Running the race

The truth is that I’ve been in such an existential fog these last few years that I’m continually defining and redefining what I feel and what I want. Even what I mean. And it changes all the time because I change, and because for all my peering I can’t see clearly. I’m in a state of flux according to mood and circumstance, but whereas once I was firmly rooted in a sense of self, much of what I do and feel these days feels precarious. I can’t help but search for purpose or meaning regardless, that – at least – is a part of who I am, but there is little constancy in what I find. One day I think this. The next day the opposite. I proclaim what I want, what I need even, but the conviction waxes and wanes. It’s fortunate that I remain pragmatically competent. Otherwise I’d be totally lost.

I’m of the type that I think if I can figure things out, then I’ll be right. I like information. I like to understand things. If I lack for information or understanding, I go searching for it, even though little of it seems to add to my knowledge. The search is a meaning in itself. But then it needs to come to a point also. If this is the case, then what can I do? But it shifts all the time because that tenuous part inside me shifts all the time.

I’m a writer, and I can’t help but by thinking in metaphors often. I have a new one.

I feel like a former athlete who back in the day was top notch before injury struck. I’m over the injury now and to my surprise find I can run just as quick as I did before. I still like the sense of running fast. I even enjoy the odd competitive outing. I like the adrenalin, and proving I’ve still got it.

What I’ve lost is any joy or interest in the hard work that goes with it, the training and diet, etc. The idea of being organised into competitive events is anathema to me. I don’t mind racing, but on my terms, my whim almost. The joy I take is in the experience, not the outcome. I don’t have the appetite for anything else.

What complicates it is that I still like to win. I can choose to compete less, but when I do I expect to come out in front. In the meantime, I watch others, cocky with their achievements, but never as quick as me, take the kudos that were mine once.

When I choose to extend myself, they get their noses out of joint, but I enjoy reminding them of what’s what. It doesn’t mean anything, though. It’s an indulgence. Ego. It adds up to nothing because while I show up occasionally, they’re busy racing on the circuit.

This is the truth of my professional situation, at least. Sometimes I think I want to compete at a higher level, but I know it in my stomach it’s not something I can apply myself to. I’m lucky I’m still quick. I have small wins, I find a measure of respect, but I shirk the big races because I don’t think I want what victory brings me. But I still want to win.

There’s something frail in me these days which upsets mightily that macho sense of self. It’s new to me. I’ve always been sensitive, but I was always robust (and, you know, most people who know me would claim I still am – they just don’t know the full picture). I was brought up to take challenges head-on. I never shirked anything. That made me hard and strong and honed my skills. I’m not that man now, or hardly. I understand in a way, and wonder even if it might not be for the best – but it’s a hard thing to concede.

I was browsing Twitter last night and encountered the latest faux outrage about something someone has said or done. As always, the reaction is totally disproportionate to the incident, and the tone and language violent and over the top. I’ve seen this so many times, but last night I quietly went about unfollowing people I couldn’t abide anymore, while something fell away in me. My grip on things then was very tenuous. I felt emotional. It upset me that I was so upset. This is who I’ve become now, though. Imagine that.

Then a movie came on an I started watching that, an old classic from the forties: A Matter of Life and Death. It’s a Michael Powell movie and very well crafted and entertaining, but what really got to me was the humanity of it. This was made just after WW2, and maybe some of the euphoria of victory infected it a little, but it was a horrible event – and yet here was a movie positive and hopeful and full of simple wisdom and belief in common people. It served as an antidote to what I’d been feeling, but I also wondered why we’re not like that anymore? What have we lost, and can it be regained? And I thought, next book I write, let’s make it positive.

That’s the state of the nation today.

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