On the threshold of awaking but unable to move a muscle life seems a lot more dreadful then in the bright sunshine of a summers day. I wanted to open my eyes desperately, knew that I was not really asleep, laying on my back, trapped between sleep and wakefulness. All the daytime problems magnified out of proportion repeated themselves in an endless loop, ad nausea.
I do the best I can, I try to get ahead, stay on top of things and yet I often feel like I reached my limits: in terms of making money, in terms of creating, in terms of making a difference. I hark back a few years to a time of growth, adventure and arbitrariness. Youth ? Yeah, that was the main ingredient. A young fool is perceived as a daring adventurist but an old fool is just that: an old fool gone a bit soft between the ears.
I’m not old, far from it, but more often then not I’m tired of the whole struggle, disappointed and yes, also - I’m loath to admit - sorry for myself. How pathetic is that ? Hugely pathetic I know. Sometimes I’m so disgusted with myself I could puke but that would only make me feel worse and it certainly wouldn’t give me any pointers with Klare who has no time for my ‘mopey brain farts’ as she calls my introspective meanderings.
“Do something to take your mind off your misery, act like a grownup, pretend you’re actually having fun.” Not only is Klare wiser then a tree full of owls, she is also a staunch believer in the art of living to one’s potential. In other words she doesn’t suffer old mopey fools.
I woke up the other morning feeling just in such a mopey mood, not even motivated enough to get up and face the day. I desperately needed to get a grip on my slipping mind. It was time for a sober reality check. This is the pep talk I gave myself:
Stop for a moment and have your credentials checked. Imagine yourself to be the official in charge and just like in real life: Deal with the situation !
I've arrived at middle age with a substantial amount of baggage, some of it I never declared in the hope that nobody will start rummaging through it. I have the choice to discard it, to share it, to return it or to display it in public (although I doubt that anybody would want to see my dirty laundry). Everybody has some in their luggage. No worries it ain’t no big deal. I just have to make sure I wash it before it contaminates the whole suitcase. As it is, a lot of my baggage is superfluous; I don't need it anymore. I need to get rid of it. It just holds me back and drags me down. No point holding on to stuff that has outlived it’s usefulness. Like old memories, people that haven’t contacted me in a dozen years, that moustache that keeps itching, that pile of ‘National Geography’ mags, that poster of Ché, those mirror sunglasses. As Klare says: “Time to take out the garbage.”
This brings us to a key word of well-being. Purge. It's a very healthy process. Out with the old, in with the new, or just out with the old. Shed the old skin, grow a new one. Give away all the stuff you don't use anymore, have a garage sale. If I find clothes in my closet that I haven't worn in three years, I probably never wear them and therefore they go to the Sally Ann.
Purging feels good. It's cleaning up, tidying up, reorganising, prioritising and suddenly I can see my way clear to the door. Everything that is important has a proper space now and I can oversee all the stuff that matters, I might even come across a gem that I've missed and that will come in useful. Like that old school picture of myself surrounded by the girls. What a self-confident tomcat I was. I need some of that Superman illusion now.
Purge. Do it now. Just don’t get too carried away like the Dhoukabhors who burn everything to the ground and walk away naked in order to start again. Mind you most of them just moved into the woodshed to watch the smoking ruins of their lives. Moderation, not excess, is the road to success. Wait a minute ! We're not through yet. Since we’ve stopped and purged we might as well step outside for a minute and let’s take a peak in through the window. The one that looks in at our life from the outside. We'll get a whole different perspective of reality that way.
Best to do this alone. Take a whole weekend, remove yourself from people you know, from work, from responsibility. It works better if you go to a place where there is not a whole lot of distraction. I wouldn't go to Vegas to find myself. If you can't afford a weekend, take an hour, a few minutes. Sit on a bench in the garden, climb up to the church above town, go to the park. Don't think about anything in particular, empty your mind of all the millions of thoughts that race uncontrolled through your brain; important problems chasing trivia, bits of nostalgia crowding out the shopping list, news items mixing with personal stuff. Also remove all forms of possible interruptions. No cells, no pagers, no laptops. Just you and and your clear and focused mind.
This is easier said then done and like anything else in life it takes a certain amount of determination and discipline, a need, a desire or wish and the ability to do something, to create or cease an opportunity.
