The Sad Price George Floyd Has Paid To Expose Police Corruption

Demonstration board listing the names of black lives recently lost to police brutality in the US.
Photo by frankie cordoba on Unsplash

The question of whether black lives matter shouldn’t even be on the table right now. The questions we should be asking are how the system broke and how corrupt, exactly, are our police departments.

Anyone with half a brain cell understands that the colour of our skin doesn’t determine who we are, in the same way that anyone with a basic knowledge of history knows that the majority of white people have enjoyed a privilege denied to the majority of people of colour – something for which many of us are trying to make amends.

We can’t change history, but we can try and compensate for it.

George Floyd’s death has shone another light on the cancer in the US Police Department and the plight of the brave souls that are targeted by it. People of colour in the US have been scared for a long time, but this latest death has pushed them to their tipping point and triggered a united stand against racism and police brutality and corruption.

I will admit that as I write this post I fee scared too, in a different way. As a white woman of privilege, I’m scared about adding my personal thoughts about racism and injustice. I’m worried about using the wrong terminology; I’m worried that I don’t have the authority to write about the emotions of people of colour from my ivory tower. Most of all, I worry that my good intentions will be misinterpreted. And so all I can hope is that support, in whatever shape or form it comes, is welcome.

Fear and entitlement feed corruption in the police force.

It’s not like racism and corruption are endemic to the US, after all. The unmitigated fear linked to “difference” and the power struggles that emanate from it are worldwide struggles. As author Jordan P. Peterson states in his book “12 Rules For Life,” power play is part of the human condition that we see in many facets of life. There is a “dominance hierarchy in our society”, he confirms, although (unlike in the animal kingdom where dominance is a question of survival) there is also a level of chaos that our society hierarchies should never reach. And we are seeing that now, being leveraged by idiots like Trump.

Police brutality affects many groups of people – from people of colour to the LGBTQIA  community, and the mentally ill.

In spite of the rise of fascism over the past few years, I’m not surprised we’ve reached this point. I still cling to the hope that the tide of discrimination is turning, and that ultimately we will learn to live more harmoniously together. I see signs that our sense of compassion is increasing and while social media has its dark side, this reaction has demonstrated a positive side to its visual evidence of injustices like George Floyd’s horrifying death. The harrowing footage of his last minutes must help educate us about the unfair treatment of those less fortunate than us. They also incite anger, which is needed to effect change.

It is clear that the powers of the police are too great and there is not enough accountability for what they do with them.

Watch any TV show like The Shield, In The Line of Duty or The Wire and you’ll see how easy it is for bad seeds to abuse their badge and take matters into their own hands, whether that’s out on the streets or on the inside – the justice system’s inability to jail “bad cops” is proof of that – so how can we make the system safer?

Could any of the ideas below help reduce the number of black deaths?

  1. Could removing some of the pressure off police officers – and in particular financial targets that increase the danger of prioritising economics over life – make a difference?
  2. What if we vetted applicants more closely? Without wishing to stereotype, there does seem to be a “type” that enters the police force. Or perhaps it is the nature of the job that causes “compassion fatigue” – a numbing detachment that is common to many first responders (which I wrote about here).
  3. Or if there was more training vis a vis the risks of poor impulse control and the “pack mentality” in high emotion situations?
  4. How about we reduce the number of armed police officers? We know that having a gun increases the risk of its use, and we also know that the British have one of the most successful police departments in the world – and the majority of their officers don’t carry guns.
  5. And finally, if we worked out a way to encourage more female police officers to join, could we make it mandatory for a woman to attend every crime scene in order to reduce the threat of physical violence?

It’s easy to criticise the police, I know…

And would I do the job of a police officer? Not on your life. Every one of us has been in a flight or flight situation that we’ve handled badly and the police encounter those situations every day. No one wants to find themselves with that split-second choice between their own life and someone else’s. That is also why other vulnerable young men like Elijah Holcombe died. Read Kate Wild’s coverage of his “accidental” death in her book Saving Elijah.

Sadly, many of these cases point to a sense of entitlement in the police force that increases the risk of violence.

