Peace on earth and good will to all

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All you want in life is to be happy – something that many of you will know isn’t something that comes easily to me. You want to think the best of everyone and at this time of year you hope that the peace that comes either through religion or just being with the ones you love is enough. The world around us doesn’t play by these rules though and as we enter the last couple of weeks of the year we look around us and feel more removed from Peace and Goodwill than ever before.

We live in a world on the edge of something we’ve never been through before – certainly not my generation. The middle east is in a dangerous place with no-one very sure who is an ally and who is a foe. America is about to embark on an experimental four years with Donald Trump as their figurehead and with appointments confusing everyone on all sides of politics we wait and wonder at what will happen after the inauguration. Across Europe we all sit tense after the attacks in Berlin wondering where random acts of violence and terrorism stalk the street will next appear.

It’s difficult to see the best in others when they make rods for their own backs. Farage attacking Jo Cox’s widower and a group trying to stop hate campaigns, Katie Hopkins deciding who is a terrorist and who isn’t and Trump again deciding to use inappropriate language to talk about his fellow man. If we agree on doing one thing in 2017, it should be to stop giving these people the oxygen of publicity. Leave them to wallow in their own verbal effluence and not pollute our airwaves and media with it.

But then there are chinks of light in the darkness. A pile of handmade Christmas cards from first years, gifts from pupils and festive wishes. We live in a world that creates as many shadows as we allow, and perhaps if we need to remember anything it is that we have the capacity to shine lights where they are needed.

From those left behind in our own society to international issues like Aleppo maybe you and I should speak up more. Let’s join forces and point people’s attentions to issues and causes that deserve it. We tend to do it more at this time of year but loneliness among the elderly is all year round, homelessness isn’t a short-term issue, charities need money all year round – these things only get magnified at Christmas.

As do mental health issues. Of course there are increases in suicides and calls to Samaritans around this time of year but don’t forget that with mental health issues it can be a sunny Tuesday in July that is the day someone needs a shoulder to cry on or a sympathetic ear. Every day people with bipolar, depression, anxiety and other conditions are just trying to get through their day. Be there for them or support organisations that can.

While it feels like we are living in a persistent valley of shadows remember to look up. Remember that where there are shadows there has to be a light source – seek it out and share it with others.

Merry Christmas to you and all you hold dear.

JD

Directionless

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Road signs - 'One way' and 'Or another'.

It’s dark o’clock and the orange LEDs are looking back at you in the same way they do each and every morning – faintly as if your eyes are still half closed. The moon still rides high in the sky – again I look at the clock and again to double check that I’m not dreaming and start the engine to set off to work. Definition and colour are missing from the world as the fluorescent stickmen point down on a road which is 104 shades of grey.

The headlamps from the oncoming traffic must be on full beam – just like the car behind me – the intense illumination strikes at my retina and challenges it to wake up once more.

It, like me, wishes that we were still in bed with eyes closed to the world and nothing to bother the back of my eye in the first place. Instead the quick fumble to plug in the iPod before any of the overexcited morning radio static hits my ears because my eyes are suffering and I don’t want to subject any other sense to a battering this early in the day.

Your mind tells you it’s probably half past three in the morning. It’s not the first time a clock has lied. The senses want peace and the constant push of the thumb on the steering wheel discards music that is too much for me this morning. Seventeen tunes later a mellow songs comes on to alleviate some of the pain of not being in bed. The place of safety, sanity even that I need. Not just for sleep but for separation from the world. Even the gradual rise of temperature in the van cannot replace pulling the duvet over my head.

Driving through the back country roads there is a sense of peace that you don’t get from sitting in traffic jams – there’s a freedom that you’re exposed to which is both relaxing and dangerous. The lack of stress from road rage or sitting behind a stream of red lights is fine but the complete lack of boundaries you feel with that freedom is tempting you to turn off from your planned route and just keep travelling. Leaving everything behind you. Running away? Possibly. But not yourself.

