Passion, Poetry and Hot Chocolate With Marshmallows – How To Star In Your Very Own Hollywood Movie
Winter Is Coming. For most people, that’s just a tagline from “Game Of Thrones”. An internet meme with Sean Bean holding a sword on a windswept hillside, usually involving some sort of joke. For other people, like me, “Winter Is Coming” is not a joke, it is an actual warning. Something to be genuinely concerned about.
Most people go into hibernation mode in the winter to an extent. But people like me can get a bad case of “The Winter Blues”, or “Seasonal Affective Disorder” as it’s more commonly known now. And Winter is most definitely on its way.
It’s not winter yet, though. It’s still Autumn. Autumn is my favourite season. Don’t get me wrong. Spring is ok. I don’t mind Spring. It means the end of my Winter Blues after all, but it inevitably leads into Summer. And Summer has its perks, but I’m just not built for it. I’m from the frozen North – Newcastle upon Tyne to be precise- and my genetic heritage is Irish on my dad’s side and Scottish on my mum’s side. Due to the North East’s history and my family lineage, I am part Viking and part Celt. So I simply can’t stand the heat and getting out of the kitchen isn’t an option because, on a hot Summer day, everywhere is the kitchen.
Autumn is my period of respite. An island between the days where I’m lying around panting like a dog and the days where I am gritting my teeth as Winter tightens its icy grip around my soul. Falling leaves, conkers, Bonfire Night. Clear, bright sunshine that doesn’t try to burn your face off. Drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows as you gaze outside and listen to the rain tapping on the windowpane. Mists and mellow fruitfulness. I love all this stuff. Particularly the mists. Or, better yet, fog.
When the grey skies of Autumn bend down and kiss the ground, they muffle the harshness of the day. Everything is suddenly quiet and peaceful and otherworldly. When I was a kid, my heart used to leap when I opened my bedroom and saw that it was foggy outside, especially on a school day. During my walk into school, I would pretend I was an explorer on another planet. I would make that walk last as long as I could get away with because, in my head, I was on an adventure where I would be finding lost cities and heroically battling alien monsters. Though I wasn’t yet old enough to be thinking about beautiful, green-skinned alien women cornering me and saying “Show me more of this Earth custom you call kissing”, no matter how many times I had watched re-runs of Star Trek.
We’re still my favourite season, but yet I’m feeling melancholy. But that’s okay, because there is a reason for that. I’m actually sad about something. It’s been a long time since I was actually sad about something, rather than depressed. I know what depression feels like and this ain’t it. I’m just sad. Deeply, persistently, aching-to-the-core-of-my-bones sad about a very specific thing. And it’s a situation I can’t do anything about. More importantly, it’s a situation I shouldn’t do anything about. The situation has to run its course without any involvement from me and whatever happens, happens and that’s all there is to it.
So, if I’m sad, what do I do about it? Well, I could just not take any of my usual precautions to control my Winter Blues. For me, seasonal depression isn’t about feeling down or unhappy. It’s about feeling numb. Feeling empty. Feeling nothing. So if I let the Winter Blues take me without a fight, I won’t feel sad anymore. I’m not going to do that, of course. I’m not completely bonkers. The last time I took my eye off the ball as regards my mental health, I started thinking I was some sort of intergalactic messiah with somebody else’s thumbs. My brain has been through a lot since then, so fuck knows what it would come up with this time if I laid down my sword and refused to fight my usual Winter battle. Feeling sad is at least feeling something. Feeling nothing is the worst feeling in the world. It’s like not feeling fully human.
I’ve decided what I’m going to do with my sadness. I’m going to fucking well enjoy it, that’s what I’m going to do. Because the reason I’m feeling sad is that I am trying to do the right thing. Or as close to the right thing as I am capable of at the moment. It’s the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire life. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
An old martial arts training partner of mine had a favourite saying. When a class got particularly hard and I felt like I couldn’t carry on, he would shout : “It’s just pain! Use it!” And I’d laugh and grit my teeth and fight all the harder no matter how exhausted I was. So I’m also going to do that. Sadness is just emotional pain and it can be used. Funnelled. Focussed.
Writing is very important to me. It’s how I make sense of the world and I want to be good at it. No writing that is in any way meaningful ever came from a place of emotional comfort. When H G Wells was writing “The War Of The Worlds”, he sent one of his friends a letter in which he said: “I’m doing the dearest little serial for Pearson’s new magazine, in which I completely wreck and sack Woking — killing my neighbours in painful and eccentric ways — then proceed via Kingston and Richmond to London, which I sack, selecting South Kensington for feats of peculiar atrocity.”
So I’m guessing he wasn’t in a very good mood at the time.
Equally, I think it’s a fairly safe bet that Wilfred Owen wasn’t tapping his feet and wearing a wry grin when he wrote “Dulce Et Decorum Est”. And I’m pretty sure that William Ernest Henley wasn’t whistling the 19th Century equivalent of Zip-A-Dee fucking Doo-Dah when he put pen to paper and came up with “Invictus”. Seems I’m in good company.
Finally, I’m going to use my imagination. I have a particularly active imagination, and if I don’t use it enough it can run off of its own accord and take me with it. Hence the “Intergalactic Messiah” incident. So, when things are getting on top of me, I’m going to pretend I’m in a movie. Like I used to pretend I was on an alien planet during the walk to school on foggy days when I was a kid.
When I feel the need to stare out wistfully at the world through the raindrops that are running down a windowpane. I’ll pretend I’m the protagonist in a Film Noir classic. I’ll be in black-and-white and moodily lit and exuding “heartbreakingly atmospheric”. Maybe I’ll be Alan Ladd.
When I’m punching a heavy bag, I’m going to pretend I’m Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky”, complete with training montage music. And when I’m weight training, I’ll be Arnold Schwarzenegger in “Pumping Iron”. But probably without the gay sidekick oiling up my torso every five minutes.
When I’m writing though, I’m going to be me. You’ve got to just be you every so often, otherwise you will go completely mad. Though I might occasionally treat myself to being the successful future version of me being played by a Hollywood actor in a biopic of my life.
Everyone should make their life a movie to an extent. Or at least worthy of a movie. But none of us know how the movies of our lives are going to turn out, least of all me. Mine is going to be a bit of a mish mash for the time being, what with it starring Alan Ladd and Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Long term though, who knows? It might be happy, it might be sad. It might be comedy, it might be tragedy. Probably both. Most lives are.
However my movie turns out, whatever twists and turns the plot may take, I promise you this. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that my movie is a really fucking good one.
So bring plenty of popcorn.
Copyright Michael Grimes 2016