Wednesday, 21 December 2011

‘Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.’ So Norman Vincent Peale once wrote.

If we apply ourselves with vigour to it, as we rightly should, then may this be so.

In my own present field of work, this festive time that is now upon us is by far the most exhausting period of the year, not to mention possibly rather draining of joy when faced with many a rude and shallow behaviour (though I’ll readily admit to knowing the most cordial exchanges arising too).

I have discovered lately that, as much as many same-old recordings of such may possibly begin to grate, singing favourite songs of Yuletide cheer to myself throughout the day helps keep any rising ‘Grinch’ at bay; for as ‘A Christmas Carol’ lies as that classic perennial, I’d never wish to require ghostly visit to inspire me away from a Scrooge-like existence.

Personally, though this is and will remain my favourite time of year, upon this particular one, it undoubtedly will be, for me and my family, a rather difficult celebration without our dear beloved Mum. Not only is it our first, and most fresh against hopes, one without her, but as she also led us with such vigour in her embracing of all it encompasses, there will be such a greatness of love and joy that is missing in our lives, though not ever from our hearts. Undoubtedly the sweet tears of remembrance will certainly fall. But - we will also recall the abundance of the manifold gifts she bestowed, and feel eternally blessed because of them.

Of course, we will not be alone. I’m aware others will also know in their own individual journey similar sorrowful significance at this poignant and rich time, most oft marked when the strike of midnight hits upon the New Year –

My Heart is ravished with delight,

when thee I think upon;

All Grief and Sorrow takes the flight,

and speedily is gone;

The bright resemblance of thy Face,

so fills this, Heart of mine;

That Force nor Fate can me displease,

for Auld Lang Syne.

But let me not write here and now just of the sadness that may come to pass with some of us at this time; for to do so would be to ignore not only all we have known and been shown, but all we know and all we will yet still because of such.

No matter what our circumstance, despite what struggle and difficulty we face, we are blessed too. Very. For we must and surely do appreciate many a comfort, through a loved one, be they family we inherited or the extended we chose. I for one welcome this with such overwhelming gladness (when I get passed all the superfluous stress and down to the essence of this seasonal period) because I’ll KNOW mirth, merriment, the kindness of charity and the goodwill of humankind. I’m shown it continuously, and so I humbly commend it now.

I trust that you do also. To quote again ‘There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves.’

One of the oft-stated adages of life is that what we put out comes back, so to spread goodness to others is also to have it returned to us. So I truly say: LOVE JOY PEACE, and may this be with us all.


A true and happy CHRISTMAS.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011


I always look forward to the ‘Evening Standard’ on a Wednesday, so that I may wash myself in wistful desire as I wander through the ‘Homes & Property’ section, choosing which glorious abode will be mine; casually deciding that some are certainly not worthy of said £3.25 million price tag, whilst another, at say a mere £600,000, is an absolute bargain.

It is undoubtedly a cruel spell I put myself under, and a rather pointless one, but we all love our little fantasy sojourns.

Tonight, before I even reached those hallowed pages, I sat forlorn on the tube home as I reached page 8…

Britain's welfare system is paying 150 families in London £50,000 a year each in housing benefit, figures reveal today… The annual bill being £7.5 million, or more than £4,000 a month on average.

The subsequent quote from Welfare reform minister Lord Freud: “It’s completely unfair that the taxpayer is funding housing benefit payments of £50,000 a year to some claimants” – stood nothing but as right and an understatement.

Let me be absolutely clear.

I’ve no problem with having a Welfare System, of seeing those less fortunate being aided.

Nor do I have a problem with this country aiding asylum seekers.

But to read of the Somali refugees who were moved to a three-storey home in Kensington (pictured, the kind of property we all dream of) at a cost of £2,000 a week… after they had complained that they did not like their £900-a-week home in Kensal Green… saw my blood begin to boil.

Perhaps their journey is a sorrowful tale. But then I began thinking of other stories I’ve read recently. Like the convicted rapist who has a £250 a week rent paid and is taking this country to task through the ‘European Court of Human Rights’ because, he says, his added £70 a week food vouchers “limit his choice as to where he can shop”. Or how the jailed hate preacher Abu Hamza's home has received a £40,000 makeover... paid by taxpayers… I despaired.

And there many more insulting tales such as these.

