Our experience of the world is personal. We see through eyes that are skewed by temperament, experience and state of mind. Ultimately our response interacts and reflects upon those elements.
That’s true of each of the little moments and events that make up our experience of the world, and it’s true also when we begin to string those moments together. They’re like atoms that bounce off each other in our self, heading off in unexpected directions. Together they make for an ever evolving experience of life, and it’s unique in each of us.
I have an example of that, but need you to bear with me as I attempt to link seemingly disparate moments into a coherent and very individual whole.
On Saturday morning I discovered that a popular sporting commentator over many years – Drew Morphett – had passed away at the age of 69. Drew was a particularly affable character, full of energy and life which he brought to the commentating job. He was a spritely character impossible to dislike, and also very good at his job.
I was returning from my weekly grocery run when I discovered this, and I was both surprised and given to further consideration. There were three distinct phases.
The first, quite transitory, was how Drew had always reminded me of my uncle. They had a similar look, both eternally youthful with dark hair that tended to curls, and of almost identical vintage. My uncle, quite a tragic figure, died about 15 years ago of cancer.
The second thought was how many people seem to be dying these days. Of course people are always dying, and as I walked home I wondered if it was just my experience of it that made it seem the number had increased. It made sense. The older you get the more people you are aware of, and a greater number of your contemporaries, and those you grew up around, reach the age when death becomes a possibility. I wondered if that’s how it is as you get older, ever more aware of mortality? It hardly enters your head when you’re young. You feel invincible and, even so, death is decades away. But then the decades dwindle and one day death appears like an oppressive inevitability.
The third consideration was remembrance of Drew Morphett himself. I grew up listening to him commentating on footy particularly, him and Doug Heywood, Geoff Leek, Doug Bigelow, and so on, great names, now all gone. In particular I recalled when I was just a kid still in school when as a family we moved from Melbourne to Sydney when my dad got a transfer. We lived in leafy Gordon in a lovely house and occasionally I would go next door to the Meggitt’s where I would baby-sit for them. What I remember best about that was sitting down in front of the TV once they had gone and watching The Winners on the ABC. That was 1980, and how the years have flown.
Then it’s Sunday and all day I’m flat. Is there a reason? Probably a million reasons – life is still tough, and there is very little emotional nourishment. Still, that has been the case for ages, and I manage to override it. In itself that becomes a source of dissatisfaction. To the world I appear intelligent, confident and strong. I am those things perhaps, but I am much more besides. Even those who know me and my circumstances see that and take it on face value, even though beneath it all it is a grand struggle. That’s on me, I should share more, but I want nobody’s sympathy, and besides, the stubbornness and defiance I had long before any of this buttresses the appearance of being on top of things.
It’s like a poison inside you and sometimes you can taste it and then I wish others understood. It’s not easy. I struggle. I have to fight for everything. I’m so tired. I need tenderness. And so on. And even then as I use wit to hide the fact I feel disaffected that no-one understands. Why can’t they understand? Can’t they see me inside? Can’t they see I hurt?
There was an episode last week that epitomised this. I’m having lunch with a female acquaintance. She’s got this idea of me, one of my personas I guess. She told me months ago when she first met me she felt intimidated by my intellect. Now she seems to think me a force of masculine nature. I try to correct her. I’m not as hard-driving as that, and even if I was there are other parts to me. I feel two dimensional when there are worlds inside me. I’m sensitive, I’m tender, I’m kind, I’m compassionate, why is it that no-one ever sees anything but dominant masculine traits?
And so this feels like a betrayal that I pay no mind to until I taste the poison.
I wander about Sunday doing things and trying to get excited, but know if there is a source for the current state of affairs then it is my job. I feel betrayed. I have been let down and poorly treated, something my manager would agree with. I have had to fight for what should be my right. I struggle to get things done when no-one is interested. I never thought I’d say this, but I have become de-motivated and listless. I am burnt out and quite possibly depressed, because nothing has meaning for me.
So, it is, but no-one is going to do anything about that and so I put it at arm’s length, as I do. I feel it, but won’t indulge it. The day drifts into night. It’s dark outside. I think of how all there is seemingly is memory, as if there is nothing now worthy of it. People die and it recalls to me times when things happened and meant more. My life is looking backwards and warming myself on the memories of better times.
As if to emphasise the point I end up watching The Fisher King on TV. This is another of these elements. I know I watched it not long after it first came out in the early nineties, and that it meant something to me. I watched it then and something stirred in, what it was and why I don’t know. Still, I watch it again knowing that and hoping, I think, to feel something again. And once more I’m aware that I’m harking back to another time. The boy who baby-sat for the Meggitt’s became the man in the thick of things watching this movie as if it meant something, and to the man I am today looking back and wondering at the path that led me here, and at the path that leads away.
I went to bed last night and pulled from my bookshelves one of Robert A Johnson’s The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden.
Dare I say it there was a time when I read books by him, and Campbell, Eysenck, Bly, and Antony Storr. Back then it was a form of investigation. I was curious. I wanted to understand. This was through the late eighties and the early nineties. Now I took to this book to understand myself, and my ‘wound’.
There was no magic. I knew it all. It was inside me. I can know things and they make no difference. I can’t heal myself. I turned off the light and went to sleep. In the morning I woke and went to work.
Something has to change, I know that. Work is dead to me, and maybe fatally. I’m applying for other jobs, but, well… In the short term I plan a short break, a week, just to get away from it and freshen myself up, but not until I know what’s happening with my job. It’s a little thing, and only temporary, but it’s something. I need something more beyond that though. I need something meaningful. And maybe I need to be understood. Above all I need some nourishment for the soul. All of this ends one day, and I don’t want this to be the tale. There is more out there, and more in me, I just have to find it.
Of course, you know by tomorrow I’ll be that force of nature again. Look beyond it.