I admit to feeling a great deal of stress these days. This is not unusual for me, though most characterise me as someone seemingly free from it. Last year I felt a particularly type of dark stress. I felt as if my rock after another was being placed upon me. I thought I would survive, but it was not pleasant, nor easy. Though it was very hard – the hardest 12 months of my life – it could have been worse I think. If there is a virtue in hitting rock bottom it is that you have nothing more to lose. You find yourself possessed of a fatalistic resignation. Even when bad things continue to happen you find yourself wryly smiling even as you feel the body blows.
It’s very different now. I’ve come out of that and feel strong, but I’m aware also that now I have much to lose. It’s a scary responsibility, particularly when you choose to take to the high wire, as I have. Don’t look down is the tip, but it’s hard not peering into the dark depths every so often.
Since taking over the massage shop – a venture of great promise, as well as great risk – my thoughts and feelings have taken on a daily cycle, from hope and optimism to fear and frustration. Each night I sleep with thoughts racing through my head and the worse case scenarios not far from my conscious mind; and each day I wake to a new day thinking just do it, can’t worry about what has happened. As the day progresses I find myself gradually ground down by the frustrations of doing business.
This is pretty reasonable I suspect. My frustration is easy to imagine. If we look at the last week I’ve forgone about a $1,000 worth of massages because I didn’t have the people to serve them. Most of that is profit. The glass half full perspective is that the business is there if I can get reliable people in place. The glass half empty view is that it can’t go on like this, and what’s to say that my staffing issues will ever be properly resolved?
As the day goes on then I feel a rising tide of frustration. I’m like dog tethered to a stake. I strain at the leash wanting to free myself, to charge ahead and just do. Or else I’m that same dog circling one way around the stake, and then the other, wondering what to do.
This is where I found myself last night, once again.
I had my dinner, I watched TV, all the while feeling this in the pit of my stomach. It’s an ever-present tension. While I watch the TV my mind goes off trying to figure things out. I don’t truly rest, not ever, but I think that’s the lot of the business owner. I think of ways and means. I make calls, put ads online. Dark thoughts shadow me. The buoyancy of earlier in the day is gone completely, replaced by what seems a pragmatic and reasonable fear grounded in reality. I know it can be – in the morning I know it will be – but for now I don’t know how. Then the mind shifts again.
It’s tiring to be like this. And pointless after a while. It’s dark outside, the weekend is here, life is more.
I flick between stations on TV. I stumble across Eyes Wide Shut. I watch for 15 minutes, the story well known to me. Now my mind goes in another direction. Dream Story – the story which the film is based on – is one of my very favourite. And sitting there after 10 on a Friday night I suddenly wish there was someone I could talk to about this. There is no-one. For one of the rare times I feel a kind of loneliness, more intellectual than emotional. Still, I wish I could share. I wish I could open my mouth and just speak. I wish there was someone there to listen fondly, to understand, to interact in the conversation. I wish there were someone for whom this was important as well.
By now the massage shop is a thousand miles from my mind. The Nietzschean man of destiny is far away. In the dark there is no will to power. Instead I imagine myself going out into the world, in sitting across the table from the girls I date and dispensing with the usual round of chit chat and flirtation and asking instead, do you know who Arthur Schnitzler is? It’s to my despair that I meet so few people, female or male, who do, or might even care. As I prepare for bed it feels like a bitter joke, but I’m not prepared to leave it there. I realise how much the Schnitzler’s mean to me, and the life I have built around them, a life of contemplation, consideration, occasional inspiration and, every so often, a moment of transcendence. I miss that, I think. It seems something that in all the to-ing and fro-ing of the last couple of years as if it has gone by the wayside. Not tonight then.
I pour myself a glass of Rutherglen Muscat, and then hunt through my bookshelves for my copy of Schnitzler – in fact I have two. It’s virtually the first book I see, and I pluck it from the shelves and take it and the glass of Muscat to my bedroom. In bed I reach out to my iPhone, to the Sonos controller app, and scroll to the classical music genre. And I begin to read once more – for perhaps the eighth time – Dream Story, while Bach and Beethoven play in the background.
Today is another day. I woke with a hard-on, always a happy and well-received portent. Yes, there are problems to be overcome, but so be it. Now, as I write this, Rachmaninov plays, soon I will walk down the shops for my weekly groceries, and afterwards will head into the shop.
Next week, perhaps, I quest for the mythical girl who knows Dream Story front to back, like I do.