itself shut with a squelching, organic slurp, feeling a surge of breathy wind, turning back now suddenly inches from the body of Nugglins -- a body now hunched, jerking spasmodically. Seeing the man's cloak flung back and a dark shape rising, rising, unfurling itself into the heights of the cavern, a towering, chitinous thing, flocculent and suppurating and horrific, insectoid arms scratching spectrally against a tumescent belly pocked with matted fur. "Witness my true form!" the Nugglins cries. "Witness and join our cause. For though powerful, I am but the gatekeeper. This great hall sits directly below what you call your bar. For it, and all bars in the land, are built upon the remains of temples constructed in aeons past by my kind in worship of the Ancient One we call in the old tongue Caa'Lyng. He slumbers yet, but with your help he will awaken. Each day more of the young and lost of your species join our ranks. You may recognise these acolytes by their long beards, haggard eyes, by the arcane symbols tattooed across their skin. Just as I serve my lord Caa'Lyng, their role is to serve the sacrificial caste, the ones above who grow round of waist and florid of cheek and simple of mind, their brains rotting from devil liquor. You will tend this flock, help our human lambs fatten themselves and lose motor function to the point where the old tongue flows from their lips and they begin to chant the summoning ritual: 'Du Ydu Caa'Lyng', over and over, building in crescendo to the final prophesied night of Baa'Nk Hoh-Lii-Day when the Ancient One will rise and engulf the world in a purifying flame of blood and semen and cheap mainstream lager. So make your choice, mortal: join us and be reborn as one with the swarm, or turn away and be immolated with the rest of your puny kind..."
15. Sighing when a customer orders a Guinness as the last drink of their round. So annoying!

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Day 31: A new plan, again, again

Well I feel pretty gunky for sharing all that personal stuff yesterday, but what can you do? You have to do it. There's no point writing if you're not going to be honest.

Got an abomination of a headache chiseling into my cranium, and work at 5, have to go be a Mr Manager and make someone who ain't me a whole load of money. But there are a few hours now that, providing Mike doesn't message asking me to play Diablo, which'll obviously take priority, but otherwise there are a few hours now in which to do nothing but sit here and write.

Ah, hey, you know what? Feel grateful for the little things, and a little thing I feel grateful for right now is being able to type on this keyboard. Have I told you about this keyboard? Oh, boy.

It's a mechanical keyboard, which means... I can't remember what it means. Something about how each key has its own mechanism underneath it, rather than most keyboards these days which only have a... umm... there's a word for it. Uhh. Not "film". Like... viscous? Plant matter? Membrane! Yes. Regular keyboards have a rubber membrane under the keys that registers... I don't know how it works. I have no idea what I'm talking about. But mechanical keyboards are all clacky and clunky and solid and just utterly gorgeous to type on.

And this one here has got... Right, a lot of mechanical keyboards are marketed to gamers, because they register more simultaneous key presses and you can multi-tap keys quicker, vital in fast-paced shooters or strategy games... So most mechanical keyboards cost upwards of £100 and have LED lights underneath the keys that can be programmed to flash in a multitude of colours in garish, gauche displays, because obviously that'll bring the ladies flocking, Kevin, sat alone in your bedroom pumping an 80s disco out of your computer peripheral as you fight teenagers over the internet in Fortnite.

Dunno why I'm nerd-shaming, actually. Whatever makes Kev happy. But my keyboard has none of that. It cost £38 and is a sophisticated black number, with a luxurious red metal plate under the keys that you can only see when you're directly above the board (people who are into keyboards call them "boards", because they think it sounds cooler. It doesn't. But I'm in too deep now).

There's a classy Rosewill cursive logo in the corner, in glossy black against the matt of the rest of the board, and under it sit three elegant blue LEDs used to highlight the toggling of the num-, caps- and scroll-lock keys.

The keys themselves sit on Cherry MX Brown switches -- there's a whole world of switch mechanisms out there with differing rebound rates and actuation forces and whatnot, and the Cherry MX brand is to keyboard enthusiasts what Patron is to American hip-hop artists; if you're anybody who has the slightest sense of taste or discernment you use Cherry MXs -- and the Brown varieties are a nice mid-point between the Reds favoured by gamers and the Blues preferred by office typists, and when you type on my keyboard it sounds really sexy like you're in a crumbling newsroom in Havana with the sun filtering in the blinds and a smudged glass of rum by your hand and a rolled cigarette wedged in the corner of your mouth and you're typing about youth protests and government corruption and everything is dusty, everything has to be dusty, but also you can play a bit of Diablo if you get bored, because that's important too.

So that's the story of my keyboard, I hoped you liked it. I was feeling on edge after yesterday, but I now feel sufficiently warmed up to talk about what I'm going to do with my blog.

I'm going to still write it. Every day. I'm nowhere ready to stop this. Eventually I'd like to move to more controlled pieces, researched and measured (and, crucially, edited), but for now I can just tell that I have to keep going like this until I've fully ingrained the habit, got over the perfectionism that has choked the breath out of so many of my pieces before.

If I started allowing myself to post once a week I know I'd write loads the first day, get distracted the second day, rush the post on the sixth day, feel rubbish about it and leave it two weeks, start trying to do a big post explaining why I missed the last one, not be able to finish that, fall into self-loathing, never write again.

So currently it's about keeping on keeping on. A day at a time. Not over-pressuring myself, not allowing myself to falter, just putting one foot in front of the other over and over and not stopping.

And no booze or anything yet either. In the future, who knows? For now: nope nope nope.

90 days is the new target, which is to say 60 more days; I'm a third of the way to that goal already.

Something I am going to change is posting links to this on my personal Facebook page. It was necessary at first to create accountability, to use the fact that I felt many eyes on me to make it too shameful to not put up a post. But I hope I'm confident enough now to do it regardless, and I don't want to drown everyone I know in updates. I'll share to my Scouring of Saucepans Facebook page, and anyone who isn't interested can not follow or mute that or whatever.

I also want to keep the format loose enough to encompass smaller challenges I might set for myself. Maybe one week I'll blog about getting up at 6am every day. Maybe the next week about cooking a new meal each night. Then a diary about my efforts to play through one of the many videogames currently sat on my shelves and digital Steam library gathering dust and whatever the digital equivalent of dust is -- memory fragmentation, I guess -- making me feel sicky and bad for all the money I've spent on these virtual worlds I've run around in for 20 minutes and thrown aside when they got difficult.

There are still loads of ways I'm lazy, uncertain, totally fucked up, and loads of styles and tones and voices I want to play around with, and daily blogging feels like the best tool to use for all that.

So I'm going to be here, day after day, doing my thing. Drop in if you fancy. You'll be most welcome.

Monday, 28 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 30

Well, here's the big one. 30 days of not drinking, of getting decent sleep, of writing on here every day come rain or shine or horrendous bank holidays. 30 days trying to face up to my life.

How am I feeling? Lonely and low, today. I had a plan of how this post would go, but I'm depressed now and I don't know if I have the energy for any of it. It's like feeling the strength drain from all your muscles. Every cell in your body giving up at once.

Really don't think I can plot out a post and jump through the hoops to say how well I've done getting here, what challenges I've faced, where I want to go in the future. All that prosaic stuff. Ung.

But what I can do is the last thing the depression is expecting, which is tell the truth about why I got depressed today.

What happened was two people talked to me about swimming.

I was feeling tired and drained anyway, which makes me susceptible to mental illness, like the unstable air before a storm. And I was lonely because Fran was looking after her mum and my friends were busy elsewhere and I had a day off by myself. I went shopping in town and I mooched around and read my book and everything was a bit flat.

But the spark that set the storm in motion (I know sparks don't set storms in motion but it sounds good so let it go) was two different people bringing up the idea of going swimming. My housemate said she was thinking of joining the gym down the road, and asked if I liked swimming, maybe would I like to accompany her. Then my friend at work, when I dropped in before walking home, casually mentioned she was spending her day off tomorrow going out to a lake in the countryside with her boyfriend and going swimming.

I don't go swimming. I don't go swimming because I've got acne scars on my chest and back and I don't take my top off around people.

I hate saying that. I don't take my top off around people and I don't talk about it either. What am I even doing saying this?

I guess what I'm doing is being brave because it's the end of 30 days in which I've been a tiny bit brave over and over, and I should be properly brave now or there's no point in any of this.

I've suffered from pretty severe acne since I was 15, which I've written about before, and though it's mostly under control these days, I still get bad breakouts, and I've still got scars all over my body, and I never take my top off around people. I don't do sports, I don't join gyms, I don't go on beach holidays, and I certainly never go swimming.

I never talk about this because I was bullied pretty badly at school for being weird and different, and as a defence mechanism I think I learnt to try to hide any aspect of myself that stood out jaggedly, to feel intense shame over the bits of me that people might mock. And also because everyone hates to be ugly, and acne makes you inarguably ugly.

