The Curious Case of the Optimist

Recently I have experienced that curious branch of humanity, The Optimist.

The road to your sunrise may be long, it may be at the end of a scarcely trodden path... but it is there...

The road to your sunrise may be long, it may be at the end of a scarcely trodden path… but it is there…

More often than usual I have encountered this peculiar breed, or perhaps I have just become more atuned to their presence in my life. In an age of austerity and recession and all that bad stuff we are told to be scared of, Optimists seem to be few and far between. Their numbers were slashed dramatically when the worlds money had it’s plug pulled and no-one could finds where the pipe lead to get it back,. Like their will to find the pot of gold drizzled away with the bounty, once they encountered Sir Fred Goodwin and had someone to blame. Those silver linings and golden nuggets have been become ever more grey and tarnished. In America, Optimist did not so much vanish, as go into hiding from all the gunslingers, after that tragic spate of school shootings. Money worries have never been Americas prime complaint, even during the hard times; they are too community orientated for that.

Optimism (1)But now, I find myself bombarded with them! Left right and centre, at my emotional weakest, at my most ill expectant, bang, another one serenades me with pearls of tolerant wisdom, showers me with unrelenting bombs of positivity. Silver linings have  never been my thing. I’ve lived in the shadows cast by the glow of The Optimists glimmering light. I’m hardly the Hades to their Zeus, but that oh-so-familiar form of wit, sarcasm, always took the place of peace of mind.

SAD is a real thing – all Scottish people suffer from it.

It’s a kind of National Affliction I reckon. Everyone is just happier when the sun is out. It was today and I saw people out in shorts! In Scotland! That kind of madness hasn’t been seen since the great heatwave of… well, last March, but still. This year we had snow for godssake.

So why, you are asking youself (coz I can absolutely hear those cogs whirring, voices speaking, irritating little nagging buggers whinging away in your brains, magic as I am) why is she blogging about the weather?

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Well, because happiness is in itself a form of Optimism and one neglected too often, I feel. Simple pleasures such as the sun can noticeably alter a person point of view. It literally shines a brighter light on life. The sun is an illuminator, both in a literal and figurative sense. People see clearer, encouraged, as they are, to crawl tentatively out of their safe, though often chilly and pessimistic nooks and sniff the sweet, warm scent of positivity.

Coose to see the world through rose tinted specs... what's the worst that could happen... in fact, don't answer that...

Coose to see the world through rose tinted specs… what’s the worst that could happen… in fact, don’t answer that…

It can be scary; too much of that heady scent can be overwhelming for some. But an occasional measure of it can truly enlighten. It can boost a persons belief systems enough to get them through. And so long as you are getting by, for the time being, is that not enough?

optimism

 

 

SSDD

Time Travel

The question was posed to me today of Time Travel.

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Of all the super powers in the world to choose from, it’s actually not one I’ve really considered in depth. Quite a surprise since in essence, I’m quite a retrospective person. I like to plan, to look to the future and try to figure the paths before they have even been trod. I don’t like surprises, I like to be in control and to know the outcome before I embark upon a journey. Then again, when that fails, like the best made plans always do, my life subsides into a series of “it seemed like a good idea at the time” moments. Actually, that happens far more often than I would like… thought not as much now that I have more or less given up drinking (alcohol that is, not liquids in general… that’s just mighty impractical…).

The reason this question was asked of me was because this person was feeling melancholy and wished that he could undo things in his life so far, to make them better.

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Perhaps your first reaction to this question tells something about the person. At first, I was cheeky – “If you had the ability to go back in time, what would you do with it?” At first, I said, “Use it :P”

Portrait of Oscar Wilde with Cane

Oscar Wilde, visionary author and all round wonderful, clever guy

My gut reaction was to go back and play Poirot; investigate, stalk some great thinkers. It would be interesting to go back to pivotal moments in the lives of certain people and see what it was that inspired them or made them do certain things. As a book lover, I would probably go back and stalk Oscar Wilde. The man was a visionary. Had be been born in this era, he would have been hailed as an imaginative genius, a hero of gay rights, a quirky, damaged, comedic maverick, his place in the trendy, hipster regions of London guaranteed. While all these things happened in his time, his life ended in exile, those rights stripped of him for his sexuality and ingenuity, not to be reinstated til a generation more receptive to his progressive views arose.

