I take another hard drag, hoping to finally end it.
It’s days like these I hate myself the most.
She sits slumped over, cross-legged and sobbing on the carpet. I’ve clearly fucked up again. Done my worst, which, over my course, I’ve become far too good at.
“I wonder if I’ll ever truly understand her,” the voice in my head connives as I nod in feigned comprehension at the snap of her words when she hooks me back in with
“ARE YOU EVEN LISTENING TO ME?”
A pause. Finally,
Yes, I’ve done a great many horrible things to many people, but this, I tell you my friends, is the worst:
To look at the woman who loves you in spite of yourself – not your fake self, or your work self, or your bar self or your Facebook self – and to see her hurting because of the person you are inside, and you’re too selfish to let her go when you know you really should…
That’s pretty fucked up.
But don’t be too hard on yourself. That’s just how your Mama raised ya.
And how school charged its tuition.
But know that there’s no class in life that can prepare you for it. I propose that maybe if I knew the value of delayed gratification over the definition I wouldn’t be stressed so much. And maybe if I learned vulnerability instead of viscosity when dissecting the human heart I’d be able to reach out to her like a normal fucking human being.
But I am the product of my experiences, the majority of which are shit. I have the makings of greatless and she deserves a hell of a lot better than me.
Yet in spite of that, and me, and my cold words and explosive reactions, her hand still rests on my thigh, squeezing it white-knuckled as she works out her demons in frantic exorcisms on the floor.
She sees what I could be, drawing attention to everything that I’m not. Her praises pierce the weak points in my armour and I stand defenseless against her innocence. How alien my black-and-white world must seem to her childlike wonder. She is everything that is good and pure in this life. She is colour. She is the sun.
I used to doodle incessantly when I was a child. I can still remember trying to sell my juvenile artwork to my parents for extra chocolate bar money during my pre-kleptomania (read: hustlin’) days. I also remember this habit/passion/pastime trying to be exorcised out of me during my school years.
I was always something of a daydreamer. My eyes would be locked on a swaying tree outside, my mind would have me be living as Superman, and my teacher would be shouting my name across the classroom.
“So nice of you to join us, Mr Kirton,” she’d say sarcastically.
“I could kill you with one punch,” I replied telepathically, my crooked smile and rhythmic nodding putting her at noticeable unrest.
She’d return to her chalkboard of authority and I’d return to doing some actual good. The world needed me!
I find it funny that I am now employed in a profession where the ability to daydream is part of the gig. As much as “creatives” embrace the whole oddball persona, being a little bit “out there” is necessary to deliver great conceptual work. I just love that my colleagues don’t find it weird when I spend Monday morning traffic meetings invested in my notepad, exploring worlds far beyond the reach of the real. #perksofthejob
Or maybe they do notice, but don’t feel comfortable enough to test my Cheshire grin and psychopathic nod. Can’t say I blame them.
I’m a professional writer. That is to say I get paid by companies and clients to apply my personal insights and persuasive expertise in written form to the end of sales. Just as an athlete applies their quadriceps, explosive reaction times or hard-as-a-rock head to the end of goals/points/concussed enemies and sponsorship ROIs, I am expected to be good at what I do. And great at what I do if I ever wish to make a real name for myself. I am Capitalism’s deep and stirring voice reminding you to “Just do it.”
That aside, it has happened before where, upon learning what I actually do for a living (note: copywriting has zilch to do with law*), I have been asked what literature I choose to indulge in. This is usually posed by fiction readers whom I can only assume see me as some kind of credible authority on what makes great writing. Maybe they hope I read the same books they do. Perhaps they want a new genre or author to get wrapped up in under a blanket with a cup of cocoa on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Maybe they’re just humouring me because I tell the occasionally witty joke and offer my hoodie to dames when it gets cold out**.
Whatever their reasons, I usually get the same reaction when I do tell them.
Her: *smiling* So you’re a writer? What books do you enjoy reading?
Me: Yeah, I don’t really read.
*face loses expression*
Her: At all?
Me: No, not really.
Her: But you’re a writer…
And she has a point. According to my LinkedIn profile, blog title and box of business cards I never hand out, I am “a writer”.
