So yesterday I won something, or maybe 60% of something, with another 35% still in the balance, but likely. I was relieved. Then I wondered why it had been so hard. But I felt vindicated too, and free again to do, to act, as I think is correct, as I’ve been fighting for. The lid was off.
Regardless of what you’re fighting for, it’s good to win. Everyone knows that, but I don’t know if most feel it as keenly as I do. Not the victory per se, though it can be exhilirating, momentarily, sometimes; but the fact of not losing. If you were to place winning and losing on a scale then for me the devastation of losing is far greater than the delight of victory. So, in fact, I’m motivated more by avoiding a negative than I am in achieving a positive. Though, it’s true, I expect to win.
This has ever been the case. You carry around a bunch of vivid memories you occasionally add to, to the day you die. I’ve got all sorts of memories in that bag, good, bad, remarkable, the occasionally banal that sticks for no good reason. There’s a few from when I was a kid playing sport. I was not always the most dedicated sportsman, but I hated to lose. My performances were always better against the odds, almost as if I needed the spur of unlikely victory. I’d play lazy first halves and dynamic second halves. Talk about exhiliration, there were moments I felt I was capable of any feat known to man. More often I was just average, though perhaps with a higher gear. Great were those moments when I was able to kick a clutch of goals on the footy or soccer field, the moments when that was not enough remain with me more vividly. There will be some reading this who know exactly what I mean – that sense of utter desolation, almost futility. If there is an image that goes with this it is of me lying on the ground the siren having sounded, my team mates trudging off, staring up at the sky as if this moment was now and forever. There is that emptiness, but also something puzzling. There is some clue in this feeling, some idea that there is more – but for now I am incapable of grasping it. Then an opponents boots appear at my side, he looks down at me with hand extended to help me up. The moment has passed. We lost, but life does go on.
It’s easy to keep score on the sporting field – it’s there for all to see. Not so easy always in life. I’ve lost many times lately, though I haven’t stopped fighting. It’s the habit of a lifetime to consider myself a winner, despite everything, and to continue to pony up to the contest as if that’s my pre-ordained destiny. I don’t know any different, but I sometimes wonder if I should.
It might seem odd this turn of thought after what I’ve just claimed as a victory. This is the time to do that though. It was a victory of persistence rather than brilliance. I believe I wore the opposition down. I didn’t submit, because I couldn’t, and I kept at them even when I was weary of it. In the end it was easier for them to give way than it was to continue to fight against me, realising finally that I would never give way.
I believe there was justice on my side. That motivated me. At times I felt outrage. It fuelled me. But, as always, there’s much more to it than that, and that’s what I need to contemplate.
Fact of the matter is that I was never going to back down because my ego would not allow it. I’ve spoken a lot in recent times about this ego thing, and the need to manage it. It has a disproportionate part in the conduct of so many people’s lives, and too often turns sensible men into dickheads. Where I’m different to most is that I know it, and still let it go sometimes. Yes, I argued, I had right on my side – and I couldn’t let these pricks beat me. I don’t know what the stronger motivation was.
I think realistically these are the things that a man like me should be better than. I seethe sometimes, and know I seethe because my pride is pricked. There is some supreme arrogance in this. In this last episode I believe the resistance I faced was as much personal as legal. I was butting heads with someone I had put in their place a few months ago on a separate issue. They are the type to brood on that, to seek parity again at the very least, but with the desire to make me submit. To have the last word. I know that very well.
That I could never countenance, no matter how well I reason things. It’s like someone marching up to you and looking you in the eye and directly challenging you. Some sensible part of you says mate, you don’t need this, let the fool go. And sometimes you do, you smile dismissively and move on. But sometimes not. And never if I feel I’m up against it, as if the challenge might actually have some genuine weight behind it. Something in me – yes, the ego, and something else – makes me stop and respond. My better self, the self that’s trying to wrestle my ego to the ground, whispers in my ear to turn the other cheek. But I can’t.
It makes it sound simple, and it isn’t. The ego is not all bad, it’s actually necessary. And there’s nothing wrong in using it if you can. The question is, does it lead you astray? Did it lead me astray this time?
This is where it becomes complex. It’s the difference between the motive and the goal. The goal, in this instance, was a few points of law we wanted interpreted our way. The obvious motives for that was that it was to our benefit to do so, and that we believed it was just that it should be so. They’re strong motives, and very valid. But then the ego gets involved. It muscles these motives out of the way. The over-weening motivation is to meet this challenge, to put down this insurrection, to prove – once again – who is boss. You can do the right thing for the wrong reasons, which I think is at least half true in my case.
I’m more aware than most. Aware of things around me, more self-aware, more switched on, I think, to the currents that flow between us. I ego is a comfort, even if spurious. I’m well aware that for me I slip into this persona and feel close to bulletproof. We all slip into personas, we couldn’t exist without them. They’re like something we don every morning before going out to meet the world, and a different persona for different needs. Yes, they’re an essential part of human make-up I think. It’s important to be aware of that though, and to be wary that the persona takes over, and becomes more real than the person inhabiting it.
We all cope in different ways to the world around us, and to the challenges it throws up at us. I’m on record that I want to be more authentic, less directed by my ego. There were times in the last month I lay awake terrified of what it would mean if I lost this battle – not for what we don’t gain, but what it would mean to me having invested so much of myself in the fight. That’s unhealthy, and it’s wrong. Fortunately it didn’t happen – I won the day, or most of it – but it’s something I need to be better at. Let it go H, do things for the right reason, and don’t be afraid of turning the other cheek. Truly, that makes for the better man.