Thursday, September 30, 2004

Finding freedom 

“You must have a place to which you can go, in your heart, your mind, or your house, almost every day, where you do not know what you owe anyone or what anyone owes you. You must have a place you can go to where you do not know what your work is or who you work for, where you do not know who you are married to or who your children are”
Joseph Campbell, quoted by David Whyte in Crossing the Unknown Sea.

(No, I haven't finished reading it yet... I wasn't able to visit that place where I don't know what work is today...)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The antidote to exhaustion 

"This clumsy living that moves lumbering
as if in ropes through what is not done,
reminds us of the awkward way the swan walks.
And to die, which is the letting go
of the ground we stand on
and cling to every day,
is like the swan,
when he nervously lets himself down into the water,
which receives him gaily
and which flows joyfully under
and after him, wave after wave, while the swan,
unmoving and marvellously calm,
is pleased to be carried, each moment more fully grown,
more like a king, further and further on."

The Swan, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Robert Bly

I'm working my way carefully through David Whyte's "Crossing the Unknown Sea". This book must be the most significant I have read for a very long time. Rather than race through to the end, each chapter, each page deserves time to absorb its message. Whyte’s notions are both simple and profound, touching the very core of what it is to be human; his language, although accessible, is also beautiful (well, what else would you expect from a poet?) and creates understanding on a level beyond the merely rational; not only does the head involuntarily nod in agreement, but heart and soul recognise what is being spoken to them.

Whyte here is in conversation with Brother David, who says, in response to a question from Whyte:

‘The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.’

‘You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do here in this organization has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You are only half here, and half here will kill you after a while. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don't have to tell you.’

‘You are like Rilke's Swan in his awkward waddling across the ground; the swan doesn't cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water, where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence. You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life, and it will transform everything. But you have to let yourself down into those waters from the ground on which you stand, and that can be hard. Particularly if you think you might drown.’

Someone else apparently thought this was a significant point in Whyte’s book, since a larger extract can be found here.

Being only half present, exhausted, knowing that I’m in danger of undergoing a slow death of the soul; knowing that in the context of work, those feeble, malnourished remnants of the powers I still have are atrophying still further through lack of exercise… yes, I feel all of that. Yet in spite of how those words might sound, I don’t feel it in a melancholy, powerless, woe-is-me kind of way, but as a partially detached observer, me-watching-me, coming to a realisation of the structure that underlies these Big Questions.

Questions such as “Where are my elemental waters?” I have a feeling the answer is jumping up and down waving its arms in front of me, and I’m just too blind, or too dumb, or simply looking the wrong way to see it. Most likely the latter.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Not just daffodils and lonely clouds... 

“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing Boy,
But He beholds the light, and whence it flows,
He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
Must travel, still is Nature's Priest,
And by the vision splendid
Is on his way attended;
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.”

From “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” by William Wordsworth

And to think that I thought Wordsworth was all daffodils and lonely clouds…

I took the train in to work this morning rather than cycle, so as to be able to snatch a few minutes to read more David Whyte. He quotes Wordsworth in the context of rediscovering and trusting our childhood instincts of direction in our lives. Here’s today’s extract:

“The inner compass almost always leads us back toward that childhood we have spent so much time trying to leave behind. We return there not to become a child again but to remember those instinctual joys which filled our imaginations and growing bodies and set our enthusiastic course into the world. There is something trustable about the original enthusiasms of the very young that point directly toward the way we are made.”

“…those instinctual joys which filled our imaginations…”

I scribbled down a list of them, as far I could remember those early years. Here’s what it looked like, given very little thought, just an instantaneous recollection of what it was like to be about seven years old:

Countryside - fields, woods, streams, lanes
Arthur Ransome books
Antarctic – snow, ice, blue, crystal skies, blizzards
Exploration/expeditions – mountains, landscapes, sailing, oceans
Climbing (as a physical activity)
Space travel
Making things
Mending things
Improvising things
Designing things

Hmmm… food for much thought methinks…

Sign of the times 

Overheard on the train this morning...
Five year old: “What’s your favourite colour , Mummy?”

