Mr Silly

Driving to a meeting yesterday I heard the results of a survey reported on the radio. The survey was about sex, and according to the results most men wish they’d had more sex partners, while women in contrast come to question some of the sex partners they’d been with.

I mentioned that over breakfast trying to make a point. The point I was making is that I should be pretty pleased with the life I’ve lived. I don’t have those regrets: I’ve had plenty of sex partners, though that wasn’t the point I was trying to make. The point is that for much of my life I’ve followed the urge no matter where it has led me. If in doubt, do it, might have been a motto for a good 15-20 years of my life. I’ve actually done the things that most men regret never trying.

That’s positive. I look back and there’s a lot of great moments and fascinating times. For the most part I’ve lived fully. I’ve been to many parts of the world, have seen and experienced many things I’ll never forget. More than anything I’ve been lucky enough to feel the intoxicating lure of the new and novel again and again. I have no regrets.

Memories though are just memories. They live in your head and in faded photos in an album, but once they’re done they’re static. They’re past tense, almost to the point that it seems surreal. There are times I find it hard to reconcile my current circumstances with the man in those memories. They seem almost another life – did I really drink Pilsener in Prague? Was it me that explored every inch of Petra on foot? Did I really crack a couple of Japanese girls in Hue? They appear vague and disconnected. Sometimes I wonder if my memory plays tricks. As memories they seem foreign to my existence today. What matters is now, and tomorrow. Memories are nice, but they’re as dead as a butterfly pinned to a piece of board.

We spoke of memories a  little yesterday. Yesterday I sat across from an attractive woman telling her some of my things wile she told me some of hers. We spoke of other things, plans and hopes and what we’ll do for Christmas.

I played a role – when don’t I really? Do I like her? I asked myself that as I sat there talking to her. I operated on two levels, as so often, carrying on the conversation quite normally while my mind went off on another tangent. I peered at her, feeling a low-level lust that translated quickly into imagination. I wondered how much I like her. Enough? Could it be more? I ate my eggs, impatient to be intimate with her. My conversation was measured, however. I wanted to tell her more, but held back. Instead I gave her the sanitised version of myself, all the detritus and debris airbrushed out of the picture. As I imagined peeling the knickers from her slender body I also imagined opening myself up to her, putting my head on her shoulder and sharing all that is in me. As if! I thought. But still…

I don’t want this to be about her, but I should make it plain. I’ve avoided any relationship for over 2 years. I think I got impatient with that. I felt isolated, felt need. I’ve let this develop when at another time I’d have let it wither and die. She wants this I think. There is part of me held back, as so often, but she would want me to give that to her I think. Am I capable of that?

That’s the question. For my own health and sanity the answer should be yes. The events of the last 18 months have opened me up in ways impossible before then. When you got nothing it’s silly to be anything but humble. I can’t hide the truth, though I’m a dab hand at misdirection. I’ve come to realise that to pretend something when the truth is so clearly otherwise is just plain stupid. Generally then I’ll acknowledge the ruin about me with a wry smile and a metaphorical shrug of the shoulders. I’m not one yet for deep confessions, but I will try to share, my pride intact.

Here I am now though. I’m just about at the end of the rope. I’m over all this, done. I’m out of ideas. Options ran out a month ago. Truly this is as bereft as I’ve ever felt.

Am I depressed? I wonder at that. I should be. Technically I probably am. There’s plenty of good reason to be, and if I am it is because of that – it’s situational, functional even if you want to call it that.

I wonder about this because depression got some press during the week. One of the English cricketers flew home from Australia suffering from it, and has been for a while it seems. That seems more common these days; or is it we hear about more because we no longer sweep it under the carpet as before? I don’t know that it’s completely accepted as yet, but much of the stigma – that of being ‘weak’, a character flaw – is gone.

I’m sympathetic to anyone who suffers from depression. My mother did. I know others too. I’m liberal, fair-minded, kind-hearted I think. Still, while I judge no-one else, I do myself. That stigma in large part remains in me, but only as it pertains to me individually. I refuse to be depressed, from pride and ego. I won’t accept it. It makes me combative.

I know that true depression is debilitating. You can’t function. Your thoughts are dark. You can barely rouse yourself. You feel sluggish and murky. You despair.

I know that because it’s what I read. I know it too because I have experienced it. Fortunately for me those episodes have been fleeting – a morning here, an afternoon there. In my memory it’s all been connected with my situation: what am I going to do? That makes it easier because I have something to focus on. For the likes of me it’s good because I have something to battle against and defy. That’s how I draw myself out of those situations, by refusing to let it beat me. The pride that leads me up so many dark alleys sometimes helps to lift me from my gloom.

I know for others it’s not as easy as that. I don’t know what brings it on, but I gather that they live in a non-specific and oppressive fugue. It must be an awful thing to endure. Even worse, it must be hard wondering how or if they will ever come clear of it.