The passenger in the car is yourself. They sit there and remind you of what we are supposed to do. Animals with the capacity for free will, rash decisions, impulse reactions still adheres to the expectations of society and the need to follow the track we are all on. Work = Wage = Mortgage and Bills. A spiral of reinforcement, reminding us that we work to live and at the same time live to work. We like to say that work isn’t the most important thing in our lives but we’re wrong. Unless you have money behind you to never HAVE to work again you have to play your part in the game.

As I travel on the sky lightens to slowly reveal the colours that have been muted. La Luna still hangs there in the pale blue morning but her sister ball of fire is creeping up behind me revealing the path ahead and begins to clarify the direction that I am compelled to go in. I want to ignore the routine movements that are engraved in my head – not really because of how I feel about my job, more about how I feel full stop. To escape. Find a sense of freedom from myself as much as anything else is not on any map or Sat Nav system. No road signs to point the way to a better life of mental health.

If there were a route, a well-worn path to take us to a place where we found solace and peace, I fear that it would involve a traffic jam through a built up area with one way streets as the mass majority of us sat in an eternal standstill trying to get there. Maybe everyone going their own way, looking for their personal destination and a route that inspires them is the right thing to seek.

Currently that’s not how it feels. I’m the passenger in a pre-programmed driverless car and he destination is as unknown as the journey to get me there.

JD

Grrrr

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Biting my tongue has always been something I’ve struggled with and being a teacher trying to invent new words or phrases to avoid swearing at kids is a highly inventive thing and something I hope to one day be rewarded in the Honours System with.

The natural reaction in me is to go off on a tirade of expletives and general abuse that would make Malcolm Tucker blush but apparently this is not the way to deal with young people. And it can be the littlest things that induce the blood in your mouth from the pressure of your teeth on the side of your mouth.

Not listening is one of the worst. Normally as a teacher you have to explain something three times – in three slightly different ways so those who didn’t get it the first or second time have half a chance. You know that this will happen. You are also aware of the “idiot echo” which rolls round after ten or fifteen when you are asked to explain it once more. When my head is as addled as it is just now there is such a huge amount of willpower needed to stay focused in those situations.

It’s not the kids that are at fault – and I only know this from having been through the teaching experience once before and then taking a break from it. As my bipolar has really taken hold and developed I know now that I am the problem, the issue and the thing to blame when things go wrong. I’m angry with myself, not the kids. They’re just doing what they always do – plus they have their own demons to tackle going through adolescence. I do wonder if Bipolar is a bit like going through a permanent type of puberty where the hormones are fucked up and you are trapped in that awkward phase.

I think me constantly biting my tongue is why my head is sore at the moment – the ongoing fight with myself is tiring both mentally and emotionally. And the worst thing is when the build up of fumes and negativity is taken home with me and I end up shouting or being rude to my family at home. The filter has finally broken and I can’t hold it in any longer. I’m hurting those closest to me to stay upright through the day and that is so unfair and unnecessary.

There must be another outlet for the pent-up frustration – which is mostly at myself if I’m honest. I am a horrible human being at times; inconsiderate, rude and distinctly unlikable. Perhaps I need to take up meditating or mindfulness to give me a moment to put all that away – but my worry is in those situations with more time to think about things I’ll wallow even longer and deeper in the miserable mire I find myself in. The only time I get a break from myself is when I’m sleeping and even then you can’t avoid it altogether if you are having vivid dreams as I seem to be at the moment.

Imagine a wall of noise and colour and negativity and fear and helplessness and claustrophobia. Then add the fact you can’t step away from it for even a moment you will start to see how life is for me right now. You want to go to bed and stay asleep until you need to wake up.

They discovered that we still had the genes in our DNA for hibernation but for some reason the evolution of man has nulled this – probably as a self-protection against predators. It’s a shame we couldn’t wake it up again because I for one would be happy to sleep for a couple of months at this time of year to avoid the worst of the darkness that is permanently outside the window and inside my head.

If I could learn to turn on the lights I’d maybe see more clearly.

JD

Writer’s Vomit

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It’s a bit like writer’s block but vomity instead of blocky.

