Christopher Hoult

Software engineer, actor, speaker, print designer

Blog

Image credit: Christopher Hoult

Part of my work on self care is to try to cook for myself - from scratch - at least one evening per week. I'm always really happy to cook for others, but I find it hard to cook for myself - there's probably something in there about not considering myself worth cooking for.

I've had this recipe for a while - since university, really, when my housemate taught me it. I'm sure it came from an Italian cookbook (knowing Neil, Aldo Zilli's), but here it is filtered through my memory. I have prepared it a few times - I cooked it for a very good friend and his partner once, and she labelled it (lovingly, I might add) "Space Weevil."

It's been years since I cooked it, but a friend was coming over a couple of weekends ago and I thought of doing it once more. When they eventually got to me, we figured the effort would be just too much and so ordered food for delivery. However, the next evening I found myself at a loose end, and with all of the ingredients, and so treated myself.

Before things went pretty far south for me a couple of years ago (and also partly causing it) I was marketing manager for a local theatre. I did all sorts of jobs as part of this - running social media, talking to the press, organizing programmes, running the website and making sure the printed media (posters and flyers) were created to a standard. As part of the latter, I also designed and delivered most of the publicity material over the three years I was in the job, either just typesetting someone else's art, or creating the artwork itself.

I was rather proud of my output, and how professional it looked (especially coming from someone with no real visual art background and an Adobe suite auto-didact. On top of this, other than the pressure that came with producing stuff on time, it was actually fun. Separating myself from the theatre meant I was no longer practicing these skills or creating tangible art.

So when I come to look at my own self-care, and coping with loneliness, I recognize the need to do something productive and creative with my time. A few months back I had the idea to work on a series of poster designs for prominent open-source software that I use and admire. A couple of ideas immediately sprang to mind and... I just didn't act on the concept.

Image credit: Ross Vernal

It kind of feels redundant to say, but I hate death. It rips me apart. I haven't experienced the death of a loved one - yet - but having seen the impact of that loss on others around me, those I love and respect, I definitely do not relish the day.

Instead, I experience that loss vicariously. I see the emptiness in them, that sudden void that once was filled with someone important to them opening up and sucking in their happiness, their hopes, their safety. A black hole, yawning and destroying them from the inside.

And that breaks me. As a Rescuer I see their pain and I can't fix it. As an empath, the sudden darkness in someone's eyes flashes through me and overwhelms me. There is absolutely nothing I can do about it - no filling in the hole, no telling a joke to cheer someone up, no promises about the future that don't feel vacuous in the moment.

So that pain transfers to me - and because of my own relationship with sadness I reject it totally and bottle it up. Tears leak out, but ultimately I swallow up that sadness and it eats away inside me. It feels like there's a big dam inside, holding back a flood of sadness, and this just adds to it.

Having struggled at times over the past couple of years with considering my own mortality, the one thing that kept me going was thinking about the horror of such a loss being visited upon those who love and care for me - the fact that there are such people is something I've had to drill into me due to my low self esteem. And so I carry on.

And so wounds will heal. And so hope will return.

And so we all carry on.

Image credit: Christopher Hoult

Part of my work on self care is to try to cook for myself - from scratch - at least one evening per week. I'm always really happy to cook for others, but I find it hard to cook for myself - there's probably something in there about not considering myself worth cooking for. So here is the first in a series of recipes (I hope) that I use to treat myself.

I've recently been playing with risottos - I've got a couple of friends with vegan or FODMAP dietary needs who I like to cook for. Risottos are excellent in that they're really easy to prepare and make tasty, and the rice provides a great base for all sorts of flavours.

Here's a recent recipe I've been using - like a lot of my cooking, it's formed from an understanding of how something is prepared, not necessarily from a formalized recipe from another source. I'm sure I do something wrong, or miss a trick with it - but this one works for me!

Today marks two years since I wrote to a counsellor and said "I'm not happy." Since then, I've seen Jo pretty much once a week for fifty minutes at a time.

I'm not going to lie. It's not been easy. As someone who spent 33 years of his life not talking about myself - not really anyway - I almost resented it. I dodged some appointments, dreading it. I was combative with her; closed. I wanted her to drive the conversation and ask all the questions - I had to plan what I was going to say on the car drive over, panicking that I had nothing.

But the fact remained that on some level I knew I was hurting, that something was pretty wrong - that for some unknown or specious reason, I was unhappy, and had no way of identifying or fixing it on my own. I knew I'd be resistant to the experience, so I set up an obligation. I'd go and see her, because otherwise I'd disappoint her.

As time went by, this experience didn't change - I'd be stand-offish, double- guessing every suggestion of hers, trying to out-silence her. No progress, no openness, nothing. Sure, I shared some big news pieces with her, frustrations etc. but it was all just something to get done and get over with.