Confessions of an oddball

Month: February, 2014

No. 7: Where He stands

No. 7: Where He standsI was raised Catholic, although you know that now. My interests lay in biology, art and God. If a ‘God spot’ exists in the brain, mine was anabolic in size. I’m told I wanted to be a priest when I was in primary school. That soon changed. The artist’s muse in my soul posed a question. My stroll through religion started in church and ended where he will soon stand… Let me explain.

Catholicism changed gradually into rebellion. When you rebel against an organisation based around God’s glory, who do you make friends with? Well I heard about a book you could send away for. You would enclose £25 with your address and in a few weeks it would arrive. It did. It had all sorts of charms and curses to harm your dearly despised ones. I didn’t ever believe what I was reading but I was fascinated. It must have taken such creativity for someone to put down on paper. Even more so the fact that they had created an urban legend around this book – a legend so convincing that people would send cash through the post with no proof of its return. The innocent artwork of my youth degraded into dark images I attributed to the devil, yet these were more likely based on teenage angst. The muse had an unanswered question.

This was soon abandoned, my mum told me to pray for forgiveness as God would condemn me to hell. I will admit I was a little worried. Worry dissolved away into atheism. Whenever the subject of God or religion would arise I would be the first on the scene. In case of religion break glass! My axe was keen with facts, logic and science. All with the intention of disproving this God I had heard so much about.

One day as I sat watching the morning news, a reporter stated that there had been a book published with the first evidence of an after life. This was the scientific method based on thousands of cases. They formed together into one book with 23 questions. Each question a logical one to enquire. Each question had an answer. Each answer was a case study of one particular case in the multitude which best answered the query. I missed the title and author, so I forgot about it for a year or two. I filled these years with stifled creativity which soon became a potential career in art and design. My GCSE art teacher had faith that if I applied myself that I might go professional someday. The unanswered question had a possible conclusion.

On a day much like the morning news, during a phone call with my sister, the subject of this fabled book arose. She instantly recognised its description and informed me of title and author. The game was afoot! I found it, bought it, absorbed it. It gave me a sense of deja vu while I digested its knowledge. It had such logic and science in droves that I couldn’t disprove it. Not for all my atheism. He had searched himself for mentions of the world his case studies were describing in their deep trances. He could not find a match. Not in books, articles, media – anything! This book soon became a very important part of my life. I read more around the subject, yet these further books gave me a sense of doubt. Eventually I reached a point where my beliefs were less faith, more fascination.

Every religion and belief became a thought-provoking icon. The world was abundant with icons and I could not help but feel that all of them were wide of the mark. Their creativity abounds, yet their theory of creation seemed obscured. I felt inspired. My planned artwork moved from mythology and into biology. I ordered a 25m length of rope and a heated glue gun. My plan was to coil the rope into the contours of the human body. It was man-made man: an artificial theory of creation. My muse could see the true answer on its horizon.

The intention of this was not to highlight the untruths of religion. It was to demonstrate humility. Should an afterlife exist, the human race has worked its utmost to describe and explain it. We have attempted on countless occasions to stare at the face of God and then to draw his likeness – in words, mostly. While believers each scoff at their contemporaries, I stand detached. My outsider’s view is this:

Should an afterlife exist, the human mind is too feeble and limited in this physical environment to even come close to describing its ethereal one. We see less of the visible spectrum of light than goldfish. Sharks can smell blood from miles away. Whales hold conversations across vast distances. Dogs have the ability to hear a great deal better than any living human. Ergo we have a limited sense of our surroundings than even other earthly creatures. Who are we to say that the snake has not a better view of the afterlife than us, since its pallet so many more colours? Man-made man is not an insult to religion, it is a humble account of the potential to our afterlife. Should an afterlife exist, it is far more glorious in its splendour and simplicity than any one of us could devise.

And so now my beliefs are redundant to my mind. I choose to believe in fundamental basics with which I will not furnish this entry. My quest to complete this earthbound piece of contemporary art will continue – yet it will not be rushed. In the old idiom quoted far and wide, I may be run over by a bus leaving the house tomorrow morning. Should this happen, the artist in my soul will have an answer at last for its muse. On that day, man-made man’s purpose will be derelict, as my oblivion will open its eyes and he will stand beside me an equal.


