What do we talk about when we talk about grief?*

Part one: back story

On a treacherously beautiful spring morning, my Dad woke up with a stomach ache and an hour later we were waiting for the undertaker to come and take him away forever.

That was April 17th, 2017. In the days that followed, I dealt with it by project managing his affairs and funeral; it’s what I do. Because it happened over the Easter weekend there was a lot I couldn’t do, bureaucratically, and I filled the space between profitable actions with some wholehearted manic and depressive episodes. I’m not great with dealing with the emotions at the more vulnerable end of the spectrum (middle-aged white guy not good with emotional displays, I know, shocker) but when I do something, I do like to commit, to own it. To turn it up to 11.

When I was down I was convinced that everything I did was worthless, especially online. I deleted my tens of thousands of tweets, admittedly no great loss to humanity. I deleted everything on Instagram. I deleted the blog I’d been building for getting on for a decade.

When the pendulum swung back to mania, I decided I needed a new project. I’m an ENFP so the start of new projects is my favourite part, and powered by the fucked up energy of my mental state, I went for it. I wanted a new blog. I thought about the subjects that I was most passionate about, and arrived at music. I thought of a (stupid) name, I registered the domain, I created some graphics, I wrote some entries. Then the bungee cord snapped back again.

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Here’s my response to the Daily Prompt for 14th January 2017: Unseen

The Spires. The Inspiration. The Green Room. The Avenue. The Moulin Rouge. The Bradbury Cub. The Gardener’s Arms. Manhattan. Xanadu. Sapphires. Dropout. These are my unseen things.

Once upon a time, Chesterfield (where I live) had more pubs and breweries than almost anywhere else in the country. This was in the days before licensing. There was one such establishment for every 33 people in the town – man, woman and child, not just adults.

Back in the 80s the rite of passage for those leaving school (and who looked old enough (or who had a sufficiently believable false ID)) was the Brampton Mile. Starting (predictably) a mile out of Chesterfield town centre in a suburb called (almost unbelievably) Brampton, the Brampton Mile was a run of around 18 pubs ending at The Bradbury Club, one of Chesterfield’s biggest nightclubs. The idea was that you started the night at the far end, had a drink in every pub and then ended the night in the Brad. This was in the days when people started drinking at 8pm on a Saturday night, and ended at 2am when the nightclubs had to close.

The Spires was my first haunt once I become old enough to no longer need a convincing fake ID. It was the base of operations for Chesterfield’s small band of football hooligans, the CBS (or YBS if you wanted to be thought of as cool and anti-establishment but they wouldn’t actually have you in the CBS and you had a 10pm curfew). It was the first place I worked behind a bar, the first bar that I DJed in, and the first bar toilet that I got carried out of, too drunk to stand.

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The Secret Diary of Red Five (aged 46 3/4)

As a world-class daydreamer, I spend a lot of time pondering true callings.

As a youngster I wanted to be a pilot. Specifically, I wanted to fly Incom Corporation T-65 Starfighters. Even more specifically, I wanted the hallowed ‘Red Five’ callsign. Accepting that Star Wars wasn’t real took me a long time and I have a sneaking suspicion that on some level, I never really have.

I did actually apply to join the Royal Air Force when I left school. I sailed through the aptitude tests and failed the medical – for being underweight (I remember once around that time exasperating a shop assistant because she couldn’t find any jeans in the shop with a 26″ waist. “Have you tried Mothercare!” she snapped. The 26″ waist is long gone – can I get an Amen for those days.).

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“In much the same spirit…”

When I was about 20 I had my first psychometric test.

I was going for a job. I can’t remember what job or where. I was 20, I wouldn’t have wanted whatever it was anyway. I have however always been interested in psychology, and I do vividly remember being excited about the prospect of taking a psychometric test as part of the interview process even though it was – well, a while ago.

I hadn’t studied psychology then but as far as I can tell now, it must have been a test based on the 16PF personality factors scale developed by Cattell, Tatsuoka and Eber. It’s designed to ascertain the respondent’s position on a series of opposing traits, such as shy/bold, open/reserved, self-reliant/group-oriented, etc. It’s very difficult to game the result because many questions test the same factors in different ways. Respondents are given a series of statements (“I take control of things”, “I like to stand during the national anthem”) with a Likert scale response. They’re told to go quickly and answer instinctively.

We were given the answers as text, a few short paragraphs that apparently summed up our whole personality. I read that I was liable to act impulsively, with utter conviction in my own judgement, without any regard for the outcome of my actions. There were other things, but that was the part I was most proud of.

I did not get a second interview.

I have this theory. I work in a vaguely project management-related field and I apply this theory in and out of work, and my theory is this. If something – a project, for example – starts to go south, you should take action as soon as possible. If you do nothing, the project will continue going wrong. If you do something, anything, there’s a 50% chance that it will get worse, but there’s a 50% chance that it will get better. If it does get worse, at least it’s given you a pointer as to the right direction. I believe that what my 16PF said was exactly that. I wouldn’t have hired twenty year old me reading that either. But at least twenty-twenty-six year old me has some life experience to back up my instincts.

But the crux of this rather long-winded preamble is that I am still more likely to do something based on instinct and then think about it. And it was in much the same spirit that I began this blog, deleted my old twitter account and started again.