I’ve just spent a week doing some very dirty, arduous, and physically demanding work. In a world where labour is still king of morality, that’s hardly worth mentioning, but it was enough to drag me down to the point that my immune system caved and now I’ve caught a bug.
I’m totally exhausted. My body buzzes, I can hardly see straight. It’s often been this way for me, even when I was younger. When I’ve had major projects of this sort to do and they take a long time, I often end up ill. Some nights I’m so exhausted I can’t sleep. Taking drugs just makes it worse.
I was dreading this project but it had to be done, so I pushed my way through it. There’s still a couple of more days, but the really heavy physical stuff is done. It was the kind of work I had sworn off this spring, that already had me totally burnt out, but I had to complete this last project as I had made a commitment to others.
I knew it would be hard on me spiritually as well as physically, but I decided to observe myself and see what happens when confronted by this kind of situation, where you have to put your own needs aside to accomplish a difficult external task.
Not surprisingly, the first thing I noticed was disassociation. In order to cope with several hours of a difficult and thoroughly unpleasant situation, my feelings had to be pushed away while I focused on the job at hand. I toughened up. As each day passed I became further from myself, and hardened. Ego took over. I became far more aggressive, especially as there were a couple of men where I was working who were in my face and being assholes, and I had violent thoughts of starting a fight with them.
I was pissed at everything. My feelings for my wife diminished. Friends irritated me. Briefly, so much of what I valued seemed unimportant. All in all, mine was a pretty extreme response, but I had no control over it. Call it survival mode. We’ve all been there.
There’s been unseen consequences. The other morning I was feeling really worn down and dreading heading out again, but I kicked myself in the arse and started driving. I just couldn’t concentrate, and accidentally turned in front of an oncoming car at an intersection. I was on my motorcycle. Thank god that person had their shit together better than me, or I would have ended up as their hood ornament. They hit the brakes hard, so startled by my manoeuvre they even forgot to honk.
Another consequence is a deeper understanding of my social life here in Victoria. I’m an artist and misfit, and accordingly have misfit friends and acquaintances. Many of these folks haven’t done much in the line of personal growth or experiments, and I find I often take on the role of mentor and helper.
It feels good to be able to help others, but of course it also serves the dual function of keeping me removed, keeping me from the vulnerability of needing things from them. And it allows me to be in control. It’s that old self-sufficiency again.
Most of the time it works; most of the time I’m strong and able to support others when they need me, asking little in return. But this week I’ve been the one in need, and the result was a big absence. A part of me knew this would be the case; I’ve long ago given up on counting on others, both as a kind of resignation, but also because I’m philosophically opposed to expectation. What people can give they give, what they do, they have to do. Who am I to judge?
But in a time like this when things are so very difficult, the absence is particularly painful. I don’t blame others because everyone has a busy life, and it’s what I chose in whom I bring into my sphere. And my wife is unable to do much except worry about me no offense to her, but I wouldn’t trust her with a screwdriver.
It’s funny how our choices always reinforce what we believe. I believe that I have to do things on my own, that I can’t count on others, and so I create that scenario. The pain of being alone is less than risking the pain of needing and being refused. Most of the time. Not now.
It’s been quite an enlightening experience. It’s taught me the foolishness of creating one-sided relationships, of hiding my vulnerability. Although I am indeed fairly self sufficient, we all need others, and we need to risk being vulnerable, even needy sometimes. It’s part of who we are, and when we hide it, we hide a core part of ourselves.
I’ve created somewhat of a myth around myself of aptitude, skill and erudition. Not many know of my fears, weaknesses, and failings. I guess we all feel more comfortable with the former, as the latter is a grotty mirror we don’t like looking at.
I’m not sure how to reboot all this. Over the years I’ve come to understand just how important relationships are, and how we all need community. This is just another page in that learning. Right now my community feels terribly insufficient, and I need to do something about that.
A part of me believes it’s time to leave Victoria and start again somewhere else; god knows it’s very difficult to become socially established here, and starting over again in this town seems like too much damned work. I’ve lived in many communities that were far friendlier and welcoming. Right now isn’t the time to make such a decision, but it’s something Tracy and I will have to look at. After the work in the salt mines is done.