Real life begins again today. For most people it’s back to work, the party’s over. For me it means an adjustment of attitude.
It’s been a very laid-back period since Christmas. I’ve read a lot, and cooked, I’ve watched a new movie just about every night, and for the most part stayed close to ‘home’. It hasn’t all been beer and skittles. It took me a little while to get back into it, but I’ve also been working at my book every day for the last few, and am back in the groove.
I have no work to go to. Nowhere I must be, nothing particularly I must do. By ‘must’ I mean I have no obligations. There are things I must do though for my own self. I start again with those this morning.
This is the reality of my life at present, but I admit to feeling conflicted and, unsurprisingly, some confusion. I’ve been ‘doing’ things for the last year or more. I’ve tried ‘doing’ different things. I roll my sleeves up and get ‘doing’, yet the result has been the same throughout. Zilch. Many times over the last 18 months I’ve found myself recalling Einstein’s definition of insanity, of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Be that as it may, you can’t stop doing, or trying to do. What remains if you don’t? It may feel futile, but there remains a possibility of a fluke, or the moons re-aligning to produce a different result. I try to vary it to, try different things in different areas. I don’t stake all on the one number.
One of the tasks I’ve set myself this week is to create a new business website. The idea fills me with dread. A big part of me feels it’s a waste of time, but something I must do. Do, almost, for the sake of doing. I must produce the copy for the site, then build the site around it. The words will come relatively easy – by and large I know what I want to communicate. The existential question then arises: is this who I am really? A year ago I’d have answered yes, why not? I don’t feel it now, and not just because it’s been so long since I’ve acted in that role. I feel in a way as if I have moved on from that. But how? And to what? That’s what I can’t answer.
What I’m experiencing right now I’m sure is not unusual. It’s not an identity crisis, but the question certainly arises now: what am I? Who am I? The people sitting behind their desk today have a much better start on answering that question than I do.
I’ve read a lot in the last week, and a couple of days ago started on Knausgaard’s A Man in Love. It takes me a while to get into his books. I set them aside, bored initially. There seems something awfully naive in his writing. Slowly though it compels you. His writing becomes hypnotic. Why is that?
No-one could accuse Knausgaard of being a great prose stylist, but that would seem irrelevant to him. Unlike any other writer I’ve come across his writing is totally without ego. He is the protagonist in his novels, and he portrays himself with a raw sincerity it seems. He’s awkward and sometimes stupid, he’s sensitive and confused and naive and unsure. He doubts all, he stumbles forward, doing what he does and seemingly surprised when people respond to it. To him he’s just writing things as they are, but to other’s it’s honest and authentic like very few writer’s are.
There is something childlike in his curiosity and wonder which is terrifically engaging, and quite refreshing. It compels because it reads so true. Not a construct, but real life as you and I know it. It’s not our life, but we know these things, if not so obsessively as he does, and not so consciously. That’s one of the things about good writing, it raises things from our unconscious to conscious mind. It feels a truth we had forgotten, now re-discovered. That’s how it is with him.
In a strange way I find it inspiring. I’m not the opposite of Knausgaard, but I’m very different in how I present to the world. I’ve always been more aware of that, no matter how much I play it down. That awareness to a large degree is a construct. You look in the mirror and you want to be a certain person, and to be seen as a certain person, and so you mould yourself into that image. That’s what I’ve done, it’s what most of us do. Knausgaard looks in the mirror and sees himself as he is, and not once does he think to be anything else. The ego, so dominant in me, is absent in him.
He is who he is, whereas today I’m searching for who I am. It’s not a bad thing. It’s better to be looking than be too oblivious to wonder. It’s indicative of the stage of life I’m in too. The bonds to my previous life and identity have been broken. In that identity I was many things, but much of it was the smart, confident corporate guy in a good suit. If that’s not a construct, if not a cliche, then I don’t know what is.
There remains a tough road ahead of me, and I will continue to ‘do’ as I must to survive, but hopefully out of this some more authentic sense of self will arise.