I’m wondering if it’s a universal rule that after every good day a crappy day must follow. We had a brilliant time with our daughter and granddaughter yesterday; she did not stop talking from the moment we got there till the moment we left. She is truly a marvel of nature – all children are, of course, but this one can hold conversations like a four-year-old and has only to hear a word in order to know it. She knows colours, letters, numbers up to ten, parts of the body and can hold a conversation better than some adults I know. She was much more confident with us this time and even let me change her nappy, which I discovered is like riding a bike, ie a skill you don’t lose.
Speaking of riding bikes, I’ve not been out yet this week, though I plan to go later today. I did 17.5 miles last week in total, which is not too bad, and during August I plan to have some proper days out. But! is it a universal rule that after every great day a crappy day must follow? Sometimes it seems like it. I woke this morning feeling headachy, depressed and poorly rested and with an overwhelming sense of the pointlessness of my existence. Sartre would be proud of me… it is hard to counteract a sense of the pointlessness of one’s own existence because any activity at all seems – well, pointless. Which is why I think on the whole I’d rather have pain than depression. Pain is awful, it can be agonising and debilitating, but it is something to fight against whereas depression is like a cloud that covers everything – and how can you fight a cloud? To add to my woes this morning the curtain rail broke, the toilet seat needed adjusting and then I had an alert from the bank saying I’ve gone over my overdraft limit. Again.
Mornings when I’m feeling like this I do yoga laughter breath. Basically you just breathe out in short bursts saying ‘hahahahahahaha, hehehehehe, hihihi’ and so on, going through the vowels. It really does help; I didn’t feel like laughing AT ALL this morning but once you start you find yourself laughing for real – and then you can’t help but feel better.
The majority of my readers are delightful people; they like and comment and follow and post interesting and insightful thoughts. If they disagree, they do so respectfully and politely. But every so often I get a troll. They often start off quite pleasantly, just making one or two points on which they differ from me, but as soon as I start engaging with them they become ruder and ruder until finally their posts consist of nothing but insults. The last one who did this was blocked, though not as soon as he ought to have been (so far I’m pretty sure they’ve all been male) though as I’ve just discovered in the trash folder, he carried on commenting and trying to get me to react for about a year.
Actually reading through all his comments I found myself in tears… of laughter. Like the death of Little Nell they were so ridiculous that I actually found them funny. I’m not going to repeat any of them but I think it’s real progress that they made me laugh instead of getting to me. Because that is the point: to get to you. It’s not about what the comments say, it’s about that person trying to get under your skin in any way they can; to undermine, to pour scorn and loathing and vitriol and keep pouring it until (they hope) you just give up.
It’s my theory (and OH’s) that trolls are generally people with impossibly high standards. I always check out my followers and invariably these trolls don’t have a blog or website of their own with any content on it at all, because they’re afraid to put themselves out there. And because they’re afraid they envy anyone who has the guts to do this; and because they envy us they try to bring us down.
In the early days of this blog I was terrified that as soon as I expressed an opinion I would get a load of criticism from all sides. But that never happened, and over time I’ve learned to handle people disagreeing (so long as they do so respectfully). What took me longer to learn was zero tolerance of rudeness; I put up with it for far too long. All of which links to…
Mental health. This was going to be my main topic but I went off on one. Thankfully it is much more acceptable to talk about mental health nowadays than it was in my youth; although when people say ‘I’ve got mental health’ I always have to stop myself from saying ‘congratulations’ and asking how they managed it. What they mean, of course, is ‘I’ve got mental health problems’ and that is an area I know something about. I know depression and I know psychosis, and right now – whether it’s the hot weather or just a burst of energy or something else – I can feel psychosis nudging at my elbow. What does it feel like? I’ve learned to recognise the signs now, so it doesn’t generally sweep over me. This can be terrifying. The best way I can explain it is like an old-fashioned swirly ‘dissolve’ on TV which they used to indicate a dream or the passing of time (I don’t know what it’s called so I can’t find any videos of it.) Anyway, it feels like that; you’re just walking along and suddenly everything goes swirly and you lose hold on reality. It’s very frightening. I think mental health is very relevant to trolls; I’m not saying they’re all mentally ill but a healthy person does not spend their time trying to bring others down. I’m tempted to write a poem now in the style of Browning’s My Last Duchess:
That’s my last troll up there on the wall
looking as if he were alive…
Well, since it’s nearly Easter I am easing out of my news fast – and after only about 20 minutes of the Today programme I’d had enough. ‘Turn it off,’ I said to Mark: already I was angry, frustrated and fearful, and it was only half-past seven. This is not good. I’m going to have to find a way past this, because it’s not good just to ignore the news: you need to keep up with what’s going on. But you also need perspective. You need to look after your mental health – and frankly, if I’d been listening to the news along with all the stuff I’ve been going through in the last few weeks, I would have gone under. The news makes me feel that I’m carrying the world’s problems on my shoulders: each time I hear a terrible story I want to do something about it, but mostly there’s nothing I can do, so I end up feeling frustrated and powerless. This is definitely not good. Even in those cases where there is something I can do – a famine, for example, for which I could donate to an appropriate charity – I feel there’s too much suffering and I can’t donate to everything.
