In what feels like a different lifetime these 3Rs were the pillars of self imposed isolation that kept me sane. Things that even in my time starved world, I selfishly made time for, solely for my own good. Why then have my tenacious turbos that drove these stalled so dramatically, causing my well-being to lurch to such a shuddering halt. Can it be that time really is speeding up? Are there more demands on time than before? Or is it my inability to prioritise myself? And does this all mean I have officially gone insane? Most importantly is any of this recoverable? These defence mechanisms were nurtured over decades as self protection and without them I am naked, bereft. My rocks of stability. Just gone. What the hell happened?
For me Reading came first, long before the other two twin towers of “mid life crisis” enabled salvation came along. But reading I discovered and fell in love with early. Not reading to “learn & grow”, yet another modern day on trend executive fad, but reading to enjoy. I can live without being “curious”, I quite simply enjoy being elevated to a different place by tales of the ordinary and extraordinary, and by words and phrases of beauty and meaning. For me reading is a release not a self improvement tool.
In fact my lack of curiosity and enthusiasm for learning and self improvement through reading has caused more than a few raised eyebrows and sideways glances around the executive table as I’ve stumbled up the lottery that is the career progression pathway. Particularly when I’ve openly portrayed these doubts and views in the supposed “safe space” of the lead team off-site. We were furtively debating what fastidious words and phrases we should pick to represent the company values, in the blind and vain hope that it would inspire and attract the unbothered masses, rather than just be rightly derided as an empty and wasteful box ticking exercise that proved once again how out of touch leadership were. The group debate sparked for a good 30 minutes on the vacuous value battle between “curious” and “learner”, when in an unplanned and unexpected outburst of honesty I proclaimed. “What if people don’t want to learn or be curious? What if they are just happy doing their job the best they can?” And then fatally. “That’s how I feel. I hate reading to learn and I’m not curious at all”. Cue awkward silence and patronising forced smiles.
No, my reading is more of a release. An elevation. Genre, for want of a pretentious word, doesn’t really matter too much. Sure I avoid Mills and Boon and have grown out of Stephen King, but other than that variety really is the spice of life in my book. I rattle through history, sports, lurid autobiography, sci fi, classics, and in particular classy modern day humorous fiction. Particularly if it can get me a bit teary. My eye for the “right” book is still there, as attested by the growing bedside pile, but for some reason the strength to pick one up and do more than leaf the opening pages and return it to the dusty pile has gone.
The running still happens, but now feels like a half hearted chore, which I pursue doggedly to prove my resilience rather than to scale previous lofty peaks of achievement, or to unlock the glorious release from monotony and stress that it’s bloody well meant to achieve. I continue to try. I even signed up for another marathon to force my efforts up a notch. That worked well. Off out for my first seriously long training run 6 weeks out and I tripped out the front door and smashed my kneecap on the conveniently positioned concrete border in the front garden. I carefully nursed myself back to health by stubbornly refusing any medical support or opinion, only to suffer a triple refusal from my body (ankle, chest and lower back if you must know), immediately after my final surge ramped up training plan flicked into gear. I guess the running will need to be replaced by sulking.
Then there’s the writing. Hundreds of witty first lines or paragraphs on ground breaking subjects of interest, extolling my unique perspective on the world at large. All of these potential masterpieces getting the same nurturing and care, and follow through to completion. Namely zip. Hence the blank blog for a year, seemingly now only being checked out by identify fraudsters in far flung lands waiting and hoping for me to drop in my bank account details by mistake. With the exception of my one avid reader in the US (thanks!). Even this paltry effort has only got this far as I’ve just paid my annual WordPress subs.
Why is it that nothing lasts? The euphoria that I initially got from these three relatively normal pursuits was very real and very strong. Life changing in fact. Only a few years on and it feels like I’ve wasted it. Time, focus, effort, other people – all are just excuses. Unless you are a fervent believer in reincarnation then we are only here once, and not for long. Why is it so hard to do what we want, and need, to do. Whilst the human mind is a wonderful, complex, and extravagant tool, it is also as frustrating as hell. It gives and it takes. Not always evenly. Yet the sad truth is that it all in our hands. Sure there are medical diagnostics and in this day and age there is rightly more focus, sympathy and support for the struggles of the mind. Gone are the days of people being locked in darkened rooms, even though self imposed restrictions can still provide this as an outcome. We all search for the positives, the uplifting, the release from the daily grind. Yet no one finds this all the time. If they say they do, then they are kidding themselves and trying to impress. Contentment is both elusive and exclusive.
So, what to do about it. The only answer I can come up with is to go again. Chase the seemingly lost or misplaced dream. Make the time again. Focus. Prioritise. Don’t let contentment drift off beyond the horizon to take its place in the land of “what might have been”. And practice what you preach.
I’ve taken my own medicine and I am now reading a novel for the first time in a couple of years. It’s now at the stage that I can’t put it down. Perhaps there is hope after all. I downgraded to the half marathon, strapped up the ankle, took a shed load of painkillers and hobbled through the rain. Completed, drenched and proud. Also in pain. As for the writing, well, the ideas are still there, as for the execution?…I guess you’ll be the judge.