A couple of years back, I hit particularly hard times and thought I might become homeless. When I approached Westminster Council, I was apologetically told that as a British Tax-Payer I was right at the bottom of the list, and rather sheepishly given the only aid they could offer – a pamphlet for ‘Shelter’.

At 40 years old, I know I’m not alone in having paid some £50,000 in tax (plus National Insurance). And I get by whilst earning below what is called the ‘UK Average Salary’. Just.

But all of this is wrong. So wrong.

And oh, do I feel cheated and maligned.

Monday, 31 October 2011



I saw a child skipping down the street in her pyjamas and I thought of you.

I did not shed a tear at the time, though often they fall.

I just smiled at her merry joy, and heard you witness the same.

And I remembered a thousand joys.

How you loved to sing, and how so often we shared the perfection of laughter: your inherent teaching that humour and music cleanse the soul.

The simple fare done to perfection: Mince & Dumpling… American Fluff… Bread Sauce (and the year we all rebelled the Christmas you changed it).

Piquant aromatics: A dab of Nivea… Lavender… Youth Dew… how washing always smelt better when you’d done it… and not to exclude the zest for ever-cleansing Zoflora.

Simonburn: Grannie and Grandpa (a whole list of its own there)… the pre-arrival clean-up… how I always had to give the directions before we took the turn towards Rebecca’s Bridge… Choir Holidays… The River, Forest and Totem Pole at Stonehaugh…

Hadrian’s Wall: Picnics and swimming at Corbridge… when “I was a Roman”… when, grown up, you told me to climb the wall at a closed Vindolana… and the painting you gave me.

Camping in Killin, Scotland: The Loch… Vicky & Keilidh… ‘Flesh’ Soup… Emma and Rachel singing ‘Millie Molly Mandy’… SUE 484M.

A thousand joys were there to remember. And when I was done with those there would be a thousand more.

I thought of how you were never short on hugs and kind words. How you were always there for each of us, no matter what – nothing was too much trouble or insurmountable. We are so different but your words were always “I love you each the same.”

Of all the friends you made, and how they always became family: Josie, Iris, Sandra to name a very special three, though there are many more.

When Dad was ‘Buster’ and when you both ran a dog training club. Even then, when you did not see it, you were inspiring people. Then you became a Samaritan, and in a different way to your nursing days, again saved lives.

How you took yourself to college to learn about computers, and after forty years picked up the artists paint brush.

Your never-ending praise and belief, which was so encompassing it even embraced a needed moment of chastisement or correction and made it all good.

A thousand joys are there to remember. And when I am done with those there will be a thousand more.

Those who are fortunate get a Mother who is an angel, and so then for sure we were the most fortunate of all, for you knocked socks off Gabriel.

You were a Lady. You were our Queen. We joked of your blue blood, but you were truly the most royal of all: No ‘Mrs.Bouquet’ (for only those without true class are snobs) just the humble (and rightfully) ‘Lady B’.

I’ve spoken in past tense. And in a way that is not right. For my words must show that you will live on in every one who has had the honour to be touched by your love.

We have now no new memories to fill our days, and that brings us all such sorrow in knowing it is so.

But we can never forget all those we have, and that is why you are eternal. Mum. Mummy. Grannie. Great-Grannie. Bridget. Lady B.

A thousand joys are here to remember. And when we are done with those there will be a thousand more.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Tabloid Hacks and Their Hacking.

It dominates our news. A soap-opera of huge proportion.

That corruption exists in news reporting, in the police and in our government – such revelations can hardly be considered shocking in surprise, though they remain alarming nonetheless.

"A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honourable, generous, tolerant and respectful."

So not British Government and Police then, clearly. As for the journalists, few and far are those who it would be hoped held those complimentary traits so named above in their aspect.

"Carry On Murdoch". Only in Britain could there be a cream-pie-throwing incident in the middle of a Parliamentary Committee. I'm surprised Wendi Deng's top didn't fly off like Babs Windsor, and it didn't all play out to the Benny Hill tune. Farce.

Then came Mensch.

Now, I feel no warmth for Piers Morgan. At all. But what a squirmy, petty and childish woman Mrs.Mensch proves to be.

It is worrying when a former tabloid editor really does seem to have more intelligence in argument than an elected politician. If you cannot stand by what you say, do not say it.

