Read After Burnout Review from Goodreads.

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I was extremely pleased to read this:

 

An Educator Burns Out, Loses The Pieces Of His Sanity, Finds Those Pieces And Uses Them To Recontruct A New Self.

With great humor and raw honesty the author takes us through his disillusionment, his depression and aniexty. His journey through medications and discovery of the “madness” finding in so many people. While trying to sort out his mental/emotional crisis, he is also dealing with a daughter that has issues of her own: a severe eating disorder.
The journey of this one man, this one teacher, to rebuild himself and his family is often raw. It’s truthful and real. You’re never sure how things will turn out, just like life.
A great read! I recommend this book to anyone stuggling with society’s expectations, career burnout or mental health issues.

 

Thanks go to the reviewer.

Thanks, Angie.

The Importance Of Night

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Almost twenty-minutes past three and I am sittng here in the darkness, without my glasses, whilst my wife and daughters sleep upstairs.

I woke thinking.

Now someway into my veritable older years, though the boy inside me queries this, I have those nocturnal meanderings that lead to a gnawingly inward frustration.

It’s over two-years since I finally wobbled beyond wise words. My ‘burnout’ was a forest fire that destroyed everything that I had come to depend upon in my daily existence and spiritual certainty. Even then, I still had a belief in the whole business of God.

I was a character in some cosmic saga and my lines were being written in a sympathetic ‘it will all work out in the final chapters’ manner. It was a nice thought, but it was a thought that gently drowned me into inactivity. Why should I bother to make the hard decisions when they had possibly already been made for me?

It takes many deaths before we awaken to the possibility of our own.   

I think the fifties decade is the one that begins to place the Grim Reaper before us on an ever more frequent basis. People die. It’s not just people we vaguely know or celebrities we have grown up with. No, those now dying are our friends and our family. At this point, life stops being endless, ceases to be something that will happen tomorrow, and starts becoming a little urgent.

We have just returned from holiday in the past week and yesterday I was talking to my wife and commented on how full ‘holiday days’ are compared to non ‘holiday days’.

We were camping in France and we based our stay around the beautiful Lake Annecy. Our camping was a mixture of hard and soft camping with ten days being spent in mobile homes whilst the other eight was real camping in tents. We had our bikes (five people in my immediate clan) and the car was full to bursting with everything that we were to need and lots of things that we had forgotten that we would need. But we were on holiday and that meant that the days were ours and needed the respect that they deserved. So, instead of just letting them drift by, we filled them full of ourselves. Cycling, walking, talking, cooking, meeting, talking some more, seeing, site-seeing, BEING! We did it all.

Like most of our best holidays, the weeks were book-ended by potentially disastrous events. The car broke down, badly, and or final dash for the ferry saw us driving through the most torrential of storms which demanded my wife and daughters’ abject fear and my 1000 percent concentration. We survived both. When we got home we were well and truly knackered, but we had done it; we had filled the days of our holidays with meaning. We ‘did’ rather than procrastinate. It made sense. Back home the doing seems to get pushed to one side for that great big empty balloon of a thing called ‘everyday life’. And that is what we genrally do (or don’t).

Have you ever been to a funeral and said to yourself, “This is too important to waste”, then gone straight back to wasting it the next day and the day after that and the one after that…infinitum? It’s the holiday thing. We have a brief epiphany, a break from the everyday, a glimpse of what could be, then the blinds come down and we are back in the darkness of the mundane.

The thing with the mundane, the everyday, the normal world, is that it’s not taxing. It may be ultimately a stealth-tax but we don’t immediately feel it. We are not left exhausted by our attempts to seize the day and don’t feel the need to stuff all of our energies into a few weeks that will come to an end.  Unlike life, holidays are finite. And that is ‘rub’. Life does end. It’s a holiday that starts with a breakdown and finishes with a dramatic storm that threatens to derail everybody’s safe passage.

So after those fine words, I am still confused as to what my true holiday should contain.  

I have a decision to make in the next few days.

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I can’t put it off. The clock is ticking. 

 

 

The Piper 48

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Brian’s engine idled but remained alert. 

