PERSPECTIVE

 

 

blackandwhitenarcissi5895

 

 

2017 has been a very strange and tumultous year: politically, in terms of humanity, spiritually, personally. It has felt as though the world itself has been unravelling. I have unravelled: been broken apart, cut up and stitched, and had to learn to walk again from scratch, a trauma that has affected me more than I even realized but which I am coming through now even if I do actually feel, in some ways, like a changed man. Older. More mortal. Fractured. Like the humans of the world.

 

Everything has felt meaner, more intolerant, more closed in, this year, less compassionate. More tribal and ethnocentric, avaricious: vulgar  – and I am sure that we know who is to blame for much of that; the catastrophic election to the most powerful position on earth of a vain and vacuous man who is dreadful – beyond description – on every level and is influencing the world in such nasty and negative ways.

 

We co-exist, we exist, on many levels: the global and real, the everyday personal reality, the dreamlife, the unconscious: we connect and disconnect with other people, we try to find our own meaning in life, to find happiness, it is all so very complicated. Sometimes this year has felt like a maelstrom to me: the sense that so much is so wrong: that if you believe a lie, you live a lie, the idea that economic growth is the base of all human happiness and that you have to tread on the faces of those around you in order to get it: this money mongering and hate.

 

And I have been poisonous myself at times this year: recently, I have lashed out at certain friends and burned some bridges: I have felt that my equilibrium has gone bust and that I am lurching, almost as if I should have gone to counselling to decompress following the confinement in hospital, the solitude at home, and then the shock to the whole body and psychological system in suddenly being thrust back into the teaching environment, the performance aspect of which just totally took its toll on my still fragile organism and sent me spiralling. Right now I feel that I am slightly in post-traumatic stress disorder mode, but quite guiltily so : when I think of what other people have had to go through in their lives, this feels like nothing, and I am very aware that I have much to be grateful for : I have a partner, family, friends, you, real connections and human exchanges and feel far from lonely, the curse that so many people have to deal with on a day to day basis – and the surgery was basically successful. I can walk, even if my legs don’t feel as robust as I would wish them to (or even like my own); they still feel vulnerable and brittle, and often hurt, quite a bit. But then there are days when they don’t, and I feel they are getting closer to normal. I have gone on proper walks and managed fine – I am on the mend. So I shouldn’t be complaining and am aware that it has all become rather repetitive  (and I also think that I shouldn’t really have been talking about it all so much here on the The Black Narcissus  in the first place, perhaps: it has dominated much of the year). For those readers who have read almost every post, this means that you have observed and been part of quite a lot,  quite tiresomely so, from the pre-operative panics, to the post-surgical fugue states, to the strangely catatonic recuperation stages, the clarity of home and being stuck by myself, the blissful awakening of summer, and then the stark thrusting back into the cold outside world. I am aware that this part of this post must sound very self-obsessive, but it is strange to think that from this writing, which is me, and which comes instinctively and quickly, you may have had insights into my situation that I haven’t been able to have myself: it is a curious phenomenon. I have bared myself to the ether.

 

 

I wonder what kind of a year this has been for you too though. You know much more about me than I do about you. Obviously, a blog like this has an aspect of performance – and you are the audience. And yet I do feel that The Black Narcissus does go deeper than most other internet spaces of this nature as we do go far beyond perfume, even when that is still the principle preoccupation. And I do feel that, through the comments, I have been privileged to have conversations with such sensitive, interesting, and varied people that shed light on different aspects of life and give such a sense of a tapestry: that yes, perhaps the existentialists were right in many ways that we are separate, distinct, trapped in our own minds and bodies, that we are born and die alone and ultimately are responsible for ourselves, but at the same time I do feel that we are also connected, truly, through empathy and curiosity and the sheer stimulation that other people’s minds can give us, and it is a great part of the fascination, for me, of being alive, of being a human.

