What year is it?

What’s the point of even sleeping?

This song has been going round my head all day. I haven’t slept well for a few weeks and it’s beginning to take on a life of its own in my head. Still, it’s Annie, and she’s incredible, so that’s cool.

This video reminds me of Nineteen Eighty Four. Anyone else?

Haven’t knitted for a while. Too much work to do. Too stressed. But I’m going to try to fit it in again. If you can’t find time, make it, right?

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Book

Advance warning: not only is this blog post not going to mention knitting, it is also going to contain some very confused, ill-expressed semi-opinions about self-identity, art, feelings, and stuff. It’s also going to include some fuzzed-over personal stuff that no-one is interested in, for the selfish reason that writing it down might help me make some sense of it at last.

nighthawksLast week, I started re-reading Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, because a twitter friend mentioned he was reading it and suggested (or joked about, anyway it doesn’t matter) a ‘twitter book club’, which sounds like tremendous fun, because let’s face it, we live in a social media age in which none of us ever has an experience for any reason other than wanting to ‘share’ it with other people.

My copy of Revolutionary Road has been collecting dust on a shelf since 2011, when I abandoned it after a hundred pages or so, consumed by an existential despair that I was no longer able to keep at arm’s length. 2011 was, for me, a year of not seeing things through. I couldn’t watch a movie – I’d get frustrated with the meaninglessness of it all within ten minutes and switch it off. I found it difficult to relate to other people and felt completely alien and isolated, while at the same time trying desperately hard to appear nonchalant and at ease in social situations. I drank too much (one of my more cheerful memories is of sitting alone on a riverbank at dusk, swigging lukewarm Carlsberg from the can and singing My Terrible Friend by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart to bats as they hunted mosquitoes over the water). I met someone I thought was wonderful and had an unacknowledged semi-relationship that we both pretended meant less than it did until it really did mean nothing to him and it fizzled out as quietly as it had begun (in retrospect maybe I should have told him that I thought he was wonderful, but then (and now, to be honest) I was characterised first and foremost by a crippling fear of rejection). I lived in a squalid houseshare with people I detested and tried my best to avoid. I convinced myself that I was a better person than they were because I cleaned up after myself and didn’t snort coke or eat artisan pizza or hang my own terrible paintings around the house like some kind of provincial hipster-wannabe. This was the context in which I first picked up Revolutionary Road.

In that context, there were passages in Yates’ prose that made me experience physical pain as I read them. Frank’s aloofness and superiority, affected so as to conceal a subconscious awareness of his own ordinariness, was far too close to home. His inability to relate to his wife and children; the desperation with which he wants to be liked and admired by his colleagues and neighbours, whom he despises; his hyperawareness of his actions and the reactions he desires from them – in my destroyed mental state at the time, these character flaws went from being tragic devices to confirmation of the worthlessness of existence. Are we not all like Frank deep down? Mired in circumstances, paying lip-service to pipe dreams, sneering at the drudgery to which we are ultimately married?

At one point, I was reading the novel on a train back to my parents’ place for Christmas, and I paused to compose disparaging tweets about a tracksuited tween who sat opposite me. Then, at some point in the journey he made some remark or offhand generous action that showed him to be a more compassionate person than I had allowed for, having summed him up solely on his appearance. I’ve never hated myself more. I shelved Revolutionary Road and a couple of weeks later got a prescription for Citalopram and a CBT journal (which I never kept, but should have).

Revolutionary Road was not, of course, responsible for that bottoming-out. However, since then I’ve always associated it with that feeling of hopelessness and self-loathing, and I’ve hesitated to give it another go, until now.

I’ve been amazed at how differently I feel about it now. Obviously, our own present circumstances affect how we interpret – and enjoy – art, but the gulf between how I was feeling then and how I feel now has been made clear to me in picking this book up again. I can feel some sympathy with Frank and April’s ennui and exasperation at a world that offers them less than they desire, without seeing myself tragically reflected in it. I don’t know, maybe it’s just that in the process of ageing, I’ve had to accept that there are limitations on my aspirations, and that the combination of idealism and disappointment will ultimately end up as cynicism, so it’s best to avoid hoping for too much.

Anyway … I’m only a third of the way through yet, so I will refrain from analysing further at this point. Certain qualities in the novel remind me of Hitchcock’s classic Rope; a psychological thriller in which a pair of Nietzschean sophists convince themselves that the murder of one of their peers is justified. In both works, the protagonists (antagonists?) convince themselves that they are different – superior – to others, and that allows them to behave in a manner that is forbidden to ‘lesser’ human beings. I suppose that all of us are guilty of such feelings sometimes, to a greater or lesser extent. I was also reminded of Lolita, which I suppose is more relevant as it’s more contemporary with Revolutionary Road – although here it’s the way in which relationships with others are used and abused to soothe and conceal those existential terrors that we all experience.

