Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Bitter Filter

I own a Brita water filter jug. It's a rather splendid bit of kit and very simple in both concept and design. The filter slots into a hole in one of the parts of the jug where you then pour nasty, horrid tap water. This is then "filtered" through the crystals that the device has inside it, and comes out as lovely, strained, pure water that now tastes better, is apparently better for you and is free of some of the nasty shit .The test to prove that this works is to make tea with tap water and then filtered water. You put the 2 teas into clear glasses. One will be cloudy, the other transparent.


I've realised that my life is one giant Brita jug and only recently has the water of my life finally dribbled through to the bottom part of the contraption. It all happened due to a chance conversation in a health food shop.

If I'm honest, it's fair to say I'm a fairly negative person at heart. I dwell on crap that happened anything back to 40 years ago. I tend to take insults personally (and then dwell on them) and my mind is churning with the maelstrom of thoughts and fears and paranoia and insecurities that ride with me from when I wake up to when I turn off the bedside lamp.

Recently I started taking B complex tablets to supplement something or other that I was assured I was lacking, by a nutritionist. I had explained that I get crippling hangovers if I drink to excess. Hangovers that don't just knock me down physically but also emotionally and psychologically. Nothing sucks more than lying in bed all day with a headache while feeling guilty about things you did when you were a kid.

This intake of pills started to work within about a week and I now feel a LOT calmer than I used to. It was only then that I was able to look at how I'd previously been feeling, to understand why these feelings had taken so long to shift. The B complex was the filter that had finally purged the nasty, horrible matter.

As a child I had to repress every single negative emotion. The only person in my family home who was allowed to get angry was my mother. She regarded her job and her life as containing levels of stress that only she could imagine and therefore had the right to be mean, vicious, surly and aggressive should her mood provoke it. I had to bottle up my bad feelings and keep them locked away. I vividly remember being told that stamping my foot was the pinnacle of aggression and wretchedness. It marked me down as a horrible little boy. So, the foot stamping stopped.

Then I was told that my "sulky face" was why people hit me, called me names, stole from me or just made me feel like a dog turd. I had to be smiling, happy and eager to please in order to make and keep friends. I came home one day with a black eye courtesy of a school bully. Even though the attack was unprovoked, my mother tutted and said (while shaking her head) "The way you look at people sometimes....!"

So I tried (with mediocre success) to not let my negative emotions show on my face.

At various points I was told that 'answering back' was rude. That coming back with a counter argument that proved an adult was wrong was "being too clever by half". On the rare occasions I actually lost my temper as I was growing up (which only ever amounted to shouting) I was punished with silences.

So.... my emotions got seriously internalised.

I had outlets. I had very violent fantasies in my head around revenge (never against mum though, she was right and I was wrong after all) and turned to horror films and the myriad violent Mad Max rip offs of the early to mid 1980s to deal with just how angry I was inside. Insults and jibes, personal attacks and piss taking, it all got locked away. Problem was that these things simply stayed there, they didn't go. They were sloshing about in the top part of the Brita jug, but no one had yet put a filter in to take the bad stuff away and make them pure.

A LOT of things were there and went on throughout my teenage and adult lives. I was told specifically, that I should be nothing but subservient and eager-to-please in a J.O.B situation. This meant that I endured horrendous bullying from petty, small minded supervisors and bosses from paper round at 13 to about age 37 when I quit the police. Not all the time, but when it happened I just smiled, agreed it was all my fault and carried on. Self esteem, assertiveness and pride were alien concepts for me. Owned and earned by only the 'deserving' of which I never dreamed I was or could ever be.

I had my heart broken not once but 4 times from age 26 to age 40. Each time I believed it was something I had done (or not done) that had brought such emotional pain into my world. A rather outspoken friend of mine once said "Lance, you fall in love with any woman who gives you the time of day." That wasn't true but I was so determined to fall in love that when I thought I had, I committed 100%. And got burned...every time.

I moved through life with gallons of negativity in the holding cell of the Brita filter, churning around in its rancid toxicity and never going anywhere. I got bullied a lot as I grew up and as a young man. So I would constantly feel that strangers (or even people I knew) were a threat. I believed they would betray me, hurt me and then abandon me. I would shy away from smiling and try and look 'hard' all the time when in public so no one would think of trying to wound me.

Two weeks ago I was out walking when I saw a pretty woman. I smiled at her and she smiled back. This was a very simple thing but one that would have brought me out in a mild panic attack as recently as a month ago. It wasn't a big deal and I realised that something in my soul had finally shifted.

I help out on a Krav Maga class for children. Every week me and the instructor pick a kid each who's shone out in the lesson. Last week I chose a 10 year old boy who got hurt and was crying but then jumped back in and was raring to go. I said in front of everyone that I was proud of him and admired his spirit. Before I would have been choking up at actually expressing genuine emotion and trying to suppress the lump in my throat. As it was...I just said it with feeling and moved on.

Same day I got caught in a traffic jam that lasted over two hours. I was annoyed but kept my calm. There was a time, very recently, where I would have been hitting the steering wheel with my fist; lamenting my sore left knee from dipping the clutch; listening to my music REALLY loud to match my bad mood. As it was...I was able to deal with it and didn't lose my temper.

Last week I got into an argument with a rather despicable Chav. While I would have got a low score for how I spoke to him, physically I dealt with it appropriately. Reason was I remained calm and didn't let my emotions rise to overwhelm me over the edge of the Brita jug. Finally the filter was in place. The B complex had sieved the impurities of my past life and what had come through was strength and calm and peace. The by products of successfully purging rage, bitterness and regret.

Two nights ago I had a dream that I attacked, grappled with and ejected a drunken young man from a night club where he was causing problems. I threw him down a short flight of steps and he didn't fall over but landed on his feet. I then shouted "AND DON'T FUCKING COME BACK!!!" He then began to cry, like little children do when they are hurt and in pain, and walked away sobbing. I felt beyond guilty for this and, even though it was only a dream I felt bad the next day about it (and now while remembering it to write this). What I had done in subduing and ejecting him when he was being an arsehole, was what I had always dreamed of being. A badass who could dispense justice. This dream was terrible because in it I had really upset the young man and hurt his feelings. It made me realise that I'm not a badass and never will be. The dream was showing me that my compassion was what was trying to come to the fore, not heroic fantasies inspired by unresolved anger issues. The Bitter filter had taken the anger and put something very different in its place.

Calmness and the ability to enjoy simply being alive were not things I thought I could ever achieve. 

Now I can.

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