 

 

Recently, since the operation and its aftermath, I have become more hypersensitive and absorbent, to virtually everything. Partly, I think it stems from the sheer shock to my system on a variety of levels, but also from being sequestrated away by myself for many months on end, and the surprise at how much I liked it. I have almost become quite antisocial, sociophobic, while Duncan has been going in precisely the opposite direction; more gregarious, sociable: a barfly, whether as a reaction to his drag of a boyfriend at home with all his ailments and venomous invectives and aggrieved self-absorption or just as a natural consequence of the ever-growing network of people we seem to have accrued as friends and acquaintances over the last several years as we enter a more bohemian, artistic coterie of people (this was the year that his first film, Girl Goned, was shown in Tokyo and I can’t tell you how exciting all that has been – a real balance to the rest of the year, which is why I would never actually think of 2017 as being truly a bad year for me personally: we are already conceiving the next one with co-director Yukiro; I have other artistic projects planned as well for the next year- this will be our life-blood); yes, and yet at the same time I feel that I have become more stressed out in social situations, too reactive, judgmental, that if the conversation isn’t working in some way that I have to abort it, escape. This has led to many a blistering argument in the last few months and some times I have wondered if we are even going to make it. I think we will – but we have to just recognize and accept each other’s differing personality types, the particular blends of extroversion and introversion, the fact that he is self-contained and thus less affected by the particulars of others, and I am just a bristling, sponge-like nutjob.

 

 

I have had to be practically dragged out to certain social occasions – be it drinks with a person from some place or other, or parties, or dinners at home when I have just wished that everybody would go home and leave me alone. My instincts, after having been secluded and quiet for so long, has been to refuse, to make an exit. At work, with certain Japanese colleagues that I have nothing in common with, whether through linguistic lacks or personal or cultural disconnections, I have found that I simply can’t even be in the same room as them. I go to somewhere else to get on with my preparation as that is easier on the soul. Though it makes total sense to me at that particular moment, this is, however, something I think I need to work on before it gets out of hand. I don’t want to turn into a recluse.

 

 

 

The thing is, you can be wrong about people, no matter how finely honed you think your inner instincts are. Everyone is multilayered and reveals what they reveal, or else conceal. You can hunker down inside yourself and ruminate and gloat, or else complain, or just withdraw, and sometimes I think you actually do really need to do that in order to survive: the shit the world has thrown at us this year has often been so entirely depressing that the hiding within one’s shell approach has often seemed like the only answer, at least for a while (or in my case, most of the year). At the same time, however, I have also realized that you have to ‘put yourself out there’ sometimes if you ever want to change your perspectives through meeting other people, that it can be exciting, even when unnerving, to meet completely different individuals to yourself even when your instincts tell you to stick with the tried and trusted people that you know who ‘understand’ you and tell you what you want to hear.

 

 

I have discovered strange stories, and parallels, and almost cosmic coincidences recently in doing this, and as this year now comes to an end it feels like the perfect time for me to delve into, process and relate to you some of them. Nothing extraordinary, really, but for me a sign that in order to develop as a human being in 2018 I need to not cut myself off but stay open. I actually do love people (which is why I am a teacher, and half of the reason I write The Black Narcissus – the other is for catharsis and an innate need for aesthetic creation), it’s just that I am too easily affected by them and thus have to maintain a healthy balance. This need not, however, be so neurotically obsessed over. Next year I want to try and go more with the flow.

 

 

 

 

 

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There was a day in 2016, I think it was May, and I was standing in the kitchen in the balmy, fragrant warm spring air listening to a song from Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon called Terrence Loves You, an exquisitely beautiful song about David Bowie’s schizophrenic half-brother Terry who tragically committed suicide by jumping off a balcony and an incident that obviously affected Bowie deeply. The song is also profoundly affecting for me for some reason, (although a refrain from Space Oddity at the end brings the connection with the Great Man into focus). Even not knowing the story behind the lyrics however, the music and deep, woozy beauty of the song just brings me to tears, happy ones; it is as if she is cutting the skin of life and letting all out for us to drown in, especially in summer. It kills me. On that day, I felt that I was having a premonition, though, that this was my life’s high point: I was feeling physically healthy, everything was going right, work was good, I was creatively stimulated, me and D were in love, the world was beautiful, but this was the zenith: it would be all downhill from here on. I would be over the hill. And that is how I have been feeling recently, that the ‘dream is over’, that it is all just disintegration and downslide from here on until the grave. The usual self-indulgent misery that I am sure a lot of us can’t help avoiding sometimes until we snap ourselves out of it and just get on with living.

