“…is not dying. The frightening thing is not living.” ~ T. Bone Burnett
We have this little white, dry erase marker board on our fridge. Two actually, but that is beside the point. Essentially we use them to write down items in lists, you know like groceries that need getting and chores that need doing. This is not an uncommon thing.
The one that I was thinking about when I started this I used to have on a different fridge, in a different house, and mostly it was used as place to write down thoughts and sayings. Quotes like the snippet of song used as the title and intro to this post. Which, by the way, is written on that little white board now. It is not something I have done in a while and a couple of weeks ago, when I heard that line, the refrain to a song, I wrote it on the board. It seemed important.
Since, I read it and think about it every day. It is important. It is like when you are doing a puzzle and you find a particular piece that you can tell is going to play a major part in pulling the whole thing together… you just don’t know yet quite where it fits. So you set it aside, in a prominent place, and keep working on the puzzle, checking back in with it now and again to see if it makes any more sense in the bigger picture.
There is another saying on our fridge, this one on a small business card-like piece of card stock. This too has been with me for some time. I do not think about it as often, but still do on a regular basis. This one is not so much of a mystery to me; I worked it into my life a long time ago. This saying, from my days studying Aikido all those years ago, says, “Breathing is the bridge between the mind and the body.” I leave it on the fridge because it is always good to have a reminder now and again. Breathing too, is important.
I have had trouble breathing today. Not in some esoteric, mystical sense, but as an inconsistently recurring side effect of this maddeningly persistent illness I have been trying to manage. I am familiar with the feeling. I spent a lot of time as a child having trouble breathing. It is an unsettling experience.
~ ~ ~
Over the years, I have scribbled thoughts and random doodles in notebooks. I have them stashed here and there, some on book shelves, most in boxes. There are two running around the house now, one from around this time last year and another that is active. The one from last year should just get put away somewhere, as it was more of an experiment where I tried to journal each morning, something that I have never been very good at. It is mostly just random thoughts that do not really go anywhere, kind of like looking back at the nonsense I post on facebook over the years.
In the active one, I have been trying to put down ideas, generally no longer than a page. Thoughts that I have been batting around that I want to capture in order to ponder them more at some later date. As yet, I have not gone back through any of them, but I still have a general sense of the rough narrative that is playing out.
One of the themes that those writings have been working towards is the question of relation between self and others. Forgive, me, I know that is both vague and seemingly simplistically obvious at the same time. That is why it is just a theme at this point… because I am not sure where it is leading me yet. It has been bugging me a lot though.
The form this question has been playing with today revolves around the idea of happiness. To clarify, as best I can at the moment, it has been asking after the value of happiness for the self as weighed against happiness of the group.
Let me back up a bit.
The sole comment I received after yesterday’s blog post was from the Wife. It was sort of off-hand, almost a non sequitur, and essentially stated that, to certain Catholics (I presume the more devout ones…), marriage is viewed as a vocation. Perhaps akin to the life of a priest, or a nun.
Still not quite sure how to respond, but the more snarky side of me thought, “OK, husband, father, I like those things. Deal. I will do that then.” Which of course I am already doing, but I think you know what I mean… or maybe it will become clearer as this rambles along.
~ ~ ~
So then, today, I can’t breathe well, the Wife thinks that cleaning the house will help, and she may well be right, but the dogs were making me nuts and I was in no condition to help and the Boy was mostly underfoot and so I opted to load him into the stroller and head out for some different air, hoping that it might help repair the faltering bridge.
Turns out, this was a good plan. He was mellow and watched the world go by, I could focus on breathing and putting one foot in front of the other and thinking.
It went something like this…
I really do not like my job. Sort of a given. I was very hesitant to accept it, when offered it this time last year. In truth I did not really even want to apply for it, but did so mostly out of a compulsion towards responsibility. We had just very recently adopted a newborn after all. Carrying that sense of responsibility forward, simply quitting is an awkward option, at least without having something to replace it with.
But that is where the question of happiness comes in, in particular in regards to the question I have been fumbling with; that being, what is the relation of self to others? I am well aware that my unhappiness, often manifested as depression, is in many ways detrimental to others, and in this case “others” particularly means the Wife and Boy. So, would I be happier not continually participating in the undesirable activity of working a job I really no longer want anything to do with?
In some ways, likely, yes. In others, well, what of that innate sense of responsibility? What role am I to then play in regard to the “others”? Well, there is the husband/father bit… Of course, that does not really pay quite the same. But there are benefits to be sure. Even so, I am going to do those jobs regardless, they are not actually jobs. The question I have to ask myself is, how well am I doing them now, burdened as I am with the other? I do not know how to not bring it home, along with stress and anxiety and distraction and an unhealthy response of attempting to drink it away.
I have ideas of what would replace that work, but do not want to give voice to them quite yet.
A quandary to be sure. I am trying to find out, but am still not quite sure what all this looks like… I do know that there is that puzzle piece that keeps my attention, just have to figure out where it fits I guess.