15 minutes of worries

I worry and stress a lot. Nearly all the time, and always, always before going to sleep. I’ve read recently about a technique that is meant to help with that. It’s a very simple thing really, you just assign specific time for worrying, say 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening. During this time let your anxiety run wild, list your worries, try to come up with solutions, stress to your weird little heart’s content. But once the time is up, you put the worries in the box and not touch them until the next worrying session. If the worry starts bothering you during the day or night, just remind yourself that it is locked in the box. Again it’s a simple concept, and perhaps just a little bit silly and smelling strongly of pop psychology, but I’ve decided to give it a go.

My first 15 minutes of worrying starts now.

  • I’ll never find work again, ever, nobody will ever even give me an interview. The only job I have any hope of obtaining is one that no one else wants – like cleaning vomit from the cubicles of a dingy pub’s toilets.
  • I’ve no money.
  • I will never have money and will end up homeless.
  • I’ll end up old and alone, forgotten by the world, in some institution and nobody will notice when I die, for like a week, until I start to smell and rats are chewing on my decomposing remains.
  • All my friends secretly hate me. I’m not sure why they continue to hang out with me, I never said I was rational.
  • I’m not rational.
  • I’m not a proper adult, I don’t understand adult things.
  • I’m too much of an adult and I’m becoming boring.
  • I am boring.
  • My English is not as good as I want it to be and my Polish is starting to disintegrate.
  • When we get a dog it will never love me, it’ll sense my inner wrongness and will judge me for it.
  • I have an inner wrongness about me.
  • My teddy bears don’t like me.
  • I own teddy bears and sometimes I’m not ashamed of it (see “I’m not a proper adult”).
  • Sometimes I’m ashamed of having teddy bears (see “I’m too much of an adult”).
  • I don’t read enough these days.
  • Some days I read too much.

15 minutes is up. Into the box you stupid things! Aaaaand breathe….

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Head above the water… Barely, but it’s possible to breathe…

 

 

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A Short Field Guide to Dublin’s Precipitation.

I’ve been busy. Seeing people, doing official stuff, going for walks, reading Chinese sci-fi, babysitting, curing a hangover (NOT from babysitting), feeling under the weather – something had to give, and that something was writing. I scribbled a few notes in my poem journal but that’s about it. Still, no harm done, new week, once more unto the breach, keep calm and carry on etc.

We went for a long walk yesterday again. I love walking in Dublin, it’s a great city for strolling about. If you don’t mind the rain. Which I don’t, even though I complain about it as much as the next person.

Dublin rain is complex, it comes in so many distinct forms. The one we encountered yesterday was a mix between a mist and a drizzle. Mostly it just hangs in the air, excess moisture that doesn’t really make you wet, as much as it travels on you, suspended on your hair or on your coat. But occasionally it starts falling, tiny little droplets, barely noticeable, after a while you start feeling it, seeping its way, bit by little bit, into your clothes, into your skin, eventually into the very bones. You’d never use an umbrella in this rain, it would seem excessive, you might put up your hood if you’ve got one though. You never really get properly wet, just damp through and through. When there are many days like that in a row, gray, cloudy, melancholy, the dampness might start seeping into your mind as well. It’s nothing major, you just don’t feel quite comfortable in your own head. There’s an easy solution though, pop into a pub, or a cafe, or a restaurant – nice hot whiskey, or a mug of tea, or a bowl of hot soup – something to warm you to the core, and you can brave the mrizzle (that’s my name for that particular form of rain) again.

Mist on its own, I find rather pleasant, refreshing even. You feel healthy and moist. Moist is a very different feeling from damp, by the way, damp is slightly depressing, moist is just rosy-cheeked and glistening, I can do moist. And that’s enough of saying the word “moist” in my mind, it’s getting weird in there.

There is of course another variety of Irish rain, the one popularly described as “pissing”. It’s not bucketing, it’s not pouring, but you would avoid going out in it if at all possible. You’d definitely open an umbrella once outside. This one (and its heavier brethren) comes in sub-categories of “horizontal rain” and “upside-down rain”, as Dublin is not only rainy but also windy. You can try using an umbrella with these, but in my experience, it’s useless and leads only to many damaged umbrellas in trash bins. Horizontal rain does what it says on the tin, it rains directly in your face. You can delude yourself thinking that you might be walking with the wind, and only get it on your back, but I’d lived in Dublin for many years, and I’d never experienced that. It’s always in your face. The upside-down rain is mysterious. I still don’t really know how it happens, but I swear it sometimes seems to be falling upwards (how can something be falling upwards? it’s rising, not falling). Nothing can protect you from the upside-down rain. Just accept that it clearly must be your time for getting soaked through by gravity-defying water.

