Allow me to indulge in that most ancient of blog openings:
“I have recently had to make a difficult decision…”
I welcome the hurling of rotten fruit and unmentionables in my direction for having committed that sentence to the world, but the truth is, I have had to recently make a very difficult decision. In short, I had to choose between a short-term gain against what may (potentially… in the most ephemeral of senses) be a long-term reward. With both these weights balanced precariously on the palms of my mind, I found myself resorting to manic behaviors and other terrible vices of self-indulgent-pity.
Though, if I may subvert the expectations of readers on this outdated format, I am not about to discuss how I came to my decision. I know I have made the right one and that is it. I went about it in a way that made me feel very proud of myself and my breeding. When the evening came, I sat down and had a cup of tea with a whole spoon of sugar because I felt that damn special.
No, unfortunately for all of you, these posts have become something of an emotional and intellectual septic tank. Whenever I feel like the will to be a good person is escaping me, I sit down and squeeze another page or two of this stuff out to remind myself that a moral life is hard, has no rewards, but is still the one we are obliged to pursue nonetheless.
We pursue the moral life not for validation, but rather, fleeting moments of clarity. These keep our conscious ledgers clean, and inform our belief that the world is a little bit better for having us in it, as opposed to one more species of rare turtle.
Myself and the turtles digress.
What I want to discuss is the overpowering feeling of anxiety that came with having to make the decision. Actually, what I want to discuss is the weird and manic behavior that started to pour out of me like I was a baptismal font of insecurity. Every child dunked in me by the priest would come up wondering what they did wrong, how they did it wrong and in which direction the best comfort eating could be had.
Thankfully, the minutiae of my behavior is not important. What is important was the fact that, isolated and alone with this big decision, I found myself becoming wildly erratic in my thinking and crippled when I had to interact meaningfully with my peers.
Which – now that the decision has passed and I feel like a semblance of control has been returned to me – I can look back on and ruminate on what it all means.
I mean… *waves hands around ambiguously* what did I learn?
A great deal of fuss has been made lately over the exponential rise in crippling disorders such as depression and anxiety: this new-age Pantheon is populated by social disorders that loom over a lot of us from their mountain. Keeping to the metaphor, the sacrifices of our lives are often at the alters of our insecurities, and the new gods of anxiety eat hungrily at our habits and vices.
People – myself whole-heartedly included – are behaving worse.
We are now, more than ever, in a constant state of elasticated fear. The things that we have to worry about multiply daily and extend far beyond the ordinary. Once, there was a time when you needed to keep tabs on your work and the fidelity of your partner. Now, crisis upon crisis can pour into your eyes while you are lying in bed trying to look up the spelling of the word “congratulations.”
The well-intentioned have petitioned that in our high-stress lives we are to come to accept the erratic behaviors of those around us as a product of this terrifyingly-loud-and-close mess of a life. We are nobly told that we should “normalize” and “accept” conditions of mania associated with social disorders and their symptoms. I cannot disagree with this sentiment: I know for a fact that my friends and family have been incredibly tolerant of my abhorrent behavior during my worst of times. Yet, I cannot help but think that there is an entire element to this conversation that is lacking: an earnest undertaking to become more responsible for being a shit person when the chips are down.
We all need support. Fact. We all need empathy. Another fact. Yet we also need to acknowledge that those around us live altogether separate lives whose responsibilities to us and our behavior are limited. At the end of the day, no matter how understanding someone else may be of our circumstances, we are responsible for our behavior.
I cannot help but conclude that in a world that has done so much to show support and empathy for our fellow man, the weight of personal responsibility has been shifted from the individual to the collective.
This is a disaster.
Now, this is not the philosophy of martyrdom. Prostrating yourself before your loved-ones for your behavior is unbecoming and cheapens the love and support they have given you when you behaved like you didn’t deserve it. However, I have found with my personal experience that I am learning to accept more and more what it meant to others the way I had behaved and then inch my way towards personal responsibility for it. This may manifest in many ways: for some it could be simply saying, “I am sorry for what I did.” For others, acknowledging your repeat offences and seeking to correct them by way of counselling and therapy. The spectrum is wide, but the point is not to accept that others are to carry the burden of your behavior without your help.
Life is hard. The secret that nobody tells us is that it always has been, just in different ways. I would have hated to live in a world before scientific explanation. Can you imagine the anxiety of living in the knowledge that the elemental gods you prayed to were as equally capricious as people? The point is, the world doesn’t improve culturally; it just changes. Yesterday’s causes for anxiety, stress and concern will mount and breed into tomorrow’s worries. These won’t be bigger or more powerful, just novel for a time before changing yet again.
If there is one thing I truly hate about myself, it is my own absence of self-awareness. I have found the most pressingly difficult moments in my life have been when someone I love and respect has opened up to me about who they think I am. These moments are electrifying in their emotional rawness, and the sensation of having saliva drain from your throat is their exclusive domain. Yet when these conversations have happened, I have gained new insight into how others have been affected by me. Often this is in stark contrast to how I imagined my relationship with others was. In some cases, I had lost friends to become that more self-aware and responsible for myself. In other, more kind instances, the moment of clarity afforded to me by such a revelation allowed me to forge a stronger bond with those around me.
I know that I will never get it right. Such is the nature of human interaction and the mirrors of the mind we hold up to ourselves. However, if there is one undertaking I have made in recent times, it is to accept that no matter how supportive and tolerant those around me may be when I am at my weakest, I still need to be accountable.
I do not believe this shout into the chasm of self-awareness is pointless. A fools errand, much like being a good person, comes with little reward. Though, some primal sense of morality has been speaking to me lately and I don’t think I would do well to ignore it. Maybe, it says, I would be happier being accountable. Maybe, it continues, I have been unhappy because I have not.