Right, I think I’ve got in over my head now and I’ve got things to do so I’m gonna hit ‘publish’ and get on, but not before segueing awkwardly thus:

Speaking of Nietzschean sophists, Fanfarlo’s third album finally dropped a couple of weeks ago and I think it’s great so here’s a song from it:

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Treehugger.com article

Just a brief post to share this excellent article from treehugger.com about the health benefits of knitting!

Particularly pertinent to me are points 1 and 6.

1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.”

“6. Knitting offers a break from busy schedules and a refreshing detox from a technology-saturated world. It gives many of us a rare chance to be alone with our thoughts.”

The rest of the article is here.

Meanwhile, I have been working on a woolly hat depicting the artwork from Hefner’s 2000 single “Christian Girls”. I’ve completed a quarter of it but unfortunately I think it’s going to be too weirdly proportioned to wear on my head, but it’s a fun experiment and it’s been a while since I’ve intarsia’d, so it’s good fun.

Pictures of that at some point if it ever gets finished.

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Sunset, Saturday

A wet Saturday afternoon, two days until payday. I would have liked to conquer the world yesterday, but neither I nor the world was up for it in the end. I did, however, conquer a couple of local charity shops, scoring myself three new tops, a necklace, three pairs of knitting needles, a set of 4 dinner plates, and a washing-up rack for about £15.

I only went out for the needles, really. A pattern for fingerless gloves called for 4mm sticks and I only had 3.25mm. But the others were such bargains and buying things like dinner plates makes me feel grown-up, which is essential if you plan to spend the rest of the afternoon knitting, watching box-sets of Parks and Recreation and Green Wing, and learning Pete and the Pirates songs on the ukulele. (Verse: C, Em, G; Chorus: F, C, Am, E)

(Verse: C, Em, G; Chorus: F, C, Am, E)

So this is what my Saturday afternoon looked like:

photo (2)The pattern for the gloves was poorly written and a little difficult to follow, but I muddled my way through somehow and made one passable glove:

photo (3)

 

So, I’ll attempt to snatch the odd hour here and there during the week to get its pair finished.

Despite having taken up knitting nearly two years ago, I’m still very much a novice when it comes to technique, but these gloves and last week’s hat have been great for practising increasing and reducing. As you can see from the above picture, I still have a way to go at joining seams! What’s more, the stitches are still pretty uneven and twisted, and the tension was all over the place in the initial ribbing. Still, practice makes perfect, right? Or at least, practice makes a little bit less shit.

Apropos of less-than-not-very-much-at-all, here is another video, because it’s by Haiku Salut who are fab, and the video was released just this week and it’s lovely.

 

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Hat day

The Japanese word for the 20th day of the month is ‘hatsuka’. It’s tricky to remember because it’s an irregular pronunciation of characters that would logically be read ‘nijuunichi’.

I help kids remember it by miming taking off a top hat.

I will be too busy to knit tomorrow (actually I intend to work my limbs off today so that I can take tomorrow night off to see one of my favourite bands, Teleman). So I spent yesterday making a hat for ‘hatsuka’.

I have lots of bright yarn in rainbow colours left from my blanket project, so I’m trying to use some of that up. Could have done with a chunky DK really, but as it’s my first time making a woolly hat, I’m pretty proud of the results. Here is the pattern.

photophoto (1)

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Blah blah blah 2013

Many people find this time of year hard to deal with. I know I do.

I’m trying, I really am. And the days are getting longer again and soon winter will be over and it’s just freewheelin’ till the summer. So, keep that smile painted on and don’t talk about the stuff that’s in your head, just pretend it’s not really there. Bury it and forget about it, leave it to rot.

Just kidding. That’s bad advice. Hard not to, though.

Anyway, please excuse this momental blip. I’m fine really.

This is what I’ve been working on all year. It’s COLOURFUL.

photo (1)

photo

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The light shining through the cracks makes the shadows seem darker

I’m doing ok.

I know this, because I think about how I was doing this time last year, and right now, I’m doing much better. This time last year was pretty rough. But something happened and it bottomed out, and then something else happened and it started improving somewhat. Right now, I can look at where I am, realise that in the past three weeks I’ve only once or twice been seized with panic at what tomorrow may bring, and appreciate how much of an improvement that is. A year ago it was several times every day. Eighteen months ago it was difficult to tell where one panic attack ended and the next began. I wish I knew what it is inside my brain that wasn’t working and why it’s now working somewhat better because it’ll probably go wrong again sometime and it would be nice to be prepared.

As I’m not particularly articulate at the best of times here are a bunch of cartoons that express some stuff I can relate to a lot more eloquently.

And to sign off, a track I can’t believe I haven’t linked to yet … depression is shit but it’s better with glockenspiels and ukuleles than without.

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