“Mummy, what’s your favourite number?”

“What’s your favourite animal?”

I smiled, thinking how the same conversation could have been heard in just about any era.

“What’s your favourite phone, Mummy?”


The fact of the mobile phone – an archetypal, brand-less mobile phone - being an intrinsic part of a 21st century 5-year-old’s view of the world I can understand. But get this - the distinction between brands of mobile phones has already driven it’s way deep into childhood existence. Whatever happened to a childhood of fluffy bunnies and rainbow colours? I must be getting old. Or have I said that before?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

On cliffs, oceans, and horizons 

A lone figure stands on a clifftop. At his feet, the ground falls away in giant tumbled blocks of stone to the rocky shoreline below. Beyond, the open sea stretches to the horizon. Looking down, he sees waves breaking over the rocks sending up showers of spray. Their sound reaches up, but its distance hides the power of those waves. Further out though, the ocean appears quieter. The sun is past its zenith, starting to sink towards evening; although it’s only afternoon, flashes of purple and gold reflected from the water’s surface hint at the glories of the sunset yet to come.

There’s no path, but the man thinks he sees the start of a way amongst the rocks, and takes some hesitant steps forwards, down through the tumbled blocks, drawn by the brightness of the shimmering sea, wanting somehow to follow the sun over the far horizon.

Looking further down though, he sees the way steepen. What had looked like a path becomes harder to follow; he sees that before long he’ll be forced to climb rather than scramble; images form in his mind of a body clinging desperately to a rock face, unable to move forward or back and at the mercy of the incoming tide. Unwilling for the moment to face that way he turns away looking for another path, and in that moment, the land behind him, forgotten for a while in the excitement of his quest, comes into his field of view, and so into his mind. Back from the cliff’s edge, the land is smoother, softer, safer. Below a skyscape of perfect blue studded with a few equally perfect white clouds lies a landscape of gently rolling green hills and fields.

In that instant, the balance in his mind shifts, the way down the cliff suddenly becomes too precipitous, too dangerous; the rolling hills offer an easier path, attractive in its own way, although the landscape that way is also somehow smaller, less expansive. With a secret sigh, he retraces his steps up over the cliff edge, and enters once more the risk-free world of safety and security.

It takes several paragraphs to tell, but that set of images appeared fully formed in my mind ten years ago as I walked out of the company head office, down the steps and out into the square, having just accepted a temporary assignment with the company that 3 months earlier had announced its intention to dispense with my services, along with those of two and a half thousand others. It was 4 o’clock on a Thursday afternoon; my severance pay-off was already in the bank; an hour earlier I had been facing a mere ten more hours as an employee of the company before I was free of the shackles of employment. That’s pretty close to the cliff’s edge. I walked on down the street, past the iron railings that fronted the building; railings that suddenly seemed to take on a new significance – on Monday I’d be returning through them, contained once more behind corporate bars. Ninety-nine people out of a hundred would have congratulated me on escaping immediate unemplyment by such a narrow margin. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that instead I’d just missed out on an opportunity for amazing adventure by that very same margin. So near, and yet so far.

I’d had a dream, but no real plans. A colleague and I were going to set up our own consultancy business, offering the coaching skills we’d learned through being facilitators in a massive corporate change programme, and applying those skills in the particular context of the organisational philosophies of W. Edwards Deming and the statistical process control methodologies of Walter Shewart. We did a fair bit of research, talked to as many people as we could who were already doing something similar, and the more we talked, the more I began to doubt. With a family to support, I needed assured income; he on the other hand knew that, at a pinch, he and his wife could manage on her income alone. So we went our separate ways, and my dream faded. Even though two years later I eventually took the step into unemployment, this time it wasn’t a step over the cliff’s edge, merely a minor struggle from one sheltered valley to the next.

