I don’t want to do it.
Any of it.
What is any of it?
I just don’t want to do any of it. I feel like I have lost. Some win and some lose. Most lose. I don’t want to go to work today. I don’t want to pay bills. I don’t want to return emails or phone calls. It is all terribly banal and hard. I no longer want to do any of it.
Yes. But like what Samuel Beckett says: You must go on, You have to go on.
It is such a painful struggle.
Seems like the pain is greatest for you on Monday mornings?
Yes. I just don’t want to do the week ahead. I know it is terrible to think like this. I should be happy that I have a well-paying job where I get to help others. I should be grateful that I get to go earn money that I can then use to buy things I like and support my lifestyle. I should be happy about this, but then why does it all feel so painful?
I don’t know if I have any substantial answer to this question. Do you think that there is another way? That there is something else you could do for money where you would not feel this existential pain? This sense of banality?
I really don’t know. It has always been there I guess. Just seems like it is getting worse as I grow richer, more successful and older. I imagine that there should be some way of earning a living that I would actually find mostly pleasurable. I have always imagined that writing and art would be the way I could earn a living without feeling so bad.
Well. Doesn’t seem like that is working out for you.
No. I don’t think it will. So I am stuck in this Sisyphean condition. Roll the heavy bolder up the hill and then roll it back down. Repeat every Monday morning. It is all getting very monotonous. Very dull.
So it is the monotony that bothers you?
I am sure that plays a part. I do feel enslaved by this cycle of going to work day after day and then having days off. Then repeat. I am sure there is something damaging about this whole process. It must take a toll on the soul and spirit.
On your soul and spirit. Some people I think are fine with it.
Yes. I don’t like it. The monotony bothers me. I have to go to work and pretend like I am fine with it. I have to appear happy and upbeat. Glad to be there. Engaged. But this is not how I feel. I am faking it. Knowing that I have to go to work and fake being enthusiastic and interested feels painful right now. I just don’t want to do it.
That must be really difficult. Forcing yourself to appear in a way that you are not is probably something that most middle-class working Americans deal with.
Maybe it is the American way? Maybe this is what has to be done in order to make a decent living in this country? Maybe this is what “they” do not teach you about in school? Maybe this is why so many people want to be actors, artists, writers, musicians, dancers and on and on. They want to escape this condition of having to pretend like you are someone that you are not in order to make a living.
I have heard it said that America is the cult of happiness. This is what you are describing. Having to pretend to be happy, having to be a part of the cult so that you can get paid and live a decent lifestyle.
I suppose you are right. I never thought of it this way. Yeah. I have to be apart of this cult of happiness. I have to act as if I am happy to be doing what I am doing for money.
But you are not.
No. Other people see me as a motivational speaker and therapist. This is how I am seen as by my clients who pay me a lot of money to work with me. I am what others reflect my image to be.
But you do not want to be this?
I am not this. But in order to make money I have to be this. I have to become what others reflect my image to be. It is terrible.
Why terrible? Don’t you think that is a bit dramatic?
Maybe. Maybe I will not feel the same on Wednesday evening. But right now it feels terrible. One step away from a shot-gun to the head kind of terrible. I am an introvert. I really do not enjoy having to talk with other people (unless that person is really interesting and engaging, which most people are not). My work as a therapist involves having to talk with people, listen to people at a very deep level, seem interested and engaged with people for fifty minutes to an hour at a time! I have these interactions with people six or seven times a day. It wears me down. I use every ounce of energy I have to get through it. Even those who are interesting require a lot of effort. Just staying engaged with another human being, one on one, for an hour at a time requires so much effort on my part. Every bone in my body would rather be some place else. It is terrible. I have not been a bad person in my life. I often wonder what I am being punished for.
It feels like a punishment?
It does. The routine. The office. The clients. The faking. The hustle to make money. It is just not my thing. I don’t like it. I am not cool with it. An artist should be completely transparent. Fully honest and continually creatively engaged. An artist should be defying routine, complacency and normalcy. I am not doing this when I go to work and it hurts. I imagine that Kafka felt the same way.
