Far Sides

I’ve struggled a lot lately to find any joy in the things I’d normally do in my leisure time. The original spec’ for OutlawRevue.com was thoughts and opinions on the arts. There’s been very little of that lately. Mainly because I’m not watching anything.

I just don’t have the concentration for it. My mind is racing with a thousand different thoughts and it will not sit still long enough to make watching anything worthwhile. So, the site has become a journaling area in the meantime while I try and figure it all out.

Only, I’m not figuring things out. If anything, I’m slipping further and further back and I’m about ready to give up trying to claw my way out. I’ve had an exceptionally rough couple of days… And when I say rough, what I mean is, ‘disastrous’.

The damage done by various people and services over the last forty-eight hours will never be fixed. How some people have the jobs that they have, absolutely beggars belief! First contact mental health workers in a hospital who understand nothing about mental health.

Their best advice was to ‘just look forward to when things will be better’ and to ‘trust it will all work out eventually’.

How silly of me. All this time, I’ve been in existential crisis with loss of my sense of self and confusion and disarray over the potential autism diagnosis and just about every aspect of my life caving in on itself in one big go, and all I had to do all this time was just put on a smile and pretend everything was amazing and everything would just magically right itself.

There’s only so much bullshit I can handle in any one situation. I had my fill pretty quickly sitting with those two cretins. I walked out of the room, found an exit, and walked out into the night. Having been lifted to the hospital by paramedics, I found myself on the far side of town with no decent means of getting home.

It was not a pleasant walk, but I trudged my way through the streets of Milton Keynes and eventually rocked up at my apartment about three hours later with my feet blistered and sore and my nerves shot to hell.

My mind is racing, I’m cold, angry, my feet hurt and I’m in some considerable distress… I think it’s doubtful I’ll be getting any sleep after this experience. It’ll be a long night and an even longer day. I feel like there’s nobody left to reach out to for help. Everyone has already been tried at some point and either there’s nothing they can do, or they’ll suggest the hospital…

Fool me once…

This means that now I just have to exist in a limbo state while I wait an indeterminate amount of time for any of the referrals that have been made to come good. Despite I’m not in any fit state to just sit and wait, apparently that’s the only choice I have.

I have no good distraction technique to rely on. As I said earlier, I’m not concentrating on things as well as I used to. For example, a game I have on PC – Elite Dangerous – an epic space simulation that’s about as massively multiplayer as things can get in this day and age. I’ve spent countless hours in that game partaking in the various roles that a spaceship pilot can choose.

Trader, asteroid mining, political influencer, combat pilot, passenger ferry, even galactic exploration. I can still remember when I found a previously undiscovered Earth-like planet, something of a rite-of-passage for many explorers in Elite.

One thing I’ve never done though, despite years of flying in it, is visit a star system called Beagle Point. This is a star system that is right on the outer edge of the galaxy and is reported to be the farthest point traversable by ship from Earth.

It takes weeks to fly out there and requires the pilot to make countless hyperspace jumps in the process. A long, long, long task. A few days ago, I was forcing myself to try and do something I used to enjoy and so I stoked up Elite.

And for some weird reason, I got it into my head that now was a good time for me to make the pilgrimage out to Beagle Point. And so, I set off, jumping from system to system in forty-five light year increments on a journey that would need me to travel somewhere in excess of sixty-thousand light years in total.

Over the course of three days, I managed to get a little bit of the journey done, but what suddenly struck me was just how lonely the game felt so far outside the populated ‘bubble’ of the galaxy. Even if it’s only computer generated traffic and not other human players, at least it feels a bit alive, but out ‘in the black’ where civilisation has not extended to, it’s just you, the stars and any planets you find, the overwhelming majority of which, are lifeless chunks of frozen rock.

And so, I found myself heading for the far side of the galaxy, deeper and deeper into the lonely void of space. And this was at a time when I was – in real life – feeling somewhat adrift and sinking deeper and deeper into the lonely void of despair.

