I’ve always been afraid.
Of talking to good looking women, of getting the piss taken out of me, of failing a job interview, of going overdrawn without realising it, of dying and finding out what happens afterwards.
There’s many things.
It’s only recently however that I’ve realised just how much these horribly vivid fears have fucked my life over.
Two monumentally wonderful things happened this year.
One was that me and my brother Gary finally got back on speaking terms after 15 years of not speaking. We were never really close as children but after a strange summer in my father’s retirement spot of Plakias, Crete, Greece things improved about 450%. He finally realised that I loved him and would do anything for him. I finally realised that his rage and bitterness towards me were because he genuinely believed that I didn’t love him and would do nothing for him and only wanted what I could take from him. That plus some shit from when we were kids that had never been cleared up. Spending time with him and my father, watching films, drinking beer and chatting meant more than I can ever articulate. Dad said he never thought this would happen in his lifetime and the photo of the three of us together in Joe’s Bar, Plakias, July 2013, raising a toast to the camera, has pride of place on my lounge wall, in a nice frame.
The other was that I finally went back to my secondary school of Kenilworth Comprehensive. I left the school in 1987 with nothing except loathing and contempt for 90% of the staff and pupils I’d endured within its walls for 4 years. 26 years later and the one and only teacher I had any affection for, the wonderful David Hardy, died of a heart attack aged 74. I didn’t attend his funeral in case one of the cunts that taught me was there. As I said to Mike Hardy, David’s brother, “it’s a time for you to remember David’s life. Not for me to struggle with the urge to gouge the eyes out of a former teacher’s face.”
The week after his funeral I went for a long bicycle ride and ventured back through the gates of what was then Priory Hall (now “Upper School”). As I cycled around my heart was racing, seeing so many places that had brought so much misery and pain. The cycle sheds, the classroom on the 1st floor facing the cycle sheds, the PE department. Bad memories. I finally found a member of staff (it was a Sunday) and told him I was an ex pupil and was it cool for me to ride around like I was. He said he didn’t mind so I faced down my demons by continuing to ride around the place that I never once had any intention of returning to, let alone as a sightseer.
I later contacted the Headmaster and discussed the possibility of returning to the school to discuss with the kids my time there, the bullying I experienced, the different attitudes towards pupils from staff in the 80s and most of all my book THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN.
Yesterday this actually happened and I spent a very pleasant half an hour at lunchtime with 30 eager children (at a “ticket only” event) talking about corporal punishment and how the miserable existence I’d had at that appalling school had led me to write a magical fantasy novel with anti-bullying themes. One kid got a free copy (courtesy of the “winner” sticker I’d hid under a random, front row chair) and others wanted to buy them.
Last night, at home, I felt odd.
A weight had not so much gone, but moved. My rage at Kenilworth School and the impotent fury that it had inspired within me, was replaced by the knowledge that I had done something productive and positive with all that horrible energy and possibly inspired a bunch of 11 to 14 year olds to read my book and maybe even try to write one themselves.
A certain peace has enveloped me over the last 36 hours.
But…it also gave me perspective on other areas of my life.
I do Krav Maga. I’ve spoken about it on here and I am proud to hold the grade of Practitioner 3 after more than 18 months of training. Thing is, I genuinely dislike the Combat class that my instructor runs. This is where you are hit and kicked and thrown around for real and I feel VERY uncomfortable when I know people are trying to hurt me. Residual psychological garbage from my childhood.
Thing is, I’m still angry at a lot of my life but that rage has never really manifested beyond thoughts and books and this blog.
I have had a compressed rotator cuff in my right shoulder (bit where the arm goes into the chest) for months. I snapped the anterior crusciate ligament in my left knee in 2002. Hence I’m in a lot of pain in my knee when it’s cold or I do Krav if there’s any twisting.
I read in a book by the awesome Louise L Hay some years ago, that our body pains are manifestations of problems in other areas of our lives. We need only to look at the pain and what causes it to find out why the pain exists.
I took a look at mine and realised that it’s there because I’m putting it there through procrastinating and worrying about my life without actually enjoying myself here and now. The knee pain is 11 years old, the shoulder pain about 7 months.
Last night at Krav Maga I was partnered with a 17 stone former Rugby player who, when we did “Escaping from Headlocks by Grabbing the Other Bloke’s Leg and Throwing Him Down”…threw me between the two mats we’d so carefully laid down, so my bad arm came down on the sports hall floor. He then landed on top of me. It was an accident but 2 minutes later it happened again. Thing was, it didn’t hurt.
At the end we then had to wrestle each other. Sit back to back and on the word “GO!” turn around and try to subdue our partners. Thing was…we kept changing partners. After about 3 tries, I got the guy who’s 6 feet 11 inches tall and a P5 (two grades above me). I swallowed my fear and anxiety and got stuck in and we tussled to a draw.
No pain in either my knee or my shoulder.
So I’m not made of glass and I can face my fears even though it sometimes makes me feel like a frightened 12 year old to try.
Demons can be faced. It has taken more courage to admit to myself that I’ve been scared for so long, than it ever was to do anything else.