The allegory I use for myself is a room full of people and stuff happening in it which is my life. Like at a party I can only talk or listen to one person at a time or deal with one task or do one thing. If I’m in the room I get immersed in whatever it is I’m doing. When I get side-tracked, involved in somebody else’s game or preoccupied with trivia like how I look or am I wearing the right kind of shirt then I automatically get stressed and I loose perspective and purpose. I end up doing things because I’m expected to and I see no way out because I’m in the middle of it. That's when I have to step out of the room, remove myself physically and emotionally from people and activities that crowd my room/life. Find a window or a door from where I can see the whole space. Let my eyes and mind wander, detached, uninvolved, remote. Get a sense of the whole room. Is it chaotic, overcrowd or empty and desolate, cheery or gloomy ? Is it a room I want to be in, are there people in the room I want or need to be with ? I don't have to solve any problems or disputes in the room and I don't have to make any decisions or get involved. Just observe and watch, get a feel for the atmosphere, get in touch with the essence and the soul of the room. Get comfortable with it. It's my life. If I hate it or dislike what I see, then I have to clean out that room, check out of that motel and look for new accommodations. If I only like certain people in it or certain things about it get rid of what I don't like. Me of all people can change what's happening in that room because it is about me. I have to become the master of my own room or house or life.
The danger is to become to preoccupied with ones own importance. Lucky for me I have Klare. She makes sure I don’t fall into that trap.
“Honey, it’s not about you, it’s about what you can bring to the party that makes it a better time for everybody else. You’re not the center of the universe, just the center of your of your own addled mind.”
I know all this self evaluation and introspective soul searching stuff sound like a lot of wise man trash. Too much cliché by far.
How can I be the master of my own life and destiny when all I am is broke, lonely, overweight and too old, when life happens to other people and opportunities are all passing by or have already long gone, when love happens to other people or when loss and misery are your only companions. How could I be my very best stuck up against the wall with a barbed wire fence around me ?”
When I told Klare my dilemma she looked at me with a mixture of curiosity and pity: “The first thing you have to do is step out of that depressing room and treat yourself to some sunshine honey, literally and figuratively. The best medicine is laughter and you have to be able to laugh about your own misfortune and shortcomings. To be able to see yourself not as other people see you, not as you've been told or imagined but as you really are. So what if you're not 'beautiful', it's just a concept, a norm, a cardboard print. Real and lasting beauty comes from inside, not from Estelle Lauder or Clairol.” Trust Klare to call it as it is.
“What about all those people who feel that life is passing them by, who are broke and see no way out ?”
“If you're broke and busted try to see it as a starting point. It can only get better. Maybe you have to change your spending habits or your abilities to make money. School, change of job, sell stuff or call somebody that owes or likes you. Borrow to further an idea, lean on people, make it worth their while. Use their guilt to your advantage. DO SOMETHING ! People feel good to be able to help you. There are solutions to every situation, to every problem that we as people find ourselves in.” Klare lectured me.
I suppose she’s right and we have to be able to step out of our room of life and then we can see in and assess and analyse what’s in it which will lead to changes and solutions. I really believe that It is of paramount importance that we find the time and opportunity to do this.
Reality is a tough mistress, as the cliché goes, and nothing is more important then to be aware of reality. My reality, your reality. The world around us. The world within us. It takes both those worlds to make up reality. We can call it yin and yan, opposites, complimentary sides, head and tail of the same coin but the fact remains that without our inner awareness the outer world doesn't register properly. It appears distorted and out of sync. We need to stand still and look around. Stop and listen. Pay attention. Everyone needs to stop at checkpoint reality. Where are you right now on the highway of life ? Let’s have a look around, check it out, make some notes. Think about it. Talk to somebody we trust.
If this seems like one too many clichés then that’s because life can and does at times resemble a cliché. Clichés are truisms repeated over and over until they become metaphors tossed around as conversational aids, masking ignorance. abetting cynicism, avoiding analyses. If reality and life seem too much like an assortment of clichés then it's time to stop and think.
Yes, I feel much better now and wouldn’t you know it: last night I rolled over and fell asleep and snored the night away, according to Klare who lay awake, fending off and fighting some of the same demons I just managed to kick out of my room.
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