why can't we love the right people? what is so wrong with us that we rush into situations to which we are manifestly unsuited, which will hurt us and others? why are we given emotions which we cannot control and which move in exact contradiction to what we really want? we are walking conflicts, internal battles on legs.
You know what it's like. Sometimes, you meet a wonderful person, but it's only for a brief instant. Maybe on vacation or on a train or maybe even in a bus line. And they touch your life for a moment, but in a special way. And instead of mourning because they can't be with you for longer, or because you don't get the chance to know them better, isn't it better to be glad that you met them at all?
The back windows looked out over the fields, then the Atlantic, maybe a hundred yards away. Actually, I'm just making that bit up. I had no idea how far away the sea was. Only men could do things like that. "Half a mile." "Fifty yards." Giving directions, that sort of thing. I could look at a woman and say "Thirty-six C." Or "Let's try it in the next size up." But I had no idea how far away Tim's sea was except that I wouldn't want to walk to it in high heels.
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It was ironic, really - you want to die because you can't be bothered to go on living - but then you're expected to get all energetic and move furniture and stand on chairs and hoist ropes and do complicated knots and attach things to other things and kick stools from under you and mess around with hot baths and razor blades and extension cords and electrical appliances and weedkiller. Suicide was a complicated, demanding business, often involving visits to hardware shops. And if you've managed to drag yourself from the bed and go down the road to the garden center or the drug store, by then the worst is over. At that point you might as well just go to work.
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Temporary Insanity had come a-knocking and I had shouted "Come on in the door is open." Luckily, Reality had come unexpectedly and found Temporary Insanity roaming the corridors of my mind unchecked, going into rooms, opening cupboards, reading my letters, looking in my underwear drawer, that kind of thing. Reality had run and got Sanity. And after a tussle, they both had managed to throw out Temporary Insanity and slam the door in his face. Temporary Insanity now lay on the gravel in the driveway of my mind, panting and furious, shouting, "She invited me in, you know. She asked me in. She wanted me there.
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I forced myself to stop thinking about it. I went to the room in my brain where all my thoughts about Adam lived and disconnected the electricity and boarded up all the doors and windows, so nothing could get out. Obviously it was very unsightly. There were bound to be complaints from the neighboring thoughts. But I had no choice.
When I opened my case in the hotel, he gestured excitedly at my snakeskin sandals, turquoise suede wedges and silver-speckled jellies. 'But you've loads of shoes, ' he bellowed joyfully. I shook my head sadly. Men just don't get it, do they? They're definitely missing the shoe chromosome.
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I couldn't be with people and I didn't want to be alone. Suddenly my perspective whooshed and I was far out in space, watching the world. I could see millions and millions of people, all slotted into their lives; then I could see me-I'd lost my place in the universe. It had closed up and there was nowhere for me to be. I was more lost than I had known it was possible for any human being to be.
My life was a wreck. I had nothing, no material possessions, unless debts counts. Fourteen pairs of shoes that were too small for me was all I had to show after a lifetime of profligate spending. I hadn't a job. I hadn't any qualifications. I'd achieved nothing with my life. I'd never been happy. I had no husband or boyfriend.
In the same way that the stewards on the Titanic were more concerned about the unemptied ashtrays on the bar than the enormous hole in the side of the ship which was letting in zillions of gallons of water, I too was worrying about the unimportant and ignoring the vital. Sometimes it's easier that way. Because although there was little I could do about the huge hole, it was within my power to empty an asthray.
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I need you to get inside Wayne's head. I need someone who thinks a bit left field and in your own unpleasant way, Helen Walsh, you're a genius. He had a point. I'm lazy and illogical. I've limited people skills. I'm easily bored and easily irritated. But I have moments of brilliance. They come and they go and I can't depend on them but they do happen.
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People don't tend to employ me. I'm the wrong personality type. Or rather, people do tend to employ me for a short time and then they sack me. A film broker once told me, as she terminated my contract, that I have a misleading sort of face. "You're pretty", she complained. "Your features are symmetrical and there was an article in Grazia that says human beings are programmed to find those with symmetrical features more pleasing to they eye. So this isn't my fault, I was simply responding to a biological imperative. You've even teeth, so when you smile, you look... sweet, I suppose. But you're not, are you?" "I hope not, " I said. "You see, there you go again. You're a smart-arse and you've no ability to filter your thoughts-" "And my thoughts are often abrasive." "Exactly." "I'll just get my brushes and sponges and leave." "If you would.
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Two and a half years ago I'd learned to stop wanting comfort from the people around me, because they couldn't give it. We were all too scared. I was terrified and so were they. No one could understand what was happening to me, and when they couldn't make me better they felt helpless and guilty and eventually resentful. Yes, they loved me, my head knew that even if my heart couldn't feel it, but there was a small part of them that was angry. As if it was my choice to become depressed and that I was deliberately resisting the medication that was meant to fix me.