I’m in a tough situation. I’m really lost now. I feel what I feel, and it’s perfectly natural. I can get help I think – and by that I don’t mean professional help, and I don’t even mean a change in my circumstances (though that would help). I mean help from others. I get advice all the time, all of it well meant. That’s not what I need. What I need is emotional support – love, affection, encouragement, faith and belief. My friends have been good, but they don’t see me like this because I don’t share this me. That’s my error, though it’s hard to overcome the habit of a lifetime. Mr cool and independent. Mr Silly.

I wonder if I should give this girl something of what she wants, and wonder what I’ll find in doing so.

Sticking to my story

There’s plenty of evidence these days that many people suffering from depression are wired differently to the rest of us. There’s a good chunk of society who suffer from chronic depression unrelated to situation or circumstance. Churchill used to complain about his ‘black dog’, the miserable depression he would sink into periodically for no good reason. There’s plenty of stories of like figures suffering like this, just as there is for the regular Joe’s looking out there in the ‘burbs.

I have my occasional blue days, but I think that’s probably pretty normal and rarely too troublesome. You deal with it and wait it out – tomorrow is another day.

My occasional bouts of unhappiness are a different matter, but hardly unique. I figure pretty well everyone has to deal with this at some point, and sometimes often. Sometimes, unfortunately, there’s every good reason to be unhappy.

To my way of thinking there are two kinds of unhappiness besides the chronic: situational and existential.

Situational unhappiness is easy to explain and understand. You lose a job, you get dumped by a girl, you blow your rent money at the track. Well you should be upset, and it happens.  I think it’s normal to feel a kind of remorse, even mourning, and that in moderation is actually healthy – it’s a process. Man I’ve felt that plenty of times but generally I’m through it pretty quickly. I can get pretty intense sometimes, particularly when it’s an ongoing situation, but I’m fortunate that this kind of adversity often brings the best out of me. I figure two things: that it will pass, and damned if I’m going to let it beat me. It’s made easier because I am dealing with real complaints easily defined: change the situation and the complaint goes away, and that’s something well within my power.

In some people it lingers and spreads. It calls into questions deeper questions about the self, questions about identity often, or – more dangerously – about self worth. That’s a dark place you don’t really want to go, and a lot harder to get away from once you’re there. In some way, shape or form this is what I think of as an existential unhappiness, or depression.

I’m much more likely to suffer from this, though generally it’s not too dark for me. I never question my value. I often wonder the meaning behind things, but never the point. I sometimes wonder where I’m going and why, and where I should be heading, but I always reckon it is something I will figure out some day. For me this kind of unhappiness is more a dull angst that means that I’m ever engaged in a search for meaning and understanding. In a strange way is one of the things that defines me. It what leads me to write among other things, as a way to explain and ponder, or at least to define the problem and pose a question of it.

My kind of condition is less common I think. Most people live and appreciate what they have without questioning it too deeply. I’m sure that feels easy and good, but is not a way I would like to be. I don’t mean to be offensive, but to my way of thinking it seems to me a life oblivious of so much that is fascinating, if occasionally disturbing. It’s a compromised, half-asleep life enjoying the small things without bothering to ever wonder how they come to be.

Regardless of what I think, it’s not a way I can be. I’m wired differently too.

Recently I’ve been going through one of my periodic periods of angst, largely about work. Should I, shouldn’t I? What do I want? Who am I? I’ve been tempted and tormented and confused.

The other day sitting in the Qantas club lounge in Sydney waiting for my flight home I had a few moments of clarity. They’re what the search is about, the sparkle in the bottom of the pan as you finally find a few grains of gold.

I was sitting there looking out over the tarmac sipping on a vodka and tonic. The lounge was full of men and women in suits carrying briefcases and wheeling carry on bags. What’s the problem, I thought.  The problem is that I’m battling between what I think I should do and what I want to do. Where’s the issue I thought then. It’s simple. Unhappiness comes from striving to be who you are not. Opposite me the dude sitting there looked into space, doing nothing, waiting out time. Time to drop it H, I thought, do what you want and be who you are. With that realisation a lot more became clear.

Everyone is different, but I need passion in my life. I want to do something that counts for me. And I want to do it well. I reflected on my current role. About half of it I can do great. The other half I’m on much shakier ground.  Why do something that you’re not going to be great at? Life’s too short.

Which in a way led to the next insight. Do I really want to wait to do many of the things I crave to do? I’ve lived an adventurous life, and lived well. I’ve taken risks and most have paid off and some have not. Why should I change that now? I have a vision of how life should be, my life, and that is what I should never give up.

Unhappiness comes from living the wrong life. You have something in you different from everyone else and which you must be true to if you are to experience real happiness and fulfilment. For me, I have to remember my story and stick to the script rather than living somebody else’s. I felt better then knowing this, and feel as if a weight has shifted from me since.

Ironic in a way that I return to the office and find an offer on my desk to extend my contract for another 3 months. I accepted. Three months I can handle and the rent still needs to be paid. But I have since also initiated some other projects on the side that have lived in my imagination for too long. Success or failure, I have to try – and that’s my story.
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