It hasn't been a great few days. My conversation with Dad on Wednesday only made me feel worse about myself. I told him about the puzzles and how much they were paying me. "Is that dollars or pounds?" was his immediate reply. Pounds I said (I'd converted the figure). "Oh well. Better than nothing I suppose. I hope they're not taking you too long." C'mon Dad. Give me some encouragement, please. When we hung up, I felt sick. Why do I even bother? If the figure had been in dollars (and therefore less than half as much) I wonder what he might have said then?!
My dad's an artist. Paints pictures. He's made a living from it since 1977. I'm very proud of him. But as you can imagine, his income is unpredictable. He'll sell twenty paintings at an exhibition and then nothing for weeks. These barren spells really get him down. Not because they put my parents in financial dire straits (they don't), but because he only feels his work is any good if people are buying it. When he does make a sale - or two - after a dry patch, the last thing I'd say to him is, "oh right, only a small one then. Hope it didn't take you too long." Let's face it, making any kind of living out of selling art is no mean feat. And it isn't the eighties any more. When I was a kid, his paintings almost flew off the walls. He was one of the best in the business in my own (perhaps biased) opinion, and still is, but art was a fashionable thing to have back then, and people appreciated good art. Now people don't want to cough up two weeks' wages on something to stick on the wall, and would rather spend that sort of money on a 52-inch LCD TV. Or is it LED?
When I met my counsellor later on Wednesday, we talked about all the negativity coming from my parents, and strategies to deal with it. The next day, when I spoke to Mum, I tried out one of these strategies. It failed miserably. I told her that my brother (who almost stopped communicating with my parents for five years) had the right idea. She put the phone down on me. We did later repair much of the damage, but it wasn't nice.
I do think Mum and Dad are partly to blame (they do like to seek out worst-case scenarios) but a lot of the problem is my level of self-confidence. Most of the time this hovers around zero, and when I'm depressed it drops well below zero. I don't have many people to talk to, so anything my parents say (especially if it's less than positive) carries far more weight than it should. Hell, I'll be thirty next week! I'm old enough to have my own family.
I stayed up till 1:30 on Friday night to finish those puzzles (I'd better not tell Dad that) and on Saturday I played tennis. I was on the court in body, but not really in mind. Our opponents were a level above us, so it was hardly surprising that of the four sets I played, I lost three of them 6-1. The first match, with Bazza, started atrociously. The opening set was over in 19 minutes (isn't it funny that I thought to time it?); we put up a much better fight in an hour-long second set, storming out to a shock 5-2 lead and bringing up a set point. But in the end it was a struggle even to take the set to a tie-break, which we lost 7-3. The mixed match wasn't much fun. It was typical of many of my recent on-court experiences. At the start I at least have some idea of what I'm doing, but after a while I no longer know where I am or who I am or why I am. I was really only playing for the exercise and the mental health benefits I get from that; all those games and sets hardly mattered. I'll be playing again tonight.
My poker profit broke through the $500 barrier yesterday in unexpected fashion. I had my first ever tournament victory in a 66-man pot-limit badugi event. Reaching the latter stages of a tournament always requires a slice of luck, and I received mine when, short-stacked and half a dozen players from the money, I hit a seven-outer on the last draw to survive. For once I capitalised on my good fortune by building a healthy stack. Eventually we were down to three. Every time I raised, the player to my left would reraise the max and I'd fold as would my other opponent. Then I got dealt a K-9 badugi (you could perhaps call that a badoggie). I raised. Sure enough, he reraised. I don't think you've got anything. I just had him covered and put him all in. He called and drew two. My badoggie held up. Heads-up play didn't last long. My opponent wasn't aggressive enough, or just went card dead, probably a bit of both, and I emerged as the winner.
Now is a good time to take a short break from online poker. I've got a whole list of jobs that need doing before I go away. Lately poker has been something of an escapism. And it's got well-defined rules, it feels predictable, safe even. I know that probably sounds ridiculous. But after a few hours staring at virtual images of cards and chips flying around the screen, I feel I've wasted that time, and often get more depressed.
I met up with Phil shortly after my poker win. We played pétanque at Bayswater and then had a long chat over a coffee. He's emigrating to Denmark at the end of the month, to live with his girlfriend he met on a work trip over there. I told him about my puzzles; he thinks I could make a serious business out of them if only I'd publicise myself a bit more. When I think about it, I've gone to great lengths not to publicise myself, in all aspects of my life. It was great to see Phil though; he doesn't have any preconceived ideas about how people should live their lives.
Today I'm coming out of my latest bout of depression. When I'm depressed, nothing matters and I don't notice anything. Birds, dogs, trees, music, TV, other people, anything outside me and my depression completely washes over me. Sometimes I can't understand how the rest of the world keeps functioning as normal when I'm malfunctioning so badly. When I get back from my trip I think I'll move out of this flat. Living by myself isn't helping me.