Lifebuoy

LifebuoyDepression.

This is what Mr Xmas’ gradual retreating from life has been down to. We’ve had big conversations over the last few days, and have been friends long enough for me to know that he occasionally suffers from bouts of depression. But the thing is that neither of us thought it would return… Not now that he had gotten his life to where he wanted, and bagged the girl he’d been in love with for years, surely ?

However, there’s no denying that after a gradual slow-down over the last couple of months, Mr Xmas is now stalled. Unable to make plans, withdrawing from existing ones… for crying out loud, even the idea of booking a train ticket currently sends him into a tail-spin!

On the one hand, it’s an immense relief to know that none of this is to do with me, that his love for me is intact and that leaving me is the very last thing on his mind.

On the other hand, fuuuuuuuck!!!

What am I supposed to do?

I am currently living with someone who essentially wants to be left alone, retreat inside a cave and stay there until he feels able to cope with life again. Err…, fair enough, but what about me, and the kids who have come to rely on him to be their rock too?… Am I supposed to just grin and bear it, wait until he emerges again? Is this what love and accepting someone wholly is all about?

Don’t get me wrong, I do feel for Mr Xmas, because what he’s going through is just awful, and I know he is crushed with the disappointment that despite all the work he’s been doing in therapy over the last few years, his depression has returned.

Now, having seeked medical advice, my opinion is that anti-depressants are the lifebuoy he needs… But he just wants to wait it out, as he has more or less always done and resents the pressure I am putting on him to resort to chemistry. After all, it’s his lfe, and why should I dictate what he should and shouldn’t do? When can you make someone take a lifebuoy they don’t want?

Meanwhile, Spring lavishes its usual flowery splendour, I have been given a promotion after six weeks on the job, and feel like celebrating, making plans, whooping… But can’t do it with the man I have undoubtedly grown to love. I could cry with frustration.

So, internet friends, have you ever lived with someone affected by depression, and if so do you have any coping tips? How did you limit the damage on your relationship? Where did you draw the lines?

Silence

IMG_1373Not just my radio silence over the last couple of month. The thick, unsettling silence of my empty house tonight, as everyone is off somewhere for half-term.

Anyway, I know you’ve probably all but lost sleep over the terrible cliffhanger I left you with in early February. But at last the wait is over, as I can finally reveal (drumroll, crescendo: ) that I chose the terribly paid but interesting 6 months contract over a permanent and better paid, but not so interesting job. That’s it for the nutshell version.

The real-life version involved hopes, plans and tears, suspense and twists, but the funny thing is that in a few years, no-one, not even I, will remember the high drama.

And over a month ago now, I started working in communication for the international relations department of a local university. It has been a weird experience: Not working in English for the first time ever, learning about the subtle codes of the French workplace, and about University life in the 21st century.

Learning to forego anything not strictly falling within the Essentials category has also got its challenges, since Essentials do not include flowers, haircuts, new clothes or eating out. So I go around slightly dishevelled, wearing my last two pairs of still smart-looking trousers. But overall, it’s been nice: Work is fairly relaxed, my colleagues are friendly, and I like what I do.

All good then? Mmmwell, not quite…. And not quite involves old fears coming back to haunt me, as Mr Xmas and I talk about moving in together and plans for the future.

Gradually, my one-day-out-of-the-blue-he’s-gonna-leave-me-like-the-others-did radar has gone into overdrive. I scrutinise Mr Xmas’ face, and every word, finding warning signs everywhere in a nasty kind of PTSD-like fashion.

After many months of relative peace and security, it feels like being thrown back in time. Makes me want to howl and hide…

This song by Belgian singer Jacques Brel has been in my head a lot, recently. It came out in 1977, but (like me, ahem…) hasn’t got a wrinkle: It talks about a strange collection of things, which somehow manages to evoke our universal struggles with broken hearts, the passing of time, and friendship. I love it. So here’s to you, my online friends…

Jacques Brel – Voir un ami pleurer (English subtitles on the video)

Voir un ami pleurer from Franco Pachtoune on Vimeo.

The view from my office

View from my office

View from my office

Firstly, why did I ever think that cycling into work in a blizzard may even remotely be a good idea?

Secondly, night is falling now. And the roads will be even more slippery than this morning.

Thirdly, only a week left to go. In a week, this will no longer be the view from my office, because I will no longer be working here.

Just to add to the stress of wrapping-up a zillion projects before I leave, I have to take BIG job decisions. And frankly, I don’t like big decisions. They feel daunting, and definitive, and I would rather stick sharp things under my nails than decide.

