Bucket List & Sandpaper Desolation

No, this isn’t a post on the questionable Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman movie. Last night was an odd low point. I couldn’t tell you why ~ I think tiredness has a lot to do it with it; have been working without a day off (really, truly, honestly!) and I think I just need a Good Sleep. An incident occured. The internet stopped working. Quite justifiably, this induced me to swear. It induced me to throw books across my tiny room. It involved me blubbing inexplicably for an hour or so, trying to keep quiet and not wake my flatmate. It was then I came to realise that perhaps it wasn’t the lack of internet that was upsetting me(although I had just settled down to wath Celeste and Jesse Forever on Netflix.) Believe it or not, I don’t tell you this for attention or to get sympathy. It’s because nearly everybody I know has suffered from a Low Point and I think it’s something that needs to be discussed. To remove the stigma. It happens to us all and I’m not ashamed that I spent last night wondering what I was doing with my life. 

Whatever the catalyst (ahem, internet) my little Sandpaper Desolation (this is what I call it when things are bad; it’s like sandpaper rubbing the same spot over and over again) resulted in me thinking, as I sat in bed this morning, eating my Crunchy Nut Cornflakes. It is time to get a little control in my life. Is not that the key to happiness, for everybody? That and Crunchy Nut Cornflakes, naturally.

TIME TO DO THINGS THAT TERRIFY YOU

I was terrified of moving into my current flatshare. Two years ago, it was. Newly single and nervous of meeting new people, the temptation was to stay in my little rut where it was comfortable. But it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I’ve dressed up as Molly Ringwald, I’ve partied until the early hours, I’ve made lifelong friends and – without sounding like a smug Davina McCall during the Streemate years – two couples are now together because I moved in. I call that a good result. We are now coming to the end of our time together. This makes me very sad (especially as I will be homeless until the end of the Persuasion tour) but I am so pleased that I spent these two years with such wonderful people.

Likewise, my new job at Hampton Court caused sleepless nights. Terrified of getting it wrong (truth be told, I still am) and of looking like a stupid fool, I very nearly called up before my first day to tell them they’d made a huge mistake. But I didn’t and the sense of accomplishment was immense. Although I still said ‘fantastic’ the other day. Not sure that was OK. OK is also not OK.

So I can take one thing from this. To quote the old adage “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’m not sure if standing in the middle of the road when a bus is coming is the right kind of scared, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. A little thing every day that forces me out of my comfort zone. I’ll report back when I can think of something.

THE BUCKET LIST

At the risk of sounding like one of those people who say “I just don’t have enough ME time.” “I need to spend some time on ME” (God, I hate those people. It is my opinion that those who say this are people who have far too much ME time already), I think maybe I need to think about what I want from life a little bit. I’m always so concerned about appearing selfish, or self-involved (I’ve edited this several times, I’m still concerned that I do!) that I tend to worry more about what other people want than me. When – inspired by the Break Up Bucket List that’s appeared on twitter – I thought about what would be on my Bucket List, I wasn’t really sure. But I’ve thought about it at length and here is a brief sample (money permitting) (money will probably never be permitting):

1) Go to New York. Amazingly, I am doing this in December, thanks to the kindness of two brilliant friends. Still can’t quite believe I’ll get to tick this one off.

2) Go to Russia. Probably not right now… I’d like to go to Saint Petersburg and see the Winter Palace.

3) Write a novel. I’ve started about three. One day I will finish.

4) Own my own home. I don’t know if this will ever happen. I hope it does.

5) Stand under a waterfall.

6) Lie under the stars and watch the sun come up.

7) Learn to drive

8) Learn an instrument and stop being so scared of playing it in front of people

9) Get a tattoo

10) Go travelling for an extended amount of time, to see the world. To not have to work for a little bit. Have adventures, meet new people, escape.

13) Learn to cook more complicated meals

14) To do something that really scares me. Perhaps jump out of a plane. Go bungee jumping.

15) Wear a beautiful ballgown. Go to a really fancy event. I presume the event will be decided at the time!

16) Have a party on a beach.

I promise that I will try and do as many of these as possible. Some will be more achievable than others. But I will endeavour to complete them.Of course, as ever, I shall report back. Perhaps I shall add some more. I would also LOVE to hear your own.

I apologise to everybody that this blog post is less of a film blog, and more of an emotional splurge. When Low Points happen, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that with friends or family and don’t really feel it’s something I can show anybody. As far as I’m concerned, it’s my job to help them, not their job to help me. I don’t like the attention and I don’t want to burden anybody with all the mush – because, for the most part, the mush clears fairly quickly. It is very important to discuss mental health though, is it not? If people don’t, there is a horrible silence that descends. So many people I know suffer from their own Low Points, be they sandpapery, or sharp, or painful, or numb. We should acknowledge this. It is utterly normal and part of the human condition. This is my way of talking about without actually talking about it.

