Saturday 24 October 2009

It's just some chemicals

That is what I am telling myself when, as it happens occasionally, I feel sadness trying to overwhelm me: it's just some chemicals in your brain reacting in a certain way.

I am neither really invisible, even though I get that impression from time to time from the non-existent reaction of others, nor is anyone deliberately snubbing me.

When will I finally get the message, I wonder?
What else does it take for me to accept that I will never really matter?

It is a sobering thought, but the simple truth: everyone is replaceable, and easily, too.

Unless you are the only person who can sing a certain song in a certain way, play that instrument, dance so divinely, or safe someone's life because you are the only person around to know that specific method of brain or heart surgery.

And also unless you are the beloved child, parent, partner or spouse of someone whose life would change forever if anything happened to you.

But, essentially, it is just a chemical reaction in my brain, the result of which manifests itself to me as feeling snubbed at first, and sad later.

Sometimes I wish I could just get angry, and literally drive the anger out of my system by physical activity, but regardless of how often I have tried already, I manage to outrun said sadness only very rarely.

There is good news though, too: the sad periods are a lot rarer now than, say, a year ago.

Chemically speaking, I seem to be more balanced these days.

Hopefully, balanced does not equal boring.

Wednesday 21 October 2009


You will rarely - if ever - find me posting in German, but this time, I was looking for a good title to my entry and couldn't come up with anything fitting better and sounding more beautiful in this context than Vergänglichkeit.
It literally means "passing-ness", and dictionaries offer a variety of translations for this term, ranging from momentariness (too technical) to transience (ok, that does sound rather elegant) to caducity (never heard that one before!) or fugaciousness (pompous, somehow).

And so, Vergänglichkeit it is.

On Monday, I was on my way to work as usual, passing the tidy front gardens of the neat row of houses that accompany the road from the train station to the small industrial estate where my work place is located.

These front gardens with their variety of flowers, shrubs and seasonal decoration (that alone is enough material for another blog entry; you wouldn't believe the amount of... erm... decorative items people put on their front doors, door steps and lawns!) often provide me with material for my musings, some of which eventually make it to the virtual pages of this my mental library, and this week's Monday was no exception.

In one particularly well-kept garden, several rose bushes stand close to the fence.

To me as a non-gardener, the sheer fact that there are still roses in bloom at this time of the year is amazing enough, but what I found even more amazing was the butterfly that was seemingly using those very roses as a resting spot.

It had been bitterly cold during the night, below zero, and the day was sunny with a sapphire blue and completely cloudless sky. By lunch time, when I was on my way to work, temperatures were no higher than maybe 2 or 3 degrees Celsius.

And so I wondered, where did the butterfly spend the night? How come it was still alive, and for how much longer was it going to be alive?

I know that butterflies do hardly count among the most persistent members of the animal kingdom, but some of them must survive somehow during winter, or we wouldn't see any in the next spring and summer.

So, how do they do it?

Was this one going to be one of the survivors or would it take only one more frosty night to end its brief existence?

The whole setting - the last roses, dead but very colourful leaves on the pavement, the butterfly in the rays of the bright but cold autumn sun; it all made me feel a bit melancholy and think of the Vergänglichkeit of things and, ultimately, of myself.

Maybe I was just tired after a very busy week with no weekend to speak of.

Friday 9 October 2009

An Adventure I Did Not Have... Part III

(Please read before you continue; thank you!)

Walter had been here for so long that he had almost forgotten about the world that was out there and up there.
Somewhere deep down in his memory, buried under layers of other memories, there were faint recollections of big open spaces, a bright and warm light called the sun, of birdsong and people's voices, of wind in his hair and grass under his feet.

But there were also memories of gunshots, of hard fists and shouting voices, and of a run that seemed to go on forever and left him so breathless and with every part of his body shaking and in pain that he thought he was going to die.

Die he didn't; instead, he found this place where there was everything he needed.
At first, he had felt apprehensive about using a bed and opening cans of food that were originally not meant for him, but when he realized there was no-one else going to claim any of it, he settled into a rhythm which, unbeknownst to him, still followed the old familiar pattern of day and night, with sleeping and waking hours.

There was not much difference between sleeping and waking here, and certainly none between day and night, and sometimes he was not quite sure whether what he saw and heard was part of a dream or really happening.
Not that he actually cared; his dreams were just as real to him as the rough blanket of the bunk bed and the cold metal of the water tap.

It was no surprise, therefore, that he was sure he was dreaming when the woman appeared.
The sounds of her cautious footsteps he had heard minutes before she reached his place, and squinted in the flickering light from those bulbs that were still intact.

What actually convinced him of her being real he couldn't tell, but the idea of coming face to face with another human after such a long time down here on his own scared him no end, and he decided to hide, slipping out of the room and shutting the metal door behind him.

Trembling, he leaned against the tunnel wall. He closed his eyes - the light still hurt him - and shook his head slowly from side to side.
Now the woman was in there, where HE belonged, not her.
Was she going to make one of the beds her own, like he had done back when he had found the room? Was she going to eat the food that had become his sustainment?

It wouldn't do, no. She was part of that other world, not of this one.
He had to do something.

So, very slowly and carefully, like someone approaching a venomous snake that will strike when it feels threatened, he opened the door again and crept back into the room.

Monday 5 October 2009


...just below the surface.

A bit like snorkelling, I suppose, even though I have never done it myself, but it is how I imagine it:
Above me is the world of air and sunlight, of noise and wind; below, the water which gets a deeper shade of blue over there where the coral reef ends, and the play of sunlight through water on the sandy ground and the incredible variety of fish and other animals in colours so vivid you wonder whether your eyes would be able to take it all in, were it not for the softening effect of the water.

Instead, I am drifting just below the surface of being awake, with my mind still turned towards the mysterious and seemingly infinite world of dreams.

Just how the snorkelling tourist's eyes catch sight of so many different species, of wondrous formations of rocks covered in corals, of small scenes ripe with big drama, my mind drifts from scene to scene, thoughts flickering up for a moment, only to be replaced by others seconds later.

My former boss, who featured in a dream the other night (one of those dreams you can't actually remember what happened, you only know who was there); the letter I got from the insurance; what am I going to wear on the Friday night after the book fair when I will meet some friends; is there still enough muesli in the cupboard for when I'll have breakfast in a bit?; I wish this bit of duvet on my lower back was his hand; today I must not forget to take that book to work; the pumpkin soup was lovely last night, but R. didn't look very well...


For almost an hour, the drifting goes on. Sometimes I steer my mind deliberately away from one thought and on to another, sometimes I really just let it drift.

My cat wakes me up.
The drifting stops, and just like the snorkeller breaks through the surface of the water, I feel the last remnants of sleep recede from my mind, and I am here.

The day can begin.