No. 6: Junctions

JunctionsWhy would I want to recount these events? Each is painful to remember. Each had the potential to brake me. Each has its place in my private hell. Wouldn’t it make sense to drive the hateful and destructive memories from my mind? The truth is I don’t know exactly. Every period of my life before I reached 25 bears a scar. Some are physical, others emotional. Even my soul has suffered more than its quota. Perhaps recalling these memories and storing them in the public eye is like deleting junk mail. Perhaps not.

All I can tell you for sure is this: At every junction in my life I’ve had a choice of which path to walk down. Each problem had its own method of self-preservation. I chose every one of them. Ignorance, isolation, instigator. They all have had their place on my yellow brick road. There came a time when I became tired of the coward’s role call.

It came when I worked for a clothes store. I started there filling the shoes of a boy my age who had died in a car accident a week earlier. He was much loved, and I was much resented. In this place of work it seemed I would play the role of puppet. The person pulling my strings will enter stage-left in one moment…

She spoke all of the right words, made all of the right moves, and offered me a role of seniority. I lapped it all up, as gullible as can be. She began with earning my confidence in her managerial prowess, yet things soon changed. One of her junior managers was nipping at her heels and she disliked it. Firing him was not an option, as he had done nothing wrong. Instead she went one worse.

One day he had made a comment that she was not happy about. It was on the shop floor in front of a handful of customers and staff. She requested that I join her in the office, and explained that she was afraid of her younger rival. Her hand reached for the telephone and, as she dialled the area manager’s mobile phone number, she explained that she was on a store inspection nearby. Conversation over and telephone receiver replaced, the younger manager came into the office. He asked me to leave, but the office’s other occupant demanded I stay. I felt as if I should stay out of protection for her safety, and so I placed myself in-between them.

He began the conversation yet was interrupted abruptly by our manager. She informed him that the area manager had been telephoned about his behaviour and she was on her way to ‘sort it out’. At this he became visibly angry, yet he remained in place by the office door. His hand gestures were elaborate, but he kept control of his temper well. He left the office and confined himself upstairs – I assume to calm down.

At the AM’s arrival she asked me to provide a statement. The store manager remained in the office with us both as I gave this, and began suggesting things that had happened. My words on their own were pure statement of fact, yet with her embellishments it soon became a story of threat and fear. The AM suggested that the store manager go on her lunch via the service entrance to the store. As I went to close the door behind her, she reminded me quietly that I ought to tell her about the threats of violence. I found this puzzling, but I didn’t think much to it.

From the statement already given, the AM decided to put the junior manager on immediate paid suspension pending enquiries. It took me two weeks but I eventually faced the truth: The person who had been so kind to me in providing me with a senior grade job had been manipulating me into getting her junior manager fired. I responded by telephoning the AM myself and talking to her about the events properly. My leading question was whether she had noted down my manager’s comments while I provided my statement to her, because they were untrue. I explained the full story in complete unbridled honesty. In short, he returned from suspension a vindicated man. She on the other hand, was fired immediately. Something very hushed up by the company.

Why did I let a good thing go? She gave me all of the things I wanted at the time: a senior job, a good pay cheque, responsibilities and trust. Why did I stop this before it had really started? Because a man was soon to lose his job for no good reason. He may not have been a role model for his whole life, but he had a talent for clothing sales and he didn’t deserve to be painted as abusive.

I had started work in customer services because of my diluted ambition to help people. I had worked in this sector for many years before starting at this clothing store. It was while I sat and pondered on my role in returning him to work that I realised something. This was the first real time that I had helped somebody. I knew that it was impossible to continue righting social injustice every day so I looked for a better way to spend my time.

Sculpting had been a solid interest of mine, so I applied my hand to learning carpentry. It fell apart when I realised I was not passionate enough for it. The history and extended history of our lives interested me – theories and all – so I started a distance learning course in hypnotherapy and regression. Nobody would volunteer to be my first patient, meaning I could not qualify. Eventually I found myself in this clothing store looking directly down the barrel of a wasted life.

One day my colleague informed me that she was soon to be leaving to be a student nurse. I did not know much about this nobel pursuit, so I paid it no heed. She encouraged me to look further into its merits, and so I did. All of the parts of being a doctor that I had been passionate about were all written on this webpage in front of me. It meant helping people on a daily basis from all walks of life.

