I know that one of the intentions for the new year is to reduce depressed mood and verbosity … but we are still in 2018 and everything is still granted.
One death of mine dates back to March this year.
It was late February / early March, in fact. I don’t really remember which day because I was quite swooning and not very clear most of the time. I also deleted the WhatsApp chats of those days so I don’t have any handouts. Anyway, in those days.
Sanremo Festival (the most important musical Festival in Italy: a sort of tradition, which glues millions of viewers to TV every year) had just been there and there was a song, a song that made me feel good and bad at the same time: Adesso, by Diodato and Roy Paci (Litterally translated into “Now“). I loved it when I first listened to, which is quite rare in general and for Sanremo in particular. It hurt me badly because Antonio Diodato’s heartfelt voice stung right there, where I knew to be my most critical point: now, life is now, Angy – the song whispered – You can’t afford to waste any more time. You’re fucking thirty-four. Half life already thrown away. You must live now or you will end up sinking forever.
I was desperately unhappy, and I knew it. I knew it for months now, but I had no idea what to do to change the state of things. And actually … I was actually convinced that I was totally unable to change the state of things.
But that song made me feel bad, and made me feel good. Because it whispered, insinuated, brooded: it was preparing the battlefield without my knowledge.
Those who read or know me now cannot imagine it, but at the time I was in one of my periods. One of those periods when even going down to buy milk is a serious problem. In those times, I look at the world from a porthole and rather than get bored a bit (as an old famous italian song said) I tremble: from behind the window I feel at the same time well protected and completely separated and distant from everything else, where everything else is any other form of life. Vacuum. The mere thought of moving and dressing and turning the door handle and going out paralyzes me. I am a living fear. I tremble around the clock, and spend my days in a bed-sofa-chair-bed enveloped in two million tons of stuff in the vain hope that the tremor will cease. Because in those times I’m cold. A cold like “The day after Tomorrow”; a cold that never warms up. Cold in the bowels, in the bones, in the connective and also in the brain. I want to sleep, retreat, disappear. I also want to disappear from the conscience of those who know that I exist, so as to reduce the rate of anxiety and disappointed expectations. Cupio dissolvi: I recently discovered that it is said correctly this way. I become obsessive, I have to do repetitive, routine and obsessive things that reassure me. Winter is the period of the year that I fear the most.
That’s how it has been since I was a child, for years. Until March.
The natural result of all this is that in moments of awareness I despair, in those less lucid I can do nothing but try to float on things to distract myself and cling to habits, to people around, those that do not judge you and do not even despise you beacause of your limits and insanity; but you will understand: the circle of eligible candidates is very restricted. This is why I do not attend and I do not allow anyone to attend to me during those periods.
For this reason, in my town, Turi, a rather small town, I do not know many people and many continue to say “Are you from Turi?” With sincere incredulity.
In those days, I said, I could barely make the sixteen steps that separated the house in which I lived then from the shop of various and possible stuff. And by taking nine more steps, I reached the food corner shop. I loved that home for that too: few but enough steps. Counting the steps allowed me to overcome the tremor and the panic of meeting the eyes of others. A look in which I feared to read always judgment and contempt.
I was in this state for years. A not-life. A kind of limbo between what I was and what I could have been but I wasn’t able to be. Every day I did my chi kung and breath exercises, the sun salutation and the dozens of sets of push-ups, abdominals, biceps exercises, in the firm hope that if I could feel strong enough in my arms and the rest of my body, sooner or later that tremor would cease and I would finally have the courage to live.
I meditated. And in meditation I contemplated my unhappiness and despair.
So one day, on a rainy Sunday afternoon like today, I was forced to go out. There was a city meeting organized by my best friend, one of the very few people in the circle mentioned above, and I could not make her rude about not going there. I meticulously dressed: I need a lot of time, in those times, to get ready to go out. Not that time of women with the habit of seduction at all costs: the time necessary to convince me that there is nothing out there so catastrophic, and that maybe going out will be worth it.
I didn’t know that particular day would have been worth all the pains in the world.
I knew a man. I was already linked to someone else, but that man changed my life. I fell in love immediately, even though I understood it later; it was something that bypassed all circuits of awareness and rationality and came directly to the heart; one two three-free: an electroshock. In those days, this thing, between an old love to which I was very attached and dependent by, and a new one suddenly appeared, and that I had not the faintest idea of what it reserved, in addition to my (ab)normal status of Agoraphobia and permanent tremor, it shook me in the foundations of my being. I didn’t eat anymore and I didn’t sleep anymore. Even the routine no longer worked and blew everything up. I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. I only knew that I had to see him, talk to him, know him; he had rekindled my desire to live, to go out and face that Everest of things that for years now I thought were a challenge lost at the start. If I stayed, I would have remained the same as always; if I went away, I would have had to change. This I saw in meditation. But I was terrified of not being able to.
