Depression: Tightrope walking with a friend

A very welcome review and shout out for the latest book.

Head Above Water

January: Bleurgh, endless white skies and here, rain, news, it appears, of death upon death, for those suffering from SAD or other depressive tendencies in the Northern Hemisphere, January is perhaps the last slog on a upward climb that hopefully will open up to a plateau of hope when Spring begins. But depression is not weather dependent, it can hit at any time, come from trauma or trial or seemingly from nowhere at all. It may be chemically based, genetically predisposed. It is a combination of temperament and circumstance and how society is set up. There seems to be, at this current time of technological change, dissipating boundaries, an individualistic culture, separation from nature, social media and always on personas, ways in which the vulnerable can be knocked into self-doubt, anxiety, paralysis. There appears to be a surge in the number of young people experiencing mental health difficulties and there…

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The blind dancer is broken

The blind dancer is broken

The blind dancer is broken ~ a dream

Sometimes dreams give us clues about our inner world in ways that are both revealing and concealing. The last week or two I have been finding it very difficult to navigate my way through the world, and feel I have lost connection with things that have been important to me and my life force feels depleted and I feel direction-less. I’m working my way through a book on Jungian dream interpretation and after I started reading it, for the first time in a while a dream occurred that feels significant in understanding what is going on. I’m going to share it here; if you have any insights on this they would be welcome as I am hoping to clarify my own thoughts and often my friends here have been excellent at doing just that.

The first part of the dream is confused. I am trying to find my way through a city that feels hostile, as if either a riot has been happening or is close to happening, or one that has been at war. The streets are narrow and steep but more or less deserted. It’s dark, night time and a few places have lights on. I go into one place, on the side of a square, from which a narrow lane goes down steeply enough to need steps. It feels a little like the Mont Martre area of Paris. The place is a restaurant, but looks wrecked and no one is eating there. A waiter comes over, but he doesn’t want to take an order. He’s trying to find his daughter, to connect to her on Facebook but though I try to explain to him how to find her, my communications don’t seem to work. I give up trying to explain as we seem to have not so much a problem of language but of intelligence.

The dream shifts and I am in my study. I have walked in to see that the smaller of my two desks, the one used solely for writing by hand and for drawing has been messed up. Items are scattered over it and I notice that the statue I treasure has been knocked over; the head seems to be missing, there’s water close to it as if spilled, and there is a flex like that of a lamp attached to it (the real statue is one I bought in 2003, shortly after moving to the Midlands but before I began writing again. It’s an interpretation of the Oracle at Delphi, about 18 inches or so high, of fired clay, glazed in several colours and textures, and shows a seated, veiled woman, eyes downcast looking into a bowl she is holding on her lap. The bowl can hold a candle. I bought the statue as a symbol of listening to my inner consciousness and trying to heed what might come from dreams and visions. It’s never been a public ornament downstairs and has always been either in my study or my bedroom. It was quite expensive (for me) and is one of a kind as though the range is still on sale, each item was unique and this one is no longer made) I am crestfallen and upset that this precious thing might be broken or damaged, and rush forward to look more closely. As I get closer I see that this is a different statue entirely. It depicts a dancer, in a pose, one arm outstretched, standing on one leg (this probably has a term but I don’t know it). The statue is in the same coloured glazes and washes as mine (dark green, light green, yellow, and pure gold) but it’s very different and not one that in real life would ever appeal to me at all as it has a fragile appearance and depicts a style of feminine grace I’ve never aspired to or valued). I look closer for damage and see that there is a chip off the chin; there are fragments of porcelain around and I wonder if it can be fixed back. Then I see that a whole strip of glaze has been knocked from the face, right across the eyes so that the dancer is now blind. I am searching for the broken fragments to mend the statue when I wake.

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Maze

Maze

Enter

Turn left

Turn right

Go straight on

Turn right

Then left.

Follow the path

Dead end.

Dead end.

Dead end.

Press the lever

Eat the treat.

Door opens.

Enter

Turn left

Turn right

Go straight on

Turn right

Then left.

Follow the path

Dead end.

Dead end.

Dead end.

Press the lever

Eat the treat.

Door opens.

Enter

Turn left

Turn right

Go straight on

Turn right

Then left.

Dead end

Dead end

Dead end

End dead.

The Bet on Countdown

No, not the afternoon quiz show.

It’s six months since I last did a special offer for The Bet.