Australia’s own indigenous population is targeted in the same way as the people of colour in the US, which has led to an increasing number of them being unfairly incarcerated. There have also been countless deaths in custody that remain unaccounted for – even after lengthy investigations. And to my mind, the way certain police behave on the streets – bullying young people for minor breaches of the law such as drinking in public or possession of recreational drugs for personal use demonstrates an abuse of their powers. My own son was once strip-searched in the back of a police van for looking “shady” and because he had a warning for personal possession of a small amount of marijuana on his record.

It has taken many deaths to expose the corruption in the police department, and George Floyd is one of many martyrs to lose their lives for the lives of others. But what a price he has paid to expose the corruption of the people employed to protect us!

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We Can All Be Heroes, Without Firing A Single Bullet

Today makes me sad. Anzac Day confuses me because it forces me to question the sacrifice of those millions of men and women that gave up their lives to protect our future. And what makes it worse, is that so many more of them continue to risk their lives for the same empty promises.

Kids On Guns Hill by Banksy from Pinterest and mymodernmet.com

We like to call them heroes, but I’m certain that many of the men conscripted in the two World Wars would have preferred to stay at home, get married, and see their children grow up, while here we are, still living in fear of terrorism and war.

In many parts of the world, war remains a reality of daily life, and more often than not, the bigger players that instigate it don’t stick around long enough to pick up the pieces once they leave. Innocent people continue to be discriminated against – just like the Jews in World War 2. Even in the West, (in our so-called “democracies”), man’s overwhelming greed for power and control blinds it to the cost of human life as countries are disabled by religion and race.

Surely, the best way to honour the dead and our forces today is by demonstrating to them that their sacrifice was worth it? That we have learned from it? And let’s also teach our kids that heroes can be people who use their voice for change as well; who stand against discrimination, without firing a single bullet.

I Want “Cheese Lover and Wine Connaisseur” In My Eulogy

01e820bca18fe83260bc6c121631447a.jpgThe old man and I went on a mini-break to a farmstead in the south of Sydney a few weeks ago. Due to the risks posed by Australian wildlife – wallabies, wild horses, spiders and no doubt brown snakes, waiting for me in every corner – we left The Princess at home with close friends.

I packed her case – her favorite food, her blankie, a couple of toys, some treats – and then in a moment of separation anxiety, I texted our friends a few pointers about her habits in case she had any problems vocalizing them.

Doesn’t play nicely with other dogs

Zero road sense

Needs lots of water

Loves cheese

Scared of men

One of the friends we went to the homestead with is a celebrant, who conducts weddings all over Sydney. One morning – in our search of the best hot chocolate in what was apparently a town – we bumped into a fellow celebrant, and the two of them got into a lengthy discussion about funerals and the underlying pressure they feel to write the perfect eulogy. The other celebrant admitted to us, that in view of the terrible eulogies she had witnessed, she has already written her own.

At the mention of speeches, I am always transported back to the scarring memory of the old man’s speech at my fiftieth birthday. Although my therapist has told me to bury it in the past and move forward, each time I go to a friend’s birthday and I have to listen to their husbands’ loving, glowing speeches about their wives, it is like a dagger straight through my heart. As a result of my PTSD, planning my own cremation and writing my own eulogy is something I have had to consider quite seriously if I don’t want a very sad affair with a minimal amount of planning and thought, and which only my husband and two children are likely to know anything about. Because my idea of a funeral is like the one at the beginning of Love Actually or a Viking sea burial, or at the very least a group of gospel singers. And rather than risk a Target two-for-one special, I have given the responsibility of making sure I get a worm-proof coffin to Kurt, who understands anxiety.

BTW, kids, there are “death of parent” playlists on Pinterest.

However, after giving it some thought, I have decided that retribution will be served best by leaving everything to the old man. After all, surely a eulogy is something other people need to make up about your achievements and not even he can ignore my achievements with cheese and wine? But if I should need to provide the man that I have known for most of my adult life and the father to my children and The Princess with a few pointers, it turns out that my eulogy would look a lot like the list I gave to our friends, who were looking after our dog: 

Doesn’t play nicely with others

No road sense

Needs lots of wine

Loves cheese

Scared of men

What would be on your list?