Me: I read the papers occasionally, but then I get depressed and do spec domestic violence campaigns instead.
She’s unsure of how to respond. Her boyfriend grabs her by the arm and they leave. I’ve seen the type before.
This week has been different, though. My girlfriend bought me a copy of “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss (or Tim to his friends) and I haven’t been able to put the damn thing down. It’s strange, but in a good way. And it got me thinking: The last book I truly enjoyed this much was Freakonomics. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it on here before, but if you haven’t read it (and the follow-up sensation SuperFreakonomics), do yourself a favour and order a copy. Today. Available now in paperback on Amazon for the low low price of $12. “Just do it.”
Anyway, the conclusion I have arrived at is this: I read what I find deeply interesting, and it’s a pity that it doesn’t happen all that often. At this junction, mind you, my life coach would reprimand me for justifying why I don’t read as much as I should, but on this point I stand firm***. If I’m going to invest twenty hours in reading a book, I want it to be an absolute pleasure whenever I pick it up. Anything less and I ask you, “What’s the point?”
I look at bookworms with a sense of awe and (on some level) jealousy. I wish I could pick up any book, or go to a book swap and walk away with five novels I know will be coursed cover-to-cover by next week, but I can’t. It’s too painful. I’m not strong enough.
Maybe I’d be a better writer if I did read more. Maybe I’d feel more fulfilled. I don’t know. All I know is this: 1) I read what I love to read and don’t find nearly enough books to satisfy my particular taste, and 2) I highly recommend The 4-Hour Work Week to anyone who has not read it yet.
Okay, so I’ve been MIA a while… I promised myself this wouldn’t happen and here we are. What can I say? “Sorry.” I’ll say it to myself. To anyone reading this, I’ll say the following:
Life is duality. Good and bad; Cain and Abel; Astros and type 2 diabetes. Let’s put a pin in that for now.
I was in a weird space when I started this blog. I was trying to freelance full-time and saw this blog as a great way to showcase my abilities. But I lost the fun along the way. As I do with most things. I had been frustrating myself (again) and only very recently starting realising why:
Somewhere along the way in my life I started tying my work to outcomes. At some point I stopped looking at my art as something I enjoyed creating, and started looking at it as the solutions to all my “problems.” I painfully recall spending a year working on a script that was only ever seen by three people, fully believing that it was going to be my ticket to something bigger and better in my life. I’m not regretful, though; just frustrated.
And that’s where the duality comes in. Every day I wake up and I am faced with opposing choices like this: Do I create what I love or what I think will sell? Do I keep my post-freelancing job or become a full-time backpacker? Do I do some goddamn push-ups tonight or just play a game of LoL because “I’m too tired from work?”
I think I made the wrong choice with this blog. I fed the wrong wolf.
I mean, I think the posts I’ve written thus far are okay. Some maybe even good. And I did get enjoyment from writing them. But I wasn’t exciting myself. I wasn’t exploring the reasons I love to write.
I wrote a status today about realness that got a couple nods. But more importantly, it got me thinking: Am I being real with myself? If every time my inspiration stems from the question, “What are people talking about right now,” or, “What would so-and-so find interesting to read,” then am I really creating what drives me? What I’m passionate about? It’s been so long I don’t even know if I am passionate about anything else other than writing, which I don’t do all that often any way.
As he was sat on the parquet floor – back against the splattered wall, slumped over and nursing a bite wound in a bloody arm – Daniel Woodman couldn’t help but stare dimly at the family portrait mounted on the wall before him.
It was four years ago – Emma’s first birthday. Dana was stressing herself out as per her usual tall order of “Best Mom Ever!”, proving both to herself and stay-at-home mothers everywhere that overzealous organisation skills serve well beyond the tertiary years.
Dan was on his back on the living room carpet, looking up.
“Who’s a cutie? You are! Yes, you are!”
He was talking to the baby Emma cradled lightly in his upheld hands, looking down at him like innocence incarnate.
Emma laughed, and Dan responded in kind. It was one of those pure and beautiful moments you almost hate to have because it makes you forget that life won’t always be this way.
