Friday, 23 September 2011

Important Questions, Impossible Answers

My life quite often feels like I'm balancing on a knife edge - one slip in the wrong direction and it hurts like hell.

I have gotten better with doing the right thing over the years. To be honest, I still don't really know what it is. But I am better at keeping myself under control (it might not seem so at times, but... Considering things I used to do, yes - I am better!). Sometimes I've no idea how. Sometimes I don't even know how I make it from one point to the other! I've been trying to set myself up as a "realist" of late, trying to see the reality. But, of course, it's always my version of reality, just like everyone has their own built-in version themselves.

Which makes me wonder - what the hell is reality in the first place?

On the one hand it could be what we feel, the physical things that we can touch and hold on to. Those, for me, tend to be the most important things, especially with my over-active imagination. You can fly anywhere in your dreams, in your fantasies, but if it's physically there, if it's physically happening, then that's that - that's the constant, the what is, the unchangable.

But, on the other hand, I often let my imagination carry me away. This is partly because it helps me to deal with the things that I believe are lacking in my life. It gives me hope, gives me life, but at the same time it can distort my perceptions.

But, yes, generally I believe I know what's real. It's just that sometimes I don't want to believe it.

Then there is the part of me that's always balancing up both sides of an argument. The truth is, when people are discussing something, usually both parties are right. Quite often I have noticed that both parties are right in some way, or rather at least to themselves. You see this is where belief comes in. Everyone believes in something to one extent or another and everyone will have something that they believe more than anything else. That belief is usually so strong that it is, in fact, their reality. This is the first part, I believe, in understanding someone - recognising their beliefs. Even if you don't personally agree with what someone has to say, you can still understand where they're coming from, why they say it like that.

Well, I at least try to live that way, to think that way. It's much easier from the position of sitting behind my computer - it not only gives you more time to think about things, your answers, why people react in that way; it also gives you space. Being able to distance yourself somewhat from what is going on on the other side of the screen can be very useful. Yet sometimes we do need to be physically confronted with it, that information and those emotions, as it makes and keeps us human.

Now I'm not saying that sitting behind a computer all day, just chatting to what, for all intents and purposes, might well be a virtual world is a bad thing - sometimes it's good to be able to have a slouch day yet still be able to talk to people (if you want to - sometimes even shutting yourself off completely is OK, as long as it's not too much and for too long). It's just that the physical interactions with people are a big part of what keeps us sane. It doesn't matter if you believe a particular person can drive you crazy at times, you are still better off for having had that interaction. OK, so you've said something stupid, or generally say stupid things from time to time. You move on, you learn from it. Bad interactions happen, yes, and sometimes they hurt, but they can be learned from. I've run away from things, from situations, from people so many times, yet I know that that is not the answer. All it's going to do is put you into that position where you lock yourself away permanently, terrified of interacting with anyone on a real level in case it happens again, without realising that social interactions themselves can be cathartic, can be exactly what you need to get over that bad experience.

I've done stupid things in my time, said stupid things. Sometimes it's hard to stay focused, stay in control, when the whole world around me feels like it's crumbling and that I'm losing my grip on things - that's when I try to hold onto things the tighest, gripping so hard it hurts. I can be so terrible, treat people so badly, just because I'm desperate to feel something at that moment in time. I drive people away, because they may hurt me. I pull people closer, kicking and screaming, because I want to force them into my idea of reality. I'm sailing on a stormy ocean, with leashes attached to objects and people alike, me holding onto their ropes tightly, trying to control them as I like, like a puppet master, because I need something but don't know what it is. All the leads snap, everything drifts away from me whilst I'm sucked backwards into a whirlpool, spiraling down into the deep, dark depths. Leaving me alone. But... But then. Then, so suddenly as if a hypnotist has snapped their fingers, I open my eyes to see that the waters are now still, everything is calm once again, as if an ethereal wind has come along and blown it all away. For a moment I believe that I'm still alone, but then I notice that some people are still there, floating on their own rafts at a distance from me, staying because they have chosen to.