Here’s the blurb:

“Jenny likes a challenge and Antony is the biggest challenge of her life…

“Boys like you get preyed upon,” Antony’s father tells him in a rare moment of honesty and openness, but Richard can have no idea just how vulnerable his eighteen-year-old son truly is. From a family where nothing is quite as it seems and where secrecy is the norm, Antony seems fair game to the predatory Jenny. Her relentless pursuit of him originates in a mean-spirited bet made with her colleague Judy, Antony’s former history teacher, who has challenged Jenny to track him down and seduce him. Jenny is totally unprepared for Antony’s refusal to sleep with her or to have any sort of relationship other than friendship. She’s never met anyone quite like him before and her obsession deepens the more he rejects her. She’s no idea what he’s already been through and as far as she’s concerned it’s irrelevant.

Pretty soon, for both of them it becomes a much more serious matter than a mere bet and the consequences are unimaginable for either of them.”

The book will be a mere 99p for three days, before the price rises to £1.99 for three days, and then reverts to the original price of £2.90 (which I think is very reasonable anyway)

This is as close to free as I go. Have a read of the reviews because there are a good few where the reviewer says they didn’t think they’d like this book but as soon as they started they found themselves staying up too late just to read another chapter. I’ve had folks says they missed bus stops, were late for work, stayed up all night, reading it.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bet-Vivienne-Tuffnell-ebook/dp/B009ISHLYI/ref=la_B00766135C_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452585867&sr=1-2

 

(A small plea from me: please, please, please share this post widely if you can, wherever you feel it’s worth sharing, on FB, in FB groups, Twitter and other social media, or direct to friends you think will enjoy the book. I have no budget for advertising and any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.)

 

Synchronicity and going off the map.

Synchronicity and going off the map.

Synchronicity and going off the map.

Life as a journey is a bit of a cliché, really. I said once, “If life is a journey, then any short-cut is a death trap,” and I stand by it. My own journey has been an odd one. A long time ago, I looked at the metaphysical map and I saw that at the margins, around the edges, away from the established paths and well-known routes, there were areas marked “Here be dragons,” and I thought, I’d like see dragons. Ever since then, I’ve made forays into those areas of the maps that the map-makers couldn’t fill in properly because too few people had been out and explored them and come back with useful information. Most came back babbling about strange things they didn’t quite have the language for, and travellers’ tales that defy belief and rational understanding.

About ten years ago, I really set off in earnest, leaving behind any adherence to defined paths. You cannot step off a path without stepping off it, if you know what I mean. Real adventures do not come with a guarantee of ever coming home, or of safety or security. It’s hard to explain why I did it; I imagine that you’ll either understand or you won’t. I could talk about calling, vocation, daemon, destiny until the cows come home. Initially there were constant signs and hints and hunches and intuitions. I’ve long had an affinity for the phenomenon known as synchronicity. A week or so ago I finished a book on it, which irritated me. Synchronicity by Chris Mackie was heavily hyped as being a guide to synchronous living, but the author had become bogged down by a fascination with the phenomenon itself (despite being warned in no uncertain terms in a synchronous meeting with someone who really understood the matter) and lost his grip on the purpose of synchronicity for him. It’s absurdly easy to become fixated on the method of delivery rather than on the message itself, because it’s one of the things that can be mind-blowing when you first encounter it. There’s a saying that when a wise man points at the moon, a fool looks at the finger.

As my exploration took me further and further from known landmarks, I have been obliged to rely on my own inner compass. I have a decent sense of direction, not infallible, but solid enough for most things. But like any explorer, you need to get your bearings, take soundings and check from time to time that you’re not going the wrong way. Once you leave the beaten path, finding signposts is unlikely. You have to start relying on other senses, and other knowings. Sometimes you see traces of someone who’s gone ahead of you, a bent twig, Indian-fashion, a note left in a tree-hollow, cairns of stones carried up mountains by other pilgrims who’ve gone this way. On occasion, you see the bones of those who have died en route.

The further you go, the fewer the signs are until you can find, as I did, you are in a wilderness, a barren, mountainous land and there is no evidence that anyone else has ever come this way. There’s no obvious way to proceed, and when you stop to rest, you lose all sense of direction.

This is what happened to me. It began about five years ago, this nagging sense of unease and of disquiet. The questions began, and so did the doubts and then the fears. It’s reached desperation point, painful and unpleasant. What if I’ve gone the wrong way? What if all I have been exploring is a waste of time and energy? What if all my cherished beliefs and principles are all moonshine and bullshit? Should I go back? Should I give up and die, here, amid the empty lands, the wastelands?

Round and round the questions fly, never letting up, never letting me just move on. I read last year of Jung’s descent into his own personal hell, of a breakdown that became his breakthrough, and his insight that he had to do something and it didn’t matter what. His explorations using active imaginations started from mundane things, and no matter how humble the starting point, each led him deeper into the matters of true importance. I did a fair bit of active imagination work last year and yet, I have still found myself asking, am I doing the right thing, am I going the right way?

