Memories of Pain beyond Pain

This morning I was sitting on the bus with my wife on our regular morning commute to Belfast when, for some reason, I started to drag up some very old memories of being in first year at school. One memory in particular came to mind; I remember staring at this girl in my English class and I obviously looked a little too long; I think I had started to daydream about something, when she snapped, “What are you looking at?”

I must disclose that I was still dealing with the trauma of my dad’s murder just 3yrs before. In addition to this, I had lost a full years’ worth of memories, my mother had moved a new partner in, we moved from Belfast to Antrim, I then had my 11+, changed school again for the 3rd time in 3yrs, my self-confidence and self-esteem were at all-time lows, I was dealing with the beginnings of survivors guilt, my mental health problems had begun to accelerate, I didn’t trust anyone, I thought people were all out to make fun of me, I was starting to self-harm in different ways and I was also dealing with anger issues that were directed entirely towards myself.

In an instant I was able to examine all the different ways this could go wrong for me if I had told her the truth. My initial thought was to reply, “something beautiful looking back.” But I already knew nothing would ever happen between us; I was unpopular and a bit of an outcast. I was never tall or muscular or popular with the ladies (I am nearly 40, happily married, but even now I would struggle, if my marriage ever failed, to meet someone new as some issues have never been examined nor dealt with). I also read the tone of her voice – the venom and warnings it contained and the clear message that I was shopping where I could never afford, and even if I could, it was not for sale to people like me, and the aggression that told me to clearly back off as far as possible as quickly as possible. It was something I have heard often before and since, when I have been attracted to girls my age or slightly older/younger by a year or 3. 

I also knew that if I told her my initial thought, meaning it as a compliment and nothing more, that she would seize upon the chance to humiliate me as I think she would feel like I had made her feel unclean by even considering looking at her in a way that denoted any sort of attraction or appreciation of beauty. All this went through my head in less than half a second and I realised I had only one option open to us both was to tell her something that would allow her to verbally get her point across and, having dealt with the situation to her satisfaction, despite the pain I knew it would cause me, I needed to lie to her.

So I replied, “something ugly looking back.” She replied, “Well you must be looking in a mirror then!”

Back then I was never good at reading between the lines, and even now that still applies. What I was and always have been, however, am deeply respectful. I always knew that if I was told “no” then I that would be the end of it and I would not pursue the matter.

However, in another window of insight into my developing mental health problems, I never always obeyed this rule. Don’t get me wrong, I never physically touched anyone or forced myself upon anyone – that would be something I could never forgive and I would self-harm until I felt I had been suitably punished, even if other people did. But I didn’t always take no for an answer. I was 11 or 12 and hormones were starting to compete with my level of self-control over my mental state. When I finally gave up, I made myself write 100 lines as a punishment. In a few years this would progress to starvation, cutting with a blade, punching walls (I once went 34hrs without drinking any liquid and I wanted to go much much further), mentally beating myself to a pulp every day and night and l began to think of ways to end my own life. I prayed that day would come very soon.

As the years were to go on through my teens and my defeats grew ever higher whilst my successes remained at the Zero mark (13+ strikeouts (I stopped counting) versus ZERO successes), my mental health problems within this area were to get ever worse and also contribute to other destructive behaviour aimed at myself to cause as much internal pain as I could. I must also point out that when I mean I struck-out, I don’t mean on an intimate level, I mean on ANY level. And it wasn’t just the continuous rejections; it was the way they were handed out.

I could never figure out what I was doing wrong, but I was also never told what, if anything I was doing right either. I was destined to keep making the same mistakes, but also hoping for different results every time (the very definition of insanity). I got to be beyond desperate. I prayed every night for nearly 2yrs, without answer. In the end I had to assume that the thing that was wrong was…me. My very existence was what was wrong. I represented everything a person DIDN’T want in a partner.

I took advice from everyone I could think off and when I wasn’t asking I was observing. I tried being upfront and asked people out = FAIL. I played the friend game = FAIL. I played the long game = FAIL. I played the waiting game in the hope that someone would ask me out = FAIL; and this was partly because when it did happen I was always distrustful (see the contradiction in behaviours emerging again?) and thought that they wanted to humiliate me as others have done, so I was too quick to reject them. And then I self-harmed as a result of blowing another chance. That anger that came as a result…is just…WOW!!! Like a nuclear blast going off inside my ribcage. Mental pain beyond pain; mental agony beyond words. I would scream my head off, and had enough control that the sound that escaped my lips was a mere whisper. I always felt that if I fully let it out that the only way to stop the pain would be to kill myself. And it wasn’t just the pain; it was the energy that came with it. It was more than my physical body could cope with or contain.

