Emergency surgery

Another day another trip to the hospital. I ended up back in the ER yesterday, after having woken to excruciating pain about 1:30 in the morning. And having emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. It looks like recovery will take a week or two but I’m back home at least. It came without warning and they said I was very lucky in catching it before it ruptured. It wasn’t a fun time. Many thanks are due to the medical and support staff at the hospital who did their very best to take care of me. Looks like I’m having a bit of a run of bad luck health wise. I rather hope this will be the last of it. So I have to take it easy for a couple of weeks. I’ll miss my early morning walks a lot. BUt no doubt I’ll be able to get back to them soon.

I wouldn’t wish the pain I felt on anyone. After 16mg of morphine there was at least a little bit of relief, and they’ve sent me home with decent painkillers. A couple of my work colleagues picked me up from the hospital (somehow I had managed to drive there on my own during a snowstorm in horrific pain) and got me home. And even got the trash out for me (no way I could do that). I’m not particularly good at taking it easy but I’ll figure it out. Better that than end up back in the hospital. Maybe I’ll even find some time to write and paint a bit more.

Coming in the new year

Not really linked to this page or even related, but it is my sideline business. Having tested and refined some recipes we intend to swing into production in 2021. We’ll be offering hand crafted, organic body bars, shampoos, conditioners, beard oils and balms, shaving soaps, bath bombs etc. More to come as we get things up and running.

Asseveration

Sometime while I was asleep on Sunday night into Monday morning something went wrong. I woke, tried to rise, and fell. My balance was gone. I had to grip the wall merely to stand upright. I couldn’t see out of my left eye. I felt weak on that side. I felt confused and struggled to find words even in my own head. It was later confirmed that I’d suffered a stroke. I am recovering. I managed a short slow walk this morning, listing to the side as there is still some weakness there, but I managed it.

I’m not elderly. I’m far from overweight. I exercise daily. I do have a couple of other, longer term, health issues (for which I stopped treatment some months ago), but this was a much more immediate danger. Over the last eight months I have put my body through some rather abusive times. One’s emotional and psychological state can have severe impacts on physical well-being, especially when combined with extraordinarily self-destructive behaviour. When that state is brought on by intense emotional trauma that doesn’t improve with time the results are obvious – at least in me.

Having had some time to reflect on this event (and the ones that preceded it – I’d had some moments in the last eight weeks or so that I am now told were precursors to this more serious incident), I’m almost bemused. I’m only writing about this here. I’m not telling friends or family (and only one of my friends is on this platform). I’m probably not going to make any of the recommended lifestyle changes. It isn’t that I have a deathwish – I don’t. I’m not actively suicidal. But I don’t have a lifewish either. I find myself profoundly indifferent to my own fate. Filled with empathy and compassion for others, but not really giving a damn about myself.

Some months ago, during the first month after the trauma that has had such an impact on my life, I completed my formal will. I left everything to the cause of that very trauma. It’ll no doubt be something of a surprise. I have no beliefs in gods or religion, so I do rather ask that if people feel the urge to comment they don’t bother with that. I accept that this is almost all my own doing as a result of the life I have lived since March. I’m not looking for sympathy or compassion. C’est la vie.

I will continue to write and paint (I’m a flawed if passable writer at times, and the worst painter ever but I really don’t care). Although that is somewhat more difficult for me right now. Music might be out of reach for a few more days at least. I have half worked pieces I hope to finish today. I’ll continue to provide whatever entertainment or food for thought I am able. And that includes today when I hope to post both a poem and a painting (lol, yes I know you can hardly wait!).

Thanks all. I’m grateful for all of you who regularly read my thoughts. NB 2020

Confession

I find I can no longer tell if anything I write is any good. I know I’m my own harshest critic, but still I wonder. Each word I write is an outpouring of emotion and a journey into the very essence of my being. But I hesitate. I reflect. Do I reach anyone? Does any of it really matter? I am one man adrift in a sea of suffering humanity. I am not special or unique. That is a delusion I can no longer bear.

In my too long life, I have been many things. But I have always been a writer and a poet. I have been a father (alas no more), a patient, an addict (and you never stop being one), and many other words that are far worse or far better – but mostly all of those words add up to being who I am now. Most are neither good nor bad, removed from moral judgement, and simply are. Poetry is both the blessing and the scourge of our collective souls. It’s a little loved art in this age, and one I think we are immeasurably weaker for disparaging.

I have obvious influences. In my poetry I bow before the genius of Leonard Cohen, of Charles Bukowski, of Sylvia Plath. In my song writing I owe much to Nick Cave, to the modern bluegrass and folk traditions, and to a lot of old school punk rock. In my playwriting I try, in my humble way, to follow Pinter, to follow Beckett, to follow Williams. I read Kafka and Dostoevsky, Satre and Camus. In no way do I approach anything even close to the brilliance of those who influence me. But I write anyway.

I feel in many ways that I am merely a spectator to my own existence. One marred by such sorrow and grief as to be incomprehensible to many. A man should never outlive his child. A man should not find the truest of loves and lose it forever. So, I fall back into old bad habits. Seeking escape, seeking solace, seeking any fucking thing that will drive out the demons I have created for myself.

The Erinyes – the Furies (and should I call them Eumenides or Semnai so as not to offend?) – such an ancient concept. Alecto, Tisiphone, Megaera. They who tormented Orestes and Electra. I have created them in my own image as some kind of self-flagellation. I’m always struck by Leonard Cohen’s line about ‘invincible defeat’ (from A Thousand Kisses Deep). And that is where I feel I am.

