Friendship

Darkness and Doubt

”Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people.”
—C.G. Jung

Darkness, self-doubt, self-loathing.

It’s been a rough week as far as that goes, and I’ve been feeling old and useless, unwanted and incompetent – despite a fair amount of evidence to the contrary. Rarely has my social life been as rich, rarely have I seen more appreciation for my art, rarely have I felt this loved. Yet my self-doubt and self-loathing are as strong as they’ve ever been.

A few days ago, while describing my current darkness to a friend, I started saying that I felt alone and unwanted, then stopped myself. Over the weekend I had gone to three social gatherings and met up with four friends in addition, having to turn down several invitations. I met several old friends and many new acquaintances and had a pretty good time – not spending more than about three hours by myself between Thursday evening and Sunday night – and yet I labelled myself as having been ‘alone’ and ‘unappreciated’.

It just goes to show that mental happiness isn’t really very connected to outer factors. Inside one’s own head, the demons can roam free and make even the greatest accomplishments insignificant – or even turn them against you.

I’m lucky to have friends I can really talk to – people who are there for me whenever I need them to. In fact, much more than I need them to, because I seldom ask. Some of them have battled depression and self-loathed themselves, and now all too well what it’s about. Compared to some of the people I know and confide in, my troubles pale into nothing.

That doesn’t matter, though.

When the black dog comes pawing through one’s mind, no rational comparison helps.

Logically, I know I’m quite fortunate – I’m loved, wanted and appreciated. Emotionally, that’s not how I feel though. I’ll get through it – I always do. My success rate at getting through the bad days is 100% – and that’s pretty damn good. I’ll get through the next few ones as well, one step at a time.

So, to those of you out there struggling with similar feelings  I have just one thing to say:

Talk to someone. Try to find someone who understands, and remember: you’ve gotten through everything life has thrown at you so far.

You can get through this!

Dog


  • Read – The Bell Jar; Sylvia Plath
  • Watch – The Fisher King; Terry Gilliam
  • Listen – Tomorrow Comes A Day Too Soon; Flogging Molly

Need and Fear

“And you became like the coffee, in the deliciousness, and the bitterness and the addiction.”
Mahmoud Darwish

circle

Some people change your entire world for the better.

The other day I was at a mate’s gig, and for his closing song he chose one written for a close friend of his. He told the audience this, pointing her out, and seeing the smile on her face warmed my heart and reminded me of the special people in my own life. The song was absolutely beautiful and I got the chance to talk the woman in question for a bit after, while she was still beaming with pride, embarrassment and joy. Their bond had never been more obvious.

Do you have a person like that in your life, Dear Reader? Someone who inspires you and elevates you, making your everyday just a little bit brighter? The kind of person who not only says and does the right things, but who inspires you to do and say the right things in return – a friend or lover or both whose mere presence in your life makes you a better, happier person. Someone you would trust with anything and everything. I hope you do.

I have been blessed with knowing many great people over the years. People who have irrevocably changed me and improved me – sometimes smoothly and other times only through great pain. For me, there’s one such person in particular. Someone who has shone a light into every dark corner of my soul, bringing to light things I thought I had long buried.

I’ve always been something of a loner. Keeping to myself, hovering on the fringe of every social circle I’ve belonged to, never really letting anyone in completely. There are many reasons for that – reasons better left for another time. The point is that I’ve always made sure to stay independent, to never rely on any one person for my needs, to stay protected. Even in love. No single person in my life has ever had the complete puzzle of me. Whenever I’ve been hurt or injured or sad, other people have been a bother that I’ve retreated from. At my darkest and most vulnerable, I’ve always wanted to be completely alone. Always.

Until now.

Now, I’ve found myself wanting to be with her when I feel down. No matter what my state of mind, she always makes life easier and brighter – sometimes actively, with words or gestures or actions; sometimes just by being there and inspiring a better mood in me. For the first time ever, I find myself not merely  wanting another person in my life, but actually needing that person.

