20. On distance
Or/and the making of it
I take a lot of things for granted. Maybe it’s because I’m old now – I’ll have made my forty-fourth trip around the sun next Monday (thank you Mama for bringing me into the world and carrying me around on your hip for the first year while I wailed continuously. And for still listening to me when I wail.) Where was I? Taking things for granted. Maybe seeing and experiencing the good things the and bad things more and more as we hurtle through space at sixty-something thousand miles an hour means that I’m used to them, that they shine less brightly.
I’m on a train to London this morning. I have The Album Of The Year in my headphones and the fields outside are bright and poppy-shot with red. I’m going to London to chat with some very fine book designers about the things that we do with words and pictures, and I am very much looking forward to it.
Taking things for granted is probably a poor way of describing what I’m trying to talk about. I have those lines from Kavanagh in my head
we have tasted and tested too much, lover through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder
which I’ve likely just butchered but you get the sense of it. Having an abundance of things leads to having less appreciation of them, good and bad. Caring less about the bad stuff to the point of detachment on one end, and taking no care with the good stuff at the other.
The question I suppose is why am I doing this distancing from everything? When I’m in a bout of depression, I tend to avoid situations where I’ll get a spike of emotions like big social events where I’m as likely to have too much of a good time or spend too long asking other people how they are and then listening too much (I love you all, but I need to love myself first). The reason I avoid those situations is that the crash is abysmal. No, thank you.
I think I’m getting somewhere now. I’ve been feeling a lot better over the last month or so (my therapist ghosted me, and my not-being-bothered-by-that is a good sign) so I’m seeing what I’ve been avoiding, the stuff I haven’t been letting in for fear of the experience being too much. I’ve been doing the essentials – work, eat, rest – in the misguided attempt to avoid those peaks of joy and dread.
Of course, it doesn’t work. There will be an unavoidable series of unfortunate events at work that bring the stress, or an unexpected series of fortunate ones that lead to sitting in a neighbour’s garden long into the evening talking about badgers (I saw four yesterday, I’m not joking) and counting shooting stars. And as The Muse often reminds me, we need it all to feel the contrasts.
So… you know how light can be described as both a particle and a wave, depending on how you observe it? I’m going to change my perspective on things. Move the camera, as we like to say in the picture book industry. And that’s it. Keep the camera moving. I’ve been observing my emotional reactions from a fixed distance, with this firm idea of my mental good health as a big old wave where peaks are good and troughs are bad and it was useful for a while and now it’s not. That’s pretty good science – the method is true until it is no longer true.
Now I’m thinking it can be particles sometimes – little blips and boops and unexpected surprises, and waves sometimes, like how I feel slightly more able every time I hike up the hill from the station, and fields (may the rain fall softly on yours) sometimes, like how our relationships with friends wane and wax and overlap. All kinds of perspectives. As ever, we’ll see how it goes. Thank you for reading, and have a good day today.