For the last couple of weeks I have felt as though I were in a bit of a slump. Those around me are very good on picking up on such things and try one of two things. They either tell me to ‘be happy’ which is possibly the worst thing you can say to someone in a downward spiral or they attempt to understand it. For the majority of my life I’ve struggled with the ebbs of flows of my moods. It goes beyond being stroppy and it wasn’t until I eventually got round to seeking professional help that I was advised that I had probably suffered a series of depressions, even at the age of ten. I therefore feel I am always on eggshells around myself.
The majority of occasions when this has occurred I’ve eventually managed to pull myself out of the nosedive after a couple of days or weeks. It doesn’t worry me anymore. I know it is part of the path. The struggle I have is in being able to identify what it is I am unhappy with.
I would like to share two of the best things people said to me during that time, one of whom at least was not even aware of how solid gold her words were.
I was explaining how I felt to a good friend, someone I look up to and always think of as being a very strong and driven man, and he explained that what I was feeling wasn’t unusual and that he had recently suffered a similar crisis of confidence. He worried about his legacy and whether this was all we were intended to do and achieve with our limited time on Earth. It really hit me. A lot of the time I like to imagine that I’m alone in my thought processes, that I’m this delicate flower that nobody will ever be able to understand but he crawled right under the skin of the problem. That is my concern. What if I’m not making the most of what was going on. As John Lennon said, “life is what happens when you’re busy making plans”.
What my friend helped me to realise is that there is nothing wrong with striving for more, but you have to carry on doing whatever it is you are doing because that, unfortunately, is the way it is. We have to pay the bills, have to put bread on the table and have to… any other hunter/gatherer type expressions you may choose to supplement in. He made me think about the fact that I’m not alone in my unhappiness, that deep down nobody is happy with the status quo but unless you’re going to do something about it then nothing is going to change. I went home that night and started work on a new book. I’ve spoken before about my fears of death, of dying and being forgotten and my realisation that my writing was my attempt to eventually stretch back from beyond the grave.
I honestly love what I do for a living, I love the people I work with but to know we are all striving for something better makes me feel less alienated.
The second conversation that helped me through was one conducted on Southend high street at 1am last Sunday morning. As you can imagine, it was both sobering and insightful.
I was explaining to someone how great it is that within our circle of friends everyone is very creative, that they strive to achieve these things. What I actually said was “everyone is trying to do something”.
She said “No Paul, everyone is doing something”.
I stopped dead. She was completely right.
John and George and Ali aren’t trying to be a sketch group, they are a sketch group.
Ross isn’t trying to be a comedian, he is a comedian.
Sam isn’t trying to create music, he is creating music.
I’m not trying to be a writer, I am a writer.
“There is no try” as Yoda said.
Once you eliminate the trying aspect, I realised I am doing things and I shouldn’t be so down in the mouth because everything I write is a progression, is something I am doing and one way or another I am going to get to where I want because that is where I will end up.