 

 

Living One Day At A Time And Being Content With What We Have

4939a1e96f466bb6214bb62cd62c9e12A successful designer, seemingly with the world at her feet, takes her own life. Her body is found in her New York apartment with a note that will devastate her family and change the course of her young daughter’s life forever. One thing is certain: she achieved success in the way that the west determines success, and yet, something was still missing. She didn’t ‘have it all’.

We will never know or perhaps understand the demons that led Kate Spade to make the ultimate sacrifice, but if there is one thing to take from this tragedy, it is that happiness cannot be bought, a belief shared by a young eighteen-year-old boy in another section of the news today. Jake Bailey was diagnosed with cancer at the age of eighteen – discovered in the dentist’s chair following a pain in his jaw – whereupon he was given three weeks to live, without treatment. He survived, and his experience has taught him the invaluable lesson of embracing life, each hour, each day, each tiny, magical moment.

 

To take one day at a time.

 

Meanwhile, Matt Haig, whom I’ve quoted on this blog before  – author of “Reasons To Stay Alive,” “Notes On A Nervous Planet” (out in July), and advocate for increasing mental health awareness – is considering removing his presence from Twitter due to the abuse leveled at his comments about positivity, gratitude and empathy for those struggling with mental health issues.

 

He wrote this comment on Twitter this morning, which resonated with me after reading of the tragic death of Kate Spade.

 

‘We need to radically change the idea of ‘having it all’ so that it includes contentment. Without it, ‘all’ is nothing.’

 

Most of us are guilty of jumping ahead of ourselves, planning for the future and not living in the now. The old man and I do it. We tie ourselves in knots, worrying so much about whether we’ll have the money to retire, that we forget to “live”. We wasted many years aspiring to meaningless symbols of materialism, that for the most part didn’t make us happy – (Apart from the Lexus – the Lexus made me happy!). And then, when finally we think we have it all and yet somehow still haven’t hit the sweet spot of contentment, we question why.

 

Imagine if all we had to think about was our survival? There are many examples of tribes and cultures around the globe that only have to consider living from one day to the next, that live a happy, fulfilled existence. Whereas globally, one person suicides every forty seconds, according to the World Health Organization, and the occurrence of “depression” is highest in the US – ‘the land of opportunity and dreams.’ It is lowest in Japan, a country that has adopted a simplicity in their approach to life, such as its practice of Kintsugi – the art of repairing broken pottery with gold rather than replacing it with new.

 

‘While the general Western consensus on broken objects is that they have lost their value, practitioners and admirers of Kintsugi believe that never-ending consumerism is not a spiritually rewarding experience.’ (Make)

 

Or as Val Jon Farris says in the Huffington Post:

 

‘It is the practice of focusing one’s intention on life’s hidden beauty and power.’

 

Fundamentally, is loving ourselves, valuing and being content with what we have.

 

 

What Happened To The Fearlessness Of My Youth?

It is no secret that anxiety can be linked to menopause, and for some women, the condition can be so bad, it forces them to turn to anti-depressants to get through it.

sunset-3042967_1920

According to Medical News Today: ‘Hormone changes, life stresses, sleep problems, worries about body image, infertility, boring marriages and aging are all factors linked to menopause that can contribute to mood swings, stress, anxiety, irritability bordering on psychopathy and a decreased sense of any rationality well-being in women.’

There’s nothing worse than feeling anxious all the time, and if I could change one element of this period of my life, it would be the sense of irrational fear that has worked its way into my everyday consciousness.

I often wonder where the fearlessness I had as a child and young adulthood disappeared to in the ageing process. Anxiety diffuses my every thought to the point where I’ve even started to worry on behalf of others. I stop to watch the surfers at the beach and instead of envying them their majestic feat of travel through water, all I can think about are the waves strong enough to crush them, sharks, rips, Russian submarines, and ear infections.

Fortunately for them, their passion overrides their fear.

