The rolling film

Some of us live in a world where we can never be good enough. Even now, as I write those words, my mind is scrambling through a stinking pile of potential ‘buts’ – reasons why even that little sentence is wrong, misjudged, and worst of all, defining.

Whether it’s how others perceive us in the daylight, or how happy we are amongst the silent but oh so sharp reflections of the night, some of us are deeply troubled by invisible nothings – nothings which, by their very lack of substance become perhaps the most frightening troubles of all.

It is thanks to these that we can’t find peace. Thanks to these that, very far from a pained but heroic sufferer, trundling through life, we become everything we revile: jealous, petty, unreasonable. In moments which all too soon become hours, and coming ever more frequently the more we hide from them, we bite and snarl, seeing ghosts over the shoulders of those who, mostly innocently, cross our paths. Our bonds waver, and in others we feel a growing distance, as their image, their memory of us is dirtied forever.

At least, so we think.

Does it ever occur to us that this lovely, but sadly overblown picture is just a fantasy? A nightmare film played by some little fucker in the cinemas of our minds? It occurs, yes. But it never sticks. Ever tried watching two films at once? Because that nightmare movie doesn’t make a habit of stopping.

But it needs to. We need to. Again I find myself asking the same question, the one that is coming to define this page – how do we stop the film rolling? Can it really be as simple as, ‘Switch it off’?

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Best selves

Did you ever know someone who brought out the worst version of yourself? The person who managed, off the cuff, almost like clockwork, to deform you, draw bitter, childish words from your mouth and make your voice crack like a jarring, broken record? You suddenly find yourself losing all control over your principles, and for the first time since childhood have to fight to keep your fists beneath the table.

In everyday life, we somehow sidestep these people with barely a scratch to our ‘goodness’. We don’t bother turning the torch under the muck of our minds and wonder, why was that okay? We hide, content to know that with some people, our dignity doesn’t count.

But, what if that person is someone you need to love? If you can’t be your best self with a lover, brother, mother, is it only reserved for those you don’t really care for? Is it for you alone? And if so, can you really be that best version without another to appreciate it?

An attempt at peace

Some people claim we can change the way we think; apparently we can jump into the ‘growth mindset’ as quickly as the latest haircut craze, it just needs to be yelled loudly enough. I’m not sure about this. I don’t deny it (and certainly don’t want to disparage Ms Dweck) but I don’t think many people suffering with what I’ll call ‘special brains’ can so easily shush the voices at the backs of their heads. At least, not without significant time, energy and, let’s face it, danger. The longer people are suffering with anxiety, the longer they risk it developing into some seven-headed monster determined to explode their lives; this could be depression, bulimia, or God knows what worse illnesses.

People often don’t want help – that’s the sick intelligence of anxiety, it turns you against yourself. An anxious person doesn’t want to be told they’re unwell, because it only reminds them that they feel far behind, far lesser, compared to those around them. But almost everywhere we look, anxiety is still a scary thing, something to be taken down. This isn’t so much the case with medical professionals as the, in some ways more important, people of our everyday lives: the colleague at work, the postman, your mother. These are the people who shift and squirm when we get worked up, and by doing so, feed the anxiety itself.

But does anxiety have to be such a terrible thing? I know this sounds stupid, but those of you dealing with it should maybe think for a moment about all the good it might actually have done you. Maybe you go the extra mile for that friend (because you’re afraid they’ll cut you out), or for that project at work (because of course you could get fired any day now). Being anxious – or thoughtful – is who we are. I’m not saying we should forget it, or ignore professional help. I also don’t think we should accept more destructive types or forms of mental illness. But I am saying it’s much easier to ace an interview if the interviewer is an acquaintance (or dare I say, a friend?), rather than an enemy.

Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it often feels impossible. But living with anxiety cannot be a battle, something we need to fear, because it sometimes lasts a lifetime, and we’re only human. A good human makes peace, not war – when they can –  and if I’m stuck living with my ‘special brain’, I’m gonna have to make chit chat with it sooner or later.

Sorry

How do we work with apologies? What’s the situation with those things? The contract, the state of affairs? What’s too much? Too little? Overbearing, unsatisfactory? Where’s the sweet spot? How do we steady the seemingly endless swing between pig-headed confidence, and sniffling our way through lives of crooning ‘oh’s and enough knee-bending to dizzy a chiropractor?

Do you ever feel like you need to announce it? It’d be so easy today – just fling a status across the internet. Or if you wanted to be really classy, you could slip a message to the town crier: ‘Hear ye, hear ye! Mr _____ of _______ Road wants everybody, everybody to know that he is sorry. Sorry for not taking that desperate hint the other night. Sorry for not asking the right questions. Sorry for hurting, laughing, talking, not talking, singing, crying, sitting, walking, and generally just messing it up. Mr ______ is sorry…

Apologies hurt. What hurts even more is worrying you’ve not made one… correctly. I only wish our pains could say sorry for us.