There’s also lashing rain. Avoid the Outside at all costs. Bring a change of clothes to the office if you have to walk to work, and maybe a hair dryer…

There are at least 10 different categories and if you live here you will soon know them all. And don’t let Ireland fool you, it tries to do that. Before I moved here, very many years ago, I had visited a good few times, and every time I had nice weather. I kept thinking that my Irish friends were just whinging about the rain, for the sake of it. Sure, it would maybe rain one or two times during my stay, and maybe the summers weren’t all that hot, but mostly it was all clear blue skies and sunshine. Well, I moved in summer 2007, the day I arrived was nice, and then it started raining and didn’t stop for 49 days…

But Dublin’s precipitation doesn’t end at rain, oh no. There’s also sleet, and hail, and very occasionally snow. In my Facebook memories, I’ve recently came across this little nugget of wonder: “Back in Dublin. I’m trying to make up my mind as to what exactly is the thing falling from the sky. It’s not really rain, snow or hail but a sort of mixture of all three… Sleet I guess, but a weird one. Oh Ireland, thou shall never cease to amaze me with the new, wondrous forms of precipitation!”. My partner’s (who is Irish) reaction to this statement was “Oh, you mean rain-snow-hail? Yeah, that happens.”.

You also need to be prepared for every weather all the time. Which, in practice, means that nobody is ever prepared for any weather because who could be bothered with that? You can always safely assume it’ll probably rain at some point, but beyond that it’s anybody’s guess. Weather forecast apps are useless in Ireland. I remember going for a walk in Donegal one time, it was in February, and during the few hours we were out, we had: beautiful and unseasonable sunshine and warmth, rain of several varieties, hail, snow, and then sunshine again.

It doesn’t really snow in Dublin. Each winter you may get a couple of days when it pretends to, but as it’s rarely cold enough for it to stick, you just get fat wet snow petals turning into disgusting sludge immediately upon arrival to the ground. When, very, very rarely, it does get cold enough for the snow to hang around, the whole country becomes paralyzed. Nobody is equipped to dealing with the snow. No winter tiers on the cars, nobody has salt or grit to put on the pavements, there’s an inch of snow on the ground and the schools are closing, nobody can get to the office on time and general apocalypse ensues. It’s kind of cute, if you’ve ever lived somewhere with proper winters.

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But if it wasn’t for the constant rain, how else could the place stay so stunningly green?

Variations on Black

Black, like my soul! (Maniacal laughter ensues.) Bwahahahahahaha!

For real? The sun is shining, the birds are singing (well, the gulls are screaming, they’re sort of birds, or at least very small flying dinosaurs, it counts!), I have nothing to do today, I can laze about in my pjs, I can go for a lovely walk later on,  I’m having smoked salmon on soda bread for lunch, and all the cups of tea I want, I have a new book to read, and finally some mental capacity left to do it, and you want me to think about “black”? That’s not on daily prompt…

(Some time later, after lunch, a walk and buying of Harry Potter themed underpants – I can now be a witch in my pants and no one will know! That sounded dirty… It wasn’t meant to sound dirty…)

Black is the underside of my life. Like a lining to an otherwise colourful and cozy coat. Sometimes it gets flipped over, I wear it inside out, and for a while I’m walking around swathed in darkness. Black is always present to some degree, even if you can’t see it, I know it’s still there. And mostly it’s ok. You need it for contrast. For the light and the colours to shine all the brighter.

Black is the dungeon part of myself. The endless corridors, and vast unfriendly caves, filled with blood-thirsty monstrosities. There are traps, and the ground can open into the abyss if you don’t watch carefully where you go, and let’s face it, who does that all the time? Odds are, at some point you will fall in. But how else do you get to see the dragons?

Black are the creatures that dim out the stars. They lie in wait, reach for me with smoky dark tendrils as I pass by and weave their cold deceptions into my brain.

Black are my thoughts after pointless anger burns them out.

Black are the words on the page, the ones I read and the ones I write. Black contains all the possible and impossible universes. All adventures that were, are, will, could or couldn’t be.

Black is the cloudy and velvety night in the wilderness, or deep countryside, where no light pollutes the horizon, and all is sound and air on your face, and you don’t fight it with a lamp, but peacefully dissolve into dark.

Black is the space in between the dreams. A moment to take a breath and hold it in, and hope for a peaceful flight.DSC_1190

Itinerant post.