It started to become too hard to endure, so I landed my ship on a planet, shut the game down and walked away from the PC. I’ve yet to go back to it. I want to keep heading out to Beagle Point, but if even simulated loneliness is setting me off, then I’m not ready for it just yet.

And then, shortly after that, I found myself staring at my bookcase. There’s so many titles on its shelves that I’ve yet to read and it frustrates me that I’m not in any state to try and absorb them. But then there are books that are easy to read, don’t require a lot of concentration and tickle the synapses connected to my sense of humour.

It was something I was first introduced to in my early-mid teens; one of those silly ‘additional’ presents you get at Christmas to supplement a larger more expensive thing. The additional gift was a book and I had no clue what it was.

On the cover was a fairly crude recreation of the Mona Lisa, but instead of a woman, it was a cow.

A cow?

Apparently, it was the Moo-na Lisa. This was my first ever exposure to Gary Larson’s ‘The Far Side’ cartoons. Many of his more popular cartoons had been collated into a series of Far Side Galleries and my first one was number-three…

This meant there were at least two more books like this one. And, oh my… What a book it was. Page after page, after page of just wacky, crazy, bizarre and sometimes nearly unfathomable cartoons, but each one very smart and also captivating.

The slightly unusual visual stye soon becomes familiar and comfortable and the Larsonesque humour just keeps delivering. There were some I didn’t get at first. Some just came to me when I least expected it and others required knowledge of certain cultural observations that only came to me later in life.

Not everyone ‘gets’ Larson’s humour. Even the man himself admits that it is sometimes a bit ‘out there’, but he became very successful very quickly and for the years that his little side-gig became his biggest claim to fame, he produced volumes of great cartoons.

The Far Side Gallery books almost became a bit of a Christmas tradition. Mum would keep finding more books in the Gallery series and would make sure there was another one each year. And it was with a heavy heart when I found out that the fifth gallery book was the final one in the series.

But the other day, standing and staring at my books, I locked onto the Far Side Galleries and instinctively pulled out book number three. The one that started it all. Flicking through its pages was like visiting old friends I’d not seen in a while. Memories of discovering those quirky little picture jokes came flooding back and I got to have a little warm nostalgia.

It was always with my nose in a book or my eyes on the TV that I was happiest in my teenage years. In the dim lights of my bedroom, my little safe-haven from the terrifying and intimidating world outside, I’d wile away the hours absorbing episodes of Star Trek, or studying my Far Side books and marvelling at their wit.

Outside of my bolt-hole, it was a different story. Because the Far Side cartoons were not always slapstick obvious, many of my peers found them to be a little aloof. They became a sort of a divide between me and other people. Yet another thing that Rob liked that nobody else did, or at least wouldn’t admit to if it wasn’t the case.

Those feelings and memories came back too as I paged through book-three. And those memories pulled forward a lot of my other memories of feeling isolated and segregated from people. And feeling isolated and segregated from people makes me feel lonely and upset.

I placed the Far Side book back onto the shelf and left it to be for a while longer. It would seem I’m not ready for that either at the moment.

In a way, it seems like I’m not ready for anything at the moment. Anything I should, or have enjoyed, is now pulling me back to the places I don’t want to be. In a similar way to when astronauts and mission control lost contact with each other as they went round the far side of the moon, so I’ve lost contact with my ability to find any fun in anything.

The difference here is that I don’t know if I went into the dark side of the moon with enough momentum to make it back out and re-establish comms. I’ve reached out so many times for guidance and help, and each time my trajectory was mishandled, or ignored… I don’t know if I have the strength or the will-power to try and wrestle the controls to fly back to where I need to be.

I’m now just sitting back and letting gravity do the job for me. Whether it spits me out the other side and I figure out how to fly right, or if it sends me spinning off never to be seen again… Who knows?

I guess we wait and see. It could easily go either way right now.

And I’m okay with that.

And I’m ‘not’ okay with ‘that’.

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