Thursday, 23 November 2017

A Patch of Green

Other people lead such interesting lives. Sometimes I think, and it has been pointed out also, that maybe I had my one shot and I decided not to pursue it. Is that it then? I get one chance whilst others get many more. Notch up more than one significant other and a handful of kids; legally assume different surnames and gain in-and-ex-laws. True, I didn't want that. I always thought I'd have a career and would ultimately choose that over partnership of any kind. Well, the career never materialised and I don't think it will in later life, so all that remains is this single unit in a one-bedroomed apartment, in the centre of town, whereas once I had a sniff of a more permanent tie. And it was just a sniff, but still it could have gone either way I suppose if we'd communicated better. If...for so many incommunicable reasons which had they been voiced he wouldn't have understood anyway. Probably. The split was mutual, so he said, but I broke it off, and so that doubt has always stayed because I was a cow to do it on Valentine's Day. And by phone.
I know, what a day to do it on and what a way to do it. I've felt a mild guilt about it ever since and it was years ago, and I mean years – almost nine years, just one year short of a decade, though I'm sure you can all do the maths without me typing it out.
He's not the one that got away or that I let go. No, it's not like that. Because it didn't last long enough. But I think it was a turning point or a crossroads, or something, because I distinctly remember seeing a life, there for the taking, flashing before my eyes and, at the same time, feeling my individuality was being threatened. I knew exactly how it would unfold if I allowed myself to go down that path.
Maybe, that's what you have to go through to get to somewhere different. Duh. Yeah, the path I get, but not the feeling of Whoa, this is too much! and wondering where in all this I actually was. So I strayed back to the grass where there was a sign which said 'Keep Off', and that's where I've stayed, keeping others away. Not, however, through stubbornness and now habit, well, maybe just a little, but largely so I can live uncensored. I wouldn't if there was another sharing the same living space. If I felt watched. Because then the shoulders would always be tight and the back tensed, and the mind wouldn't settle to anything. Reading, my one true love, would be curtailed, and attention given over to other arrangements or trivial matters. Worrying for two, or more and not one.
Perhaps I'm wrong. Certainly my own grandparents and parents managed, and stayed contentedly married in spite of any differences in their characters. Or maybe, they went through an alteration and made the best of it. Compromised. Perhaps, the problem is I'm just too unyielding...though I think it's more to do with ownership: of myself. Because I've never got beyond that phase of what's going on here? where your thoughts get a little screwy and your usual person gets imprisoned i.e. you react differently in order to please whilst inside you're thinking: what? why am I doing this? who is this person? It freaks me out. There's nothing silly-grin-happy about it, not that I can see. Because although I have my faults I like me. At home anyway.
This is my place, where I don't have to be vigilant, well, not about my person, because, yes, I am that self-aware amongst others, where I try hard to present as 'normal' and not as strange. It's gruelling putting on that kind of act. If there was no respite from everything and everyone, if I couldn't control who or what had access, for how long for and when, if at all, I'd cross that border to lunacy. And so a certain distance would be a requirement if partnered up.
There's that if again. Because I think if you've always been insular and perfectly content to forego a closer level of intimacy to safeguard that privacy then attempts to go against the grain are a mental and emotional strain. Unless, of course, you're either very wilful or lucky, and can put those self-medicating comforts aside. It's a big ask.
So, if you can't, should everything else, including you, fall by the wayside? Well, no, why should it? and yet, here I still sit on this same patch of green, concerned just not enough to flag passing cars.