Another great day. I’m having some of them again and it still surprises me. Taking advantage of an unusually warm and sunny day (in Ireland, in November! That just doesn’t happen…) we (as in my partner and I, I haven’t started referring to myself in royal “we”) went to Howth, which is a little village by the seaside at the outer suburbs of Dublin. We had chowder, excitedly popped into a few fishmongers (so nice to be able to get affordable fresh fish and seafood again) and then went on a cliff walk.

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These guys posed for me very patiently.

Man, I’m out of shape, embarrassingly so. The walk itself is not very tiring, maybe an hour and a half all told, little dips and raises but nothing too demanding. Perhaps if we did just that I wouldn’t be so knackered now, but towards the end we decided to climb down to a little, kind of hidden, pebbly beach. The way down (and then inevitably up) is not long at all, but it is pretty steep and narrow. And man did my legs feel that. Several hours later, I’m moving quite gingerly, very aware of every muscle I’ve got. I really need to start doing something about that.

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That’s the little beach seen from uphill. Photo taken some other time, as for some reason I didn’t take one today.

We’ve been talking about this quite a bit today. The subject has been on my mind for some time anyway. I’m a walker, I love walking, hiking, climbing. Stressed out? Go for a walk to relax. In a bad mood, or angry? Walk it off. Heavy stuff on my mind? Mull it over while walking. That’s me. There  seems to be a very strong connection between my legs and my mind. I think clearer when I’m moving my feet. I don’t drive. As in I neither want to, nor can. I don’t have a driver’s license, I don’t own a car and neither does my partner. I either take public transport (I’m unutterably delighted to be somewhere where this is a thing again, after 4 years in car-obsessed Northern America) or I walk. At all times, in all weather. Whenever I go to a new city, I walk it, as much of it as my stamina will allow. Touristy spots, and quiet residential areas, main streets and little hidden alleyways, the beautiful, the normal, the ugly parts. I walked all over Paris, Toronto in -20 winter, Tokyo in humid stifling heat, Lima, Buenos Aires and anywhere else I’ve been. These are not small towns, these are huge sprawling cities and unless you walked them, how do you even know you’ve been there? You miss so much if you just skip from one sightseeing spot to another in your car. Public transport is allowed sometimes, when distances get ridiculous, because you’re still in the city when you take a bus, a train, a tram. In among the people of that place. You’re not locked in a glass bubble of your little machine. Yes, I know, I know, some people just like to drive. It beats me why, but fine. I still maintain that you miss half the fun that way.

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A view towards the end of the walk.

I’m a walker is what I’m saying. And I want to be able to traverse the places I live in or visit in this manner for many years to come. But here’s the snag. When I was a young whippersnapper, none of this was difficult. Tiring sometimes, yes, of course, you’ll get tired walking for miles whatever condition you’re in. But not difficult. These days… it is getting tough. Oh, a few hour walk on an even ground I can do without too much trouble. But put some incline here and there and things get a bit more dicey. Like today, I’m deeply embarrassed of how much that little climb took out of me. Sure, there will come a time when I will have to accept that certain physical activities are beyond me. But my mid-thirties is very definitely not that time yet. I just have to get my arse in gear and start exercising regularly. I have to stop spending so much time sitting around. I need to start running again, do some strength and flexibility routine. I made a good start on it some months ago. I got through that horrible first period, when it’s all nightmarish, and got to the point where I was seeing results and feeling better in my own skin, and actually enjoying the exercise. Then I hurt my ankles. Not badly, just overextended myself. Well, that happens, I needed to stop for a while to let them recover and then I was meant to get back to it. Only I didn’t. I took the excuse and just stopped completely again. But enough of that! I need to be able to do the things I love. It’s one thing if  external circumstances beyond your control are preventing you from doing them. But if it’s your own laziness? No, no, no! That’s just dumb.

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There are few better sounds in this world than water lapping against the rocks.

 

I want many more days like today. I want to walk for miles, and miles, in the city, on the hills outside, by the sea. I want to take my camera for lengthy excursions, to hunt down all the beautiful, interesting,  delightfully ugly things around. I want days filled with the sharp salty breeze, and smell of burning gorse, and sound of waves, I want to claim places for my own with my feet, I want to walk for hours with people I love, the conversation just flows so naturally when you walk, I want midnight strolls along deserted streets, I want to lie in bed pleasantly tired, and fine, maybe a little sore, but not utterly exhausted. I want to know that I am doing everything I can to ensure that I stay fit enough to do it all.

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The little pebbly beach close up. 

Dancing in my dreams.

