About a Stranger and Depression

howls
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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The Power of Music(ians)

guitarRemember one of my previous posts about music, the one describing how awful you may feel just from listening the wrong song at the wrong time? Well, something happened the other day, something similar but completely different.

It was a normal day, which means unusual just for being normal; not a happy day, not an unhappy day, just a regular day. But for some reason I had to go walk into town, lost amongst my thoughts, lost amongst the crowd, when suddenly something caught my attention. And there weren’t my eyes whose attention was caught, but my ears: someone was standing near a wall, singing in a microphone while playing the guitar. Of course, I had seen such street musicians before, so nothing was new. And it wasn’t even a song I knew – but disregarding the choice of the song, I usually stop to leave a few coins as a sign of appreciation, or perhaps as a boost of determination and self confidence. I don’t do it cause I pity them; I do it cause I feel they deserve it, they way you pay for a concert ticket, just this one is more intimate, more mysterious even… You don’t know the guy, perhaps you don’t even recognise the song, but in that infinitesimal period of time that takes you to walk in the area – cause it is infinitesimal compared to the time spent at a concert – you feel that the musician is performing for you only. A unique experience for any of the passers-by, as each of them pays attention to a specific part of the song, until they ears can’t hear any more, or their own thoughts become more overwhelming…

And such a unique experience has to be rewarded, right? They don’t really say a price. You may not listen at all, you may not even hear the song, so no one tells you to stop and put some change in the guitar case, unless you really want to, any amount you want. And so did I. I stopped to put a few coins, but before I left, I did something I’m not sure I usually do to any street musician – or perhaps I do, but his response transformed the moments into something more precious.

I said above I didn’t know the song – I still don’t know it, as I forgot it after I left the place, not until humming it in my mind for a little while. But it was something about that song, about the rhythm, which was not sad, not happy, just something in-between, like a sweet melancholy that overwhelms you when thinking about past moments… His voice also suited the song really well, not too deep, not too high, and his guitar blended in just perfectly – it was actually during a guitar solo that I stopped in front of him. I already knew music and love are somehow bound together: you can fall in love with someone due to a certain song, but you can also fall in love with an activity, a concept, anything, even… life. I know it may sound a cliché, but something like that happened to me right then: I just felt… euphoric, in a way. And although I felt it on the inside, this was reflected on the outside as well, as I found myself smiling the guitarist after dropping the coins.

Now, I suppose it’s not uncommon to smile after such a gesture. I’ve probably smiled before in these situations, just little smiles, which may mean compassion, appreciation, a boost of self confidence and also something like ‘Hey, I saw you, I heard you singing, thanks, I liked it, here’s some spare change. That’s what you wanted, right? Everyone’s happy now, so I may just smile a little to emphasise my kindness’. That kind of smile. The polite one, that usually gets a polite nod back from the singer, and perhaps even a subtle smile in exchange as well.

But that time, it was different. That music made me smile, not the usual kind of smile, but a large, honest, genuine smile. With teeth showing. I don’t know why, it was just something that happened. I wanted to show him I received the message, I understood his music and I appreciated it. I wanted to thank him for those moments, thank him for making me feel special, as if he was performing for my eyes and ears only. Cause I could see that his main priority wasn’t to make money from performing; he was just doing what he liked to do, in a way that made the others like it as well. He was the star of his own concert even though people would ignore him when passing by, and I respected that. I wanted to be able to share all of that through a smile, a real smile. And I know I managed to, cause he replied in order to let me know that he received my feelings. How? With another large, genuine smile, of course.

Although it all took a couple seconds before I continued my way and he continued singing that song, they somehow made a difference for me that day. Those moments proved me that indeed, there are reasons to smile every day even from the simplest things. And they also reminded me that happiness should be shared, that a smile which is returned can make someone’s day, and that I should continue paying attention to street singers – especially those who are not performing for someone in particular, but in the same time they are for you only.

Smile, it’s free! 😀