Its throaty humming was reassuring. In front of them was the street onto which she had recently moved with the remains of her family. Now she sat with a stranger who had come out of literally nowhere to help them.

She had been abducted by someone who claimed to have been a doctor and had been lucky to escape with her life. She had been thrown into a world of madness and had seen her dead sister. She had been told that her eldest son was to be her executioner. Her sons were now missing and she was struggling to keep any sense of sanity in place. Within her was an anger that was rising.

Whoever had done this would pay.

“It looks too quiet,” Nick muttered. “Perhaps I should just check to see if it’s okay.”

Laura nodded as Nick carefully opened the door.

“Lock yourself in and keep the engine running just in case. It might be better if you sit in the driver’s seat.”

Laura looked at this stranger and knew that she trusted him beyond reason.

“I want my boys back Nick. I’m not going to desert them for anything or anyone.”

“Laura, we’ll get them back. In the end, we will return everything to its rightful place. Trust me.”

He closed the door and began to walk into the still night. Not for the first time, she was drawn to a memory of Simon and shook it off. For a long while, she believed in him but he had let them all down. Somehow, his death had allowed all this to happen and she believed that she would never be able to find forgiveness. She looked into the dark and prayed that all would be right.

The time on the car’s clock was eight fifteen. A millennium had passed within this day. She was lost in this thought when a hand knocked at the driver’s window. It was Nick.

“It’s okay, the house is empty. I don’t think that they know where you live. Let’s get inside.”

They locked Brian’s doors and left him standing. They took the alleyway leading to the back door rather than use the front. Once inside, they drew the heavy curtains and lit only the most frugal of lamps. If anything was watching, it would have to look long and hard.

The house echoed without the presence of the boys.

Laura was silent. Inside, she was turmoil. Perhaps this was what it was to be mad. Perhaps the world would just slip away and this was what would replace it. In the short course of a day, all that she thought that she had possessed had been stripped away and here she was in a darkened house with a stranger.

“What have you done to me?”

Nick looked across the room to meet her accusing gaze.

“What have you done to us? It’s you isn’t it? You started all of this. Before you arrived, we were doing well. We were a family and now all this. All this madness came with you.”

“Laura, I have come with this, but it is not me that has caused it. It is The Piper.”

The mere utterance of this name stopped her tears.

“Yes, you already know the name. It is he that has caused this and it is he that has taken your boys. It was The Piper who took Simon.”

“But Simon died in a car crash. It wasn’t anything to do with this.”

“It was everything to do with this. Simon knew about that night many years before it was to happen. He was told how it would happen, but was betrayed. He…”

Laura waited for Nick to continue. He didn’t.

“Nick, Nick are you okay?”

There was a flicker and then movement. Now the eyes were staring at her and she could not avoid them. She felt as if she were trapped by their gaze. It was as if they were coming towards her from a great distance yet travelling at a speed that would just sweep evrything before them. Deep within his grey irises were lights that were now cutting through the distance that separated them. She could not move even when she realised that the lights, that were now clinically searching her out, belonged to a vehicle whose trajectory included her. And so it did.

The air was beyond cold.

She found herself in the open with only a blanket to keep her warm. There was a slush of snow that was beginning to freeze with the falling night. Here she was alone. She was standing barefoot at the side of a duel carriageway that was empty of cars. From where she was, she could see the whole of the road running in both directions. On the other side of the carriageway was a wood. She recognised it vaguely. Above her was a footbridge spanning the road.

“Don’t sleep while The Piper wakes.”

Her hairs stood up along her upper back. A shiver of fear ran along her spine and tiny explosions pricked her skin. She knew this voice and wished she did not.

Before another thought could push itself into her mind, she heard the sound of feet running on the muddy earth through the woods. Then they were crashing through the undergrowth in desperation. Something was frightened. Something was running for its life and that something was the slight figure now bursting through the tree line and into sight.

Laura’s heart was racing. She tried to move. She tried to offer help, but could not. She was rooted to the place where she stood.