Remember the venom I spoke about? That was something I came to know the pain off only too well. The disgusted look on their faces, the tone of voice used; it wasn’t just heart breaking…it was soul destroying. It was also something I look and internalised. When I looked in a mirror I saw the most disgusting, humiliating, inhuman and unworthy of life, thing looking back. I wanted to kill it!!!

You have to have experienced this and more to fully realise the power of a simple kiss on the lips can be. On those unbelievably rare occasions when it happened, it had the power to drag me from the depths of my own self-induced personal hell and sent me to heights that would make an Eagle jealous and at speeds that would dwarf any rocket NASA ever launched into space.

And this was just ONE KISS on the lips, from ONE person, ONCE every 15-18months on average (I never got any further than a kiss, for a long time, but that is a different story). I needed these EXTREMELY rare victories as proof that I am worthy of some affection. That I am not a waste of time; that I deserved a chance to continue to live.

Things got so bad that I made a plan to end my life when I turned 25 as this pain was everything and every day. I knew roughly where I would do it (see plan below), I knew I wouldn’t be found on time, I knew how I would like it to happen and I didn’t give a fuck about the pain it would cause because no-one ever gave a flying fuck about how I felt, only to twist the knife to maximise my pain. The world had fucked me over and I was done being everyone’s punch bag. I was expected to absorb the punishment and not complain. Well…FUCK YOU!!!

I will also say this…I was a coward. As 25 approached I thought it was a little soon. I thought 30 would be a better number and by that point, if things hadn’t changed, the pain would be so all-consuming that suicide would be a relief!

I met my wife just a month before I turned 26.

Razors and the Environment

OK, random post, but something that I have been thinking about for a few days and as this is as good a place as any to think aloud, then what the heck. Here it goes.

I started shaving when I was about 15/16. Not much to shave back then. I was in my 30s before I could grow a full beard, and even now it really doesn’t get too thick. Genetics at work I suppose; though I have had a Goatee since I was in my mid-20s. Only thing I’ve really ever managed to grow properly.

Anyway, as I have previously mentioned, this year I am doing things slightly differently and trying to be a better person and make some positive changes in my life. I was in Tesco on Friday last week and I decided to buy a new shaving razor. I liked the look of it (see pic below) and so I decided on a whim to buy it.

By this point you are maybe wondering where the issue of the environment comes into my random thoughts. Well, here it goes.

Over the years I have used a wide range of different razors and never gave the environment a 2nd thought until Friday last week. I have used countless disposable razors as well as electric razors (my dad used to use a 3-headed electric razor and due to these memories, this was the first of several electric razors to come and go within my possession). And all of them have ended up in landfill. Not good for the environment…nor my wallet actually. I must confess that I still have an electrical beard trimmer (as I have shaved bare from time-to-time) and an electrical razor and intend to keep them for as long as they function.

But I would say that I have went through many more disposable razors than any other type. The one I mainly use, which I will now be changing, is the one below:

Ok, a little bit of a Google search revealed to me the categories of the 5 main types of razor available, so now I can sound a little more knowledgeable lol.

#1 Disposable: I’ve used these things in the past. Cheap, rust easily and blunt quickly then just bin. But lot’s of plastic and the ones I used only had 3 blades which became clogged or blunt quite quick. Basically, the worst I’ve used for quality and especially the environment with all that plastic going to landfill.

#2 Electric: have used these in the past and still use them for personal grooming and beard trimming. I currently have 2 and use them for different purposes. I don’t mind spending a little extra for a good one (a little research found electric shavers retailing at £250 and above. At that price I would expect it to shave me itself and also run me a bath and change my cats litter trays!) with a decent range of hair lengths – used it to shave my head twice during lockdown in 2020 when I couldn’t get to a barber. Plus no shaving foam. Bonus!

#3 Cartridge Razors: I have been using these things for years and love(d) the idea of holding onto the base and just binning the head when it was finished. But, be it 3 or 5 blade, it was always getting clogged with hair and I had to hold a finger under the water-tap (faucet if you are American) to create a strong jet of high pressure water to clean the blades…whilst also sending water in all directions. Plus it was expensive! Have you seen the price of the replacement cartridges!? Yea, so you might spend £15 and get 9 cartridges, but then it’s like £7 for 4. That’s £1.75 each! Plus, again, all that plastic going into the bin.

#4 Safety Razor: £15 for the razor, and then 10 blades for £2!!! Plus, the amount of metal needing to be disposed off is minimal. I loose more metal through dropped change than I would through this method. Plus, I will be honest, it is the closest shave I have ever had in my life.

