What is the next thing I can do?

I have a hypothetical scenario for you:  You have an event coming up in your life relating to your chosen passion.  It’s just around the corner and you’re hugely excited.  This is it, this could be the making of an incredible new life and it’s almost here!

You dream of people flocking to your door wanting to know who you are and can we have some more please.  That sounds amazing, doesn’t it?

Then the event happens and reality gives you a rather unwarranted (well, it may seem that way) kick up the backside as you realise you haven’t hit the big time.  Okay maybe you sold a few books/paintings/photographs, but you are still sat at home and your phone/email is as quiet as it used to be.  Now what?

Wind back to just before the event.  If you have some free time dedicate it to answering these questions; ‘what if this doesn’t launch my career?’ and ‘What is the next thing I can do to get people to notice me?’

After the event there is a possibility you could disappear into a funk because after all your hard work, nothing happened.  Setting time aside beforehand will help prepare you if it didn’t go to plan.

So after being absent from my blog for quite a while you are probably wondering, why this and why now?  I have a secret.  I have been getting into photography in the last few months.  Next week (19-23 August) I will be taking part in an exhibition in London.  I’m really excited and nervous about it.  It could be great or it could be a damp squib.  Here’s hoping for the former.  If it is the latter, I need to be better prepared than I am now.

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Throwing Off My Mental Shackles

So there I am in my local bookshop browsing away when I happen to listen in on a conversation.  A man and a woman were discussing their Christmases. With my over-active imagination, it sounds like they are tired of living to excess.  Parties galore are a thing of recent past.  They move on and talk about presents and walks and friends and happiness.

That’s when the feeling of inadequacy hits me.  The questions arise; what did I do for Christmas? Where have I been, what have I done?  The answer, not a lot.  On the surface that is the case, anyway.

When I returned to the flat, I took the time to think about what I have done.  Some might consider it too much, others, not enough.  Whatever they think, by comparing myself I risk losing my sanity.

I am who I am, but there are times when I’m not always comfortable with that.  I strive to better myself but I am in danger of destroying myself in the process.  This year has seen a dramatic change in my life.  From a man who was little more than a hermit two years ago, I found myself going out countless times.  Next year, I have plans to change my life once more.  As I have learned though, plans are no good if you don’t set them in motion.

I’d like to end now with a phrase found in a fortune cookie

‘The greatest battles are that with our own minds.’

Take care everyone, wishing you all a happy new year, wherever you are.

On The Edge

Gawkers look up at me and point, but they are not the worst.  That dubious distinction goes to those who take photos.  For a second, my life is capture for posterity.

I did not want it to go this way, but it is out of my hands now.  What I valued most has gone.  The mask has slipped, unveiling my inner core.  No longer am I the life and soul.  My self-loathing is there for all to see.

The man shouts at me again, but it blends in with the rest of the noise.  closing my eyes does not help, either.  Instead of relieving me from the torture, it focusses the pain.  The mind can do such vile things to itself.  The doctor said it could be chemical, what does he know?

Before my life fell apart, I lied to myself.

‘It’s okay’ I used to say.

‘Everyone feels this way from time to time’.

Maybe they did.  But for as long as I remember, I’ve always been this way.  It’s not sadness, it goes much deeper than that.  It seeps into your everyday life, insidious and awful.  Whatever it touches, conspires against you.

Words, actions, thoughts are twisted until they no longer represent reality.  Over time, you learn to compartmentalise, to shut it away in little boxes.  No longer is it the driving force in your life.  That’s what you tell yourself, anyway.

This disease of the mind, depression, call it what you will, has a way round all your defences.  For the simple reason that it is your defences.  It forms a part of it and thus undermines all you have tried to achieve.

Murphy’s Law dictates that if things can go from bad to worse, it will do so at the worst possible moment.  Sure enough, it did.  First the relationship, already a disaster from the beginning.  Soon after, the job went too.  The boss said it was the economy, but I knew better.

The bank started asking why I needed an extension on the mortgage.  When I told them about my situation, they were sympathetic.  That dried up too.

No job, no money, no place to live and no wife, you tell me what was the point in living?

“You’ve got everything to live for.”

The words brought me back to reality.  Reminiscing had felt warm, cosy.  Sat out on a ledge like this is too much to bear.  I shuffle closer, letting my feet dangle over.  It reminds me of when I was young, doing the same thing with my dad.

Back then we were fishing at the end of the pier while on holiday.  Below me are a different set of fish now.  Lights flash as cameras take pictures, helping me to recall the sun dancing on the water.

‘Now Son, I want to tell you something.’

‘What is it Dad?’

He looks around, hesitating.

‘I want you to know-‘

The words catch in his throat.  It’s too much for me to bear.  I dropped my rod and held him tightly around his neck.

‘You’re the greatest, Dad.’

I felt his tears soaking through my t-shirt.  When we part, I can see the red in his eyes.

‘Thank you for taking me fishing, Dad.’

He smiles and ruffles my hair.

‘Where would I be without you, Son?’

‘Where would I be without you, Dad?’

With those words, the dream is gone once more, to be replaced with bitter reality.

“What did you say?”

The man is shouting at me again.

I turn to him and say

“No one understands my pain.”

I see him cup his ear, but the wind snatches my words away.

“Don’t do it, Son.”

I look at him afresh and see that he is much older than me.  Maybe he has a son, just like me.

“Do you have a son?” I ask.

He nods, a sober expression on his face.

“My pride and joy.  My daughter-”

Did I see a tear in his eye?

“My daughter died five years ago now.  A drunk driver mounted the kerb and ran her over.”

“I’m so sorry.”

“He was under the limit but you could tell he wasn’t fit to drive.”

Someone understands my pain after all.  I can see the hole it has brought to his life.  Written on his face is the same that is on mine.  Standing up, I can hear the gasp from below.  The noise is meaningless.

The walk is easy now as I have something to live for.  Climbing over the parapet, I grasp the man tightly.  Tears streaming down our faces help to wash the pain away.

An age passes but soon we part.  Looking at me he says

“You’re never too old to ask for help.  You can always ask me, for I have been where you are.”

 

The End

 

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this story.

Tackling Taboo Subjects

The first question you need to ask yourself is, why do I want to do this?  Understanding your motivation for tackling a subject helps to define what sort of story you wish to write.  Personally, tackling taboo subjects is one of main motivators for writing.  I like the idea of bringing them to the fore so people can talk about them.

Sometimes I get the feeling that people want to talk about a particular issue but they wait for others to raise it first.  I have had long and deep discussions about depression, for example, and I have found them informative and rewarding.  Writing a story on the subject is like giving people an ice breaker.

I’ll admit, putting these subjects out there in story form is scary.  There are those who are not willing to discuss matters and would prefer them to remain hidden.  For too long though, we have oppressed those who cannot and possibly will not speak loudly enough.  I think it is about time we gave them a chance to be heard.