12th January 2021

Bleak, a good way to describe the way I felt yesterday.

As hard as the sun struggled to brighten the day…

…grey cloud came to swallow it up…

…and my mood sank with it…

…not quite to despair, but certainly to tears and gloom.

Returning to bed was an option, to wrap myself in a dark cocoon of warm comfort. My bones felt cold and ached as well as my heart. But I didn’t want to give in to depression.

Instead I decided to figure out what was wrong. What had brought me so low. There was a time when this was my default condition, but not now and I wanted to find the cause.

So I sat in front of my PC and began to type the thoughts that came to mind.

Seven pages and quite a few tears later, perhaps I’d found my answer. I won’t bore you with all of it.

But here, I think was the basic trigger:

… I was sent to a convent boarding school in Vietnam. To the young Vietnamese, an English-speaker was American. Being English was synonymous with being American and already the Americans weren’t well-liked. It didn’t help my situation that there was a handful of Cambodian students in my class and having lived in Cambodia and having got to know and like the people, I naturally befriended them. Vietnam and Cambodia were constantly at each other’s throats and there was no love lost between them.

As children so often do, one day my particular Cambodian friend and I disagreed about something long since forgotten. She was inclined to be excitable. I assume that she must have told the Vietnamese a story about me, something I was supposed to have said, criticizing them.

As I got ready for bed that night, I was suddenly accosted by one of the Vietnamese students who screamed at me, demanding to know why I had said “the Vietnamese are stupid”. I had no idea what she was talking about so I just looked at her, stunned. Then I saw the other girls giving me angry looks. I went to bed upset but hoped it would turn out to be a misunderstanding.

It was not. The accusation had been made. I was called a lot of nasty things, egotist, vain, LIAR. The Cambodian girl studiously avoided me. The one Vietnamese girl who had been friendly to me turned against me. No-one would speak to me, unless it was to hurl an insult or threaten to have their father imprison me. I didn’t imagine prison was likely, but one afternoon I found all the personal items from my bed had been confiscated. “Not allowed to display anything!” I was told. This included my tiger that I cuddled at night for comfort. (Returned later by one of the nuns.)…


If you have ever been ostracized, given the silent treatment, think of how it would have felt to a 12-year-old child, hundreds of miles from parents in a different country. This lasted for weeks, until the summer holiday when I could leave, temporarily.

This incident, I know, is why I am extremely sensitive to discord of any kind, particularly two sides hurling abuse at each other and calling each other “liar.” People who won’t listen to each other or give consideration to what the other person has to say.

The other night someone I once worked with posted comments about the president’s having been “unfairly” banned from Twitter. I commented that surely he didn’t believe it right for the man to be allowed to post seditious lies and to incite a riot? In reply, I was called a leftist and a hypocrite.

Who even knows what a “leftist” is supposed to be? If it’s the opposite of a Trumpist, then I am proud to say that’s what I am. But hypocrite? I’m not. Why did I deserve such an accusation?

Recent events and especially that angry comment seem to have triggered the memory of the incident in Vietnam which sits like a pit of acid in my stomach, even now. I say this because I have been feeling the way I did back then. It’s something I am not likely to forget. Therapeutic support came far too late.

Over thirty or more years, therapy has never cleansed my mind of dark memories, but it has offered ways in which to cope when the memories are triggered.

For the most part I can avoid triggers, but some things you cannot hide from.

The death of a beloved pet. A Presidential election. A snide remark.

One cannot bury one’s head in the sand.

So I look to Nature. Just a tiny sprinkling of snow made things brighter for me.


Snow crystals that caught a brief ray of sun.

Mourning Doves watching from a tree.


This morning’s promising start was even more brief.

But creatures came to cheer me:

and Blackie apologized for neglecting me last night:

Nature is a great cure, but I also think the writing down of one’s emotions, putting them on paper gives perspective. The tears that are provoked are a release as well.

Note to self:

Avoid Facebook; read only the headlines; avoid sad books (something else I failed at recently)

7 thoughts on “Bleak

  1. Nature is an amazing remedy to get rid of negativity that comes with terrible memories.

  2. I don’t know, Peter. My experience here is that people don’t listen well. They don’t let a person finish their statement before interrupting and the whole message gets distorted. In the end no-one knows what anyone else is talking about. How do we teach communications skills? They are sadly lacking and I’m sure it’s half the problem!

  3. We have deleted our Facebook accounts about a year ago … we were just so fed up with people bulldozing others (I don’t know if that’s the correct word?) And we choose to spent quality time with those friends with whom we can laugh and have a fun time with. But most of all, we walk and spent time in nature – that is the best medicine for troubled thoughts or mixed emotions.
    I can just imagine (or maybe not even nearly) how terrible this must have been for you as a young girl to be bullied by others … I am thinking of you today 🌸

  4. “Avoid Facebook” – seems to be perennially good advice for all people a all times. And, beyond that easy observation – thank you all best to you.

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