Well, that was an abortive attempt at a summer. It’s been the wettest, shortest, and sickest that I can remember in a long time. And now I’m back in school.
However, the more I read online, the more I start to feel that not leaving the house this past month or so hasn’t been so bad. Have you seen the state of the things right now? Ferguson shootings, ISIS beheadings, Hiroshima landslides, Ebola pandemics, Taylor Swift’s outfit at the VMAs: the outside world is not a place any sane person would want to be spending too much time in at the moment. Maybe this is why it’s felt so shitty recently, as a perfect storm of distant atrocities and immediate annoyances have set up some sort of psychic resonance and just dragged everything down; the sudden liquefaction of the human soul as everything vibrates at exactly the wrong frequency and what you thought was solid ground turns instantaneously to soup.
It’s less dramatic than that, to be fair, and I recognize that those immediate annoyances undeniably represent the less crappy end of the stick, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that everything’s going to shit. And I’m usually a glass-half-full kind of guy (no, really I am), so this feeling is not one I’m either used to or comfortable with: if one must experience a post-holiday comedown it’d be nice to at least have had a holiday from which to come down. Cultural dislocation, the stresses of parenthood, it all adds up. The trouble comes when you start to hope or expect that one thing, and one thing only, will come along and fix everything.
When I was younger and less drained (but also less intelligent and less empathetic) I went on a student exchange and left my then girlfriend back in the UK. It didn’t end well (if you remember) for a whole host of reasons, most of which emanated from me. She also went through some fairly heavy family-related stuff while I was away, and this at least wasn’t my fault. And yet somehow when I got back I was made to feel like it was. In retrospect (and I know of no English phrase with worse semantic prosody than that one), she’d conflated her family trouble with my absence, and thought that fixing one would fix the other. ‘Thought’ is probably too active a word there; I’ve no doubt it was an almost totally unconscious process, and I certainly don’t blame her for that or the subsequent break-up (it was very subsequent and, as I said, I was very dumb). But hanging on for that one dramatic fix to cure a range of disparate and unconnected problems is both unrealistic and yet somehow completely natural. Sometimes the most you can realistically hope for is to feel less shit, to go from -8 to -3; it’s an improvement, even if you still don’t break into the positive.
This, at least, is the life lesson I try to draw from that particular failed relationship (well, that and it’s inadvisable to call your partner’s father, however estranged, a cunt). Rome wasn’t built in a day, it’s the hope that kills you, all that jazz. It’s easier said than done though, and it’s all too simple to lapse into trite homilies and cliché (Rome, hope, jazz) instead of actually knuckling down and fixing things. But then a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single oh god I’ve done it again haven’t I. Balls.
All will be well. It’s just going to take a while, and take more than one thing to get there. Wherever ‘there’ may be. In the meantime it’s just a question of taking small steps and allowing yourself to savour the little victories as and when they arise. I’ve spoken before about how having kids and living in a different country can cause your emotional pendulum to swing both faster and wider, but it’s important to remember that it still swings both ways; as long as the centre of equilibrium is where you want it you can ride out the bad times. The good are only a heartbeat away.
Though if this fucked-up weather could stop some time soon, that’d be nice too.