About a Stranger and Depression

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She looks at people, trying to imitate them. But they wear shorts while she has gloves.

In April back home there’s a tulip festival, and colours, warm colours, just like the weather. And happiness. Here, she takes photos of tall buildings, grey sky and crowded underground stations. Everything is grey, the weather, even the people dress in pale colours. But that’s fine, she can get used to that, right?

She is scared of being different, of standing out from the others around. The gloves remind her of her grandma, she used to have a pair just like that, made of wool. But she will never be there with her.

She tries to call home, for the third time, but no one answers. Ah! She remembers. It’s night time at home. She goes out as often as she can. She eats fish and chips, cause that’s how it’s done. But she likes it.

People seem colder in a way though, even her friends. They are all fine, of course, but distant, even when they’re nodding and smiling while listening to her. She still likes talking. Talking about her home, her past life, her future hopes. Cause that’s why she came there.

That’s why she left everything behind, even the blue sky. To start a new life, amongst the black cabs and red double-deckers, and grey clouds, and raindrops. A different place calls for a change, it’s always like that. She oscillates between changing to fit in, and preserving her true self. She has changed so much, though. So much. Is that good or bad?

Some things will always be the same. But she can’t adjust her body temperature when she’s dreaming of proper summertime. She tries to listen to other people’s accents, copy them, cause they can sense she’s not from around when she speaks. They don’t mind that. But she does.

She likes feeding the squirrels, but what kind of squirrels are these anyway? Where are the red squirrels she knew, with fluffy pointed ears?… Even the squirrels are grey here.

They say home is where her heart is, but she can’t remember where she left it.

***

P.S.: I’ve been recently diagnosed with mild depression. That was about a month after I wrote the short article above, at the Arvon creative writing workshop (more here and here), but I though I could talk a little bit about it here. The article had to describe a struggle caused by moving to a new place, and I wrote it before I moved into the capital. It’s funny and sad in a way, how I found inspiration in something that hadn’t even happened yet. It’s like I saw it coming.

The cause for this ‘mild depression’ is, according to the doctor, the struggle of moving into a new environment. A little ironical. But I know that’s true, and I know that almost each and every one of us experiences at some point something that can be defined by a mild depression, nothing unusual. The thing is to decide what you want to do in order to make sure you’re heading in the right way. Exercising helps, usually. And friends, and hobbies, and family. It’s not the end of the world.

I obviously don’t feel depressed all the time. There was a video that someone shared on Facebook about a black dog which I find really interesting; some good points are outlined, so take your time and watch it here. An idea I liked is that you’ll get exhausted if you try hide your feelings all the time. Since I believe in honesty, I’m not trying to pretend I’m fine when I’m not. I can’t really see the point, and I don’t understand why people can be ashamed of feeling down, but I guess everyone is different.

Anxiety and depression seem to be quite related, so I tried learning how to relax in order to feel better. Yoga didn’t really seem to work in my case (who can bend their arms like that?!) so for now I’ll stick to what I know from the past that calms me down even if I feel like crying (that happens sometimes): my number one song in case of feeling low, from a magical movie.

Apart from that, having faith that any new environment and situation become familiar after a while 🙂 and sport. And talking about it if I feel like so. Which is what I’m doing now.

 

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Endless Seconds Between Us

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He looked around, preparing himself. The room was as silent as always, even more silent now that the large windows had been closed. You could no longer hear the cars and the buzzing of the traffic lights. The calm before the storm. Now the only intruder to break the silence was the massive, wooden clock that sat behind them, ticking away. He closed his eyes, listening to seconds pass, matching his own heart rhythm: boom, boom, boom… Only a couple more seconds before the thunder of her voice resonated in his ears.

‘How can you do that to me?!’

He opened his eyes to look at her.

She was still looking out the window, her back facing him. He was glad the windows were now closed, or else the whole city would have heard the tone of her voice. He sat down on the right side of the black leather sofa, sighing. He was always sitting there, on that half of the sofa, using the armrest as a mousepad whenever he worked from home. Not as often as before, nowadays.

‘Calm down, darling, the neighbors will hear you. You know how thin the walls are, and ’

‘I don’t care about the neighbours!’