In Yiddish, a 'mensch' is someone who lives with integrity, views the world with empathy, and allows for a perspective more nuanced than black-and-white and good-and-bad. One can only presume Louise is not a Mensch by nature then.

Friday, 20 May 2011


“What is there more kindly than the feeling between host and guest?” Aeschylus, c 500 BC.

Correct. Absolutely. And what joy and gentle pride can be gained from engaging with a multitude of strangers, of sharing smiles and knowing their night is good from your engagement. In the world of hospitality “We aim to please” stands tall. Simple effort brings pleasure and warmth abounding.

And the flip-side?

“I’m a Centurion/Platinum/Diamond-Encrusted-Ermine-Bordered-Emerald-Enshrined Card Holder.”

“I’m a friend of Owner/Manager/A Celebrity.”

“You’re stupid/I’ll have you fired/Or a varied selection of Insult & Profanity abounding.”

And the most simple classic of all… “Don’t you know who I am?!”

Er… No. So?

Or… Yes. And?

It will never fail to, baffle, or better, simply to amuse how some folk think to attempt a rapid round of volatile diatribe to demean, criticise and attack will help them gain entry to somewhere after refusal. It won't. I've seen the 'Big I Am' a thousand times before. To be gracious and charming could be the only ploy to win, and could actually help one do so with relative ease. Insult my colleagues, you are not going anywhere but away.

Hospitality is the relationship between guest and host. It is, therefore, like all good relationships, inherently a two-way street. If the etymology comes from the Latin hostis, which originally meant ‘to have power’, then some people really need to wake up to where that power lies; certainly not in the hands of the intoxicated arrogant pomposity of the one who does not hold the key.

Of course, good manners often means you simply put up with other people's bad manners; if you spoke your true mind how little would they cope.

Manners are also a good balanced awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners; if you don’t, you don’t. Simple.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe put it: “A man's manners are a mirror in which he shows his portrait.”

And who puts a portrait in their house they don’t like?

Monday, 16 May 2011

“It’s a Twister!”: The Tornado Mind

I was having a bit of a tough ride, the dark side generally beating over the light, bringing despondency, chaos, and all manner of internal conflict (which invariably, as it must, ripples out).

I’d actually put on my facebook page that very morning:

“The fight betwixt philosophy and genetic disposition of DRD4 exon III polymorphism is tough lately.”

And it seemed I was not sure why. It was too cryptic, or simply seeming of nonsense to those – most likely all – who would not know to what it referred. I was expecting no response. Hoped, yes, but expected, no. None came in the twenty-four hours it was there before I changed my status.

Of course, I did know why I had put it up; it was a cry for help. I wouldn’t need anyone to point out that a social networking tool was probably not the best place to express that, but in a flux of pained confusion I was desperate in my yearning to find inspiration, to have that cry heeded, even if I had made that very call so obtuse.

The crux of it all, however, is that people simply don’t want to know; or at best, they don’t fully accept and understand. Even if they do somehow get it, say they are there if you need, they’d really rather not. It eventually becomes clear to you that this is something that you to dealt with by yourself.

So, down to me. Oh fuck. Well, I’ll muddle on.

Then, one of the big breaking stories of the day:

‘Catherine Zeta Jones has received treatment for bipolar disorder…’

“After dealing with the stress of the past year, Catherine made the decision to check in to a mental health facility for a brief stay to treat her Bipolar II disorder. said her publicist.

Now I am sure the illness of her husband had indeed been a immense worry, and however cosseted another’s life may be, I do not believe their suffering in this to be less than with anyone else; my sympathies truly.

Nor do I lack empathy for her having an internal battle within her own mind. How could I?

And I even accept what Mark Davies, from the mental health charity Rethink, said about her announcement, that it aides in removing the stigma around mental illness. Or rather, I’d like to believe that to be so, because removing the stigma can only be a good thing.

Will it though? Does it? I’m not so sure.

Yes, she will receive the best treatment, the most understanding. She’ll be shown all good will in accordance with the very basic fact that she has it and is Hollywood royalty. If she has a bad spell, she can take some much-needed ‘time out’, with whatever help she needs at the time. I’m not saying her journey is easy, but it is certainly more comfortable.