My head is full of so much at the moment and I’m really struggling to pin anything down – hence the reason for the wee run of posts this week, I need to unburden my head of thought to get through the next part of my day and ultimately get to sleep.

Trying to live with a mind like this is not only confusing but hugely problematic in a job such as mine. You have to spin over a hundred and fifty pupil at the same time ensuring none fall off, then there’s the band, home and other daily chores that should be under control. Everyone has a balancing act and I don’t pretend to be something special in that respect, but when you are drowning in noises, thoughts, ideas, to-do-lists, voices, reactions and are still standing then I treat that as a little victory. Then you are battered around the head by the news each day and you wonder if you are the only mad one or if everyone else is just as screwed up as you are.

I’ve had a spate of sore heads of late, probably linked to the groundswell of things in the internal tornado. I don’t want to take more pills – even if it is just paracetamol. I rattle enough without adding to the mariachi band of medication I live with. It’s times like this where I do question my sanity in returning to the teaching profession – I love it, but when I’m ill I know I’m not always in the best environment. Minding my P&Qs is at the forefront of my mind just now as with a busy and fuzzy mind something may slip out.

The weather really doesn’t help either as the dark mornings and dark nights mean you never get out in the sun – when it does appear – at any point. It feels like you are getting up earlier and staying up later and those combined make you feel lethargic. I’m sure that’s part of my issue just now too, a lack of sunlight. I never understand those people who say they couldn’t live somewhere like LA because it’s relentlessly sunny. I’d be there like a shot enjoying the warmth and light all year round. Unfortunately I’m in Loss Aberdeen instead and it’s darkness and rain for a large part of the year.

Between my head not working properly just now, the oncoming Christmas jollity and other issues I won’t burden you with just now I’m just done. Had enough. My enthusiasm for life is at a low right now and trying to keep going feels like the end of a long run – you know it’s only a short distance to the finishing line but you just want to sit down, cry and question why you started the run in the first place.

I wish you could unplug yourself and properly shutdown like a machine – not even on standby, but a complete blackout. I can’t tell if I’m depressed or manic just now – feels like I’m in a dip but my head is more active than it usually is. Don’t know if you can be both at the same time? If so that’s the brilliant combination to end a terrible year with: The Grand Old Duke of York finish – neither up nor down.

JD

The Big Bad Wolves

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Today an appeal has been made by the Disasters Emergency Committee for Yemen because of the humanitarian crisis there. Also the UN have stated that Syrian forces are shooting people on sight in Aleppo regardless of the side they are on. In Turkey Russian assassins are killing men who have escaped from the regime in Moscow.

And we are to blame. Well, to a degree anyway.

The Brits sell the weapons to the Saudis that are being used in the war in Yemen. We are standing by and letting people die in Syria because we aren’t working closely enough with our allies to pull Russia to one side and stop the slaughter of innocents and the same can be said for Turkey.

How did we get to a point where we are all involved in the Middle East fighting but no-one is facing in the right direction? It says something that it takes Donald Trump to question the “One China” policy in the US and Boris to challenge the Saudis on illegals wars. If these idiots can work it out why are the rest of us sitting back and doing nothing.

The answer is sadly Tony Blair. Had it not been for the way he and Parliament dealt with 9/11 and the aftermath we could have built international support to tackle these abhorrent crimes. The joy of hindsight is easy, but now you just need to turn on the nightly news to see the latest string of deaths that sit in the shadow of that fateful day in 2001. We left a vacuum by taking the action we did. There is no appetite to send our boys and girls to fight, understandably so, and without the US, UK, Germany, France, Spain and others who used to team up.

Syria and Aleppo especially feels like a car crash we are all driving past; we see the damage, the bloodshed and the battle for survival but we don’t or can’t stop. What Assad and Putin are doing to the citizens of that country and city is no less than War Crimes and it’s about time they were called out for it. The “Fear” that surrounds the Russians at the moment is either based on their history or the UN and its members know something we don’t.

Russia is a human rights abuser in its own country, it has supported the so-called rebels who have annexed Ukraine, subject opposition parties and their leaders within Russia to questionable arrests and even worse, they appear to wonder the globe killing anyone they see fit from Turkey with the latest shootings to the poisoning of Alexander Litvenenko in London. Why are they being allowed to do this? Probably because they are closely affiliated with the biggest threat to “The West” – China.