Here he was, after all, sat on the parquet floor, nursing a bite wound in a bloody arm. It was a Tuesday. Maybe.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
While lacking the cerebral capacity now to articulate such emotions,
Dan, or what was left of him anyway, had a deep and visceral sense in his gut that this picture on the wall, the video streams in his head like hallucinations and cigarette burns, these people, evoked distinct feelings of *something* within him. He felt the cocktail of laboratory chemicals and viscous saliva course through his veins. The light burned his eyes. He screamed torturously; his already-rotting arm convulsed violently – clenching and twisting, scraping up the floor, pulling splinters and leaving behind shreds of ripped fingernail. His head jolted side to side like a malfunctioning piece of machinery and even through the epilepsy Dan could sense his legs were entirely lame by now.
The outside chaos of machine gun fire and civilian screams grew thick and Dan found himself drowned out and lost; swirling the drain in delirium.
And yet, somehow, through the void he could hear her… calling out to him. It was faint; blurry at first. But the tone and timbre – the way she played the air like a pained violin – resonated with his soul. He knew her. And then it all came back, piercing through the haze in one brilliant display of desperation:
The blackness cracked beneath Dan like a thin sheet of glass and he fell through into the awaiting light below. He threw his head back in surrender as every joyful memory came rushing back and the most lopsided smile cracked like a fault line across his face.
Partial rigor mortis set in and caught the corner of Dan’s mouth, pulling it higher than muscle can go without snapping like sun-perished rubber bands. He felt the pain. In some sense of the word at least. Yet whatever he felt was left wayside to the tranquility he was experiencing deep within his being.
And there it stayed – his twisted, psychotic, serene smile. Dan lingered in limbo for an eternity as his eyes glazed over and his reptilian brain worked through it all:
He remembered… a beautiful baby girl… and how small her hand was, wrapped around his little finger. How sick she was for three weeks with fever and every night he had to pass out beside her because sleep eluded him.
He called out to her, but could feel the deadened sensation of his vocal cords melting and giving way like fishing line above the heat of his distress. His sounds came out garbled and raspy, filled with coughed up phlegm and blood.
It started to taste good.
The sobbing broke Emma’s breathing into pieces small enough for her to manage. Dan corkscrewed his head to the side. The sound of grinding bone and snapping twigs complemented its rickety movement well. Dan was barely able to keep his head off his shoulder as his remaining muscles relaxed with his fading consciousness. He could feel his sanity slipping; his grotesque mask still plastered across his once handsome face.
Through the flickering spots of colour, Dan managed to lock eyes with his daughter for what he knew would be the last time.
“Mommy’s asleep! What do I do?”
Dan watched the vignette encroach on his field of vision, the picture of Emma – the most beautiful girl in the world – fading with the light. He tasted metal.
Dan gathered every last scrap of sentience and muddled it together with what faint heart he had left to form one coherent word, screamed as a whisper through layers of bile and with all the love a father can muster: His daughter’s only hope.
Jacob Zuma has resigned from his position as President of the Republic of South Africa.
He has not yet confirmed this verbally, nor has he released the letter of resignation. Still, it is accepted that he has resigned. We may or may not have resigned for him: it doesn’t matter who resigned him, only that he has resigned. Those of us who know and accept that he has resigned will simply spread the word that he’s resigned until it is known from one end of South Africa to the other that he has resigned, and that anybody who says otherwise – including Zuma himself – is woefully mistaken on the matter.
This is not a petition: it’s the declaration of an accomplished fact. This accomplished fact may take a few weeks or months for Zuma to admit. But he has certainly resigned. It…
“MAYDAY! MAYDAY! We’re coming in hot! Fuel’s on E, Carlito’s dead, and I think we just sucked a bird through the blades again! This bitch’s coming down!”
Life was a mess to say the least. And you’d never suspect from his current predicament – his reckless abandon and apparent disregard for human life; screaming into the radio handset of a Cessna 172 hurtling towards the thick South American Jungle below* – the growing pains of someone who once could be so mindful and precise.
“The comfort zone’s there for a reason,” the Ego said to The Sucker.
“Yeah, seated between Mediocrity and Death!”