Her public declaration therefore is certainly commendable; but to be lauded as ‘courageous’ over it?

Yes, I think every one who lives with bipolar, or some other mental health issue, and endeavours to deal with it and live a full life despite of it is being courageous in some way. But most will not know empathy, acceptance, patience, understanding, compassion and care. Most will not be able to put life on hold whilst they take some time out to manage with it. Most will have to muddle on as best they can. Alone.

I know, because I am one of them. So yes, the recent revelations on Ms.Zeta Jones does have a relevance, because it opens the discourse right here.

Some years ago I was diagnosed with cyclothymia, part of the spectrum of Bipolar Disorder. I’m not going to go into the science behind this all, but in essence, it is a chemical imbalance that affects my moods, to put it mildly, regardless of outside stimulus; or serves to dominate my existence when being extreme.

I need to set forth here, for my own sense of worth more than to persuade any who should read this: I am an intelligent man, and a sane (as opposed to insane) one. I also believe I possess in me some of the best qualities to be found in a person. I am caring, not lacking in empathy, loyal, trusting, and insightful. I can be witty, hold my own in most topics of discussion, and can inspire myself and others to a better way of seeing. I can be rational and, for someone of an artistic nature, even logical. I enjoy literature and all the arts (which I believe to be the true magic in humankind’s expression). I enjoy philosophy, and believe the continuous application of wisdom in our lives to be good and right. The main issue for me is that there are times in my life when none of these qualities will resound in my being to even the slightest ring.

I can find myself overbearingly confused or anxious for no particular reason, or unable to make even the simple decision without things going round and round in my head.

“Oh, we all do that sometimes!” is what I am told. Really?

For hours, days, sound and silence combined screaming into the head, blocking out all reason?

I do love the company of others, and can be the life and soul of the party. But then I can suddenly find myself feeling intensely isolated and alone, wanting to remove myself from any interaction, compelled to numb myself utterly. I perhaps feel trapped in a bubble of disturbing hypersensitivity. I may literally just stare at the wall or my pillow or empty space, for hours or even days. I can be deeply pensive, agitated, depressed, or just a blank void.

“Oh, we all do that sometimes!” is what I am told. Really?

For hours, days, sound and silence combined screaming into the head, blocking out all reason?

When these times come, I have absolutely no motivation. I can't get out of bed, pick up a phone, don't eat properly and have the most erratic sleep patterns.

“Oh, we all…” How often would that be I’d ask you?

Or I’m told to get a grip, sort myself out. As if logic and reason are actually allies of mine at these times! It is actually kind of insulting. I have a condition, yes. I do not however lack intelligence or empathy, even if at such times either of those would seem alien to me.

Of course, sometimes it is all quite the opposite. It can be quite amazing. I become a fireball of enthusiasm and inspiration, full of ideas and goals. I feel fine, no, great, and I know how energy breeds energy, so focus to lift others with this too. Like He-Man, I hold up my hand and proclaim “I have the power!” Yes truly, The Force is strong in this one.

“Where is the bad in that?” you might say. To a certain degree and level, there is not. But just as the dark side of the journey can be overbearing in its power, so can this seemingly ‘light’ side.

This then is called the manic phase, or hypomania. And yes, it can indeed be quite wonderful. It can also be quite damaging too, as I get consumed with wild ideas, find myself acting in weird ways that hold no consequence, beyond any law of cause and effect. I’ll start getting things with money I don’t have and that I don't need, spending as if I’m Rockefeller and living as if invincible, pursuing highs that further me on.

I am aware this aspect, my inferno of light, sometimes gives cause for my friends and family to despair at how I'm not doing really well with some glittering career as actor, writer or world leader of my own plane. Especially as I can be seen so be so in command of a great untapped potential. However, it gives me more despair, for I invariably spiral into a bewildering state of being. I tell myself this is just the way I am and I have to learn to accept it. But I don’t want to. Not always.

These conflicting mood states are not only extremely tiring, they are also deeply frustrating. Not knowing how or when I am going to flux means I have grown to be deeply mistrusting of myself, and adopt many a mask to cover when I can. I can sometimes manage to operate despite the screaming inside. Other days, all is just fine. I'm someone who most find polite, chatty, understanding, honest, compassionate, mildly interesting, etc. I know I'm a decent man, I like who I am, and so do most who know me. I think.

