Lessons from old friends

life lessons - text in wood type

This week some old friends have given me pause for thought.

I’ve never been good at explaining things.

I am a naturally very quiet person, but my brain is very noisy. I have what feels like a thousand thoughts a minute, all jumbling and fighting for room, a constant hum of white noise rattling around, and I think that on the rare occasions where I do open my mouth, or try to convey a thought or idea, so many of these thoughts come tumbling out, shouting over each other, too quick for me to keep up, that key points are lost, and all I succeed in doing is confusing those around me and frustrating myself. This is the main reason why I have so many blogs. An avenue for chaos and a way to siphon ideas out of my head, much like Dumbledore and his Pensieve. It is hard to keep track, sometimes, of what you are thinking, where you are going, and what you are doing.

But, this week, a few friends have been invaluable in helping to organise and declutter my thoughts.

As most of you know from my various blogs and ramblings, I have struggled for a few years now with being “unsatisfied”. Chasing something but not knowing what it is, feeling unfulfilled and bored and not quite sure what the fuck I am doing with my life. I have tried many different things over the past 4 years in an attempt to quieten this feeling, to fill the hole, but none of them have worked. They have had the wonderful temporary effects of novelty and excitement, but I have always quickly returned to feeling a bit empty.

I have blamed my job a lot over the last couple of years, believing that I needed to change and be self-employed, and starting lots of crazy schemes (and some not so crazy that have actually worked really well), but have ended up with no time for myself or others, as I am busy running around trying to build and run an empire, in the vain hope that this will calm my unease and discomfort at life. Recently, I took on another venture – The Hippy Shop – and whilst this really did make me feel happy, and that it could be something that filled the hole, I quickly became burnt out. It was just too much, and I would moan to anyone within earshot that if I could just quit my job, things would be fine.

Eventually there came a make or break moment with the shop, and I chose to decline and walk away. I was too scared to quit said well-paying stable job, and jump into the unknown. It was the right and sensible decision in the end and as sad as it was to do this, I actually felt a huge sense of relief, and I realised that it was all too much. I am not infallible and capable of running three businesses, a full time job, a degree, an allotment and trying to have a semblance of a life. This may seem rather obvious, but the intensity of the void inside that I try to fill, has only grown over the years, until it has become all-consuming and apparently I was willing to go to incredible lengths to fill it.

That said, the shop had succeeded in plugging the vortex for a few months, and now the emptiness seemed more vast than ever, and everything just a little bit more pointless. As most of you will know, I have been depressed, not tidying my house, looking after myself, not going out much and allowing myself to be consumed by this.

Anyway, I booked a week off work and agreed to meet with a couple of old friends last week, and in doing so have come to some realisations that may help this overwhelming pit of fuckery.

Like any good narrative, there are three parts – three friends – a fitting beginning, middle and end.

First friend. Affectionately called fuck-face normally, but will be referred to as JB. Haven’t seen JB since Halloween, and met up on Tuesday for drinks and musings. Our meetings are usually very philosophical and deeply personal, no catching up to be done, just straight to the nasty bits. Due to train station confusion, and complete lack of communication, we ended up in Cambridge, meeting much later than we planned. We plunged straight in to heavy topics as we downed expensive beers at The Eagle, and whilst I won’t bore you with the details, as it always gets a bit brainstorm-y and mad, but we had some interesting conversations on self-restriction and time management, more specifically the lies we tell ourselves concerning these two things.

We discussed our shared opinion that we “did not have time” for so many important things, and discussed how true this statement was and began examining the meta elements (not to be confused with meta tags!) and how we both participate in small self-sabotaging behaviours. I will not discuss JB’s issues obviously, but one of my own is the fact that due to a reaction to a contraceptive implant I have gained 2 stone over the last year. I hate it and I am not going to get into that particular subject, but I have been known to be frustrated and moan at how slowly the weight is coming off, as I “don’t have time” to go hit the gym crazy hard, or take classes, go for walks etc. In reality, I could have done more. I could be doing more. This “lack of time” that I describe is in my head.

I left at the end of the night with feelings of greater responsibility for my actions, rather than blaming external variables as is so easy to do. I always find this a great grounding feeling, accepting responsibility to the extent to which you truly are is a humbling feeling, and clears all bullshit, leaving just you and your actions, behaviours, interactions, motives etc. It is also a great frame of mind for organising and examining. So it put me in a contemplative mood for the week. I have been trying to find something to pull me out of this depressive funk that I have been in, so when presented with an opportunity to hash things out with JB, I grabbed it, and it helped as I knew it would.

Second friend. This was a friend that I had not seen in over 10 years, and who I was, if I am honest, quite nervous about seeing again, especially as I was a depressed mess, although I didn’t tell him that. I felt quite tempted to call it off until I was in a more awesome place and state of mind. On my way to meet him from the train station my palms started sweating, something that hasn’t really happened to me before, and in my head I thought how grateful I was that I didn’t have mom’s spaghetti down my sweater. Then I chuckled out loud on the bus and got strange looks which didn’t make me feel any better about the situation.