 

 

It was strange though, and of no real consequence, but intriguing to me nevertheless the other night when I met someone at a party who had actually met Terrence Jones, been to his house, and whose aunt had actually done babysitting for David Bowie when he was a child in Bromley, Kent, a part of England that seems to have been a real hub of creativity for English musicians wanting to escape the boredom of the British suburban seventies reality. By the point that this long term ex-pat, Steve, had met Bowie’s brother, however, he was already in quite a bad state, living in poor conditions and not even aware of who is ultra-famous brother was: quite pitiful. But somehow, the physicality of him meeting the subject matter of this song that had had me in floods of joyous tears in the kitchen felt relevant to me in some intangible aspect I couldnt’ quite put my finger on; the spider’s web of the universe touching us in strange and mysterious ways; the dream touching reality.

 

 

 

A few days before that, we had been to yet another party in a different part of Tokyo, more our younger goth contingent that we sometimes associate with (and who look brilliant in films), but there were a lot of people I didn’t know and I was still feeling a little fragile and not in the mood to really communicate with everyone. I sat with a friend in one place and didn’t ‘work the room’ as Duncan does, flitting about talking about with each person and not minding if they are the friendship of a lifetime – plus I had easier access to the booze and food which suited me logistically.  Eventually, the squarer and slightly more incongruous member of the party, a thirty something American guy, came over to me and started talking. He had heard through D that I was a teacher but also a ‘writer’ on perfume, and as a novelist himself, he came over to talk to me with the usual U.S bright and breezy approach (which in truth, I can sometimes be wary of as a miserable Brit – it can sometimes seem quite superficial), an overfamiliarity and almost presumptuous friendliness that can be unnerving sometimes for the colder European and yet which I ultimately do like – when the conversation is just punched open and the ‘nitty gritty’ begins.

 

 

I asked him if he liked ‘cologne’, expecting the usual responses, but in fact he told me he had no sense of smell, his lower face having been blown off in an ambush in Iraq – as well as writing novels, he had previously been in the military – and when his helicopter crashed he was so seriously injured that he had had to have most of his face reconstructed. All I can say is that the surgeon must have been extremely good (I saw another similar person on a documentary last night and this ex-soldier’s face was similarly undetectable – plastic surgery must have made incredible, and wonderful, technological progress in recent years). The result was, however, that he has virtually no sense of taste or smell, and worries about whether he is wearing too much or too little scent – I told him that it was just right, which it was: I could also tell immediately that he was the kind of person who smells nice and clean naturally and that he didn’t need to worry about it. Of far more concern was the depths of his frequent depressions and suicidal urges: he told me that of his regiment of fourteen that had served in Iraq, he was the only one left now, all the others having succumbed to suicide, alcoholism, drug abuse or a combination of all three, and that his survivor’s guilt was immense. I found myself sitting there feeling ridiculous at the stew of my own preoccupations when he was going through such extreme mental anguish; a decent man who had, however, been a sniper and obviously killed a lot of people. We discussed the merits and demerits of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a film I didnt’ really like (neither did he), and agreed Eastwood’s other war films, the diptych of Flags Of Their Fathers, and Iwo Jima, made in English and Japanese respectively, were more subtley done and more emotionally effective, particularly as they tried to show both sides of the story. I didn’t want to bring up the fact that, for me, the entire ‘hero’ aspect of American Sniper was spurious to begin with seeing that the entire premise of that ‘war’ was dubious,  and that the whole ‘good guy/bad guy’ scenario, in my opinion, is quite simply ridiculous. There was no point getting into any of that. I wanted to be supportive and just listen. God knows what demons he is having to battle.

 

 

 

For me, this person, though a killer, a sanctioned killer, was, as he said, just ‘doing his job’. He is a pawn in the hands of the powerful who use the less powerful to their ends. You could tell that he was a good person: sensitive, sweet, actually, full of torment and regret and who had been through hell. I really felt for him, and will probably contact him again through my friend. I wish him the best. How can you move on from that? And to have such vital sensory perceptions severed in that way. A sense I put so much emphasis  on.I felt almost guilty myself for savouring, as I was listening, the scent that was rising up around me, from my own, to the Guy Laroche Clandestine I had given to Yukiro who was sitting next to me and who smelled amazing in it, a whole third dimension. I felt thankful that I can smell, see and enjoy this world all around me, the one that gives me such intense pleasure. It’s a clichéd truism, but sometimes you really can just forget how lucky you are.

