As I was getting into bed last night I thought about how no matter what I write, people will isolate that which presses their buttons, and will interpret what I’ve said according to the way they see life. Also, when I have something to say and I introduce something provocative people will be diverted from the main theme. Well I guess we all have choices in this, writers and readers alike.
You know the way your mind wanders down the road and takes miscellaneous turnings? Somehow I ended up mulling over the way bankruptcy has opened up my life. It’s funny. I said to a friend the other day I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy, but the truth is I’m glad it happened and I think I’ve benefitted in ways that are downright miraculous. All in all I really believe I’m one of the lucky ones.
Bankruptcy strips you of all the props that society uses to measure the value of a person – and to make us feel safe. But those props stifle your soul if you’ve compromised your aspirational self to acquire them. The part of you that dreams. Basically you do work that doesn’t fulfill you so you can buy a decent house, a decent car, go on holiday…
It’s complicated, because you also want to provide for your children. You stifle your dreams because they’re too painful, but they press upon you. You long for a freedom you can barely express, let alone actively go after. It’s too scary to take a risk because you believe the props are what stimulate you, excite you, keep you alive, make your life worth living. Keep you and your children safe – that’s a big one.
Part of the props are all the rules – be this be that, don’t be this don’t be that. If you don’t follow the rules you won’t be successful, your life will go nowhere, you’ll be irresponsible. If you’re not successful or responsible you’re utterly worthless and might as well be dead. Very believable rules with seemingly life-threatening consequences if you break them.
Some people can live within those boundaries, and seem to achieve fulfillment. But I couldn’t. When I left school, I spent about 12 years trying to articulate what my longing for inner freedom meant, then trying to become a musician and a writer. I didn’t even know how to support myself adequately, so I ended up a wreck at age 30. I’d been away from home and country all that time, and when I returned I found a therapist who said “you have to learn how to make money”. So did my family.
So I chucked my dreams out and went for the money. Maybe then they’ll all love and accept me. Built a business from scratch. Within ten years I was doing pretty well considering where I’d come from. But there was nothing left of me inside. I bought the idea that the props are the most important thing. And discovered within myself a whole library of rules and regulations I didn’t know I lived by. I had everything I needed to make a success of the prop-life.
Except that it ate me alive.
So, painful and terrifying as it has been at times and sometimes still is; hard as it’s been to deal with my own ignorance, several betrayals, the shame and humiliation of being dependent, my unhealthy relationship with my mother – my bankruptcy did me a favor. And much as there were many external factors seemingly beyond my control, at the core I believe a part of me was saying “enough. I can’t do this any more. I can’t go after money for its own sake. Whatever it takes, I’m going to let my aspirational self have its day”.
So I went back to school in a way. The school of what makes life truly meaningful for me. How to achieve it and also experience a degree of material reward, but never at the cost of my soul. Never that again. Ever.
Still trying to figure it out. It’s a work in progress.