There is a view that the media do this on purpose to keep us all in a state of fear and helplessness. Whatever the truth of the intention behind it, the effect is the same: fear, anxiety, anger – sometimes rage – and helplessness. What I’ve found during Lent is that it’s much healthier to do something about the stories you come across. This needn’t mean living in a little bubble of your friends and family: you can still be in touch with the wider world, but you hear about stories via people you know; often people who are involved in efforts to help and who can involve you too if you wish. You get feedback on how things are going; you may even get to meet some of the people who feature in the story: in short, you feel included. You feel powerful, not helpless. And this is Good News, isn’t it? It has to be.
So my advice is, for some part of your week or month, give up listening to the news. Maybe take one day a week out; or one weekend a month. It’ll still be there when you come back – and in the meantime you’ll be refreshed, encouraged and empowered.
I watched an interesting film last night: called ‘Treacle Jr’ about a man who walks out on his family and disappears to live rough in London. He clearly has mental health problems but remains fairly lucid in spite of them, and in London he is befriended by a wild and chaotic Irishman who takes him back to his flat. At first he tries to escape the Irishman, Aidan, who lives with an aggressive and thieving prostitute, but the guy follows him around, trying to make a living by cutting hedges with a pair of scissors or by going to cafes with his cat, Treacle and offering to chase mice from the premises. After walkout-guy Tom saves his life, they become friends and Tom moves in with him. It’s a low-key film but it draws you in with some interesting camera-angles and a narrative which stands back and observes the characters.
It fits in quite well with the current Orwell-fest on radio 4, and in particular the serialisation of ‘Down and Out in Paris and London.’ I read this in my twenties and it made a deep impression on me: Orwell went more than the extra mile to research his pieces; he actually lived incognito as a homeless man and experienced what life was like for them. I will never forget his description of men sleeping on a line – if you didn’t have the money for a bed (a bug-ridden bed in a room full of other men) you could choose a room where men slept with their arms folded over a washing-line. God only knows what that would feel like in the morning. Men in London were also moved on after three nights, so that there was a tribe of wandering men tramping from one doss to another.
Another interesting prog I watched over the weekend was a bio of Bob Monkhouse.
Although I found his slick persona repellent, there’s no doubt that Bob was an interesting bloke: far more intelligent than he let on and, as this programme explores, with an obsessive-compulsive collecting habit. One thing I found disappointing though was that the sexism and racism wasn’t commented on – yes I know it was another age but how can you let a joke like ‘she has to lift her blouse to count to two’ pass without comment? I mean, this is offensive on so many levels I can’t count them without – oh, I don’t know, lifting my cranium to count my many millions of brain-cells. Not to mention Lenny Henry’s first appearance: this was a real find for the producers as Bob had obsessively collected every script, every recording and every copy of the Radio or TV Times for every programme in which he had ever featured. So Lenny Henry’s first TV appearance on New Faces at age 16 was discovered and is remarkable for two things – his stunning talent and the deep dodginess of his jokes (‘it’s only dirt – it’ll come off’). Again, offensive in the extreme – and yet the programme let it pass without comment. Yes, I know the guy is dead and yes, I know, the past is like another country – but to let these things go by with just a nod and a wink is not on.
Relatively normal this morning, feeling weird this afternoon. Went up to the chalet after philosophy. Philosophy was good although the hijab didn’t happen as the leaders of the session hadn’t got it together so instead we had a round-up of whether animals are persons (inconclusive but interesting) and an intro to the topic of GM foods which was totally damning of the behaviour of the multinationals. Monsanto came off the worst. I am developing a Philosophy about all this – so watch this space!
Email from One & Other with a photo from the plinth. It took me back. I thought they were doing it again but it seems not.
But then I went to the chalet. Felt exhausted so slept after lunch and ended up feeling really out of it. Need to ground myself – but also have the urge to write so hard to know what to do. Sometimes life feels like treading a tightrope.
Good to have the car even though I do end up feeling like a taxi some of the time. Daniel wants me to collect Alex for a sleepover. Then on Wdds I have a teaching practice assessment so have to get my head in gear for that. At times it feels that the two halves of my character cannot coexist in one person.
My twins fight
like dog and cat
I cannot right
this ship of state
Can’t remember any more. It was a poem I wrote a couple of years back. Called ‘Gemini’.
I don’t believe at all in astrology predicting the future – but it does seem to have something to say about character. I often read the stuff about Gemini and it makes sense. Weird. I don’t see why it should.
I’m rambling. Will be spending an evening with Daniel watching videos.