In his book that I quoted from a couple of days ago, David Whyte talks of a chance encounter that was to change the course of his life. An ex-drug addict tells him the story of how his attempted suicide became a turning point. Laying sprawled across a window box in the pouring rain on a twelfth floor balcony, too physically weak to make the final effort to throw himself into oblivion, his face presses into the soil and he starts to see the micro-landscape of the window box transformed into a full scale landscape, as his hands start to mould the soil creating hills and rivers, transplanting seedlings to make a new world. He explains to Whyte how this germ of an idea led him into becoming a landscape gardener:

“We all have our own ground to work, you know. You have yours, too. You just have to find out what it is. But you know what? It is right on the edge of yourself. At the cliff edge of life. That’s the edge you go to. Put yourself in conversation with that edge no matter how frightening it seems. Look down over that edge. It’s a bit terrifying to begin with but then you’ll recognise a bit of territory you can work, something you can step out onto. It was there all the time for me, when I look back, just on the other side of a too, too familiar window, out of which I had not been looking.”

Whyte sat up all night, going over in his mind his own experiences, his own ground.

“By dawn” Whyte says, “I was staring out over the far sea, involved in a strange inversion of the stranger’s experience, for I felt as if I was new ground and the vast sea was reaching into my contained territory and molding and shaping a future life. All the hours of the early morning, I looked out, feeling a kind of magnetism to that far windswept ocean, as if aware of the forces in my future that would draw me into my work, whatever form it would take, over the horizons and unknown seas to the west.”

I’m understating wildly if I say that the similarities in language and imagery between Whyte’s story and my own are striking. I was even going to call my company Horizons. Time after time after time after time I come across what seem to be messages pointing the way. I ignore them all resolutely. So far. Maybe its time I looked for some ground to work.

"No virtue in small dreams" 

"...we need to dream as big as our imaginations can ..."

Thanks, Jack

Friday, September 24, 2004

It's a small world... 

I love the way that the web in general, and blogging in particular, comes up with some surprising connections from time to time. There I was, musing on the biblical parable of the talents (as you do), put "parable of the talents" into Google, and there on the third page of results was a very familiar URL...

Putting theological implications to one side for the moment, it's not the first time I've wondered if I'm like the guy who buried his master's money and couldn't even offer it back with interest.

"We are our gift to others and the world" 

“The stakes in good work are necessarily high. Our competence may be at stake in ordinary, unthinking work, but in good work that is a heartfelt expression of ourselves, we necessarily put our very identities to hazard. Perhaps it is because we know, in the end, we are our gift to others and the world. Failure in truly creative work is not some mechanical breakdown but the prospect of a failure in our very essence, a kind of living death. Little wonder we often choose the less vulnerable, more familiar approach, that places work mostly in terms of provision. If I can reduce my image of work to just a job I have to do, then I keep myself safely away from the losses to be endured in putting my heart’s desire at stake.”

David Whyte, in Crossing the Unknown Sea - Work and the Shaping of Identity

We are our gift to others and the world…

I have a feeling there are going to be a lot more quotes from this book showing up here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


This is one of those moments when half an idea comes to mind, and the only way to turn it into a whole idea is to start getting some words down - in spite of what I said a couple of days ago. It's a fuzzy picture; the general form is there but looking more closely the detail is blurred and vague. It starts with a picture of an earthquake.

Once upon a time, very many years ago, I thought of myself as a scientist. Always asking why, wanting to understand how, looking for explanations, classifying. It’s an approach that has it’s uses, but it has it’s dangers too. Such as pigeon-holing - making deductions, assumptions, and imagining that they are something real, something fixed, something I can Know. That might sometimes work for the inanimate universe, but bring in the complexities of human beings and it’s a dangerous path indeed to tread.

