Where I reside at present has a tendency to remain grey, dark and cold for the lengthy winter months, but there is still magic to be found in some hidden nook or cranny down a back alley. This can lead many a soul into the shadow, aching for warmth and light to lift their pale spirits. But that isn’t really the cause of a chill I feel surging though my veins and heart. It’s me … just me.

In another existence (one of many) long ago, where the sun shone brighter and the temperature was higher, I fell down a dark hole that nearly crippled me. Sadly, I already knew that I had put myself there, too. I watched on as that crevasse approached, and I ran straight towards it … never steering away, knowing I had plenty of chances and opportunities to prevent everything that was about to occur. But I didn’t. I revved up the engine, so fuelled on dishonesty, a sense of entitlement and laziness, and I charged ahead, anticipating the crash … and waiting for the pity that everyone, whether they truly felt it or not, would pour upon my “broken” bones lying at the bottom of the well. And it came … in torrential floods.

But something had changed … it didn’t work anymore. The attention didn’t substitute the hurt. It may have bandaged the wound, but it didn’t reset the fractures. So I ran, limping and lame, to another shore to get away from those pitying eyes that looked at me with helplessness or advice I would not and could not take. And in that escape, I felt better for a short time, until I found that I missed that look. I was addicted, a heroin junkie to sympathy. Eventually, the hunt began again for that fix of those “oh, poor you” glances, and I told my sad tale repeatedly to a new audience who ate it up, hungry for someone’s demise, licking at the taste of another person’s sorrow like grease on their fingers. And if they were not after a bite, then I ignored them, called them disillusioned. But in all actuality, they wanted nothing to do with me. They saw the ruse of me pitching my childish fit on the floor, pathetically waiting for someone to focus on me … and for most people, it is just a trait they wish to ignore and get away from. But one person did not, and I am forever grateful to him for his words. He listened to my sob story, letting me stand on that stage, bathing in the limelight of depressed arrogance … and he simply blurted out with a laugh and called me an idiot.

After years and years of milking that cow for all it was worth, the bitterest taste you can imagine, I understood then that I was an idiot, and it was time to stop. Not stop the attention, because I love that, and it can be a helpful, healing friend and companion, but I had to change its nature. Where was I the most joyous and fulfilled? On the stage playing in bands; in front of the microphone on the radio; there in the gaze of the camera eye; in front of a collection of fellow travellers sharing a moment, and as topping on the cake, a laugh. It was time to cease feeding a beast, a monster, a vampire of self-depreciation. I found my substitute, a different drug. Something less harmful to shoot in my veins that made me function and give something back instead on leeching off others.

But the old never really dies. That creature hides well, lurks under the stairs or beneath the bed. Weakened, but not defeated, it still manages to sink a claw, razor sharp, back into my wrist from time to time, as it is doing right now at this moment I am writing. I know what this is. It is all too familiar.

We all have the ability to assist others and dish out course upon course of savoury advice, so proud in our preparation and presentation of these helpful meals that we lay on the table of others in need; but when it comes to nourishing ourselves, it’s pot-noodle and a tin of beans. If we see another fall, we may not wish to know why they fell, but we will offer a hand to at least get them off the ground to carry themselves again; but when we slip and no one sees, it is the most difficult thing to drag yourself from the muck or even cry out for a rope, because we secretly want that suffering. If nothing goes as planned and we propagate that, then we prove to ourselves that lack of worth, and at that point we see why we are nothing, The reason is there. And that daemon inside has to be fed.

For many years I have been building others up, supporting the weight of another, calling upon all the gods of alchemy to transform others’ lead to gold. I don’t always get the combination in just the right measurements, because this is an exact art, and one day that concoction may be just the balance of sweet and sour, whilst other days it is bitter and foul. You need to have the mixture of the two: just enough heart to show care, a dash of sarcasm to make the other see the stupidity in their actions, a pinch of a smile so they open their eyes to the utter silliness of their doubt, a small drop of cruelty to wake them up, and that final splash of concern that shows you understand and care, but that you and no one else wants to listen to the same thing day in and out. I have to admit to getting it wrong at times. Mixed well, I have brightened a heart; but I have a shaky hand and have ruined many a day with just too much addition of sarcasm. And I have also been known to substitute heart and care with cruelty, becoming sloppy and lazy … and selfish. After lending a hand with the best of intentions, human nature unfortunately springs forth on occasion and demands something back. “I want what I feel I deserve! I helped you, now where is my reward? The princess has been saved from the dragon, and the kingdom should be mine!” That thought is there in most of us, whether warranted or not. Even if we botch the job a little, we still want what is ours. But we tend to forget, just as with any contract, if the request is not filled to the letter, then everything is forfeit.

Somewhere along the line, I lost heart. I couldn’t keep up with making those batches of temporary cures of another, and I got lazy again. I was no longer aiming to create that perfect mixture and be the best I could be, but all that I was whipping up was a pallid formula that eventually became unacceptable.

Cutting corners has let that old phantom regain strength and whittle me down. My belief in others and myself has crumbled and eroded, and this mostly because I have stopped trusting in my own ideas and have relied to heavily on others that I blinded myself to not seeing they were of no use and would only add to the decline. And with this, I have been looking for that sickening pity, searching under those dank stones in the mud for it, knowing full well that it does absolutely nothing but make me feel worse and stagnate. That unfulfilling feast so easy to prepare in plenty, but which leaves you hollow, starving and ill. And I am too weak to turn away from the table and refuse another serving.

So, here I am, with one more breath from the part of me that was with a smile on his face, remembering who I was in those days of determination and unsinkable spontaneity. I write not for the attention from the story itself, but for the sake of writing. I used to have travel as my muse and inspiration, and without that, I put pen to paper less … but I need to write. I need to express something … even if it is this. I have to extract it from my head in some way. I am also asking for something. I am asking for assistance. I am searching for that boost once again. Confidence in my abilities, work that I enjoy and put my soul inside … being in the spotlight. I have had all of this at one time before, and I miss them as one would that long-lost lover. Eager for are the days of not living hand-to-mouth, struggling to spend time with the ones you love because through circumstances of your own doing and others, you have a mound of debt that never seems to dissipate, strangling your every move. A day without rain.

And what I truly need is that carefree friend from my past, wherever he may be, and if he is even still a part of this world, to call me an idiot again, reminding me of how much of a joke this life is.