Picture credit: Reverie, 1890, Robert Lewis Reid

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Lazy Sweets

Call me old-fashioned, though you don't actually need to now for I've saved you the task, and here comes the but, BUT what is happening to us as a nation? I don't know about anywhere else as I don't travel very far from my own front door (I don't have a back yard, or a balcony, or a box window where I could grow my own herbs) but, and it's not my imagination, some of us are goddamn lazy. Or getting increasingly and ludicrously so. And I think it's shameful.
I'm still somebody that goes out to the shops with a list of what I need for the week ahead. I walk there and back, returning weighed down with packed bags, the contents of which might have come from more than one store. I don't mean to make myself sound like a martyr because I think nothing of it: it's how I've always done things and known them to be done, and I do shop online, just not for food, nor items I can easily acquire through traipsing the local high street or shopping centre.
What really gets my goat (pardon the expression. Where does it come from anyway?), is the on-demand services. Note the following real-life examples: Person V fancies a yoghurt but doesn't have any in and so pays for a banana-flavoured pot to be taxied to her; Person X needs deodorant but instead of visiting the local pharmacy orders online (thank you radio commentator Jeremy Vine!) for a white van man to bring that item, that solitary item, to him; and Persons Y & Z want a fish and chip supper, but even though there's a shop across the road they place their order over the phone and get it hand-delivered. It's all nonsense!
Nobody is that time-poor! Yet more and more of us are becoming precious about getting our individual (and largely non-essential) needs met. What do I care if someone chooses to fritter their money away in this manner? I don't per se , but I do question what it says about us as a society: about our high expectations and lack of self-management, not to mention discipline. What exactly are we freeing up this time for? To sit in front of a box set, to check our Twitter feed, to upload selfies, and generally loaf. And why is it suddenly so difficult to a) get ourselves organised as in plan ahead and stick to it, and b) delay our gratification? How would we, the generations born long after the Second World War, cope in times of rationing should they come again? If suddenly one day all these add-ons got taken away?
Perhaps that's the issue, we've gone too far the other way. We have too much choice and too many firms willing to cater to our increasing demands which forces others to offer the same. And then there's our attitudinal change which is, to be blunt: I want what I want when I want it, and I'll get it too, that pressurizes and drives this supply model.
It's almost communistic in style, except instead of workers walking out on their owner-bosses and preventing trade, consumers are making trade by demanding zero hour workers save them more time and physical effort; both of which, you have to admit, have already been greatly improved by modern contraptions. Aren't we pushing it a bit wanting and expecting more? Because more labour and energy-saving devices is not necessarily good. Haven't we already seen proof of that, with us as the evidence, living as we now do against the clock? And what about skills? Okay, you might be able to code (I can't do that!), but can you cook from scratch? More to the point, can you use a tin-opener? Not all have ring-pulls and even if they do some of those fail.
Yes, I'm being facetious, but where's the satisfaction in these convenience measures? Where's the real gratification in any of it? It's too instantaneous. And none of it, by the way, saves time. You could walk to the shops and back in the time it takes you to shop online, or whip up a meal that's ready before your takeaway, ordered forty-five minutes ago, gets delivered.
What it amounts to is: minimal effort for a reward which won't keep on giving, because from the beginning you haven't been fully engaged with the process of acquiring that item. In a sense, it's meaningless; if it wasn't, you wouldn't immediately search for another gratifying hit elsewhere.

Picture credit: Tempting Sweet, 1924, Robert Lewis Reid

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The School of Hard Knocks

When I overhear people talk of dreams I think they mean of the sleeping kind. You know, the type where the mind that runs your waking life is taking a well-earned snooze, so that everything that has happened or is about to happen gets mashed together to produce a moving montage which you'll either watch from afar like a paying customer at a picture show or be the lead in, although at times you'll question it's you for this person doesn't act or look like you, and so, depending whether this version of you or the dream itself is good or bad, you might try to wake earlier than the running time or drag it out until the credits roll.
Pulling a dream back to you never seems to work once you've semi-woken. So frustrating! when you try and can't, particularly if for some reason your sleep was disturbed. And good dreams, it seems, can't be relived like a film. They play differently as if you've been given, without your conscious knowledge, a choice of beginnings, middles and endings, where none you've selected are exactly the same as before which means you never again get to star in or view the very edit you want. That cut becomes a ghostly memory, then scene shots and stills, until even those fade to be replaced by other night dreams.
But whilst these are the sorts of dreams that interest me, they're not the dreams people speak of. Daily. To friends, to family, in workplaces, in schools, in the general domain of space: public or cyber. Though there are a few who instead choose to harbour a long-held idea or ambition within the walls of their chest or a locked chamber, in the mind or a physical dwelling which only they know of or use. Some hold both types of dreams: those 'safe' to utter (and stand by) in public, and those which are thought best to stay hidden.
Dreams made public are made so in a manner much like a town crier, as if a hand-bell is rung and a booming voice makes the announcement: Einstein to explore time! A poor example because I'm sure, though I can't be certain, his idea was never announced like that or at all before his theory of relativity was developed. Nowadays however, such an public declaration would be likely made before the deed is done. Or even planned. Because to put it simply: airtime equals sponsorship, support and motivation. Sometimes, globally. From far-flung peoples and places, so that essentially as the ball's now rolling...and rolling...you have to try to follow through. Perhaps even die in your attempts to. The pressure to exceed at something you said you were going to do can make you do crazy things, instead of more sensibly backing down. But that is a whole other type of fish, a euphemism that Einstein would doubtless agree with.
Because what we all want, or are being told we must have is a richer experience. And to do that we must make all our dreams come alive. We must believe in ourselves and in their potential, which isn't in itself a bad idea if it was just used as a way to boost our self-confidence and creativity, but it doesn't stop there because these dreams have to be reached and crossed off. Call me a cynic or a pessimist, but in being so public we've created loopholes which, no surprises here, organisations are taking advantage of. The banking industry, for instance, promotes realising your dreams so they can lend you money, and take more off you in the process. Often, we think it's win-win, but is it? Dreams aren't that simple. For them to really succeed you also need a business-minded head and not just a visionary brain. And well, sometimes we're over-ambitious, which means you can fail to see the drawbacks or the pitfalls. It's good to have goals, but have goals that are attainable, or maybe set more modest steps to the bigger picture.
Life has many hard lessons and one of them is that dreams of this nature rarely come true nor are they, I think, meant to. Quiet dreams, although less mentioned and striven for, have a different power, whereby they still inspire but don't need to materialise, for their power lies in their ethereal form. A dream possessed only in thought is more than enough for some people.
It's always there, unrealised, acting as a companion to disappointments and making dark days brighter, as well as helping you (in self-help speak) to be the 'Best You' your capabilities will allow. Actualised, a dream may not be all you hoped and from that you may never recover.

Picture credit: Albert Einstein (motivational poster)