This idea has been inspired by another blog -- though the views are my own. Sometimes it's difficult, when someone's on the rack of anxiety, to know how to behave. The following is what I'd ask someone for, if I could, when I have to go to that excruciating, lonely place: If you'd be so kind...  Please don't judge me.  Reassure me, and do so honestly. If you can do this, it means such a lot.  Please don't look at me with pity in your eyes.  Do indulge me just a little -- but not too much.  Please don't put on a condescending voice or talk too slowly: I've not lost my mind.  Listen to me... even if I repeat myself sometimes; I'm mostly trying to get my thoughts straight.  Please don't talk to me as if I'm stupid: my rational sense remains largely intact, even if my communication skills have dimmed.  Keep things light in tone... but feel free to remain serious.  Remind me of possibilities... rather than of all the closed/locked doors in life. Doing so can indeed make all the difference. Thank you.
I've broken down... many times. Aged 21, then 27, then 33... those are 3 out of the Big 4 breakdowns. Each and every time, I tried to fight the tidal wave. Each time -- somewhat predictably -- I failed. And each time, my body was bound on the flaming wheel of high anxiety, and my mind dipped in the bitter poison of depression. Every time, I tried to push it down. I sometimes thought of depression as "Mr Darkside"... a grim, wizened, elderly figure dressed in black. Sometimes I told a very few people. Sometimes I [reluctantly] went to my doctor. Sometimes I took the meds I was given in good faith -- though I lost a good deal of myself in the process; an odd journey not unlike wading thru treacle on a foggy day. Mostly, no-one knew. Mostly, I denied it to the world, a daffy and perhaps not entirely convincing smile on my face. Each time, I came out of it, fragile but alive, and able to resume my ongoing daily quest for the joys in life. I broke down again last Christmas -- the 4th of the Big 4. The festive period came and went [as New Year did] with Mr Darkside staring me right in the face, grinning with glee as my body shook and tears of grief streamed down my face. But things are a bit different now. I'm getting better -- and this time it will be different. [And that's the first time I've ever declared such a thing.] This time I'm going to be open; I'm going to be proud of myself. And by being open, by casting light in those dark places, I am, conversely, going to be less defined by the really bad stuff than I've ever been in the past. It doesn't matter if most of my family don't get it. It doesn't matter who is indifferent to it. It doesn't matter if people I've looked up to in my life will think less of me now, or think consider me as a weak, foolish prat... because they will be wrong. There are many good times on the road ahead. Fun times. Times for merriment and champagne... and many other things. And a high degree of transparency. I'm going to be open; I'm going to be proud of myself. I feel proud already.
So, why am I quoting Mr Billy Joel? Well... why not? I might not be reaching the dizzying heights of Socratic erudition with this post, but never mind... This afternoon I left the opulent comforts of Chez Buffy to go for a hearty luncheon with one of my oldest friends, whom I call 'the Angel' [hmm... I seem to have pet names for all of my first-rate chums]. The lady in question is a year older than myself, and I've known her for 18 years, ever since we were contemporaries at college: Angel was a very clever and successful student. And me? Well... that's not important right now. ;-) Very early on, we discovered that while we didn't find the other repulsive, neither did either of us fancy the other: this made it very easy to pursue a friendship. Anyway, today, the Angel was late arriving [as usual], and was very klutzy [as usual], and took up a good chunk of time deciding on what to order before having her usual... as usual. [After all these years, such things are integral to the Angel's immense charm.] We're very different people: she's married, with a child, and has a life of rampant chaos, while my own brand of [bachelor's] chaos is within very ordered boundaries [as is my paradoxical way]. Quite importantly, we've both suffered with deep depression and have experienced anxiety to differing degrees... this is what's reinforced an already strong bond. We had lots of fun this afternoon. Hearty laughs were plenteous. As we went to part company, I decided to 'seize the day' and say something I've not said before. [I'm not sure why... maybe it's the result of immersing myself in the blogging world? It's certainly been inspiring so far.] As we had our goodbye hug, I whispered into the Angel's ear, and my words were precisely chosen: You are the best person that's ever been in my life. [It's the kind of thing you can only say the once, really.] Well, the Angel was rather touched, I must say, and hugged me just that little bit tighter. But I didn't say it for any reaction... I said it because I just felt it needed to be said. So you're probably thinking, is there a point to all this, Buffy? Yes, there is. Just as I think it's important to give a smile to people we pass every day [because, after all, we don't know what kind of dark day they could be having] I think it's equally important to remind those that we love & care about, that we love & care about them -- and appreciate them. It's a dark and heavy world sometimes, and even with our closest friends we might not fully realise if & when they're going thru a hard time, and are keeping it to themselves. And even if they're not, is there any harm in being told you're appreciated? So I say, if you appreciate someone, tell them about it. We can only do some good, surely?