Relationships need flexibility, they need to allow for adjustments. Understanding between two people is never complete and in any case people change, so as differences surface – as they always will – these differences give rise to tension, which if left unresolved grows and grows until a readjustment is inevitable. Allow some gentle readjustment every now and then and there's just a minor tremor - noticeable perhaps but not catastrophic. But leave it too long and that readjustment is of seismic proportions - an earthquake. Prevent that adjustment for whatever reason - try and hold those tectonic plates in a fixed position - and the tension builds until something gives with a snap. The effects of these cataclysmic readjustments on landscape and on relationships have close parallels - there's a lot of upheaval, people get hurt, then there's some rebuilding to do which, depending on the extent of damage and the intent of the planners, might leave the place looking very different. Or at the very least, never quite the same.

So it's taken me 49 years to realise that if people don't air their differences it's likely to lead to a breakdown in the relationship? I hate to admit it, but actually… yeah. I've been so intent on avoiding conflict in relationships that I've allowed those little tensions to build, only in this case the adjustment wasn't an explosive one, but implosive, driving in on self. Or I think that’s what happened. Being in the middle of it all makes it hard to see the objective picture. But if something has to give, it seems that in the world of relationships that has to be one side or the other, and so perhaps here the earthquake analogy, where the readjustment comes about by relative motion, breaks down. If one side in a relationship demands that the other side changes, the adjustment is explosive. Perhaps that’s what usually happens. But avoidance of conflict, although useful at first, like any characteristic becomes twisted and distorted and even harmful when taken to extreme. Avoid external conflict and the unavoidable need to readjust turns inwards, becoming implosive, destructive of self.

This all sounds like some orderly worked out thesis, doesn’t it? It’s not really, that’s just the way I tend to write, and probably comes from that long-distant background as a scientist. That’s what I meant about words running away with themselves – it’s so easy to build a plausible sounding theory, but plausibility and truth aren’t the same. I’m just in the thick of all this and trying to make sense of it. It doesn’t help either that I’m not talking about one single relationship, but a number of them – with individuals, with self, even with the world at large. I just had a sizeable earth tremor. Not a full-blown ‘quake, but it rattled a few ornaments on the shelf and opened up some cracks in the walls. I have a little bit of rebuilding to do. And some planning, if what I’m going to build is to be proof against further tremors.

Later edit-
Perfect timing from whiskey river; this expresses far better than I ever could another part of that blurry image I had but that just wouldn't come clear enough to crystallise into words:

" ... we die to each other daily.
What we know of other people
is only our memory of the moments
During which we knew them. And they have
changed since then.
To pretend that they and we are the same
Is a useful and convenient social convention
Which must sometimes be broken. We must
also remember
That at every meeting we are meeting a
-T.S. Eliot

Monday, September 20, 2004

Pesky words... 

Roll the dice. Who will I be today? Which shell of identity will give its shape to this soft malleable core, giving the illusion of substance, of conviction, to this formless uncertainty? Each seems to fit as well as the other. With a solid enough shell, the core will conform with little resistance.

What shall I believe today? There’s an ‘r’ in the month; is this a month in which God exists, or not? Or love? Or truth? I forget... Ask too many questions and the structure unravels, one dubious premise after another.

Can identity and belief exist without words? Yet words take on a life of their own and run away with themselves; take one or two innocent words and before long a whole crowd has aggregated. Like some complex molecule growing as atom after atom finds a space for itself along the chain, words link up into an ordered chain of synthesised meaning. Each link from one word to the next seems valid, logical - right even – yet the whole chain has a structure that has coalesced only according to its own pattern, not to any pre-existing independent truth.

Words. I don’t trust 'em.

Monday, September 13, 2004


At peace... sort of, a relative peace...
After months of all systems flat out,
striving, straining, hoping, wishing…
it looks like I finally found the off switch.
Or it found me.
Must’ve got knocked accidentally in all that banging up against obstacles.
It’s nice to rest awhile, to coast along with the engine off.
(Makes it difficult to write anything though, with the source of motive force shut down).
Good job too it’s quiet here where I’m sat…
Just hope I can find the on switch again when the time comes. Before I grind to a complete halt.

