1. (Before starting the course) This subject is really easy, I’ll easily get an A in this subject.
2. (During the course) Exam? What exam?
3. (During class revision sessions) Yeah, yeah, this is really boring.
4. (One week before the exam) Oh shit, I have an exam in a week’s time.
5. (Trying to revise) Why don’t I understand any of this? I don’t remember learning any of this.
6. (After looking at a past paper) My life is over, I am going to be slaughtered.
7. (Reaching the bargaining phase) If I faked my own death they would probably give me a good grade posthumously.
8. (The night before the exam) I could work as a dustman. Surely you don’t need good grades to work as a dustman?
9. (In the exam, just after turning over the paper) Oh no, anything but that.
10. (Afterwards) Fantastic, I will never have to study that subject ever again. What do you mean resits?
(My son is sitting an English exam next week. We’re currently at stage 6.)
I can try all I like, but I can’t publish this lilac tree in full bloom! It is not the look of these flowers alone that is powerful, but the experience of standing underneath that lilac tree, on the tarmac road, drinking in its heavenly scent. And part of that experience is that it is so brief, barely a week or two before it will have gone again.
The problem of having such a complex multi-facetted life – working, parenting, loving – is that stress flows from one part of your life into another, without hindrance. If two or more areas come under stress at once, the whole system threatens to collapse. It only takes some prolonged extra pressure at work, and a child taking an overdose again, and suddenly there is a problem. Suddenly you’re not sleeping, not enjoying that book you were reading, forgetting to go out for a walk. Suddenly you find yourself worrying even about the parts of your life that are not in crisis: your elderly father, the sickly tree in the garden. Tired, you function less well, and other parts of your life are less successful: you shout at your husband, your bread doesn’t rise, and you forget the password to your bank account.
You have to beat that stress: that way depression lies. You have to find a lilac tree and stand underneath it, drinking in the scent of summer.