"Things are not always what they seem... but things are always what they are." -- My (sainted) grandmother. Reading thru some of the many online comments about the new US President, I noted one comment with interest. To paraphrase: "At least Trump's a wolf in wolf's clothing. Worse than if he'd been in sheep's clothing only to throw off the disguise on taking office." Whatever your feelings on President Trump [!] it did make me think of a little analogy about friends and associates that I came up with a while back, that I'm returning to after conversing with some a couple of clever people who know a lot more about psychology and personality types than I do. This may be an over-simplified and rubbish analogy, but it's worth a try, so here goes: Abandoning wolves and sheep, I'd like to move across to a different metaphor: that of ice and fire. I find that people I know, or have known, fall into four types:  PURE FIRE  ICY FIRE  PURE ICE  FIERY ICE Type  is in many ways the best of people: providing illumination and warmth to those around them. Some are louder than others, some more openly charismatic, but each is worth their weight in gold. Type  is as warm and invigorating as , but outwardly withdrawn or bashful, and it sometimes takes a little work to find the quality within -- but it's well worth it. Most of my best friends are these. With type , what you see is what you get... which is not much at all. They drain, and make no secret of it. One of the worst was a chap at a pub I used to frequent, who had no smiles for anyone and whose nickname was 'Chuckles'. Protracted silences and dead-end monosyllabic conversations were the order of the day. If I never meet him again, that would be fine. The worst, however, is type ; the Fiery Ice type is someone who is, on the surface, charming and warm and maybe charismatic, and makes you feel like a million dollars -- similar to . Underneath the charm, however, is a talented emotional manipulator with a cold sense of self and little regard for anyone else. Not a shred of guilt. Sooner or later they'll leave you feeling drained and worthless... even though they're the emotional parasite, and you're merely the host. I must admit I've come across the borderline-addictive presence of these type 's quite a bit in my life -- both men and women, lovers and friends -- and I can say that it's not only Ulysses who had a bloody close call with the Sirens' song [!] These people can be lethal to your own sense of self. Knowledge of their mind games is a good defensive weapon... so be cautious of flatterers and people of whom you think: 'Wow... where have you been all my life?' Whether any potential friend you meet has a soul of fire or ice is difficult to ascertain at first, but the bottom line is that actions speak louder than words. Now, I love a good, delicious slice of eloquence -- I love to hear it and I try to be it -- but the sad fact is that eloquence can often be parroted: so when someone is full of delicious, pretty words but these go alongside bad/indifferent actions, then they're not a person to want in your life. As my (sainted) grandmother also said: "a turd in a shiny bag is still a turd." So, in conclusion: Type  (Pure Fire) -- keep them as close as possible, but don't smother them. If you keep them close, they will set your heart ablaze. Type  (Icy Fire) -- be patient; if you can tell that there's more than meets the eye, make a few efforts to get to know them more. They can be the most valuable friends. Type  (Pure Ice) -- walk away slowly. Don't pity their misery; they don't make any effort with you, and there's a reason for that. Type  (Fiery Ice) -- RUN. If we can know and recognise integrity and authenticity without much effort, would our lives not all be much more joyful? ...And thus ends Mr Buffy's attempts to understand psychology [!]