The figure was running towards the footbridge whilst another shape appeared behind it. Unlike the fleeing figure, this one had no definite shape. It was there because she could see it, yet it was as much a part of the engulfing night as it was of the more tangible objects that surrounded it. If she looked too deeply, it would see her. Laura remembered the memories of childhood when the shadows around her bed would form into solid shapes if she looked too long at them. She always looked too long, seized in morbid fascination at the sinister wonder of it all.

The first figure had fallen. It was obvious that it had been running for a long time and had reached the point where its tolerance of pain was telling it to stop. The other thing moved steadily towards it. Again, Laura tried to make her muscles act. She wanted to scream out that behind it was the bogey man. Run, she wished she could scream, but found nothing there. She was watching the death throes of a hunt and braced herself for the inevitable.

Then came the lights.

Looking to her right, along the wintry frieze of the road, she picked out the headlights of a car moving fast. Its engine was roaring defiantly as it raced towards the scene. The figure on the floor also heard its call and made one last attempt of escape. The dark shape rippled and turned to face the unwanted intruder. Before it could react, its prey was up and running with one last bolt of energy across the road. A metal fence separated the two carriageways and this should have been too much to surmount. However, the promise of assistance elevated the prey to the top and over before the dark shape had moved. In an instant, the car was there with the passenger door open and the intended victim was inside.

Before the car roared away, Laura saw, with astonishment, that the driver was Simon. It was escaping and the dark shape just looked on. There was no attempt to chase. Surely, it could have caught up with its victim as it crossed the road. What Laura had first thought was helpless surprise was something else. That was when she heard the crash and saw the terrible mass of twisted metal that had once been a car.

One headlight was still glaring questioningly into the night sky.

She was back in the house looking into the eyes whose grey sincerity she was leaning on.

“You see, Laura, sometimes we get the wrong end of the tale.”

A sound from the back door hushed them into silence. There was a key being turned and then the low creak of the door being opened. Near silent footsteps were making their way inside the house bringing with them the familiar shape of Michael.

His mother ran to him, hugging him in one movement. Again she was streaming tears, but now they were tears of joy.

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He had been delivered from evil.

The Piper 35

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“Mrs Andrews. Mrs Andrews?”

She was conscious of being in a room that echoed a lot. The ceilings were high and there was a smell that was unmistakably connected with hospitals.

Her first thought was about Peter. Who would be looking after Peter? The world was coming at her in flashes. She heard the sound of horns that had raised themselves into something more threatening. She remembered the faces of the people as they threw their insults at her. She remembered their hatred that had multiplied with her attempts to reignite Brian’s engine. She only just remembered the police officer as he reached into the car.

“Mrs Andrews. Laura, can you hear me? Blink if you can hear me.”

The voice was different to the ones she had been hearing earlier. This one belonged to a woman.

From deep down, Laura made the journey to the surface. She was swimming upwards and away from a very dark place. There were things down there that searched and searched. Once or twice something brushed the soles of her feet and panic shot through the rest of her body like acid spilt across naked flesh. She looked upwards. She was almost there when a voice whispered into her ear:

They all know about you Laura. They all know about your dirty husband and his cheating ways. Relax. Give your children a chance. We’ll look after them. We have good homes for the likes of them. Let me take you to meet Simon.

Fear gripped her and she pushed with new strength for the surface.

“Laura can you hear me? Blink if you can hear me.”

“I think she’s having a seizure. We’ve checked her for drugs but there are no obvious signs. If I were to make a guess, I’d say that she was experiencing some type of paranoid schizophrenia. The police were able to get some details from the car and we’ve taken the liberty of checking her name against our computer records. If I’m right, this one has been here before.

“Hang on. She’s blinking.”

Laura had finally made it to the surface. She was now in the room looking at two doctors who were staring back at her.

“Laura, it’s Laura Andrews isn’t it?”

Laura pushed the affirmation out of her,

“Yes, it is.”

“You’ve had a bad experience. A police officer found you in your car, crying hysterically. You were blocking a long line of traffic so you caused quite a stir. Could you tell us what caused this? Have you any history of this type of event?”

Laura thought back to the black months after Simon’s death and nodded.

“I was being treated for depression after my husband died. I received counselling, no drugs. I was pregnant at the time.”

