Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Head lead soul hole.

This week, I am not coping. With anything. Right now I should be at work, but I am in bed, still in my work clothes, curtains closed, light off. There are tears, and there is pain. I am hurting.

The worst thing is that my life is going wonderfully. I have it all. The job, the friends, the flat, the boy. This week, though, it is not enough. I am empty.. or overflowing, perhaps. I can't tell. I don't want to tell. I just want to hide under my duvet and listen to the rain and hope that my mind drifts elsewhere. Anywhere.

I know it seems ungrateful. I know it seems dreadfully first-world. The inescapable fact, though, is that right now, I am not okay.

My head is full of lead and my soul is just a hole.

Monday, February 20, 2012


The truly wonderful thing about my job is that every day I get to talk to the most awe-inspiring young people. Young people who have been through the worst and come out the other side: often scarred, scared, angry and exhausted, but they are through - or at least, on their way. They are trying. They are fighting. And with that fight comes an unimaginable depth, a wisdom unlike anything I've ever seen. These children, these babies, have had their innocence stripped from them with the harshest chemicals life has to offer and yet they have clung to hope, and humanity, and life.

Every day they challenge my own perceptions about what life is, what life should be, what life could be. Every day they teach me a thousand things: about me, about them, about how this world works. They have seen things that I will never see, and they share with me without abandon, gifting me their stories. To the outside eye, I am helping them, but it's not nearly as simple as that. I teach them what I know, they teach me what they know, and we both leave the better for having known each other.

While I cannot share my clients with you, cannot share their names, their stories, their fights or their triumphs, I can share tiny pieces of their wisdom in the hope that their generosity in sharing this goes far beyond me. 

Today, I learned about value.

In a conversation with a client, they noticed that I had, foolishly, used the words 'valued' and 'valuable' interchangeably in discussing how they felt about themselves. 

"No," said my client. "Feeling valued and feeling valuable are not the same thing."
"Oh?" I asked. "What's the difference?"
"Feeling valuable means valuing your self. Feeling valued means other people value you. It's only worth feeling one," replied my client, "if you also feel the other. If you can't feel one of them, you're better off feeling neither of them."
"Why is that?" I asked. "Surely they are both nice feelings, whether you have both or not."
"If you feel valuable, but not valued, you spend your whole life angry, feeling ripped off by the world, feeling unappreciated by everyone around you. If you feel valued but not valuable, you feel guilty that people think more of you than what you are, and you feel like an imposter, like one day everyone will realise that you're actually not worth a damn. At least if you have neither, what you feel about yourself and what other people feel about you will match, and you can hate yourself in peace."
I sat in silence for a moment, and my client added,
"People always tell you to value yourself, but they forget that it will break your heart when nobody values you back."

Unlike previous entries, I'm not going to harp on about how this made me feel, or what this means, or how it changed my approach to my life/my job/the world (mostly because we'd be here for hours: all of those things happened). I just wanted to share this tiny piece of wisdom with you, especially if you work with youth.

"Some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions."

Sunday, February 19, 2012

And will the sun ever shine in the blind man's eyes when he cries?

Two things happened to me last year that have changed me, substantially and irreversibly, as a person.

One could argue that every single thing that happens changes one as a person, and to an extent, I agree. Every person you meet, every word that you read, every song that you hear, makes you a slightly different you than you were before. That is how we grow, develop, learn, evolve. How we become ourselves, by leaving ourselves behind. These changes are tiny, almost imperceptible, only significant in cumulation.

Every now and then, though, there are the big things. So significant on their own that people who don't know that they have happened know that they are seeing an altered version of the you they last saw. Like I said, I had two such things happen to me last year. While it is almost unbearably simplistic, we will call one of these things a 'good' thing and one of these things a 'bad' thing.

What these things were does not matter, but the long-lasting effect they have had on me does. One effect, in particular, is marked, and does not seem to be going away.

I cry all the fucking time. All the fucking time.

Not about the things that happened, although obviously, for one of them, I did at the time. But I'm still crying now, months later (and it is, it's months, and that's crazy to me because at the time it felt like not a single hour would pass without dragging its painful feet and where have those hours gone), over everything. It's like what happened - both the things, not just the bad - have brought my spare tears to a new place: right behind my eyes, only seconds away from the world. And now, when something happens - when anything happens - they are there, waiting, ready, fighting to get out. Thinking back, even over the last three days, I have cried perhaps six times, equally divided between tears of happiness and tears of sadness.

This is an entirely new phenomenon to me. Before last year, I can remember two instances in my life where I cried with joy: the two things were, largely, simply not associated in my mind. And crying with sadness? I cannot deny that I did, but it was rare. I was brave, and more importantly, proud. But the combination of these two things has changed that. Changed me.

