I have always often been subject to whatever mood i’m in and have let that dictate how things roll.
For example, when I was doing my degree in English Literature, if I did not emphatically relate to a text in an emotive way then I struggled to write about it; I literally had to feel the buzz of Christina Rosetti’s Goblin Market or see the breaking mirror in The Lady of Shallot’s tower, or feel the indecision and torment of Hamlet or the madness of King Lear to even begin to give a crap about writing anything.
This is probably why producing work at university felt like having my teeth pulled out slowly. And of course it was constantly reiterated that we were not important in the academic process; it was about being objective and scientific almost in our responses to works of literature, never mind all the clever theorists and inexplicable connections and tail chasing philosophies.
Don Quixote or Austen’s Emma were literary examples of those carried away by fiction; over empathizing to the point of madness or foolish mistake making. I secretly knew I was (my own personal) Don Quixote, donning my tin can for a knights helmet and charging off into life to be the leading lady in my own performance- perhaps with a touch of Madame Bovary about me; generating my own drama and seeking death and oblivion when the rose tinted spectacles fell off.
If they fell off and the grey and miserable light of day stared me in the face, then I would enter a state of misery and isolation.
I got a few great marks for my essays written to the beat of my emotive heart and a few duds where the meaning was lost in the flurry of expression and search for the incredible.
When the time came to meet my (fairly insipid) dissertation tutor to tell him what i’d like to write about- Landscape and Emotion in works by Emily Bronte and Thomas Hardy, or something like that as a starting point, he scoffed and told me it was too GCSE. Total. Frigging. Blighter. Did it matter? That’s where my passions lay; in landscape and emotion; in the thin line between life and death and the expression of this and life’s meaning in writing not to mention landscape. Never mind, instead I wrote an inexplicable dissertation on Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and the ‘Concept of the Outsider’. I still cringe when I read it, but I know what I meant!
I wake up most days and make an implicit almost involuntary decision as to whether i’m ‘in the mood’ or not, and if i’m not, then the day is like a cruel and spiteful rainstorm spitting knives at me.
If I am ‘in the mood’, then its a day of eternal spring; butterflies and little blue birds flutter and skitter near me; those days I believe in other dimensions and unicorns.
But i’m tired of living like that.
I also find that I can only write/ perform/ make art / live etc…. if I’m ‘in the mood’ and if i’m not, then I feel flat and pants, frankly, if not just all out mad. Perhaps that is why I reach, or, have reached in the past, for stimulating/ mind altering things like alcohol or anti depressants; the alternative to feeling enthused and connected and maybe even buzzy and inspired, for me, is:
Fear: An infinite desert of raging blackness or opaque gray with many things hidden in the darkness and in the face of that, overwhelming and utter exhaustion and apathy.
Last night I performed at a gig with my band and I was simply not in the mood. So in part and quite mildly on the Fear radar, the pub became a blurry desert of, in this instance, gloaming grey with floating faces, beards, eyes and teeth. I didn’t feel like downing whiskey, or swallowing succulent red wine- which certainly has a wonderful ability to warm the cockles of the heart and put one in the/some kind of mood; the mental anguish that follows the next day as the liver seeks to make amends is just not always worth it. So I did what I suppose most other people do; I just did my thing, I went through the motions and I sang. Admittedly there were moments when I drifted mentally to mundane things and really was not in the zone and living the songs. Even worse, at moments I wanted to put my hair over my face grunge style and hide as the inner critic in my ear attempted to put me down and ruin my peace of mind by confirming with me mid song that ‘You are a fraud and everyone knows it, just give up NOW!!!!’
But there were also moments where I really enjoyed it and became one. And funnily enough the audience didn’t care either way. They seemed to enjoy it whatever I was feeling. So a sort of realisation came to me, that while what I feel is important (to me) it doesn’t really impact on how I come across. I could be as happy as Larry or sad and lonely as Nelly or as tormented as Tilly, but the action of performance is really a separate thing in which is generated feeling and emotion, even if from what feels like a barren land. A bit like the Phoenix rising.
Picasso: ‘Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.’
Another thing is what I will call the Medusa Complex which actually is already a thing.
My medusa complex is that when i’m not in the mood to engage with others I can somehow manage to appear totally normal and sociable; making jokes and polite and pleasant conversation. And the complex bit of it is that while I do this successfully, I wonder how horrified they’d be if they could see the horrors of my medusa head; snakes writhing, untethered; hissing and waving and lurching out from my head and mouth as I conduct civilized small talk with them.
Weird, yes, but something I think exists, at least in me. I hope it’s not a sign of psychopathy. I do care about people, really!
The real Medusa Complex is interesting (with a quick Wikipedia search): It’s a psychological complex revolving around the petrification or freezing of human emotion, drawing on the classical myth of Medusa. Gaston Bachelard’s Medusa Complex (1948) : is ‘…to cover the feeling of petrification induced by the threat of the parental gaze. A mute, paralysed fury responds to the danger of the obliteration of an individual consciousness by an external Other…’ Wikipedia
Interestingly for me, Attachment Theory derives from this Medusa Complex idea- while Marion Woodman, a Canadian author, poet, analytical psychologist and women’s movement figure, saw the Medusa Complex as a ‘…dissociated state produced by paralysis of the fight or flight response in a state of petrified fear. She also saw it as the possible by-product of a conflict between an idealised perfect state and the actual reality of one’s feelings and emotions.’ Wikipedia
This is pertinent for me, often frozen, because it is really the perfect state, the drive for perfection, the ‘attempt to achieve an unattainable ideal or unrealistic goal’ which may be even for starters, just an optimal mood, which perfectionists, in not achieving, ‘often fall into depression and low self esteem.’
Anyway, I’ve drifted gently hither and thither in my attempt to write today on moods, creativity and other stuff. I would probably conclude that on the journey here that I am recounting and trying to make sense of, the place that I have come to, is the edge of Fear.
People always talk about Fear…. The greatest thing to fear is Fear itself etc. I find this a bit philosophial and confusing because working out what fear actually is is really hard; but being scared is very real.
I think it’s a subjective thing. For people prone to ‘madness’ if I may speak for myself at least, it is the recoiling from the infinitely black, raging desert- the one in Lord of the Rings when they put the ring on.. you know? Sometimes this desert may feel very close. Recoiling from it seems to make it expand. On an existential level this desert feels very real, so getting to the edge of it and looking at it without weapons and defence feels like a big step in the right direction.
Relating to moods, i’m wondering if accepting the self as it arises, without prejudice, allowing the flat grey disinterested self to exist; or working, producing, performing and making, through this apathy or worse, through the fear of nothingness- can ignite a spark where all seems barren and cold. To stand at the edge of the blackness .
Next, to walk through it……..