There have been times in my life when this dis-ease of the mind has overpowered me. It has, in effect, won. There are other times when it has been defeated, when I have come out as victor, the captain and master of myself.

In the latter half of 2010, I believed that to totally be the case.

I’d felt pretty damn good for some months. Good days and bad days, like everyone, mistakes and successes, but pretty much doing ok.

Which is perhaps why this that you have read now, for the most part thus far written in the early months of that year, never saw the light of day; Cyclothymia, the tornado mind, was, it seemed to be, not something I really had to consider.

Then the start of a new year, 2011, and reality bit, and bit hard.

Without even seeing it, I had, at some indistinct point, slipped into a prolonged phase of hypomania. So productive in its existence it seemed, and so engaging it must have made me, no-one saw the signs of what a level I was at. And why would they? They had no reason to. As for me, riding along this huge crest of the wave that it is like a champion surfer, I would be the last person to question any negative aspects found in my behaviours. I would not, as is the wont when in the grip of this powerful state, even recognise it as such.

I had become unwatchful, unmindful, and the fall out of this could well prove personally catastrophic.

Of course, I only saw this when the flip came. Like someone had flung a switch.

I’d been in the grip of one cycle. Here was the next.

My entire outlook, inward and outward, changed.

It all became bleak, downcast. And I felt in the grip of despair: lost, confused, and the worst aspect, empty.

I hated how I now was. I also hated how I had been. I hated me.

I look to what I wrote at that time:

…I feel in the grip of despair: lost, confused, and the worse aspect, empty. I hate how I now am. I also hate how I have been. I hate me.

I put out a ‘why?’ to this, as if someone else is now reading and asking that very question, when really it must be a part of my own self throwing out that very question. It doesn’t make sense.

And that is just it. It doesn’t make sense.

I look, as I have so many times in the past, to beautiful words of gospel that I believe to be true.

As a rock on the seashore he standeth firm, and the dashing of the waves disturbeth him not. He raiseth his head like a tower on a hill, and the arrows of fortune drop at his feet. In the instant of danger, the courage of his heart sustaineth him; and the steadiness of his mind beareth him out.

Akhenaton (c. B.C. 1375)

The world is a looking glass, and gives back to every

man the reflection of his own face. Frown at it and it

will in turn look sourly upon you; laugh at it and with it, and it is a jolly kind companion.

Thackeray (1811-1863)

These truths, and many others I have collected as my armoury and allies over the years, still serve me, but I acknowledge it is with a slight respite that has no hold. The moment I stop reading, or writing, then any good is clouded over with a gloom that is so overwhelming. My reason is begging me to listen, I feel.

I read the words, written some two-thousand years ago, of Nagarjuna, the Tibetan Father of Mahayana Buddhism

The misery which follows pleasure

Is the pleasure which follows misery.

The pleasure and misery of mankind

Revolve like a wheel.

I know this to be true. But there is no peace in the pain of my head.

I tell myself ‘This too shall pass’. To breathe. To be at peace.

‘HELP ME!’ I cry out in my head.

And I re-read my blog entry written just a few hours earlier.

…Call on The Divine, but row with purpose away from the rocks.

I wrote this slight tweak of an old Indian proverb because, as is often the case when I feel rather low and lost, I’m pleading for some kind of guidance to bring me out of the dark, back into the light. And I must trust it will come. However, it can never come alone. When we find ourselves flailing in a storm that is the ocean of our life, seemingly uncontrollable waves bringing us closer to the rocks of despair, it is ultimately up to us to row damn hard in the opposite direction.

I know it to be so. And I know that I am about to make the choice to stop writing just now.

And fall darker still…

Now I am not making some “woe is me” plea. For one, I am one of the fortunate ones. I have many caring, loving people in my life, most of whom will accept this aspect of me as best they can. And I’ll say now, before I write one word further, I am truly thankful to them for that. I’m not ashamed in a wider sphere either, not in the sense that I keep it secret anyway; I’ll be quite vocal about it. I don’t shout it from the rooftops, discuss it with everybody, but I will speak of it. Because it is part of who I am; because prejudice needs to be broken. However, much shame still lives. Why?