What happened to the kid that used to roll and bound down steep hills and steps, without worrying about falling over? When did I stop swinging across monkey bars, spinning the swing almost 360 degrees and climbing trees – okay, so I never actually climbed trees.

Did we do all that because our brains were underdeveloped, or has experience taught us to be more careful?

I often wonder what happened to the girl who lived and worked in a foreign country, drove across Europe by herself, hitchhiked and took her chances with Lotharios she’d never consider leaving her daughter with now.  What happened to that courageous young woman who reinvented herself so many times in the workplace that not even she recognised herself?

What happened to the fearlessness of my youth? When did fear start to impede my enjoyment of life?

Anyone else feel this way?

Your Fifties: The Make Or Break Age Where Bad Decisions And Bad Genes Can Catch Up

c360d830ff6fe6d59c4cd99911501992It is always a shock to hear about the death or illness of celebrities around our own age. While I don’t believe that their lives are more special than mine, it can be hard not to secretly suspect that their barbeque areas aren’t paved with gold.

 

Which was why the passing of Emma Chambers at 53 and Stephen Fry’s cancer diagnosis were all the more shocking this week. Without meaning to give them god-like status, it’s easy to assume that these people are untouchable, for no other reason than they have the money to pay their way out of death.

 

Not true, sadly.

 

I don’t know Emma and Stephen personally, but the gifts of the arts and culture are their reach and the poignant way they touch our souls. The works of these two, in particular,  have resonated with me on different levels: I have followed Fry’s struggles with depression and tested my stress incontinence several times watching Emma in Notting Hill and The Vicar of Dibley.

 

Emma was 53, Stephen is 60 – similar in age to myself – a make or break period where the poor decisions of youth and bad genes can start to catch up. I’m not afraid to admit that I get a bit scared when I look back at all the cigarettes I rolled in my twenties.

 

Worse, I know from experience that death is forgotten, quicker than any of us would like. Not because of our shallowness or callousness, but because of its inevitability, because of the prolonged pain from dwelling upon it, the busy-ness of life and the salient reminder to squeeze every last drop out of it.

 

So I’ve decided that I want to die from a long illness – words I imagine I will eat should my fate work out that way – and in spite of the inevitable pain and suffering that decision will cause to my others and myself. I want the luxury of being able to say my goodbyes, and in a perverse way, I want to feel spoiled during my last moments. I want everyone to focus on me for once, and the role I played in their lives. I don’t care if there’s a wake or a party – I’ll be dead anyway.

 

Thanks for the laughs, Emma. Good luck, Stephen.

 

Family and friends: FYI, I don’t like grapes, but weirdly I am quite partial to wine.

To Be Loved In Death As In Life Is All Any Of Us Can Really Hope For

I lost an uncle over Christmas. And as I write this post, an aunt lies in a hospital bed somewhere in the UK in a medically life-changing situation. Both events have been a sharp reminder that the wheels of time stop for no-one.

girl-2934257_1920

In words that echo the theme tune of Love Actually – sort of – it is a sad fact that death is all around us, and no matter how much we cut down on wine or how much time we spend in the gym, it gets all of us in the end.

 

Death doesn’t terrify me as much as it used to. Anyone who has been exposed to the death of a close loved one at a young age will know that it has a habit of fucking you over, yet it can also harden you to its inevitability. When you’ve experienced such a huge disappointment at the start of your life, nothing else comes close.

 

But that experience can mean that I don’t react appropriately to the news of a passing. I don’t grieve for long. With a heart half-closed and a head that has forced itself into defense-mode, instead, I focus on the practical; on how best to utilize the time I have left. There is a satisfaction in spitting at that sucker in the face, the closer you get to doomsday. After all, none of us has the power to change the rules.

 

I’ve shared lengthy discussions with people over the years about the best way to go. I’ve seen people go slowly, through debilitating illnesses that have nevertheless given them time to say goodbye, and I’ve experienced first-hand someone go just like that, with no warning. Whoosh! – in a puff of smoke. 