The problem is there is no one to ask, who is able to give me a clear subjective answer from a point of understanding, of having been to the same places I’ve been. Jung recommended working closely with someone who has been through the same sort of journey, and while I have good friends in the same line of exploration, they’re all folks who live half a world away, and whose kindness I could not presume upon, except as an occasional event.

So I am alone in the wasteland, unable to proceed because of fear that I am going the wrong way (which then brings with it the whole host of agonising extras, like has my entire life been a waste, and other such delights). I’ve recorded and worked with dreams, journaled, painted, drawn, meditated, played, sat in nature, done everything from the mundane to the ridiculous and yet, I am so bogged down by doubts and fears that I cannot move.

Then yesterday I went somewhere. It’s a place I’ve never been to, despite growing up not far away, and driving through the dank winter fields of Cambridgeshire, with the vast skies and the tiny winding roads hemmed in by hedges, past tiny stone built churches that date back eight hundred years and more, amid villages that have dwindled to almost nothing.

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There was a pair of buzzards calling when we got out of the car, and bird song that held the first notes of spring, though it was still early January. The ground was wet as an old bath sponge, rich with moss and algae, and the unprepossessing facade of the church did not hold much promise.

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Inside, it felt more like a college chapel, with pews face to face rather than facing the altar. I walked round, feeling the stillness, the moment of time that seems held like a drop of amber that holds millennia within its shining core. I took photos, I read the embroidered banners. There is a small room just off the sanctuary, a vestry originally but now a sort of inner room. I went in and looked up in shock at the window. Vivid stained glass, quite old, but simple and striking. One side held a quartered circle, a cross made of ears of wheat, in coloured glass; the other side, in another roundel of glass, some words:

It is the right, good old way you are in. Keep in it.”

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Gidding

Wild Imaginings

Wild Imaginings

The other night, I had trouble getting to sleep. This isn’t unusual. It’s horribly common for me to lie awake, despite being exhausted, and yet unable to drop off into a refreshing slumber. In this case, it was a strange mood of unaccustomed but also unspecific optimism.

I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist; I’d term myself a realist with a dash of hope. I don’t automatically expect either a good or a bad outcome for events; however I am good at seeing where things are going, which makes me a terrible person to watch a film with. (NB, with friends and family I now tend to watch complete with metaphorical duct tape over my big mouth)

I’ve spent the last years as a self published author observing and monitoring trends, tropes and movements and given the freedom inherent in self publishing, it’s all the more remarkable how rapidly the whole thing has become tied up with mimicking the mainstream in every particular. It’s seeped into my unconscious and conscious mind and it’s filled me with nothing but dread and sadness. There are tens of thousands of blogs devoted to how we must all pull up our big girl (or boy) panties, embrace the business model that sees out books as products to be hawked, and chase the dream of being able to live off our writing. It’s usually followed by masses of advice, of business plans and links to sites that will advertise your books for a small (or huge fee).

Well, the other night, my soul (which is a better judge of these things than my mind) took a big sideways step and said “Bubbles to all that!” Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing remotely wrong with wanting to achieve financial success from writing. What bothers me is the actual costs of doing so. I’m not talking about fees for services (whether advertising, formatting, or any one of the Boomtown businesses that have sprung up to aid authors) but the esoteric costs.

Yeah, I’m going to get airy-fairy, hippy-dippy on you. What do you expect from a writer like me?

I’ll tell you what the pursuit of financial success has cost me. My joy in writing, for a start. My innate belief in the power of imagination. My hope that people are seeking to connect with their own souls. Yeah, I know. None of these things pay the bills and we all have bills. But the odds are so far against any individual writer that it’s occurred to me that the various things we all do to try and bend those odds in our own favour are a total waste of energy. You actually have more chance of winning the Lottery than of somehow making it as a big time successful writer.

On Boxing Day I visited my parents. Dad and I were talking as we did the lunch and we got onto talking about science fiction, his favourite genre (I bought him Lifeform Three by Roz Morris for Christmas) and one of the things we discussed was how science fiction has been one of the driving forces of science. “If no one imagines it, no one can seek to discover or create it,” he said. I was struck by this. Everything that we have built or discovered started first in the mind, as a wild imagining. The kind of thing people think, “How absurd. That’s not even possible,” but some people think, “I wonder if I can make it possible.”

All movements, all revolutions, start the same way, with a huge What if, and then people hold that shining vision of what might be, and work towards making it what is. This is what kept me from sleeping the other night, this vague but shining vision of something entirely different from what I’ve been chasing before. It’s too easy to get repeatedly bogged down with the question of how do I sell more books; I’ve been foundering in that quicksand for long enough. There’s probably NOTHING I can do to create greater sales. I know that my work appeals to a very select bunch of people and because Philippa Rees commented about imagining an audience, I’ve begun to think about that audience.

DSCI0342This is where my Wild Imaginings begin.