The Brain is a Funny Old Bastard

The other weekend, my sacred two days off work were entirely ruined by a work email. A work email I read when I logged in on Friday evening. So, let’s pick this apart:

  1. Checking work email out of hours was a stupid thing to do
  2. My reaction to it was entirely my own responsibility

I can work on point 1 by simply not doing it – there’s no expectation for me to check my work inbox after 5:30pm. Point 2 however runs deeper. How do you stop the brain thinking about something you don’t want it to think about? Why did I rage for 48 hours straight, at the exclusion of enjoying time off with my family?

Because I’m a fucking idiot? Most likely.

The Stoics (and Shakespeare) teach us that there is nothing good or bad in life but thinking makes it so. Academically this is easy to accept, but like a lot of Stoic philosophy there’s a danger that it represents an aspiration rather than an action.

I made some headway by comparing the ‘bad thing’ that was the shitogram, with a real ‘bad thing’ like the real-life death or illness of a relative. This helped get it in perspective.

But, ultimately, my brain hates me and the feeling is mutual.

I have a missing tooth

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

A year or two back, a tooth finally gave up after a good 40 years of general neglect and abuse. I think it started off with a filling, that fell out. Then I didn’t go to the dentists for about 15 years because I was too poor/busy/lazy. Then that tooth needed a root canal. Then the side fell off. So I got a crown. That cost be £600. Then that fell off while I was eating a digestive biscuit. I kept it because, you know, it was £600.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

I used to have hobbies and a social life, once. I used to train martial arts and have an actual gym programme that I followed three times a week and I was in a band, and I had all my teeth.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

The remainder of the tooth, after the crown fell off, wasn’t salvageable. I hoped I could get away with a flat stump, but that had some kind of issue and it was getting infected, so the dentist pulled the whole thing out. It was a surprise. She said “it’s best to just pull it out.” I said, “Hmm yes, well I’ll make an appointment.” “Oh no, let’s just do it now,” said the dentist. So she just pulled it out without me really having much time to think about it. Probably for the best.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

Lockdown hasn’t really ended for me. Maybe it never will. Work expanded to fill all the spare time. Nothing has restarted, my life hasn’t got back to normal. My tooth hasn’t grown back.

I get up, I work, I go to bed.

I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore

There was a time when I was pissed off about pretty much everything, and wouldn’t hesitate to share my displeasure with the world through vaguely amusing social media ranting.

Then, I came to the cold realisation that apart from invoking unseen smirks or eye-rolls from people unfortunate enough to follow me on Facebook, I was achieving nothing.

(The problem is, if you extend this logic, there’s little point in doing anything).

So my new defaults to a perceived slight or aggravation became:

  1. Resigned ambivalence
  2. Quiet fury
  3. Stoic detachment

I’m thinking of changing it up next year, to get back to clumsily offending people I like by insulting Muse or Funko Pops or Peugeot cars whenever the whim takes me.

Will I feel any better? Probably not, but we must not go gentle into that good night, but rather rage, rage against the dying of the light. Because the light is undoubtedly dying, and I don’t want to run out of time to tell you how much David Walliams creeps me out, or how the Walking Dead has been shit since about Season 2.

A Sunny Day

A captive swan chained to the underground, she lay beneath the underpass. Cars passed above, family-full, sweets stuck to the upholstery. Unaware.

Three days had passed, enough for moss to consider her cheek. Not enough for the insects to have rehomed but soon.

Still, this day had cracked yolk-like and her alabaster shell warmed with it.

How much easier life was now.

You Are Not Your Job

Except, of course, you are.

You’ve acquired some level of skill or experience in doing something, to the point where businesses are prepared to give you money in exchange for your time doing it. It could be mental or physical rent, but you have a commodity to sell on the open market and here we are, capitalism a-go-go.

But really is this such a bad thing? Why, yes. No matter what I do now or have done for a job in the past, you can bet your ass I’d rather be doing something else. It doesn’t matter how much I get paid, or what my ‘career progression’ looks like, if I need to be paid in order to do something – then I probably don’t want to do it.

One of the problems about being a (part time) artist, one that produces art as a side-hustle to a ‘real job’ is that you worry about your art becoming your job. Would you still enjoy it, if you had to do it, in order to eat?

We’re lucky in modern Western society that we’re unlikely to face that particular conundrum in real life. Especially those of us with dependents.

