I must be mad

               I’ve noticed a trend I don’t like. I started to loosen the pressure. Must be the lack of medication or lack of sleep, I know. Only a few days until I get it back up and running again, but still – it’s given me a new Evrika! moment. I had managed to change my habits, for a few years. Now, in the last few days, I seem to revert to my old stupid ways of (not) living. I keep looking over my shoulder, I feel like a newborn baby – metaphorically crying for no reason and crapping my diapers. I lost focus where it matters and it shows.

               It could be better, yes. It could be worse, too. But that’s not what’s bugging me. The truth I managed to extract is I’m waiting for things to happen without work. It’s like there’s two of me, one working towards something and the other waiting for something else to happen, something good, but without actively going out of my way to make it happen. The bad part is it feels right. It’s like I’m disconnected from the real me. You know why? Because my stupid subconscious keeps thinking I have value outside of what I do.

               If I fail at the grand scheme, then it was just a hobby. If I win, it’s because I have value. It’s bullshit. It’s all in my head. My two working neurons keep sending me mixed signals – I have goals, I have targets, I know it’s a bad move on my part. But I still keep hope, the bad kind, that shit will happen to me, good shit. It’s nice I got to understand it, though. Now I can get back on track.

               Hope is good – keeps me alive and kicking. Hope is bad – if I don’t make sure it’s keeping me kicking in the right direction. Hope is sometimes all I’ve got. The crazy part is I’m thinking of myself. Not so good, I think. Here’s the big kicker.

               This here little story so far is what startled me. Hope is a feeling, an emotion, a tool – just like a shotgun. As a tool, it keeps fear in check, but too much of it can be working against me. A tool you can use for good or for evil, it’s not moral per se, it depends how you decide to use it. Guns don’t kill people, people do that. Either I use hope to fuel my determination, as energy to keep me on target working towards my own selected goals or it can fuel my bad habits – like what’s the point of working if it gets me even more work? It can be used as a crutch for postponing decisions, actions, even good ones. My brain tells me yes, go ahead, sweat and you’ll get it but my feet turn to clay. I hope something good happens to me, because today was a bad day. Yea, about that…

               What I’ve learned so far, after almost half a century (almost, I’m not that bloody old, I just have days where I feel I’m too old for this shit), is I can’t trust my own brain. I can be 80 and still have more vigor than most teenagers or I can be a teenager and come on second place racing a turtle. The fellow with the dark side appeal once said – your feelings betray you.. True, true. I’m fighting this crap every day.

               I’ve been taught to look for safety, to not take risks, to be satisfied with what I’ve got – but to envy the shit out of those around me. I’ve been taught to hate those who achieved success by hard work – because all it takes is a lucky break at the lottery and my life will turn around. My dad still contributes to the weekly lottery, after more than 40 years of playing – but he hasn’t won the big one, ever. He never breaks even, he just says he does. He keeps hoping for it, even though he’s been laid off many times, humiliated by folks 30 years younger. He could run laps around them with his knowledge, but he chooses not to. He’s waiting, he’s hoping, but he won’t lift a finger to use that knowledge more than it’s necessary. Now I understand why that is.

               You see, if you hope to achieve your goals – then hope becomes an energy boost. It supports you, it helps you to get there. But hope can also be a barrier if you use it to define yourself. Hope makes you stop trying to improve. If you think you have value, that you deserve things on account of that value, then hope reinforces your belief. You will place the control of your actions on to others. You won’t act, you’ll react. You’ll wait. You’ll wait for the knight in shining armor riding the white horse to recognize that value and sweep you off your feet (works for men too, depends on who’s in that armor). You think you won’t have to lift a finger because your value is something others have to accept. Very nice thought, for a three year old. You feel entitled. And then life kicks you in the … knee. This is exactly how divorces happen. Or why many relationships never happen.

               It’s easy to think marriage, work or happiness have to happen. If there were a law to prohibit divorce or to make marriage mandatory, most would agree to it. There isn’t such a law, mainly because it takes time away from work – the one true opium of the masses these days. Careers break relationships, strain marriages and keep growing to consume the time we’re freeing by increasing our productivity. Overtime is now mandatory, it’s preferred. Don’t work hard, work smart – but also work more. It’s also why social networks keep peeking about from under cover at the work space – if we allow them into our 9 to 5, we’re done for. So far, there’s still life after work hours – but only until our employers understand they can totally convince people one hour of Facebook equals 3 more hours of work, in overtime. You get the picture, and it ain’t pretty. Am I crazy? Probably.

