The anatomy of a torturer…

The anatomy of a torturer…

The worst wounds are often self-inflicted. People question their life journey far too much. Perhaps it’s generational, I find people of my generation and those from previous generations, certainly didn’t place the same importance on analysing what is wrong in life, only to then self-diagnose with that problem. One can sometimes get so introspective that the resultant journey up your own hole (Pardon my French) is far from a satisfactory outcome.

“Which road will I take? What path should I follow? Which direction will lead me to a life of happiness and fulfilment?” Let’s be honest, these are the wrong questions. If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter. Stop faffing about and pick a path. Take a step and begin a journey – any journey. Stop off along the way to have a pint and meet new people, but for the love of the Devine, stop procrastinating.

Happiness is the holy grail, but it’s like a rainbow that you can never quite get to. There is a clue in there for you. We all know you can’t touch the rainbow, so why are you wasting time messing about. Look at the rainbow, enjoy the damn thing and then see what follows. Happiness is not a destination. It’s part of the journey. It is the thing you encounter along the way and if you want more of it, stop focussing on trying to reach the unreachable and start to enjoy the rainbows along the way. The journey has no end point.

If you are watching the sky to see if you can find the source of the rainbow, you will miss the flowers at your feet. If you chose to give up on the search and watch your footfall so you don’t step in the next puddle, you’ll miss the moon and the stars. Over thinking can be dangerous, trust me, I know. Sometimes a pencil drawing is actually just a pencil, drawing.

I think I should write Max power’s big book of wisdom. It would be terrible.  I’d have chapters with titles like, sometimes you have to kill a chicken to save a dog or Marriage, Mourning and plastic forks. Nice pieces of nonscience, wrapped in rhetoric that sounds interesting and means nothing. I’d be good at that.

I literally don’t have a clue and it’s important to say my opening paragraphs were a mix of opinion and bullsh*t, not actual advice. Who’d take advice from me anyway. But that doesn’t mean I won’t go on… so as I was saying…

Dreaming is good. Fantasising is dodgy. I believe you need dreams to create ambition and ambition to come up with a plan to get where you want to go. If those plans don’t work out, make sure you’ve enjoyed the trip, that’s the key. Fantasising is different. That’s dreaming without any intention of doing anything about it and really in there, misery and disappointment lie.

If you dream of becoming something let’s keep it simple – you dream of being a binman or an astronaut – then that dream holds importance. Like I say dreams beget ambition and ambition begets a plan and plans.. well they sometimes fail but at least you will have learned something. A fantasy on the other hand, leaves you empty at the end. There is no joy without work. Illusions fade and imagined joy without ever trying to find a way to it, is the recipe for unhappiness.

I am generally fairly happy, but not all the time. My natural state is to be melancholic. I was immediately drawn to the opening lines of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice as a teenager as I fully connected with the lines.

In sooth, I know not why I am so sad: It wearies me; you say it wearies you; but how I caught it, found it, came by it, what stuff ’tis made of, wherein ’tis born, I am yet to learn; And such a want-wit sadness makes of me, that I have much ado to know myself.

Yeah that’s me I thought and to be fair it often is. But I don’t let that get in the way of my happiness.  These last few weeks have felt tougher than most. It has been a pretty rough auld year to be fair, but some days…well it gets to you.

Normally I can kick it with a plan to do something or go somewhere. A small-scale dream as it were. Dreams don’t all have to be big you know. My little dream might save me from myself and I’d get back on the road and start looking at what’s around me on the way. The path to where I want to go is scattered with moments of happiness and when I have nowhere to go, that can be more of a challenge. Sometimes one has to be patient that’s all.

You see I am made funny. I am unique, not like you or him or her. But that being said, I do have some things in common with the rest of humanity. Most of us are a little careless with ourselves. There can be a tendency to inflict pain on ourselves unnecessarily. We are our own torturers in many cases. But what does that look like? I can’t speak for anyone else, like I said, I am unique. But I know my make up. I have my own card well and truly marked.

I think too hard and quickly wrap each thought in sorrow. I get to see what it might be, before unwrapping it again and only then do I seek the joy in the gift I have just given myself. Some things delight instinctively, but they are special things. I delight in my loved ones and their smiles but everything else needs re-presenting so I can find the joy in the sorrow. Now this may sound odd if not downright crazy, but it helps me weave fresh paths to explore and isn’t happiness the path, not the destination.

The trouble with destinations is that they mark the end of something and one has to start all over again. If unsatisfactory, disappointment can feel like oblivion, so maybe the trick is to make each destination something less, waypoints perhaps, somewhere to stop along the way as opposed as something final. After all, what are dreams if they are finite, what are hopes if they are not enough. There is often less, but always more and as long as you are breathing, there is always a chance to take an alternate path if the journey isn’t going the way you had hoped.

