I am sitting in front of the television whilst the men’s singles tennis final is on. The room is relatively quiet with just an aunt sitting here cheering on the Argentinian Del Potro who is playing Scotland’s Andy Murray. Since we are about 30 minutes drive from Dunblane, Andy’s home town, I am not sure I approve of her allegiance but when I threatened to leave she objects; so I stay. The dog is obvious to this, sleeping at my feet.
I want to leave because I want to reflect on the day. It has been busy day, full of people and full of emotion and I am wondering if that is a good thing or not. Certainly I’ve had little time to think because I have been doing, listening or talking but at the same time I have had only a brief flash of depression and is that good or bad? Obviously it is good not to feel depressed, that is the state I would prefer but is that because I have had little time to feel? My friend who is a professional in mental health told me to keep busy when I first talked about my difficulties and I know from cognitive behavioural theory that is a good move for combating short term depression but how effective it is against chronic depression? Us thinkers though, tend to have a habit of over analysing, trying to find meaning when perhaps there isn’t anything useful to learn, should I just accept that I had a good day and leave it at that?
When I look back on the day though, there has been emotion so perhaps I would be better to focus on that since that is what I am working toward; learning how to get in touch with my feelings. I suppose the emotion actually started late last night. We had a Japanese student arriving who has come over to stay for two weeks, go to college, and practise his English speaking. I am always slightly on edge when a student arrives, how easy will it be to communicate with them? It turns out our visitor is willing to make the effort to try and that makes all the different to me because it gives me the incentive to try hard too. The situation then becomes a learning experience for both of us and that helps me feel good. We communicated by speaking, writing, mobiles, photos and using Google to find things. I now know where he lives in Japan, have seen his house using Google Maps, we talked about the height of mountains, compared our favourite local skiing resorts, how long it took to get there and ways of getting to college. We also watched the Olympics together and as we sat there I realised that I feel a paternal affection for this young man and I hope that we can develop a friendship that helps me visit him in Japan one day.
In contrast to this we went as a group to visit the sculpture “Poppies: Weeping Window” in Perth today. This installation was part of the “Blood Swept Lands” and “Sea of Red” one constructed at the Tower of London in remembrance of the start of the First World War and consists of hundreds of ceramic poppies flowing out of a first floor window. I remember seeing pictures of the installation in London and being blown away by the symbolism showing the horrendous numbers of causalities in the battles; it was stunningly effective. In contrast I felt little when viewing the one in Perth, it seems a must do tourist thing. I don’t think it helped that a couple were having their wedding photos amongst the poppies and behind the ropes keeping others at bay; it didn’t seem right to me but I couldn’t decide if it was disrespectful or not. More effective I thought was another installation tucked away at the side on a fence whereby each day a cross was added to the fence for each soldier who died from the Black Watch Regiment on that day a hundred years ago. When it is completed in November 2018, there will be nearly 9000 crosses added. Maybe it is the dynamism of the installation, or perhaps it was because few people noticed it, but I thought it showed the impact of 1WW on the local population very well.
I am struggling to write this. Is it the tennis on the TV or is it because I find it rather difficult to remember those emotional moments. Am I programmed to forget about my emotions because that is what I needed to do in order to survive when I was young? It makes think about the trauma that veterans may have experienced and how difficult it is for them to reintegrate back into standard society after being on tour in a warzone. I watch too many movies perhaps, what do I know?
The Olympics are the culmination of complete dedication and sacrifice by the athletes and sometimes they cannot deliver on the day. As I grow older and perhaps more wistful of my youth, I am more appreciative of the strength and stamina of these guys. I think this is particularly shown by the gymnasts. There were some individual events today and I was privileged to see both the men’s floor and the pommel finals. I am completely in awe of what these guys are capable of; how the hell do you get to be that fit, flexible and agile? I dreamed of being a dancer as a child, but as an adult I would love to be able to do even a simple tumbling sequence (I can do a reasonable cart wheel but that’s it). To be able to jump, twist, somersault, and land so solidly is amazing. To see Max Whitlock first win Gold on the floor and then do the same on the pommel was staggering, Max’s achievement was historical and amazing. What I also loved as the tension built, was the reactions of the second and third place guys. As the last guy took to the floor one Brazilian was curled up on the floor head covered under his arms, whilst the other was barely keeping control and crying. During the final pommel exercise the third place American was red eyed and crying, Louis Smith was pacing and teary too. Is it perverse of me to enjoy seeing men cry when I am crying too? I guess it makes a connection between me and them, I am not the only one overwhelmed by emotion, how I am, is okay and real.
The time I felt the wave of depression break over me was when I was alone with my daughter. It was a chance to see how she was feeling, see how she was coping with life. I think what I was leading up to was to tell her that I was finding life tough, I wanted to be honest with her but instead she talked and I listened, and I asked open questions. It is difficult turning off the parental filter, I tried but nothing happened this time.
It has been a good day to live in the United Kingdom. So far we have won four Gold medals, and there may be a five in the offing. This tennis match is a bit of rollercoaster though, sometimes it looks like Murray is dominating and sometimes it is Del Potro; the emotional ups and downs are palpable . The Olympics are great for bringing people together, even if they support opposite sides, they are also great for me to explore my feelings. Perhaps I will aim to go to Tokyo in four years’ time and continue my exploration.
Through all this the dog continues to sleep.