First, before I wax away too lyrically, I should point out that while I used to have some sort of control over when I cried, now I do not. Suddenly, the day that the thing happened, that power was taken from me. Now, if I begin to feel the first stir of tears, I can rest safely assured that crying will happen no matter what I attempt to do about it. That lump in my throat and heat behind my eyes that used to scream 'suck it up, Amy' now scream 'quickly get out of this here public place, Amy'. There have been times when I would have done better to heed that warning: bursting into tears in the middle of a crowded Queensgate mall because the Muppets movie had sold out* may, for example, have been a good time to dash to the bathrooms at the first sign of trouble. And yes, that is the level of crying we're dealing with. A grown woman, sobbing, in a mall, because a child's film has sold out. Just in case you though I was exaggerating.

But, while it's true I have no control over this super fun new phenomenon, I have some theories around why all this crying isn't actually such a bad thing (unless you're the unfortunate person who happens to be with me in the mall when said bursting into tears occurred, in which case, I am, again, sorry). I think that part of me learned pretty quickly when the bad thing happened that expressing your pain does not make you weak. It's not being brave if you're getting in the way of yourself getting the support you need. I was sad, inexpressibly sad, and when I did not cry, when I did not let it out, when I did not show that I was hurting, it got worse. When held inside, tears multiply, while simultaneously corroding your sanity, then come bursting forth in inopportune places when you least have the resources to deal with them.

I also have another theory, for those of you wondering what on earth the good thing that happened to me has to do with all this crying. I think when you are in a place where you feel completely supported, and in an environment of absolute trust, there is nothing scary about crying. Making yourself vulnerable is not dangerous. Crying is not a particularly attractive sport, but that doesn't matter either. And the fact that you are very high-maintenance, fragile and potentially very embarrassing (mall) does not constantly weigh on your mind. You can just cry, if and when you need to, and know that you will be held, or soothed, or laughed at, if you're able.

So, yes. I am now a crier. A total and utter crybaby. Make me sad? Tears. Make me happy? Tears. Confuse me? Tears. Scare me? Tears. Send me a picture of something cute? Tears. I have substantially and irreversibly changed, and I'm okay with that.

I hope we're still friends.

*Full disclosure: not only did I cry when The Muppets was sold out, but I cried upwards of three times during the movie, and then again at home afterwards when I listened to one of the songs on YouTube.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Without you, yes I do and I hope that you do too.

Today, I was incredibly blessed to have a conversation with an incredible young woman. While, for many reasons, I will not be sharing the content of that conversation, it made me think a lot about myself and what I am afraid of.

I am afraid of many things. I am afraid of preying mantises, of thunder, of injections, of accidentally running over a hedgehog. I am afraid of running out of money, of failing at my chosen career, of throwing up in public, and of my teeth falling out.

But mostly? Mostly, I'm scared of dying.

I'm scared of everything about dying. I'm scared because it is an utterly incomprehensible concept and yet it's something that one day, I will do. And I won't get to choose when, or where, or how, or who with. It is the thing I have the least control over, in every way. I'm scared because I don't know what it will feel like, or what will happen next. Will everything just go blank, forever? Will I go somewhere else? Will I even know I'm dead? Is there even a world, without me in it? I just don't understand. It makes me completely and utterly panicky. Sometimes I try to believe in reincarnation, simply to try and reduce my panic. But I don't. I can't.

But there's more than that. Will I be missed? Will I be remembered? Will I matter, when I'm gone? Will the ones I love continue to love me? Will I continue to love them?

The difficult thing about being relatively intelligent is that one develops little tolerance to failing to understand something.

Anyway. Following this conversation, I've been reflecting a lot on this fear. I am aware there is no 'point' in fearing death: it's as pointless as fearing the sunrise, or Glee being cancelled. It will happen, it is inevitable. It simply is. But when I think about it, fearing death makes life a true gift. What better reason to live and love life is there than knowing that one day, at a time and place of nobody's choosing, it will end? I don't want to die with a cent unspent, a word unspoken, a promise unkept, a kiss withheld. And, given that I may die at any moment, I will speak my words, and spend my cents, and keep my promises, and give my kisses freely. And then: what is there to fear? I'll have lived as much as I can, every moment, so when I die, nothing will have been lost.

If you're reading this: you are real. You are precious. You are alive, for nobody knows how long. Make it count, in whichever way will leave you with the least regret. Sleep in, if that will bring you peace. Get up early, if that's what will bring you joy. Lord knows, you may get another go once your time in this world is done.. but what if you don't?