These last few weeks have been like a weird sort of few weeks. My emotions have been here, there and everywhere all at the same time. Christmas isn't my favourite time of the year, it's always been overshadowed by drunken arguments, money stresses, work etc, just like anyone else's I guess, but I find things harder than most people. The last few years I've worked Christmas day as I was a chef. A bloody good one I might add, not to blow smoke up my own arse... It's not really as simple as that and the bad shit goes back a long way but I don't want to get into the nitty gritty details about the whys etc. Just understand me when I say I find it difficult.
Boxing day marked my first official year of full time vanlife, but there was no party, no celebratory coffee, no bottle of champagne. I did however spend it with all 5 of my kids at the same time, which was really rather special! They made me smile and laugh and made me realise that the past is the past and should be left there. But my mind won't let me. It's always waiting for something shit to happen, for someone to push the right buttons, for my world to come crashing down around me. Again. This year it didn't though and I kinda ruined it myself by just expecting. It's also the first year for 20 years someone cooked me Christmas dinner! I felt like a spare part and I tried my best to intervene but my daughters threatened to stuff me with more onion than sage and put me in the oven so I just watched helplessly as they made an exceptional meal! I was allowed to sharpen some knives though.
I tried to talk about how I felt on many occasions but I couldn't as what gives me the right to ruin this merry time of the year for someone else with my tales of woe and misery? I made some phone calls waiting for the right moment to burst into tears and let it all out, but instead sat there, silently listening to them waffle on about themselves. And why not? Why should I not listen to other peoples problems? After all, I was trying to shed my own. So listen I did. I sent coded text messages, full of laughter but with a little "I feel a bit shit today" but it didn't work. I wrote a Facebook post hoping someone would see that I needed to talk, but nothing. "We're all feeling like that mate" I read. Maybe, but maybe you're all coping. I'm not. Anyway, I ended up deleting it because I just felt foolish.
I was on Instagram Reels when this clip came up of a man hunched over, crying his heart out and I heard these words spoken slowly over the top:
~You ever ask a man how he’s doing and he says “yeah I’m alright”. Let me tell you, that man is not alright. He’s battling demons you couldn’t even possibly imagine.That man is struggling every single day to find a reason to keep going.The reason we say we’re alright is that as a man, nobody really fucking cares what you’re going through, so why even bother saying it.But you know what? I feel you brother. Because “I’m alright too.” ~
That made me step back and think. That made me think about whom I have in my life and who matters. Who cares about me and who truly couldn't give a shit. I sat there for a while afterwards, and a smile slowly started to spread across my face because I realised that more people care about me than I could ever imagine! I realised that people do have their own problems and that maybe if I needed to talk about mine I shouldn't start the conversation with "Hey! How are you? How're things, man?" I just thought it would be weird to answer the phone to someone that was already blowing snot bubbles and sucking their thumb.
The smile on my boat race got bigger and bigger until that smile was so big it could be heard for miles! I thought about my vans rear door falling off two days before Christmas and I laughed. I thought about my heater chucking out huge plumes of white smoke like the pope was coming by and I laughed. I laughed at my heater packing up and I laughed at the fact I didn't think about getting into bed to warm up and I laughed about when I knelt down to pick up a pound coin I saw on the floor and put my knee in some kind of animal shit. I chuckled that I spent 10 days locked in my van with a pretty bad dose of covid in a layby and I laughed and I laughed and I laughed! And then I dribbled.
Us men think women are a discombobulating bunch, hormones everywhere and emotions with more levels than Pac Man, but we are also complicated. We think no one cares, no one is interested or wants to hear how our head hurts from all the overthinking when in reality we just simply don't know how to talk. We're afraid. The stigma is still there and it shows. I get that we pick our moments badly, choosing to leave our manscarra on our buddies crisp white shirt halfway through the evening or hold it all in until someone bastard stirs your brew anticlockwise and you explode with more emotion than a whole season of Orange Is The New Black.
We have spent too long being held down, being told to "fucking man up you pussy" and having our snotty tears shoved back down our throats that now we do it alone. We have spent too long putting on that pretty frock for dinner, smiling reassuringly at everyone: "I'm alright."