She turned around to fire daggers at him, but his eyes were on the shelves, with all the books he’d alphabetically ordered; he liked to keep them that way. She could feel her eyes slowly filling with tears. She looked across to the framed photos that she wiped clean each and every Friday. From one, a young couple stared back at her, big smiles stretched across their faces. It was the day he proposed. The ring proudly resting on her finger as she held it up to the camera. There were pictures of her playing the cello alone on stage, pictures taken by him, sitting in the first row. She was even looking at the camera, albeit nervously. It was he who gave her strength to be there, the power to be confident.

He looked back at her, smiling a little when he realized she was following his advice and had stopped yelling. He knew she cared about their privacy as much as he did. But then she spoke again, her voice low and trembling, her blue eyes sparkling in tears now.

‘You really can’t do that. You promised you’ll be there, you have to.’

A tear rolled down to her chin and fell to the smooth, wooden floor. She remembered again the reason she insisted on having it. Parquet reminded her of a stage. She had enjoyed the years of playing her cello there, facing the city, yet still struggling to suffocate her anxiety with the music she loved. But nothing worked how it should unless his dark eyes were on her, supplying her with all the necessary courage. And that night, she would be alone.

‘Honey.’ His voice was relaxed, but he was trying hard to keep it like that. ‘You will be fine. I trust you, you’ve worked hard for this. And you know I want to be there, in the front row as always, to be there for you. But work, they really need me there and -’

‘Well, I need you as well! Since when is work more important than me?!’

She was sobbing furiously. Hesitating, he stood up and moved across to hug her. She pushed him away and turned again to the window. He looked at the clock, trying to hear the rhythmic beats, but her thunderstorm of tears was more powerful. Almost unnatural. But it was late.

‘I will lock the door after me. We’ll talk over the phone.’

He sighed again, she was ignoring him.

And then a door was closed, sealed with a key, and the clock continued to record endless seconds.

She collapsed on the right side of the sofa, her face wet and raw.

***

This is it, the article that was chosen for being published in “everyday hymn – a young writers’ anthology” – and I’m grateful for that! The book consists of articles and poems written at the Arvon Creative Writing workshop, which I attended this late August. The purpose of the article was to write a dialogue about an argument, a fight, a disagreement.

I’ve been asked by my mentor which of the characters was represented by me – the truth is, I’m not sure. 🙂 I haven’t tried to get inspiration from a real dialogue, it’s pure fiction so I guess I’m a little bit of both. Or who knows, maybe it’s a inner argument with one’s self, two voices of the same person. I could write an article about the article, but maybe not right now… All that matters is that someone decided it was worth being published in a proper book, my first article that’s actually in a print version! 😀

The Versions of Me, of You, of Us

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I’ve recently finished a book called The Versions of Us, a title which sounded interesting enough to make me read the back cover, then buy it. There were three intercalated stories which actually related the same story, but, well, different versions of it. This article though is not going to be a book review – the book is just a background, a pretext to write, a mere inspiration for giving my thoughts some depth and direction.

A similar idea was written in some of my previous articles. One of them described multiple versions of me, but chronological versions, the ones you need to go through one by one – just as I explained here, such an event is called in computer science the depth first search, in which you just keep moving forward without looking left or right. But the opposite is called the breadth first search, in which all the possibilities are evaluated before taking the next step. And these versions of me, corresponding to breath first search, would be far more complicated that the chronological versions.

Back to the book, the two main characters are an aspiring painter and an aspiring writer, occupations which both require a large amount of creativity, and lots of patience and practice. But creativity and imagination are exactly what’s needed to have your mind wandering, in my case not to find answers for What if…? questions, but to find the questions themselves: which were the turning points in my life so far, what were the precise decisions which made me take this specific path in life?

The reason I’m not thinking about the answers, about different possible lives that I could be living, is that I don’t like being trapped in the past, nor in a future that will never happen. Not that it makes me sad to think about different versions, cause it doesn’t (or does it?), but it’s a bitter-sweet sensation, the kind that’s too strange to be classified as either sad or happy. Like this song here.