And that, Dear Reader, scares the shit out of me…


  • Read – The Silence of the Lambs; Thomas Harris
  • Watch – Casablanca; Michael Curtiz
  • Listen – When You Are Old; Martina McBride

Stretched thin…

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.”
—Irish Proverb

 EHBeginning

It’s way too late to sit here, writing my blog – but if I don’t do it now I will miss another week. So here goes…

The past week and a half – two weeks really – have been full of everything but what I should have been doing. I have several things on my To Do-list that are way overdue (that’s the problem with projects that have no deadlines, they are easy to postpone in favor of more pressing things), but need and circumstance have left me uncreative. What I have been doing is spend time with friends and family, rushing from one to the other on my spare time and catching up with far away friends through the phone and computer.

Also, I have been completely exhausted. I don’t know why, really – maybe it’s cutting back on the coffee, maybe it’s returning to my work out schedule, maybe both. Maybe it’s something else. Fact remains, I’m feeling more tired, more often. It’s been great, though – sort of a mini-vacation from parts of my life – just hanging out, laughing and then sleeping – which is why I there was a hiatus here last week. The other day I did manage to pen down a piece of flash fiction, though – once that is edited I will see what I shall do with it.

Dear Reader, do you ever feel stretched thin over your life?

As if you can’t quite cover everything you need to be and do without effort, like a blanket that is just barely enough to cover your body at night? There’s no stress, really, and you’re not failing at anything – it just takes constant effort to balance everything and make sure you manage. That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling the past few weeks, and I’m not sure why. Part of it may be saying good bye to my previous haunt, as I’ve mentioned before.

On October 1st I took my leave of the little coffee shop, individually explaining why to all of the old staff and thanking them for their service, conversation and friendship – all that remains now is explaining my absence to the new manager. I think I know how to phrase it, so now I just have to find a good time when she’s there. I pass there almost daily, so I have stopped in to say hi, resisting the urge to get my usual order. It’s a bit tough, leaving a place you’ve practically called home for eight years. But hey, at least I’ll save a bit of money, eh?

It was the right thing to do.

Forgive me if I’m not making complete sense – I really should be headed to bed. But first, this week’s recommendations! There’s no theme to them today, except that all three are things I only recently read/saw/listened to.

So, until next time – have a good weekend!


 

Coffee and Heartbreak

“Believe me when I tell you: Life will not break your heart, it’ll crush it.”
―Henry Rollins

Photo by DannieThings end, and there is preciously little we can do to prevent it.

Once again I find myself at the end of something; in a place of transition. Changes are happening at the coffee shop I’ve frequented for the past 8-9 years. The new manager is making stupid decisions, relocating and firing some of the best, most hard working people on such tenuous grounds that it seems impossible to not see it as a personal vendetta.

One of the people who has to go happens to be one of my best friends, and her case in particular has been handled with such sloppiness that I simply cannot ignore it. Now, I have a choice to make. Do I continue to give the coffee shop my – not insignificant – business, or do I find another way to get my caffeine fix? I’m leaning toward the latter.

For one, having already lost four of my favorite baristas and now losing two more, frequenting the establishment won’t be as joyful as it once was. Also, keeping up a happy face to the manager is not going to happen – my sense of loyalty forbids me – and as a regular it really helps if you get along with the proprietor. But it’s not an easy choice to make.

Coffee shops hold a very special place in modern life.

For the creative of us, they have become nearly religion – I know many people who work out of them, balancing privacy and social life, income and expense, familiarity and change of scenery. They are so much more than a place to go buy coffee – they are a place for dates, pit stops during busy days, breaks and relaxations, study and work. They are life and romance and friendship.

Back when coffee first reached Europe, men would go to coffee shops to discuss politics and business and philosophy. In the 19th century, they increasingly became the gathering place for local artists and writers – along with pubs and cafés that served absinth, of course. Many artists and thinkers have turned to coffee as their drug of choice over the centuries – Voltaire and Balzac are reported to have imbibed over 50 cups a day, at their worst (or their best, maybe), and both Bach and Beethoven were big coffee drinkers.

This particular coffee shop has really been my home away from home for the past seven years. I’ve seen seven managers and scores of baristas come and go; I’ve made several friends and many more acquaintances; I’m known by staff and regulars alike and I have never once been mistreated. Even though the recent rebuilding took away part of it’s charm, and even though stricter policy from the main office and the new management has further dampened the atmosphere, it is still part of me. I was there first.