 

 

 

This was also truly brought home to me recently when we watched the brilliant, if harrowing, documentary series by KEO films, Exodus, which won BAFTA and Emmy awards for its unfliching portrayal of the plight of Syrian and other refugees flooding into Europe over the last couple of years, the humanitarian crisis captured by the documentary makers who gave mobile camera phones to certain individuals fleeing bombing in Aleppo and other cities; Afghans escaping the atrocities of the Taliban, and economic migrants trying to move away from abject poverty in African countries and do anything they possibly can to get into Europe, no matter what the cost.

 

 

 

But what a cost. Some of the things these individuals have had to go through are almost unbearable to watch; the tension and the sheer willing them to succeed in their missions to make new lives for themselves makes for quite stressful, if voyeuristically exciting, viewing: you are on the edge of your seat as they smuggle themselves in terrifying, drastic conditions, for the umpteenth time in the back of a pitch black flour truck in a situation that I don’t think I could survive; the constant detainments, the freezing cold, the wet feet, the hunger – families who walked from Syria to Sweden – walked, one man, Assad, I think, who had been through so many trials and tribulations you wonder where he found the inner strength to get through it all alive.

 

 

 

And yet, in another twist of universal connection, this man did in fact make it to England, and was given a job at the film company my sister works for that produced the documentary,  and was in fact dancing with her at the Christmas party she organized there the other night. She told me about it all over the phone on Christmas day. He is doing well. He is one of the lucky ones. And there is something so beautiful about this. I have not met him, but even at one person removed, to have watched just a part of his exodus and traumatic situation on the big screen in our viewing room upstairs, and to have been so involved with his story, and not knowing what happened to him afterwards, to then find out that he is actually in close personal contact with my own flesh and blood somehow blows my mind. It makes me feel that there is some real good in the world, that humanity might prevail.

 

 

 

So on that note, I will love you and leave you. Thank you so much for your support, thoughts and ideas from this year, which I know has been quite a difficult one for many of us on a number of different levels. I hope that however this year has been for you personally, that you do have a wonderful 2018. This year may be coming to a close, but I still think it is important, and useful, to take stock of the last twelve months or so because even though this dividing of our time into months and years might be arbitrary, it is still how we measure time, and I have always felt that the end and the beginning of the year really are chances for us to at the very least reflect on what has happened in the year that has just passed, and at least try to make changes for the new one, to live as well as we can. I am sitting in the warm kitchen as I write this: we have just had a big breakfast and coffee, and later on in the evening we are going to go out for a drink and a meal somewhere and then go to the local temples in Kitakamakura to see the new year in. No drunken festivity countdowns this year: I want the peace and the clarity of the monks as they ring the 108 bells in the ancient shrines in the incense filled, chilly air, and chant sutras for the wellbeing of the earth: the austerity of it, the timelessness, the beauty. I want to submerge myself in that feeling  of something bigger, deeper, expansive and unknowable. Something collective, outside ourselves. And then I am going to walk back up our hill for the first time in a very long while, take in the air, and come home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

43 Comments

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43 responses to “PERSPECTIVE

  1. Filomena813

    What a beautiful, mesmerizing, meaningful post. I hope it was as therapeutic for you to write it as it is for us to read it. To me personally, I felt that 2017 was not a good year. Each year at this time, most of look to the new year as a sign of hope that perhaps it will be a good year. However, the mere fact that we are still alive and hopeful for a better future means it was a good year in many ways. Keep on writing and Happy New Year to you!

    • Thanks Filomena. There is a always a danger with writing as solipsistic as this that you might alienate other people, which is why many writers have more generic, ‘feel good’ generalising pieces that the Matrix can plug into more easily. I just can’t do that, though, and you are one of the very people I was talking about in the post. If it feels meaningful, that that is wonderful. I had to get some of 2017 OFF MY CHEST!

  2. MrsDalloway

    Thanks for this post, which has been thought-inspiring – as is all of your blog, which I love to read and re-read. Taking stock made me realise 2017 has been a good year for me and my family personally, though it takes hard work to keep everything going and environmental and political horrors are a looming cloud. Perfume and other self-indulgences have been a refuge but resolution time now!

