Made my mind up to be a black winged bird

41. Black Winged Bird – Nina Persson

This is me.

I love music. Mostly listening but I can muddle my way through a few chords on the guitar. I am tone deaf when it comes to singing – something which I really wish wasn’t true. I briefly had trumpet lessons as a child but the trumpet and I were never going to be close. I used to be able to play the intro to Kate Bush’s “Wuthering Heights” on the piano but it now eludes me. I could probably have a crack at singing it. You might not want me to.

I’m just as likely to laugh at something involved and clever as the crassest, stupidest gag. My all time favourite movie joke is in Steve Martin’s “The Man With Two Brains”: what are those assholes doing on our porch ? Those aren’t assholes… It’s pronounced azaleas. I guess that’s kind of clever and stupid at the same time. That’s the sort of thing I’m most likely to laugh at. I have a good sense of humour (everyone thinks they do though, don’t they ?). I laugh at myself a lot and, given a fair wind and a decent run up, I’d probably make you laugh too.

I sometimes buy books that claim they’ll change my life. Invariably they don’t. I often buy books that don’t claim they’ll change my life. Sometimes they do. Lord Of The Rings changed my life when I was 12 years old (though Star Wars had already done the damage when I was 5). Ken Kesey and Hunter S Thompson and Tom Wolfe blew my mind. Clive James writes in the way that I most aspire to.

I love words. And I mean all words – sometimes if you mean fuck you should say fuck. There’s no offense in words on their own. Context is everything. About a year ago I remembered that I liked to think of myself as a bit of a writer so I started writing again.

I don’t love numbers in the way that I love words but, despite this, I seem to have some aptitude for them. I see patterns in data and build frameworks to understand things. It’s how my mind works. Somewhat accidently I built my career on it. I’m pretty rational and like to see order and causality. I sometimes wonder if my growing realization that life holds far less order and causality than I’d imagined has made me increasingly ill at ease.

I play video games. I was supposed to grow out of it after we got rid of the Commodore Vic 20 when I was about 10. Again after the Spectrum. After the Playstation. Playstation 2. X-box 360. Playstation 3. Still haven’t grown out of it and doesn’t look like I will. Nor do I want to. I mostly play role playing games. So not only do I play video games but I play the nerdiest video games you can play. I usually max out my intelligence stat and make in game choices that are for the common good.

I love sport. Back in the day I was a half decent footballer, what I lacked in finesse I made up for in pace, size, and a low centre of gravity. Or at least I did until I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament. Bust up my knee. If I’d done it now I’d be in and out of hospital in a day and back to full strength in nine months. I didn’t do it now, I did it then. I’ve had ten operations on that knee: it will never be right and I never kicked a ball again.

I’m an introvert. An introvert in the true sense of the word – my resources and energy are internally focused, not external. People tire me out. Too much external stimulus tires me out. I’m not shy, I don’t entirely lack social skills – it’s just that sometimes I need my own space to recharge. You extroverts might not understand but that’s how we’re built, don’t take it personally. I do sometimes wonder if I correctly balance my need to be alone against feeling lonely.

I’m stubborn and bloody minded about some things, practically horizontal as I’m so laid back about others. If I’m in your corner I’ll fight your corner. I stand my own round. I’m polite, I try to be kind, and I hold doors for people. I think the Oxford comma is a good thing. I serially abuse punctuation though – I am trying to wean myself off dashes and brackets and ellipses (with mixed success…). I get scared and am vulnerable sometimes but don’t much show it. I may have an underlying sense of being weak but a desire to project strength. I over think things.

There are only a handful of people that I love but I love them very deeply. My daughter is the single most important and enriching thing in my life. My wife is the best person I know. They have not always had the best version of me these past couple of years and I sincerely regret that. I have found myself difficult to be around at times so am damn sure other people have too. I’m sorry.

Why ? Well, all of that above is me but then this is sometimes me too:

Churchill had his “black dog”. I have my “black winged bird”. It seems to be a feature of depression that people that live with it characterise it as something separate from them: it isn’t me, it’s this other thing that comes and takes up residence from time to time. The black winged bird that picks me up and takes me away from myself. I can see everything from up there but I’m a long way removed and can’t be reached.

This song isn’t really about depression. It’s hard to read but it’s probably about a failed relationship. That is the sense in which I’ve appropriated it I guess: hard to read and about my failed relationship with myself, or, at least, all parts of myself. It reminds me of aching sadness and absolute loneliness and depression. Perversely I also find it extraordinarily beautiful. The Nina Persson cover is the one I came to first (released as part of loose Irish collective “The Cake Sale”) but the Emm Gryner original is also fantastic.

I guess the point of this post is that I’m not sure what the best way of dealing with depression is. I know… 41 records in with only one to go and I still haven’t worked it out. Slacker. Until very recently I had held it apart from myself, given it some kind of external name – in this case let the talons of some black winged bird rip me out of myself. It might not need such grandiose metaphor and analogy, it might just be a chemical imbalance. The pharmacological solution so readily offered up my local GP might be the right solution. Even if it is then it’s not something to be externalized: it’s part of me. Accepting that it’s part of me and treating it – treating myself – with some compassion might be more helpful than wishing it would go away.

This is sometimes me but I will not let it be all of me. I am all of the things in this post and I don’t want to define myself by my depression or anxiety. It might be part of me but then, so is an occasional compulsion to listen to Meatloaf’s “It’s All Coming Back To Me” and I don’t define myself by that either. Don’t judge (mainly for the Meatloaf thing but, you know, all that mental health stuff too…).

I like to skewer my own self importance with bad jokes. My other favourite joke, apart from the Steve Martin one, is that one about a man taking his wife on holiday to the Caribbean. Jamaica ? No, she wanted to go.

This is me.


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