They say that there is a calm before the storm. For me, it always comes afterwards, but it has to get ridiculously stormy first, though. But the peace in between the perfect calm and the dark is terrifying, as that's usually when I start to forgive people. I never forgive - I generally prefer to accept things as having happened, as I can't change them, but I don't forgive - if someone did something deliberately, then their intentions at the time of the incident aren't suddenly changed because it's the day after. So, for me, forgiveness is very dangerous, as it is giving up. But it is only ever at that time when I feel most abandoned, most alone. And luckily, usually, it doesn't last for long - as soon as I start to realise again that I'm not actually alone, it passes (and that point, for me, is usually when social networks are most important for me).

I could read 100 different things to find out why things are the way they are, but not one would give me a conclusive or precise answer.

The trouble is, this is still all completely my version of reality, my experiences, things as I see them. We are all individuals, everyone seeing things completely differently. Yes, sometimes there is a crossover, where we recognise similar beliefs and traits, but there is still no one out there that is completely the same as you. Partly for this reason I find it absolutely fascinating to hear how someone else views the world, as I nearly always learn something new, not just about the person but also in general. There are so many possibilities, some of which I hadn't even ever thought about, and all because we are so individual!

But all this doesn't mean I understand myself any better. I had thought I was starting to get there, but I don't believe I can ever understand myself completely. Perhaps, one day. But perhaps simple acceptance is still far better.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

When Does the Social Network Become Anti-Social?

Facebook, in all their finite wisdom, have just a moment ago decided to roll out their pathetic new changes across the board, which now affects me as well. Well, this is what I have to say to it.

I've never particularly liked Facebook, but have more put up with it, it being a convenient tool to cope with my bad periods, to get me through the really depressive times, just to get over the dark hill that can spring up from time to time. Chatting to people and playing games has been a mundane stress relief at the times when I have been unable to do much else. So, whilst I may dislike it in some ways, it's a free tool which has had relatively low-impact changes that I've been mostly able to work around.

That is, until now.

You can only imagine my horror as, whilst I was browsing my newsfeed, I was first forced to log-in again, then confronted in a flash of a second with this totally ridiculous new layout, with "instructions" on how to do it. For someone like me, who's been using this as a stress reliever, this is not the sort of thing I want to be confronted with!

So, now my stress reliever has become another pile of stress to deal with. No longer can I easily interact with people or update my information as I want - I now have to be told what I want to read, by someone else deeming things important based on whatever data they've pulled out their sleeve with their last trick. Please, Facebook, stick the rabbit back in its box and allow us that usually spend our days dancing on the sanity line to at least be able to keep our comforts and safe places that you've so rudely stolen from us. Otherwise it's going to be back to PC games for me and shutting myself away from social interaction when I'm feeling low, which is the worst thing possible.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

To Label or not to Label...!

Having read a very interesting blog post yesterday on one of the blogs I follow, as well as accidentally finding another interesting blog yesterday evening, and then reading this news article today, it's made me start to think once more about labels and how useful they actually are.

For me, personally, I found labels in the beginning to be quite scary. Well, at least the descriptions for them. On the one hand, the label is quite bland, coming along with or without the pretty picture. But then, as soon as you start to read the description behind that label... Then the panic starts to set in, as in "shit, am I really that terrible, that nasty to people??!" But then you calm down a bit after the initial shock and start to read the fine details more calmly, realising how broad that description still is. But it's still essentially a recipe list of problems, which can be overwhelming at times. All those little things that we are suddenly confronted with, forced to deal with! It can be quite a lot for someone to take in!

Luckily I'm one of the few that are able to take those details and put it to good use, but I am aware that not everyone can. For me, it's useful having the label, as once I'm over the initial shock it gives me a place to start researching, a place to build upon my own coping mechanisms, as I know that I'm already aware of all the problems there - none of what sits within the description is new to me; it's just a shock in the first instance seeing it all listed on one page, your life grinning back at you all in one go! But once I'm over that shock, I realise that I knew it all anyway - it's just that now I have a name for it.

Many others will just see the label, with all it comes with, and start panicking. The trouble is so many mental illnesses have had a bad press at some point that the instant reaction for a majority of people is one of disbelief, "that's not me! How can that possibly be me?!" They just simply do not want to accept it. Well, I can understand that, as I was like that myself years ago. The difference between that person from years ago and the one that sits here now is a level of acceptance - having already started accepting who I am, another label comes as no major shock to me.