At a modest count, I’ve spent over 4,000 hours at that café – talking, writing, drawing, laughing, crying, meeting new people and old friends. I’ve given it more business than I care to admit, but it and its staff have given me so much in return. I know its workings in and out and I’ve even helped out with things on occasion. This current turn of events make me angry, sad, upset and even hurt.

Regardless of where I go now, it will be with a heavy heart.

I do not particularly like change – at least not when it is forced upon me. However, I do realize that it is a necessary part of life – without change there will be no growth, no progress. And we need progress, all of us. And come to think of it…

How much progress in this world has not been fueled by coffee?


Stock photo by Dannie

Sketch of the Week (or not)

Dear Reader, I am afraid I owe you an apology.

I was supposed to have a sketch to show you this week, but between the heat, my back acting up, and a severe case of procrastination I have more work to do before I’m ready to show it to anyone. Instead I will post this picture of a recent wall painting I did with a dear friend of mine in her new apartment:

FlowersOnTheWallMontage

The overall design is based on a sketch I did which we then worked out the details on together. The painting itself is a collaboration, with her painting the stem and leaves and me painting all but three of the flowers. It took us seven hours from first to last brush stroke, but it was well-worth it!

Godspeed

“Can miles truly separate you from friends… If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?”
―Richard Bach

Godspeed

As some of you may know I have housed a lodger for the past two months – one of my newest and dearest friends. Today marks the end of that arrangement, as she is getting the keys to her own place. The move itself will likely stretch out over several days to a week and might keep me a bit busier than usual. My aim is to try and keep up my schedule for this site and my creative pursuits, but in all honesty that schedule has already been broken. Twice. So I’ll throw all pretense to the wind and say that any updates you get the coming week should be seen as a bonus. In the midst of the usual insanity I am also recuperating from my back injury (quite nicely I might add), processing the upcoming final episode of my favorite tv series Californication, as well as saying good bye to the manager of the coffee shop I frequent – which brings me to the topic of today’s ramblings:

Transitions.

Life changes on us, constantly. I’d go so far as to say that change and death are the only two certainties of life. However, we should not view change as a series of endings and beginnings – after all, very few things ever truly end. Most of the time things change and transition into something else; something new and uncertain or something familiar and safe. If we are lucky those changes bring more good than bad. Now, I don’t know about you Dear Reader, but for me the past few years have been full of apparent endings; full of new beginnings and fresh steps taken. Yet when I try to think of them I realize that they all flow together and mix into one another: one new thing in my life would not – could not – have come into being unless the old made way for it. A lover turns into a friend; a friend to a flirt. A job opportunity turns to dust, leaving time for fresh assignments. Circumstance and chance turn a casual acquaintance into a deeply beloved friend. If we do it right, life will keep throwing these changes at us in the best of ways, granting us opportunities and wisdom in return for our short comings and failures; for our rejections and misadventures.

Everywhere we go the events of our lives morph and change and twist away from us so they can deliver new gifts, new challenges, new experiences. Without the tumultuous events of the past year and a half I would not have a lodger to say my farewells to – might not even have this friendship, even – and what a loss that would be! These months have brought with them the unexpected side effect of better routines, higher productivity and a much larger enjoyment of life. How then could I possibly view this as the end of something? While sad to see her go I am also happy and excited to have been part of this interlude in her journey to her own corner of the world and all that it entails. I’m delighted to see her off, knowing that her influence on my life will remain in ways I could never have expected when she first carried her boxes and bags over my threshold.

This post turned a lot more personal than what I had initially planned, and I hope I haven’t bored you too much with the details of my life. It is a hazard of using late nights to write about emotional subjects, I fear.

Godspeed my friend, and fare the well – may the lilies of peace line your path, and may you find a rainbow behind every turn!


Thyme and Tyde…

“The key question to keep asking is, are you spending your time on the right things? Because time is all you have. ”
―Randy Pausch

GrendelCurse

This past week has been busy.

I’ve finished, polished and submitted a new short story – I’m not truly happy with how it turned out, but with a limited time frame for submission and no clear vision of how to change it I had to make a decision: submit as it was, or keep it and rewrite later. It was an easy choice. Since I will never ever be truly happy with anything I do, it was better to send it out and let it try it’s wings now. I can always patch it up later if it crashes (or give it a proper burial, if need be – we will see).