Camilla Long, in her superb piece in The Sunday Times, was quite right when she put: “People are still frightened of mental illness in a way that I can only equate to a kind of racism.” I have heard much prejudice from all walks of life, even if not intentionally hurtful in its ignorance. And it is an ignorance everyone should work to dissolve within themselves, if only for the fact that one in four people suffer some kind of mental illness at some point in their lives. You are reading of me here, but it is pretty much guaranteed someone closer to you is to suffer such also.

I am always reminded of how difficult my condition is for others. They won’t hide that, because they can’t. So we can talk about it, but usually when I am doing ok; when I’m in the grip of it, when I am suffering my worst I must do so alone. No-one will take my hand and listen and say it is okay. They will simply not hear my cry for help, back away, get frustrated or tell me to deal with it.

I know the strength lies in me and me alone. Sometimes though, you need it from someone else. They can’t, because it scares them. So then you must choose not to burden them, and walk the terrifying journey alone, whilst still doing a job, earning a living, maintaining relationships etc. No time to step out, take a break, pause till it passes (for it will). In doing so you take one more step closer to ultimate isolation, something I feel very strongly when I’m slipping down. And that carries with it many negative consequences, of this I can testify.

I’m okay today. Where and how I’ll be tomorrow, or in the next hour, I cannot say. In the end though, we all must walk alone. The best I can hope to do therefore, indeed, the best any of us can endeavour to do at any time, is to breathe deep and remember the ancient wisdom in:

“This too shall pass”.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The world would be less without...

Alexander the Great...




St. Augustine...


Leonardo da Vinci...

Christopher Marlowe...

William Shakespeare...

Florence Nightingale...

Oscar Wilde...

Virginia Woolf...

Gertrude "Ma" Rainey...

George Gershwin...

Tennessee Williams...

Eleanor Roosevelt...

Andy Warhol...

Lily Tomlin...

Jodie Foster...

Ian McKellen...

Lilli Vincenz...

Derek Jarman...

Freddie Mercury...


Michael Stipe...

Alan Ball...

To name but a few.

AND probably about three to five we personally know, at least - let alone those we don't. Like it REALLY matters? Which it doesn't, yet STILL carries such prejudice.

True human rights cannot exist without freedom of expression. An unthinking, but all too real, censorship of essential human freedom exists - freedom is everyone's inherent right.

Sign this petition today.

Thursday, 6 January 2011


‘Call on The Divine, but row with purpose away from the rocks.’

Prayer is said to be an act of communication between ourselves and the Divine. The Divine is whatever you believe or feel it to be.

Prayer can be expressed in words, in music, feelings or actions.

Prayer is hope, faith and a search for inspiration.

In one sense we are praying all the time, it is just that there are many different levels and types of prayer; we may not even class it as prayer, but just hold various wishes and desires that we would like to come true.

Prayer is not something that belongs to only those who follow a religion. After all, without wishing to offend, religion is really the creation of man, whereas spirituality is our connection with whatever we feel is divine.

I don’t really concentrate too much on theology or the metaphysics of life. Questions such as ‘what is God?’ or indeed, ‘is there a God?’ and ‘what will happen when I die?’ et al. These are, to me, questions that can never truly be answered.

Of course, I do believe it good for us to follow a philosophical path of enquiry into discovering our purpose, and to have hold within a strong value as to what is the 'Meaning of Life'. Which is anything that takes us towards feeling more contented and at peace; a greater sense of abundance in the areas of health, wealth and happiness resounding within us.

Having said that, I do believe in something, whatever that may be, connecting us all. It makes all of this here on Earth seem much more magical for a start. There is poetic joy to be found in the thread of synchronicity for one, and it happens to me too frequently for me to put it down to chance, or do anything other than welcome it. To do so would be to deny the inherent gift of intuition and insight. My only wish is that I perhaps gave more thought to the sign I find in such things, rather than what is a fleeting happy recognition of them at the time.

But back to my opening point; to call on The Divine, but row with purpose away from the rocks.

I wrote this slight tweak of an old Indian proverb because, as is often the case when I feel rather low and lost, I’m pleading for some kind of guidance to bring me out of the dark, back into the light. And I must trust it will come. However, it can never come alone. When we find ourselves flailing in a storm that is the ocean of our life, seemingly uncontrollable waves bringing us closer to the rocks of despair, it is ultimately up to us to row damn hard in the opposite direction.