    Wishing you a much easier and happier 2018, with good health, rewarding connections and lots of perfume and fun.

  3. Great writing. I think introverts love people much more than extroverts, we just can’t be around them for too long at a time – it’s because of our sponginess, as you say. Total absorption. Good luck with getting the balance right in 2018, and may it be a better year for you x

  4. emmawoolf

    Wonderful piece. I know how you feel in so many ways. I’m still in hiding, and have lost my tolerance for social gatherings (and many other things). I do wish the very best for 2018, and feel that things will get better. Your new year plans (with chanting monks!) sound heavenly. Your writing brought a tear to my eye, but then again I always was a soppy old fool. Happy new year x

  5. David

    Thanks for writing so honestly about what you have been going through this past year. I felt inspired by your recovery.
    I am an introvert and prefer to be that way. So I will not be making any resolution to become more extroverted. In fact, no resolutions at all this year. In 2017 I gave up alcohol, coke, gluten, sugar, and dairy. So this year I’m giving myself a break. I do have some objectives– to plant a tropical garden on my veranda. And to try all the different artisanal hot sauces made by a woman at the farmers’ market near my apartment. I also want to continue discovering and supporting independent perfumers. I like the stories they tell through their creations.
    The expectation and even pressure to be extroverted and animated and the life of the party is high in Brazil. There is so much talking over people. Not so much listening. Not my style. I prefer to be alone or with my husband. My husband is extroverted but he told me that 95% of what people blather on about is either nonsense or gossip. So he doesn’t mind at all when I stay home. “You didn’t miss a thing,” he tells me when he gets back.
    I hope you make a full recovery in 2018! I also hope you continue to post a lot (I’m selfish!).

    • I can’t believe you gave up all those things in 2017. Your will power must have become superhuman.

      No one who knows me, my family especially, would take the idea seriously that I am any kind of introvert – they would find the idea laughable seeing how over the top and intense I am; quite dominating in fact. So it’s weird that I have these strong needs to shy away a lot of the time. But I suppose nobody is that categorisable – we all shift between the poles I would say.

      Love the idea of your tropical veranda. We have a similar thing here in summer and it gives ridiculous levels of pleasure.

      A very happy new year to you David x

      • David

        The hardest thing to give up was dairy because I love milk in my coffee and tea. I find giving up things much easier than starting things (like exercising).

  6. Ana Maria

    Thank you for this post Neil! I rarely comment on your blog, but I read your pieces often. And in a way you are part of my wonderful, strange and magical serendipity, a thing which is unsettling but also consoling. We have similar musical and film tastes, a lot of the times, and to see you mentioning Lana’s Honeymoon which was in many ways my life’s soundtrack over the past couple of years made me smile and also tear up. We are so very different, so disconnected but so alike too. I have the same opinions as yours on many topics, and I understand your moods and feelings too well. So thank you for giving voice to which what I cannot express as well as you and for being one of those people who make me feel less alone in my ruminations. An Englishman living in Japan talking the inner language of a Romanian woman living in Ireland. Strange mix, isn’t it? Have a great year, full of health, fulfilment and happiness!

    • Honeymoon was a REAL discovery for me. I had quite liked some of the Lana Del Rey songs in passing, Video Games etc, but Honeymoon took it to a whole other level. Just swooningly gorgeous – especially side one (I play it on red vinyl). I understand what you mean about being disturbingly similar to but also quite different from other people – it is wonderful to coincide with people who understand you. At the same time, we are all unique, isolated in our own exactness.

      In any case, I hope you comment more – and I hope you have a great 2018.

  7. This is a wonderful post and you are a wonderful writer. Truly, you have had a difficult, demanding year. Maybe you can think of it this way: 2017 was a slide downhill from the joy you felt in 2016, but 2018 has GOT to be better than 2017! And with your health on the mend and your regained ability to walk, you are literally on the road to a good year. Your Duncan sounds like such a special person; I know you cherish him. Your conjoined account of the wounded veteran and the refugee is remarkable: written so beautifully and tenderly, but clear-eyed about the horrific circumstances they survived. I wish you and Duncan, and them, a happy New Year; your plan to visit the temples sounds perfect, and I hope you will write about it!