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The last time I'd been unwell, suicidally depressed, whatever you want to call it, the reactions of my friends and family had fallen into several different camps: The Let's Laugh It Off merchants: Claire was the leading light. They hoped that joking about my state of mind would reduce it to a manageable size. Most likely to say, 'Feeling any mad urges to fling yourself into the sea?' The Depression Deniers: they were the ones who took the position that since there was no such thing as depression, nothing could be wrong with me. Once upon a time I'd have belonged in that category myself. A subset of the Deniers was The Tough Love people. Most likely to say, 'What have you got to be depressed about?' The It's All About Me bunch: they were the ones who wailed that I couldn't kill myself because they'd miss me so much. More often than not, I'd end up comforting them. My sister Anna and her boyfriend, Angelo, flew three thousand miles from New York just so I could dry their tears. Most likely to say, 'Have you any idea how many people love you?' The Runaways: lots and lots of people just stopped ringing me. Most of them I didn't care about, but one or two were important to me. Their absence was down to fear; they were terrified that whatever I had, it was catching. Most likely to say, 'I feel so helpless ... God, is that the time?' Bronagh - though it hurt me too much at the time to really acknowledge it - was the number one offender. The Woo-Woo crew: i.e. those purveying alternative cures. And actually there were hundreds of them - urging me to do reiki, yoga, homeopathy, bible study, sufi dance, cold showers, meditation, EFT, hypnotherapy, hydrotherapy, silent retreats, sweat lodges, felting, fasting, angel channelling or eating only blue food. Everyone had a story about something that had cured their auntie/boss/boyfriend/next-door neighbour. But my sister Rachel was the worst - she had me plagued. Not a day passed that she didn't send me a link to some swizzer. Followed by a phone call ten minutes later to make sure I'd made an appointment. (And I was so desperate that I even gave plenty of them a go.) Most likely to say, 'This man's a miracle worker.' Followed by: 'That's why he's so expensive. Miracles don't come cheap.' There was often cross-pollination between the different groupings. Sometimes the Let's Laugh It Off merchants teamed up with the Tough Love people to tell me that recovering from depression is 'simply mind over matter'. You just decide you're better. (The way you would if you had emphysema.) Or an All About Me would ring a member of the Woo-Woo crew and sob and sob about how selfish I was being and the Woo-Woo crew person would agree because I had refused to cough up two grand for a sweat lodge in Wicklow. Or one of the Runaways would tiptoe back for a sneaky look at me, then commandeer a Denier into launching a two-pronged attack, telling me how well I seemed. And actually that was the worst thing anyone could have done to me, because you can only sound like a self-pitying malingerer if you protest, 'But I don't feel well. I feel wretched beyond description.' Not one person who loved me understood how I'd felt. They hadn't a clue and I didn't blame them, because, until it had happened to me, I hadn't a clue either.
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People get sick and sometimes they get better and sometimes they don't. And it doesn't matter if the sickness is cancer or if it's depression. Sometimes the drugs work and sometimes they don't. Sometimes the drugs work for a while and then they stop. Sometimes the alternative stuff works and sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes you wonder if no outside interference makes any difference at all; if an illness is like a storm, if it simply has to run its course and, at the end of it, depending on how robust you are, you will be alive. Or you will be dead.
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Failed relationships can be described as so much wasted makeup.Forget the laughs, forget the fights, forget the sex, forget the jealousy. But take off your hat and observe a moment's silence for the legions of unknown tubes of foundation, mascara, eyeliner, blusher and lipstick who died that it might all have been possible. But who died in vain.
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Besides, I'd seen a really nice pair of shoes yesterday in the mall and I wanted them for my own. I can't describe the feeling of immediate familiarity that rushed between us. The moment I clapped eyes on them I felt like I already owned them. I could only suppose that we were together in a former life. That they were my shoes when I was a serving maid in medieval Britain or when I was a princess in ancient Egypt. Or perhaps they were the princess and I was the shoes. Who's to know? Either way I knew that we were meant to be together.
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I wished there was some kind of switch on my brain. That I could turn it off in the same way that I could turn off the television. Just click it off and immediately empty my mind of all these images and worrying thoughts. And simply leave a blank screen. Or if I could just remove my head and put it on the bedside table and forget about it until morning. And then attach it again when I needed it.
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I'm trying..." How could I put it? "I'm trying to get far enough down the line so that I can remember." I stopped, then continued: "so that I can remember without the pain killing me" And the days were stacking up. And weeks. And months. It was now almost the middle of June and he'd died in February, but I still felt like I'd just woken from a horrible dream, that I was suspended in that stunned, paralyzed state between sleep and reality where I was grasping for, but couldn't get a handle on normality.
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God! I hated this business of being grown-up. I hated having to make decisions where I didn't know what was behind the door. I wanted a world where heroes and villains were clearly labeled. Where ominous music comes on-screen so you can't possibly mistake him. Where someone asks you to choose between playing with the beautiful princess in the fragrant garden and being eaten by the hideous monster in the foul-smelling pit. Not exactly a difficult one, now is it? Not something that you would agonize over, or that would make you lose a night's sleep?
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