Medical labels can be useful. They can be a way to instantly communicate across to someone a generalisation of problems, whether it be speaking to a fellow sufferer, or speaking to a medical practitioner. They can help you find specific support or care quickly and easily, without all the fuss of having to explain all the finite details for the umpteenth time. Yet, on the other hand, they can be quite harmful - anyone can put on label and wear it with pride, essentially getting away with murder in some instances. Does that mean we should keep our labels private?

But what people don't realise is that we all have labels that we put upon ourselves, not just medical labels, which can range anywhere from our work to our hobbies. There is the one lady who is an administrator, but in her spare time she's a railways enthusiast. Or how about that man over there? He's an accountant, but in his spare time he's a dancer. Actor, musician, painter, artist, sailor, sculptor, doctor... The list is endless. How, in that instance, does it make medical labels any different? There are many people who spend their entire lives living by false labels, pretending to be something they're not, from benefit cheats to attention seekers. The difference comes, perhaps, in that with most cases they're not trying to get away with murder!

At the end of the day, all that those labels give you is an overview. Anyone can put a label on, wear it with some degree of pride, try to define their lives by it, try to explain away their actions by it. But what that label doesn't tell you is who that person is underneath. It is for that reason that I generally don't use my many labels in the first instance, when getting to know someone (unless it is via a particular specific-interest forum) - people can too easily gain a false impression of who I am before they've even begun to get to know me. In the same breath, when meeting someone else I try to not let their labels dictate my view of them, learning about who they are with and in spite of their labels. If governments want to stop people from abusing labels and using them as an excuse for their actions, then they should be doing the same.

Monday, 19 September 2011

How Twitter Changed my Life

OK, now this will probably seem quite a bizarre thing to write about, but considering the things I've been reading of late, the things I've just read, I feel I'm going to have to explain (plus a post about Twitter has been coming up since I started this blog a few days ago).

Twitter might seem like the perfect time-wasting medium. So much so that I'd actually shunned it for quite a long time, feeling that it was a completely useless idea of senseless chatter, people talking about nonsense stuff (which I get enough of on Facebook). Well, that was until about a month ago.

I remember the day it all changed, remember it in quite vivid detail, in fact. It was the afternoon of Thursday 18 August 2011 (literally a month ago yesterday). I'd let the cat out, as I'd started doing just a week before (he was 2 last week, but we didn't trust him outside until we'd had him castrated (or should that be "cat"strated for cats?)). Ahem, anyway. So... I'd let the cat out. He wouldn't come back in. It was about 4pm at this time, getting really dark with a storm coming along. I'd been feeling generally low that day, so it was essentially the icing on the cake for me - the cat ignoring me. The one person/thing I could still rely upon, and he was ignoring my calls, hissing at me when I tried to get him down off the fence.

I'd been trying to call him in for hours, but at around 4pm-ish I gave up. I had left the back door wide open and I just sat down on the ground, hearing the first rumblings of the storm coming along. It was at this point that I sent a text to everyone I could think of that I could trust in some way or another, saying something along the lines of that I was going to get wet. Then the rain came. I stayed there, sitting out on the decking at the back of the garden, crying my eyes out, thinking that I'd been abandoned completely as I'd only had a reply from Vincent within the first 10 mins of sitting there (10 mins is an eternity when you're caught up in that blackness). I must have been sitting out there for half an hour in the end when I finally saw the cat sitting on the fence. I called to him again, desperately. He jumped down onto the decking beside me, and ran straight inside! I thought something along the lines of, "bloody bastard!" and got up, shocked, and walked inside.

When I got inside, I luckily did the very sensible thing of taking off my wet clothes and putting on my bath robe. I then found that my internet, telephone and TV were completely out, with my phone dying. So, I played Civ IV on my computer, just to keep my brain mind-numbingly occupied. Vincent called, saying he was on his way, but shortly afterwards my phone died. It took me about 1/2 hour after my phone died to put it on charge, desperate at that point for some contact with the outside world, especially as Vincent was extremely late at that point and I had no idea what had happened (and he'd charged me with the duty of putting the oven on for pizzas that he was going to buy).