But it needn’t be famous people. Perhaps someone more ordinary, but important or interesting to you. My grandfather, for example, spent his entire life at sea, as a Chief Engineer. He visited over 120 ports all over the globe, in every exotic alcove, every far off crevice and limpet encrusted recess you could ever hope to name, in a career spanning almost half a century. Imagine the things he saw. To share such moments as those would be an experience like no other. And the world has moved on from those days. It has changed shape, technology metamorphosing it from flowing on billowing while sails to bleeping along in a blur of binary and sonar.

The person who posed the question was thinking more in terms of righting wrongs, both ones that had been done to him and ones that had come around as a consequence of sufferings of years ago. There are events in all our lives that echo down, down, down and impact us in very real ways.

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He wants to go back to change things, Marty McFly, Back to the Future style. But I am a big believer in your own history being the making of you. A lot of your life might suck and for sure there are going to be things that continue to sting, no matter how long you leave them for, or how much time has departed since those events took place, but all that makes you a richer person. I would certainly love to eradicate some of my regrets to ease my own conscience, but then, to balance that up, would that then make me a better person, or just a different one? And if it made me a different one, would I even like who I became as a result? Were we able to re-write our own key life events so that they worked “in our favour”, would we not be plainer people? To have never suffered is not really to have experienced all of life. To have only seen the good things, and known nothing but joy and ease of living is to have experienced only one surface of the many faceted diamond of life. You have only ever seen the shiny side. But there are all manner of clarities, colours and cuts of diamonds. Why limit ones self to seeing only one aspect of the gem?

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So I guess it got me to thinking; What if we could travel back in time? Forgetting the complexities of time travel and the potential for anything from the sweetly Hollywood version seen in Back to the Future, to the catastrophic tampering seen in The Butterfly Effect to happen, what would most people do if they could go to any time? And what would be the motivation?

Personally, I think I would leave my own past alone. I would travel back as an Observer, to understand more why certain things happened. They say knowledge is power. Whoever “they” are, or were, i think they’re onto something. Humans have this innate ability to adapt and survive and we will continue to do so. The fact that we can live our lives through horrors of increasingly unbelievable magnitude is proof of that.

Adolf Hitler

Maybe there will be some who think it criminal not to use such power for preventing some man-made atrocity, like the Holocaust. Or even, not going to the crib of Hitler, or Stalin, and smothering them before the evil had time to germinate. But think about the marks they left on history. Is there any way to predict the impact those events not happening would have had on an infinite number of lives through generations and countries alike? How could one individual possibly handle that level of onus? For something like to be eradicated, wiped clean, would change the fall life along history in unpredictable ways. Perhaps it would pave the way for something even worse. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. That is one of my favourite sayings  because I believe it to be true.

Anyway, there you have it. Time Travel. For better or worse, the potential inspires retrospect. Whether you use that power for personal or public gain, is a question to battle with your own conscience.

Past

SSDD

Make me my Cake: PRINCESS DESSERT TABLE

Just a little feat of dessert engineering…

While surfing the net, I stumbled across this mammoth feat of Princess engineering. The page is in Spanish but has an English translation. I thought this persons efforts deserved a little admiration.

So go, fawn over their hard work and attention to detail and lament the fact that none of us are, in fact, Disney Princesses **sniff sniff** **takes off tiara** **puts back on hoody**

Make me my Cake: PRINCESS DESSERT TABLE.

 

Times Flies When Distance Parts You…

How did they get so old??

This year, a lot of my family are reaching age-related milestones, not to mention an first wedding anniversary and a new engagement so far already. So far we have have had twins turning 16… a 17th (Higher exam age in Scotland)… Most recently, on 9th May, an 18th… coming up a 21st… my own 20th…

So my question is – when did we all get so old!?