You never see people with acne on TV or in movies, unless maybe they're the bad guy, or they're someone sad or detested by the town. You never see models with acne advertising perfume or fashionable clothes. Companies make money hawking miracle cures for acne that (spoilers) don't really work. Society inherently knows that having acne is just plain yucky.

A girl at work the other day was tongue-in-cheek joking about how she was a nine out of ten on the attractiveness scale, but because she had a spot coming up on her chin that knocked her down to a five. I couldn't see the spot at all. I walked away and thought about what I would be on that scale. I didn't think I would be very high.

I still remember a sleepover as a teenager where we were playing this Would You Rather card game marketed as "gross-out" and "adult-only" and whatever. I had new friends from the ones who'd bullied me, and though my face was obviously a mess I kept the spots on my body a secret, felt that the worst thing in the world would happen if these friends found out my back and chest were an alien planet of pimples and pustules and lesions. I'd been to change into my sleeping shirt in the toilet so no one would see or know. I came back just in time to hear the question, "Would you rather have toes sprouting all over your face, or back acne?" My new friends all yelled "Eww" at the same time and sat for what felt like eternity discussing how repugnant either of those would be, how they couldn't even make a decision. I shrunk down into my sleeping bag and blushed and stayed silent.

So, I don't like talking about any of this. At all. But also -- because I've been being brave over and over this past month, and because I'm not 15 anymore, I'm 33, and because we're all dying and this might be the only life we get and if we don't seize this brief flickering beauty now as it hurls itself apart all around us we might never get the chance again -- because of this also what I think is very much fuck it.

Everyone has their thing about themselves that they wish they could change. Gap teeth, small tits, squinty eyes, hairy arms. We're all warped and hirsute and wobbly in some way. Yes, some have it worse than others. For many the worst thing about their appearance is that their little toe curves under its neighbour, or that they have a double chin in some photographs, or strange elbows. For some of us the deformities are more difficult. We're not all born physically equal, it's true.

But some beautiful kids are born in Aleppo, or in the slums of Dhaka. Some women with immaculate hourglass figures are sold into prostitution in Venezuela. Some men with the most perfect creamy unblemished skin imaginable have to kneel and watch as their families are executed in front of them in South Sudan.

It sucks to have acne, for sure. But a lot of things suck in this world.

All we can do, I think, is bring as much light and warmth and grace to this oft-desolate, oft-achingly-painful Earth as we can, while we are able. There are scars on the surface, but there is so much beauty below, if you can be brave enough to look for it.

I'll let you know what I'm doing with the blog tomorrow I guess. Right now I'm going to go collapse.

Lots of love x

Sunday, 27 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 29

LLLLLLgjgjgjjj. Bugger smooshit grappling cockerel. I gots no words. I'm all out of words. Written them through. Spluttered them out. Sinking the lonesome traveller. Lost yearning crabapple spirals. Crenellated mornings. Ebony feathers. Gentle sways the filigreed blackness of the carburettor dusk.

Stood looking out of my window watching the twilit street. Fat moon yellow glooming through mists of evening, soft footslaps on pavement muffled tread. Car door drams, voices murmur, fading sighing into night. Go back two months and this hand would be holding a beer bottle; you can be lonesome yet sheltered with a beer bottle, a ship at anchor in forgotten cove. Sober you watch the storm lash and get a shiver down your spine that builds and builds.

Pavements tell no tales. These same streets stalked by Roman soldiers and Bronze Age smelters and guttural brontosaurs craning loudly down the hill. Cement, that archetypal symbol of human endeavour, is just old rock and stone and chalk and clay.

How many eyes gone loose and peered achingly in this spot towards distant starlight? Sadness of all beings, lagoonal grief of plaintive hearts. Sadness sensed beneath the knowing, ancient tender wailing world. Sitting in our bodies gazing beyond we are joined in mourning; when we know the least is when we see the best.

Tomorrow it will be 30 days since I last had a drink. One foot in front of the other feels like a futile march of drowsy limbs, yet move only like this to travel round the world. Don't stop. Keep going. Keep tramping doggedly into the curving Earth.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

A new plan, again, Day 28:

We are a divided nation. We have never been so divided, except for that time in the 17th Century when we literally had a war with ourselves. But apart from that we have never been so divided.

Thankfully the day has come where we may put our differences aside and come together to celebrate our shared heritage and to remember what makes our country better than all the other countries stacked on top of each other wishing they were our country, because our country is the best. For today and for the next two days it is BANK HOLIDAY.

Yes, all of our nice British banks have gone on holiday to visit their relations the Swiss and Caymen Islands banks, and without our banks' stern, implacable visages peering down at us from every street corner and online account-management app the population is free to descend into a Purge-style weekend of debauchery, catharsis and borderline criminal activity.

Round up your friends and enablers and try your luck at a traditional Bank Holiday game of "Pin the Nationality on the Taxi Driver" or "Whose Vomit Is It Anyway?", or take part in one of many popular feats of strength, such as "Throw the Nerdy Mate's Bag on the Roof", or "Punching".

But don't be late for the parade, for at noon all must gather on the boulevards and high streets to march to the Bank Holiday Anthem, which is Wonderwall. Today is gonna be the... Come on, you know it. That they're gonna throw it back to... That's it, drawl every lyric at the top of your voice and cheer, as if Oasis were actually here, listening, and as if they cared.

And then, if you're feeling mysterious, fellas, while the women are bobbing for fruits in the gin globes, why not try a spot of Bank Holiday fortune-telling, wherein you pay bartenders to hand you pint glasses, the shape of which glasses tell you subconscious truths about your sexuality? Have you been given a glass that is straight and wide and hefty? Phew, you're a normal, correct man, who has earned the right to burp in public and go first in fights and peek up ladies' dresses as they ascend the stairs ahead of you. But what's this? The bartender has handed you a shapely curvaceous glass with a slender stem and an alluring lip? Uh oh, looks like you're a nancy bummer-boy who cries when Leonardo DiCaprio slides into the ice in Titanic and surreptitiously dreams of feeling the soft touch of silk panties brushing against your inner thighs at night. It's as if they're performing palmistry upon your soul. Using only the shape of one glass. That's Bank Holiday Magic!

Later, as the sun goes down, take a sojourn to the festive food tents and sample one of the celebratory meals prepared specially for the occasion, such as: kebabs, barbecue meats, and discounted sandwiches from Sainsbury's. Mmm, and isn't that flavour just complimented perfectly by the sound of distant sirens?

Then, finally, all will gather for the holiday's culmination, the Watching of the Football, where an enormous cage in the shape of a football is lowered from the sky and two lycra-clad challengers, whittled down from a pool of thousands via an audience-voting stage presided over by Bank Holiday mascots Ant and Dec, must do battle within the ball's iron interior, throwing bottles of urine at each other and wrestling until the loser is torn asunder and the winner is crowned Lord of the Ball and earns the honour of becoming the sacrificial offering criticised for the next two months on Twitter until they self-immolate and their flickering corpse is employed to light the opening beacon for the next glorious three-day weekend.

The Bank Holiday is dead! Long live the Bank Holiday!

Friday, 25 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 27

Blorgle blorgle blorgle. Doesn't matter if this is shit. Does not matter. In fact it's good if it is. Damn good. Cos that way I'm allowing myself to make bad things, and thus not focusing on whether they are good or bad, like from an outsider perspective, on the end results, and I can learn to focus instead on the process of writing. Which, yes, hopefully if focused on the process and using writing to explore hidden worlds, to bring darkness to light, to experiment, to have fun, hopefully that produces good writing. But you can't sit down going, "OK I'm going to make some good writing now. What does good writing look like? OK I'll try to do that." Sucks the lifeblood out of the work. Sucks the lifeblood out of the writer.

So blorgle blorgle, is what I'm saying. Whatever. Gonna go super easy on myself today because I am grinding myself down with all this, 40 hours at work in a job that pays nothing but don't let that trick you is non-stop exhausting, heavy lifting and monotonous repetition and staying calm at complaining customers and smiling, fucking always smiling, putting on a company face, pulling them zygomaticus muscles up and up and up... it's draining, and at 10 in the morning, at 1 at night, shifts all over the place, impossible to maintain a regular sleep pattern... So there's that, and then every day trying to write this blog... and not leaning on the crutches of booze, Youtube, whatever, trying to change my moment-to-moment routine, how I approach the world, react to it, and while suffering depression and wanting to do nothing but smoosh my head into my pillow and collapse with the covers tight over me warm and womb-like.

So I just need to go a bit easy and make sure I don't burn out, use the blog as gentle space to be myself and check in and note down difficulties, not to expect the world from myself. Let the writing come how it wants to come, not force it out. Got this headache and fatigue of brain back behind the eyes from the past two days making myself do those last two posts, so much stress, and I don't want this to not be fun. I want it to be meaningful and exploratory and therapeutic and hard damn work, but I also want it to be fun.

