Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Me, Myself and 'Bush Falls'!

The train carriage pulls up into a picturesque station and judging from recent breakdowns, I fear I am on the outskirts of ‘lalaland’. Inhaling deeply, I step down onto the empty platform. Tugging my suitcase I walk through the ticket office into an idyllic village where life meanders, a far cry from the hustle and bustle of London life. The sun beats down and already the fresh air is blowing away the recently felt April blues. I find a bench, sit, flick absently through the newspaper and wait for the lone village taxi to arrive and take me to a countryside retreat I recently booked myself into.

Relaxing in the sun, scribbling mindlessly in my notepad I have visions of a beautiful cottage surrounded by vast rolling hills, where bird song fills the silence and the stress of city life fades into a memory. People will come to this paradise to relax, detox and perhaps, even meditate. Communal dinners will break the day and the few residents will sit around eating vegetarian food, grown on the land. Recalling adventurous escapades, experienced travelling through exotic lands. The loneliness will ebb away as I find myself again. Oh sod this, I feel like I’m in a frigging Enid Blyton novel!!

Swiftly moving on… A well-dressed woman joins me on the bench. An air of sophistication surrounds her and, not to my surprise, classical music begins to emanate from her hand-bag. I glance over as she opens her Prada bag to retrieve her phone. ‘Cynthia, darling!’ she exclaims in a British aristocracy drool, followed by a brief silence, ‘Nope’ *Long contemplative pause* uh-hah, I know it is amarrzing, but I’m terribly sorrow darling, Monty is in a committee meeting all day and will surely miss Henry’s cricket match’.

My attention is diverted as another elegantly dressed women sits to the other side of me, ‘Yep, yep, I totally understand the predicament, but if Karolina can’t wait till Isabel’s home, then she can not take the Suzuki’, she bellows into her mobile, in an equally upper class tone. Sandwiched between the rich and wealthy I begin to chuckle to myself, do they not know how stereotypically posh they sound? And maybe I am in an Enid Blyton story after all?

Waiting for one of them to mention Fanny and Dick are coming over later for lashings of ginger-beer, both women, as if on cue, glance my way. I realise I am sitting slouched and spread legged, wearing cut-off combat trousers, an off-white vest top and ‘seen better day trainers’. In my ear-wigging I have inadvertently opened the newspaper (yes it’s the Sun) to page three and Melinda’s breasts stare up at us. I can almost hear ‘lesbians, must they be so stereotypical’, being muttered under their breathe as I quickly turn the page and straighten my posture. My embarrassment is thankfully interrupted with the arrival of the taxi.

Twenty minutes later, and a very verbal guided tour by the local driver, we arrive at the remote location where I will spend the next few days. The house and grounds are beautiful; however it quickly becomes apparent my visions of communal dinners, meeting interesting people, tales of exotic places and meditating in the grounds are not going to come to fruition. Why? Because I’m the only person there! Following an incredibly lonely dinner, at a large table set only for one, I head back to my basic, TV-less room to stare sadly at the wall. Wishing I was anywhere but here, and hoping even the taxi driver would come back, I reach for a novel recently recommended by a friend.

‘Bushfalls’ by Jonathan Tropper is a humorous story about a 34 year old man who writes a disparaging novel about his home town. Well that’s the plot, but I read a story about a lost, insecure, lonely man who was scared of being hurt, getting older and allowing himself to be loved. He ultimately has a minor emotional break-down, a consequence of finally facing himself. A friend acts as his therapist, offering blunt, unprofessional but honest advice as the character has a series of panic attacks and random vomiting incidents. I won’t irritatingly ruin the story, but he does begin to let go of the wilfully stored emotions and change the negative self perception of himself. Oh, and his car gets blown up and there’s an enjoyable amount of sex in between.

So why the book review, because I could relate to him and it was very reminiscent of recent experiences; unfortunately, minus the sex! I did take the next few days to relax, read, walk and spend some time with myself to figure out what has been happening in my life and head. Returning to London I felt relaxed, tanned and a couple of pounds lighter, which is always nice. Importantly though, I returned with a strong sense of, once again, being able to cope and this is imperative with the amount of changes that lie ahead. I have to be honest though, I did, at stages, get bored of myself and it would have been ‘amarrzing’ to share a ginger-beer with Fanny and Dick.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mayday, Mayday!

Standing by the drinks machine waiting for my third cup of coffee to percolate its way into my mug, everything suddenly appears a little unbearable and I feel so incredibly tired. In that one moment I have an overwhelming desire to let my legs give way, crumble slowly onto the carpet tiled floor, assume the foetal position and close my eyes. Sanity thankfully perks up and the rational part of my brain takes over and repeats to ‘crazy self’ the words ‘breathe, just breathe’. As if on auto-pilot I turn, leaving the coffee stewing and walk through the doors, down the stairwell, past the busy breakfast canteen and avoiding eye contact with fellow colleagues, I head to the exit.

With just a few more steps before I can leave this, now claustrophobic office behind, palpitations begin pounding against my chest. Gasping for breathe and unsure of whether to burp or faint I unconvincingly reassure ‘crazy self’, ‘just count to ten and you’ll be ok!’. As I stumble out the final secure turnstile doors into the sunlight and adjoining park; ‘Five, six, seven, eight… oh shit’ is my last thought as I bend over and throw up.

Sitting in the park, unattractively smelling of vomit, I can see I need some help. Life is ok, in fact it’s pretty good. There have been a lot of recent changes and developments but surely they are not the cause for this emotional break down? What’s really scaring the shit out of me? And why am I surrounded by an air of desperation? My phone rings and breaks my confused train of thought. ‘Where are you?’ Terribly Posh Tara discreetly whispers ‘you’re late for a meeting and they’re all waiting?’

This is just one of the overly dramatic, humourless April events that I had no intention of writing about. Every week I sit in-front of the laptop, tapping the table, staring at the blank screen, to then procrastinate with unnecessary flat cleaning or decide watching the omnibus of Eastenders is far more critical to my wellbeing. Questioning what is the point of writing if I can not understand or rationalise what the hell is going on in my somewhat screwed up head. The past month has been a series of uncharacteristic panic attacks, hysteria and bi-polar behaviour that would leave Britney appear emotionally centred.

Tara cancelled the meeting, found me blubbering on a park bench and tried to comfort me but to no avail. When I finally returned to my desk, red eyed and fake smiling, I emailed the boss and booked some holiday time. It’s now May and today I leave on a lunchtime train to the countryside where I intend to drink carrot juice, relax and put my life back into perspective. With April over I already feel better. The sun is shining and the recent developments in my life now seem bearable and almost exciting, but that’s another story!