The two doctors exchanged looks and Laura thought she could hear the female doctor think the words, poor woman, pregnant to a dead husband.

“Are you on any medication now?”

“No.”

“Do you have any other dependencies like tobacco or alcohol?”

“A bottle of wine once a week, is that a dependency?”

“It’s a lot less than we’re on.”

At that point a nurse moved quickly along the ward.

“Excuse me, but one of you is needed in emergency. They’re run off their feet. I don’t know what’s happening to this country.”

A look from the male doctor indicated that she should be more conservative with her general conversation.

“You go,” said the female doctor, “I’ll finish up here.”

As the nurse and the doctor were walking quickly away, Laura thought she could hear the internal conversation that was going on between them. They were at the cutting edge of immediate medical care and had experienced a massive increase in patients attending casualty with wounds from violent attacks both animal and human.

The world was going mad.

 

 

 

 

 

The Problem With Believing In Oneself

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I was out cycling with a good friend last night. It acts as a catch-up as well as a talking therapy session. The exercise is our form of meditation.

The ride has several stages. The first is the preliminary greetings. This is followed by a few funny anecdotes from our daily lives. Then it becomes a laughter session. Both of us like humour and both of us can be quite humorous. Both of us are in recovery from the slings and arrows of that outrageous fortune that others call normal life, so the stuff that we find funniest is the stuff about ourselves and what fuck-ups we have become.

We can’t talk to many other people about our thoughts and lives because they wouldn’t get it. The rest of the world seems to be doing a reasonable job of getting on with it. We get on with it, but IT then becomes a pet lion that decides to show its love of you by chewing your legs off. Life is devouring us, little by little, but we can still laugh.

Our rides normally end in a warm feeling of having shared some moments with a fellow-traveller. Our roads have been similar for a number of years and each time we come to the end of one of them, we do a tentative fist-pump.

Last night’s ride was slightly different. For a start, we both arrived racked with guilt over another episode of, ‘Wow, Haven’t You Fucked Up Your Lives!’ I had been thinking of what I had become after having hoped for so much. My friend was chewing himself up over his inability to be there for his children when he thought they needed him. In truth, although divorced, he does lots for his kids. We shared our thoughts, shrugged in mock bravery, cycled, laughed, and swore at the fact that the world was really going to shit in a hand-cart whilst we were cycling.

One lovely lady told me recently that I needed self-belief. She was suggesting that I was a good writer whilst I suggested that she was being too nice. The truth is that I have little self-belief and believe only that too much self-belief is one of the root causes of my present situation. Always an aspiring writer and never an aspired one.

So here goes with a self-esteem quiz:  

1. On the whole I am satisfied with myself.

2. At times I think that I am no good at all.

3. I feel that I have a number of good qualities.

4. I am able to do things as well as most other people.

5. I feel I do not have much to be proud of.

6. I certainly feel useless at times.

7. I feel that I am a person of worth, at least the equal of others.

8. I wish I could have more respect for myself.

9. All in all, I am inclined to feel that I am a failure.

10. I take a positive attitude toward myself.

Devised by the sociologist Morris Rosenberg, this questionnaire is one of the most widely used self-esteem assessment scales in the United States. If your answers demonstrate solid self-regard, the wisdom of the social sciences predicts that you are well adjusted, clean and sober, basically lucid, without criminal record and with some kind of college cum laude under your high-end belt. If your answers, on the other hand, reveal some inner shame, then it is obvious: you were, or are, a teenage mother; you are prone to social deviance; and if you don’t drink, it is because the illicit drugs are bountiful and robust.

How did you do?

Go Forth and Multiply

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King James Bible
And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.

We didn’t sleep well last night. I was awake and struggling to return to the earlier shallows of dreams. Sophie was awake. She knew that I was awake. I knew that she was awake, but we did not communicate. We were deep in thought.

A few hours earlier, she had asked me to drop this ‘mental illness thing’. I knew she meant business. This had followed on the back of some news I had imparted to her about the events of my day. ‘Events’ make me seem busy, occupied, in demand. However, it’s just a word.