Mike is coming round now to play videogames before work. It's nice to have a friend, and to play videogames. Lost in neon worlds of light and life and energy, blasting fools, pouring over stats, collecting coins -- there's an infantile element to it, "Well done mister barbarian wizard man, well done for hitting the nasty things, have some yummy coins, yum yum, now go over and do it again, that's it, and again, and again" -- but it simplifies life, makes it understandable, nice, and once a fortnight, which is all the time we have together at the moment, I don't think that's a bad thing. A bubble bath is pretty infantile as well, after all.

Although I'm not sure Mike and I would both fit in the tub.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 26

I got depressed again last night. Just after putting up my last post. And you know what? I'm glad it happened.

For a start, it did happen, definitely, so I may as well make peace with that and move on. But more than that, it gave me a chance to do something that turned out to be really powerful, and that ultimately (I think) cut the depression short.

What it allowed me to do was become curious about my suffering.

This is not our usual method in the West. We tend to approach pain as something unwanted and other to be avoided, medicated, zapped into oblivion. Take enough tablets and numb the feeling down, and everything will be OK.

But in getting curious about my suffering I was able to see it in a wildly different light.

Here's what I did.

1. When the suffering, which was depression, a highly negative voice, arose, I looked at it and said to myself, "Now that's interesting."
2. I asked myself what it felt like. What emotions was I feeling? What thoughts was I thinking? Were there any physical sensations? How did they feel?
3. And I let all of that be. I let the thoughts arise, the emotions, the physiological symptoms. Let them do what they would do. And watched them.
4. And in doing so I became more present, more aware. I was not my suffering, or at least not just my suffering. I was also the space in which the suffering manifested. The ability to experience the suffering.

The flame of depression is horrendous, yes, but it cannot sustain itself without an energy that you yourself must feed it. Those ruminations -- I'm so worthless, I'm awful at everything, I can never do anything right -- they keep the flame burning. In becoming curious about your suffering you break that cycle, you turn off the gas.

There is still, of course, the gas that was already fed in. Maybe that is an awful lot. But you watch it, curiously, watch it flicker and dance. "How interesting that I can have a voice like that in my head. How interesting that humans can feel that way. How interesting that I would do this to myself."

You find there's a lot of energy in the flame, when you stop judging it, stop wishing it wasn't so. A lot of lifeforce. It's quite marvellous. Destructive, yes, but marvellous as well.

And eventually, without your identification pumping in more fuel, the flame goes out. And you're back as yourself.

That's what happened last night. And of course the depression will return. The negative voice. In fact I heard it many times today.

But I stayed curious, and the fire never really took hold. And right now I feel pretty good.

What suffering is there in your life? What do you push away and resist? Try being curious about it instead, accepting it and watching it to see precisely what happens. You might be surprised with the results.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 25

I am struggling today the most I have struggled since beginning this diary. I am depressed. It's hard to get the words out, I'm sorry, it's a bit like having a migraine. My thoughts aren't thinking themselves properly. They are all tangled, dissipating and dying as fast as they grow. I'm sorry.

It was a storm that struck last night. Going to work I had a sense of futility, of hopelessness. It was as if it had always been thus. I got to work and I couldn't deal with anything. I had zero motivation. I didn't want to talk to my co-workers; the idea of interacting with customers filled me with despair. I wanted to yell at everyone to fuck off, I hated them all, everything was bleak and lifeless and shitty.

I withdrew, isolated myself, took myself off to do any job I could do alone. I couldn't face people, with their empty sallow faces, their inane grinding chatter. Trying to smile and follow conversations and force out replies exhausted me, made my eyes want to lose focus and roll back.

So I went off to fill in paperwork and clean lines and put the beer garden away, unhappy yet mercifully alone in my skull.

But that is when the negative rumination started up. How the podcasts I'd been listening to earlier that day were all created by people doing something worthwhile, telling stories, giving voices to the voiceless, informing, educating, entertaining, while all I was doing with this blog was writing the same old self-obsessed rubbish over and over, always about myself, about how miserable I am, moaning, whining, or else how amazing I've been, slapping myself on the back because I've managed to get out of bed at 10am, walk to the shops, attend a social gathering without bursting into tears and running home like a disgusting coward with my tail between my legs. That everything I praise myself for is something that normal people have figured out by the time they're out of secondary school, here I am 33 and still barely able to function. That I can't write and all the blogging is pathetic and even if I could write I should be writing fiction or journalism or nice funny little reviews, instead of listing all my disgusting lame failures like anyone cares, worthless fucking loser, what a pathetic crock of shit.

- - -

So that's what was in my head. It wasn't nice, but that's what it was. And I kept trying to argue against it, but it was like talking rationally into a thunderstorm. Every time I opened my mouth the storm just roared louder.

But I did keep trying. I didn't give up entirely. I was forced to my knees but I didn't allow myself to be blown away. I said to the storm that I was going to continue writing no matter what. That humans are creative beings, life itself is creative, and however we express that, in dumb journals or pencil doodles or building model train sets, it is worthwhile for its own sake, as a function of the universe. That the storm sounded like people who bullied me decades ago at school, that it didn't apply now, that I didn't have to listen. That it was mental illness, depression, that it would pass.

And as I argued the storm would subside a little, and I would get on with whatever task I was doing, and as soon as I was distracted the winds would start up howling again. And I talked it down again. And then it was winning again. And then I couldn't see anything but storm. And then I talked it down again.

And the night went by.

- - -

I felt groggy and blue when I woke up today, but I've spent the day writing, listening to more podcasts, doing washing, reading, keeping myself busy.

21:35 now, and I actually feel better. Maybe it's a temporary abatement, but I'm hoping the worst of the storm has passed.

Here's what I want to take from this, because I think meaning gets to be what we choose it to be. I want to take from this that I am making incredible progress. This time five years ago I would simply have been the storm, destroying everything in my path, raging, tearing apart my heart. This time a few months ago I would have collapsed in front of the storm and let it crash around me, then reached for the whisky to fill up my body so there was nothing left dry enough for the winds to wreck.

Yet last night I stood up, unsteadily, I argued, quietly, and at no point did I entirely give up. The storm did win yesterday, and this morning, but I think I tempered it somewhat.

And I was present enough to really hear that negative voice, to pay attention, to remember what it said. And so much of what it said was outright lies, or exaggeration, or really skewed logic. None of it stands up to scrutiny. It's loud, furious, but devoid of meaning.

There are grains of truth within it, often -- like last night, in that eventually I would like for my writing to be more outward focused, for me to take more risks -- but that grain is so buried in layers of bile and hatred that all it does is cause me harm.

Which of course is the point. The voice doesn't care about the truth, it just uses a touch of it to trick me into swallowing the bile, because that makes me sick and stops me writing. And the voice doesn't want me to write, it wants me small and meek and safe. It's the voice, in fact, that causes my writing to be inward looking, because it's hard to plan for anything else when you've got negative crap yelled at you day and night.

So good try, depression, but try harder. I'm not going anywhere yet.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 24

I've been listening to podcasts this morning. Adam Buxton, Jon Ronson, the NYT's Daily, filling my head with current affairs, politics, storytelling, comedy.

Depression is isolating, it is a withdrawal from the world and from previously held interests and passions, and over the last few years I have consumed very little journalism. I haven't had the energy.

Cutting out harmful distractions and blogging every day has been part of my recovery process, but replacing the time I used to spend watching "Top 8 Easter Eggs in Marvel Movies" videos on YouTube with more productive browsing, like listening to intelligent, interesting podcasts, is vital as well. It is part of the process of re-engaging with the world.

I don't feel like doing it, don't feel like anything but lying in bed with the covers over me, but as with not drinking and with writing every day, what matters I think is that I just force myself to do it anyway, again and again, until the habit forms.

So this morning I listened to Adam Buxton interviewing Charlie Brooker about his creative process and his toilet hang-ups; I listened to Jon Ronson uncovering the permutations of a butterfly effect that lead from a geek from Brussels creating a free porn empire that now rules the world to the out-of-work porn performers in the San Fernando valley; and I listened to how Donald Trump has called for an investigation into the investigation of his campaign's links to Russia and the Middle East, and what the FBI and the DOJ might do about that.

I head difficult stories, funny stories, moving stories. I heard life being lived, all over the world, and thought about what it all means. It was more effort than tapping away at Youtube (or Youporn) or scrolling down Facebook or Instagram, but it was far more rewarding.

- - -

I'm not happy with yesterday's post. It didn't come out the way I wanted. I don't think I got to the heart of that feeling when you're depressed that it's the darkness that is the ultimate truth of reality, love that is a lie -- that axiom of emptiness from which all else is derived.

I spent most of the day staring at the words and I couldn't get them to fly, couldn't bring them to life. They were just blocks that I had to put one on top of the other and move around until they were as finished as I could get them when I ran out of time.

But it's a nice feeling to let that go and to move on. Some days the words fly, other days I have to push them from behind. And that's the reality. just sit at the keyboard and get it out, and move on.

