It’s all a matter of perspective. The glass is either half empty, or half full, or bubbling over with hydrochloric acid, about to topple over into your lap.
The woods are beautiful from a distance, but woe betide those who venture inside its tangled mouth. There are wolves lurking, and snakes slithering, and Screamin’ Jean, the witch who eats children, dancing naked in the thicket. I’m travelling the world, Little One by my side, money in our pockets, adventure never further than a bus ride away – we’ve dived with sharks, boarded down active volcanoes, jumped out of aeroplanes, but even on those days, (Jaws’ sister chewing on my heels as I tumbled through clouds,) I was in space, worrying over the ridiculous, unable to do much of anything else.
The ferry to Odessa was cancelled and so we flew instead. I smiled because Crow had been heckling me over my inadequate swimming abilities. “You swim like a giraffe. If the boat goes down, you’ll go down with her, and I’ll meet you at the bottom,” he promised.
“But I can’t fly either,” I said, and chased him away with a flick of my plane ticket.
I’m grateful that I’m here, and I don’t want to sob in front of violins scratching out somber tunes, because I’m not yet flirting at death’s door in a hospital for the terminally ill, and I can saunter at my own pace, hands untied, across the plains quite freely. I don’t know what my next meal will be but I know that it’s coming, and it’ll probably be Borscht soup.
I sit inside a great theatre, a sparkling chandelier sprinkles its light upon a mesmerised crowd. On the centre stage a man with flowing white hair works a grand piano, fingers dancing fiercely upon the ivories, humbling the congregation with his melodic skills, making them useless as they fall in love again – all slack-jawed and corkscrew-eyed, squirming in his hands. But to some his music becomes the trigger of a gun, and my thoughts spiral downward to the gutter and brown. I’ve taken a sideways step, a shimmy to my left, and suddenly there’s a monster with rabies banging piano keys in a crumbling hall. Water splashes at my feet, and I’m dragged thirteen fathoms beneath the floorboards – but man, could that guy play.
I was born into a loving family, in a small town in England, and never went without a meal, never got a smack across the back of the legs for messing around with things I shouldn’t, never sent to clean chimneys or break stones in child labour camps. I had everything a child could ask for, and more. I was a rabbit gifted a field of carrots – no predator for a hundred acres.
It’s the angle you look at things I guess, and I promise that I try as hard as I can to see the positive in things, it’s just that I see the negative too – and it’s impossible to get the ink out of the water once it’s been tainted.
And sometimes things ARE pretty sh*t. From a distance a village looks quaint in the cleavage of a green valley. It isn’t until you get up close and enter a house, open the cupboard that the handle falls off in your hand. Or you put your ear to the wall and realise there are insects scuttling behind the plasterboard, maybe the river that runs through the centre of town is riddled with parasites, and squinting your eyes you see the dead man swinging from a noose beneath the bridge that spans it. I’m well aware there are worse places, more dangerous and far filthier, with bloodier eyes to look through, but I can only describe what I see through mine.
Yet I know that I am lucky, because I’m not scrambling five miles across cracked, sun-bleached earth for drinking water every day, and although I left school early, without furthering my education, I still learned how to read and write. I was never molested by a drunk uncle or beaten in a filthy room by secret police. I couldn’t have been further from poverty or famine or war-torn lands. I always had shade from the sun, and shelter from the pouring rain, and I grimace in gut-wrenching empathy when I think of those who are in these dire predicaments AND suffering from a mental illness. It must be the ground floor of hell, the boiler room in the devils basement, and I shudder when I try to imagine it. What would the crow have left of me if I had been abused and fed such scraps? I’m red with guilt at the ease with which I buy bread and fresh water, and still complain that I’m not f*****g happy. Because it doesn’t make that manic crow fly any higher, fails to silence his shrieking threats of violence and paranoia. I still get depressed and have harmful thoughts and worry when I hear certain words, and succumb to false memories and tic and obsess and feel compelled to ritualise and imagine the blinding white light that cures all – and everything else just as ridiculous to write down or say aloud that I know my sense cannot convince my brain is harmless and untrue. Its not just my OCD, I get jealous and envious far too easy, I HATE to be copied, and although they say it’s a compliment, I grow fangs and get psychotic and Crow would make me follow a man to the end of the world to pull his teeth out if it went too far.
But however much I moan and slump and drift in ashes, please don’t ever think I don’t know how lucky I am. I appreciate the love I’ve been given, the amount of precious time certain people have invested in me, and the helping hands that have pulled me up mountains.