So, phone on charge. Vincent is late because his train was late so he'd missed the bus and was waiting for a lift. I'm frustrated as I'd put the oven on, expecting him home! Not a good addition to an already stress-filled day (mostly of my own making). Then Vincent gets in, I explain what's happened, and... Somehow we end up arguing. I can't remember if it was before or after the pizzas, before or after he'd called Telenet to find out what was going on, but... It led to me taking off my robe and walking out into the rain, naked apart from my glasses and slippers (I didn't want the robe to get wet as well). I was in tears and sat down on the planking. Vincent eventually managed to talk me back in. I also, not long afterwards, received a couple of text replies, which helped me to feel not so alone after all.

What I remember most about that storm was how scary it was. Now I assumed it was because I was mostly out of it at the time, but I know that it wasn't. Part of the reason that I know that it wasn't was because, when my internet finally returned at about 10pm, I heard what had happened in Hasselt, at Pukkelpop. My immediate reaction was one of shock - there was me, so caught up in my own emotions, whilst people were out there with real problems, some dying. I read tons of news reports that evening and eventually, after hearing about this thing on Twitter going on, #Hasselthelpt, I decided to join Twitter and see if I could be of any service (remembering how people had pulled together over the UK riots).

Well the intriguing thing about it is this - whilst I couldn't really help out in the end, it did lead me to meeting some interesting people, including one of the few Doctor Who fans here in Belgium! So, what did I get out of a bizarre, disturbing, and tragic day? Well, more friends, a very intriguing network, and... Finding out that Twitter isn't so useless after all!

The crazy thing is I've not just found like-minded people in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy worlds (fellow geeks), but have also found some interesting people with similar mental-health conditions. Twitter has opened up my world in ways I would have never thought possible. Yes, on the one hand, I do spend way too much time on there some days, especially on the days when I'm feeling down. But on the other hand, I've found so many great people to talk to, so many who understand various parts of me.

So, don't knock it 'til you've tried it! I, above anyone else, should know that already! Life is all about the experiences, the interactions, no matter what direction they come from. If it keeps you on the safe side of the sanity line, then it has to be OK, right? Right??!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Philosophically Speaking

The balance in my mind isn’t always an easy to thing to understand, even for me, and is even harder for other people to understand. In fact, there is an exceptionally small minority in this world that I’ve met that I believe can even begin to understand me.

It’s strange. I’ve learnt to go about my life with few expectations; the fewer the expectations you have in something, the less likely you are to be let down by it. And yet… Yet, on the other side of the coin, if I happen to meet someone who I can click with, who have traits within them that I recognise, who I believe may be one of this small percentage that could actually understand me even in a small way, then suddenly my expectations sky rocket.

The trouble is, I don’t particularly understand why that is. I guess it is, in part, something to do with the fact that I am quite aware of how few people are truly able to see beyond my layers, see who I am underneath. Meeting someone like that fills me with such a great excitement that my emotions become harder to control. I remember the times when I’ve let myself get carried away on this wave of euphoria, the times that I’ve been burnt. It means that now, whilst I enjoy the exciting rollercoaster ride that is speaking to these people, I tend to step a lot more cautiously.

Which leads me back to expectations and disappointment. The fewer the expectations you have in someone, the less likely you are to be disappointed. It appears to be one of the great pains I have to deal with in my life yet, for the most part, I just accept it nowadays as it is. The times I tried, years ago, to push past that door just left me bleeding, in much more pain than just letting it be and living with it.

Life is very intriguing, with all its colours and movement. I find people very interesting in that respect, too, with all their colours and sounds. I’ve spent my life being fascinated by colours and sounds, seeing colours in everything, tapping things and getting excited by subtle changes in sound. It might sound bizarre to say, but I see the majority of people as being quite bland; most people just go around their business, just existing but not really living. Yet there are some others, ones that I absolutely love being around, that are like vibrant colours, like coloured oils swirling within a pool of seemingly endless depth. Sometimes, when I meet these people, I just want to dive down into that pool and explore it completely, seeing all the colours as they swirl around, listening to the sounds of the water moving around me, colour and sound absorbing me completely. The fascination I have when I see just a glimpse leaves me greedily yearning for more, desperate for more of those colours to wash over me once again. And that is when I step away, not letting myself be caught up in that web once again, refusing to expose myself to all the dangers that leaving yourself open can bring. Not willing to allow myself to be carried away too far that I am burnt once again.