But if someone asks me what I do, I don’t tell them I’m a senior sales rep at a car dealership. I tell them I’m a writer, actor and musician. That gets rid of them pretty quick, let me tell you.

The Double Whammy

I have the exquisite pleasure of suffering from both anxiety and depression. Sometimes, when the Gods smile upon me, I get both at the same time.

For me, anxiety manifests itself as eldritch dread in the core of my soul, where existence itself seems insurmountable, terrible and deadly.

My depression, on the other hand, is like an opaque bubble surrounding me, keeping me solidly disconnected and untouched by reality, enjoyment, happiness. A bit like having no 3G reception on your phone.

So you would think, wouldn’t you, that they would cancel each other out when they arrive at once – perhaps the mundane lead trenchcoat of depression would smother the electric shocks of panic.

But no – rather, I get anxious that my depression will never end until I do. I get depressed that my anxiety precludes me from living a real life full of simple pleasures thought about just enough and not too much.

A frisson I don’t want. A paradox that neither excites nor progresses me.

It’s all rather a bother.

One Like = One Prayer

Let me tell you something about social media – I am no good for it. Not “It’s no good for me,” which I realised years ago. Rather, I’m not one of the people making it better. I have zero respect for it, so I tend to post whatever comes into my head with no filter, which is all a jolly jape.

Until it isn’t.

Very occasionally I’ll post something mindless, then be brought back to reality by actually hurting someone’s feelings or genuinely offending someone, and that doesn’t feel too good, because I do have respect for actual human beings. Believe it or not.

So you see, I’m not quite bright enough to realise that social media is made up of mostly human beings (the rest being advertising bots and Russian democracy fiddling).

A strange game. The only way to win is not to play.

The world of work

This year, I’ve learned some interesting things about working for a living, mainly through stress, anxiety and good old fashioned despair. I’ll share them with you now – for free – so you can ignore them and subsequently find out yourself that I was right all along.

  1. The company does not care about you. If you work for someone else, that company does not give a shit about your physical, mental or financial wellbeing, because that’s not how (most) businesses work. They pay you as little mental or physical rent as they have to in order to maximise profits for the owners/shareholders
  2. Working hard is pointless unless it’s visible. Bang your own drum as hard as you can or you will be taken for granted
  3. Never work harder than you have to. Unless it’s your own company, and even then I think this applies
  4. Only work hard at things that matter. Put your effort into things that enrich and enliven your soul, because that’s the only guaranteed return you can count on.

Dreams for the Dying

Once, when I was a child, I dreamt my own death. I think I must have been 10 or 11, and in the dream I was sitting on my best friend’s parent’s bed. I felt myself falling and everything went black before I hit the ground. I knew I was dead and paradoxically I was aware it was the end and there was nothing after it.

This stayed with me for quite a while and I think about it quite a bit. It’s certainly not the strangest dream I’ve ever had – that award goes to the recurring nightly dream about the little people that lived in my bathroom, but that’s another blog post.

Dreams, science will tell you, are the brain defragging its hard drive after a hard day thinking. But of course, we know different don’t we?

In fact, dreams are liminal escapes into the true reality of being, unfettered by material reality, corporeality, physics (quantum or otherwise – who cares if it’s a wave or a particle when it’s got your first grade English teacher’s face) or that pesky logic bullshit we’re tied to.

Dreams are real. More real than your office job or what people think about your new haircut. Truly, the only place you’re free from other people and – critically – yourself.

They say you dream more often than you remember doing so. I wonder how many other times I’ve died in the real world.

I Am a Genius

It’s time I came to terms with something you’ve probably known for a while. I am a genius. Every single idea I’ve ever had has been brilliant, revolutionary and genre defining. If you disagree then you’re probably not smart enough to understand.

Everything I’ve ever produced has been of the utmost objective quality, there can be no denying this. Any negative reviews I’ve had have been in error. Any ambivalence towards my creative output is due to a lack of imagination in the viewer.

If I’ve ever said anything to offend you, then you were probably just being too sensitive and I was likely being ironic anyway. You need to lighten up.

Where a decision I’ve made seemed questionable, you have to understand that I’m amazing at seeing the bigger picture, and you are not. Don’t worry, it will all become clear in the end.

And if you disagree with any of the above, then you’re just a hater and I’m going to ignore you.