I was looking at her. I said I think I may be having a heart attack. She told me it was anxiety. She said she had Googled it. I believed her, there had been many nights of broken sleep and high heart rates. No seriously I said, my chest hurts. My throat hurts. And no, I can’t go for a walk. Okay I will have a massage.

And fast forward, I was lying there. A Thai woman half my weight was leaning into me. I thought about the last few days, and whether they were enough. You know, if I did drop off the perch. I had a lovely Saturday with Mum. She stayed over. We watched movies and ate Messina. I had breakfast with Dad on Monday. He spilled coffee and took a photo of me with my own Camera, and he liked the sun on his face. He thanked me.

The last text I sent my daughter and wife said that they were my diamonds in a sea of high pressure carbon. This morning I made coffee for two polite and appreciative strangers. Yesterday I met the most tenacious kid I ever will, she made me feel like my work has value. This morning in the frosty moments I had walked Moss and paint spotted, and smiled at her existence.

So I decided that yes, it was enough. Not in any ‘I wish to die’ kind of way, but in the sense that if it was my time, I felt satisfied my last encounters mattered. I also wondered if I mattered. Seriously, in the grand scheme. Do any of us? The massage ended. I was not dying. Good for another day. But so you know, among it, what became apparent was, it isn’t what good I may have said to those I love, but what I’d left unsaid. It came down to what I hadn’t said that needed saying. Love is easy. Trouble is uncomfortable.

I will leave you with that. I am off air for a bit. I will say this though: speak up about what you do not want. Change it now. Otherwise you will find yourself being rubbed by a stranger and wishing you had the guts to say it.

 

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If you animated grief I reckon it would be one of those dogs on the beach in Thailand. The kind that hobble along a few meters behind you, and sleep at the window while you relax in your air conditioned, German owned, ‘nouveau riche’ Thai operated concrete Villa.

Precious Few

He would be the one you made eye contact with that first day and just don’t have the heart to shoo on. He seems content, you would think, yet resigned, or maybe sad, you would say gazing down at him from the beach side bar. In reality though, as the days went on he would really just look like death knocking. Like if he spoke he would recount tales of a harsh existence. Like he just needs someone with the guts to put him out of his misery.

Katie Kaff-eine

As you sip your Mojito you promise your companion you will not touch him. No seriously, you promise. And you certainly will not feed him. Just some water maybe. No, nothing, you promise. But then she is not looking and you whisper a kind hello. And suddenly there he is, a bestie, all yours.

I am scared to get that close to grief. I don’t imagine I could pack up and leave it in Ko Lanta. It would be in my luggage emitting mysterious odours and arousing suspicion. Or worse, I would be sorting out my affairs and joining Soi Dog, another crazy ex-pat raging against the machine.

And yet this one is a pointless battle, because grief is the silent partner to love. It waits for us to sign that dotted line before it shakes our hand. It is deception, compassion, fear, strength, guilt, regret, remorse, joy and anger. It is the dog you cannot love and cannot leave. It pulls you in and changes you. It makes you feel. It is relentless in it’s appeal.

I always thought that Phillip Larkin’s poem Going was about death, but now I imagine it might be about the inevitable grief that accompanies it:

<

p style=”padding-left:150px;”>There is an evening coming in
Across the fields, one never seen before,
That lights no lamps.

<

p style=”padding-left:150px;”>Silken it seems at a distance, yet
When it is drawn up over the knees and breast
It brings no comfort.

I feel that imminent evening coming now. As certain as sunset, it is coming to greet me again. I wrote about it when I saw the Hanky Project. I wrote that my own hanky would say: “She opened her eyes briefly in the hour that I sat looking upon her and I leapt into that last connection like she was a pool of water and I was on fire”.

I don’t know what I will write on my next hanky. I guess I am going to have to feed the dog.

To follow my speculative post at new years, let’s talk about toxic people in modern times. The kind of people who have an opinion about everything you say or do, and usually, it is a critical one. The people who feel it is acceptable to tell you they hate your friends, or find your partner’s habits tiresome. Once upon a time you could walk away from these arseholes and feel thankful you dodged a bullet. You just scratched their name out of your address book and that was that. Have a nice life fuck-face. You may have seen them at a friends wedding or at the Dan O’Connell, but you would just ignore them or have a polite, short conversation about what you have been up to. Life was relatively safe once you decided to dump someone from your life.

