I was looking through the news this morning and found yet another story about a famous person who has suffered from mental issues. The guy was a sportsman, a top-class goalkeeper, who nose-dived into that pit of despair and anxiety that seems to be affecting more and more of the ‘normal’ population. Because of his elevated status, the rest of us are more likely to sit up and listen, to take note and to…?
That’s the problem, we don’t know what we are supposed to do.
I followed the comments made by fellow sports people and was not surprised when an awful lot told him how brave he was to, ‘come-out’ and talk about his problem. The implication was that he had been hiding his issues for many years, as he was too ashamed to admit the truth about himself. I have talked before about the issue of being ‘brave‘ and have written that I do not think that my public confessions constitute anything resembling bravery. My book/blog has served as a psychological confessional box. By that, I don’t mean that I have to ask for forgiveness from some higher power and then subject myself to a wagon-load of prayers that act as penance. No, my confessions are to the unseen ether, the wilderness of the digital, the anonymity of everything.
When I first started to write this thing, my wife was worried that people would be able to identify us from my posts. I changed our names, but old friends referred to me by name in their public posts to the blog. My wife was also worried about the impact my confessions could have on my potential career prospects. I have spent twenty-five years in education and now wish to spend some purposeful time on something else. The fact that it has taken me well over a year to come to terms with this, tells me how much I had become institutionalised. Outside of the dreaded regime of modern education, I had become rather helpless and incapable of making choices for myself.
These words could have been written for me. It’s part of the general ‘duh’ philosophising that western individualists buy into. It gives us a feeling of self-control, of power over our existence, and consequently reaffirms our innate belief that we are meant for better things. I truly believe what Doe Zantamana says is correct. In simple-tongue it is hard to disagree. Just as I am saying this, winds are picking up around my part of the world and a tree, much too long in the root, is preparing to blow Doe’s words out of my world; if it decides to fall on me. That would be my self-direction being reduced to road bark before my very dead, flat eyes. We may be in charge of things, but we are certainly not in charge of everything.
We follow directions in our lives in the belief that we will eventually get somewhere. In the medieval world, that somewhere would have been heaven with a lengthy stop in purgatory just for good measure. Life was easy then. You lived, you suffered. You died, you suffered some more. They made religions out of suffering and we all followed them. We tend to suffer less in the Western World these days, but that is only in the physical sense. The Black Death has slunk off, the Church is no longer burning people (for their own good), and we are less likely to starve to death or die from some ridiculously curable illness (unless one subscribes to TrumpCare). We live longer, and longer, and longer. Wolves, lions and bears have stopped snacking on us. Casual murder is not as common as it once was. Hey, we’re in clover!
But there’s the rub.
Mankind has spent centuries making advancements. As a species, we have created a universe of infinite possibilities and believe that we should all, every single one of us, have the desire and ability to realise those chances. We see ourselves as works in progress and envision our lives as having meaning and reason. In that world, there is no such thing as the random, by chance, luck or misfortune. In fact, there is no such thing as an Act of God as that would take things out of our own control.
Which leaves us sitting there at the great call-centre of our minds, trying to find the answers to all the questions that refuse to stop ringing in.
During our lives, many of us buy cars, both old and new. Regardless of their age, we are proud of them as they have the capacity to speak to the world and tell it how well we are doing. My present car is now an old car. When I brought it, it was nearly new and was, I believed, out of my league. It’s an excellent Mercedes, one that I have thoroughly enjoyed driving and owning. It has rarely let me down and has always had the ability to wow me. Unfortunately, it has now aged. It is scratched in several a places. There is a dent in the lower panel of the passenger door (one that my wife eventually admitted to under duress) and it is starting to look just a bit jaded. But I love that car. I love it so much that I have been prepared to ignore the odd rattle that began to emerge on bumpy roads. The rattle was just a rattle, I said to myself, but it didn’t go away; it grew. Eventually, the sound grew so loud that pedestrians were halted in their progress in order to identify the source of the severe clunking, grating and rattling. I pretended that I did not notice. Then the car broke down. It wouldn’t move and I was miles from anywhere without my essential mobile phone. Not smart.
In the same way, my own life followed a similar course. There were warnings that I chose to ignore. I was an E Class Mercedes and I could do anything. I was fast, flash and reliable. And I never broke down. When I eventually ground to a halt, my shiny paintwork dulled, my acceleration was diminished, and that rust patch, that hadn’t been noticeable before, suddenly became all too obvious. Overnight, I became a twelve year old executive car that was way past it best. It sat on our driveway for a long time without me going near it. A front tyre went slowly down and still I did not tend to it. I ignored it when I was leaving the house. The passenger seats were still full of the detritus that belonged to my previous life and I thought that that would serve as a fitting tomb.
Just before my father died, I took him for a spin in my new motor. I was very proud and wanted him to be also. At that stage he was in the last stages of cancer, but only he knew that. I floored the accelerator as a way of showing him the possibilities of my success. A little G Force pushed him back into his seat and he asked me to slow down. I did as he asked. A number of months later, he was dead and I stopped seeing how fast my car could travel. It was enough that the ride was comfortable.
My wife insisted that she should pay for the repair. And she did.
Now, for whatever reason, nobody stops to look at my car. I still drive it and still love it. But, it is just a car.