I applied on a friday and started the following monday.

It took me until just after my 25th birthday to qualify as a nurse. I took the opportunity and used it to travel away from my hometown. Its values were detestable and its people despicable. Ever since moving to work in this big city hospital, the winds of change have blown through my life. I found my ex-girlfriend, had my sofa thrown in a skip by a crazy landlady, and started medication for the depression my ex caused me.

These you may agree were not the greatest moments of my life. They were, however junctions. These moments each presented me with choices. With my ex I chose to be a devoted and loving boyfriend. With my landlady I decided it was time to move into an apartment alone. And with my depression I decided to build up my own confidence.

My confidence would not return by mere will-power alone, and so I decided that my journey lay in an athletic pursuit. It has challenged my sense of self-image, my fitness level, and has earned me the best friends a man can have. I have discovered more strengths to my character doing this than I ever had before. It is as much a part of my life as my career in nursing, and I would not be without either of these. Now I am a kickboxer. I heal wounds in the emergency department by day, and inflict them by night.

Ever since I turned 25, life has given me challenges that were just as difficult as in my youth. These challenges have brought me to a better stage in my life than ever before. I now live on my own in a large and affordable apartment. My car is my own and was my dream car since I was a child. Nursing is turning in more directions than I knew existed, and it is taking me along for the ride. And at kickboxing my friends are teaching me to be a stronger and more confident man. I have stopped needing medication to improve my mood; my fitness has come on leaps and bounds; and I have learned there that no matter how hard a person hits me I will never back down. Blame this determination on my lifetime of trials and tribulations – but blame my newfound confidence on my friends!

No. 5: Crooked right angles

Crooked right angles

It started in primary school. I would align my ink and lead-filled daggers together at the corner of my table – not too far from either edge. My standard issue laces would be tied identically. The black white and red hangman’s noose dangling from my neck would be positioned just-so. If any child breached no man’s land, and left the point of their elbow as a lone invader in my territory, I would push it back with strong resistance.

In high school I had developed a tremor. I would be filled with thoughts that clouded my mind, and would tense my whole body to resist them. It left me visibly shaking – yet only slightly – as the turmoil inside of me grew. My thoughts were clouded, but my hearing was not. As the pin dropped in a loud room I heard its final cry, “Is he shaking?”

That was it. I had learned my limits, and I operated within them from that day on. I never understood this part of me, yet it had been my own since before I could remember. The walking along paving without stepping on cracks. The immediate correction of others’ grammar and spelling. The urge for ‘evenness’. This last one has endured me the longest. It is woven through my being and, try as I might, it will not depart willingly.

This need for order stemmed from the inner turmoil (what I have called my tornado). In the days when I was bullied, I would bury my head in the sand reading about mythology and fantasy – anything outside of this world and my life. It shut out the bullies, but it left my mind paralysed. With no external stimulus you are left with your own thoughts. For me this was a terrifying prospect. Each day would be the same cycle as the previous. Wake. Wash. Eat. Drink. Dress. Leave. School. Bully. Shrink. Class. Bully. Recede. Class. Bully. Retract. Lunch. Retreat. Shutdown… Turmoil.

Growing older gave me nil added strength; no amount of discipline aided in my repair; never did this turmoil go away. The moments when it wreaked havoc with my life were the moments when my mental fortitude had abandoned me. I had given in to the monster inside, and it made merry with my demise. Eventually I reached the most difficult decision of my life before or since. I would speak to a doctor.

Our family doctor was a partner in his small cottage practice. It lay in the middle of a poor district. A brick-built monument to ill health. As a toddler my height would be charted against a giraffe. As the years fell away, my partner in crime became less giant more dwarf. In my adult years he remained, a silent companion to my family doctor – same office, same beard, same smile. I let loose.