My Events:

Agencies? Begged me to do this new supply gig, begged. I said no. They phoned again and begged some more. I eventually said yes. I was originally booked into a Catholic school who had requested me. So that was given to somebody else. I told the other agency that I would be elsewhere next week so they cancelled my two remaining days. I went along to a second interview at a college on Tuesday. Spent half an hour there and lost a full day’s pay. They haven’t bothered getting back to me. The new school agency phoned me at 4pm, on Friday afternoon, to say that it had been cancelled for next week. I asked them if the other school was still on and they said they had given it to somebody else, but not to worry…because? Fuck, fucking nose 👃

From a text to a friend.

It doesn’t take much imagination or empathy to understand my then state of mind. After telling my wife, she, too, fell into despair.

“We are going to lose the house!”

I thought about telling her that it was too big to lose, but thought otherwise.

“How much of your savings have you left?”

I had been watching my savings since June. I had been watching them diminish. I had been telling myself that there would be a cut-off point, a moment when decisions would have to be made. Up until now, I hadn’t done anything.

Voices were raised for the first time in almost a year. She told me that she was taking the girls to the cinema for the night. She needed to get out of the house. I accused her of abandoning me and she agreed. To add fuel to the fire, she told me that we would have to sell the house and that it, “would break her heart.” She was right and I was wrong; I know that now.

I am fifty-five years old. I have no recognisable source of income. I still have children to raise and a mortgage to pay. I need to decide what to do about it.

My best plan was to procrastinate. Yet I was there, at that moment when something had to be done. My dreams had been just that, empty thoughts drifting over a harsh landscape, hoping to find somewhere to lay down roots. I am writing now, still tired from the night’s non-sleep. My wife is hanging out washing and not communicating. Well, she is, but not in spoken terms.

Our usual routine for Saturday morning is to wake up, make two mugs of tea, sit in bed, talk a little and peruse the day’s news headlines. We used to read newspapers that were made of paper. In the distant past, before ‘the will of the people’ determined that we would be leaving Europe, we would share French or Spanish property porn. The act of looking for dream houses in foreign countries lifted us. Now that is gone and the only thing my wife could say to me was, “You need a plan.”

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The moment in The Italian Job when a plan is needed.

We never found out what happened to that bus and its hapless passengers. My hope was that somehow they would be able to pull the bullion back, rebalance the vehicle, and then escape through the from door with their hard-fought, but ill-gotten gains, intact. The law of gravity and probability would have told me otherwise.

The plan I have is to get out of teaching and into something that wants me and that I want. Writing is there, but that is part of the dream. It’s not yet real. Nobody pays to read it. I can learn to work with my hands which will involve an apprenticeship of sorts in North Wales. I need those skills and I need to be out of the false structures and regimes that have govern my recent life. I have a pension of sorts (and a pauper’s plot) so, I could take that now. I…

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There’s that bloody rock again.

 

I could go forth and multiply my chances of doing something worthwhile; and keep my marriage. 

It was Hamlet who struggled with indecision, forever wondering if he should act or not act. He even had a dead Dad who spoke to him every now and again. Perhaps what is happening to me is that I am slowly turning into a Shakespearean tragic character. That could be a question, an answer, or another prevarication. Who knows? It is said that those people who do not mobilise themselves in times of war tend to be the ones most likely to lose their lives. When outrageous fortune is flung against you, it is a wise decision to get out of its trajectory.

My hands have for many years been those of a wanna-be writer and poet, but they will now learn to work for their living. They will saw wood, mix concrete, and build fences. They will cut and callous and grow hard against the coming winter. They will grasp onto the very fibres of a life that needs to be pulled back into being. I have spent too long knocking at the door of education and will now move on.

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When we first moved into our then dilapidated home, we were met with radiators that were as useful as this. Like the rest of the house, they were old and obsolete, in need of replacement. We found out that it wasn’t the fault of the radiators but the fact the central-heating system predated the Ark and hadn’t worked since the great flood.

My friend told me recently that we are all destined to become radiators.

When we are young and dynamic, people notice us. When we get older (he thinks fifty is the critical age) we are not even noticed in a room.

We are ‘radiators’.  

But can they multiply?