On Sunday l shall be taking my usual trip to the resting place of my dear friend Charlotte. It’s been six short years since she took the decision to place a full stop after her life, and a damn long trudge for those she left behind.
Many of you reading this will know that, since the first weeks of those six years, I have occasionally shared stuff about it all. Some good, some not so.
‘Why share such personal stuff with complete strangers?’
It was a fair question, posed by a lady I met at a talk I gave in France approximately twelve months after the shitstorm began.
At that moment in time I barely knew how I felt about stuff; however, one thing I was realising was that by sharing things, to whoever it may be, it was helping.
‘Why not?’ I replied.
‘Well, isn’t it something that should be kept, you know, inside?’
No. Good God, no.
Of course, grief, sadness, they both manifest in different ways. Sometimes they cling to us, ghost-like companions in some cruel low budget horror movie. Other times, they remind us that we are alive, making the path out of despair that much more invigorating when it arrives.
And, then, every so often, they really fuck things up.
As I appear to be writing this to ultimately make some sort of point, if I may perhaps I should briefly contextualise a few things. Charlotte was one of three ladies who modelled for me from 2013, onwards. The three ladies, and I, became a very close team for a while. We socialised together, we had fun together, and all three posed for my more ‘adult’ drawings, exhibited in London in 2015. Erotic art, it was described by some. Smut, by one lady I overheard at the show whilst getting awfully pissed. Me, not her, although by the look of her face she nay have drunk a dodgy bottle of something.
Holly, Lily, and Charlotte.
In 2015, whilst spending a weekend together in St David’s, we agreed to remain a ‘team’ until such time as one of us met someone else. We celebrated this agreement with a bottle of tequila and a rather lovely cake. And, presented by Charlotte, a skull ring for each of us. We became the ‘Sisters of the Ring.’
Yes, we were sentimental fools, tanked up on Mexican firewater.
Later that year, Charlotte asked me to move in with her. It took me clean by surprise, and I said no. Being barely out of her 20’s, I felt she’d regret it one day, living with an old twat like me.
Then, the following year I fell for someone, big time. And, of course, I let all the ‘Sisters’ know. I kept my promise.
In Charlottes lengthy, and considered, posthumous note, left behind to cast a shadow onto much that I’ve done since, she marked that moment when I kept my promise as the point in which her mind took the darkness she had hidden from us all for so long and lobbed it into somewhere much darker. And, by doing so she, in her words, ‘released all her hurt into one place, somewhere incapable of holding such despair.’
Sharing such life stories is not straightforward, but by doing so that place where despair resides, that bulging space rammed full of stuff that plays tricks on unsuspecting minds, well, in my opinion anyway, it enables one to fix a metaphorical tap to the side and bit by bit, little by little, let’s the debilitating stuff trickle out.
Many years past, as I did my counselling training, my tutor asked all her students to start a journal, writing down their inner thoughts. Then, every so often, we shared them amongst the group. Personally, I found it very cathartic and recommend it to anyone who is struggling with their inner demons. Those entrenched thoughts and feelings we all have on occasion, always need an outlet, a path out of the restricted confines of the human mind. Otherwise, they simply become the boulder that Sisyphus pushed up that hill in Greek mythology for all eternity.
Ok, I admit I’ve just used ancient mythology to describe emotive strife, but you get the point?
So, yes, this Sunday I will visit Charlotte and lay a fresh lily and a small drawing on her grave. Six years on I no longer feel bad for feeling bad. The guilt I felt in 2016, and since then is now filed in a place where it can be accessed easily and without negative consequence. And, by occasionally sharing elements of all this it’s a little like posting my drawings on social media- some will like it, some won’t. Some will get it, others won’t. Some will draw positive stuff from it and others won’t give a shit. But, that’s life really, isn’t it? Without subjectivity we have prevalent nothingness, and without the release of those darker thoughts our inner beauty is forever in shadow. And, we all have that inner beauty, whether we know it or not. It resides in us from the very start, but so often gets rammed down into our core by social distraction, peer pressure, self doubt and, of course, social media.
If you’re reading this, and jolly well done if you’ve stayed til the end, and your inner shitstorm is being a complete bastard right now, please consider sharing your thoughts with someone this weekend. Open that tap, and do so knowing that it really is ‘better out than in.’ Yep, it’s an old adage, but even old sayings are old for a reason. And, if you do, I for one hope that you will soon see the path to clarity of thought. Believe me, it’s there, sometimes amongst the tar-like landscape of modern life, but there nonetheless.
Good mental health, one and all.