#5 Straight Razor: best shave, apparently, you will ever have as well as being the most cost effective. But also the most dangerous and, whilst I am usually careful around blades, I think I would have to add the cost of my funeral to this one if I made a mistake. Not for me lol.

Thanks for reading.

Inspiration

OK, so my laser engraver will be arriving ahead of schedule. This is good news as it’s lighting a fire under my arse and getting my creative juices flowing.

I’ve some raw materials (blank wooden key rings & wood slices) which I’ve used before. I’ve sold a few hand burned pieces and also made gifts. Everything starts as a stencil as I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler.

The handmade stuff takes at least 20mins and a lot of concentration. I will still offer this, but at a reduced cost, even though it’s more time consuming, due to the fact that the quality won’t match that of a machine.

But, the machine has its limits and some things just need to be done by hand. However, the machine can also produce engravings faster than I can and more constantly and in greater quantity; meaning I can offer more variety and potentially take on more requests.

I’ve also downloaded a book on simple tattoos from which I can get images and inspiration.

So, what am I planning on doing with all the stuff I hope to make? I’d like to make a few 💷, but I don’t want to run a business. I don’t have a head for business. I’d just like to make enough to pay for the engraver, cover my base costs and earn a little extra cash.

But I am also hoping to offer a service to my viking group so I can potentially laser engrave swords, daggers and axes as well as some raw leather before it’s made into clothing or other gear.

Basically I just want to make stuff because it interests me and is therapeutic.

Mind Scrambled

I don’t know if my mind is quiet or overactive as it seems to be doing both at the same time and I can’t figure out what the heck is going on.

I guess it’s because there is so much uncertainty around what we can and cannot do in this day and age that it’s hard to see a beginning and an end. Where does one start and the other begin? It’s hard to plan much in advance, and therefore commit to anything, without knowing for certain if plans will change and therefore is it worth building up much excitement knowing that it could be snatched away at any moment?

Sorry, I know this is not making much sense right now. this is just the garbage that is going through my head and I feel the need to vent these thoughts.

Despite all of the uncertainty with the new restrictions coming into play, and more are due to be announced within the next 72 hours by the Stormont Executive, I am still looking forward to opening new possibilities.

I have ordered a special book for keeping all my records of any Rune work within it and I will be calling it, “Odins Gift” as it was Odin who gifted the runes onto mankind. I have also ordered a few necessities for the new laptop (which I am not going to fill with useless software can cause the same problems as the last time) as well as waiting on the engraver to arrive at the end of the month. I have bits of wood and leather set aside on which I can experiment with the view to making gifts for friends and offering services to my Viking group.

I think the other issue I am having is that I have read so many books (well over 52 since 21St January 2020) that I have reached a kind of saturation point and I am just reading for the sake of it. It has lost some of its pleasure and now feels more like a habit than a real joy.

Finally I think, for the sake of my Mental Health, I just need to get out somewhere new and do something for myself. Though, with the current and new restrictions coming into force, this will be hard and therefore creating a vicious cycle where mentally I am being worn down as I can’t get out and the less I can get out to ‘reset’ my mind the worse I feel.

Time will tell what happens next…

New Beginnings

The year has just begun and already I am making the changes that are required and long overdue.

Resolutions are easy to make, but hard to keep without the commitment and I will be honest; staying power is something I have been lacking this year.

For example, after lockdown happened I was able, without any effort, to loose about 5lbs simply by eating smaller meals, cutting out the junk, eating only when I was hungry and not eating after 8pm. Well…that went out the window and I put the weight back on and more. I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life and I am determined to loose about 21lbs to get back down to a weight that I suited.

Another goal is to re-commit to my religious beliefs and find better ways to incorporate them into my daily life. This means adapting the terminology more and also consulting the Runes for guidance, as well as acknowledging and celebrating the Sabbats.

I was planning a few walks in the Mournes in 2020 but events conspired against me thanks to Covid restrictions. So, this year I would like to revisit Silent Valley, hike the Granite trail and, my biggest goal, is to hike to the top of Slieve Donard. Something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I would also dearly love for my current job to be made permanent as this would provide a large amount of stability in my life. I thoroughly enjoy my job and whilst it can be challenging at times, there is no part of it which I have failed to embrace and excel at.

Hobbies: I have also bought a new piece of kit (still in the post as of time of writing) in the form of a laser engraver, which I am hoping will enable me to expand my creativity and also allow for some more complex work as well as a small degree of mass production. Details to follow when it arrives.

And then we come to Vikings. I am looking forward to getting dressed up again and meeting my team and planning new publicity photos and attending as many events as I possibly can. Magnus Viking Association in Ballydugan, Co.Down, Northern Ireland.