Comfort in Maps

I went to bed late last night, or rather early this morning, at about 4, falling asleep eventually after a brief but potent bought of anxious near panic, and with a conviction that I’ve ruined my life. It felt explicable at the time. . .

So I was expecting this morning to be a bit shit first thing – I tend to wake up in a dialled down version of the mood I went to bed with.

But I’ve been rescued, not for the first time, by an unlikely source.

Before it sadly closed its basement doors, I bought a book from the Alphabetti Theatre bookshop in Newcastle where I live – a hefty and imposing book called ‘THE TIMES Atlas of WORLD HISTORY’ – (that’s how they write it on the cover). It was published in 1984 and it’s the size of an elephant’s foot and it’s full of maps and bits of history and that.

I swear to Moses, nothing has ever calmed me down better.

Here’s a picture.

History Atlas.jpg

And this morning, rather than get sucked into it for three hours like I have done before, I’ve written a poem about it; writing early in the day as well as reading tends to help.

I hear a lot of my friends on social media talking about struggles with anxiety, depression, seeking ways to get out of bed in the morning when you don’t absolutely have to, how to keep the black dog in its kennel. And honestly, this might just work for me, but if you’re the type, like me, who find themselves waking on a day of various-vaguely-defined-things-that-need-to-be-done and hit with an immediate and increasing wave of terror and ultimate uselessness in the universe, buy yourself a nice big atlas. Or something else similarly simultaneously mundane, ongoing and quietly fascinating – some sort of almanac perhaps – and give yourself ten, twenty minutes in the morning to get sucked in. It’s like Tetris effect for me; it gives my mind time and space to think about nothing for a bit, or rather one very specific thing outside of itself (this morning it was plate tectonics, an interest in which I have my dad to thank for) before coming back round to thinking of something nice (in this morning’s case, the fact that it’s sunny outside and my room’s unusually tidy – I really don’t notice those things straight away when I’m down or worried.)

If it works, post a reply and let me know. It’d be interesting, apart from anything else, to see if it’s just me.

I’ll post the poem that came out this morning on my ‘Things to Read’ page. For now I’m gonna call it ‘Tectonics’.



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