The thing about it is, there was a time when I confused this fascination in people, this interest for something it wasn't. I remember a time when I got so carried up in it that I absolutely convinced myself that there was more to it. I was missing something in my life at the time and believed that they were the answer. How wrong I was. How desperate I was. How regretful I was afterwards. I know the difference now, but I paid a large price for it that still haunts me to this day. It is a mistake that I watch out for, that I refuse to make again. It means that, at times, I stop and hold myself back. I hate it, as it stops me from connecting with people fully, but it's now a built-in safe guard - you can only make a mistake so many times before realising that you should change something to prevent it happening again. It allows for room for friendships to grow, without the burden of breaking them.

The most intriguing thing I’ve noticed about these people I can connect with, however, is that they all, too, see the world differently, most having lived through the dark swathes of depression or some other mental disturbance (which, usually, always seems to involve depression on one level or another). I suppose that all of us, to some degree, are affected by what could be classified as a mental illness of one level or another; if doctors were to map the world, I’m sure a box could be found for everyone. Yet, for the majority, the so-called “norm”, there generally isn’t enough disturbance to their environment to be able to call them “unhinged” in any way.

Just think about it, for a moment. Think about all the most famous and best artists, of any medium, and how many of them were considered genius or insane. To be honest I believe that to achieve full genius you have to pass through a level of insanity first; the two are not exclusive to each other. They are essentially the same thing, just viewed through different windows. Perhaps that is why modern music often is so flat and bland - there is no substance, the creative madness behind it is non existent. I bet that so many of those people who listen to truly exceptional music or appreciate truly exceptional art don't truly appreciate the suffering that the artist has gone through to create such a work. Some of them, even, would even be very critical of someone with the same condition as that of their favourite artist, therefore being critical of that artist themselves, without even realising that it is that madness that has brought them the beauty that they love so much. How many people are quick to criticise, without even a thought for the truth behind the mask, the truth behind those eyes. It makes the life of someone like Vincent van Gogh even more tragic - reviled in his life time, revered in his death. But that, I guess, is what art truly is.

In all my own insanity, in all my own sensibility, in all my own craziness. In all of it, I am the quiet mouse of an artist in the corner, squirreling away at ideas as they come to me. I am the one with the deep dark blackness that washes over me at times. I am the one that is told how brilliant they are by some, yet held at arms length by others. I keep the colourful people around, trying my best not to drive them away, finding inspiration in the light that also keeps me going. I may be one of "them", whichever label you choose to put on me at the time, but just don't forget that I am, quite simply, me. All I ask for, like so many others, is acceptance.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Random Playlist

It's Friday, it's 17:59, and I've just had a really cool but bizarre idea - I'm going to write down every single random song that comes into my head over the next 24 hours (and what triggered it, if anything). Well, it's actually something I've been thinking about for a while, but that was before I had a public forum once more for such crazy ideas!