When the time comes?
What time would that be then?

Friday, September 10, 2004

The all-seeing eye 

This has to be one of the strangest and most beautiful images of a single star that I've ever seen...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Deconstruction: letting go  

“Start where the client is”.

I learned that motto from a consultant I once had some dealing with. It seems to make sound sense – where else can you start from, other than where you already are? Even though the archetypal caricature consultants, and plenty of real ones too, seem to start from somewhere completely different and never once touch the point where the client is. Instead they seize the hapless client by the scruff of the neck to drag them, uncomprehending, into a Brave New World, then dump them there, dazed and confused, wondering what planet said consultants hailed from. But that’s another story…

So where do you go next? Towards the goal, obviously. Obviously? But in which direction do you set out to reach it? With 360 degrees of movement possible, who says a straight line is the quickest route between two points in life-space? After all, a straight line can lead you over a cliff in real-space, so might not similar unseen hazards lie in wait in life-space too?.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but maybe backwards is the way to go to begin with. Unlearn the unhelpful ways of being that have been learned over the years, the things that stand in the way of the direct approach. The way things have stood for many months now, tension locks everything rigid, leaving me unable to move in any direction because of the pulls in every other direction. But it’s no good straining against the leash; as a climber I know you can’t free a knot under tension, you have to take the tension off the ropes first, let them go loose so you can examine the kinks and turns and twists and unravel them.

Christy left me a comment which set me thinking on a new track, about personal development not as an ever onwards-leading path, but as a cycle of deconstruction and reconstruction. Conventional wisdom says “If it doesn’t work, try harder, you can’t be doing it right”. But if it doesn’t work after concerted effort, why should it work after more concerted effort? Keeping on attacking the bits of life that don’t seem to be working, doggedly ploughing on down the same road, banging harder at the wall in the way, isn’t an effective strategy. Stop straining, stop fighting, and try something else.

So let’s back-pedal. Life is filled with too many conflicting pulls, some tugging violently, some persistently, some intermittently, but always in all directions. Let those pulls go, one by one, the ones that don’t matter, the ones that wont cause the world to end if they cease, the ones that aren’t essential to ongoing life support. Let them go, at least for a while, whilst we untangle the knot. We can always pick them up again later if we want. Reduce life to a simpler equation. Attend to those matters at the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy, and let the rest pass on by for now. Appreciate the simple exchange of labour for food and shelter, and stop worrying about the whys and wherefores of it all..

Or to put it another way, be deliciously, gloriously, rebelliously, selfishly lazy. Be a slob even, just for a day… or two…

It doesn’t necessarily mean I stop doing things that sit higher up in Maslow’s hierarchy, but I release myself from the need to do them. The need for example to blog, to write, to play piano, to walk in the hills, to find meaning through work. These are all good things, until they start to bind me. Not only do I get tangled in the cords that bind, but I become bound to the very angst itself. Let it all go… I don’t have to feel hard done by if life’s schedule has no place for activities such as these. They aren’t essential. I’m trying it and it already feels much more comfortable this way. I’m more relaxed; I smile more; I have more time for people around me.

I suppose I should be careful; I shouldn’t release myself from all needs – the need to stay fit, eat a healthy diet… or should I? Suppose I lived off Big Macs (yuk!!) and grew a paunch; would it matter? Maybe, I suppose, if as a result I died young from heart disease, that wouldn’t be so good for my family…

I get the feeling too that the more I back pedal, the more things become possible. Maybe those were the kinds of things that “other me” in the dream had in mind.