               In my experience, true friendship, true companionship – those come from similar interests and only work if each one in that relationship needs something the other one can provide. It’s never passion, although that one helps in the beginning. It only lasts as long as there is a need the other can fill (better than others can). You’ll never go the distance if you don’t talk to each other, if you got nothing to talk about, if you can’t help each other. Not in marriage, not in friendship, not at work, not ever. Trust me on this one. There’s got to be two people dancing the tango.

               I know, I know, it’s not something you want to hear. Our brain, especially for those not having brothers or sisters, is trained differently. We have only to ask and we’re supposed to be provided with what we need. Our parents reacted to our crying. The teachers have to teach us things, in school. Then we graduate and we’re screwed. Nobody cares about who we are. The worst wake-up call a kid can hear starts with the words “it’s nothing personal, but”… what comes after the “but” invalidates the first part of the sentence. You find out you’re replaceable, expendable and just about cannon-fodder for the company you work for or the company you keep. Your friends turn their back on you, your employer shows you the door – you find out the hard way you’re not important. It hurts like hell. So the brain works overtime to ease that pain – what it comes up with is .. hope. Hope we’re going to be recognized for who we are, not what we can do. You split into two different persons – one who works and gets kicked around and one who is the real self, one with huge value just waiting for the right person to discover it. Most of us won’t ever cross paths with that right person, unless we learn.

               Everybody has good days and bad days. At times I’m almost willing to believe the simple act of peeing standing up would cause irreversible damage, that’s how bad things get. The toilet door breaks, the shoes crack, the fridge stops working, the slice of bread drops on my suit butter down and I have a job interview in less than half an hour, the water in the shower gets cold in a second – everything that can go wrong does. It happens. Hope keeps you floating, but it also whispers in your ear to go back to sleep – it’s just a bad day, if you get out of bed it’ll get even worse. Hope whispers seductively that all you have to do is sleep it off, it’ll pass on its own. It may, but hope also steals you blind. Too many bad days and you’ll be afraid to do anything about it.

               I’m crazy to even think about bad-mouthing hope, right? Right now, knee-deep in shit, I don’t think I am. I’ve seen too many kids showing off their inflated egos, waving about Iphones and the latest fashion brands happen to have released, hell – I’ve been one myself (though in my case, it was a Motorola half a kilo plastic brick, sort of). I have seen friends crying, I have seen family members depressed – all because their employer kicked them out, “like they do to an unwanted dog”. I love dogs, and so do many people – but mistaking the employer for a provider seems wrong. They pay you, that’s where their responsibility ends – even though you’re expected to not hurt the company reputation outside of working hours. They aren’t expected to do that for you, but you are. Think about it for a second. I wouldn’t get rid of a dog, ever. It’s my responsibility, it’s my choice to have and care for one, it’s family. I’d rather not eat myself than starve my dog. Same thing if I’m talking about my son or my wife. I’d go through hell for them. Work isn’t family, even though it probably should (you spend half your life doing it) – if it was family there would be more than one side to the equation. There are exceptions, yes, but far too few. Unfortunately.

Post scriptum:

               I’ve had a bit of catharsis writing this piece. I remember now what I’ve forgotten. Bad days will make one forget many things. I forgot I’m supposed to fill the needs of those I want around me – to make them stronger and happier. I am a better person that way. My brain may have reverted to the old ways for a wee bit, but I’m back in control again. So there. Back to blood and sweat, by my choice. Continuous nirvana requires continuous effort. It’s quid pro quo, a hand washes the other, do ut des – a barter, so to speak. I need you and you need me. I help you and you help me. Together we’re stronger than we are as individuals. We’re better, we’re more, just like in that movie that make wives tear up and romantics smile – we complete each other’s lives. Hope is good, if it helps you move your feet towards that. If not, if you use hope to validate your fears, to make them real and in the process you get complacent – then boy oh boy, have you taken the wrong turn at the last crossroads.

               I choose who I want to be, age be damned. I won’t stop just because the weather’s nipping at my joints, I’ll just do things at a slower pace. Give up? Never! I know somebody, my own muse, Marcia – who’s doing more stuff than most people I know. At 70, she’s writing a couple of blogs, is a self-published author and keeping an amazing garden. What’s your excuse?


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