One afternoon, I was firmly anchored to my favorite radiator, the same one on which Micia, our ex-cat, years ago had stationed in those same sly periods.
“Can I call you?” He wrote.
I observed at myself, within, which was very difficult when everything about you trembled from head to toe. I knew it was a crucial moment, a moment in the balance, and I would have paid anyone an absurd amount of money just to give him the responsibility of the choice. So I listened to “Now”. For the billionth time, like every obsessive morning in those days.
“No” I replied “Let’s have a coffee”
I had to go out. I had to look up from my cell phone, we really had to talk, no need for a keyboard (as the song says). I had to see it in person, feel him by skin. I had to understand by my skin if it was just a mistake, one of those blunders you cling to when you desperately need anything, or not. He had to see who I really was and realize the real state I was in. I didn’t want to make up stories, gild pills. He needed to know how alien and abnormal I was.
We met, he knew. And yet something unexpected and beautiful was born.
I know it is used to say this words in these circumstances, but I think I’ve never been so in love with anyone else before, and I saw it all the same in his eyes, alien like mine and fogged up like mine, but vivid when I did it notice and needed. That day I was terrified to find out but it was just that: I didn’t feel the pleasure of having found something I needed, I felt the pleasure of having found something that I liked in its specific peculiarity. I deeply loved this one of him: his specific peculiarity. What I could have been with him and thanks to him came later.
That coffee was the step that, through an ordeal that I am not telling you, actually forced me to get back on my feet: a rehabilitation of the soul, at times slow, sometimes supersonic, which led me to the current balance and stability.
Then the fear got back on my way, prevailed over courage and mutual trust, and that story that changed my life broke. I no longer listened to “Now”. It had become an unbearable memento. But life knows how to oddly trick us and has proposed me it again with arrogance.
Last summer I went to the Locus Festival in Locorotondo. I had to interview a Brazilian musician, Rodrigo Amarante, in English on behalf of a friend. I could not have imagined that Diodato, the author of the song, would perform on the stage that evening, before Amarante. God, when I saw him, when I realized he would sing, I was fibrillating. I was backstage when that night the giant red moon lit up the nights of all of Italy and he sang live “Now”. I cried like a cascading Niagara, and I saw that moment back next to the radiator with my cell phone in my hand, poised between a goodbye forever and a coffee. Carpe diem, I cried.
– Antonio – I called him, as soon as he came down from the stage – Can I tell you a rather banal story? –
– I love banal stories – he smiled.
I summarized the essentials. I tried to convey to him how useful that song had been, a veritable shock of salvation. I tried to convey my gratitude to him. And he listened, caught everything, was moved. It was a beautiful moment. We aliens understand each other. It was especially beautiful when, a few hours later, at the end of the evening, we said goodbye: we knew we would never see each other again. We embraced like two refugees, two aliens in a foreign land who, in some way, know how to make do, adapt to this atmosphere, and stand out for this. Two compatriots of alienation in the soul.
And this is my invitation to all of you alien and terrestrian sailors: change.
Have the courage to change, for God. Life as far as we know is one, only this one, and it has too short a deadline to dwell on bullshit. It’s too short to waste time doing things we don’t want to be people we aren’t. They accused me of being impatient, and maybe it’s true, but when you spent half your life waiting for nooneknowswhat behind a glass while the others, out there, live … you don’t want to wait no longer. Life is now, now it’s all we have, Diodato said. Tomorrow you can die, you can break your bones, lose yourself again, lose into your fears, the bullshit, the unnecessary pit stops. Change, live, love, risk.
Of course, the risk is risk: sometimes it goes and sometimes it doesn’t go. But who does not risk does nothing on this planet and I tell you: to pay is always worth it and if it does not go, fuck it, it will be better next time.
Change. But really do it. Engage as you were Rocky four weeks before to face Apollo Creed. As you were Steve McQueen in the tunnel of The Great Escape. How there was no tomorrow.
Change is possible. Always. In all circumstances, especially the worst ones. You just have to ask yourself if you really want it and how far are you willing to go to do it. Know how to forgive yourself for the evil you have done to yourself until now, until the second before you change.
And impossible as it may be, revolutionary and piercing … it’s worth it. Yes, it is always worth the damn penalty.