China also appears to get away with murder – literally. Their financial power in the world and in the major stock markets mean we rely on them more than ever. Their mistreatment of their own people, the aggressive approaches in the Pacific against Japan and how it sees places like Taiwan show it is not a friendly place. Their investment in the African Continent is astounding and will also lead to those countries improved by this money to be closer to China.

When you consider the sheer size and capability of China and Russia, the money in Saudi Arabia and the allies they are building, you can see how the world is going to the dogs. Because the US and UK don’t build up allies to take on people like Assad and the Saudis there is a vacuum and Russia steps in with China a step behind ready to support – if not in person or deed, through the UN and other organisations.

The only winners in all of this turmoil are the weapons sellers and manufacturers. At least we are making money out of the misery then, eh?

JD

Aleppo – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-38301629

Russian Assassins – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38294204

Yemen – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0889kdx

Happy Talk

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I hate the constant stream of positivity that emanates from the vacuous Facebook posts like the one above. Trust me, if it were that easy to “be happy” more of us would do it. The advice to quit your job or simply remove the negative people among other platitudes is not only first class horseshit, it is patronising in the extreme.

At this time of year there is added pressure to be happy, to get involved with the festivities and be a little bundle of joy. Well I hate to break it to the little elves that Christmas and New Year are both horrible times for people like me who live on the dark end of the mood spectrum.

A report out today from “The Blimming Obvious School of Thought” informs us that “domestic violence, alcoholism, depression and anxiety conditions, alienated youth, exam-mania” can cause people to be unhappy. You’d be as well adding in the death of your beloved pet Fluffykins to the mix as useful as it is. While I always welcome any evidence that shines a light on the need for more open conversations and calls for funding in the area of mental healthy, I feel more patronised by this type of report than anything else.

While most people see Christmas and New Year as a time for celebration and kids, I see it as a stark reminder of empty chairs round the table, lost memories of being happy and optimism for the future. These are more difficult as each year passes. I live in a mind-frame now that has forgotten he feeling of being a kid and enjoying the magic of Christmas – and no “It’s a Wonderful Life” won’t even hit the reset button before you mention it.

As I get older the ice seems to be moving over me and freezing emotions and positive memories leaving me feeling empty. When once they were days of joy they are now grey and empty. I love my kids and to see them happy is great but I’m still deeply unhappy at this time of year.

I used to enjoy New Year – it heralded a fresh start, new page to write on, but having wished away the last three years of misery this will just be another consigned to the “shite” pile with low expectations for 2017. Every year since 2013 has been tough and I kept thinking that there was a light (however dim) at the turn of the year. Not anymore. You can only take so many kickings before you resign yourself to your lot.

Do I want to be happy? I don’t even know anymore. Part of me has actually forgotten what it is to be truly happy as I can find issue, fault and problems in almost any situation. Regardless of the opportunities life gives me I seem to fuck them up or pick at them until they unravel. And I hate myself for it. Others hate me for it too. I know I hurt those around me with my attitude and outlook on life, but I struggle to see the world in another way – or certainly quick enough to stop me from blurting out the bile I do.

Christmas and New Year see that forced fun that I really struggle with. Maybe drink used to disguise or help me get through them, but as a teetotaler I can’t help but bring the mood of the room down. Probably the reason why there are so few invitations for me at this time of year. Also I’m at other people’s celebrations with the band and have lost my enthusiasm for being the one celebrating and instead enjoy the performance part instead. It means I’m not forcing myself to make small talk or be the only sober one at the table.

And that is the main problem. While others can move away from me, I am stuck with this voice in my head that points out cynical views, sarcastic remarks and angry tones. People don’t want to be around it – but neither do I. The solution? I don’t know what that could be or how to achieve it. At the moment it just feels like getting out of bed and hoping I make it through each day to return to bed again. That’s not on any Happiness Index, but is the reality for many people like me.

JD