Thursday, 23 August 2007

Lost in Leek?

I live in Leek. That's right, I always wanted to live in a place named after an onion. So I'm living the dream.
Ah Leek, 'Queen of the Moorlands'. A fascinating place to live, where the locals still see me as a bit of a curiosity item. "Leek, greatest town in the world. What the hell are you doing living here?" I have been asked. What!? The scary thing is that the person who said that appeared to be serious. Hmmm...Life in a small English town.
The locals have asked me: "Ast ow right yung yuth?" Which I guess means: 'Are you alright young youth?' I suppose being nearer to 'bus pass age', I should consider such a statement a mighty fine compliment. Still it is rather a strange question. If you are young, than I would assume, that you are a youth. It's like calling me the equivalent, which I guess would be: 'Ast ow right ode elderly?' I think I've got that right?
I feel fortunate to live in Leek. Where I reside is a most pleasant, fairly quiet neighbourhood. Okay you get the occasional inconsiderate cow making a noise in the middle of the night. (Yeah, and sometimes the ones in the fields can be pretty noisy too!)
However I am blessed with having a very large, beautiful garden. Within a couple of minutes of my home, I can be out in the wonderful English countryside. That makes me a lucky dude. To be able to get out into nature, no matter the weather, fills me with positivity. I can wander off with my son's Jack Russell, in perfect solitude. Anxiety regarding going out my front door does not occur when I go for these strolls with the dog. I need to focus on that positive feeling when I am in social situations.
There have been times when I yearn to go back 'home' to Canada. I am so torn between two countries. Yet this is where my son was born. I do not want to distance myself from him. I am reminded of the consequences of my going to Canada as a little boy. For my Father, who lives in Leicester, has disowned me. I will always be here for my son. The choice of leaving England will come when the time is right for both of us. Perhaps that will never happen. Only time will tell.
So living in Leek, has been a very negative and very positive time for me. From the depths of despair when I was abandoned by my wife. To the powerful opportunity of getting a second chance to redeem myself with my son.
You see, Tristan was desperately unhappy living in his new family unit. He begged his Mother to let him live with Dad. This was not a contest, I just wanted Tristan to be happy. So my then 12 year old son moved into my home in Leek. I raised him on my own, doing the best I could. Support from others was non-existent. I am proud of what I did. I think I provided him with a 'normal' life whilst battling with my mental distress.
My son is now 18, yet he is still my 'little boy'. I was there for the miracle of his birth. Sadly, I missed his early years. That tore me apart but I have discovered a new resilience that keeps me moving forward. So many life-changing situations have occurred for the two of us in Leek. Living in Leek nearly destroyed me, yet, paradoxically, living in Leek has also given me the chance to move forward in a positive way.
Yes I am still an item of curiosity in Leek. I have some good-natured banter with the locals. We do indeed have some rather zany conversations. Actually, some of my chats with the 'Leekensians' make 'Monty Python' seem like serious drama. Typically though, someone will ask me, as I'm dressed to the hilt with Canadian advertising: "What part of the States are you from?" Huh!? I reply: "What part of Scotland are you from?" Knowing my luck, one day, somebody with an English accent will say: "Glasgow."
Lost in Leek? For too many years I was. Yet in this small English town, I have nearly found myself again. Whatever happens in the future in Leek, 'The Queen of the Moorlands', I know that permission to be positive has become a part of my thinking process. This fills me with contentment and a strange urge to stuff myself with onions.
I thank you for your time.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Duvet or Doorway?

Everyday I have to challenge myself. I battle with my 'inner-chatter'. Opposing forces in my mind. One force says: "go out and face the world", the other tells me to "hide under your duvet".
To open my door and face the world beyond, is in itself, a personal triumph. I know that there will be those that read this that wont understand. For those that do, they will know that my triumph is no exaggeration. I take a deep breath, determined to suppress my negative 'chatter'. Waves of anxiety nearly overwhelm me, I work through it. The negative 'screaming' becomes a background 'whisper'. I go out and the bravado begins.
I try to be sociable, I reach out my hand of friendship but I am scared, so very, very scared. I worry that my sincerity will be treated with suspicion. I worry that I have said the wrong thing. Renewed anxiety kicks in when I believe that my enthusiasm is interpreted as arrogance. My enthusiasm masks the 'bowl of jelly' sensation deep within me. So for the few hours I go out, I confront my social phobia.
When I finally get to know people, when they become familiar with me, sadly, I retreat back into my 'shell'. I 'fade away', drifting back to a self-imposed obscurity. Unfortunately, I start to think: "how dare you try to be friends with anybody. You are not worthy of friendship!" People will, once again, see me for that 'imposter' who is not as clever as he makes out. Oh how I challenge this. I must not let past negative, traumatic events dictate that I retreat to the safety of my duvet. I do want to repeat those times when I stayed in bed for days, too ill, too scared to even contemplate going outside.
So after another day of bravado. I go home, mentally exhausted but pleased, that for a few hours, I had the courage to be a part of society. I stare at the four walls and think how my life is so different within the confines of my home. This is my other world. A world where loneliness dominates. Yet it is also a place where I reflect upon my continued journey in maintaining positivity. I must not give up.
I do not want to fall 'overboard' again. In the past, when I fell off the ship, I was thrown an anchor. Somehow, I just know, that if I do fall overboard again, I will be thrown a lifejacket.