Monday, December 7, 2009

Mental Health Looks LIke Fun! [March 3, 2007]]

This has been by far my rockiest day of 2007, the one during which I’ve most nearly capitulated to my old bad habits. I began the day by doing some good work – designing a reasonably nice masthead for a new client, only to discover that she wanted to stick, aside from replacing the original font (sic) with the one in my re-design, with her weedy, amateurish original.

I get so tired of having to appease clients with rotten or no taste. It made me grumpy, and I’ve remained grumpy all day, though if you were to have asked at any point, I would, as part of my brave new resolution to keep my demons at by, have told you I was fine. I forced myself to grin hugely on several occasions when I felt about to go into one of my famous tailspins. Coming home from the gym, I confronted the little mob of local scallywags who regularly try to shake me down for spare change, and that made me glow for a moment. I do love kids.

I set myself the task of remembering some moments of pure joyfulness, and came up with riding bicycles in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on a warm Saturday afternoon when my daughter Brigitte was around seven. She was leading the way, and enjoying doing so.

And how I revelled in her being able to do so. As a child, I always thought there was something terribly wrong with me. At around three, I discovered that I couldn’t get the hang of tying my shoelaces in the prescribed way. By around six, my native lack of balance (and the generalised fearfulness Mom had taught me) were conspiring to preclude my learning to ride the ultradeluxe two-wheeler my Dad had won (in my name) in the local Thriftimart’s colouring contest.

The whole subject of bicycles became excruciating. When other kids in the neighbourhood would invite me to go riding with them, I’d have to make up an excuse, and lived in terror of my inability being exposed. Periodically, my dad would take me somewhere to try to teach me to ride, and would lose invariably lose his patience and shout at me. On one famous occasion, I took a dive to end the torture, and in so doing knocked out my two front teeth. I was probably close to nine before I finally got the hang of it.

But here was my daughter Brigitte having no such problem. The sun was gently warm, and there was a pleasant breeze, and I remember nearly swooning with the joy of being her daddy, following her past the rollerbladers and picnickers and strollers and carousel-riders.

I experienced comparable exhilaration in Portugal in the spring of 2004, when the missus and I holidayed in the Algarve. We’d come at a good time of year; armies of Brits and Germans wouldn’t overrun the place for a few more weeks, and local restaurateurs and barkeepers were palpably grateful for our custom. We chatted at length with one Dutch guy whose bar was full of Status Quo memorabilia; he was rather less gobsmacked than we might have preferred to learn we were close personal friends (well, former residents of the same apartment block and fairly regular drinking partners of) Rick and Patti Parfitt.

We rented a car and drove out for a look at the southwesternmost lighthouse in all Europe. We drove across the Spanish border to Sevilla, which was disappointing on nearly every level, including gastronomically. We drove to nearby Faro and beheld a shrine built from human skulls. Ah, but the day we drove up into the mountains of Monchique! The same sun that had warmed Brigitte and me as we pedalled through Golden Gate Park was shining that afternoon, and the same cordial breeze preventing its making us too warm. The missus was looking unusually adorable in her straw cowboy hat and jean jacket, and I thought I might swoon for my love of her.
If only you could bottle it.

And you can, you see, or at least find a little part of your mind in which to store it for future use. As we sat and watched The Dark — dreadful!— on DVD a couple of hours ago, I could actually feel my furrows deepening. But as I rremember Golden Gate Park and Monchique in sufficient detail to write about them, I feel five pounds lighter.

Mental health — I’ve been enjoying what I’ve seen of it.

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