I think today you deserve some creative non-fiction. I’m going to take you on a journey through my minds as I get my morning jobs done. As some of you will already know, I’ve got a bit of a wonky brain. There’s two current personalities that struggle for control of my personal Helm: Viper is rather nasty (but tough); Hero is rather sweet (but vulnerable). There are other parts of my psyche, but I won’t introduce you to them (some of their names are ‘Johnny Shitlegs’, ‘Clara Formaldehyde’, ‘Lord Tangent’ and ‘The Shambler’).
Let us begin before my mind awakens… drift into the strange world of my Discordant dreams…
I am playing the piano. I am playing like a concert pianist. I have had no lessons. I have realized that the secret is simple: play the correct notes! I know lots of classical music, I can hear the notes when I play. It’s all so simple. Just play the correct notes in the correct rhythm! I am a genius.
I wake up to the sound of Satie on the radio alarm. I am not a genius. I am a berk whose dreams reflect his towering, hollow ego. Quick, get out of bed before you decide that being alive is a waste of time. GO GO GO!
The shower brings on a state of Zen bliss. I don’t think. I just exist. Tremendous. The real awakening is after the shower.
Viper: Christ. So much to do. Go back to bed. A man of genius doesn’t do this shit. Sleep until ten and ignore the world.
Hero: Let’s do this! Soon it’ll be the first coffee of the day, brilliant! This lunch-box business is a doddle when you’ve got an efficient system. Go for it!
In the kitchen, feed cats, boil kettle, chopping board, make lunches, make coffee, bowl of cereal. These things are automatic. My body gets on with them. I love trying to make the process ever more efficient. If I time everything right, I can get all the jobs done in time to sit down with coffee and breakfast to check the headlines. A weird part of managing my broken mind involves having efficient systems and little rituals. If I follow the systems, everything works. I can keep the stress and anxiety down. If the stress and anxiety get too strong, the depression gets out of its cage and then I’m fucked. If the coats are on the pegs and the shoes are on the shoe-shelf, all is right with the world.
A brief moment of almost-silence. Mrs Viper is not awake, nor are the Viperinos. Breakfast down, coffee down, headlines absorbed…
Viper: Oh fuck… the world is FUCKED! FUCKED! FUCK!
Hero: Be the change you want to see in the world!
… time to wake Mrs V. It’s time for Phase Two of the morning. As Mrs Viper rises (think of the Venus de Milo rising from the waves… or Titania waking after spending the night with Bottom) I have to switch off my misanthropy. I can’t ignore my family. I LOVE my family. The only way they know that is if I express it, you know, with words and deeds and so forth. Love is not much use in the abstract. So I talk to them. I’m a saint, I know. It’s ridiculous that I struggle with human interaction. It’s not that I don’t have feelings, I do. I’m very emotional. I just have this need to keep everything under control.
Viper: You’re a neurotic wanker. It’s better when you let me do the talking.
Hero: Not sure I can agree with the old Viper there. He’s a bit of a shit. Let me do the talking, people LIKE me.
Mrs Viper heads off to work. She’s the one who actually makes this family viable. She pays the bills, organizes our lives and loves me enough to stick by me through anything. Yeah, she’s a keeper.
For such a self-centred arsehole, I’m pretty good at being a dad.
Viper: You’re probably ruining their lives in ways you haven’t imagined. Still, if anyone tries to upset them, they’re dead.
Hero: The kids are loved, that’s what matters, old chap.
Those of you who have kids will know the palaver involved in getting breakfast, juice and clothes sorted. It’s a small miracle that we manage to get to school on time, but we do. I’ve got all the timings worked out. There’s a system.
Viper: Of course there’s a fucking system. You’re so uptight.
Hero: We may be uptight, but we’re on time! Full steam ahead!
It’s a frosty morning. White tufts of hoar frost clinging to the railings.
Viper: Whore frost!
Wheeling the buggy through streets that are made prettier by the frost and the early decorations.
Hero: Look at that house! Very sophisticated. Purple themed. Imperial.
Viper: Look at that burnt out wheelie bin. Rubbish everywhere. Dog shit. The house with mildewed curtains.
I smile at the people I recognize. Exchange a few good mornings.
Viper: They think you’re weird. If they knew you, they’d hate you.
Hero: Morning all!
I get the older child safely into school. All necessities are in the correct place. Peg, tray, lunch trolley. Littlest and myself return home. We have things to do. Littlest has some important talks to organize between the ponies, the pups and the shopkins. I have laundry and, maybe, a cheeky blog post.
I’m coping. I have to remind myself of that. Coping, in itself, is a triumph. It’s better than ‘not coping’. I have to remember that ‘not coping’ actually happened. It isn’t happening now. I don’t need to be a genius or a concert pianist. I need to cope. The only judgement that matters now is my own and I judge that ‘coping’ is my current goal. Mrs Viper approves of that, so it can’t be too crazy. So what if I don’t finish a novel today? So what if the most creative thing that I do is Tweet about politics? Are the children happy? Yes. Is Mrs Viper happy? She says so. Am I happy? I think so. It’s hard to be sure.
Viper: I don’t do ‘happy’. I do rage.
Hero: The little one just came in to the room wearing a tiara. Tell me that doesn’t make you happy.
Viper: Fine. Ok. Whatever. Cute.
Hero: I think I saw a smile!
Viper: Fuck off.
Hero: You old softy.
Enough of this rambling. I have laundry to do.
Much love from everyone in my head!
Post scriptum: I had to try the tiara. I looked adorable.