“You’re going to die right now…”
“Will you shut up? I’m trying to land a metal box on a tree!”
His mind raced back quicker than the altimeter – space whizzing past the windows providing the backdrop to the visual theater as it replayed that last phone call he made, and how poorly he had treated her ever since they arrived on the this damn island… That college degree he never achieved all those years ago, knowing full-well how proud it would have made his mother. It would certainly have kept him grounded.
Back further… His first kiss, and how in that moment – with the sun pouring over him through the trees, as he sincerely accepted love for the very first time – life just seemed so enthusiastically, incredibly possible.
And here it all laid, spread out before him: Failures and regret like piercing branches disemboweling the fuselage and the suffocating vines of Mother Earth calling her son home.
“It’s been nice knowing ya,” he said to himself bitterly.
Sometimes life can get crazy.
Everything piles up over time, with us (blissfully and) ignorantly thinking there’ll be more time tomorrow, and somewhere along the line it all starts spiraling out of control. “You’re fucking it up,” the face in the mirror spits back at you self-righteously, always so quick to give you a hard time as if it wasn’t responsible for getting you there in the first place. Sometimes we as “humans”, with all our philosophy and science and sentience, can be pretty fucking stupid.
I wasn’t doing too well. I was freaking out about life. Again. I was doing everything I thought I should be doing but the happiness just wasn’t there. It’s hard to feel trapped within yourself – just you and your thoughts. And the voice is never helpful. The voice usually sounds like that kid who teased you back in school, or your parents, or that ever-present subconscious thought that ultimately you’re not good enough.
Life can get crazy. And bet your ass it will! But when it does, it’s important and helpful to remember that it’s okay to be feeling the way you do. I’ve been connecting with a lot of people lately, both out of my active interest in establishing new and strengthening current relationships, and also entirely out of the happenings of the Universe. And during the course of my relating, I’ve come to find more and more just how incredibly hard everybody is on their self – how much we expect from ourselves, and the limits and deadlines we install by which we grade and measure our existence. We feel so entitled to endure the pains of life our brains tell us we should be feeling.
“I loved him so much, gave everything, and in the end I just wasn’t enough!”
The thing to realise, however, is that giving in to those thoughts and feelings is a choice. It’s making the choice between 1) this bad thing happened to me and I want to feel bad about it, and 2) this bad thing happened to me and no matter my thoughts or feelings about it, it won’t change the past so I may as well try and find happiness in the present.
“I’ve been struggling with this my whole life and it just feels as though I’ll never be happy!”
I don’t know why we gravitate towards self-deprecation and assault. Why we have to be the ones telling our inner voice, “I’m confident! I’m successful! I deserve this!” I don’t know how we can put a man on the moon but not know how to be happy; truly happy.
Eckhart Tolle postulates that the ego’s need for suffering is to create a sense of identity within the individual. It adds drama to “our story” and makes us unique in comparison to the rest of the world. “This is me and this is what I’ve been through!” The irony being that self-identification is maintained towards the promise of happiness, yet is characterised primarily by misery and suffering.
“When I get that promotion, THEN I’ll start living!”
I’m doing really well now. I think the breakdown was necessary. Sometimes it takes life crashing to the floor to force you to look at it realistically. The reality being that life, ultimately, is only ever as hard as we make it on ourselves.
So be kind to yourself today, forever. Listen out for that voice which tells you you aren’t good enough, or that your teacher was right, or that being skinny will make you happy. And then kill it.
Because the voice is lying to you, man! And we are all idiots for believing it. If there’s anything I’ve learned since connecting more, and just being receptive to the stories so many wonderful people have shared with me, it’s this:
You are not alone.
There is a world of beauty out there, filled with misery and heartache. 7 billion humans scared to reach out and touch each other**. Living in fear of rejection, or the wealth gap, or the colour of his skin. But I tell you this: For every single one of you reading this, for any problem you have been through or are going through right now, there is someone else on this ridiculous spinning rock going through the exact same thing.
And regardless of how entitled we feel to experience hurt and heartache, ultimately the only purpose it will ever serve is to make us feel like our lives suck.
Life is hard; give yourself a break. You are, after all, only human. Just like everyone else.