As an aside I have an idea for a story or novella based on a modern interpretation of Orestes.

Throughout my life I’ve had to deal with various mental health issues (it’s quite the list and feel free to contact me directly if you want further information) on top of substance abuse. All of which are symptoms, I think, of a life blighted by emotions too powerful to contain or quantify. But I did get better. Driven forward by a love so complete that it enveloped my very being. I was, perhaps for the first time, becoming who I could be. Becoming a man of whom she could be proud – of whom I could be proud.

The whole thing was extremely complex, yet I believed within my heart of hearts that this was real, that this was that one true thing in a lifetime. She convinced me that it was fate that brought us together. And I believed it. I love her still, with every fibre of my being. For various reasons my time grows much shorter. Be it health or those old bad habits. It’s all rather irrelevant now.

Albert Camus once posited that the first, and perhaps only, important decision that anyone faced was suicide. The choice to live or die is the most fundamental of all. Now, before anyone gets concerned (does anyone really read this anyway?), I am not actively suicidal. At least not at this very moment. But I don’t care for life, it holds no import or relevance to me anymore.

My writing tends to themes. Loss and sorrow, obviously. And the great trove of love poems I keep to myself. And there it lies. Despite the agony, I am still so besotted by her that I write anyway. Even as I self-destruct. I’m not seeking sympathy. Or even empathy. I would rather be wholly forgotten – as unessential in death as I was in life. I know that’s a reflection on my mind. I feel neither deserving of love nor worthy of it. She changed that, for that brief moment in time.

So, what I do is pour my soul out in every word. A friend of mine says she bleeds poetry, that words are the only thing keeping her together. I feel that keenly. Words are all I have left and one day there will be no more. I think that when the words stop, I stop. For those who truly read what I write you have my thanks. I know many will simply hit ‘like’ without reading, without thinking, without a trace of shared humanity.

Over the years I have isolated myself. Call it some sort of protection from harm. Both for me and for others. She broke through that. I was utterly defenceless before her. And so, I gave her my heart and my soul in a way I never have before. And she swore she loved me. I, foolishly, believed her.

These are the ramblings of a man without hope. My pen name – Naomh Briste – is Scots Gaelic. It means broken (shattered) saint. I’ve fallen to despair and it is overwhelming me. I have no desire for ‘help’, or ‘get better’, or ‘comfort’. I can self-medicate my way into the grave on my own. I wish I could say I was numb. But I’m not. I still help people where I can, although I no longer feel any sense of reward from it. I live in the halls of despairing loss.

I do not want your pity. I do not want your advice. I do not want your scorn. This is who I am. This is who I was. This is the last will and testament of the damned.

Note 0.2

Believe it or not, I used to write the poetry of love. I suppose in some ways I still do. I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy untangling who I am and what drives me. I’ve even had brain scans. The parts of my brain that are responsible for emotional responses are far more active than in ‘normal’ people. They also take much longer to return to a baseline state. My therapist aptly described my state as having the emotional equivalent of third degree burns all over my body – any touch can be intense far beyond what most people will ever experience.

Overall people with this condition have a suicide attempt rate of 80%. Ten percent succeed in ending their own lives. It’s a shocking statistic that reflects the deep anguish felt by so many. Ninety percent of us commit other acts of self-harm. Anything to stop the pain. I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel like this – except those few short months. David Foster Wallace wrote that the suicide is not so much out of hopelessness, but an overcoming of the fear of death. Because that death can be preferable to interminable and excruciating agony.

So, I spent a lot of time in therapy. There are parts of this condition I would happily be rid of. The terrifying fear of abandonment (now driven by the reality of it), the suffering that can be caused by an ill-chosen word or glance, the horror of feeling nothing at all. But there are other parts of it that bring happiness. When I love, I love wholeheartedly, with nothing held back. I weep in delight at beauty. Some of you might recognise this condition, some of you might even have it. Over the years I’ve dealt with it by way of self-harm, by way of substance abuse, by way of writing.

Mere months ago, I was writing words of love and beauty. I was, and still am, deeply in love. But that is now leavened with despair as my fear of total abandonment came to pass in a coldly callous fashion. With it comes this immense suffering. And falling back on those old stalwarts of substance abuse and harm – although I kept a promise to her by not cutting again. I’ve written a lot. Soon it will be published in book form, with an open dedication to her. None of which, I am sure, she will ever read.

I don’t know how to get out of this despair. I’ve written that each day is worse than the one before, that time does not heal all wounds, but rather makes them fester and weep. I wish I was writing love poetry again; I wish it had never stopped. But the reality is that the universe is a cold and uncaring place. Full of cold and uncaring people. Frequent readers and followers can still see, I think, the underlying love. Ian Curtis once opined that ‘love will tear us apart’. He was right. It’s the most powerful force I have ever known, and the most destructive.

I’m going to keep writing. Some of it is raw. I hope it all touches someone in some way. In this culture of bullshit machismo, it’s frowned upon still for men to discuss emotions; I will continue writing anyway. Perhaps it can only be the expression of a broken being. Be that as it may, it’s a faithful representation of me, of my inner thoughts. Each word can be agony. But each demands expression. Thank you for reading, thank you for listening. I may be ruined and ravaged, but I still have a voice.