A new day is now, when now is thinking of tomorrow. Tomorrow it will be 21 years since my best friend passed away. The man I had grown up with since we were babies died on that day. The 14th of July has a very personal meaning for me looking at the past and tomorrow, and a now that marks the end of a long process. I went through a very difficult period in my life. Within three years, I had to go through an expensive court for land in the origin country, a separation, unemployment from the ideal job I worked many years to get in, home relocation a couple of times, homelessness because of economic reasons, storm, pain and hope.
Many people still ask me how I survived and managed to keep up with all these changes and challenges in a country that I was not born in. I suppose many people experience these periods, when everything goes bad, many awful things happen at the same time, everything changes dramatically because of health issues or even death, after a crisis or a trauma that knocks the door, and you hide in the darkest room of the house.
This blog post is about what I have discovered at the age of 40, the time of middle age crisis for some adults at the early forties. In my case, I did not experience this crisis, and probably I will not experience it. I had to come across so many incidents and events that prevented me from experiencing middle-age crisis. Being out of work for a long period of time allowed me time to reflect on the current status of my life with bad and good effects. Financially, I ended up on the edge, loosing a large amount of savings. Psychologically, I still work on getting my confidence back and maintain a good level of functioning without panic attacks and withdrawals of depression. Socially, I have re-evaluated the relationship with my family and some friends, and I strengthened my connection with a few but important friends, who have come forward to help me.
The key learning of this period of my life has been how to be vulnerable and live feeling weak. This has been a life-time that I realised the value of accessing special therapy and counselling, how much compassion I demonstrated in the houses of friends who offered me shelter, how easy it is to give an end to your life even by thinking of it, the beauty in human nature when we cry and smile, sign and dance, touch and listen, the power of being weak at protecting yourself.
Avoiding loneliness is the trick of the person who might encounter the same circumstances like me and need a word of advice. Being in a country I was not born in, I felt so alone that I had never experienced before. Singing to listen to my voice kept me alive. This is what I would say to anyone who speaks about the value of arts in our lives. Secondly, although I was having plenty of time of doing nothing, it was important that I kept myself busy at these difficult times. This is the other thing I would say to anyone who is experiencing or is at risk of mental health illness. Doing a PhD provided me with a sense of hope. There was something to put my energy on, to spend my time on, to have an opportunity to meet someone to speak to. It was the one and only thing that I wanted to protect. My PhD was my little brother who wanted care, the baby to look after and the cat to feed some mornings when I did not want to eat and speak to anyone.
I can spend hours writing about my experience. I can spend hours writing to help others. Because I want people to read this story, I will mention one more thing that I learned at the bottom level of my life experience. In the last three years, I discovered my values and what would threaten my values. I have always believed that we, human beings, live with our values. In one of the self-help books I read last year, I found an exercise about finding and naming these values. I have not found surprises, to be honest. Some values follow us in our entire lives. This is what I found in that book. Peace and knowledge are the two values of mine that have followed me since I remember myself and my dead friend is resting in peace. I breathe in the peaceful places of parks, churches, libraries, museums, forests and beaches, where the silence allowed me to think and express myself. With peace and tranquility, I can get to the calm status of accessing and producing knowledge. I love reading and writing to contextualise my world and my presence in this world. This is what I was doing in the noisy environment of my Greek family. This is what I was doing in the dark room at my teenage times. This is what I am doing now with this blog post.
I do not wish anyone to experience what I had during the last three years. I did not stay alone, but kept myself busy. Probably, the loss of my best friend 21 years ago taught me the value of life. Probably the loss of my friend showed me what it means to live with pain. I am sure only for one thing. We live with others, not through others, until we depart alone. My friend is not here to comment on this. I promise in his memory I will never stop seeking that peace of writing. God (or whatever else someone else names) knows. I never expected to write this blog. I do hope it will help others.