If I was writing one large thing I could have left yesterday's section for a week and come back to it for another pass, but this daily blogging project isn't about that. It's about overcoming my fear of imperfection, of learning to be OK putting out flawed, average writing, if that's all I can produce, separating my sense of self-worth from the finished pieces and more into the act itself -- learning to enjoy being someone who writes, not someone who has written.

I know that with enough time and focus I can pinch and prune words into precise shapes, I can edit writing until it is good -- my issue has always been with sustaining that drive, with not being pulled down by insecurity and self-doubt and -loathing.

That has been my failing, but failings are fine. They're great. We all have them, and one of the wonders of life is in learning to face those failings, to overcome them, to turn our demons into angels that can lift us higher than we ever could have reached alone.

So I'm letting yesterday be yesterday, and now I'm concentrating on today. Another blog post done, another day with some hesitant progress and no slips backwards into addiction, and now I'm off to work to earn those pounds that pay the bills.

Bloody pounds. Bloody bills. Bloody work. Let's burn the modern world down and start again, only with more love. Yeah? Yep? Yep.

See you tomorrow.

Monday, 21 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 23

Day off today. Sat in my room with the Velux windows pulled wide, writing this and applying warm compresses to my eye. I have this thing with my eyes. There are glands in the eyelids that secrete an oil that mixes with tears to keep your eyes lubricated, and these glands can become clogged, causing the oil to back up and get infected and form into small hard lumps that take months to break down and wash away.

Well, people with skin conditions like acne -- yep, hello -- are more susceptible to the glands clogging, which means not only do I have to deal with breakouts all over my skin but also lumps in my eyes that make my eyelids droop and blur my vision and look horrible and gross.

But, you know, I'm getting into self pity there. We all have our burdens. Moaning about my problems and wishing they weren't so is what the old me was about. The new me is about doing what is in my power to do, and letting go of the rest.

So I'm applying warm compresses to one of my eyelids, in which there is I think a clogged gland in its early stages. I'm massaging the lid gently downwards, as per doctor's instructions, in the hopes of unblocking the debris and encouraging the oil to drain away. There's no lump yet, and hopefully there won't be this time. And if there is, well I'll deal with that when it happens. Maybe it'll be a good opportunity to practice putting less of my sense of self in my physical appearance, to remember that people are beautiful for the grace with which they deal with life, not for having smooth skin and symmetrical features.

- - -

Came across a Twitter thread by the Scottish comedian Limmy today, about his mental health. In particular a bit about people reminding him of the good things in his life when he's gone under:
"When I get in that suicidal way, it feels like a rage, like a fog, but I'm not angry. I just cannae think straight. Saying "But what about your son?" means fuck all when I get like that. It's like I'm unable to feel good, or remember feeling good.
This really strikes a chord with me. Depression is like being in a different brain, it's like moving into a different room from your loved ones. They're still there, in that old room, along with your interests, your hopes, your passions, but you're across the hall in a black room, and you cannot touch them.

People sometimes talk about depression being a dark cloud passing in front of the sun, a thunderous rainstorm, that you should remember that blue skies are still blazing behind the shadow, but this image does not adequately describe the sensation for me. It might be comforting when healthy to imagine mental illness as being a temporary anomaly, but the truth is that when you are inside an episode it is its own reality, its own realm, cold and inert, and it is the warm living realm that feels like the lie.

This thing about loved ones is a good illustration. It isn't that you don't love your family, your spouse, your friends -- as in that you experience love but not specifically for these people -- it is that the whole concept of love is foreign to you. You know logically that you love them, you remember your life in the warm realm and remember that yes, of course you love your family. But in the cold realm there is no love.

If love is the attraction of all particles, depression is the repulsion of those particles. If love is sensing the space between people as somehow alive and tangible, holding us and drawing us together, then depression is sensing only the emptiness between things. It's like the connection between humans and their daemons in Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials books -- and depression is the severing of that connection, literally like the invisible threads that connect your soul to other souls have been cut with a knife.

When in the warm realm of good mental health you don't have to work out that you love someone, that you enjoy an activity, that food tastes good, you just innately know it, innately feel it -- but in the cold realm of depression all you innately know is that you feel nothing at all.

It is a sensation of horror, except a frozen horror, one that you don't have the depth of feeling to experience. It would be fitting to cry, but tears spring from a well of emotion of which you in this realm are not in possession. What escapes instead is a sort of strangled fatigued yelp.

Reality is only ever a construct, only ever imagined in our heads, and mental illness simply constructs a different reality. From inside it all the rules that made sense in that warmer realm no longer apply. You cling to the frail memory of the other place, though that memory is shorn of feeling, of vibrancy, you cling to its edges anyway, in the hopes of finding your way back across the void.

And you can find your way back. Depression does pass. Methods do work. It's just nothing feels like it works at the time. Part of the journey home, I think, involves recognising that you cannot trust the reality of the depressed realm. What you have to trust is the memories of the living realm, even though you can't presently see or smell or touch what the memories represent. You have to find some way to go outside even though going outside is the hardest worst thing in the world to do. You have to eat a healthy meal even though the idea of vegetables and cooking turns your stomach. You have to start haltingly and awkwardly talking to someone, saying that you are lost at sea, although the words are like chalk in your mouth.

There is another world. If you're struggling now then hear me when I say there is another world. Have faith, and hold to that faith, even when you have absolutely nothing else. Just keep going.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 22

I feel I've regressed today. Feel like I'm slipping backwards. Lots of negative thoughts. No motivation. Brain a big ol' pot of depression soup.

But that's the nature of progress, right? You have some success, you feel yourself improving, then the road becomes muddy, you retreat a little, you doubt yourself, you question the whole endeavour.

Life grows forward in a naturally wary way, and this is all to be expected. But it's a dangerous point, nonetheless. Easy to give up and trudge back to the safety of old routine.

I need to focus on everything I've been thinking of late. It's like a test. And tests only exist to ensure we've learnt the lessons that have been presented. So:

- The point of this isn't to get anywhere, it's to be more present and alert and alive right now, in this moment, the only moment we ever get. I may entertain the dream that by doing this enough I'll stop having any negative thoughts and I'll heal my depression and life will become easy and beautiful and perfect all the time, but that is an illusion. Life will always be thus. Always at times a struggle. I'll have periods not wanting to write, not feeling inspired. I'll always have that voice in my head worrying I'm not doing it right, that I'm uniquely dumb and awkward and broken, that everyone else has been handed an instruction manual that by some accident or design was never passed on to me.

- And that is all right. And there are things to do about that. Don't feed the negative thoughts. Notice them arising, become an expert at recognising their shape, their smell, the emotional valence with which they are felt. As soon as I perceive one having arrived, pause, speak to it. "Ahh, it's you again. Right on time. Come on in, make yourself comfortable, have a cup of tea. Stay as long as you need, for you are welcome in this head, but I am busy, and I don't have time to listen to your dark words. I care deeply for you, for who you are at your core, but I care not at all for the rubbish you spout. I will not be having one of your pamphlets. I will not be engaging in arguments with you. I love you, but I'm going to be firm. Now I'm off. Let yourself out when you're ready."

- Do the things I want to be doing. Just do them. If I have lowered resources, if I'm drained, my mental health is poor, then do only as much as I can handle. An overweight person doesn't immediately run a marathon. They put into place a habit of walking once round the block, every day -- and they stick to it. In yoga you don't contort yourself into an expert's pose first time. You stretch only as far as your body is comfortable (and maybe a touch further). It's not about achieving everything right this second. It's about living the rest of my life.

- Conversely, do not do the things that I know will keep me away from what I want to be doing. We all sense what these things are for each of us. Your heart will tell you. If you want to be making music but you keep getting drunk instead, stop getting drunk. If you want to be planning a travelling trip but you keep smoking weed, put down that bong. If I'm always scrolling aimlessly down Instagram instead of writing a blog post, turn my phone off. These things are distractions. Cut them out and focus on what we truly want.

- And finally, bring focus continually back to the process, not the results. We do not exist in static nouns -- success, victory, achievement -- we exist in the flux of verbs. Living, breathing, doing verbs. The abstract concept of winning a race sounds nice, but if that happens you're still just there, with the gold medal round your neck, sucking down air, adding oxygen to your blood, removing carbon dioxide, passing electro-chemical signals between neurons, thinking about how your feet hurt, you need a wee, which way was the winner's podium, is this enough, this isn't enough, what are you doing next, what is for tea. It all flows. We are not objects dropped in the river of life; we are the river; it flows through us.

So the more you can concentrate on what you're doing as you're doing it, rather that what it might bring, the happier you'll be. Not happy as opposed to sad, because there will be plenty of sadness as well. But happy as opposed to... out-of-sync, maybe? As opposed to... unbalanced? Happy and sad emotions are important, but they must be experienced in fullness as they arise.

- - -

So here I am, typing away, rushing to get this finished before work, swapping out first- and second-person pronouns because I can't decide whether this is advice for me, or advice for you -- perhaps for all of us... and it's not perfect, and I don't know where it's leading, but it's good, it's all right, I'm content again I think to be on this path putting one foot in front of the other, with the sun beating down and the world humming around me, and that is the most you can ask for, I reckon, to be here and to be OK with that.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 21

Quick one before work. Three weeks today since I stopped drinking and distracting myself, started blogging every day.

