Wednesday 26 October 2011
Seasonal affective disturbance
I could kind-of wish this hadn’t happened in Autumn - not the best time for inner turmoil, perhaps, because there’s always a dimension of anxiety and upheaval in this beautiful, melancholy, doom-laden and inevitable season. I’m reminded of a poet friend, Fatih, who said to me many years ago: “I always feel sad at sunset – it’s because I’m a poet” (yes, incredibly pretentious – we were very young – and also no doubt true; he did feel scared and sad at dusk). And Autumn is one long sunset, the dusk of the year (ahem, did I say pretentious?).
So, now suddenly there is perspective, in the sense that a firm date sits there in my future – less than five months away. And there is much perspective still lacking in the sense of seeing this in a calm and organised context and getting down to the next few months of transition, preparation and planning. This is hard.
It’s hard because navigating change is always stressful, even when it’s change for the better, and additionally stressful this time for me because it’s positive, but risky. I’ve not been good at taking risks – and my achievements in life have been commensurately small. So it’s time, well past time, to take a risk. And I am unpractised, ridiculously so for someone of my advanced years.
So I do, alas, what I am practised at: cut off from my true feelings, which are jubilant-scared-hopeful-scared-liberated-scared-proud of myself-scared-humming with creativity at the mere thought of it-scared… can’t take being scared, so cut them all off at the roots and opt for numb anxiety! Yup, that’s where I am: numb, distracted, floating anxiety. Autumn, then Winter; decision, then change - inevitable, but not thereby any easier to flow with. Yikes.
I wrote this yesterday, wanted to let it sit before posting it, and then today I read Beth’s thoughtful and heart-searching piece about Libya, revolution, minorities, emigration, watching and responding to cataclysmic events from afar, and I read Dave’s generous response, so full of care and flair, to a class of schoolkids who’d read and responded to one of his poems. I felt uncomfortable writing here about myself, as if my own life and feelings were everything. The balance is hard, isn’t it? For each of us as individuals, there are times to go into ourselves and times to put our personal concerns aside. We’re all in this together, self and others aren’t really separate. My exhaustion from work and the struggle of commuting in and out of central London is all about me and my feelings, my own questionable sense of entitlement to something more fulfilling. But it’s also what drains me of energy I might, if my circumstances were different – and maybe will, if I succeed in changing my circumstances – be able to give to creating my own small quotient of beauty and to engaging with the causes I find important.