I found myself a little melancholic last night after I posted Fragile Masculinity. My wife went to bed early, and I sat on the sofa, stuck in the pattern of knowing that I should do something positive to break the cycle but instead soaked in all the quick fix dopamine Reddit and Youtube would give me. Then I went bed, anxiously awake in the dark, and woke up this morning after several nightmares.
The last one got me jumping out of bed in panic around about the time of my alarm. I went downstairs, pretty much fell straight back to sleep on the sofa, and struggled to do any or my morning routine. I was mentally and emotionally drained, and stuck that way all morning.
I'm subscribed to Arnold Schwarzanegger's mailing list (and now his fitness app - more on that much later, when I've finished his starter program), and recently had the suggestion through that a quick lunch time walk can help break such moods and fatigure. Stretching my legs sounded good; if it's good enough for the Governator, it's good enough for me, and I love a good walk.
I started thinking about what the cause might have been. First thought was tiredness. the easy target, although I wasn't particularly tired last night, so while it might be compounding my mood today it wasn't the root cause.
The next likely culprit is work. the crap just picked up where it left off before my week off, and I'm now involved in heavily analysing a project that's gone almost completely off the rails three times now and the people who I'm dealing with are non-technical. A certain recipe for stress, sure, but I'm actually doing an okay job of letting that flow through me. Less so today due to other factors, but it was okay yesterday.
So then was it the post? I started re-reading it and figured it ended ok, relatively positive. And then I realised, and sighed.
Back to dad again.
This might sound weird (ok, it's definitely going to sound weird), but I've long kind of hated how the death of my dad still gets me sometimes. I remember talking about it with my last therapist and needing to go on an hour long walk to an area I knew was fairly remote so I could rant and rave, scream and shout. The whole shebang.
The thought process is I'm a 30-something year old man, and I never even knew the guy I'm not a kid anymore. There's no reason why this should affect me so much. Except of course there's any number of reasons why it should, and probably will from time to time for the rest of my days.
It goes back to that fragile masculinity again. I should be able to bear it better. I should be able to move past it, especially after so long, and especially seeing as I never really actually had the loss. I never had him in my life, never knew him, was never consciously aware of his existence even. I only really seem to remember getting sad about it all after other people kept telling me it was a sad thing to happen.
Not to mention the amount of work I've put into moving on. The years of working through feelings and actions, through therapy, journals, and countless coversations. The years of building a better life on which to focus on, and my own family to build it for. All of it feels wasted whenever I get like this.
I started to work through that when I realised that even that wasn't the full story. I noticed where I was walking, the old famiiar streets, and realised the true root cause.
Leaving home was one of the hardest things I've ever done.
I didn't feel ready. Financially, or emotionally. I was still pretty co-dependant with mum, made all the stronger by her mental health issues, which then meant I needed to intervene more, which then fed my self-importance and perfectionism. I got to provide.
But I took the jump and moved in with a friend, and then when we got evicted nine months later (good old section 21), I moved into a house share and spent three years settling in there.
I loved everything about that place. Most of the housemates were amazing, two of which I still stay in contact with today, five years on. I lived near a massive Tesco, the kind that has pretty much everything you could want, and plenty of good walking and running routes. It was where I ahd the most perfect run of my life. A solid night time 5k, part of which was running through a nature path with no streetlights, the way lit up by the perfect moon in the sky. It was glorius.
When I moved in with my wife, we moved to a different area of the same city, and again, built up our lives over four years. We got out dog, found loads of good walking routes, got to know the neighbours (one of whom worked in a warehouse and would often come back with free boxs of expired Chewits, or unsold ready meals). But there was one key characteristic all of these places shared.
It wasn't Home.
There was no emotional baggage, no memories from the past. I was free to build new ones and relished the opportunity. Like taking my wife up the big hill to catch an amazing sunrise, or our first snow day together. Or when we moved in and took the dog on an epic snow adventure. It was fresh, it was my own, and it was lovely.
Then we bought this house. It's mostly perfect for us (my wife still wants separate kitchen and living rooms at some point rather than open plan, but problem for another day), but more importantly it was within budget and I knew the area well and so I knew there wouldn't really be any problems.
The problem is I know the area well because I lived about ten minutes round the corner. It's literally the same parish, and so I'm surrounded by momeories and nostaliga.
There was the time me and a friend had to pretty much carry another guy home after he got paraletic on God knows what, and his mum was pretty much the most timid and patient woman in the world about it. Or the time a few years before where me and a couple of my best friends were throwing jelly babies up at another kids window to get his attention, and one got stuck up there. It was there for a good two or three weeks that summer.
There's the old walking route I used to love, one night lightening to John Frusciante's newly released track Unreachable whilst being captivated by how the streetlights caught the freezing fog in the air. There was the time I taught a friend to play Magic: The Gathering up on a bridge. There was the midnight walk back with my friend from my first party with alcohol, having got mum to buy me four cans each of Fosters and Strongbox. We talked about how good things were, our plans, and how I wanted him to be the best man at my wedding.
He wasn't, and we have barely spoken in the 15 years since. Nothing happened, other than life. We went our separate ways after school. I hear he's married himself now, with a little girl to boot, and he's really landed on his feet.
There's a kind of grief with that nostalgia, and it's hard to escape when everywhere I turn is another blast from the past. The first pub I got drunk in (and was underaged). The kebab shop I used to go almost weekly too (large donner wrap with salad, chilli sauce, and mayo please). The pizza place is still there. My primary schools (although I often fight the urge to try and see if I can walk around them after hours, see if they're still the same; I don't think that'll be received well), the community hall I first made out with a girl in at a party (in the boy's toilets no less; the make out session, not the party), even half the play park equipment hasn't changed in decades.
But while somethings haven't changed, the times have, and me with them. I was a different guy back then, surrounded by different people, people I'd had connections with all my life by that point. I had hopes, I had dreams, and I had friends, all of whom I thought I'd have for life, and yet.
It's a difficult feeling to process, because it makes me feel like I'm being ungrateful for what I have, like I would prefer to be back then. Sometimes I get that pull at my very worst, although I reason that's mostly just the stereotypical feeling of wanting to be a kid again, free from the problems of bills and work and people and just dealing with learning and playing after school. Just going to back to actually living.
I'm not though, I'm just feeling that loss. The loss of friendship, the loss of freedom, of that lack of care growing up. The feeling of having limitless potential.
The tough thing is being mindful through it. It's a bit like being an alcoholic surrounded by bottles of vodka. The temptation to fall back into old longings, just a quick trip down memoriy lane. Those sweet, sweet memberberries.
And sometimes that's okay, but not when it comes at the expense of the moment, to paraphrase Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. I have a new life, a new purpose, and a new family who endlessly love me for who and what I am now, as opposed to who I was or thought I could be back then. I have new potential, and while that's limited to a more realistic scale, that's just how it's always been. I was just too blind to see it.
Mindfulness is the way. Not the ereadication of grief and pain. Just not letting it rule my actions, and my heart.
And maybe get some more sleep sometime.
Words - 1,709 Running Total - 33,372 (66.7%, 32 words ahead of target)
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