Ok, so the reason decision time has come is because even though I have signed up for a terribly-paid but interesting fixed-term post somewhere, I am now being offered a slightly-better-paid but less interesting permanent position somewhere else. And that’s really just the executive summary of the problem, because there are many more ramifications such as being able to work part-time, how much time off  I can get to fit around the kids, development perspectives, the fact that if I go in one less-interesting direction, I will be closing the door on future, more interesting ones, and the all important issue of how good the canteen is.

So, hey, I know I am lucky to even have the luxury of choosing between two (well, actually it’s three, but the third one was a no-brainer) jobs, but guess what: I am scared. There’s been a lot of change in my life over the last five years, and I feel like hiding under the duvet pretending all this latest job changing lark isn’t really happening.

I know that I will eventually get over it, but right now, my eyes are watering, and I can feel a headache coming on.

At home, Mr Xmas, who has picked up the kids, showered my youngest and cooked dinner will be there, all deep-voiced and calm.

Think I’ll just catch the tram and bus home tonight…

Buena Vista Social Club – Dos Gardenias

Lanzarote

Before I found out I was going to become a pauper last Autumn, Mr Xmas and I had booked a week off in Lanzarote over the New Year.

So after spending a really noisy, hectic, lovely week in Paris with my family for Christmas, I headed for a really quiet (read child-free) week with Mr Xmas in Lanzarote. Lanzarote is a smallish Spanish island off the coast of Southern Morocco, on the same latitude as Florida : It is renowned for its year-round mild climate and freakish volcanic landscapes.

We did a lot of hiking.

Hiking

Classy picnics.

Picnic

High-brow entertainment.

Uno

The only downside being that our studio flat was right next to the hotel’s bar, where staff rehearsed an Abba musical every. Single. Night around the time we cooked dinner.

Abba

Because we’re French, we picked the starter of our New Year’s Eve dinner off the rocks on a beach…

Winkles

Winkles

And speaking of New Year’s Eve, it was probably one of the simplest, yet best in my life.

New year

In a word, I spent a blissful week away from all the pain of the past and uncertainties of the present.

And have since come back with a bump to Winter and errr… Is it just life? My workload is through the roof as I’m on the final stretch of my current job, there have been interviews for new jobs, broken cars, grumpy children, grumpy and sick children, cutting down on all expenses. Yet, none of it has been as bad it it could have been, because you know what ? I am not alone.

Mr Xmas is here. In fact, Mr Xmas has all but moved in with us, and much to my surprise, it feels ok.

Well, better than ok: I actually look forward to seeing him every night, to burying my nose in his smell and debriefing the day.

That is not to say that there aren’t still moments when I doubt, freak-out and question everything (hey, it wouldn’t be me otherwise), but they are getting fewer and further between.

Something odd, tranquil and powerful is seeping through the cracks of my tired heart.

Grand corps malade – 15h du matin

This song is light and silly, a reminder that Spring is around the corner. Makes me smile at the rain and fog.

… I’ll leave you with a few real pics of our holiday

Geometry by Lady E

Geometry by Lady E

The winkles' beach !

The winkles’ beach !

Timanfaya national park

Timanfaya natural park

Volcano top

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Hiking in Lanzarote by Lady E

Atlantic

Atlantic

Cartooning for peace

Cartoon by Plantu

Cartoon by Plantu

As my country reels in the aftermath of two terrorist attacks, mainly directed against a satirical magazine famous for its irreverencious cartoons, I sit in the quiet, cooling house, unable to sleep.

For the last 8 years, NGO Cartooning For Peace, set-up by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and French cartoonist Plantu has been working tirelessly against intolerance. You can support them here.

Who knows?

No job under the tree this year

No job under the tree this year

I hang up after a few more polite thank-yous, and just sit at my desk, stunned.

The thing is, that I had become really excited about the prospect of my very own, much coveted, Christmas present: A permanent, well-paid position, with a good strategic slant and room for development, all wrapped with a shiny bow, and my name on it…  After three interviews and enthusiastic feedback, I had rather foolishly allowed myself to believe in Santa.

Triple pants!

It’s no consolation that I apparently missed the job by a thread, I feel like rolling on the floor and kicking: Not fair!

So it’s back to square one, to my upcoming six months contract on a laughable wage, having to scrimp on Christmas presents, and constantly worry about the future.

Ooh, and just to make it clear: I’ll punch anyone who dares utter something along the lines of “onwards and upwards”, or “something else will come along”. Ha!

Alright, alright, perhaps, I am reluctantly aware that my situation is not a dent on err… , say South Sudan, but still, being a grown-up sucks sometimes.

And the confidence bubble that had for a while lifted the fog, and put my relationship with Mr Xmas back on sunnier tracks has kind of popped. I am back to doubt, not knowing what I want, or where to go.

Right, methinks it’s time for an old classic by The La’s because really, who the f***k knows what the future holds?

Anyway, come on, give me your ideas of songs that can bring a smile to your face when you’re feeling down?

The La’s – Who knows?