I like dancing. Doesn’t mean I’m good at it, never mistake enthusiasm for competence. But in this case, I don’t think it matters all that much.  Don’t get me wrong, I admire good dancers. My nephew dances and he’s excellent, it’s been a passion of his for many years. I love watching him and his partner glide through a ballroom in a twirling waltz, or perform an amazing tango, or Paso Doble, or anything really. They’re stunning. Needless to say, I can’t dance like that. I know the very basic steps to a Viennese waltz, slow waltz, tango and a few other dances but that’s about it. No, my style is a bit more… spontaneous, let’s call it that. What I mean by it, is that I like to move various random body parts vaguely in rhythm with the music.

I used to love going to clubs and giving myself to the music, drawing on the energy of the bodies around me all moving to the same beat, feeling, if only for a few hours at peace with the world, lost in the movement, the lights, the tempo rising and falling, picking up again, carrying all of us into a kind of physical epiphany. I have a complex relationship with my body, we don’t always get along, I’m a bit uneasy about physical contact, especially with strangers, I used to be very scared of crowds. Dancing helped me with all of it. When you dance, the world melts away, there’s just your body, and you feel it, your arms, legs, hips, neck, head, all of it. At first, you’re awkward, you can’t quite put it all together, you feel silly, extra self-conscious, but wait, just keep chasing the music, feel it flowing through you, stop thinking, I think that’s the most important part, empty your mind, just focus on the next beat, on the next move, suddenly it all slots into place, your body is no longer a collection of autonomous and rebellious parts, you become the extension of the rhythm. As is everyone else, you’re all connected, you can hear all the hearts around you thumping the same beat, sailing on the same river, you’re beaming the same energy, feel it, take it in, revel in this strangely primeval communion. It’s an exhilarating feeling…

I dance when I’m on my own. “Dance like no one is watching” – oh you bet I do. And I really do hope no one is watching, because, damn, I get silly. I need to try to do it more. Especially when I’m depressed and not feeling like it. Dancing when you’re happy is all well and good, it’s easy, it’s natural. But dancing when life gets dark, that’s properly therapeutic. Not only is it a physical activity, and any exercise when you’re depressed is invaluable, but if you let it, it can take you far away from your head. Every time I force myself to do it, I get an instant boost of energy.

I dance in my dreams, the best ones anyway. I have recurring dreams, and mostly they’re not so great, lots of running down dark corridors and being trapped on the edge of the abyss. But there’s one, not so much a full dream, but a recurring theme that I love. I’m somewhere up above the world, on a mountain, on top of an enormous tree, I’m not afraid, I just jump, trusting the wind to carry me, and in the air I spin, and move, and dance to an unearthly sweet music, swathed in scarlet silk, veils and ribbons trailing my every movement, weightless and serene…

There’s a poem I wrote some time ago, not so much about dancing, but it captures some of that dream.

***

in the midst of the howling

create a door

step inside

into a forest

sunk in the sunshine

some shadows trembling

when suppressed butterflies

spring

from underneath the fingernails

translucent wings

catching light

opalescent

rainbow circles on the surface of water

lay in the clearing

inhaling herbs grass leaves heavens above

silence seeps through the eyelids

peace to be found

make up a shimmer

whirl from the topmost branches

in reds and purples

silky sweet

where

there are dragons beyond

the pale cheeks

eyes opened

for stars flowing into

a half-full cup

the spheres are playing

piano music

galaxies

and then the wailing guitar

whisper

in the midst of the howling

arms won’t catch you

no one is coming

walk

through the door

Incidentally, ‘music of spheres’ keeps popping up in my poems. I remember long time ago in school reading about ‘musica universalis’ and being very taken with my imagining of it. To this day, every so often I look up at the stars and try to hear what sort of music they’ve got on their playlist.

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Myself, appropriately whirling.

A post about nothing in particular. Random stream of thoughts. I had itchy fingers and wanted to write some words.

I haven’t got the faint-est idea of what to do with today’s writing prompt… Sigh… Yeah, that’s how much I don’t know what to do with it. At first, I thought I would write about how I used to faint a lot as a teenager and consequently spent unholy amounts of time in hospitals with a small army of doctors doing their best to figure out why I keep hitting the floor like a heroine of a 19th century romance novel, but that’s boring. I’m bored just thinking about it.

Then I thought “faint” as in “unclear, indistinct, vague”, that rung more of a bell, but then, I’m most likely writing about depression and sad, or at the very least melancholy, things again and I don’t feel like it. I’ve had a good day. Tired and tiring, I had problems getting to sleep last night, and was a bit knackered today, but a good day nonetheless. I want to think about things sparkly and shiny, defined contours, juicy colours, frames in focus, clear sharp air. No foggy banks or misty rains, no faint, barely guessed outlines on the horizon of thoughts. I’ll grant you, they have their own beauty, and tomorrow or the day after I’ll be all about that, but today I want to think about alternative universes and favourite poems, and quotes that make my brain fly, and the red fluffy blanket I bought earlier (it’s fabulous, imagine skinning loads of really, really fluffy, vibrantly red teddy-bears… no, that’s horrible, don’t imagine that! But if you did murder and skin these innocent teddy-bears and merged their furs together, that’s what you’d get).

