In the utterly wonderful Game of Thrones a character that has resonated with me more than any other is Jorah Mormont. A man in his 50s, he is a tired warrior who wants nothing more than to serve his queen Daenarys Taegaryan (sp?), a woman who he loves more than anything, including his own life.
Originally sent to spy on her by the horrid Baratheons/ Lanisters of Kings Landing, he decided to switch allegiance after developing feelings for his Khaleesi. Unfortunately for him he also decided not to tell Daenarys which meant she went batshit upon finding out through other means and banished him upon pain of death if he ever returned.
He came back once more and she banished him again rather then slay him, only for him to come back AGAIN and this time both save her life and finally convince her that she had, possibly, maybe overreacted just a tiny bit.
Dying of greyscale poisoning (think, leprosy that slowly turns you into a zombie hulk thing) he finally confesses his feelings to Daenarys and bids her farewell, resigned to his fate as a wanderer who will die alone without the woman he loves being in his life. Utterly heartbroken, Daenarys formally berates him for walking away without permission and then orders him to honour his promise to obey her commands until death, by finding the cure to his fatal lurgy. Which he eventually does.
Now…the reason all this has such a deep impact on me (and is causing me to tear up even remembering some of it) is because Jorah was a man who had fought all his life. Not just physically (he is noted as one of the finest warriors in the fictional world of Game of Thrones, despite his age) but also with both his conscience and with his unexpressed and unrequited love of a woman he adored. Despite kicking ass in the gladiatorial pits and fighting off White Walkers with indefatigable stamina, he always struggled with his inner demons and couldn’t find the courage to do one tiny thing. Tell the woman he loved that he loved her. He was a man who wanted peace but lived a life that would never allow him to have it. A man with a terrible secret (his spying) and later without a master (banished with only his sword and the clothes he had on). He wandered the world yearning for purpose and finding none, until his persistence and his dignified yet sorrowful declaration of love finally led to him not only being cured of a normally fatal disease, but also being welcomed back to the side of his queen, who loved him back and realised the terrible mistake she had made by turning him away, just through wounded pride.
While I have my own Khaleesi, this blog isn’t about her**. It’s about me finally finding peace through a very simple thing. Today I chose one job instead of another.
I’ve had many jobs. Security guard, retail manager, proof reader, journalist, police officer, postman, author, salvage diver, English teacher…and more. I’ve always had an itch to do something more than just settle down and live my life quietly. I never could find what I wanted because I didn’t know what I wanted. I’ve wandered for years and now, a few years shy of Jorah Mormont’s fictional age, I find myself finally wanting to not do difficult things just to prove I can.
The job I currently have is from October until July. This gives me 3 whole months with no work. My contract gives holiday pay but not enough to cover 12 weeks rent. So…I’ve been looking for summer work, specifically working on educational camps in Italy and the UK.
I’ve had three interviews for centre manager. The big boss. I’ve done it before and while I’ve worked for some right fucking toilets in my time (companies that regard students as revenue and teachers/ staff as resources) I’ve also done the job very well and in 2005 ran a centre that was the only one of the 21 the company owned that came in under budget and didn’t get billed for damage. This was in London so I was also a Special Constable with the City of London Police and was on duty on July 7th, just after the terrorist attacks, at one of the bomb sites (Aldgate). Exciting times and a great sense of pride in what I achieved.
I’ve been applying for centre manager positions again because I have the skill sets and it’s something I can do well if I put my mind to it. However, last Monday one of my 8 year old students told me that she is going to London in July and excitedly showed me the letter from the company she will be travelling with. I wrote it down, dropped them an email and today was interviewed on Skype by the recruitment manager. She offered me a job that pays 400 Euros Net per week plus free board and food…as a teacher.
