Sometimes, when I’m very very unhappy and don’t know why I live, I think of the trees and feel responsibility. Who is going to love the trees when I die? No one in the entire world cares about those trees except me. And that seems important somehow, that trees are noticed and cared about.
Birds are singing! I can’t believe this.
Since there is no winter any more in my country, they figured they might as well skip straight to March. If only the weather would follow suit and give us an early spring, an early May, with blossoms and things.
I almost want to go out for a walk in the forest to see if there are any signs of this false early spring other than birdsong.
When I haven’t been melancholy, I’ve been very nostalgic lately.
Even my nightdreams are filled with nostalgia. Sports, school days, the people I knew once, checking what they are up to now. Then watching videos of life in the 1930s. Haymaking and summer camps.
Much that has happened in my twenties has been a mistake. Sometimes I feel hot flashes of shame running from heart to head when I think of the stupidity of myself. But then there are some redeeming factors, like the discovery of beauty and poetry, and that there were people like me in the world, though extremely few. It wasn’t a happy time. Happy times stopped at 18. I just tried to do the best I could given the circumstances I was in. It wasn’t very good, but I’m a lenient person on shortcomings if they result from weakness and stupidity, not malice. I was lost and immature, like a lot of young people. I had no confidence.
But I rather like to hurl abuse at life and circumstance, instead of being humble and wallowing in the misery of my bad fortune. I find it somehow satisfying to say “I’ve had a rotten life/youth”. The anger and passion I put in that statement feels good. I have very high internal locus of control, but this statement incorporates the acknowledgement that at least in this, circumstances were to blame. As in: you are dealt a rotten hand at cards, but you try your best to make something of it. That would be the best metaphor to describe my life.
Life is almost a personification to me. With a leprechaun’s temperament. Or any mythical creature from European folklore who can be both generous and very mean. I see myself as forever battling against Life. I think not yielding to misfortune in spirit is important. If Life gives me some horrible disease, I want to be able to laugh in its (Life’s) face and continue hurling abuse at it.
I’m being very weird now, I guess. I don’t suppose a lot of people have personified life. Some have a god, but it would be inappropriate to shake your fist at a god. Life, on the other hand….Oh yes.
The Return of the King was on telly, and I chanced to watch the second half of it.
I had been a fan of The Lord of the Rings in my teens. I think I had crushes on most of the characters one after another. My favourite was Aragorn, but I also recall having a crush on Frodo, Faramir, Boromir and Sam. I was really quite a fan of Tolkien’s world. I even taught myself Elvish and dreamt of owning a sword.
I hadn’t seen the films or read the books for at least seven years, so when I saw the film again, my first impulse was to make fun of the fighting scenes. Aragorn’s portrayal as the classic Hollywood macho hero was also a little comical. But it managed to draw me in after a while, so the annoyingly snobbish attitude vanished. I very much liked the hobbits. I liked Sam. If I were to have a crush on any of the characters now, it’d definitely be Sam. Because he’s so sincere and simple and good. I’m glad the teenage me was able to see something in him too.
I felt Frodo’s departure from Middle Earth to be relatable. I know it is my personal interpretation, but it acquired a wider symbolical meaning for me: after having experienced too much and been corrupted by the ring, he could no longer live like Sam and Rosie. He couldn’t have been happy. It made me think of how things like that can happen to anyone, something so terrible, so life-altering that you can no longer have the life you want. You may want that life still, I’m sure Frodo did, but cannot have it or be happy in it. Your melancholy and awareness do not allow you to enjoy mushroom pies and the peacefulness of the Shire like you once did. Or they are just not enough.
I have moods when I feel the same emotions. I want to live like the Sam’s of this world, but I feel I understand too much, think too much to ever live that happily, to be as carefree. I want to, but there is that sense of separation, of being unable to. Cut off. My heart always seems to be somewhere else. Frodo’s choice to leave and give up life in the Shire was therefore quite relatable to me. I wonder about that sometimes myself, my unfitness for life. There are days when it descends on me like a thick fog. I don’t have a magic other world to sail away to, however, so I don’t even know what to do about that feeling. It just is there. The only source of strength I still have is that I’m relatively young. Maybe I’d grow out of it under better circumstances.