The friend in question is one of only a few people on the planet that has the ability to knock me off kilter. Increasingly these days I find myself feeling socially awkward, so I expected this to be the ultimate in awkward. Surprisingly I felt perfectly comfortable. He spoke at one point of drunken adventures and meeting new people, and it dawned on me that I haven’t gone out and met new people in ages. Sure, you do meet new people, but my feelings of awkwardness intervene and I actively shut people down. I am “too busy” to make new friends. Yet here should/could have been a most awkward situation (we were never very good at communicating as teenagers in the first place) and yet I was perfectly comfortable. Through hanging out with him I came to realise a few other things.

  1. He did some magic with my laptop and phone and fixed a whole bunch of shit , for which my laptop was probably eternally grateful and was probably in heaven, being touched by someone who actually had an idea of what they were doing. Watching him was fascinating, he didn’t do anything massively impressive, but I have always loved watching people do things that they are good at. I love watching people enter a zone of inner confidence, where they know their shit, it’s beautiful. I love to hear people talk about things they are passionate about, things that they geek over, even if I don’t fully understand, it gives me the same feeling, it’s beautiful. And I realised that I do not do this. For some years now I have not had mastery over anything, not geeked out over anything, I have not pushed myself, and I have nothing that makes me feel like that. I need to.

2. He had a cool little electronic gadget (god I sound like a fucking pensioner) I don’t know what you would call it, but it was like the world’s smallest keyboard and was capable of recording music and looping it all together. I was fascinated by it, and wished he had shown me more, or that I had asked what the fuck it was. Again I watched as he fiddled with buttons, and set up a couple of basic loops, and it was great to watch him. I commented that I own a keyboard but haven’t touched it for a couple of years and missed dicking around on it. Watching him reminded me of my childhood keyboard, and how I would sit for hours recording and looping drum beats, melodies, bass lines, and how fucking entertained I would be. I loved it. I realised that even the simplest creative things are so fulfilling, they don’t have to be for work or for a purpose, they can just be because it’s fun, and I how I used to know that but have recently forgotten it.

3. It made me feel a little bit vulnerable, letting him into this depressive world I have been inhabiting, and part of me felt ashamed. I used to be an awesome person, always doing crazy things, new things, weird things, living life. I had come to believe that perhaps I had stopped being that person. He, on the other hand, has always had a spark in him, something creative, yearning for the learning, wanting to experience, crazy spark. He still has that, yet he had changed so dramatically since I last saw him. He told me things he had done and I couldn’t imagine the 14/15 year old boy I met doing those things. I mean at all. Sure we are twice as old now, but the confidence and sureness in himself that he exhibited (I cannot speak for his personal feelings) was amazing, I felt so happy for him that he was an awesome person.

But it made me wonder how two people can part ways and in 10 years go in such different directions. One of the reasons I liked him when we were teenagers is because he was so like me, and understood me and one of the things we had in common was that spark. Somewhere along the way I lost it, and I’ve known that for a while. Believing that it had been beaten out of me by life and circumstances, whatever excuses I had convinced myself of, now stood in unrest. He is going through a very difficult time at the moment, and yet here, the spark stood, untouched. It made me realise that all the “reasons” I had come up with for why I couldn’t get my fucking arse in gear were invalid. We are not all the same, this I know, but he and I were similar and I realised that I had been lying to myself.

This thought began to unravel and I began putting things together and taking things apart and questioning what exactly had I been doing with myself. All of a sudden an image of myself, stagnant, giving up and being an un-awesome person floated to the surface, as a true self portrait. I realised that I had given up on something, that I had become old before my time, throwing myself into work and into crazy things to stem the flow of “void-induced” pain.

There were some other things that made me question whether the things I told myself I was happy with, were actually simply comforting untruths, and by the time he left I was feeling quite bemused and emotional. Whilst it had been great to see him, it had left me with an awful lot to think about.

Friend number 3. She is almost twice my age and has lived an amazing life. She sailed the Atlantic, set up home in the BVI and lived there like a native for years. She has memory issues, and as such does not lie. As she says, she’d never remember them so there’s no point. Her honesty and bluntness is one of the reasons why I love her, and one of the reasons why she makes such a good friend. She also has a brilliant outlook on life.

She came round Friday lunchtime, and could tell that I was unsettled. We discussed things and her blunt dressing down of me was welcome. She said a lot of things that made a lot of sense, as she always does, and her gentle support and belief in me gave me a positive spin. She encouraged me to address the things that were on my mind, change them, be true to myself, and to get my head out of my own arse and stop worrying and procrastinating. The more she talked the more I realised that she was completely right. I had been placing self-limiting beliefs on myself and my circumstances, and I had allowed myself to wallow in the fiction of these beliefs.

I ended Friday feeling happy and inspired. I then tried to explain this drunkenly on Saturday and it all came out wrong and made me sound mental, so I then spent Sunday consumed with a regret that only alcohol can bring. I could have bowed my head and given in, that nothing had changed and carried on with my melancholy. And nothing has changed. But I can change it. I can find something in life that makes me feel creative. I can find something in life that brings that spark back. I don’t know what and it may take me a wee while to figure that out. I do still think I need a new job, but I need to think long and hard about it. I also need to stop beating myself up, and stop saying no to things, experiences. “I can’t” is something I say so fucking much and I hadn’t even realised. I want to have an awesome life, and be an awesome person again.

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