"The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." -- F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sadly, while I love what F. says in the above quote, I'm pretty sure that I've failed that particular test, day after day, because part of my problem in life is that I feel and see both sides of just about everything, at the same time. Am I the only one? Does anyone else suffer with this? Because it often turns my sense of self into more of a blur than anything. Inconsistency and duality run thru me like the words written on a stick of Brighton Rock. They almost completely define my life and my persona. Some examples:  I'm outwardly very laid back -- but a massive bag of nerves on the inside.  I'm a deep, deep romantic -- and a wholesale cynic.  I'm rather suave in manner -- yet also a completely clumsy oaf.  I'm often exuberant -- yet extremely bashful.  I'm very serious minded -- yet very childlike about things that I love.  I'm very forgiving of those friends that I love -- yet extremely hard on myself.  In my time I've voted for political parties that are diametrically opposed on key social issues.  I've been happily engaged twice -- and both times I knew that I would be a hopeless husband.  Every day I look for [and usually encounter] joy -- yet most days I'll wish that I were not alive. I could go on. [And on, and on...] Sometimes I yearn for consistency... and yet, at other times the very idea of consistency is dull poison to me. Another inconsistency. So... how to blend these seemingly mutually exclusive stances into one unified, functioning whole, not unlike a delicious martini? It's a challenge, and an opportunity. Sadly it may be an insoluble opportunity....
With special thanks to my friend Lisa for providing the questions: NATIONALITY: British & EU citizen. [The latter subject to change. Maybe.] AGE: Younger than my old soul. EYES: Two. Both hazel. MARITAL STATUS: Single; 'marriage' remains a scary word for us immature folk. CHILDREN: None. RELIGIOUS VIEWS: There's a lovely one from the tower of Brechin Cathedral. POLITICAL VIEWS: Don't worry, I'll be serious with this one. They're changeable. I often see both sides of political discussions -- which is both a good and a bad thing. AFFILIATIONS: Jacobite [mainly for the whisky]. The Seattle Seahawks. HEROES: Many. I've been told that you should only have one hero, and that's yourself. But I'm not that enlightened. Yet. FAVOURITE MUSIC: 'Canon' by Pachelbel. FAVOURITE QUOTE: 'If you're going thru hell, keep going.' [Attributed to Winston Churchill.] FAVOURITE WORD(S): 'Compassion', 'passion' and 'possibility'. ARE YOU A LIAR? No. [And I appreciate the pointlessness of the question.] ARE YOU IN LOVE WITH ANYONE? No. But it would be nice to be; it does bring flavour to life. EVER BEEN IN LOVE? Yes. DO YOU HATE ANYONE? 'Hate' is a pretty strong word. And yes. BIGGEST FEAR? Of the deep emptiness that I often feel inside of me. FAVOURITE FOOD: Anything Italian -- probably due to my Sicilian blood. FAVOURITE DRINK: Apart from champagne and coffee? A good dry martini. TODAY OR TOMORROW? Tomorrow. I've a lot of hope for tomorrow. WHAT QUALITIES DO YOU MOST ADMIRE? Authenticity, and grace. WHO'S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PERSON IN THE WORLD? A woman called Jennifer who I chatted to for an hour on a train journey several years ago: I could have drowned in her eyes, and her face remains etched into my soul. DREAM VACATION? Kokomo. DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN FIVE WORDS: Compassionate; antithetical; confused; verbose; analytical; innumerate. AMBITION(S)? To conquer anxiety and depression... but never, ever to forget how anxiety and depression strip us of a solid sense of self.
‘Blogging? No no no no no... definitely not for me.’ My words. Six months ago. And yet? Here I am. My presence here is thanks to the kindly encouragement of my roistering chum and good friend, Professor Lovely, who said it'd be therapeutic and enlightening for me. I do hope she’s right [the Professor blogs, and she’s both popular and exceptionally good at it]. I suppose in the aftermath of some diabolically rough times, and with certain good friends at a very low ebb in their lives, my desire to ruminate has taken a leap into the unknown -- the virtual unknown, indeed. So it’s worth a try, is it not? Therefore I’ve set myself a target of ten blog posts. During this time, I may even find or develop a voice of sorts. [Thank you, Professor Lovely: I’ll try not to let the side down.] OK then. Nine to go…