A new year, a new role, a new job, a new city and I love it all, really. And yet, I started out this year too often blanketed by a mental fog and the reasons why remained just out of my reach. I think it may have had something to do with achieved success vs. perceived failure, the increasing tightness of my clothes, and the fact that I haven’t had sex in over a year.
I’m learning, as I get older and less terrified of wanting the things I want, that whilst not all happiness comes from good sex, good sex generally makes you happy.
Or it may have been the fact that I finally became aware of my own mental health last year, and how precarious one’s control over it is. I said the name of the beast, and now its heavy breath lies for ever on my neck.
I started developing a number of go-to quick cures for this sort of grey-Monday-morning feeling. One of those cures was the swift and guilty consumption of a large burger. “Burgers have become my comfort food” said my older sister as we sat patiently waiting for hers to arrive. I was sneery, because this happened about 3 weeks before Christmas, we were sitting in a gorgeous tea room, at an old manor house in the English countryside, and I’d just ordered scones with something called ‘Splendid Earl Grey’. I couldn’t understand why anyone would order a burger at such a time, in such a place, with such anticipation.
But I suppose our similarities extend to more than just the shape of our eyes and a shared obsession with Aragorn, because by early 2015 a melancholy work afternoon would more likely than not end with me clicking my way around the Hellofoods.com.ng website, ensuring that my return home to Lekki Phase 1 coincided with the arrival of some earnest delivery boy clutching a burger as big as a frying pan. But as this cure was the main contributor to my now ill-fitting clothes, it didn’t take me too long to try something else.
I started instead to harken back to old emails, in the way we all look at old photos- with the hope they’ll remind us of all the lovely things we’ve seen and done, and all the lovely people who love us. Basically, I wanted to combat melancholia with smugness. So, I went all the way back to prehistoric emails from the embryonic days of my gmail account.
I’ll tell you a truth- don’t ever waste your time imagining whether your 8 year old self would be proud of you now. It’s a nonsense exercise full of guesswork and self indulgence- you don’t really know who your 8 year old self was anyway. If you want to play that sort of dangerous comparison game, delve deeply into your archived sent folder instead. Consider your tone, what your A-Level English teacher would have called your ‘written voice’. Has it changed? If so, how?
For me, the contrast was devastating. I used to be about 100 times more confident in emails, which in turn made me more certain, more witty, more everything. I sent emails off without thought, responding with the pure truth of my feelings, without re-reading and worrying about nuances and subtexts and what the reader may think of me. My language was clipped and precise if I was being professional, loose and relaxed with friends. I made more typos, certainly, but I sounded freer, happier, more alive. I clicked through my old emails, and wondered at this shiny, glittery, brave young creature. Where was she? Who was she? Was she ever me?
My sent folder not doing much to cheer me up, I then decided to try reading things people had sent to me; tales of holidays, emotional ‘make-up’ emails with my friends after silly fights, links to things that were once hilarious now barely relevant. This was much better. I started to feel myself refreshed, reminded of the combination of luck and fate that had led all these wonderful people to me. Pride however always pushes ahead of a fall; soon enough, I came across a lonely, dangling email with no subject or reply, from someone whose role in my life has always been too complicated to be entirely pleasant.
The email was empty but for a quote from Anthills of the Savannah, this one:
The sounding of the battle-drum is important; the fierce waging of the war itself is important; and the telling of the story afterwards—each is important in its own way. I tell you, there is not one of them we could do without. But if you ask me which of them takes the eagle-feather [notice this metaphor that comes from the African rain forest], I will say boldly: the Story. Recalling-Is-Greatest. Why? Because it is only the story that can continue beyond the war and the warrior. It is the story that outlives the sound of war-drums and the exploits of brave fighters. It is the story, not the others, that saves our progeny from blundering like blind beggars into the spikes of the cactus fence. The story is our escort; without it, we are blind [. . .] the story is everlasting .
“Why did you send this to me” was the subject line I chose as I forwarded this quote back to him. The reply was swift and cutting
“It was meant to encourage you to write more.” he wrote back. “But you haven’t.”
Ah. Well, here I am, trying again. The look of the blog is new, I hope you like it. The format is more fluid- I make no promises yet, save to, as ordered, write more. I have always loved your comments- no one likes screaming into the void- but I hope your desire to do so comes from an organic, kind place. I will no longer be moderating the comments- that part of this blog is yours and I hope to do no more than pop in from time to time to marvel at all the lovely things you’ve said, and how lovely you all are, and how lucky I am to have you all reading anything I write at all.