I thought about this and realised that while it isn’t as exciting or sexy or challenging or wonderful on a CV as Centre Manager it will also be more relaxing and mean I won’t be stressed to hell for the entire time I’m there. It’s also the same salary that some companies offer for the CM’s position (mainly the one that are toilets). The lady I spoke to was very pleasant and spoke at length about the company and seemed very keen to take me on, saying that it was perfectly fine if I couldn’t make the training day in April (something that is a pre-requisite to contract with other summer firms).
Two years ago, at the age of 46 I put myself through two 12 day chunks of the Krav Maga Global General Instructor’s course in Australia. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my adult life and I knew when I went back for part 2 that I was probably going to fail the final exam (I did). I did it to prove to myself that I could face something that physically draining; that involved flying to and from Australia from the UK TWICE in the space of 3 months; that exhausted me to the point of tears; that cost me a lot of money…without backing down.
So finally I felt like Jorah once he got cured of his nasty skin rotting lurgy thing and was hugged by his queen once more. I didn’t feel the need to prove to myself or anyone else that I could do the badass job, I was grateful to be offered a decent salary to work for a company in a responsible but low key position.
I’ve always felt the need to prove myself and that has led to some monumental disappointments in my life. Not because there’s anything wrong in going the extra mile but because sometimes one mile less is still enough.
(Not entirely relevant to Krav but explains how anxiety can be an obstacle to progress).
This Christmas holiday has been utterly wonderful. In fact it’s been tremendous.
I flew from Rome to Manchester on 21st December and have spent 12 days with good friends that I’ve known for 25 years. I was originally friends with the matriarch of the family, who I met while studying Law at university in 1993. I babysat her children (then aged 7 and 8) and a friendship blossomed that has lasted two and a half decades. Her kids are now 32 and 33 and she is a grandmother twice over. Her and her husband invited me for Christmas, knowing that I lived on my own in Italy and I’ve felt more at home and at peace here than I have anywhere else for a very long time.
On December 22nd me and the now-33 year old son (who I used to dangle upside down by his ankles in the back garden) went to see The Macc Lads, a band I used to follow around obsessively back in the late 80s and early 90s. I recently published a book about the band and was allowed to go the gig for free and sell the book at their merchandise stall. I had initially offered to split the takings 50/50 but was told I could keep all of it. So…guest list for my teenage obsession, selling copies of my book about them and seeing them play for the first time in 24 years.
Christmas itself was subdued with just me, my friends and their close relatives round. We had dinner, played games, watched TV and had a lovely time.
In the run up to New Year we all went off to a remote country house (I would say cottage but the thing was huge!) and I spent a nice couple of days breathing fresh air and walking in gorgeous countryside. I also got to fire a bow and arrows for the first time in 31 years as my friend’s 26 year old nephew is a keen archer (he was 3 when I first met him, toddling around in a nappy stealing unguarded Xmas cracker gifts).
I came back yesterday to spend NYE on my own and catch my breath, grateful for the companionship and love I’d been given but taking the opportunity for some solitude and reflection time. As I sit typing this, I have my bags packed, ready to take the trip back to Rome tomorrow morning.
Basically I’ve had a great Christmas.
And something I’ve realised for the first time in my life is that anxiety, which has been a HUGE problem for most of my life, is not something I experienced but rather something that was a part of me.
I have been so relaxed, at peace and stress-free for the first time in ages that the little voices in my head finally quietened down enough to let me analyse my life. I have recently taken up meditation again and have found this to be a superb way of coming to terms with blockages in my life, be they spiritual or mental. I always believed that my anxious states were brought on through a mixture of circumstance and me not being able to “man up” enough to act in a way that enabled social interaction to go “normally”.
I have been constantly paranoid and nervous for decades but had adapted to this state and was surviving in spite of it. The only problem with this is that I had no memory of what it felt like before that state began. Maybe I’ve had it all my life, maybe it kicked off when I was a child but I was so used to skating on the thin ice of my psyche that I was totally unaware of it.