I like bright colours. A lot. I rarely wear anything else. Scarlets and oranges, yellows and fresh-cut greens, bright blues and deep purples, I have no interest in pastels, muted tones, whites and grays. On me at least. This vibrant plumage serves various purposes: as a warning sign; or sometimes I feel so profoundly invisible that I need some way of letting people know I’m still there, so they don’t walk through me, like through air; to cheer myself up; to gather energy; and then, best of all, not as a disguise but to express the true joy inside.

When I was a teenager, I went through a blue phase. It was just a little bit insane. Everything I wore was blue, and blue only: shoes, coats, dresses, jumpers, tops, trousers, handbag, backpack, underwear. My room was painted all blue (including ceiling), I had blue duvet covers, sheets, rug, curtains, furniture, you name it, it was all blue. Please don’t ask me why. I honestly don’t know. It had perhaps something to do with me reading about the supposedly calming effect of that particular colour? Or maybe it was because at that time I got fascinated with the English word “blue” and it’s dual meaning? Or perhaps I was simply a pretentious teenager, I wanted to have my own “thing” and black was done to death by goths, emos and metalheads? Who knows. The point is I breathed blue for about 2 years. And then, overnight, I got so sick of it that I vowed to never wear it again. I do, wear it I mean, but it took some time to embrace it again.

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Sometimes in the middle of the night, when I can’t sleep, I like to stay up listening to something gentle and crystalline, and make up little stories about things that could have been but never quite happened. The lives I could have lived if something in my past didn’t happened, or something that never was came to be.

There is this quote I love, from an otherwise pretty unremarkable book:

“The Future is an illusion because, at the most fundamental level, Choice is an illusion. I am a believer in the theory, popular among physicists, that every time there is a Choice, the universe splits: both choices come to pass, but in now-separate universes. And so on, and on, with every choice of every particle, every atom, every molecule, every cell, every being, coming into being. In this universe of universes, everything happens, and every combination of things happens. Our universe is a mote of dust in an ever-growing dust-storm of possibilities, but each mote of dust in that storm is generating its own dust-storm of possibilities every instant, the motes of which in turn… But you get the general impression. Indeed to think of ourselves as single selves, and our universe as a single universe, is to be blinded, by the limitations of our senses and our consciousness, to the infinite-faceted truth: that we are infinite in a universe of universes that are each infinitely infinite…” (…)

(…)”I had immediately to file all the fiction on my shelves under Non-Fiction. For it is an unavoidable corollary of this theory, that Fiction is impossible. For all novels are true histories of worlds as real as ours, but which we cannot see. All stories are possible, all histories have happened. I, billion-bodied, live a trillion lives every quantum instant. Those trillion lives branch out, a quintillion times a second, as every particle in every atom in each mote of dust on land, in sea, and sky, and space, and star, flickering in and out of being in the void, hesitates and decides its next stage. All tragedies, all triumphs, are mine, are yours.

“It is a curious and difficult thing, to think that all is possible. No, probable. No, certain,” I said, attempting to grasp the largeness of the thought. “That nothing is improbable.”

“It is a comforting thought, some nights, to this version of me, now,”(…)

                                                Julian Gough from “Jude: Level 1”

It really is, somehow, a very comforting notion, even if I’m not so sure it’s true. That somewhere out there, just beyond our grasp, but close, closer than we can imagine, there are worlds in which I am an airplane pilot, a scientist, a writer.  Somewhere I am right now experiencing everything, all at once. Admittedly, there is hurt, pain and terror far greater than I have ever lived through. There are all shades of misery, boredom, failure and grief. But there are also all the unknown joys, ecstasies and wonders possible and impossible. Somewhere, just behind the veil I am driving a truck in Oklahoma, eating a duck in China, kissing my girlfriend in Edinburgh, meeting you for the first time in a pub in Bolivia, researching sustainable energy sources in an institute in Tokyo, emptying my bank account to run away from the law, stealing Mona Lisa from the Louvre, becoming a Buddhist, colonizing Mars, baking a world record breaking cake. And every instance, every decision, every conversation or lack thereof creates endless possible alternatives, multiplies mine and everyone else’s versions of lives that we live elsewhere, cascades of innumerable existences. And it’s breath-taking. Is it not?

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