 

Optimists and religious people tell us that we grieve for our own loss, rather than for the person that has died. And I believe that to be true when death is provoked by natural causes, although not if someone is taken in the appalling circumstances of murder, for instance. I try to remain optimistic about the day I will finally meet my maker. I comfort myself with the knowledge that although my body will pass, no one can take my legacy away from me.

 

My name will remain on my family tree as a fully paid-up member, and although I might not see them often, the branches of my extended family remain close to my heart – as they have been this week. The hope is that my successors will keep my memory alive – through silly and embarrassing anecdotes and stories, I imagine, rather than a pompous list of achievements that I deemed important at one time.

 

‘Remember that time that Lou (or Auntie Lou or Grandma or Mum) ‘… they’ll say…and for a moment I’ll be remembered – in all likelihood for that time I made a complete ass of myself when I fell off my bike into a rice paddy in Bali.

 

My uncle will be remembered for being a good man, who took us cousins swimming together on the weekends with the boundless energy and enthusiasm of a man half his age. He was also one of the archetypal dad-jokers before the phenomenon was formally recognized, and he will continue to be as loved in death as he was in life.

 

Which is all any of us can hope for.

 

 

When Are You Too Old To Ski?

It might surprise you to know that we are skiing this week – an interesting choice of holiday for two middle-aged people with anxiety with the physical flexibility of two brick walls. I doubled my medication as a precaution.

 

To be honest, I don’t know what the fuck we think we’re doing, either – skiing at fifty-plus. I like to pretend it’s something to do with taking myself out of my comfort zone but the truth is, I agree to this holiday each year to accumulate brownie points with the old man. I am beginning to question, however, if a bit more leverage at the local shopping centre is truly worth risking life and limb for.

 

The only consolation is that the old man – a natural sportsman when it comes to ball sports – is a truly shite skier, and what makes that funnier is that he refuses to admit to it. Indeed, in spite of the billions spent on lessons, we’re both as useless as the day we began this ridiculous sport, decades ago, and the only saving grace is that I am slightly faster than him and can also ride a chairlift without falling off – a new skiing low for the old man yesterday.

 

We had to lie to Peter, our instructor this holiday, about how many lessons we’ve had before.

 

‘A few,’ we said in unison, right after Peter had yanked the old man’s body back from the precipice below and into the chairlift, like some three-year old child.

 

Peter is about sixty-five and not exactly the ski instructor I imagined when I booked this round of lessons, hopeful for some rewarding distraction for my week of sacrifice. He also gets quite tetchy when we don’t nail his drills in one go, snow plow instead of doing a parallel turn, giggle or answer him back. And frankly, we’re both getting a bit old in the tooth to be bullied for something we’ve paid for. That’s why I gave up yoga.

 

The only good thing about skiing is that because everything takes so long to do, the time passes quickly, and like childbirth, once you look into the eyes of that first Mulled Wine in the local lodge, the skier’s amnesia sets in to help you forget the horror until the next morning. Getting dressed each day takes up half your holiday and the layers of clothing to protect you from the frostbite make movement difficult. Then, when the sun comes out, you cook from the inside out, rather like being microwaved. And it takes at least thirty minutes to squeeze sore, reshaped feet into ill-fitting boots and then you have to trundle the whole caboodle up a mountain by a slow, primitive transport system that has a habit of losing people and equipment en route.

 

The impact on the sort of middle-aged body that counts walking as exercise is immense, as you can imagine. And no matter how much you prepare yourself for the muscle and joint pain, twinges appear in the most unlikely of places – something to do with getting down a mountain in the squatting position required for those hole-in-the-ground toilets at Dubai airport, I imagine.

 

The fact that I can now get down a slope without triggering an avalanche must mean that my technique has improved, but I have yet to enjoy the journey back to the restaurant – or as we call it, “base camp”. My aim is a simple one – to get down the mountain as quickly as possible, before I kill someone or someone kills me in this expensive game of survival, where small children and snowboarders are the obstacles to living for another day.

 

We’ve given NC the information for how to access what’s left of our wealth after this holiday because not even the promise of a mulled wine or hot chocolates frothing with cholesterol on the slopes is enough to disguise the reality that we will probably die here.