An alternative life was mentioned during a fantasy movie I was watching some time ago. Just a brief idea, but enough to make me think – and perhaps also make one of the guys I was watching it with, think. The main hero’s crush, which is, unfortunately for him, not a mutual crush, tells him something that sounds cliché but at the same time really profound: Maybe in a parallel universe we end up being together. And the worst thing was not watching the friendzoned hero’s sad eyes and sensing his broken heart, but knowing that the exact same situation was happening between two of the people whose eyes were silently glued to the screen.

So, yeah. I guess saying Yes instead of No is always a (major) change of events, a new opportunity which could push you on a whole different path in live. But no regrets means the right choice was made, I think. Cause that’s one thing that keeps us from being happy, regrets. Comparing ourselves with others and with other versions of us. Asking ourselves What if…? and then fantasising about a better path in life, when actually there’s no assurance that the current path is worse that the hypothetical one.

And the same happens about accepting an invitation to going out, to dinner, to a movie or whatever. In those seconds before answering, make sure you realise that, as strange as it may sound, that answer may push you away from a path and onto another. Choosing your high-school profile, your university course, your friends and job – anything is just another step on a specific path which will later form the current and authentic version of yourself – all the others are just possibilities that slowly disappear into time.

Of course, it is not always us who make the decision. Maybe the guy I never knew would have answered the way I thought I wanted him to. But that’s part of his versions, not mine, and unfortunately we can’t really know much about the versions of others that don’t involve us. Cause all the others around us have their own power of choice, and all the paths together create a spider web which is by itself so complex, that one shouldn’t even try to think about all the other versions of it…

What’s more, apart from the other persons there’s also something else that contributes to moving on a particular path: chance. There’s always a chance for something to happen, and some say that the more you fear it, the highest the chance for it to actually occur. And something such as unwanted pregnancy seems to be quite a major turning point into one’s life, so how can one not fear it?… (don’t worry, not a major book spoiler).

A situation when a complex life with lots of choices can be explored is… in computer games 🙂 Cause you can choose a path, or how to answer to someone, or not kill another character and then load the game and explore other possible versions of it. But you can’t really do that in real life, so you just have to live with whatever decisions you make, or do your best to move on a desired path.

Somehow thinking about this topic reminded me of the animated movie Hercules, or more specifically the sequence when he risks his life to save the girl from death, and becomes immortal – I still remember his life thread turning into a material that couldn’t be cut anymore. To be honest I’m not entirely sure how this relates to the rest of the article, but the idea is that we always have a choice for the overall life we’re living: our decisions, thoughts, how we act and react will define us, and in the end we’re just going to live the version of us that we shape ourselves.

Maybe another version of me was perfect for another version of you. Or is, or will be… Who knows?

This Is Not About Crushes.

Heart Eyes

I wanted to write about crushes. Then lots of stuff happened recently and I kept postponing it, so right now I don’t feel like writing about crushes. Not today.

I’d rather listen to the rain while laying in my bed, and watching the wallpaper on my phone crying with raindrops. It makes me sad in a way, but I’ve promised myself I wouldn’t cry again too soon. I remember my first article from more than a year ago, where I talked about rain… That article was the start of me explaining to myself how crushed I felt, when a mutual crush ended after a while. That’s the thing with crushes, they crush you in a way. And if they don’t, you either fall in love or fall out of love, but you’re still getting crushed sooner or later. Can you have a crush on someone who has crushed you already? Probably not. It would be insane, I guess.

But anyway, I said this would not about crushes. It makes me sad, trying to write about crushes. And not because of my first mutual crush, but because of more recent events. Unfortunate events that came in a series (speaking about that, I could probably think about a few characters from books I felt attracted to, in a way. But that’s another story, other kind of ‘crushes’); and it’s strange that usually people are happy to talk about crushes, right? Like, they’re eyes become little hearts and this kind of stuff (at least in cartoons). And I guess there’s a phase which may resemble that metaphor, but it’s only a matter of time until you get to the next stage: either accepting that there’s nothing going on, or falling in love. And to be honest I’m not sure which is worse.

