Monday, March 03, 2008

the black dog

was it ernest hemingway who talked of the black dog? it was his depression, and i wonder if he imagined it lying at his feet under that table in havana, or at the door of harry's bar in venice. sitting patiently, waiting while ern finished his cigar or pernod or toasted cheese sandwich.

i don't have a black dog. my thing is a monkey, that sits on my right shoulder, and incessantly chatters, and tugs at my hair. mischievous little shit.

how do i find a way to quieten the monkey?

my days, my waking hours, are filled with all the normal stuff that people have to do to get through their lives. there are things to do with food, washing clothes, tidying houses, vaccuuming floors, picking up papers, making sure there's only one green guide on the coffee table. changing bed linen, collecting mail, walking up and down stairs. supermarket. butcher. baker. candlestick maker.

then there's the doctor appointments, school assemblies, dentist, vet. there's the friends, lunch, dinner, text, phone, email. there's family, as above. but even more intense.

the kids, three of them with their own realities, their own egocentricities, their own special characters; flaws and delights.

all the relationships must be maintained. you can't just throw your hands up in the air and say "fuck it."

but against all this, or with all this, there is a multi-layered and many-machined grinding of activity that is my brain.

this is where the monkey comes in. he sits there on my shoulder, and feeds me the thoughts. he picks them up out of the air, pops then through my ear into my brain. and there they start spinning. so on top of all that other stuff you have to do, pay bills, have sex, watch quality television on dvd - oh my god hands up who has watched love my way? - so on top of all that, i have my brain going a million miles an hour, jumping across topics, flitting all over the place.

it's too much.

i've tried meditation. i've tried yoga. i've tried pounding at the gym.

i can't say none worked, but an hour at meditation is good. i can clear my mind and try to, really try to, keep things quiet and calm. but then i walk out and go head on into the rest of my life.

i have to find a way to make the monkey still.

does this sound like i'm going mad? really, i'm not going mad, i'm just waking up.

every day i am a little more awake.


Phil O'Sophycle said...

"Winston Churchill's name for the severe depressions to which he was sometimes prone. The term originally dates from the early 19th century, and appears in the writings of Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, among others". (from Brewer's dictionary of phrase and fable). That's not to say that EH didn't use the expression - he certainly suffered from the big D, and finally topped himself. Anyway MG, you don't sound depressed just hassled by the fact that there are a million things to do in the modern world, especially if there are sprogs involved. And you seem to be sensibly looking for solutions like meditation. Can I back track a bit? - I loved your (temporary) test pattern - if I'm not mistaken it was from the bottom (tho it should have been the top) of one of the columns in the cistern in Sultanahmet in Istanbul. I'm heading off to live in Istanbul shortly, and maybe I'll set up a blog about living in Stamboul. Will send you the address if you like.

Mex said...

damn i was going to come in here with my smarty pants on and tell you it was Winston Churchill but i guess i got beaten to it.

hope you feel better soon. i find that these things tend to come in fits and starts. they might stick around for a bit and then go away. once its here it feels like shit but mostly you know it will go away again one day.

Another Outspoken Female said...

Third, rather belated, vote for Winston Churchill.

Loved Love My Way - had an obsessive dvdfest of it before xmas. Series 1 was fantastic, series 2 I started hungrily and was left a little wanting, series 3 I fell out of love even with the wonderful star. I wanted to slap both her and her partner. But I still viewed it compulsively.

Re: monkeys - we should get together and compare menageries sometime :)

Melba said...

thanks phil and mex - phil you are right, i'm not depressed, i guess i wasn't clear when i described my thing as a monkey, and i was trying to use an animal image (a la black dog = depression) for my thing (monkey = can't stop my brain from spinning, analysing and over-thinking everything).

and hell yeah, send me the address for istanbul blog would be a regular reader for sure. that pic you talk about is at the base of one of the columns in the cistern, one of my favourite places.

i've lived there several times over the last almost 20 years so can certainly give you pointers if you want.

and mex, yes these things are but impermanent. that's one thing i did retain from buddhist meditation - nothing is permanent, good things and bad.