 

 

And The Race Is On For That Medical Marijuana Script

headache-1540220_1920Health concerns continue to dominate the conversation with friends, now evolving at a faster pace than our hatred for world leaders and terrorists. Where ten years ago all we had to grumble about were minor twinges, joint soreness and forgetting the odd name, nowadays we talk about cancer, blood pressure and how often we forget our own children’s names. We have heated debates about the health system, out of pocket expenses, the cost of anesthesia and the benefits of this hospital over that one.

 

Such is our enthusiasm for the topic of our decaying health, competitions have been set up for who takes the most medication or has the highest Statin dosage, and there is a prize of a holiday to Disneyland for the family that reaches the Medicare threshold first.

 

I was bemoaning my most recent terminal symptoms to a girlfriend the other day and she told me that if you make it to fifty, there’s a good chance you’re here for the long haul.

 

I think she was being optimistic, but in the spirit of positivity, I switched the topic of conversation at lunch a few weeks ago to Marijuana, even if this subject has been somewhat exhausted over the past few years in relation to our offspring.

 

This time, it was the medical kind that was up for debate, and by dessert, we had drawn up a legal pact that whoever among us is fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to attain that first medical marijuana script, has to share. I should point out this agreement was made with a similar logic and scale of planning that saw our parents set up timeshare properties with their friends back in the eighties, and like then, payment will be red wine. But the old man and I were thrilled as the decision took us one step further in the goals of our own personal retirement plan, one of which is to be the next Bernie and Rozalin Focker.

 

If we can’t get the script, Plan b is to see if our kids have any contacts, at which point the old man and I went suspiciously quiet.

 

Another friend of ours was quite surprised to find that I carry Aspirin around in my handbag at all times – unless I switch handbags, in which case I have accepted I will die  – which is something I have done for a good ten years now. ‘Positive thinking?’ he quipped.

 

‘It’s hard to be positive when your mother dropped dead at thirty-four of a heart attack,’ I responded bitchily because it was that time of the month.

 

Did you know that Aspirin is a highly efficient anti-clotting agent that can save you in the early stages of a heart attack or stroke and it is widely used in a preventative capacity after such events? I know this because another friend ours prioritized going to a 7-Eleven for a packet of the stuff on his way to the ER – just prior to his second minor heart attack – and he lived to tell the tale.

 

Even if they only act as a placebo, those little tablets of willow bark extraction in my handbag give me some level of comfort each day and I try to ignore anxiety’s questions of how I would get it down my neck in abject pain and possibly on my own. I would also need water because although Aspirin is the largest selling pain reliever in the world, it still tastes fucking foul.

 

Ignoring my mean response, my friend – who I swear is related to Don Tilman from the The Rosie Project – who is one of those people that stores useless information to bring out at random moments, like when you’re trying to say your good byes in a busy car park, went on to give me the history of Aspirin and to recount its other superpowers.

 

Did you know?

 

Aspirin can slow down cancer growth.

 

Aspirin is good for the brain and reduces the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

 

Aspirin can revive a car battery long enough to get you to a garage.

 

It prolongs the life of flowers.

 

It restores hair color from chlorine.

 

It relieves bug bites and acne.

 

You do need to real the small print, however. Like Viagra and other wonder drugs, too much can be dangerous, and although your willy won’t explode and shatter into a million pieces, deafness can be linked to over-use.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Broken People

Wow! ‘Manchester By The Sea’.

 

sad-505857_1920It’s unlike me to enthuse about movies on this site. Truth be told, it’s getting much harder to walk away from a movie and feel truly motivated these days, (Hidden Figures is an exception), so exhausted am I by the blatant ageism, objectification and sexism that Hollywood continues to get away with.

 

But then a little film like this comes along.

 

Admittedly, it had my name all over it. Grief, depression and dysfunctional relationships are the sort of dark ingredients that get my blood pumping, although hardly the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster, even when they are blended so beautifully together that it’s impossible to take your eyes off the screen. Even the visual is bleak, as the storyline is set up in a backdrop of snow, sleet and the sort of bitter cold weather that makes the characters appear even more vulnerable and our heart ache even more viscerally for them, before anything awful has actually happened.

