Friday, October 2, 2009

The Struggle Within

With apologies to Metallica for stealing their song title, I want to start by saying that I am not too hard on myself. People who know me often think that is the case when I start talking about my faults. The truth is that I have a totally realistic view of myself based on all the available evidence. I neither think too highly, nor too lowly of myself. I am honest with myself about myself.

Ironically that is part of the problem I want to write about. I spend a lot of time deep in thought. You could describe me as introspective but that is only one piece of the puzzle that is me. I also ponder other people and other situations. I analyze and mentally investigate life, and the way people interact with it and with each other. It's entirely possible that I spend too much time thinking but that is not a flaw or an excuse for inaction. It is merely a product of my life. I have time to think, so I do.

When I returned to work from long service leave, I realized that I had become excessively results driven. Overly achievement oriented. That is not necessarily a bad thing unless any lack of success, either perceived or actual, begins to cripple you and deter you from action. I am not easily put off. If I believe something is worth pursuing then I invest in the chase. I run. I hunt. Stubborn resolve comes easily to me but I am not very single minded. Sometimes I want the gold without having to dig for it.

People who achieve success in their chosen endeavours are single minded. They make tremendous sacrifices to get the results they want. Consider the discipline required by elite athletes. They compete to win and that takes dedication and discipline. It also takes confidence and ability and for most, assistance of some sort. Take these five ingredients and combine them in a bowl. Forty minutes in the oven and you have a Victory Cake. As a beaten egg binds the other ingredients of a regular edible cake together, so does single mindedness bind the ingredients of the Victory Cake. I want to eat the Victory Cake but soomtimes I can't be bothered following the recipe.

That's why I am not very successful. Even as I write this I am thinking about other things that I should be doing. The laundry, for example, is a short walk from me and at the end of a typically busy week for my family, is in desperate need of attention. It's messed up. Thinking about that makes it hard for me to write this because I am not totally focussed on the task.

The Struggle Within is the battle that rages constantly in my mind between what I am doing and what I would either like to be doing, or what I should be doing. It is also the fight between what I am thinking about and what I should be thinking about. I am acutely aware of this conflict and it is not an imagined one. It is real, and it is really tiring.

The funny thing is, I like the way I operate because I think it demonstrates balance. I am not so completely intent on any one thing that other important things in my life get ignored. I take care of my responsibilities before I pamper to my sensibilities. I do the 'have-to' before the 'want to'. Business before pleasure. Duty before delight. Work comes before play.

And now I come at long last to the point. I have a dream: a fantasy which involves the abolition of the distinctions mentioned above. In the film Parenthood, Karen and Gill Buckman have a heated argument one afternoon when she reveals she's pregnant with their fourth child and he announces that he has quit his job. Finally he says he has to go and take his son to baseball practice. The discussion has resolved nothing, achieved nothing except to get both Karen and Gill even more upset than they were, so she wants him to stay and talk some more. She wants to sort it out. It's important to her and its important to Gill also but he has something else important to do. A competing responsibility. Gill says 'I have to go.' Karen replies with a question, 'Do you have to?' Gill says, 'My whole life is have to.'

There it is. My whole life is 'have to'. I sqeeze in a few 'want tos' here and there but I am driven by my responsibilities. For me this is a huge problem because I am not enjoying it. I don't want to ditch my responsibilities but I would like to enjoy them more. I wouldn't mind having some fun.

The solution is simple, at least theoretically. I must convert all the 'have tos' in my life into 'want tos'. That is my dream: the obliteration of the division between what I have to do and what I want to do. I don't even know if it's possible but I'm going to try.

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