It’s like these milestones just snuck up on us and it irkes me, because I’m missing them! My little cousins turned two of the ages socially dictated to be the most prevalent in terms of a persons maturity (16 and 18) and because we live approximately 443 miles away from each other, I had no idea that was how old they were becoming until, in February  my mum informed me that in January this was how old the twins had become. The second instance was not quite so shameful; I was asked to sign the card for the 18 year old the week before we sent it, which was a bit of a hint.

As for my older cousin, who is turning 21 this July, he is going to be at sea in San Francisco working and will consequently miss both his own coming of age in America (while actually being in America, which is ironic considering he’s Scottish and had never been to America before this trip) but will also miss my 20th, or, as I am beginning to consider it, my termination-of-my-teenage-and-therefore-able-to-get-away-with-things-I-wouldn’t-otherwise-be-able-to years. This puts him in a similar situation as the one I am in with  my other younger cousins.

Now, if you are still following after this rather convoluted explanation of my family’s aging population, I think you to be a very intelligent person, because I am even struggling to keep all that crap in check.

I suppose my point is really that, while I have always thought myself very close to my younger cousins, despite the massive distance between us (equal to almost a return journey between here and the moon!! … Well, you might be able to pull and Apollo 13 and use the gravitational pull of the Earth to get you all the way back, but I wouldn’t put my money on that working a second time… that one seemed like kinda the luckiest, smartest fluke in the world…) but the fact that their graduating to these pivotal ages of development seems to have almost completely bypassed me gives me the sad feeling that perhaps this distance really is making more of a difference than I noticed.

I mean, that kind of makes sense; we see each other once a year, if we’re lucky. But I still always saw myself as the cool(ish) older cuz, who had wisdom and knowledge beyond their youthful years… Forgetting entirely that they are, in fact only two and 4 years younger than me. Hm.

Ok, I can still pull the “experienced and knowledgeable beyond anything you can perhaps imagine, though I wouldn’t put it past you to already be well informed as the internet is not the friend of children’s innocence these days” thing as far s the 16 year olds go, but with the 18 year old – not so much.

I would say that at 18 I was not so much more well informed in the deep dark ways of the world as I was this time last year. A lot can happen in 12 months, that’s all I’m saying.

As much as we can say, “distance will never come between us”, that can, in effect, become horse shit when the fact is, facebook and text messaging just do not instill the same level of intimacy as face to face conversing. Human contact cannot be replaced by technology, as wonderful as Skype is. Science says that your body cannot tell the arms of your mum from your own arms, it only knows you are being embraced, meaning that you can effectively stave off your own loneliness. You can convince yourself you are being hugged by a loved one while really just wrapping your own arms around yourself. However, the fact remains that if you admit it even for one moment, the illusion is broken, and you know you are just standing being a bit awkward and touchy feely with yourself.

I would say it’s “old age” that’s making me so sentimental, were I not so sure of being told that 19-nearly-20 is no age to be making such claims, but for sure, my missing of these dates are laying heavily on me. They come about only once in a lifetime, and I would rather not miss them so entirely. I really do feel so detached from them as if one of us really were on the moon, sometimes, and it makes me disappointed that, for all our technology and all our good intentions, staying in touch is not always as simple as it seems.

I hope to see them later this year, for our semi-annual catch-up, but there are no guarentees in life. Perhaps I’ll catch them on their 20th, 21st… wedding…

Ponderously wishing I were as indifferent to the passage of time as I was at my cousins age… oh right… they aren’t 12 any more…

 

SSDD

Shutter Island

Shutter Island.

Movie Poster

Movie Poster

Insanity. Psychosis. Delusion. Violence. Murder. Denial.

Mental health is a sensitive subject matter and one demonstrated by veteran thriller writer Dennis LeHane, to have not been fully understood in the 1950s. Adapted to film from the original 2003 novel by Martin Scorcese, his 2010 movie is as chilling as it is true to the original tale.