 

You might not go and see this movie because of the controversy surrounding the lead actor, Casey Affleck – sexual harassment allegations from some years back which have tarnished the production because they were settled out of court, leaving inevitable question marks. NC refused to come with me, and I had to overcome the sour taste in my mouth because the theme of the movie is so important to awareness about depression and, well frankly, personal.

 

I won’t spoil it for you by giving away the storyline. Suffice it to say that this is a ‘real’ film about broken lives, shattered relationships and fragmented families, hence no solution and no happy ending where you walk away with a smile on your face and a good feeling in your heart. I commend the filmmakers for that, because when it comes to depression, it’s a falsity to think that anyone fully recovers or that they wake up one morning and are miraculously fixed.

 

Below are some thoughts I wrote about on a bad day:

 

Do you ever think about doing something easier? Until you realize all over again that nothing is easy.

 

Do you ever think that everything is too hard? That no matter how many times you re-invent yourself, you’ll never be truly happy?

 

Do you often feel so tired that even your most reliable friends, coffee and wine, can’t get you through the day, can’t lift your mood any more, and your only solace is buried beneath the bedclothes with your anger and self-pity for company?

 

Does that voice of self-pity become so loud sometimes that the only way to keep it in check is through thoughts of escape?

 

Does that grinding ache of impending panic in your belly take over every waking thought some days, and do you hate yourself for being such a loser, for being so pathetic, so spoilt, when you have more than most people would ever want?

 

Do your relationships and interactions with close ones feel two-dimensional? Do you feel like they ask too much of you one day and not enough the next? Do you feel that you can’t give back what they need from you and that what you have to give, isn’t enough?

 

Is the visual of happiness in your head completely different to what you thought it would be? Is it closer to a small room, these days, by yourself, where you can do what you want, eat what you want, the only place where you feel in control of your destiny?

 

Friends, don’t worry because I’m fine, and reading this back today I realised that it is the voice of the typical creative who has a platform where she can explore, through words, all dimensions of self-pity.

 

Sometimes, I think I suffer from ‘perfectly hidden depression,’ a word made up by Dr Margaret Rutherford, which she explains in her piece When People With Depression Function Too Well. Most of us suffer from this some of the time, I suspect, mainly because it turns out that life is not the fairy tale stories we were brought up on.

 

I function well, but as Dr Rutherford so cleverly describes, sometimes I feel as though I don’t have the vitality for life that I should have, and the closest I get to it is via pills and self-medication, aka wine.

 

It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many of us are ‘broken’. Some by trauma; some by inherited mental illness.

 

And some will handle it better than others.

 

What I love about ‘Manchester By The Sea’ is the rawness of Lee, the main character, and the honesty of his depiction of ‘the black dog’, which is a real dedication to nothingness, because the trigger to his illness has left him barely functioning. He continues to work in a non-challenging environment, but the only way he can function outside of this distraction is to isolate himself, self-medicate and not have to explain why. Trauma has changed his life irreparably, in spite of society and his family’s expectation that everything will be okay in the end.

 

Casey Affleck deserves an Oscar for playing a ‘dead’ character who will never go back to the person he was before, no matter how much others want or try to coerce him to. Sometimes the pain doesn’t go away and I don’t think that Lee really wants it to. He sees it as his punishment.

 

Most of us find a way to move forward after trauma; to appear normal on the outside, at least. It is assumed (or hoped) that we will get through whatever triggered the depression because no-one wants to talk to the sad person at the dinner table when they’re hellbent on having fun.

 

Sadly, many don’t get through.

 

 

The Value Of Celebrity In Our Lives

I can’t remember when I finally grew up and began to like mushrooms. Oh, that’s right… I didn’t grow up, I just began to like mushrooms and a few more of those foodstuffs that I never trusted when I was little because they were fugly.mushrooms-756406_1280

 

One of the biggest pieces of wisdom you acquire when you get older is the knowledge about not judging books by their covers.