But I didn’t figure out a better situation for myself. I couldn’t work something else out for myself. I have done all of this to myself. No one else has forced me to be here. This is all my choice, maybe the result of spending too much time slacking off when I was younger.
Why did you chose this?
I really don’t know. I was getting older. Didn’t want to wait tables and teach high school anymore. Going back to graduate school and getting a professional career seemed the only option available to me if I wanted to make a decent living. I suppose I sold out. I listened to the pressure others were putting on me. I felt like my art and writing was going nowhere (still feel this way). I would have to do it on the side. I was a married man and needed to figure something to. Hated working in restaurants and did not want to do that anymore. In a sense I took the path most commonly traveled. I did what most everyone else does in my situation. I went into debt (student loans which I will never pay back) and became a more professional member of society. Now I suppose I pay the price for doing this because even though I make a good living and live a nice lifestyle, my soul feels imprisoned. They do not educate you about this part of the deal in school!!
The imprisoned soul?
Yes. You now have money. You now have a well-paying job. You become a valuable member of your community. Life on the outside appears very good and stable. You appear to have “made it.” “Figured things out.” You become a motivational figure for others who are still trying to figure things out. You appear to be the direction that most people want to go in. Nice house. Pretty wife. Cool clothes. Cool cars. Your own successful business. No boss. You have made it! But now my soul feels stuck. Something in me feels grief about it all. Maybe this is what is meant by: “Most men live quiet lives of desperation.”
Yes. It is sad. But what would be the answer? How can this situation be resolved?
That is what I am trying to figure out. Positive thinking does not work. It is just a bandage that does not heal the initial wound. Meditation might work. Just being so fully present that you let go of all past and future. Just being fully where you are at, not one step ahead and not one step behind, could work. Also not getting caught up in thought, which is what it means to be present.
So you could practice meditation more intensively and see if that helps?
I meditated this morning for twenty minutes. I am going to try and start back up on a regular basis. I want to see if meditation can help allievate some of the pain. The pain does not go away but maybe it can can help to make the pain more bearable. By just slowing down and opening the windows so that some fresh air can get in- this could be helpful. Outside of this I don’t know what else. Read, listen to records, enjoy a glass of Gin every evening when getting home. Taking it easy and trying to enjoy things as much as possible even though there is often a good amount of pain present.
The yin and the yang.
Yeah. Maybe this is life? Maybe this is just the way it is. Maybe this is what it really means to be an adult. To have to carry the painful and the pleasant simultaneously without being destroyed by either one of them. When we are young we just want to get rid of the painful and only have things feel pleasant all the time. We don’t like the hurt. The pain and plesure end up destroying us. We just want fun all the time to nullify the pain! But if we survive this and grow older maybe growing up means to know how to live a quiet life of desperation while also feeling some pleasure, contentment and satisfaction. Maybe this what it means to live life well. To be able to carry and reconcile pleasure and pain.
And when a person is able to do this effectively that is when they become an adult?
I suppose so. I know this may sound boring to most people but maybe in a sense living a good life is boring. Maybe boredom is a positive thing. A person who is not adult-like in their behavior is someone who refuses the pain. They react to the pain negativly and as a result only want pleasure. A continual reaction and rebellion against the pain and a continual pursuit of pleasure. I suppose the adult has learned to make space for both pleasure and pain and accepted all of it as the fundamental condition of life. This is how it is, now let’s go water the plants.
Gosh. So this is what life comes down to? This is it?
I think so. In order to live a more comfortable and tolerable life (a less pain-filled life), we must learn to water our own garden as Voltaire so correctly said. This is what I think it means to water our own garden. To embrace the boredome and retire from always being in pursuit of pleasure and reacting negatively against the pain.To water our own garden means to accept both pleasure and pain as fundamental conditions of life, and then go water our plants.
It is not easy for humans to get to this place.
No often it is not. Most spend their entire life pushing against it. Obviously I am still struggling with this. I still believe there must be another way.
Well this was helpful. Thanks for talking and listening.
Sure. Good luck today.
(To Be Continued)