The story follows US Marshall Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck as they venture to  Shutter Island, effectively an island-wide prison in the Pacific Ocean, a confine for the criminally insane, to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of the patients there. But Daniels reveals himself to have an ulterior motive for going there and all is revealed as they are whisked around, experiencing the delusions of the island and its maddened inhabitants.

The tale is plagued with questions; What is really going on in the lighthouse? What secrets are really housed in this dark place? What mad truth is to be found amongst the cruel and the condemned? What really happened to Teddy Daniels? Will they ever got off the island? And who is Andrew Laeddis?

shutterisland-lighthouse1

Whirled around the island, embroiled in a vortex of self assessment and secrecy, the pair attempt to unravel the mysteries, which increasingly to be intrinsic, with Daniels himself.

With Mental Health Awareness Week approaching in the UK (between 13-19th May) there is no more appropriate a time to delve into the twisted labyrinth of Shutter Island.

The simple plot-line and solitary setting lend themselves to a movie translation and veteran legend, film maker Martin Scorsese creates a superb thriller with a stellar cast. Leonardo DiCaprio takes the role of protagonist Teddy Daniels, Mark Ruffalo as Chuck, Michelle Williams as DiCaprio’s wife, Dolores and Sir Ben Kingsley rounding off the talent bomb, in the role of Dr Cawley. Let it never be said that the man does things by halves. This film would not be the same without the quality of acting talent, plucked from around the globe that he has assembled, with the depth and subtlety necessary to pull off such an emotive piece.

shutter-island-dicaprio

Such a stellar cast of course delivers sterling results, with DiCaprio in particular delivering audiences with an unparalleled representation of a man on the very edge of reason. Bridget Jones move over; such disquiet is not to be mocked. The audience is interred into DiCaprio’s depiction of LeHane’s tortured hero and gripped unrelentingly through 138 minutes of mind bending suspense.

Daniels is a tormented character, in both the book and the movie being plagued with guilt and unrest regarding the death of his wife and children. Haunted by her memory he lived his life in a perpetual state of grief and vengefulness. He displays a man on the very peripheries of right and wrong, truth, fallacy and justice. His inner turbulence is reflected in the wild fervor of the vicious island weather. Despite his apparent resolve, despite all hateful suspicion of the medical staff in residence, his pity, even disgust towards its patients, the mind and past of Teddy Daniels is clearly a most turbulent place to have been. For a federal Marshall and man of the law, his mind is as much in disarray as the patients, his story as much as puzzle as the one he is trying to solve.

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Thematically, Shutter Island, as a thriller/mystery, explores the tragedy of grief and morality, namely a moral fission within ones self. The premature death of ones children is a travesty and the early death of a young spouse, tragic. No parent should have to bury their child, let alone do so beside the love of their life. Without spoiling any of the even more dramatic features of such events, this horror worsens and it becomes clear exactly what events tied in with this to so badly damage Daniels and forever tie him to the island. As is the case with most things in this tale, nothing is ever simple, nor ever as it first appears…

With a strong focus on mental health, the film and book draw near exact parallels. Keeping close to the original story, Scorsese creates an atmospheric, character driven haze in which the lingering effects of deep emotional trauma are investigated. Grief and irrationality can cause shock waves through a life and blame assignment can be both detrimental and the only cure. We are not meant to like any of these characters. We are put on edge, made distrustful, tempered and conditioned to be suspicious of everything, even our own eyes. Both the book and movie have a lingering effect and give a fearful yearning for more.

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Psychiatry is as interesting as it is terrifying. To involve yourself so deeply into the mind of another is a scary thing, and the persons shown here often already have more than one voice occupying the fuzzy space between their ears.

The greatest part of this movie is it’s chilling end line, delivered by DiCaprio; “Is it better to live as a monster, or die as a good man?”

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Read, watch, do both. But rest assured that so long as you experience this, your attitude towards mental health will change. The brains powers of self preservation are extraordinary, and the creation of an entirely new reality is not unheard of. Prepare to be terrified and amazed.

9/10

 

SSDD