Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Year of Spiky Introspection

Having come off Fluoxetine which was keeping me functional, if subdued, in mid-2010, after five years, 2011 has been a vivid year of intense highs and lows.
I am bitterly disillusioned with my job, which fails to engage me on any level. I actively dislike an improbably large number of the people with whom it brings me into contact. I’m in the wrong profession for my sensibilities and it is far too late to do anything about it.
My political awakening has accelerated. I joined the committee of the Edinburgh branch of my party, and worked on the campaigns for the Scottish Parliament election in May and the City Centre council by-election in August. Much of politics seems to involve running just to stand still, but I am fascinated to continue discovering what I believe in and what I think is worth fighting for. I remain inspired by the Green activists I work alongside.
Helen and I moved house in August, to a detached bungalow a mile further from the city centre than before. It better suits our needs, but I miss the community we left, and sense it won’t feel like home for a while. I took the opportunity to divest myself of a significant number of possessions, and am continuing to thin out my belongings. I feel lighter and more agile as a result.
Shortly before we moved, our cat Poppy died from renal failure. I cried every day for six weeks afterwards. The new house feels very empty and quiet at times.
Having started the year with an injured Achilles’ tendon, I followed a prescribed path of rehabilitation, and by the end of the year had run the Liverpool and Edinburgh half marathons, and the Edinburgh and Liverpool marathons. I’ve now run five full marathons, having never before run two in the same year. I ran Liverpool faster than I’ve ever run a marathon before, after a demanding training regime, which saw me out of bed before six, six mornings a week. There were a few more tears as I crossed the line.
I'm quite proud of my running, and also quite proud of my progress as a self-taught pianist. This year I passed my Grade Two and Three exams, and even bought a piano for our new home.
2011 was my seventh year without alcohol. Watching others dispassionately, I am ever more surprised at the damage it wreaks on individuals and groups.
Abuse of alcohol is one of the reasons I made 2011 the last year that I would go to watch tribute bands performing my favourite music. Contempt for the occasion from audiences mean that celebration has turned to desecration. Enough.
I still follow live music, though, and was lucky enough to be in the audience for Roger Waters’ performance of “The Wall” this year when he was joined by David Gilmour and Nick Mason, reuniting all the surviving members of Pink Floyd.
Like Pink himself, I am subject to funny turns, and without Fluoxetine, I had felt my underlying depression start to reassert itself, and have been referred for very helpful psychiatric counselling, which I continue to follow. I’ve also dipped a toe into meditation, thanks to the Edinburgh Sri Chinmoy Centre.
If there’s a theme to 2011, it’s been introspection. I’ve looked inward and audited my own assets. I feel less reliant than before on external possessions and approval.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


I can't sleep. This is annoying because I've been physically toiling all day, and have to be up at a healthy time tomorrow to run fourteen miles before breakfast. I can't sleep because my mind is a turmoil of anxieties, provoked, but not necessarily related to the fact that we're moving house in a day.

I really didn't want to move, not because this house is perfect, but because it's been fewer than eight years since we moved in, and we have no specific reason to move on. I've never electively moved before. Neither of us has undergone a change in circumstances, but we're still moving. I've taken a fortnight off work, cashed in my investments and given up my life savings to make this possible.

It's costing me a lot, so I have attempted to list the tangible benefits to me.

  1. Happy spouse (she gets French windows, a patio, and off-road parking)
  2. Faster, optical, broadband
  3. Bathroom on same floor as bedroom, thus dispensing with mid-night climbs
  4. A garage in which to keep my bicycle, as opposed to cluttering the hallway
  5. An ergonomic kitchen diner
  6. The move has prompted the purchase of a super-king size bed with allegedly intelligent mattress which may assist with uninterrupted sleep
  7. On the rare occasions I drive (usually collecting spouse from evening engagements, or somewhat ironically, when delivering election materials for the Green Party) the off-road parking will, I suppose make this less unpleasant
  8. Life in a bungalow will entail far less shouting from floor to floor
  9. Detached living will grant privacy to epic arguments and piano practice alike
  10. I have significantly edited my possessions
It's the final point that I'm actually happiest about. I've at last had a perfect opportunity to practice the minimalist leanings I've been developing. Getting rid of clutter, and possessions that I served rather than vice versa has felt like defrosting a freezer. Great parasitic chunks have been cleaved off letting circulation and efficiency build. I'm being ruthless and it feels fantastic.

It doesn't matter what I paid for something, how long I've had it, or what it meant to me in the past. The important criterion is whether I need it now. Here are some of the highlights.
  • Three terrestrial VCRs
  • Every VHS cassette in the house
  • Every vinyl LP we owned, including some signed to me
  • The turntable I had stored in the loft because one day I was going to digitise the LPs I couldn't find on CD
  • Music and TV cuttings dating from 1978
  • Magazine back issues
  • Superseded computer equipment, routers, and broadband modems
  • Textbooks
  • Magazines, including those with articles in which I wrote
When we move in, I'm going to carry on. I want my home to be a living, changing place, not a stagnant library, so I'm going to give away hundreds of books. Then, when I've made certain they're all safely ripped to multiple hard drives, I'm going to give away hundreds of CDs as well. Nothing, nothing, is going to be put up in the loft for the rainy day I might need it. That day never comes. 

If only I could declutter my mind of lingering old anxieties just as ruthlessly and rewardingly, then I might be able to sleep.