  • So, the first one, about 10 mins ago, was Uptown Girl (the cool Billy Joel version, luckily, not the yucky cover!) - it took me 5 or so mins to realise I was humming it and I've no idea how long it was in my head for or why it suddenly appeared! Last time I heard or thought about it? Several months ago!
  • Then, just now, I had I Hear You Knocking by Dave Edmunds. Now this one wasn't so random - it was a result of Vincent (the resident boyfriend/insane maker/sanity keeper) mentioning that he was off out to the supermarket and would be back in a jiffy, so to check the postbox in 1/2 hour... I said "no" (because I thought the joke was terrible) and this song was the first thing that sprung to mind in response!
  • 18:38 and Somewhere Over the Rainbow has made its return. I suppose it had to, really. I think it's the song that's had the biggest impact on my day so far.
  • It's now 22:18 and, after starting to learn the Sherlock theme tune (the faster bit, but obviously not quite as fast as this - to cut a long story short, someone mentioned on Twitter they were learning it on piano and gave me a link to the sheet music! Huzzah! Just had to write in sensible chords for accordion (which was easy, just had to think!)), I then thought of other detective series... Namely, Poirot! So, I now have Poirot theme stuck in my head. As I can't find music online, will have to play around this weekend... Perhaps... For added bonus, this video gets my inner geek grinning and giggling like a maniac!!
  • Just before I went to bed last night, at 23:07, I got Bad Case of Loving You by Robert Palmer stuck in my head. Seriously. Cool! But it was in relationship to Doctor Who... Ahem.
  • This morning woke up with the Poirot tune in my head again. It then preceded to change to the Sherlock theme, then to In Caelum Fero from Karl Jenkin's Adiemus (that might have something to do with the fact that we'll be starting to work on it today). Oh, and then, or now rather... Tarantella Napoletana (which, incidentally, I don't know from the Godfather but from a ceilidh band of the same name). These had no particular trigger other than my mind wandering!
  • 12:42 - not that long gotten in and we're back with In Caelum Fero once more in my head, most likely because it's what I was just playing with the accordion class less than an hour ago! There must have been 40 odd people in that room, or more... How on Earth??! If any more come along, we'll need a crowbar! Ahem, anyway... This is what my Saturday mornings are like - playing, feeling amazing after playing with such a big group (and feeling even more amazing now as I was mostly able to follow from the 1st and had the basics mostly by the end of the session!). There is nothing like it!
  • 16:09 - have just realised that I've had this song, The Fog on the Tyne (and specifically the Bruce Dickinson version, which I've linked to) stuck in my head for at least half an hour! Now this is true randomness (especially as I've no idea where it came from, why, or when it appeared!)! :D
  • It's now 18:15 and In Caelum Fero is back in my head, for an hour or so now (no idea when it reappeared - just randomly!). So... Perhaps I should have a little play before Doctor Who, whilst it's still fresh?

So, a day inside the music player in my head! :)

Which brings me around to another thought. It's interesting as well how certain songs have emotions attached to them. For instance, I had Starry Starry Night stuck in my head most of Thursday after it randomly popped in my head in the morning whilst waiting for everyone else to show up to class. Thinking about it, listening to it in my mind... It made me feel very sad for some reason. It doesn't normally have that effect on me! But there are some songs that actually have that effect on me all the time! I suppose with the majority of songs it actually depends on what I'm feeling at the time as well. On Thursday I did have a bad feeling about something (which has extended right through into today as well, with me still not having a clue as to what it's about!), so that might be possibly it. That gut churning just really really annoys me at times. I hope there's an answer to it soon...

Friday, 16 September 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

For random songs that just pop into your head, this is an interesting one, partly because it's not one I've listened to or heard for a long time, especially not the version that's just sprung up into my brain!

I know what caused it - it was me just now reading a tweet from Amanda Palmer that mentioned a ukulele. Now what normally springs to mind when reading or hearing about ukuleles, or even hearing them? Well, normally it isn't a version of a song that you heard on an advert for the last time more than three years ago!

For reference, here is the version I'm talking about (which I must admit I much prefer to the Eva Cassidy version):

Anyway, it got me thinking. Isn't it bizarre the way memories work, especially with regards to songs? Sometimes I repeat a particular action and I remember dancing or singing along to something the last time I did that. Particular people, for instance, I sometimes associate with specific songs, too (not everyone - I really hope people won't start asking me what "their song" is! I might start having to invent some... :P).

But all this thought brings me back around to another thought from another time. One thing I've always said is that there is a song or tune for every ocassion, every moment, and if I can't find one I'll write one! I could probably, if I tried hard enough, find something to go along with absolutely anything. Baking bread, for example - the first thing that springs to mind is Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival. Now that might not be overly appropriate (my bread isn't that bad!), but it's certainly making my YouTube listening interesting right now!

OK, OK, next subject! Right, now I have to think of something... *looks around desk quickly* Right, I have here an empty glass, a pen, a white-chocolate mouse... Right, mice! I have something for mice - Windmill in Old Amsterdam (which reminds me - I was dared to learn it and post a video about it... I will get around to it one day!).

I think that'll do for now. But, I suppose, if people fancy suggesting subjects, I might go on another wild whimsy...!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Back in Business!

It's been really weird coming back into things. I don't know if I'm quite coping yet. Going back to class last week was fine - it was great that the holidays were over, that I was able to start back at my 6-day-a-week schedule! But, then...! This week, especially today, I've been feeling so damned low... If it wasn't for going to class and having a good time this morning, I don't know where I would be!

