Bananas, Harry Potter, depression and guilt
Hasn’t it been hot tonight? In fact, we even had to hide from the sun after yesterday’s hours by the lake, at the local sports and then watching The Crucible wrapped in our blankets in the open air…one of those golden days I’d like to bottle.
Memories are so important. In the year after the divorce, on a similarly sunny day, the boys and I had two visitors. One spent the day worrying about what might happen, what could happen and what should happen. As they left we collapsed, drained and energy-less…if you’ve ever read Harry Potter…it was like having encountered a Dementor, a soul-sucking, happiness-draining phantom,which doesn’t kill you but just empties you of all joy.
- Do you know people like this?
- Do you want to spend so much time with them?
- How can you cut down the time you spend with them?
These people meant well, and loved us and expressed their love for us by worrying and fretting and advising us what we ought to do and what they thought we should do! Arrgghh.
Luckily our Patronus saved us! Harry is taught that the only way to fight a Dementor is to think happy thoughts and when he can do this powerfully enough he can send out a silver Patronus in the form of a stag which scares the Dementors away.
In our case the Patronus came in the form of a friend who swept us up in her car, carried us to a sunlit stream and dappled us with sundrops of water until the laughter flowed freely again. She loves us too…it’s easier to feel her love.
- Do you know people like this?
- Do you want to spend more time with them?
- How can you increase the time you spend with them?
JK Rowling’s description of Dementors and the Patronus for me is such a clear metaphor for depression. Depression sucks the joy from your life and those around you, hope is absent and all is black and cold.
It is too simple to say that depression is caused by thinking more happy thoughts, but the more happy thoughts we have, the less depressed we are.
So what has this to do with bananas? Well, I was in Malvern at the book co-operative with a lovely bunch of people and we began to talk about how hard it is to do what we want when there are so many things we should be doing.
I hear this over and over again, from parents, partners, friends and children. Guilt for not doing this, for having done that, for not being this and for being too much of the other.
Guilt means we do the things we don’t really want to do instead of the things that make us sparkle. We promise ourselves we’ll sit and read the papers once the house work is done…so the papers don’t get read. We assume that by doing what we want, it is bad for other people.
For example, sometimes I sit and read the papers whilst the kids are playing, when the house was a mess. I used to feel to guilty doing this as I felt that I ought to be playing with the kids or filling the dish washer.
Until I met a woman who described how hard she had worked, how every holiday she took the lap top, how she never wasted and moment and how her diary was always full. She then described how her adult daughter had just had a breakdown; and when they’d talked about why, the daughter said she felt guilty for stopping and relaxing as she has never seen her mother do it.
Hum. I’m happy to learn from other people.
- What did you feel guilty about today?
- Did you need to feel guilty for it?
- What did the guilt stop you doing?
- How did you it make you feel?
- Do you want to drop the guilt?
- What will you do differently?
So, in Malvern we got to talking bananas. One man described how as a child his mother had always said that the old bananas had to be eaten before the new bananas were. So he never got to eat bright yellow, firm bananas, only squishy, browny blotched bananas.
As he said it, I realised I do that too! Cringe. Not least because I’ve written in my book how I used to leave beautiful things unworn or unused as I was always waiting to feel good enough to deserve them. I didn’t realise that I sometimes banana my children myself!
What is bananaing? It is when we make other people take what we think they should, rather than what they want or when we do the same with our selves. No one really wants to eat the brown bananas do they? They’re great for smoothies and cakes, but not for a snack. So why insist upon them being eaten first when they never do get eaten and then all the new ones go brown too?
All the time we spend our life on what we should, we never get to what we want. What a waste of life. What a waste of perfectly ripe bananas.
Doing what we want isn’t selfish (and I’m aware that the reality is that there are times when we have no choice, when there are only brown bananas to eat). But when we have a choice, chose ripe, vibrant, healthy wants every time. If you’re happy, you can be someone’s Patronus rather than their Dementor, you can keep your own Dementors at bay.