  8. Ann

    Such beautiful writing. I am feeling quite teary after reading this. Trump disgusts me but so does my own government. The way we treat refugees here in Australia is so appalling that it shames me. I haven’t seen Exodus but will do so….can recommend “Fire at Sea”, an Italian film set on Lampedusa if you haven’t seen it already. The Italians are more generous than we are. Thank you for your writing. I rarely comment but rarely miss your posts and I wish you a healthy and beautifully perfumed 2018.

    • And you too. I will check out your film recommendation, and I do think Exodus is an excellent testimony to it all as well. At least you know that the Syrian English teacher makes it out by the end..

  9. Tara C

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I love the depth and rawness of your writing, so different from most of the other pap we read on the net. As an anxious, introverted, sensitive person, I can relate to so much of what you express.

    Your last paragraph was brilliant, wish I could be there too with the monks, the chanting, the bells and the incense, praying for the release from suffering of all sentient beings.

    I feel so pessimistic about the state of the world, but I plan to be as positive as possible in my personal life and hope for a state of grace to reign in my heart.

    • It’s not always easy, is it? But as you say, we have to try.

      In the end, there were too many steps to climb up to the place where the actual ceremony was taking place, but the atmosphere in the temple grounds was so beautiful – freezing cold, but purifying, in the moonlight- that it was definitely worth the visit.

      A happy new year to you.

  10. And then I am going to walk back up our hill for the first time in a very long while, take in the air, and come home.
    I wish you never lost that path to walk in your whole life.

  11. empliau

    I am so glad you wrote this piece. I think it’s important to talk about a year in feelings, and this is a place on the net where feelings and senses are exquisitely interwoven in words. In 2017 my family came to resemble your legs – except for the recovery part. We are still waiting for that. We are working, but one task begun last year was the attempt to understand that we simply can’t control, or manage, or sometimes even help others, no matter how much we love them.

    A very happy new year to us all. After all, it might be.

    • One can only hope so, and it sounds like your family truly needs it to be.

      ‘The Family’: such a core thing, everything, and yet not. Sometimes so exasperatingly hard to be a part of, or keep together. The sheer stress of it It’s rarely easy.

      I do hope you prevail though in 2018.

  12. OnWingsofSaffron

    I believe I have read all of your posts this year, and it sometimes had the feel of a slightly lopsided, sometimes interactive serial novel. And: I also realise that I am more interested in what you have to say about yourself, about your life, than about fragrance A, B or C. (And that is saying something, as I have become more obsessed with perfumes in the past year than I think is generally healthy for a 54 year old man—and that is no coquetry!)
    When I read what you write I have the impression that you are somehow “caged in”, if that is the right wording. I am thinking in the lines of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem “Der Panther” which I find incredibly beautiful, especially when read aloud. Perhaps the far-away island Japan sets up restrictions of travel; perhaps the operation you had obstructs your everyday movement; perhaps getting older every year curbs inner openness?
    For instance, your November post “I Miss this Feeling” touched a raw nerve in me: yes, by God, so do I! How the limitless has been narrowed! (And so interesting: a real taboo, nobody, not one single person commented this post, probably as it touched unchecked, rampant, ecstatic longing and (homo)sexuality.)
    What you write about lashing out, and retreating at the same time seems like a reaction of being somehow curtailed? That is perhaps a better word than caged in. Perhaps you should try extending boundaries, encounter new inner and outer discoveries in order to give yourself more room?
    (Please excuse me for sounding like some stuffy psychotherapist.)
    Anyway, to you and your partner Duncan a very happy, a free and limitless New Year.

    • I wish you would talk at more length, in fact: I find you incredibly insightful.

      Caged in, curtailed : I need to think about that.You might be right. I mean I have great freedom in many ways, and quite a full life, but just coming to Japan for no particular reason and then refusing to properly learn the language or fully enter the culture is like a self-imposed restriction in a way. I know that prior to coming here i was much worse off in London, which overwhelmed me completely.

      I think I have somehow always been afraid of possibility, of fully unleashing myself.

      Are you psychic?