But I’m not talking about crushes, I’m talking about me and how I realised that maybe there was something a little more special about him. Maybe it was because he seemed to understand my thoughts and I could be myself when I was with him. Maybe it was the fact that he wrote back to me, in a way that no one did before. (I was waiting for someone else to write back at some point long ago, but in the meantime I gave up waiting.) Maybe because he was using the phrase ‘to be completely honest’, maybe because he was hard to read and I had no idea if I was amongst his thoughts; or maybe I was feeling lonely, which is a lie, cause the verb should be in present tense. But anyway, it’s hard to have a crush on someone, it’s even harder to tell them and the hardest thing to do is accept their decision. I survived though, it’s OK. I guess it’s better to know what the other feels about you, before you fall too hard. You can’t afford to fall too hard – you don’t want to be crushed by all the thoughts and dreams and future plans that may include him, right? Don’t let him crush you by being present in your mind if you’re not sure there’s a chance, as little as it may be, for things to work out.

But anyway, I don’t really feel like talking about crushes. Not when I can still hear the words ‘So… I guess you’ll write another article now’ which came from someone who was having a crush on me. And I was refusing him, I explained the situation (lame excuses, I guess), but it was hard. It’s hard to explain why things wouldn’t work out when you actually care about that person, it’s hard to continue and live the everyday life knowing he’s not looking at you with the same eyes he had beforehand, it’s hard to ask him the name of England’s Eurovision song, without blinking when hearing the answer. But again, I admire the courage to speak the truth, and I do believe that it’s better to be honest and talk about feelings rather than slowly getting crushed by the amount of them. But you can get crushed if someone has a crush on you, just like the phrase says. You get crushed by their attention, and I may be weird, but I don’t feel at ease when I get too much unwanted attention. It makes me back off and slowly start rejecting people, and yeah… Better to understand the message than becoming a freak, I guess.

Perhaps I’m just too picky, or I feel so alone that it’s hard to realise if I actually want the crush thingie to work, or it’s just the loneliness that may induce feelings. I don’t know. Is it nice to have a crush? Well, when I was younger (and yes, I’m still young) I guess it was sweet. But not anymore. Now it’s just strange, and hard, and sad, and then either everything or nothing at all: nothing if you fall out of love, everything if you get crushed. There’s also the case when things work out, of course, but more importantly, do they continue to work out in the future? You can fall out of love if that’s the wrong person you were falling in love with. And that’s OK as well.

But I’m not picky. I just don’t have a clear idea about what I want, but I start getting more ideas about what I do not want. Does that count as picky? If you say you feel lonely, but refuse anyone who wants to come closer to you? I don’t know. I used to think that no one ever had a crush on me, just because I didn’t know anyone that would. But then things changed, and I’m not sure which is worse: that no one has a crush on you, or that some have, but they’re not your type. And on top of that, you don’t even know your type. You have that first mutual crush for comparison, but it’s wrong to compare guys, it’s wrong to compare relationships, it’s wrong to compare you from the past with you from the present, cause things change and perhaps you’ll never find someone having all his good parts, plus all the other good parts that would make a relationship work this time. So why keep comparing, then? Why think that because a guy lacks something your first crush did not, it makes the guy less likely to be worth even trying? Cause the truth is, you don’t know anything before you try. But before that, your intuition comes, and then your standards, and then your non-types, and then the realisation that the amount of feelings you have for that person are below the minimum necessary to decide it may be worth a try. Sometimes that’s wrong, of course, but it’s you who decide what to choose.

This article was supposed to be about anything else than crushes, but the truth is when you are physically crushed by a physical object, it’s hard to think about anything else, right? The same is with having a crush. Or with trying not to imagine a pink elephant if someone tells you not to imagine a pink elephant. It’s all about the mind and imagination, in the end. That’s where the feelings are, but how can you control your feelings when you see him with someone else, except you just saw wrong and it was not him at all? You can’t control if you have a crush or not, if you wait half asleep near the phone or not, can you? ‘You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you.‘ I guess that’s true.

But still, if Z. has a crush on Y. , and Y has a crush on X., then what should Y.ou do? Keep going forward and aim high, on X., or turn around and wait for Z.? Keep your dignity and all the promises you made to yourself, regarding which type ‘the one’ should fit in, or not fit in? Or realise not everything is black and white only? I don’t know. Right now I’m not sure of anything, to be completely honest. Not even of this article’s title.

Hug me tight before you go… Summertime sadness

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I saw these days on Facebook a list of the most amazing feelings in the world, and one of them was tight hugs. And after thinking a little, I knew I couldn’t agree more – hugs are the best, but the feeling depends of a lot of factors.

