It's a new start. A new template for the blog. A new temple dish for words. J
There’s a new driver on James’ bus and this morning he told me that he was 59 and had been effectively thrown on the scrap-heap after years spent in high-powered jobs with the police and charities. Which rammed home the point that Time passes and I am farting around. Over the last year, as those who knew me before might have noticed, I’ve been going through changes, big changes. On all planes – physical, mental, spiritual.
I had this big plan about books within books and so on but I suspect that was just ego talking. And, you know, I have become increasingly uncomfortable with me and books; about this whole concept of ‘self-help’ books; about telling people what to do. Cos you can’t tell people. Cos you can’t change people. They can only change themselves. But people have repeatedly asked me how I changed myself – and that I can tell you. If you're interested. If not and - really - I don't flatter myself that my Big Fat Mid-Life Crisis is that interesting, then just back quietly out, humming, eh? No hard feelings, I promise.
For those who're left, let’s backtrack. Let’s go back a year, give or take.
Let’s just say I had hit a landmark number in the birthday stakes, the F number (yes the Big F) and life looked pretty bleak. I sat in my study and felt a wave of deep despair wash over me. I was fat, unfit, fed up. Every effing F word you could think of. And a few more besides.
If life is a party then I was at that horrible moment when the music gets turned off. The bit where coats get put on, the lights are turned up and taxis are called. After that, as we all know, comes the silence. The half empty wine glasses. The stale smell of old perfume, stale beer and sweat. The ghosts of laughter and music. The remnants of friendship and loving. The opportunities passed by. The regret.
My career had gone down the pan. I was living in a ridiculous, freezing cold house that had Money Pit etched in letters a mile high over the door. I had been diagnosed with palindromic rheumatism and some days I could barely walk. My immune system was shot to pieces and I lurched from one infection to another. Yes, I had a very dear small family and good friends. Yes, I had a home. Yes, compared to other people, I had no health worries. Yes, I had at least some work. I was lucky. I was lucky. I was lucky. I kept repeating that to myself, over and over, like a mantra. Yet when I looked forwards all I could see was a slow decline towards death.
I played a game of Spider Solitaire. Lost. Played again. Lost again. I clicked on Sync but the only new emails were spam. I glanced through Facebook and winced at the ad messages down the side of the page which seemed to know me and my situation all too well. Was I short of cash? Was I depressed? Did I need a face lift? Did I want to run away from it all? Yes, yes, yes and yes. And just piss off, will you?
Twitter was worse. Why, I asked myself for the 300th time, did I torture myself following people who’d made it? It seemed like all my old colleagues had moved on, moved up, were successful novelists, editors, businesswomen, doctors, lawyers – or simply content doing absolutely nothing except play tennis and go for lunch.
I had £37 in the bank and a credit card that flinched like a beaten dog every time I plucked it from my purse.
Having gambled six months writing a novel nobody wanted, and finding that all the work I used to do was now being done for free or next to nothing by teenagers, I was all out of answers.
I was four stone overweight and comfort eating my way through the working day. I was drinking enough to give my liver a queasy feeling and my doctor to give me dark meaningful stares. The gym and I were no longer on speaking terms. I was, in effect, slowly and surely killing myself without taking the effort to throw myself under a bus.
Then I idly clicked on a forum. It was full of the usual pretentious rubbish, in-fighting and bitching. But one thread title piqued my curiosity. Something about a labyrinth.
I’d always liked labyrinths. I clicked. And couldn’t quite believe what I saw. I can’t remember the exact wording but it was something like..
What are you doing? Why are you slowly committing suicide?
I knew it was ridiculous but it felt like it was talking directly to me. I paused. Then another message flashed up.
Breathe. Just breathe.
And I did. I took one breath. And then another and another. And absolutely everything started to change.