Still, I am a bit fed up to say the least. Enthusiasm is in a drawer somewhere beneath me at my desk and I am finding it hard to be bothered opening it. But never fear, I have a smiley face that covers that and I have such a sharp mouth I will make someone else laugh so they won’t notice. By the time anyone figures it out, I will have found something fresh to delight in on my journey and the sun will shine again. That’s just the way of it.

It’s never about the money until you have none, it’s never about the love until it’s gone. It’s never lonely unless you are and it’s never found before it’s lost. I am one of the lucky sorrows who has found a way to cheat my melancholic inclination, the thief of delight. Perhaps it’s all bravado, but it works for me. The problem is of course, that not everyone has been blessed with my curse of survival and some are finding these trying times far too much to manage.

When a caterpillar transforms to become a butterfly, in that last stage, if you were to try and help the butterfly by cutting open the cocoon the butterfly would not survive. It is the struggle to free itself that enables a blood supply to the wings and without the struggle, it will not not be able to fly.

When we are protected from struggle, we never learn how to stretch our wings. On occassion we overprotect or cosset our children to protect them from pain, but some of that pain is a vital learning process that helps create a coping mechanism when things go wrong.

Love is a peculiar thing and sometimes loving our children requires us to let them fall and pick themselves up off the ground. How often have you see a child fall and the first thing they do is to look at the parent to see how they should react. Should they carry on, or run crying for help for even the slightest of grazes? The answer is in how the parent reacts.

I once blogged about riding my bike in a place that my mother told me not to go. When I went arse over head, I ended up with 4 inches of chrome brake handle embedded in my stomach. Alone and with no real option to do anything other than help myself, I pulled it out. I still remember the pain and the schlucking sound. Fortunately, I didn’t hit anything vital, but the important thing was that I was 13 years old and already, I had enough self-reliance to make a decision and get up and on with it. I never told my mother.

My childhood was often tough, but I am grateful for the times I climbed trees and fell, crashed bikes, tumbled off railings that I tried to walk like a tightrope, knocked out teeth and grazed elbows and knees in the pursuit of some pointless game or challenge, and took on some bigger fella I should have known better than to have been tackling, even if I did get away with it all.

I learned how to evaluate risk. I understood my limitations and constantly pushed them. When I competed in sport, I was lucky not to live in this time where it seems everyone is a winner, as I learned as much from losing as I did from winning. I remember losing a race in school and my mother’s response was to tell me that at least now I knew that I had to work harder next time if I wanted to win. I can’t imagine a mother today telling her small child such a thing, but I had no problem with what she said. She was offering good advice which I took and I won my next race.

Now all these years on, the lessons learned then, the structure behind the chaos in my head, allows me to fall back on the knowledge that I can pick myself up and carry on. Sometimes I need to start on a new path, sometimes I just ned to keep going, but either way I know not to give up and for that understanding I am truly grateful.

The real me, the melancholy me, has a mind too sharp for its own good, always over analysing, over complicating, never silent, never quiet or still, always tormenting and torturing me despite my best efforts. I imagine the inside of my head like one of those anatomical drawings of the human body with its vascular network layered over the lymphatic system, a tangle of wire-like nonsense at first glance. Only I see the confusion and mass of connections ten-fold, one hundred-fold, a scribble of ink on the page between the outline of my skull. The anatomy of a torturer as it were.

The other me, the real me for all to see, stays on a path, any path on my journey through life and stops along to way to have a coffee or a pint, is grateful for the rainbows and the flowers at my feet and so it should ever be. Happiness is all around; you just need to remember that sometimes you are just looking for it in the wrong place. It is within your grasp just out of your eyeline. Adjust your gaze. Take a breath, focus on the good that you see and you’ll trip over little nuggets of joy. Sit on a boulder of laughter and soak it in. Stop counting the raindrops, splash in the puddles instead.

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4 thoughts on “The anatomy of a torturer…

  1. It’s one of the toughest things today to be a grandparent and watch as the youngsters are coddled and slobbered over. I’m not sure the pendulum will ever swing back, but I worry about the future and how they are ever going to cope with coming second, or a disappointment or a catastrophe. We had it tougher in Ireland I guess. Scrams from the garden? The Irish mother “What is my little fecker up to now, I’ll tan his butt.” Today, screams from the garden “Oh no! My poor little darling, who is hurting him? Do you have the number for a good lawyer?” Says it all.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Another brilliant blog post from you, Patrick. I so relate to what you write. I think perhaps many of us do in these testing times. I love your honesty… and truth be told I rather love your melancholy. I have my own experience of that – a place always available and sometimes all too present. Thank you for your wise words. And I rather like ‘nonscience’… close enough to ‘nonsense’ but never that.

    Liked by 1 person

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