How do I feel? Honestly, not great. I still wake up depressed every morning, bleak and hopeless, not wanting to face the challenges of the day. I still hear negative, self-critical thoughts in my head all the time. It tends to settle as the day goes on, then evenings bring loneliness and an aching sense of loss. And I am tired, all of the time, a kind of morass of lethargy coiling about the base of my atoms (I don't think atoms have bases, but if you imagine them like trees, and the tiredness like a morass or actually more a mist wrapping around their trunks, that's the image I mean), weakening them, calling for me to climb back into bed.

Right at this moment I am not much enjoying writing, feel uninspired, stressed that I've got no time to make this good before leaving for work.

But all of that is OK. Because now isn't everything. The unhappiness is still there, but I'm getting better at not adding to it. Getting better at letting myself be how I am. The petals of my flowers (new metaphor, we're done with the trees and mist now) may still be coming out shrivelled and brown, but I'm watering the roots, tilling the soil, trying to pour in no more poisons, let the acid that's in the ground slowly work its way out.

Be miserable now, be pissy, feel like giving all this up. It's fine. I'm still not drinking. Still coming here every day to write.

And along with the shrivelled petals there are, it's fair to say, brighter ones starting to come through as well. I'm feeling spurts of energy, especially this last week, of joyousness and warmth. I'm noticing colours looking more vibrant. It's easier for me to cry. I'm a touch more alert, more confident, my head is slightly less full of silt. I can weirdly sense my physicality more, my grounding within my body, and the bodies of the people around me. Like depression is an illness of the mind (duh), a distancing, a removal into cold abstraction, and what I'm sensing is a return to the incarnate reality of the world.

And with that I can sense not just the matter but the space between us, the nothingness that holds us together, the glorious silent potential of the void.

Interesting thoughts there, at least to me, but I'm going to have to leave them for now because it's time to get ready for work.

Three weeks in, then, and plenty of downs, but plenty of ups, as well, and plenty of room for things to improve.

Until tomorrow. Take care x

Friday, 18 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 20

They're odd things, awards ceremonies. Pretentious circle-jerks for the representatives of companies who have spent enough on advertising to be shortlisted, bored guests sitting around trying to work up enthusiasm to clap for winners they hope will in turn clap when it's their turn on stage, some z-list host wiping the powder from his nose wishing he was young enough to still do the thing that made him just famous enough to be invited to this gig, everyone getting rapidly battered off cheap wine and taking photos of themselves with their own cameras and then going home alone and vomiting in their toilets and secretly hating themselves.

What I'm trying to say is that we didn't win Best Bar.

No, but all cynicism aside, it was a good night. If by "a good night" you mean "the worst way to spend a Thursday since the Hindenburg Disaster".

No, I'm joking, it was actually all right. We got free cake. We clapped Sean from Beer Central (though he didn't win). Mike made a joke at a woman from OHM while we queued for polystyrene trays of potato raclette.

"Is it Ohm, or O-H-M?" someone asked.

"I don't know," the woman said. "I say O-H-M, because customers always go 'ommm' and make jokes and it's like, fuck off."

"I bet there's some resistance to that," Mike said.

The woman carried on talking. I looked at Mike, and Mike looked at me, and then Mike looked at the woman and pretended to be listening. I think I'm in love with Mike.

After the ceremony I made is as far as The Old Workshop and Dev Cat and Wick, getting a contact high off the others, drinking vicariously through them, then when they were heading to the Harley I got Mike in a taxi and took off. Partly because nothing good has ever happened to anyone who's older than 30 in the Harley, and partly because I was working the open today, and also partly because Mike was trying to get cash out from a postbox and it really seemed time to get him home.

- - -

I woke up wishing I'd escaped three or so hours sooner -- I had not had nearly enough sleep, and had flaunted my "in bed by 2am" rule -- but at least I wasn't hungover. I'd felt sadness and isolation in the Wick, as the voices soared and the cacophony set in and the spirits of abandon began to come alive-- felt sobriety was one cold grey afternoon for the rest of eternity and all true life was the flame, the chaos, the lambent liquid glow in the bottom of the bottle when the strange music starts to howl. Christ I wanted a drink. To give myself away to the goddess of booze, incinerate all edges, rise reborn an angel of furious belief...

But shaking the mustiness from my brain and showering and travelling to work I was so glad of my choice, of the quiet path, of not burning up but letting an element steadily heat me for the whole of the week.

- - -

Paint-by-numbers Friday shift, then an Uber to meet Jake. We were off to see Missy's play, starring Dale also, written by Dreads, with stage management and props by Joe. Their little baby, and the fruit of months of hard work.

I wasn't in the mood for am-dram (is anyone, ever?), was tired and knew I had this writing to do. But I wanted to support my friends, so forced myself along. And it actually was fabulous, full of energy and mirth, and in contrast to the awards ceremony created for no reason other than inherent delight. There were some great lines, and Dale and Missy smashed it. A man played the part of a magical door. He made door-related puns. I was in heaven.

And Jake was at his best, on the way to steaming from an afternoon of Stella with Big Steve, now having to hold it together in front of Missy's parents and his grandparents and everyone, but and so just giving himself to love, the thing he does where he gives himself to love, talks to every person, sees them all as his friends, a world of friends either known or ready to be made, a jolly adventure, life nothing but an excuse to feel joy -- his boyish face beaming, unable to hold in the warmth -- And we took our seats and thirty seconds in he was roaring with laughter, the sounds escaping with only maybe the gentlest of nudges, no space for black feelings, for jealousy, for nerves.

That mindset is contagious. Come the interval I'm shocked to find myself weightless, sailing, buoyed by my heart. Who needs perfectionism, cynicism that it isn't Pinter or Beckett? Let it go and remember we're children riding a storm into space. Let it go. Live for a lark. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.

"It's great, isn't it?" says Jake afterwards, trying to articulate. "They've put on a thing. You know? We haven't put on a thing. They've put on a thing. For us. Isn't that great."

I nod. It is.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 19

It's the Exposed Awards tonight. An awards night for local shops and bars and bands, run by the studenty entertainment magazine Exposed, it's basically an excuse for a load of mostly service-industry peeps to get together and drink free booze and congratulate each other on not committing suicide yet. I'm going with the crew from work, and I'm going sober. Should be a riot.

The awards are Great Gatsby-themed, so everyone has to stand on piers staring off into distant green lights feeling sad about how getting what you want is never what you actually want. But also we have to dress smart.

My choice is either a Ben Sherman suit that is at my mother's house and felt fashionably skinny when I bought it in 2011, but now probably looks full on grandad-baggy... actually that would fit with the night's theme, but also the suit was last worn at a wedding two years ago and definitely wasn't dry-cleaned afterwards, or since -- so basically I'm going for my other choice, which is black jeans and trainers and a tweed waistcoat I've sported at three staff nights out already.

I've popped to town for some new trainers, at least, so that I feel at least a modicum of freshness when putting the outfit on. The trainers have pink bits round the hem and look great in the shop, but when I get them home they're just shoes, the same as all other shoes, and don't stop me looking like an oaf, but I suppose that gives me something to stare off into the green lights feeling sad about, so in the end it has worked out nicely, and Fitzgerald would probably approve, if he wasn't busy getting sozzled at the bar letting his immense talent go to rot.

I did really like Tender is the Night though.

Anyway, I need to go wolf down some food and meet Mike and walk in with him, so that I don't have to push open some trendy warehouse door by myself wondering whether I have the right door and whether anyone will be there already and if not how I'll cope with standing by myself with my hands in my pockets feeling like the lamest goobiest pillock that ever existed -- story of my life -- so for now I'll bid you adieu.

Let you know how it goes (went) tomorrow.

Toodles.

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 18

I woke up unhappy this morning. I sat in bed and scrolled through things on my phone, hoping to come alive. When that didn't happen I got myself up anyway and into the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror looking at myself, not liking the view. I thought about all the things I had to do to get ready that I didn't want to do, shower, put on moisturiser for my spot-prone skin, do my beard, brush my teeth, get dressed, all seeming like an uphill struggle with weights on my back dragging me down. And all I wanted was... nothing. No wants. No desires. No motivation.

But I did climb in the shower, with my thoughts sloshing this way and that. I did use my acne-prevention facial cleanser. I did wash my beard and hair. Did foam up a drop of baby shampoo and dilute it down to clean my eyelids because they always get infected. Did wash my body with shower gel. Did climb out and towel myself dry, clean my teeth, apply moisturiser, comb my beard, put on beard oil and balm, spray deodorant, get dressed.

And then I felt like getting back in bed. But I didn't. I went to the shop for breakfast, came home, made coffee, sat at my desk, wrote.