Not anyone can give you a good hug. A stranger, for example, or someone you barely know, is most likely to make you feel a little uncomfortable if they offer to hug you – especially if you don’t trust that person. Cause hugs mean trust. I trust you, so I agree to have a hug together. The best part is that you most usually receive a hug while you give one – that is, if you hug a real person, and they are willing to cooperate – but I say that this ‘best’ part is in the same time the worst…

Imagine a scenario where you really need a hug. Have you ever felt like that? I used not to. I didn’t care about hugs, I didn’t need them. I vaguely remember my mom trying to hug me from time to time, but I think most of the time I was feeling quite awkward. Why should we hug?!… But recently I changed my mind. We all need hugs from time to time. Maybe we feel alone, maybe we crave for human interaction and human touch. Or maybe you’re in the most unluckiest situation when you need a hug from that one person. What do you do? Well, I guess anyone would show that person the intention to hug them. Cause you feel down, and you know there’s only one way of getting over this – with that special hug that never fails in making you feel nothing and everything in the same time. Which makes you feel relaxed and forget everything. It makes you think of nothing in particular, enjoying the inexplicable feeling of… feeling better, I guess. Cause that person has just shared with you one of the most precious gift of your friendship, and you are grateful for that.

But in our scenario, you get rejected. That only person who could make you feel better with a hug rejects you. Whatever the reasons, this rejection is one of the most painful of all, or at least that’s how I felt it. More painful perhaps that getting rejected in love – but it is infinitely more painful if the rejected hug implies rejected love – because a true friendship should mean more than a romantic relationship. It’s painful, cause hugs mean trust, and a rejected hug questions the trust behind it. It’s painful, because you were counting on that hug to get rid of some other pain, which now only grew bigger. It’s painful, because now you feel lonelier than ever, and finally it’s painful because it may mean that there won’t be hugs anymore. (And even if there will be, who can guarantee they’ll be as they used to be?… Who wants to risk getting rejected again?! Of course you’ll be more reticent next time. So it can’t be the same, can it?… At least not until some period of time) And while you’ll wonder what happened, you’ll see what I meant by the fact that, unfortunately, we can’t hug ourselves…

But perhaps you’re luckier. Perhaps that other person feels the same, and so the feeling is even nicer if both share the same intention. Cause it’s nice to actually ‘feel’ that the other person wants to hug you as well. It’s just the perfect situation, I guess, and surely this minimises the risks of being rejected. But if not, are you brave enough to be the one who takes the first step? It is worth trying, I guess.

I don’t know anything about the chemistry that happens during a hug. But I know I usually sigh. The same way my dog sigh when you pat her on the head or back 🙂 It’s completely different from the sigh I have when too many unplanned things happen and I can hardly cope with them. I still don’t know why I feel the need to sigh, if it’s from the hug itself or from the memories it brings, but it’s a good-type of sigh and I am grateful for that.

I found that a – let’s say – perfect hug should last at least 5 seconds, and should be tight, and of course with both arms. Anything less than 5 seconds, or a half-hug – with one arm only – is, I dare say, just a superficial simulation of a hug, the one you give/receive automatically when it’s necessary, like when a friend is leaving somewhere. A special hug doesn’t really need a reason – although a break-up or something similar obviously calls for such a hug – as we don’t always know why we feel the way we feel. A special hug is a hug that makes you realise you didn’t feel too OK beforehand, compared to how you feel now. A special hug lasts even more than 5 seconds, maybe a lot more. Cause it takes time for your body to actually feel the other person and get used to them, and it takes time for your mind to reach that peacefulness. And then it feels like the clock has just stopped, and it’s only the heartbeats and the occasional sighs that remind you time still passes by – but you can try ignore them and pretend you’ll stay there forever, in your little infinite loop, where it feels so good. Pretend no one has to go away, pretend no one chose to leave, pretend everything is fine at least in those special moments that may never come again, and which you should learn to value before it’s too late.

But for those situations when you have nobody to share a hug with, someone very smart and very lonely invented this:
Imagecause one ‘papoi‘ can change everything. Don’t believe me? Then check this out. 😀

I just wanted you to know… that ‘papoi’ is the best.