In the last two days I’ve finally cracked what was wrong and it was simply that my anxiety wasn’t something that came and went, exacerbated by alcohol and made worse through caffeine, oversleeping and lack of exercise. It was instead a part of me that was practically tattooed onto my soul.
The worst thing about anxiety is when you don't know you have it. It will make you think that your hyper reactions are simply an amplification of your "normal" personality and that you are really that insecure, unlikable, etc.
The logical side of your brain will be coldly telling you that you are merely overreacting, while your anxious side will scream that you really are the centre of attention and that everything is about you...in the most negative ways possible.
You will genuinely believe that you are simply lacking proverbial testicles and need to "man up" when the truth is that you have a DNA level hindrance to social interactions.
It's only through realising that others are going through the same shit or worse, that you can finally gain perspective and hopefully move past all this.
I didn’t realise just how scared I was of social interaction until I finally let myself be vulnerable and trusted people I’ve known for 25 years.
It has taken THAT long to be completely at ease with them.
I was never confident and never the happy, don’t-give-a-shit soul that I tried to come across as. I was always lonely and insecure and hid it, for better or worse behind a veneer of obnoxiousness, aloof chat and a dependency on social media. I couldn’t interact with people properly as my anxiety, leading me to believe that it was simply trying to help, was blocking me at every turn. I was emotionally repressed and found release through what some genius described at “emotional pornography” i.e. the extreme, sensationalist thrills of horror films and violent or sexual novels and web downloads.
Basically something was busted.
In the last few days I’ve finally gained the perspective that my anxiety wasn’t something that could be thwarted with a good dose of beta blockers (which I took for about 3 years) or abstaining from sugar, booze or caffeine. All it took was the ability to stand back and actually see that EVERYTHING I was doing was influenced by my anxious state. Unable to function properly, anxiety was a virtual duct tape to my life. Enabling me to carry on but forever preventing any serious repairs until the tape was removed, leaving me temporarily vulnerable until the changes took effect.
I look back at my life and some of the examples are so obvious now...
1. Staying now and then on the sofa of a good mate that I’ve known for years. Every time I came up I’d buy him a DVD or a gift in payment for the favour. One day he just looked at me and said “You’re my friend, you don’t have to keep buying me stuff”.
2. Believing that I’d upset someone I’d fallen in love with to the point that I stayed away from her for nearly 9 years. When I finally got back in touch to say sorry (which took a HUGE amount of mental stamina) she was not only happy to hear from me again but had never even had a problem with me and, oh so ironically, thought I had a problem with her due to me simply disappearing like that.
3. Entire days spent in bed, convincing myself that I was using the time to “think” when in reality I was totally unable to function and simply couldn’t face the world.
4. Joining the Special (volunteer) and later Regular (paid) UK police and being spotted almost immediately as lacking the mental stamina required for the role.
5. Being angry and pissed off nearly every single day for trivial things, because I wasn’t channelling my energies the things that actually needed addressing.
6. Getting taken for a ride by my ex girlfriend and being so messed up over it that I continued to do a job I hated for nearly 4 years, just to channel the grief into something else.
7. Being chosen by the Global Chief Instructor of Krav Maga Global, Eyal Yanilov to fight at the end of a seminar he had given. This was a privilege and honour given to only me and 9 others from a group of over 100 people. I was practically sick with stress and only pride kept me from walking out as I waited to go up…in a training environment where there was virtually no danger of getting injured.
The list goes on…
Being able finally to trust and to see anxiety as akin to an internal organ I never knew I had (like an appendix but not redundant) I can finally move past it and make decisions based on something other than the debilitating and crippling acid that anxiety has been for so long.
This took such a long time and I have had false starts before, telling myself that I was over myself when I was just compensating again.
I gave up drinking last July and have gone for 6 months with zero booze. This has helped tremendously with clearing out my mental state.
I’m grateful for this clarity and the ability to, finally, realise that anxiety wasn’t something I had but something I was.