I’ve seen extreme bravery from the least likely of people. Life is about the moments when it has all gone wrong. That’s when we define ourselves.
-Bear Grylls, adventurer and start of the Discovery Channel series Man vs. Wild
I wish I had fewer opportunities to define myself.
I like to blame my melancholy on an existensial crisis brought on by a near brush with death served up thanks to a bit of cancer. But, the truth is, every moment is an opportunity for everything to go wrong, for redefining ourselves.
I’ll be honest, ladies and gents, for the last loyal few of you who put up with the empty, impersonal posts, life does seem empty, void and without any real meaning. I do my work well, mostly, and try to be a good friend, though I know I often fall far short of that humble mark. But, the work is impersonal, and any schmuck could do my job. The moment that I stop putting in that extra effort, I can and will be replaced. I’m the kind of guy who you can call while he’s on vacation, who can’t say “no” when an acquaintance needs help with their computer. But, what difference does that make? I mean, outside of my utility, what difference do I make? To anyone?
I’m sure my friends and I would disagree greatly in regards to what my weak points, my character defects, are, but, I’ll tell you, there’s more wrong with me than a simple inferiority complex. As a dear friend casually pointed out Sunday night, I look to all the wrong people for validation. Yes, I’m talking about women. No, not just one, but, well, virtually any woman. I don’t know why, but it’s not even the few who do tell me that I’m worth more than my simple skills, that I have value beyond my utility. As someone at work said, if I can’t be handsome at least I can be handy. But, beyond a few very common skills with a computer, things that anyone with Google could manage, I don’t even have much use in the world.
No, what I hear are the other voices. I hear the girl from Junior High who laughs at my first fumbling attempts at snickering socialization. A lesson learned too well. I hear my ex-wife’s bitter barbs, still working their poison into me. Worse, I hear the silent voices. I hear the women who don’t even say anything, who’s voices I imagine saying aloud all the worst things I’ve ever thought about myself. They’re the worst. When someone silently turns away, or glares, or doesn’t notice me at all. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.
So, there I am, an un-confident shell of a former self I don’t think I ever was, wanting to be different, but no knowing how to go about it.
I’ve a friend who’s a professional artist with whom I have lunch virtually every Monday. We’ve been talking about art a lot, and photography. My photography, actually. His unfortunately accurate assessment of my work is that it lacks passion. He quite rightly described me as being afraid, afraid of following that passion. Also, he sussed out that I had in my head some notion of doing the photography “right”, that I was very concerned about doing it that mysterious “right” way. And, those two things were what was holding me back. If I could just let go of those things, then the crisis of my internal life would be freed. Maybe. And, yes, these two subjects, three subjects really, are all tied together.
So, there is the crux of things.
I know at some deep level that I am at a crisis point. It would be hard for me to picture my life having gone much more wrong than it has. Forty and divorced and, as much as I love kids, not a one to be found on Father’s Day. Deeply in debt, with more on the way, thank you again, cancer, you bitch. It may not be the way that Bear means in his sound bite, but life has gone wrong here, trust me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think art could save me. I think that getting through that semi-mythical block would free my entire life. But, here’s the thing… The passion that’s missing from my work, is women. Complicated, confusing, confounding, captivating women. Women who mean so much, too much, to the tattered, hollow shell of my ego. To approach them for inclusion in the work, I have to be indifferent to their constant rejection, but, you know, I’m not. And, would I have so much energy around these mysterious, magical creatures if I were entirely fearless around them? Doubtful.
So, what to do, what to do.
Perhaps nothing. Perhaps a few more therapeutic lunches with my artist friend. Perhaps, cancer survival aside, this existential crisis point may be a turning point. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a bit of courage and surprise myself.
If I’m lucky.
Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"Happiness is a direction, not a place."
--Sydney J. Harris