It struck me just now. Why do I remember those days of all days?
One could have countless vivid memories, but I have days where nothing happened etched upon my mind. Vividly. My spots of pause and poetry.
My first year of school. I walk home on one of those golden autumn afternoons. It is still warm, the sun is out, the trees are tinged with a mixture of yellow and green. Nothing happened. I walked. I dreamt. I realised at some point on the road that I had not paid attention to where I was. My thoughts were too absorbing, whatever they were. I recall the surprise at having got home completely unmindful of the road. It was lovely.
Another moment of pause and poetry from early childhood. I sit on the staircase of our veranda. I have a bowl of strawberries with milk and sugar in my hand. It must be early July. The sun is soon to set and now peaks through the treetops, giving the greens of the garden a golden hue. It’s a very warm evening. I am barefoot and totally happy.
A later one. Of which I even have photographic evidence. I have gone for a stroll in the park. It is October and already chilly, but not overwhelmingly so. It remains pleasant, the crisp air and the smell of decaying leaves. I wear two ponytails and a red coat. I think of my sweetheart and send him a text message. I feel hope amidst delicious melancholy. We had had a fight, but it is going to be all right.
I spent this afternoon reading the first part of Jean-Christophe and his feelings about death resonated with me particularly.
It must be peculiar to relate to a young boy’s discovery of the full horror of death. He was only 11. And yet, it is the first time I see my own state of mind reflected. Now that the memory is no longer as fresh, it was comforting somehow. Like drawing strength from a shared sorrow and understanding. Sadly, one rarely gets to talk of death with their friends and family. Too morbid, I guess. But it is nice that books still talk of it.
Who sees it (the agony of dying) for the first time, realises that he knows nothing yet, neither of death nor of life.
(my back-translation of Rolland’s line)
I very much liked this line because that was how the experience of death at first-hand changed me. Fundamentally. I had been aware of death before, even experienced death of a close family member, but nothing had turned my world upside-down quite the same way the close encounter did. I have never even been able to talk of all that I felt, it would not be understood, so reading this book was like the first interaction on the subject, even if with a fictional character. Sensitivity connects.
I do wonder, however, whether I’m an anomaly for having realised the full horror of mortality only in my 20s. Or is it characteristic of our privileged European society where children are generally not exposed to death. Or is it also that a lot of people don’t realise it at all or at least not before their old age? One thing is certain: I took it like a child.
I look forward to reading how Jean-Christophe’s perception of death develops. Yet, and although I love epic novels, there is something sad in the finality of a biographical novel. You know how the story began and how it ends (if a proper biography) and it makes human life seem so small and insignificant. And sometimes, it is nice not to know the past or the future of a character. It is nicer to imagine that Holmes had a happy childhood than to know he did not. Or to assume Elizabeth and Darcy were happy in their future life.
When you type “melancholy” into Wikipedia, it redirects you to “depression”, but for me, these two states have always been clearly distinct.
Melancholy has an element of beauty to it. It is like autumn or how one might feel in autumn when observing the decay and dying of another summer. It is the emotion a person might feel when pondering their old dreams and realising none of them came true. But it is not an emotion that paralyses and sends you into apathy and despair. Melancholy is about acceptance of your circumstances, of knowing that indeed, none of your dreams came true, but at least you dreamt. And life is beautiful, even with its sorrows and losses. This is how I feel melancholy. Melancholy is like a poem to me.
Depression, on the other hand, I see as an enemy. I cannot accept it or what it can do to a human being. It is no longer about a half-pleasant wallowing in sadness akin to a Romantic poet, it is an unwelcome problem. It can be debilitating, it is about despair and sorrow combined. It is about feeling trapped and “knowing” life will never work out. Or that you haven’t the strength to make it work out. To use the example of dreams that never came true: a melancholic accepts it and writes a sad poem about it, a depressive no longer considers life worth living, withdraws from trying and in very severe circumstances may attempt suicide. Because, if none of your dreams came true, and your depression makes you feel that they never will either, what’s the point of living? For other people?
I for one, will never see suicide as weak or foolish. It’s a cliché to claim that there are solutions to all problems. There are not.