I got a chance to meet one of my favorite writers and other good friends, discussing work and possible collaborations, receiving hints on exciting things to come, sharing stories and just generally catching up. Like always, it was a good day and an inspiring day – I left with a few new seeds germinating in my mind and a signed copy of a new book (perhaps not of the highest literary quality, but one I have been looking forward to regardless to satisfy my inner adventure-seeking child).

Lastly, I have welcomed a dear friend into my home for an as of yet unspecified period of time. Despite sharing a fairly small apartment and having different schedules it has been entirely pleasant. The arrangement has raised a number of eyebrows and furrowed a few brows, but I am confident that this will work quite well. As an added bonus I have received honest, valuable critique on my work and (perhaps paradoxically) more time to write. If nothing else, I’m hoping to come away from this experience with the ability to use my time more efficiently.

This trio of events have all contributed to my next project – telling a story that is very dear to my heart. This short story will likely be the most emotional, cathartic thing I’ve ever written, but I need to get it out. As of today, I have done most of the necessary research and the first group of words have been committed to page. It feels good, but at the same time I’ve been forced to think back on my life and contemplate the man I’ve been and the man I have yet to become.

These thoughts are, of course, not all roses and sunshine: there’s plenty of darkness and thorns in there. Have you ever tried navigating a thicket of thorns in darkness? It’s not entirely pleasant experience, let me tell you. Revisiting some of those moments have made me think about the present and what I can do to better myself. I may have a few regrets about how I have spent my time thus far, but one of the beauties of time is that you can never spend more than you have. Time and tide waits for no man, and so every hour you start on is fresh and unspent; a blank page to be filled.

How are you going to fill the next page you are given?

It is Time…

“What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly.”
―Richard Bach

EHFinal

…to say good bye.

This little coffee shop has been my home away from home for many years. I first started frequenting it when my first watering hole, visible just behind the lovely barista in the photo, lost their best salesman. As a philosopher, scholar, and rake – he was the center point of a small gathering of intelligent dissidents of modern society. Everything from politics, religion, literature, music, history and the spreading lack of common courtesy was vented and discussed over the coffee urn there, and there were stories told that I will carry with me until the day I die. But I digress!

When that man – now my Brother and Confidante – left his post, there was little point in lingering. The circle of intellectuals scattered to the wind, and I retreated morosely to the other coffee shop, notebook in hand. At first it was just the occasional coffee. Then a sandwhich. Then, as my hours shifted I had a daily coffee break at Gullmarsplan, I hung around more. Slowly I got to talking with some of the staff and some of the regulars, and before I knew it I was spending more and more time there. Now, the shots of espresso I have been served at that counter number well into the thousands, all of the staff know be my name and then some, and I can myself name most of the employees that have come and gone over the past decade.

I’ve met many wonderful people while seated at that counter, and it has served as a place of inspiration, discussion, flirting, and some truly good times! Tonight it is closing for renovations and when it opens again in a fortnight it will be completely remodeled.

The staff will remain, the coffee will be unchanged, the regulars will most likely keep coming in – yet I fear it will never be quite the same…

I’ll see you Yesterday

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”
—Buddha

MindyMcCready

Today is a day of sadness.

Mindy McCready took her own life this morning – shot herself on the porch of her home, in the same spot where her boyfriend committed suicide just over a month ago. She was 37 years old.

Mindy was born at approximately the same time as me, on the other side of the world, on November 3oth 1975.

I didn’t know that when I first started listening to her music, at the very beginning of her career when we were both only 20. It was a dark time in my life, and her music helped bring me out of it. Since then I have followed the ups and downs of her life, and over the years I came to feel a special connection to her, though I really only got to know her a little bit, personally. I never explained to her what she’d meant to me – out of fear and embarrassment, I guess – and we never got to meet in person. I thought there’d be time for that, later.

When she passed away, years had gone by since we’d had any contact. I meant to write her following David’s suicide, but…well…you think there will always be time, later. Turns out there isn’t.

She led a tumultuous and troubled life, battling many demons – both internal and external. Hopefully that struggle is over now.

Rest in peace Mindy, you’ve earned it – I’ll miss you, and I’ll see you yesterday…