I'm coming to see that the point of this 30 day challenge is to change my mind. To change the state of my mind. It has been set in a bad place for many years now, because I have spent such a long time believing negative thoughts about myself, agreeing with them, giving them power.

Neurons in the brain that fire together wire together, as the saying goes -- synaptic connections between nearby neurons are strengthened by use, and pathways that are followed again and again become entrenched, the related thought or emotion eventually becoming automatic.

Thus a negative assumption about the world, if it appears to correspond with reality, can become the default way of viewing all situations.

But by the very same token we can change our minds. Our default position is not set in stone. It is more like it is carved in soft clay. To shape a new route simply involves doing something different, perhaps despite it feeling wildly unnatural -- and doing it again, and again, and again. Slowly the new way of thinking is reinforced until it becomes habitual, and happens with what will seem to outsiders like effortless ease.

So, yes, I woke up unhappy this morning. But I didn't let that stop me. I got on with my life regardless, and I will do the same tomorrow, and the day after that. I am going to feel the unhappiness and do it anyway.

This method is difficult and alien and oftentimes just really shitty, but it beats the alternative.

So, do you have anything that you want to change your mind over? Start small, make sure you do it, and make sure you continue doing it. You'll be amazed at how much difference it can make.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 17

More late night blogging, clacking away on my keyboard against the clock, home from a day with Jake because we've not seen each other properly in months and he wanted us to have time together just hanging out for his birthday. Missy and Bobby J as well, of course, playing catch in the garden, barbecuing, watching films, playing X-Box.

Tired, as always, waking up. One of my two staff on the close last night called in sick, no one would cover, so Sanders stayed as long as he could and then Mike and I had to slog through the closedown together. Such is life.

Wrecked this morning, sat yawning and editing photos over coffee, then dressed and walked the hour down through Crookes, Broomhill, across the Porter Brook, through leafy muted Nether Edge, along Abbeydale Road and up Woodseats to Jake and Missy's. Stopped to see Grace at the Bloomery on the way. Snapped pictures of sunlight filtering through flowers as I went.

In Jake's garden lay in the sun and drank juice, felt nice. Chatted. The impossibility of beer or spliffs meant I just had to live my bloody life, getting my heartrate up throwing the American football around, taking portraits of Missy in the shadow beneath the tree, joking with Bobby about this and that. We walked to the shops and I felt alive, played with the toys in Sainsbury's, goofed around down the condiments aisle making the others laugh.

It was like having a weight lifted that has been on your chest so long you forgot the pressure wasn't part of you. Normally I would have planned to stay sober, to go home afterwards to write, but then that voice that wants instant gratification would have started slobbering over gorgeous gluggable lager in the fridge, cold to the touch, condensation forming on the can, just one maybe because I'd had a hard night, because how can you ignore that voice in you that roars so constantly... and next I'd know it would have been three in the morning and I'd be asking to sleep in the spare room because I was too smashed to stagger out unwanted into that lonesome night.

And I had those urges today, often, but I had no choice but to ignore them, which made the voice sad it couldn't have what it wanted, but within only a few seconds the urges would have passed and I'd be back in the world. Back in the sun, back feeling the dimensions of my body and its movement through space throwing the ball, finding photography options, feeling closeness with my friends, knowing I was fine to leave at the end to go write.

And, yeah, I felt really shitty a couple of times, that I was annoying everyone with jokes taken too far, that it mattered too much to me that I was liked, that I was selfish and stupid and dumb and repulsive. But during these moments I was also able to recognise how tired I was, that the low mood might not necessarily be the truth of reality but could instead be simply a passing state of mind, so vivid and beguiling one instant, dissolving the next.

And the sun went down and the flies came out, and we ambled inside to wash up and watch the new Jumanji film, which was funny and charming and warm-hearted, much better than it had a right to be -- and snuggled there on the sofa with a steaming cup of tea and my friends, my family around me, I realised that for 17 days now I have done nothing but be myself, and that that is enough. It really is enough.

And now this is written, thank God, and I am off to pass out. TTFN. Love love love x

Monday, 14 May 2018

A new plan, again: Days 15 and 16

The numbering of these things has got confused. Initially I was using the mornings to write up my notes from the previous day, so I'd be posting Day 6 around lunchtime on Day 7, then making notes for Day 7 and writing those up on Day 8. But then I had stuff fresh on my mind and I needed to get it out of me there and then, and that nudged me forward into posting about the day's events on the day they happened. The result is that writing this now, on Monday, it is actually the 16th day. Which is good.

Tough morning this morning though. Woke up feeling like a freight train had been roaring through my mind all night. Head was pounding, every neuron felt like it was pulling away from every other. Very groggy, musty, low.

For a while I lay there thinking how I couldn't do this, how I should be past this stuff, but here I was feeling worse than ever.

But I think it's important, vitally important, to remember that healing is not linear. The path to wholeness is not one smooth upward line.

It is jagged, uneven, unpredictable. It is a mountainous climb with the ground ever shifting beneath your feet. Some days you make good progress. Other days you're stuck in a quagmire. Occasionally you fall into a crevasse in which the bottom feels lower than even the lowest point from which you began your progress.

But it's possible, nay, necessary, to accept that for what it is. No journey of worth ever went in a straight line. And all the time you spend wishing things were easier is time you could have spent moving forwards. Even if forwards is sometimes backwards, or sideways, or down.

And if you find yourself in that crevasse try to remember all the equipment you've picked up along your way, all the endurance you've built. How much better you've become at reading the terrain. That this is the journey you signed up for and you know how to do this and that, yes, this section is tough, and it may not feel like it now, but you are gradually, painstakingly, yet nevertheless indisputably on the way up.

So finish that thermos of coffee, shake out the dregs, roll up your camp bed and hoist your pack, and go face that cold sheer wall of rock that is no different in truth to all the other walls of rock you have faced before, and once again begin your climb. There is nothing else.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 14

Back from an evening of birthday drinks and sophisticated debauchery, though I myself had to make do with Old Jamaica brand ginger beer and a particularly potent packet of cheese and onion crisps. So it goes.

My head is caning from the stimulation of a night out when sober, the strain of not drinking, from a general and apparently perpetual fatigue -- but it's good to know my Uber is dropping me off at the top of my road a full hour before midnight, that I'm clear of mind, that I now have a patch of empty time to spend hunkering down with my mechanical keyboard tapping out imperfect yet beautiful words to send away into the void. I'm pleased.

Catch-ups tonight with old friends, Rachel about to begin her career as a prison officer, looking as glamorous as ever yet perhaps calmer, more secure -- Bobby J plodding along through my Grad life of a few years ago, Missy sassing it up beaming wide at the sight of Fran's dog -- and Joe, and Dale, and Dreads -- and of course birthday man Jake, working the room, planting kisses on us all, a whirling dervish at the centre of the maelstrom.

Conversation with Kirsty and Grace about how we came off our antidepressants, about finding internal balance, replacing negative bonds with healthier ones. Felt the conversation out there in the ether, ghostlike, waiting to be given form, and -- look, it's a fallacy that booze makes those conversations easier. It was easier tonight, sober. It was simple to sense the shared experiences and the anticipation on the lips and to broach those subjects and organically move through topics close to my heart. I used to be unable to discuss my mental health without a couple of litres of rum in my bloodstream, but tonight it was no big deal.

I was anxious at the start of the night, walking into a group of ripped-jeaned-hipsters, all beautiful and smooth-skinned, me realising in panic I couldn't run to my usual beers for safety. But I stood, and sat, and stayed present, and there was nothing to fear. It was just more life, more moments in which to exist.

I also noticed that I was able to hold eye-contact longer, more peacefully, with less of that frightened commotion back behind my sockets. It was pleasurable to rest in people's gazes, talking when I needed to, listening when I didn't.

There was still boredom, of course, and frustration, and a stretch where I realised all I cared about in a conversation was pulling it back round to myself, to proving how wise and tragic and special I was. But even then, as the negative thoughts were gearing up to excoriate me for how I always act that way, I found myself able to gently step back, breathe, separate from the self-loathing and let it simply run out of steam.

So that was good. All of this is difficult and weird and confusing, but it is good. I know that it is good.

Sleep now. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 13

Big old wobble last night. After something jogged my memory I've been reading the videogame blog I started writing eight years ago, and let me tell you, if you want to get submerged in wistful nostalgia for the person you used to be and the person you wanted to become and all the hopes and dreams you once possessed, just read the videogame blog you started writing eight years ago. Christ.

So at first it just made me sad. My skin usually crawls reading back old posts, but enough time had passed that I could see this stuff fresh, from the outside, and some of it was really good. Heartfelt, enthusiastic, compassionate -- you get a sense that the kid producing it was on his way to some kind of career in writing.

Except he wasn't. At the time it may have looked that way to others, I even pretended to myself that I was using the blog as a springboard with which to leap into videogame journalism, but with hindsight now I can see how that was never going to happen.

I was so messed up and broken inside, in so much pain, and the writing wasn't a way to enter the world, but to stay just about alive while hiding from it.