He made comment on my obsessive thoughts, and the compulsions which would follow. He stated that there was a diagnosis for this which he would like confirmed. He made a referral and further suggested I should look online for its symptoms. Should I find if any other of my mannerisms tallied with the recognised symptoms that it might give me some comfort. It did. The list was without end. As my eyes scanned the page I felt a shudder of excitement rise in me. This was the opening of Tutankhamun’s crypt. The unanswered question in my soul finally had an answer: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I rejoiced to know that my obsessions were another part of me – a contorted limb that was to be amputated. As if a physical entity, mental health problems are seldom characterised by the subject’s internal struggle. People only find significance in external appearance. In my case, the turmoil would interrogate me. His questions were always out of paranoia and never in logic:

What if the bus crashes and I have no seat belt on?
Don’t worry about it. It hasn’t crashed before.
What if I lose the money from my pocket and can’t eat?
I have my money still, I just checked.
What if people see my ticks and think me a freak?
I have hidden them my entire life – why would I stop now?
This doesn’t feel right, what if I’m gay?
I’m not attracted to men, so that’s out of the question.
It still doesn’t feel right, what if I’m a paedophile?
A little far-fetched considering I’m not into children, or a pervert.
What if my friends or family find out?

This one I had no answer to but to confront it. I informed my family and friends, and explained my behaviour for the past years. They wretched their faces in disgust, pulled their pitchforks and- …oh. They’re hugging me. This isn’t disgust, it’s support. Why didn’t I do this sooner? I saw the therapist who gave me no quick answers. My therapy was to talk it through. 6 sessions at 1 hour a go did nothing to calm the storm. I was on my own.

Years of struggle culminated in a final push for survival. I could see the paranoia taking hold and it wanted a blood sacrifice – suicide. This would not do. I fought back, stumbling at every hurdle. The turmoil increased. Its beginning as a tornado became hurricane Colin. He wreaked havoc, but his kindly nature and sweet name tried to usher me back to its grasp. I knew that should I let it take me in that it would consume me once and for all.

When trying to fight it my ticks and mannerisms became visible. Open. Public. My workmates at yet another clothes store wanted nothing to do with Colin and I. They had no words of support and no tolerance to my ‘attention seeking’. In time my mental exhaustion led to motivation. Motivation led to determination. Determination led to success! I had calmed the storm and put him in a jar even Pandora would not dare open.

This was the proudest moment of my life, and something which I felt needed commemorating. In the spirit of Pandora I picked a greek myth. It was a symbol of rebirth from destruction. A demise which led to all out splendour. The Phoenix. It lies on my skin as a reminder. Will-power and determination pulled me from the dark and into the future. It lies on my skin as a prison cell. My turmoil will never again see the light of day. It lies on my skin as a symbol of hope. Should I ever find myself at a dead end, and should the light from around me fade, I know that I will find a way through. Mythology may be its origin, but its strength is my reality.

No. 4: About us

About usWe remain anonymous. Our lives are hidden from the outside world. The methods at our disposal are bone, flesh, coded number plates and opaque clothing. We create laws to prohibit the reading of another’s mail. Our true persona played out with loved ones is labelled our ‘private life’. These things are normal, acceptable, ordinary. For most it is seen as obligatory to share your whole self with your life partner – some things even your doctor would struggle to hear from you. We have no real reason for this hidden aspect of our lives, aside from it is our own ‘personal space’.

My upbringing was a marathon, my work life a numbing sensation, and my core a home for true anarchy. These at the main milestones of my life were hidden from the world – it’s true – but it was not always this way. I have been known to dislike, hate, loath – and yet my fickle heart has always found it so easy to love. When you spend your entire existence sailing through the murky depths of reality, it becomes difficult not to latch on to the one light which could steer you to more serene waters. I have found said lights, and all of them were sirens – agents of my destruction.

This of course is not any of their fault. My destruction was a hair’s breadth away, and I was all too swift with my shears. Impulsiveness cost me the purest love I’ve known, breaking both our hearts. Disregard ensured the downfall of the future I might spend with a sweetheart. Honesty burned away a desert rose who always lay out of my reach. Cowardice let a fellow tornado drift and spin off into the dust. Yet none of these were the object of their destruction. They were my doing, out of a need for anarchy in our perfect world. I had remained anonymous, withheld my feelings, and never truly settled with any of those aforementioned. My past and present were my own, and nobody would take them away from me. This narcissism may have been borne of self-preservation, denial, or purely selfish routes, but on this day I am sure of one thing. It was love which eventually caused my own downfall.

I had hit a milestone in my life where I had taken stock of my doings, dealings, and debts. Life had dealt me a lucky hand with women and I was on a losing streak. My tornado loved nothing more than tossing aside emotions to wreak anarchy once more. I decided at the age of 17 to stop this for good, by abstaining from relationships until my lake became placid.