A word of clarification, since this may all sound suspiciously like giving in to circumstance. Deconstruction isn’t about me giving up my needs for the sake of others, about me abandoning my dreams in order to fit in with the expectations and desires of those around me – it may look like it, but it’s almost the opposite to that. It’s about giving up my needs for the sake of me – giving up being bound by my wants and desires. It’s the bonds that are the source of the trouble, whether they tie me to other’s wishes or to my own, they are bonds nonetheless. Everywhere I go, like Spiderman I leave behind a sticky but strong thread, tying me here, there and everywhere. I get hopelessly trapped in the twisted, tangled web I create. I need to release myself from these bonds. Not by slashing and cutting, but by gently dissolving them. Neither do I mean to abandon anything that I’ve been tied to. But rather than standing in a forest, bound fast by threads and chains that run to every tree, I want to be able to move freely among these trees.

These trees aren’t results, aren’t “things” at all; they’re the attitudes and beliefs that I’m bound to – bound to ways of thinking. Even apparently opposite attitudes can meet around the circle and prove to be the same thing – I can be bound to the notion of seeking to do things to help others; I can equally be bound to the notion of needing to do things to benefit myself. The one may seem to balance the other, but they can both trap and restrain if they become an “ought to”.

Funny things words. I wrote to a friend a couple of weeks ago that I was finding a new balance in life, but I couldn’t explain much more than that at the time. I had a feeling in my soul, nothing more, but it was the word ‘deconstruct’ in the quote that provided the seed around which these words here crystallised out.

I’m thinking deconstruction then. Deconstruct it all - tease it apart, figure out which bits matter, which bits can be discarded. To do that I have to release the tension first, and curiously it seems that my illness this last week has done just that - the mind-body connection is mysterious indeed. And I also should accept that all beliefs are up for the trash can, and so be very careful before I figure out how to reconstruct.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Mind-body connection? 

Just a few hours after posting that last entry, I was hit by another bout of virus-induced fever. Constant, pounding headache, untouched by paracetamol; shivering, sweating, moaning, aching, throwing up… I’ll spare you the full details. It wasn’t pleasant.

I call it virus-induced, but I wouldn’t like to say which side of the mind-body connection is cause and which is effect. Did the fever cause my depressed state of mind? Or were the physical symptoms an outwards manifestation in an inner struggle? More unanswered questions…

Today feels a little better. Physical systems have rebooted successfully and I look no more like a crippled geriatric than usual. Movement around the house is now possible. The men with hammers in my head have quietened down a little (wish I could say the same for the keys on this keyboard; it seems that overnight someone has sneaked in and connected the keys up to an electronic drum synthesiser).

Today I hover in a state of temporary grace, relieved that the fever has passed, not yet ready to consider the questions that I think it has raised. Because I do see a link between the turmoil in mind and the turmoil in body.

Friday, September 03, 2004


I really have no idea what’s gotten into me this last week. I somehow let myself drift away from the world, and now it all seems like I’m viewing it through the wrong end of a telescope. Or it's as though the rest of you seem to occupy some parallel universe, or multiple parallel universes. Mine might look just the same at first glance, but it seems to operate on a different set of rules.

Just at the moment, I really, really, REALLY feel like deleting this blog, quitting blogging and forgetting I ever had any notions about writing or communicating or even just being part of this blogging community. I’m not going to, not just yet, because there’s still a little corner of self watching me that says even this, too, may pass, but still – I really feel like it. This blog has come to symbolise something akin to vapourware, an unreal world of dreams, a place to build castles in the air.

It’s thirty years or more since I read William Golding’s Pincher Martin, but it must have made quite an impression since much of the feel of the book stays lodged deep in my mind; the synaptic links created were so strong they’ve held fast ever since. The very last line especially stuck in my mind, perhaps because I never understood the unexpected twist those few words contained. Not until now that is – this blog has become like Christopher Martin’s rock in the North Atlantic. At one time, it really felt as though I was striving towards something, but in truth it was all imagination, a delusional fantasy of a mind whose inevitable commitment to another path had been made long, long ago.