Of course there were reasons. I'd had bad acne growing up. Not just on my face but my back and chest as well, from the ages of 15 to about 25, only clearing up somewhat with the most powerful drug you could take, which came with a whole host of side-effects. Even that didn't heal me completely. And I'd been bullied at school, and my self-esteem was torn to bits. I was suffering severe depression and social anxiety. I had a problem looking people in the eye, I hated attention on me and I blushed all the time. I hadn't had a girlfriend in years. I was so isolated and withdrawn.

Yet when I wrote I became someone else. Separated by screens, by time, I could be confident, assured, funny. I could be the person I had always wanted to be. All the pent up emotion now had an outlet, and the videogames that I had played as an escape were now the fuel for the articles I was writing.

But at the same time I was still that other person. The shadow person. Acne-scarred, depressed, full of self-loathing and despair. For a while these two sides of me see-sawed back and forth in a delicate form of balance -- the blog even started to go somewhere, with attention from some people who mattered on the edges of the industry -- but the shadow-self was too afraid, burning with too much rage, and he dove from the see-saw and sent us spiralling into the sand.

I had a kind of breakdown, I guess. I stopped writing, started drinking all the time, worked a minimum-wage bar job, let the years pass...

- - -

So last night I was in bed on Twitter. I had been planning to read my book, but you know what phones are like when you go to put them down. They call to you, like the fucking One Ring of Sauron -- you find you're not letting the phone go but are instead turning it over in your hands, staring at its sleek curves, polished surfaces. You scroll left and right across the homescreens absentmindedly, your face lit in the display's warm glow.

And suddenly you're on Twitter, and half an hour has gone by.

So I had all this stuff going round my skull about my old blog, the person I wanted to be, how it had never worked out, and I was miserable after work, and sitting up in bed, and now I was on Twitter, and here was a Tweet by a games journalist who'd been coming up around the time I'd started my blog, around the same age as me, a few years younger actually.

I clicked the Tweet, followed it to the guy's profile, scrolled down to see what his life has been like, and scrolled down, and scrolled down.

And, man, I started feeling about as miserable and wretched as I can remember feeling. This guy now does Youtube videos with hundreds of thousands of views, podcasts, website work, hosts his own shows, visits conventions, travels the world -- I know he's not totally happy, has pains, hardships I can barely comprehend -- but he is courageous, fiercely intelligent, motivated, and his life is a varied, exciting and full one. Mine, in comparison, involves scrolling down Twitter at 2am drowning in jealously and black bile. This guy has spent the last decade doing so much. And I've done nothing.

- - -

I slept unhappily. Woke up unhappily. But somewhere around my trip for croissants and my morning coffee today I decided to go the other way with this. The way I've been unsteadily going for 13 days now (for the most part). I stumble, I go right back to the path.

I decided not to spend time worrying about what I don't have, but to appreciate what I do. Not to waste the day dreaming of someone else's life, but to use it living my own.

It's pretty common, I think, to stare over that picket fence at someone you admire and wish you were more like them. That movie star, that singer, that saint. Even that videogame journalist, if you're some kind of masochistic weirdo.

But those spaces are taken. Those lives are being lived, with their own difficulties, their own traumas. You'll never get to be someone else. But if you try really hard you might just about, for a few brief moments, get the chance to be yourself.

Your life is not perfect. It is busted, wonky, horrendously scarred. But it is yours alone, and it is glorious. Go out and live it.

Friday, 11 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 12

Yes, yes, there was some depression this morning. Some self-loathing. I was half an hour late waking up and I sat in bed with the usual thoughts swimming by, about how I'm a shitty person and my life is empty and I'm desperate to receive some magical validation from everyone that in truth will never come and that this blog is worthless and I should slink back to my hole and go drink myself into unconsciousness because everything else is misery and pain.

But there's no reason why that has to matter! What a voice, eh? What a sad creature hunched in the darkness in my brain there. He can come out, if he needs to, dripping his slime everywhere, glum about everything, and I'll pat him on the head, tell him I love him, let him slouch about until he calms.

I'm enjoying this daily blogging. It's fab. It's a bit like that Zen technique of painting with water on rock. Wet the brush, draw out some quick picture, then as the sun beats down the water dries and the art disappears, and you go on your merry way.

Except I suppose instead of this disappearing it sticks around forever and ever, and I get to stumble across it in five years and wince at how clumsy and unguarded it all was. OK, it's not much like painting with water on rock.

But it is like that other Zen thing, which I guess it what I was really thinking about, where you take the brush and you swish and you flourish, and that's it, it's done. And the next day you do it again, and each time it is about mindfulness of form, of creation for creation's sake, and you don't stress and hone and edit, you just live in that now-realm of energy and an attempt to ride that energy, and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. You love the imperfection, love the letting go of attachments, love the part of you that can never wholly let go of attachments. And onwards you march.

And of course the negative thoughts are there, as always, but you don't keep grasping at them, feeding them -- you let them out and you watch, in the blinding sunlight of awareness, as they evaporate, majestically, like water on scorching rock.

Does that tie the piece together? Not quite, but I guess with some self-knowing line about how I know it doesn't quite tie the piece together, it might just about work.

Yeah?

Thursday, 10 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 11

Howdy. I awake at 9 this morning, hoping for a leisurely day of reading my book and blogging. But almost immediately my brain starts spinning up into dark places, and won't stop. So here, instead, is a list of all the negative thoughts I've had thus far today:
  • While buttering a muffin for breakfast it strikes me that I've never truly applied myself to anything in life and that all my problems stem from a fundamental lack of courage on my part. Which is nice to know.
  • Halfway through the muffin I think it'd be interesting to make today's post about all the negative thoughts I have, thus externalising them, bringing them to awareness, showing people what I'm up against. Then I think that's a lame idea and it will make me seem completely miserable and pathetic.
  • I go upstairs and write a Facebook status I've just thought of about bar workers going to offices after the bank holiday and acting the same way as the office workers just acted in our pubs. It seems quite funny, so instantly I start worrying that I'm trying too hard and that it's a statement of impotence, like that quote about irony being the song of a bird that has learned to love its cage, and that really it's just embarrassing that I'm still working in a bar after all these years.
  • Some people like the status, and comment on it continuing the theme, and that makes me feel good -- so then I start thinking how sad it is that I'm back on Facebook pretending not to be but really checking the status for likes and comments, like some kind of fucking tragic goblin-faced loser.
  • I get really tired, and I think how pathetic it is to be tired after doing so little so far with my day.
  • I write up yesterday's post, and I feel it works, so then suddenly I'm thinking that it's pathetic to be happy about some dumb blog-journal when I could be writing a novel or something. That the blog doesn't go deep enough, is too cowardly.
  • I look at all the negative thoughts I've noted down so far, trying to tell myself it's not cowardly but brave to be open about this stuff -- and next thing I'm worrying that it's all totally self-obsessed and narcissistic instead, all grist for the mill of my ego.
  • As I'm going down to make a brew I half turn, remembering that while reading in bed last night I was playing with my beard and some hairs came out, and I put them by my bed to throw away later. So I sort of pause in my tracks to go find them, but already in that instant I'm turning back, having decided I can't be bothered, that I'll just go make a tea instead. This is all automatic, and the next few steps away to my door it strikes me that I'm axiomatically lazy, weak, that I will always avoid the stitch in time that could save nine. It genuinely gets to me, like it's some judgement on my entire being. Over three beard hairs. I wish I was making this up.
  • Then in the kitchen I see the washing machine and remember I was going to put washing on, but I'm already feeling sad and cowardly, so what I think is that of course I haven't done my washing, of course I won't do any now, I'm too lazy and pathetic, I can't do anything in my life that needs doing, I might as well go and get drunk and forget everything, because that is all I'm good for.
  • That belief, that I am lazy and pathetic, now roves around looking for all the examples it can find to validate itself. Haven't put away my dry washing either. Haven't messaged Fran to see if she's OK. Haven't watered my plants. Haven't thought about my career. Haven't cleaned my bathroom. And I'm at the centre, unable to do any of it.

Now, all of these thoughts are real. I really have them. But they also aren't the full story of today. They aren't indicative of my overall mood. I am an experienced self-hater, and experienced at coping with self-hating thoughts. None of these moments I have noted consume me. I am able to struggle above them, question their legitimacy -- Is it true that I should be better than I actually am? Isn't it entirely normal, healthy and human to go back on Facebook to see how a statement has been received? Is it a fundamental weakness that makes me unable to put the washing on, or is it believing that thought itself that keeps me weak?

I do do the washing. I do write my blog post. I never get those beard hairs, but who the hell cares?

Yet those dark thoughts are always there. They never leave. A continual stream of negativity running parallel to all my better thoughts, watching from the shadows, coughing when I would kiss.

Having that voice in my head is enervating. It depletes my reserves, grinds down my spirit. If I have less energy than other people, that's why. If daily life is more of a struggle, there is good reason.

