Today was a fairly typical day off for me, not in the things that I did necessarily, but in the way that my mind flitted between states of apathy and motivation, excitement and sadness, emptiness and fulfillment. I suspect I am not alone in swinging between these frames of mind, balancing precariously on the edges of this emotional windmill. I am not describing a bi-polar condition, nor any state of mania, just the normal routes by which we hover above an ever changing cognitive landscape.
First, I awoke hungover, undernourished by sleep and finding myself unable to face the first appointment of the morning -cognitive behavioural therapy. With the grim realisation that the previous night’s poisoning of my body would prevent the detoxification of my mind today came the self loathing that so often accompanies these hungover states, especially when you acknowledge your own self destructiveness. The hours that followed were spent trying to fall back to sleep, driven by a desire to hide from the day that I knew I could not now face with any strength or enthusiasm. I was pretty much prepared to write it off from the outset. I nursed this mental state of anger towards myself until I had a text from my dearest friend, expressing almost the same experience and the same sentiments. Lethargy, self reproach, a sense of being lost bordering on despair. However, unlike my unforgiving attitude to myself, my response to her was compassionate and forgiving, urging her to view her feelings as temporary, transient, evanescent. Because, this is exactly the truth of the matter; no matter how strong these feelings of negativity, they don’t last. These feelings are so strongly interconnected with our perceptions of ourselves and our place in the world, our sense of belonging, duty and worth; we are constantly in a state of flux. Of course, some people are more stable than others. There are those that seem consistent, unchanging, traits perhaps perceived as those of a “dependable” or “reliable” person. But for those of us that flit in and out of these worlds, dancing between the extremes, each day can be a whirlwind of colour and darkness, bleak desert and lush mountainside, raging sea and placid pool.
I went in to a new cafe and started chatting to the owners…potential opportunities discussed, giving a talk on healthy eating, singing live one evening, guided meditation groups. I love the way that these things just seem to rain down upon you from nowhere. The point is, I left feeling inspired, for the first time that day. Then out of the blue I had a phone call from somebody who had found my business card, this time with an opportunity to get involved in an event, several events offering reflexology and nutritional advice. The synchronicity of the two events are so typical of the way things can go for me generally, the wind of opportunity whips me in an rapidly ascending spiral, a helix of hope catapulting me towards a horizon of health, happiness and harmony. Towards the “new” to which I am certainly hooked.
Hunger sets in, and I am starting to lose my foothold within this helix, I am beginning to lose my grip. I know this experience well enough so I seek out (slow releasing) sugar. My recent achievements, however theoretical and potential, have created within me the desire to switch the sugary coffee to a healthy juice. These are the ways in which the spiral continues to propel us upwards, in exactly the same way that a feeling of failure might drive us towards the alleged comfort of junk food and alcohol. As the afternoon moves on, the inspiration will, I have no doubt, begin to wane, unless something occurs to sustain or drive it anew. I may not fall back into despair today, but I will be back there at some point; this is my nature and I accept it. Like many people, I cannot be inspired all of the time. But I can try to administer to myself the same forgiveness, tolerance, patience and acceptance that I would eagerly offer to friends, even strangers, dealing with the same issues.
Is inspiration even useful if it is so short lived, offering perhaps an even bleaker perspective when it has abandoned us once more? Arguably not. An old friend of mine once became a Buddhist monk, and I distinctly remember him telling me that there were two types of people that chose that life; those that arrived through desperation, and those that arrived through inspiration, and that without doubt, the latter candidate was the quickest to leave and move on. In fact, the Buddhist idea of non attachment is significant here. Both conditions are perhaps as illusionary as each other, it is attachment to either state which causes us unhappiness. While one is more likely to invigorate and inflame us, its loss leaves us deflated, depleted and hollow. Forsaken. Inspiration is of course a useful tool, but even here, the distinction between the two is unclear. I only ever write songs when I am feeling down and desperate, like many other artists, my creativity comes from a dark, lonely place, thus blurring the worlds between desperation and inspiration. They are really mirror images of the same thing. Mirrors of us, as the complex creatures that we are. The problem arises when we become attached to either idea.
Of course we would generally have a preference towards insight and illumination over gloom and hopelessness, but one can certainly trigger the other. The best thing we can do is to accept that inspiration is a fickle lover, she blesses us with her kiss but then takes flight and in our quest to follow her, we find ourselves lost in a dark cave of cold silence. It is at this point that we should perhaps take comfort in knowing that if we are are prepared to listen to the silence, we will hear that bird’s song again, and if we are wise enough to follow, she will lead us into the light once more. For a while.