This is not so easy in 2016, because everyone you know, knew once, and have not known yet, is at your fingertip. Literally, at the interface of your digits and a touchpad. If they are not at your own fingertip, you see them at the hand of several other people that you know. You might live 10 suburbs away but you know they met Simon at Mario’s for coffee yesterday and loved the new Star Wars. You know that they find cyclists irritating because Paula liked their ‘don’t be like Terry’ post last week.

It is very hard to turn off the constantly dripping tap of social contact now. We know so much about the activities of so many, and give so few shits about it. I am sure Churchill could have said it better, but we really do live in a time where so many, have so much to say, with so little authority, about so many other peoples lives. Where do they get off judging everyone else around them, measuring them to impossibly unattainable, narrow standards?

Whether that is good or bad, people have a lot to say about everyone around them now. How to make room for this reality whilst managing to protect our own sense of self, is certainly a new dilemma. Being new, it is an unchartered ocean full of sharks and crashing waves. It is nauseating.

We really are the pioneers of sorts, navigating a new world. We are on the edge of learning how to distance ourselves from an endless stream of advice and suggestions about how to be, and how not to be. Don’t be like Jill, Jill is a dick. Be like Fran, Fran is cool. Drink more wine, be friends with people who drink more wine.

So being the pioneers of the new frontier, obviously we need to find away to settle, safely and intact. Getting back to that toxic person, the one who judges you and never gives you unconditional positivity – how do we ditch the bitch? If it was 1995, I would say don’t answer their calls: ‘let it go to answering machine I am not calling that prick back’.Given this is clearly no longer an option, how do you extract yourself?

Here is what I have surmised. You need to unfollow their Instagram account, unfriend them on Facebook, avoid social events created by your 12 mutual friends, cease posting any photographs anywhere, that they might see. And lay low. For a long time. Be too busy to see that film, too poor to attend that event. You have to become a social hermit and hope that nobody judges you. For you see now, it is not only the toxic people judging your actions, it’s everyone. You are completely visible all of the time, and the masses will tell you: Don’t let negativity into your soul, say only positive things. Do one thing each day that makes you amazing.

Meme, meme, schmeme it goes on relentlessly. I honestly do not know if I am supposed to wake up, do a yoga stretch and eat a vegan slice, or stand naked in front of a mirror with a fag in my mouth saying fuck yeah! to rebellion. There is someone telling you every second of the day which way to turn. John doesn’t post about his girlfriend, be like John.

Yes, again, back to that toxic person. Once you have awoken one day to the realisation that someone is a complete tool, and you have taken those first steps towards eliminating them, how do you then feel okay about letting go? It should be easy right? I mean, look at all those memes telling us to let fucktards go. Be yourself. Be free. Don’t give a fuck. Do give a fuck. Be together, be alone. Do not be lonely. Be afraid. Do not fear a thing. Confusing, yes?

The second thing that I have surmised is this. It might be time for us to do the unheard of and actually give direct face to face verbal feedback to these people we can no longer quietly let go of. Lets face it, if you are going to let that toxic person loose, they are going to know about it. So maybe, you might need to say something to them. Not in a judgie ‘I am so much better than you’ way. In a clear, respectful way. Like: ‘Jason, I am struggling with the time we spend together because I walk away feeling judged, so I am going to take a break from following you on Facebook’, or ‘Darren, I feel the need to create some distance between us, as I find myself feeling angry when I read your posts, and that is no good for either of us’.

I don’t know if this is good or bad advice. Take it with a grain of salt. Maybe Dr Phil needs to intervene. Maybe a true relationship guru needs to offer sage advice. When Dr Phil said, of your teenagers, ‘learn their currency’, he was onto something. Now he just needs to opine on the present relationship dilemma’s.

I am not going to be one of those 40 something Gen X twats who lecture about the good old days when you drank from a garden hose and ran under sprinklers. However the slower pace of life had its many advantages. We did not feel the need to go to every event because we actually didn’t know most of them were happening. We didn’t wake up and see a notification that 15 people were attending an event near us today.

I would love to take a social media break right now because I have a few toxic people poisoning the waters around me, but frankly I am addicted so I will not.