strobilanthes crispus – Black Face General
self-loathing, so that you don’t have to…
Tropical Spice Garden, Penang, Malaysia – 2015
I find myself standing in front of a border full of tropical herbs, all in the welcome shade of a large, wide-leaved palm. There is a small, round sign stuck in the earth. On it, in a simple, almost childlike scrawl is written the number 59.
I am transfixed by this number but clueless as to why. I’m not surprised though. This is how my mind works. It pulls me up short, regularly abandoning rationality in favour of protracted periods of intense creativity or a debilitating nothingness. As it appears that today will be no exception, I remain there, rocking gently from one flip-flop to the other, paused.
I can’t trust my mind. If I’m honest, I’ve never been able to. For as long as I care to remember, I have watched it careen wildly from hard shoulder to central reservation and back again, narrowly avoiding groups of school kids and nuns only to plough, over and over again, into an interesting looking bald bloke, who’s on his way to Spar to buy a ginger cake.
My mental health issues, over the last 25 years, have lost me jobs, homes, university degrees, relationships, my health and respect. I think it’s time to do something about it.
That said, it’s not going to be easy. These problems have left me with crippling social anxiety and virtually no self esteem or confidence. If it’s alright with everybody else, I’d quite like not to feel permanently afraid and to be a part of the world again. So, yes, it’s fair to say that I almost don’t know where to start.
In my heart, I know I am a good man, compassionate, honest, intelligent and aware. Worthy of the love, dignity and respect that everybody deserves. I know that the guy who walked out of university and away from perfectly good jobs is not the real me. It occurs to me that as art and creativity set us aside from other creatures, this “pastime” may be all I (we) have. So, it’s with artistic pursuits, meditation and mindfulness that I intend to devote myself. I would like to make clear here, that this (blog) is for no one. Not for you, my friends or even me. It is a pure space, free from subjectivity and opinion. It is entirely meaningless. But like all things meaningless (art, life, love, gardening), we should try to pay attention and do them as well as we can. Basically, I’m pinning a tail on the donkey, who is already the proud owner of a perfectly good tail. I hope you enjoy it. (The donkey didn’t.)
I would like this blog to be an account of a journey; a bold reclamation of whatever is left of my life. It’s time to take back the real me because ultimately, I guess what I’d like to know is this. If I’m not drunk behind the wheel, then who is?
I wipe the sweat from my eyes and return my attention to the little purple and grey sign. Carefully, I enter a 5 followed by a 9 into the audio guide headset. I press play and hold it up to my ear.
The headset crackles into life and issues in flat, ominous non-regional English,
“Number 59, a most interesting plant, The Black Face General…”
I know now why I stopped here.
He stopped me. So I could hear his name.