Go with the flow, they say. Give yourself over to the will of the universe. Follow your path; live out your destiny; fulfil the promise of the person you were born to be. Fine – but in that flow, even if we can all achieve a stardom of a sort, through success at what we do, it wont all be in starring roles. The universe needs ordinary folk as well; folk to do the nine-to-five, to bring their kids up right, to care for ageing parents, to keep the wheels turning, to shovel shit when shit needs to be shovelled. And sometimes doing those things will take up all of living. Living out individually-focused dreams is only ever going to work for a handful of people.

What if I’ve been mistaken? What if I got things back to front? What if, in thinking I could reach deep into myself and tap into latent resources of creativity and energy and compassion, I wasn’t actually going with the flow at all, but going against it? What if my highest purpose here on this planet has nothing to do with self-actualisation at all, but is, for example, simply to be the best father I can be? After all, looking back that is quite possibly what I’ve been best at all these years.

All the while I believe I could – even should – be doing something different, living life differently, I live with tension. Creative tension you might think; a tension that drives irresistibly towards a resolution in fulfilment. But what if the starting point is so firmly bedded it cannot move, cannot be torn out of the ground without massive damage to itself and it’s environment? Then all that’s left is endless, unremitting tension, forever unresolved.

About a week ago, at the time all this started flying around in my head, I had this weird dream. Weird on two counts – it’s the first dream for months of which I have any recollection whatsoever. I suppose like everyone else I must dream several times a night, but I never remember anything, not even the fact that I’ve been dreaming. Nothing. Zilch. Zippo.

But I remembered this one. I was in it, twice. There was the me having the dream, the person whose eyes I was seeing through, and there was another me. I didn’t see where he came from, but he stood a little distance away, facing past me but glancing in my direction. I didn’t trust him; he seemed somehow dangerous, unpredictable. Not that he’d do anything bad as such, but he was a wildcard. I was afraid of what he might do, because it was unknown. He was me, but his mind was closed to me, it had thoughts and plans of it’s own. I was afraid, so I hit him. Or rather I went to hit him, but as the blow struck he vanished, apparently ceasing to exist. And at that point, of course, I woke up.

Now, I don’t know if I’ve been unconsciously playing out the dream, or whether the dream reflected what was already happening at some level below consciousness. Or of course none of the above. But at the very least it’s unsettling.

It's the feeling that part of me has just wiped out - or at least banished - another part of me, that leads to the urge to quit blogging, to quit wishing I was doing a different job, to quit trying to wring out of the days minutes when I can write, to quit wishing I could be spending time up mountains, to quit trying to be creative in a life where creativity is an unnecessary, unwanted luxury. Maybe I should just get on with living.

Do I believe all this? I don’t know. I really, really don’t know. But until I put it out there and see it staring back at me I can’t tell; the thoughts just chase themselves round the endless treadmill of my mind.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Dear Diary… 

Friday – Back from holiday. Too many thoughts still bouncing around, unwilling to settle, and a very strange dream... But all in all, a very special time - the first time we've been away as a complete family for 5 years, and almost certainly the last such time.

Saturday – Family expanded by two balls of fluff, following visit to Wood Green Animal Shelter. Came away with two year-old cats (who think they’re still kittens). Could easily have come away with a carful but settled for just the two. Suggestions for names welcome – somehow I think we’ll lose the names Splidge and Splodge, with which they came into the rescue centre. [Moses, our Grand Old Man of 17 years, finally went to pussy heaven a few weeks ago, leaving his house and garden in our care].

Monday – Up at 5.40am to take son to airport, bound for Croatia. How come a supposedly impoverished student can afford three holidays (Morocco was the other one) when I only manage one? I must have something wrong somewhere…

Tuesday – Felt like shit. Went to work anyway. Felt even more like shit, came straight home again. Alternately dozed, shivered, sweated, drank, peed, took paracetamol for the next 18 hours.

Wednesday – Semblance of rationality returns, although men with hammers still at work in head. Downloaded and installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 – wonder therefore if rationality will soon depart again and reinforcements arrive for men with hammers?