At the age of 25 I felt like time was running out and, in the pit of my despair, a friend called out into my hole. She suggested I try using an online dating site. Well we know now how the internet had served its purpose in my life before, but I hoped it might see its redemption. And so I tried. And failed. And failed. And failed… And succeeded. Here was a girl with flaws all her own. She had crooked eyes glazed with bifocals, a parent complex too difficult to explain, but with one gift of her voice she would calm the turning storm. I found myself thinking of her at all times of day, night, and the seconds in-between. She could look at me and with her softest gaze melt me into the ground. My life had taken a turn, and it appeared to be an incline.

We started off in the most innocuous of places for our first date. By the 2nd we had kissed. 3rd was a lot more kissing. At the 4th we were in love. The 5th we became an item. On the 10th I had betrayed my heart’s anonymity. And the 11th… well a gentleman doesn’t tell. An hour and a half saw us sharing the same air, so we used every minute we could to ignite the passion we had for each other. May it be a bar, a bowling alley, or a shopping mall, it seemed like home with her beside me. And so it continued – for a time.

In time for her the romance dissolved into routine, yet it remained in my heart. She regained the need for sporting dominance, her career progressed, we met family members, and after 6 months together our two homes became one. My impulsiveness – it seemed – had returned. Our home bliss soon removed my blinkers and let me see her for who she really was. Her routine became my routine, her chores became my chores, her bills became my bills, and in a vain effort to rekindle our romance her bedtime became my bedtime. I was in hot pursuit of the life we once had. She cared for another thing entirely: herself.

This disregard started all at once and would not be diminished. Her family sympathised, her friends motivated, her ex-boyfriend kept a close eye. I became suspicious. Her need for family mutated into a longing for a new companion. She was living with me, so the easiest introduction would be a dog. And so we found a rescue shelter and adopted a dog together. This became the utmost object of her affection. When leaving for work she would kiss him goodbye and leave me wanting. She would allow him my space in our double bed. The final straw came when she politely informed me that she loved the dog more than she loved me.

My efforts to rekindle moved from the bedroom into wining and dining. I encouraged her to go out on date nights with me more often as I was seeing little or nothing of her. These she volleyed back in her accomplished tennis technique. One twilight saw us across a table from one another. The food disappeared, the wine flowed, and honesty came forth. This time it was her turn, and it was sharp. She confessed (in her matter of fact way) that in the league table of her desires, I lay in a lowly 4th behind two pin-ups and a rock star. Her one word of comfort lay in the fact that she was with me at the time. My search for answers garnered me what I have not hoped for before or since: given the opportunity she would leave me for either one.

Why would I continue to punish myself with this life of misplaced affection? Because I was deeply in love with her, and for all her flaws she was exceptional. I pushed on through the icy blizzard, while she retreated to her ex-boyfriend. He was a listening ear, a dry shoulder, and warmth from her past. He was my enemy. In trying to explain that his intentions were not angelic, my beloved accused me of mistrust in her. Our home life spiralled into a separated home life. Her mother bid her return home with open arms, while I found new accommodation. In her cowardice of facing our situation head-on she left me behind, and moved on with her life.

The relationship continued at a steady pace, but the passion had gone cold. I began to wonder what it was worth working for, while my heart sank deeper into the pit I had once called home. After numerous tries, endless pleading, and a broken heart, she had succeeded in destroying what strength I may have had left. It was with one final stroke that I dealt the killing blow: “If we travel this path once more I cannot see how I would have the strength to try again… but if you ever find yourself planning your inevitable break up, perhaps you should just end it.” She agreed, and so the darkness enclosed me. With one last kiss we parted ways.

It took 16 years of imposed isolation to prove my identity; 24 months of promiscuity to prove my narcissism; and a further 384 weeks of celibacy to prove my longing for something meaningful. Yet it took only 390 days with one woman to prove that even without a tornado chaos ensues. She had used tools of destruction I knew all too well to dig my new hole. In this shallow grave I honed my senses, regained my strength, and made a bid for freedom. Yet my freedom came at a cost. As I surveyed the world anew, I had an epiphany: Maybe anonymity isn’t so bad after all.