 

People, like mushrooms and olives and maybe even tripe, often camouflage their true flavors, so now, whenever I meet new people, (and in my job I meet a lot of wealthy people, who seemingly ‘have it all’), I am very conscious of the falsity of that assumption.

 

There is an analogy between the fugliness of mushrooms and what the recent spate of celebrity deaths has signified to each of us. One thing to come out of it is the sad fact that we often we only get to hear about the real side of people after they die. For a celebrity cynicist like myself, it’s reassuring to know that their value to society was not wholly tied up in their need for attention.

 

I think that the sudden flurry of these public deaths has made all of us more sensitive to the impact of loss and our place on earth. While generally I do have a healthy disdain for the whole ‘celebrity’ factory – (unless I feel the individuals have earned their public acknowledgement, which doesn’t include reality tv stars, stars of sex videos, those who have made it by their looks alone or by selling their souls) – I think these did. Especially now, in the aftermath, since the sensationalist, media-fuelled post-mortems have died down and their behind-the-scenes stories have come to light.

 

I have to agree with Carrie Fisher, when she said that, ‘Youth and beauty are not accomplishments.’

 

So in this instance, I’m glad I didn’t judge these particular celebrities by their “cover” because as much as I can be cynical about the fame game, I also have a healthy admiration for those with the ability and drive to harness their talents. I understand that to reach a status of public acclaim takes more than a good voice or sound writing skills, that you have to be tough, work hard and need passion, commitment and self-belief – a perfect cocktail of qualities that most of us don’t possess.

 

But do those public talents determine their value? Is the musician’s musicianship more important than the fact that he visited homeless shelters in his free time? I imagine that different people will have a different response.

 

The problem with worshipping at the feet of celebrity – and the recent outpouring of grief is proof – is that it can undermine our own sense of worth and contribution. After all, is a singer’s contribution more important than what the Human Rights lawyer or the person who sets up homes for victims of domestic violence does?

 

It suggests that the majority of us – normal people – and what we give to society, isn’t as valuable.

 

It’s common knowledge, and I realized when I washed my bra by hand this morning (Yes, I washed my bra!), that because everything is so much easier and instant for us in the modern world, we expect our thrills to come quicker and the more shocking they are, the better – it’s that “instant gratification” problem that we bunch together with millennials – something I’ve witnessed as an emerging writer trying to get published (at the age of 51) – because unless you are happy to sell out your family or provide details about your sex life, it can be hard to be heard.

 

As sad as 2016 is now being depicted, I can’t help feeling that this ridiculous fascination with these celebrity deaths devalues our own relevance and importance. Is the fact that Debbie Reynolds died of a broken heart more important than the number of women killed at the hands of domestic abuse this year, for example?

 

I have always believed that we are put on this earth for a reason and like most people, I imagine, through several periods of self-absorption I have questioned my own existence. As a young woman, I had no obvious talents, no real sense of purpose, (other than my own survival), and I realize now that I pinned my personal value on being a parent, so when the wheels fell off that as well, I felt worthless.

 

Sadly, the reasons for our existence may not be evident until we pass, which is something that needs to change. Think of the writers who only achieved recognition posthumously, the heroes who died in action, the doctors, the nurses and police that save people on a daily basis or the millions that die in war. The point is that we all make an impact. No matter how minimal our contribution to society may seem or how short our existence is, we make a difference to the lives of others just by being there, and we don’t to be on tv to prove it.

 

Most will argue that Bowie, Prince and Michael will be remembered for their music legacy, while others will remember them for helping clear pathways for the LGBT community; Carrie Fisher will be remembered for Star Wars by many, but it is her honesty (rather than her hair buns) about her personal struggles with mental illness that will have inspired others; for George Michael, it may not be Wham and those shorts, but his private acts of generosity.

 

We all have something to give and we will all leave a legacy, that may not be as obvious as those left by the likes of Alan Rickman or Victoria Woods, but which are just as great a contribution, nevertheless. In my opinion, the majority of talent is not manifested in public, on the stage or in writing; true talent comes from the heart, and is a much more powerful currency, with a much brighter star.