I am not happy…

I am finding it harder to talk to people when I am sad or crying or not happy, and this isn’t a plea for help. There have been times in the past when I have been desolate, completely unaware of what to do to, and I haven’t been able to confide in anyone- this isn’t that. It is, in some ways, the exact opposite. I say harder, because it is the explanation of this difference that is difficult- the fact that this sadness is different from my usual bouts of self-destructiveness that have happened in the past. My friends get concerned if I mention that I have been crying, and it is but natural, because had the situation been reversed, I might have persisted in dragging it out of them. There is a fantastic Oatmeal comic which comes the closest to how I feel on certain days. After years of wondering how to, I seem to have transitioned from someone who needed/wanted people, to someone who automatically assumes that there isn’t anyone better for the job than myself.

My sadness is no longer violent, or teary, or jealous or humiliating. If I had to describe it, I’d say crying gives me the same sensation as the initial relief in getting toxic alcohol out in vomit. My tears feel the same way as the rain tracks on my face when driving with an open window, and I can usually manage to do some other mind work with perfect focus after the silent outburst. I basically sit, cry, get down with it, wipe my cheeks and move on.

Now ordinarily I’d call that a cause for celebration, because this seems like a pinnacle of the self-love argument. I only feel like giving people my company when I am positive, and productive and happy, and manage myself when I’m not. But I’m sceptical of the way this has been happening and as to how sustainable it will be. I have a suspicion I’m getting into this mindset because I am moving away from people, changing countries and time-zones, and I want to isolate myself before they isolate me, however inadvertently. Almost everyone is more excited than I am, because they envision the opportunities with a much rosier lens. Those who are not as excited are so owing to whatever ways this shift would affect their own lives. In this case, quite logically, I am the only person remaining that I can truly discuss my apprehension and insecurities with (although being with one of the most fantastic listeners I know helps a lot).

For as long as I can remember I have had this habit of wanting to be what we call in economics, the “first mover”. Even to someone who knows no game theory, it would be clear that first movers have certain advantages. When I was a shy, slow child who liked to read, I would hasten to say that I didn’t like the slide at all, and so I was letting the other children climb it instead. This averted the risk of letting my parents push me into attempting the activity and getting bullied. I quit swimming because my instructor made me feel pathetic about being scared of not getting oxygen, and said it was because some kid had pooped in the pool a day before. I pretended that school captain responsibilities took up entire lunch breaks to avoid confrontational scenarios with my so-called friends which might end in them abandoning me. I ended up reassuring men I didn’t expect our relationships to last, before they could tell me that.

And it still hurt just as much. All of it. I hate being a chronic first-mover, because it’s more like chronic first-pusher. I hate the fact that the only reason I don’t have a single thing I want, is because I’m too scared to admit I want it badly and then have it go away because of that same want. I have my eggs in multiple baskets and I pretend I don’t care which one I eat. My mother has that bit right about my commitment issues- just that she doesn’t understand why. I’m not sure I would ever have the urge to explain it to her in a way she would understand.

I think I am always trying to cut people off mentally and I know that’s probably not very healthy, given that I occasionally keep lecturing Oree and others about this same phenomenon. It is just that the futility of having people in the world but not having them close, gets to me at times. In such moments it’s just easier to tell them you don’t want to talk, to shut the world out, cry, play music and just sit in a haze. Rather than explain something they have no way of making a difference to in that moment, and having them feel guilty because of this.

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Starry, Starry Night

it is only recently that i have realized that the lights of the world through tear-blurred eyes look like stars. do you think Vincent stood outside that night, wondering if he wanted to paint or die? i think he’d been at that crossroad many times before. haven’t a lot of us been? those nights when you sit, holding strings or pen or brush in one hand, that choice in the other. those nights when you barely manage to shake off the urge to do something that will leave you no further choices, and go create something that is lauded as beautiful, months or years later, by yourself if no one else. i go back and read my old writing sometimes, on such nights- not because it is a particular masterpiece, but because each of those works captures a choice, a faith that the younger me had, a faith that questions me even now, and makes me want to get up and take charge. and i know that some night, perhaps not far from now, i’ll read this, and to you, if you’re reading this, know that you went onward in faith. don’t break.

don’t break.

Turn on the light

The lead vocalist asks us to raise our hands if we’re proud of who we are, as people and as artists.

And something suddenly unravels inside me, a tightness that’s been there for a while. And with a few other wavering hands, I raise mine up in the air and smile.

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There’s a gentle drizzle. The accompanying breeze makes the yellow paper lanterns sway, as if in rhythm with the light strumming of the guitar and banjo down below. The drums weave a comfortable,solid presence as fifty-odd people, friends and strangers hum along. Music does this to people- it makes one body out of individuals, a body moving in seemingly eccentric patterns but with a wonderful coherence.

There is silence towards the end of the show as the performers play the opening bars to a song they have dedicated to survivors of depression. What amazes me is that it isn’t an awkward pause. In this audience, there are people who, in some odd way, understand, either first-hand or through their loved ones, what it is like to not want to get up at all, to not eat or bathe or write or paint for days, or to just do all of it in a frenzy until you’re not sure what you’re doing anymore. There are people for whom turning up to a live show like this is one of their greatest achievements this month- they might not have stepped out of home for weeks. There are also people who are lucky enough to be mostly non-depressed, even happy, and who take this moment to understand how that isn’t necessarily a “normal” every one is used to.

As I raise my hand, standing here in this city that I’ve been both non-depressed and depressed in before, it is because I am proud today- of myself, of being able to sing along, of showing up alone, of continuing to write even if it seems to be most ordinary on some days. It’s because I can now raise my hand without feeling weird about being happy about my own existence. And because I have done a lot of things in the past year, good, fun, somewhat crazy, mundane, only for myself, and have loved doing it. It’s because the rain, and the lights, and the songs have the ability to make the darkness beautiful and bearable. And so does my writing, and your art, and someone else’s strumming, or playing or mere existence.

There will be bad days. But try and hold on long enough, and there will be good ones.

Listen to these guys (When Chai Met Toast) here:

Dear Fellow Traveller,

Like me, do you sometimes sleep through

the safety demo on flights,

firm in your belief that your flight,

of them all, will never land on water,

because nothing ever happens to you anyway.

On other days, do you map out scenarios,

of potential seas and oceans along the way,

and what temperature the water will be,

and if, in the melee, you’ll choose

not to slip the life jacket on?

——–

 

Are you just as fascinated by red things-

tomatoes, boys in ragged capes,

Danger signs, life jacket tubes?

Do you check under the seat with your toes,

to see if they are telling you the truth-

and then laugh wondering if

your life-jacket lovers will ever be

this close when you feel the urge to jump?

——–

Sometimes, when your throat gets

a little too tight, do you reach for

the oxygen masks they aren’t dropping yet?

Is it only you feeling the pressure a little too deeply,

as you face the choice between being a cloud

and longing for solid ground?

When the shadows start getting larger,

and the bottom falls out from under your stomach,

do you, like me, always land a little more blurry

each time? Do you still manage to keep your head

amidst the clouds?