Friday 2 February 2007

If I pay you not to pack my bag, does that make me a control freak?

Here I am, in the checkout queue at Tescos, building nervous tension and breaking a sweat because there are teenagers helping pack the bags.
Yes, you read that right. After months of suppressing the needs that have to be satisfied to preserve my sanity, my neuroses are now spilling forth like farts in a colander.
Teenagers per se do not disturb me in the least. Thankfully there are many children I come into contact with in my daily life, and that pleases me and eases my heart. No, it's not the fact that they are teenagers, but more the fact that they are lined up in yellow T-shirts and blue baseball caps, eagerly happily helping the weary shoppers with their bagging, whilst raising money to buy as many three-legged rabbits as they can so that they can send them off to cheer up the children of Chernobyl on their long journey to Lourdes to play hockey with the local Police Force Youth Team.
Why the madness?
This colyoom tends to be spilled from addled brain on Sunday mornings. At this quiet hour the world is calm and I can disappear - some might say up my own backside - and scribble.
It is no surprise that the production of novels requires more time and separation from the madding crowd.
Two of the three novels I have completed took three years each, but the one I wrote whilst living alone in Connemara was rattled out in a year. The freedom to live in an uninterrupted fantasy world, lost between the realms of fact and fiction, with time to walk the back roads, beaches and bohreens; the absence of demanding human contact: for me at that time was ideal.
But we do not stay the same person throughout our lives, and for the last few years I have been participating in society. Living and working the city life does not offer the same time and freedom to inhabit the writer's happy place.
I tell myself that if I am the same man who found in peace in the countryside, I can achieve that mental state anywhere.
Yet upon waking up, my mind is automatically writing lists of people and places to see and be, and the day is gone again.
Faced with this challenge of how to create a vent for my creative steam, I flail around like a walrus, whingeing and crying and wailing, trying and failing to impose my needs, either by attack or terminal retreat.
I think writers seek to control their environments more than all other creative artists.
Deprived of the rhythms of the empty house and vacant day, I try and fail to isolate times and spaces wherein I can sit and be at peace with my scribbling urges.
If that fails, all that controlling energy has to be to dumped somewhere else.
Hence your colyoomist is not well in the head.
Having negotiated the weekly shop, I want the entire process of paying for it, packing it up and putting it away at home over and done with as quickly and efficiently as possible, to hasten the hour that will allow me to be sitting down at home, calmly contemplating what it is I might write today.
Hence sadly, I am twitching as I prepare to be served. All the frustrated controlling energy that is bursting out of me has already sorted the stuff in my trolley so that the heavy stuff can roll down the conveyer belt first.
The fruit and veg are all together, and the eggs, bread and breakables are at the end.
Shit, it ain't rocket science. It's only the goddam shopping, but today I am Mr. Neurotic Creatively Frustrated Crazy Guy, and I want - nay, need - to be left alone.
As nice as pie, I ask the unsuspecting young lass not to pack my stuff. I smile at her, trying to look non-threatening and relaxed, but she isn't fooled for a moment. She quickly retreats, as I rather ostentatiously place a few euro in her collecting bucket, to show I mean no harm; that I may be weird but i still have compassion
Sorry love! Quite possibly I looked a lot more frightening than I thought I did.
So I end up paying her not to help. In fact I end up paying her more money not to help me than I would if she had helped me.
But when does help stop being helpful?
Yes, yes, it's all very bloody wonderful and just marvellous that these young people are so well intentioned and well dressed and well mannered; it's just dandy that they are working; that indeed they are out of bed so early in the day, considering they are young people and it is morning, but I do not want to help the three-legged rabbits and little children of Chernobyl by giving gastro-enteritis to my friends and family.
I do not want my raw meats squashed into a bag of leafy vegetables. Nor do I want my eggs crushed under 2.5kg of Rooster potatoes. The frozen stuff goes in the freezer bag, and yes, I know this looks like complete control freakery, but that's the point.
If had more control over when I was able to write, I am sure I could let go of the need to control other aspects of my life.
There is no pleasure in all this control. It's not as if there's a target you reach, when you sit back and become happy. Into the bargain, I have been in a mild state of depression since mid-December, so there is precious little sanity to spare.
In order to write fiction, to completely let go and have those winds blowing free through my mental doors and windows, I have to know that there is nothing else I should be doing.
I find it so hard to stop giving a shit; to let the household run out of stuff; to let the bills remain unpaid, so instead I walk the earth with entry-level O.C.D. and eruptions of control freakery.
Perchance when the depression lifts I will see that there was time and space availiable all the time; that I was simply blind to it.
At least I know that one day the depression will lift. I suspect that my neurotic behaviours might be here to stay.

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