Sunday, 6 July 2008

I can tell you what I’m not going to write about!

There have been times, thankfully few and very far between, when depression has hit me like a hammer to the knees. What’s going on at the moment is nothing like that; more like a bad head cold to pneumonia; half a shandy to a double whiskey.
‘Twould be strange not to show and feel some repercussions, having just buried my father and married my wife (simply wouldn’t do to marry somebody else’s), and I’m nothing if not tremendously human.
My dad’s death came at the end of an eleven year decline, during which time I lived increasingly on permanent stand-by to return to London. Dad’s many hospital emergencies necessitated frequent visits over there, which were inevitably announced by the ringing of the phone, and gradually I grew to fear the landline.
So now I’m eager, willing and ready to embrace my new life, support my beloved family and nurture and love my wife. I want to lose weight and walk miles and finish the bleedin’ novel and knock out tremendous colyooms for all you loyal and accidental types who are sucked into reading this.
But I can’t.
If you do not live with depression then it’s quite possible you imagine it comes in a singular way: the same dose each time.
Speaking personally, I know that I am at the moment displaying and presenting symptoms that I recognise as some of the ingredients of depression, but equally I’m able to function; not knocked out; not feeling alienated; not disoriented.
I was disoriented a few weeks ago, stumbling down Shop Street as if on the deck of a galleon sailing the high seas.
And now I’m not, and that’s it. That’s why I am not accepting that I’m depressed at the moment. I’m not a kid who wants to stay home from school. I don’t want to shrink away from life right now. I want to go out and live it and sit here and write it.
(Bravado pumps through me as, sitting here with held breath, I barely allow myself to put commas into these pompous and inconsequential pronouncements.)
But there are some things I cannot do.
I cannot stay awake very long, of an evening.
I cannot force or rush the grieving process, much as I would like to. My feelings of loss and sadness are seeping through, as marble in stone, and it’s irritating. I want to feel a rushing flooding gush of it, yet instead I have mini-blubbers, like when I found myself crying at a bloody re-run of Scrubs when JD’s dad died.
Surely I can do better than that? Please god.
The germane and most immediate thing that I found myself unable to do was to decide upon a topic for this week’s colyoom.
Over the last 16 years I have naturally developed several fail-safe mechanisms that guarantee you the chance of reading something vaguely cohesive and very occasionally, maybe perceptive or witty.
I have my notes, and clippings. I have my life and each week presents the chance encounter that might and probably will happen with somebody on a Galway street that’ll set my mental cabbage soup to simmer.
And then, like so many of us, I have my working ritual: my pre-colyoom Sunday morning walk on the Prom , the leisurely breakfast and finally, the moment which has delivered more colyooms than any other device: the last visit to the bathroom before sitting down to work.
Week after week, despite having no clear idea of how I am going to produce these 1,000 words, for some reason I feel very calm, both physically and spiritually, and while I brush my teeth, sloosh the mouthwash and have a final peeper, a thought dribbles into my brain and nudges a nerve-ending.
And by the time I am sitting here a few short seconds later, it’s all coming together and I’m off.
But today, it wasn’t like that at all.
Today, Mr. I Am Not Depressed could not for some reason prioritise what he wanted to say.
And an hour later, (YIKES!) he started writing in the Third Person.
So evidently for me, depression comes in many ways. Although I become tired, I do still have energy that would be completely lacking during those rare dark times.
But while my black dog is not sitting hard and heavy on my chest, he is still out there, prowling the perimeter fence.
Even though I am able to function fairly well as a human being, the simple truth that I cannot decide what to write about is, for a columnist, at best an inconvenience, at worst, some might feel, something of a drawback.
For the reader it’s nothing less than an imposition. You entered into this page in good faith, expecting a theme, a topic at least, noch!
And what do you get for your troubles? What kind of colyoom action are you having to accept as reward? Not a whiff of humour; not a single arrogant finger-pointing lecture mocking either you or your life-style; not even an outrageous piece of hyperbole by which you could have become instantly disgusted and appalled.
Given this massive deficiency on my side of the writer-reader pact, it seems only fair that I should offer something in return, for your troubles, as it were.
So after not very long and ill-considered reflection, I’ve decided that the very least I can do at this stage is tell you what I’m not going to write about.
Enter if you will the tremendously anti-climactic territory that is this scribbler’s brain. If you are condemned to read this colyoom week after week, there will doubtless have been many when, upon either finishing the entirety or giving up at some earlier point, you thought to yourself:
‘How the hell does he get away with this drivel?’
To you, I say, consider this: by revealing to you all what I was going to write about and yet decided against, you will realise that that ‘drivel’, madam, that ‘drivel’ was, at the particular moment of its writing, the very pinnacle of my own creativity.
When you see what pathetic and inconsequential musings might have made it onto the sacrosanct pages of this Noble Rag, I will have nowhere to run.
My craven lack of talent will be forever exposed.
Aw shucks, we’ve run out of room.
I’ll get back to you about all that drivel.

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