Wednesday, March 03, 2004

03 March 2004
I was woken at 3am on Monday morning. Then I couldn't sleep. It wasn't unpleasant or anguished; it was simply that I found myself thinking, creatively and fruitfully of various projects I have on hand. The play I am writing with first year acting students. A play one of my students has shown me. Above all a collaboration with a dancer and choreographer.
I didn't sleep till well after six. Then woke at seven, then slept again till eight, and then got up and rushed to work. Without practising yoga, without meditating.
But it felt fine.
When I got to work there was a stupid problem over travel expenses to a conference; uncertainty over travel plans later in the spring.
Trivial things: but enough to tip me into a hellish state. A state I recognised later as a recurrence of the state I was in last year when I was ill with stress.
It's logical, I suppose, that any illness, even a minor one, should have its recurrences. But when you're ill with a headache or a bad cold you know about it. You can raise your defences. You can take precautions.
This slips in far more inisidiously.
Life felt completely out of control. I was filled with profound fear and panic. Colleagues felt distant, ineffective, and hostile. I felt beyond help.
And this felt normal. This felt like the way things were. And always had been. And always would be. Period. End of story.
The Christians talk of hell as being eternal: and that is how it feels.
But the Christians situate it beyond this world, in a place utterly beyond help. The Buddhists describe it as a state of mind in this life that is accessible to us at any time and from which we can be rescued. This strikes me as more accurate.
A colleague wrote in some concern about the tone of an email I had sent her in this state: and that was what rescued me. After writing back to her I found myself crying uncontrollably as I slowly emerged.
I had to teach straight afterwards, which was difficult: but possible.
It was as if in a single day I had relived the experiences of four months.
I had gone to hell: and yet the day before I had been in heaven. With my lover. And riding my bike at speed through the glorious sunshine.
How changeable our mind states are. I think it was Pascal who said likened us to a candle flame burning in darkness. Burning in profound fragility:
burning in a wind.
Being a Christian, he was inclined to pessimism. For yes, happiness is fragile and easily blown away.
But so is unhappiness.

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