Freedom and ‘Gracias a la vida’ (Thanks to life)… by Dina Poursanidou

‘You can have your life back…’ said Dr Olienka, the psychiatrist in Park House, North  Manchester General Hospital, under whose care I was whilst I was detained under the Mental Health Act 2007 in one of the acute wards…he said that when he announced to me, in a ward round, that my Section was to be lifted and I was to be discharged from hospital the following week…

Freedom

I do not remember a lot from that 3-month period of detention but I do remember tears coming down my cheeks when I heard Dr Olienka’s announcement…perhaps I thought that I would be free – free to go places as I wished without needing Section 17 Leave…free to make decisions…free to eat and sleep when I liked…free to live…

I was discharged from Park House on 24 April 2009…

 

Life

(http://automationprimer.com/2012/03/18/life/)

 

Five years down the line, in 2014, and as the 24th April is approaching (i.e. the 5th year anniversary of my discharge from Park House), I wonder until when I will keep counting the years since that day in April 2009 when my Section was lifted and ‘I had my life back’…I am reminded of how alcoholics on AA programmes count the years, the days, the minutes since they had their last drink…perhaps I will always count the time since that day in April 2009 when ‘I had my life back’…

I am  reminded of a song that is about giving thanks to life…‘Gracias a la vida’ (Thanks to life)…

‘Gracias a la vida’ was composed and first performed by Chilean musician Violeta Parra…the song was released in 1966 in the last album Parra published before committing suicide in 1967. First time I heard the song performed by a Greek singer in the early 1980s…the song was included in an album entitled Protest songs from around the world’an album comprising songs about rebellion, resistance and freedom…

 

Polytexveio_freedom to students

Photograph from a student uprising against the military junta in Athens, Greece in 1973; the banners read ‘Freedom to students’  (www.google.co.uk) 

 

In my psyche, ‘Gracias a la vida’  is linked to life and freedom…hence, as the 24th April is approaching (i.e. the 5th year anniversary of my discharge from Park House), this song takes on particular significance…

 

‘Gracias a la vida’ (Thanks to life)

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me two beams of light, that when opened,
Can perfectly distinguish black from white
And in the sky above, her starry backdrop,
And from within the multitude
The one that I love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me an ear that, in all of its width
Records— night and day—crickets and canaries,
Hammers and turbines and bricks and storms,
And the tender voice of my beloved.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me sound and the alphabet.
With them the words that I think and declare:
“Mother,” “Friend,” “Brother” and the light shining.
The route of the soul from which comes love.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me the ability to walk with my tired feet.
With them I have traversed cities and puddles
Valleys and deserts, mountains and plains.
And your house, your street and your patio.

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me a heart, that causes my frame to shudder,
When I see the fruit of the human brain,
When I see good so far from bad,
When I see within the clarity of your eyes…

Thanks to life, which has given me so much.
It gave me laughter and it gave me tears.
With them I distinguish happiness and pain—
The two materials from which my songs are formed,
And your song, as well, which is the same song.
And everyone’s song, which is my very song.

Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life
Thanks to life.

 

 

 

 

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