Before Christmas I had what some would describe as a couple of busy weeks; longer than normal hours, intense time pressure and deadlines traveling backwards in my Outlook calendar until they crashed on some god-forgotten day, not seldom a Friday. Unanswered emails poked my brain, looking for attention like spoilt children with no ice cream. You know those kinds of weeks; when you’re more like a machine than a human. ‘
I was coming home exhausted, work tumbling in my head like unwanted load of laundry. Some might rightly point out that I should have expected more work following my recent promotion. I’d like to make it clear I do get this point.
The problem arose after work, when I was supposed to turn my attention from work-Patrik’s determinedness to get things done and juggle people’s expectations, to dreamy writer music lover Patrik, who makes themed playlists about sunshine, and who likes to engage in things far away from the suit-heavy work-Patrik reality, such as writing in this blog. The so-called spare time is when the other Patrik is supposed to thrive, leaving work-Patrik behind the revolving doors of his Victoria Street office building.
Physically the transition wasn’t complicated; I left through the doors and entered the sea of office workers on the street. But when the wind of freedom – or that damn Victoria Street wind tunnel as some prefer calling it – hit my face, and I could smell the fresh air – or pollution that prematurely ages people – my brain didn’t follow suit. Like an angry child refusing to move work-Patrik stayed in my brain.
It didn’t matter which music I tried and play in my noise cancelling headphones. My brain was a dog running after a bone, solving problems I’ve had clearly moved to the next day in my calendar. They’re not supposed to be sorted now; I tried telling my stupid brain. Naturally it didn’t listen, instead it continued to mull over potential issues tomorrow might bring, it phrased e-mails and decided which task I needed to handle first (always the one I least want to do by the way), and what meetings I needed to schedule.
I walked to Waterstones through Green Park’s darkness, taking my place in the silent line of office workers also rushing to get away from their work selves. It looked like we were all struggling in the cool December wind. I couldn’t tell if there was an actual silence, or if my headphones were just blocking out the sound. We were all trying to block it out. I entered Waterstones, where I once sat next to a famous Swedish sculptor. It’s an oasis of calm. I sat down on the third floor, in the art section, and began reading a book by a Swedish musician (Kristian Gidlund, pictured above) I once interviewed in my student radio show. He recently died from cancer and the book collects the blog posts he wrote after finding out that he had the disease.
It describes the painful treatment, the many goodbyes and how he came to terms with the fact that he would never have any children. That he would never become a father. It was depressing, but it also grabbed my racing mind and put it firmly into place. I was locked inside the book’s painful lines and suddenly office-Patrik was somewhere very far away.
It’s what great books and stories can do; simultaneously take you somewhere else, while also making the present feel more real, more meaningful. As I sat in the red comfortable chair on the third floor by the art section, my mind felt cleansed by something other than alcohol or exercise. A statement of cultural power impossible to get from the Evening Standard on the tube ride home.
I just needed to throw a bigger bone, to my stupid brain.