I met an old friend today, a friend I had not seen for decades – a friend from way way back in University. It was strange, and wonderful, and weird and I hope to see her again. She had changed somewhat – a little thinner of face and, perhaps, firmer in her manner – and yet, in many ways, was still the same amazing person she was back then. That statement does not cover it, she was the development of that amazing person, a later stage in the painting of her life. When I left her and two of her boys I was smiling inside.
I repaired the bag of a workmate today. A fashionable bag with a broken handle and I, with Sylv’ (my heavyweight sewing machine) was in a position to fix it up like new. My colleague was overjoyed to have her bag made whole and I was filled with a calm happiness at having helped a person and brought them joy.
I bailed on a therapy appointment today. Well, not bailed exactly – I hadn’t taken the money out to pay the therapist and the only cash machine nearby was broken – that and I was late. I will pay her for the time she put aside – that is only right. Instead of therapy I walked home through the parks and children played on swings and roudabout whilst the world seemed alive and magnificent.
I do not intend to return to my therapist. She is a wonderful woman, she has some insights and can guide my own self discovery. Over and above that it helps me immeasurably to have an external being wholly devoted to me for an hour – a rich man’s luxury. I like her, but I am afraid I took a wrong step in going to her for my issues are not ones that can be resolved through talking or discussion. They do not need exploration, even exploration from within my own mind. I lack no insight into my condition but contrary to conventional wisdom the understanding of a problem does not resolve it. To name a thing is not to control it, indeed full realisation is often a calamitous moment in which we expect relief but discover instead the rising panic of disappointment and dashed hope. Where are we to turn when we fully understand our perilous present and see no convenient way of escaping it?
I am scared of negative interactions with people. If someone shouts or snarls at me or I have to enter into a bitter an argument then I can hold the moment but for days or even weeks after the sand upon which my mental fortress stands is quick and treacherous – as if I have won a Pyrhicc victory and lived only to see my world crumble about me. My solution to this, the solution of many years, is to avoid people. I have systematically let old friends fall from my life and made new only when they were forced upon me by a partner or by fate. I have insulated myself in loneliness, an armour of great fortitude if a little cold in the wearing.
Grateful people are, conversely, a boon to me. To give a gift, to repair a bag or in any way engender a smile fills me with warmth and so I choose to serve. I choose to act as the giver and supporter of those who will, by tacit agreement, not turn upon me. I choose to serve because service brings me solace, companionship (of a kind) and safety.
After I had met my old friend today; after I had seen her children playing all about and we had talked about the passing years and our long unexamined friendship. I was thinking, or even realising, that I like people. I like engaging with them, I like hearing about their lives and helping where I can. I like to think I could accept help because to accept help is to trust (although that remains terra incognita for me). There was a reason people were friends in my past, it is because they were good people and people from whom I could derive a strength without draining either they or myself. Perhaps I needed my lonely armour once, perhaps some days I still do, but I was wrong to wear it all the time. I need to trust my friends and let them trust me.
So, i’m not going back to my therapist. I am going to take that money and see if I can rekindle friendships from the embers that remain of those past burning fires. I am going to see my friends again and endure the fear that assails me without any protection other thn faith; faith that a friend will not do me harm. I am going to walk in parks – alone or with others – and I am going to sew and draw and (fear of all fears) I am going to travel.
Manic Depression doesn’t travel well, time zones are anathema to it and finding myself in an unfamiliar place is the nemesis of the calm and familiarity I need. But I am going to travel regardless.
I met an old friend today and in her conversation I found warmth and happiness. But, as important as that, in my considerations of our meeting I think I may have made a decision that can set me on a happier path for the future.