Melba said...

hey aof you were commenting at exactly the same time as me.

don't tell me you have a monkey as well? don't tell me you actually understood what i was trying to say. i explained it all so poorly.

I'm not Craig said...

At the risk of adding more unnecessary Churchill references, those as old as me or older may recall a particularly fine if commercially unsuccessful Things of Stone and Wood single called "Churchill's Black Dog".

It's one of their best. Sadly, I can't think of any good 'monkey' songs.

Sorry to hear about the incessant chatter. I get this occasionally two, usually around 4.30am. I find a good episode or two of the West Wing, and possibly a glass of sav blanc, just before bed does wonders.

A long weekend at the beach is also highly recommended. Coincidentaly, this is exactly what I will be doing as of lunch time on Friday.

Melba said...

i came back here to address aof's comment re love my way. series one, last night we saw that goddawful purple episode, we both sobbed and teared and it was truly truly harrowing. two more eps tonight.

and here's inc, nice to see you old chap. i will be doing exactly as you but a bit later on friday. will wave to you as we head to geelong?? and then a little past to that now over-developed sea-change place?

we could have an eyeball at the bh hotel. or at the tonik sale. or the chinese restaurant in ocean grove.

fingers crossed for some good boogie boarding weather.

Phil O'Sophycle said...

"Monkey on My Back" is a song by American hard rock band Aerosmith. Written by lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry, the song was released on the band's 1989 album Pump. (I didn't know this - it's via Google and wiki p). Anyway, MG - pointers about Istanbul? - yes please. Is that a blog post? or u can email me at philsmith at exemail dot com dot au

Melba said...

oh my god phil it would be a book. but i'll email you direct with some info. and do let me know when you have your blog going.

er do you have a blog now?

Phil O'Sophycle said...

er - yes, but as Winston was fond of saying 'The black dog inhibits the blog' (no, really, he did say that!) it's so out of date -

philosophycle blogspot com

Melba said...

hey phil i've got you pegged now. i remember you from some comments on my kas post? yes?

the pedant.

well, glad you are still around and looking forward to reading your istanbul bits.

I'm not Craig said...

Sorry MG, my little weekend getaway will be of the Peninsula variey, so any eyeballing would have to include a not unpleasant ferry ride.

I do love the bh hotel. The first thing I noticed about it was that the beer comes in plastic glasses which are no use at all for throwing at a band.

I will be doing weekend away part II at Torquay later this month. Is the Chinese place in Ocean Grove highly recommended?

This is, I suspect, the point.

Melba said...

that's so funny inc. were we not on the bellarine peninsula this weekend, we would have been on the morningtonian one, but i want waves for the kids. no waves that aren't deadly down blair way.

chinese restaurant in ocean grove is passable. i would recommend orange in bh if you can get a table.

jo_blue said...

Melba, I find the more I fight against the monkey (and at times, mine feels like a gorilla) the more it bothers me. I accept that I don't have a quiet mind, and may never have. I do put a lot of energy into focusing on whatever it is I am doing and that helps, but I let my mind go for a run when I'm doing things that don't require my total focus - swimming is good for this. That's not to say that you shouldn't be looking for ways to calm the monkey down - just being aware that it's interfering and trying to find ways to quieten your mind is a positive thing. Just don't be disappointed if the things you try aren't helping 100%. It's normal - whatever that is.

Fever Dog said...

As you describe, I've found meditation quite effective at quietening what it calls the "monkey mind", the constantly chattering chimpanzee. Is that what people mean by having a monkey on their back?

I've always liked Allen Ginsberg's poem The Lion, For Real for the animal imagery -- even if it was more like the black dog than a chattering monkey

eleanor bloom said...

Hey, I knew what you were talking about with the monkey and that you weren't depressed!
I think so much that I probably have more of an ape sitting on my head, so I know what you're saying.

And re monkey songs, what's wrong with the Monkey Magic theme? Eh?

Then there's Tori Amos with the lyric "Father I killed my monkey I let it out to taste the sweet of spring" or something like that. But such morbidness might bring on the black dog, so... Hey, now my ape's wondering *pauses to give him a scratch behind the ear* who would win in a fight: black dog or chittering monkey?
There's something else for you to think about now...! I don't think I've helped here at all...