I think part of my problem is that I enjoy my lessons too much, all of them! I've always loved learning, but one thing about coming back into learning now, a year ago, is that I'm now doing the things I want to do, rather than what I had to do. It's a big difference. Having left school at 16, done 1 year of college until 17, then given it up because I simply couldn't cope with studying whilst trying to live at home in the circus that was our house then; it was quite something to be at a position where I actually needed to go back to studying again, having moved country and needing to learn a new language.

Oh dear, I remember the first day still, how terrible that was with my nerves, 3 years ago now! I had absolutely no idea what to expect and didn't think I'd be able to do it! Yet, now these years on, I'm at a completely different place and loving it!

It's not like I didn't mean to eventually go back to studying at some point. Firstly, when I was 21, I tried to return to a local college to study maths (pure & applied) plus physics, as I wanted to go into engineering (motorcycle engineering specifically, probably more on the design side of things but I've never actually been afraid of doing a bit of mucking in, having loved fiddling with objects to work out how they worked - in fact, throughout many jobs I was the one who always fixed things like the printer or the photocopier!!). Well I wasn't able to find my certificates, plus I couldn't really afford it anyway, so that idea dropped through... Then, after getting back into music when I was 24, I decided I was going to do a music degree through the Open University. After my funding application fell through (there was no way I could afford £500+ a year for 3-5 years), I gave up on that idea, too. Gave up completely on the idea of studying again. I just carried on working in administration, playing and dancing with the morris side I'd joined (then later on playing even more with a different side).

But then... What changed? Well, coming to Belgium certainly changed things for me in so many ways. The biggest part that changed for me, after all the hell with my work last year, leading to me being depressed again, was being at that point of realising that I had no connection with this country. Well, not really none at all, but very little to hold me here... So, I had to do something, to give myself connections, as I couldn't afford to move back to England! So, what was I to do? Go back to the idea of the engineering or the music? Well, I chose the music, of course! :)

So after restarting my Dutch lessons last year and joining the music academy... Reaching December and thinking I was a complete failure and was going to fail everything... I had the most enormous shock in January, not only realising how bloody good I am at things even when I barely study (seriously, I study an absolute minimum, which is fine because I practice in real time - probably couldn't get away with it, even with my memory, if I was studying anything else!), but also realising the connections I'd started to make... What? People actually like me? That's... That's... That's impossible!! Yet, it was evident yet again with the scary amount of people that showed up for my birthday party (far more than I'd expected). Then I went onto impressive streaks throughout my courses in April, then end of year in June... I'm still in shock that I'm that capable (and mumbling to myself regularly, "don't let it go to your head! Mustn't let it go to my head!!").

But, anyway... After the most ridiculously quiet holiday, which led to me being so depressed that I did such crazy things as sitting outside naked in the garden on the stormiest day of the year (on the night where the storm managed to wipe out Pukkelpop and all my connections with the world after my Telenet was knocked out), erm... Well, there's been some fantastically good points during the holiday, brilliant chats on a cycle trip ("fietstocht" - they don't really do those in England!), then even more at times bizarre yet brilliantly interesting chats when we had some friends over, and a couple of bowling sessions (which weren't easy, as my hand still hurts now and then after I broke it last winter), I... The quiet points in it, unfortunately, got to me too much... I haven't cried so much in so long. So, with all that, I'm loving being back in both schools, studying away, with some intriguing projects coming up.

Yet, today... What is it with me today? I've had the most horrible feeling in my gut all day! I don't think it showed, luckily. Oh dear... I think I look terrible most days, so would it make much difference? There's me, not giving a shit on one hand yet caring down to every detail on the other! Every day when I get up I think how terrible I look, then just go out, anyway. But today has been different... The storm in my gut has been driving me nuts and still hasn't let up! So, I think it's that I'm not quite coping yet... Or at least I hope so!

Well, gently does it. Going from nothing to 5 then 6 1/2-days a week is no mean feat! Still. We shall see. The greatest part is that being back around people is inspiring, especially with some of the amazingly colourful people I know. I see some projects of my own coming up, too!