Those negative thoughts aren't going away. But I am getting better at being mindful of them, letting them arise, not rising to them, and watching them fade away. They are allowed along for the ride, because they are an innate part of me -- but they sure as shit aren't driving. The longer I go with this the more chance they have of learning that. And they better learn, because I'm staying here.

I hope if you have negative thoughts you are able to feel the same. They do not have to be your truth. You are more than them. You are wonderful. Keep going.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 10

...Yet the terrors of the night rarely survive the dawn. Up at 0815 and straight in the shower, wonderful hot shower, and Sainsbury's own-brand Wholegrain Malties for breakfast, taste identical to Shreddies but £1.50 for a big box instead of a million pounds for three Shreddies -- a quick peruse of the Internet with my cereal, then off to meet Mike, who's moved in round the corner and is on the open with me today.

Waiting for him at the bus stop I think of something funny, then realise it's only funny if I say it as if I've just thought of it, so I practice how to make it sound spontaneous, over and over, until he trots up.

"Hullo."

"Hullo."

"It's nice this, isn't it? Like we're going to school together."

He chuckles. OK. Look up, laugh as if a thought has just struck me fresh from the ether.

"And if Sam moves in round the corner we'll have a full gang."

Sam has tattoos and is way cooler than us.

"...But she'd be over there with her trendy mates, wouldn't she? Getting on last, sitting at the back of the bus." I mimic waving. "Cooee, Sam! It's us! It's us! We do chemistry with you!"

I mimic Sam dropping her head, trying to skulk away.

Mike laughs. Success. I'm a winner. Everything in life is going to be OK. We get on the bus together strangely nostalgic for school days, and I wish I could show him my POG collection, leaf through this month's N64 Magazine with him.

I turned 33 this year, just so you know.

- - -

Work is naff. I was hoping for a quiet day after the bank holiday and snooker, an empty pub to clean down, reorganise, reset. Yet five minutes before opening a horde of OAPs begin traipsing in, regardless of the fact we are still closed, the glints in their eyes saying the coffee machine is about to get the workout of its lifetime.

And the sun is shining so everyone piles down for lunch, for pots of tea, for cocktails, and the beer garden is rammed, and we don't have a front-of-house staff member until 1pm, and then we tell him not to come in because he's being sick, and Katie can only get in to cover from 2pm, so I'm dashing about sweating and grumbling and trying to pretend I care whether table 103's chicken churrasco was to their liking, which, I'll let you in on a secret, I in fact do not.

I stay on till six, helping Rhi with machine return discrepancies from the night before, hooking up the Rekorderlig and Budvar emergency-dropped barrels that have just arrived, and then it's the bus home and I'm falling asleep, surrounded by office workers all also falling asleep. Yet another day on Earth.

My housemates cook tea. Sausage and mustard mash, fried greens, fresh tomato pickle, homemade gravy, veggie sausages of course for me. The gravy is thick and rich, the greens vibrant, the pickle cuts a piquant contrast. I know that I am not allowed to drink, so I do not, and just enjoy the food itself, the warmth of company itself, Jiggs' jokes about churlish managers, Phace's underground hug club. Lots of love in this house, lost souls welcomed, pile on in and help yourself to a plate.

- - -

Sad and lonely again though writing later on. This blogging is cracking me open, revealing something unguarded and squishy inside, and it's hard to not feel weird about that, to not want to cover myself up, hide away. But that's OK. It's fun, doing what doesn't come naturally. I'm bored of the other way. Doesn't lead to anything unexpected or remarkable. So keep cracking, let the gulls pick at the open meat, and all the emptiness left behind is who I really am.

Want to stay up and watch loud things on Netflix, play garish games on my Playstation. Instead I shall close this down and brush my teeth, do some stretches, read in bed. There is only this. Keep on going.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 9

So adult life is just saying you're tired every day until you die, isn't it? But I mean seriously I am really incredibly tired.

Fran has brought me Marmite on toast in bed, with black coffee, because she's a keeper. I've fed the corners of my toast to Mish, because I'm a keeper. You can get your grubby paws off my coffee though, that's for me alone.

Too many 2am closes. Too much work. But I'm less depressed than a week ago, less lethargic, I don't feel as much apathy.

Writing every day is helping with that, having more of a purpose -- but I don't think I could do that if I wasn't cutting out drinking and everything. And without a pint to be my reward, I'm starting to get that enjoyment from other things. From feeling like a paragraph or a post has worked well, from joking with friends, from walking home in the sunshine. So that's nice.

- - -

Gone round to see my mum. She's made me a cheese and pickle sandwich, I've taken her photo and had a go at fixing her laptop. We're in the garden now sitting quietly. She's reading, I'm writing on my phone. We never have much to say. It's nice that way.

- - -

2255, back home, full of evening sadness, an awareness of the passing of all things. Bus into town from my mum's, met Ant down from Quayside helping out for the last day of snooker. He was finishing as I arrived, then Straw turned up for a few, so the three of us sat, they with their beers, me with iced coffee, and we watched the remaining frames of the final. Williams fought his way to an 18-16 victory, his first world championship title in 15 years.

Straw cheered, looking tired -- he was coming off a week of nights and had dark bags under his eyes. Ant gave me a hug.

The sun went down, the Crucible disgorged its fans, the fans drifted into the night. Zoe and Steph finished their shifts, joined us with Emily and Zak. Everyone was drinking.

I left them to it and slouched away to the bus stop. Sad old journey home, empty streets, lonely lights in the dark. Grainy video posted on Facebook of an Indian taxi driver mauled to death by a bear. He'd gone too close for a selfie, because that is how we all now will die. Uncaring ferocity of the bear, the taxi driver's arm small and shielding, tossed aside, almost free, then not... teeth as ancient and merciless as the Earth... footage too blurred to make out the rending, the tearing, but knowing it was there, the man a human bullied at school, with too much hair on his back, perhaps, old colleagues who found him vapid and avoided him in the street, a girl he wished he had the guts to call, parents who called too much -- all of it flattened through one dumb act into a single moment of claws, of jaws, of implacable, indifferent destruction -- a billion thoughts, a lifetime, lost, for nothing -- zap, it's gone -- and that is coming for us all, dust scattered to the wind, crumbling bones -- oh world, oh moonlit soul!

I can't take it. I get scared in the lonesome place no one else can follow. I make it home and there are moths in my room, too many moths, black bodies, ink-scratched limbs, rustling tissue wings beating towards the light. It's all too much. I don't know. This feeling has been dripping down my spine all evening, before I'd have drowned it in strong beer, washed it clear with wine and whisky and rum. But there's nothing now between me and it.

So I'll sit with the melancholy of this bluebottle universe, this lugubrious stardew chorus, sit with the elegiac lament of the world and let it be and let it be and let it be.

Poor little moths. My dark windows look to them the worst of their options, but the lights to which they are drawn in truth bring only annihilation. It is past the dim wooden frames, over that chilled threshold, that their salvation lies. Sometimes what feels like suffering is not. If only we could see.

Monday, 7 May 2018

A new plan, again: Day 8

Have I used the analogy about running yet? It can be tough, when you explain everything that happens in your life through analogies, to know which ones you've previously employed.

Anyway, at the moment I'm trying to think of my writing in terms of going running. Where before I wanted to run marathons on my blog to prove that I could, all ego and low sense of self-worth, desperate to show that I wasn't just a lazy slob schlepping about in my pyjamas eating cereal all day, that I could run 3000 word exertions of sparkling prose that I'd drafted and re-edited to death and filled with everything I could think of about some profound subject or other -- at the end exhausting myself and collapsing, looking back worried it was all terrible and worthless -- where before I was doing that what I'm trying to do now, in terms of my writing, is just go jogging round the block once a day. That's all

Just get out the door, do the thing, come back, do it again the next day, and the next, and the next. Develop and strengthen routine, build confidence, integrate the task into daily life.

... Have I said all this before? I feel I've said all this before.

Pssch, whatever. Troubled sleep again last night, and a sinister nightmare, the first in a long time. But feel better now, happy in myself, in what I'm doing. But Christ am I tired.

Last close of snooker tonight, the end of a week of closes, and it's going to be bad. Worried I don't have enough staff. All the barrels and bins to do at the very end, already exhausted and got a bank holiday Sunday shift on the hottest day of the year to make it through, blurg. Gotta grit my teeth and just keep going though. When you're going through hell moan continuously until the manager doing the rotas stops putting you on closes, or however that quote goes.

- - -

Well, it's done. At Fran's now. She was asleep when I came in. Mission wagging his tail, lolling on his belly, nuzzling his snout towards me. Happiness is a dog excited to see you... and a bullshit shift over forever.

I'm covered in bin juice. Finger sliced open on broken glass. Back is wrecked. Mind is mush.

But no more snooker. No more bank holiday wankers. No more work. Glorious day off tomorrow, I'm going to do nothing save sun myself and drink water and write.

 Now to lie down next to my girlfriend, the windows open, the fan whirring, the hot night enveloping like an embrace.

Until tomorrow x