  13. I like that word of yours, tapestry. A good friend of ours used it often, whenever a crummy thing happened to any one of us. “All part of life’s rich tapestry,” would be his response, said with both compassion and light irony. It always helped. When he was a teenager, he and his younger brother helplessly watched their mother run across the room and jump to her death out of their high-rise apartment window in Toronto. He found ways to process the trauma and not let it keep him from living optimistically (most of the time).

    To say goodbye to 2017 (half “good bloody riddance” and half “sad to see you go”) Ric and I drove the truck way up an old logging road with a bottle of bubbly and a pair of wineglasses and parked so we had a view down the mountain and across the ocean to Vancouver Island. Toasted everything we could think of. Mostly, Ric’s surviving two major surgeries and gratitude for our simple, beautiful life together. I thought of you and Duncan. The sun went down directly in front of us by the middle of our last glass.

    Today, we walked the path around the duck pond outside Sechelt and came across a small live fir tree in the middle of nowhere, decorated to the hilt with Christmas ornaments and garlands. Nothing seemed missing: nothing taken; nothing vandalized. Life — people — CAN be like that. We’re going to try and put the rest of the world in some kind of perspective that doesn’t have us grinding our teeth at night. Some faith in something. Maybe in something bigger. Maybe in human kindness and prevailing sanity. Despite much evidence to the contrary.

  14. rosestrang

    What a lovely and affecting read at this time of year – especially feeling a bit knackered as I am after this manic festive season in the UK.

    I hadn’t listened to ‘Terrence Loves You’ by Lana del Rey before, but your description prompted me to find it on You Tube, and during listening when I was at the point when you described the American ex soldier I welled up with tears, because you capture something I’m feeling too these days – that all this tribalism, bickering, division and the pain it causes, has risen to insane heights. Where has the idea of reflection gone I wonder? If we sought similarities beyond the tribal identities people so rigidly adhere to, how much better would life be for everyone?

    Which leads me to my recent feeling (almost belief – a bit like Larkin’s ‘almost instinct, almost true’ from ‘An Arundel Tomb’) – that everything but love is an illusion. I think what I mean is that when you delve beneath the surface of every conflict, or feeling of fear or anger, at the heart or root there’s only pain and the human wish to share love.

    I think there are exceptions mind you – people whose core is lost or psychopathic and unfortunately they (and they’re in the minority) seem to be leading the world. To me Trump seems more a symptom than a root cause – more accurately a flailing idiot out of his depth, I can’t see any sense or strategy to his decisions.

    I do believe we’re all connected. When we lose that feeling it gets difficult, it makes me feel disconnected from myself too. It’s why I paint, it’s probably/maybe why you write (and you write so authentically and expressively). Maybe it’s a way of healing the psyche or soul, or of putting our world to rights. I see it as creating my life, especially when it feels like external influences are creating a life I neither want nor believe in.

    Then don’t you find that the way people respond to your writing makes you feel connected to humanity again? When I experience the responses people have to my paintings, it often feels like they’re almost hungry for this sense of contemplation – stopping time to experience a different reality. I don’t know if I’m making much sense, teachers of Zen would make a better job of it, but if you see what I mean, that’s the effect your writing has, so thank you.

    Wishing you and D all the very best for 2018!

  15. Neil dearest, I just love reading your writing and musings. I may not always write a response, that is part of my healing process, i am trying to just spend minimal time on the computer, but I should respond to your fabulous writing more often. I agree with you about this past year, it was an emotional roller-coaster and that was not even the personal part of it. I can only hope 2018 will be better and the world will come to its senses, sooner rather than later.

    It is interesting how you have become less comfortable in social situations and all the trappings that ensue. I seem to have swung in the other direction and seek out social situations whenever I can. I hate being by myself since my mother’s passing. I want to be part of a bigger picture, I don’t want to be on my own, I want to be involved. Even if it is just going to the museum, at least I am where there are people and that feels great. That was one of the biggest changes that has occurred with me. In the past I used to adore my alone time and craved it, not so much any longer.

    I really hope 2018 will bring you much joy and happiness, and that you and Duncan will have many fabulous times together. I look forward to reading many more of your beautifully thought out and written posts, they are truly a pleasure of which I could wax poetic.I look forward to you making much more progress and healing; i am sure you will keep moving in the right direction and walking will become much easier still over time.

    Thank you again for all the effort you put into your fabulous posts, I will make more of an effort to comment more regularly.

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