Goodbye, Sandpaper Desolation! Here is a picture of a thing that makes me smile:

Beach_Bonfire-1

 

No Harm in Trying

I had the oddest craving the other day. I did not find myself suddenly and magically with child, like a West Country Mary Magdalene. I found myself sorely in need of a reminder and craved the resolution this reminder would bring. I know of two films that can help with this. So I watched them both. The first – a 1950 classic starring James Stewart (you’d think I’d be running out of his films by now) (nope) and a giant rabbit. The second, a 2008 Mike Leigh semi-improvised comedy with Sally Hawkins, a lass steadily working her way up to becoming one of my favourite modern actresses.

You see, I needed reminding to be happy. Sometimes I find this difficult. My default state is one of anxiety and I find that two meddling little imps called Hopelessness and Gloom can be my all too constant companions. But – and I stress this after years of treatment in many different guises – I find that the most successful warrior against The Black Dog is instilling in yourself a sense of optimism. Even if it doesn’t come naturally.

Harvey is the tale of Elwood P. Dowd, (Stewart) a gentle, kindly man who spends his days in his local drinking joint with his best friend Harvey. Harvey: a 6ft 3.5″ tall invisible white rabbit. His sister, Veta (an Academy Award winning turn from Josephine Hull) believes him to be mad and the film follows her attempts to have him committed. Happy-Go-Lucky follows Poppy (Hawkins) a relentlessly cheerful primary school teacher who takes driving lessons with the embittered Scott (an ever excellent Eddie Marsan), a man teetering on the edge of a breakdown.

These films have one vital link. Both protagonists are clearly smart and negate the naivety that often – it is assumed – accompanies a blithely happy soul. They have deliberately chosen to make the most of every day, to be kind to everyone they meet and to see the beauty in each moment. Elwood offers friendship (and his card) to everybody he comes across, showing interest in their life and enjoying every minute. He states, quite simply“I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whomever I’m with.” He hints later that he has not always been of this disposition – of a darker time before Harvey the Pooka (a magical creature of celtic mythology who takes the form of an animal) makes an appearance. But he has made the choice to live his life in such a manner. “I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”

Poppy is clearly intelligent and a wonderful teacher. She helps uncover a pupil’s abuse at the hands of his stepfather and guides her young charges with warmth and knowledge. When her bike is stolen, she grins and sighs “I didn’t get to say goodbye.” She befriends a tramp, talks exuberantly to strangers and grabs each experience she can – trampolining, flamenco, learning to drive. And in a line that echoes Elwood’s own, Poppy picks out a self-help book near the beginning of the film and muses “The Road to Reality? Don’t wanna be going there!” Her friend and flatmate Zoe gently chides her “You can’t make everyone happy, Poppy” to which Poppy responds “No harm in trying, is there?”

Both of these two joyful creatures experience negativity and wariness at the hands of others. Elwood is dragged into an institution, hit, grabbed by the neck and generally avoided by most. Poppy is derided and hated by an increasingly combative Scott. “I can’t believe you are a teacher.You are arrogant, you are disruptive and you celebrate chaos.” She laughs and replies “I slipped through the net, didn’t I?” But why? Are those that are unhappy so threatened by those who choose to see life through rose-tinted glasses? Why the need to drag the smiling down? As Elwood says “That’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us.”

I’ve watched these films and I’m reminded how short and sweet life is. I don’t choose to listen to the voice in my head that tells me I’m useless, that things are too tough. I choose to be nice to people, to see a Good Thing in every situation, no matter how dark it seems. I realise I can bug people when I do this. But never mind. I think they should do it, too. I (thank God and touch wood) have never yet experienced a life altering personal tragedy. Who knows? When I do, I may find my little ethos fails me. It must be impossible to find the beauty sometimes.Sometimes I do fail and for that I have wonderful friends and family who lend a shoulder and a cuddle. Sometimes some wine and chocolate. I hope I offer the same service when they find themselves at a low point. Nobody should suffer alone.

To sum up ~ to conclude, if you will ~ too much thought and time in one’s own head is the danger. Focus on others; focus on what you see, hear, touch. Live for this very moment, so fleeting and precious. Be kind.

In the words of Mr. Dowd himself “In this world, you can be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. For years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I believe I just have.

elwood