Are we all broken?

“Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.”

I put the words above in one of my old posts, and this week several things have happened that made them ‘re-resonate’ with me (is that a word? I guess not. anyway…)

A few things happened this week that got me thinking

My wife arranged a party for about a thousand babies and their mothers at our apartment – a party that, it seemed, would split the very fabric of space and time with its guestlist. Some of the people my wife hangs out with aren’t good friends, and some of them aren’t nice (or at least not to my unsophisticated male eye – female friendships sometimes confuse me). She also seems to make a lot of effort without always getting much appreciation in return. But in all the places we’ve lived, in all the ‘mums groups’ or ‘baby groups’ she’s joined she always seems to do it: put on these parties and lunches and nights out, inviting and smiling and being all… nice.  I wouldn’t have the patience or the generosity to keep doing it, which certainly reminds me why I married her – she’s infinitely nicer than I am. It also explains why she now has lots of friends and I have hardly any.

Anyway, we were talking about her big party and about why she kept organising them despite all of the stress and all the hassle, and she said she just likes to keep busy. If she isn’t working, then she’s doing charity work, if it’s not charity work, it’s arranging gigantic parties, and if it’s not parties it’s pets. Or another baby (note to self: order more party supplies).

It occurred to me there was something interesting here. A good friend of mine – and one of my favorite (i.e most appreciative) readers recently announced they were taking some time between jobs and were looking to go to India and do yoga, or meditation, or something meaningful. Another friend did the same this month. When I quit my own job a few years ago, I spent my time in the study of bagua – a cripplingly complicated Chinese martial art used by… er… M Night Shymalan for his awful movie ‘Last Airbender’ (seriously. never watch it.). Anyway, a friend of mine spends his time similarly immersed in Judo, another plays rugby etc etc.

Is it just me, or is something missing? 

Martial arts, yoga retreats, party arrangement, me writing this blog… is it just me or are we all just looking for something that’s missing? Something to fill a hole that we can’t quite define but which sits nonetheless like a nagging toothache the dentist can’t treat? I don’t know. It might be modern life – where work now seems to squeeze out any hope of balance in our lives – but are we all just looking for something to make us whole, to make us happy? To fix us and help us and give us self worth?

For most of my life I thought there were 2 types of people – there were people like me, who had this… emptiness, this nagging tooth-ache-ness within them; and then there were normal people. My Dad always struck me as normal – rational, reliable, organised and strong. My best friend the same – someone who, even as kids just always seemed to have it together in a way that I never could and who had a self assuredness I’d have killed for. The guy I wanted to be – carefree and confident and full of charisma. Everyone’s friend and the life and soul of the party (even if he had the same hairdo as his mum).

Maybe it’s not just me. Which is reassuring.

Now I’ve grown up I’ve come to see there’s more to people than you realize – they’re complicated in ways you never totally understand. My Dad is just a man, the same as any man – he has weaknesses and fears and issues and problems like anyone else. He just works on them and does his best – the way I try for my kids. As for my friend, he is the guy I always thought he was – a legend. But this week I realized he’s not immune to worry or stress or doubt or insecurity. He just maybe hides it better. And sometimes I get so wrapped up in my own self-obsession I don’t notice what’s around me or what’s going on with others.

Anyway – this week I saw that the yoga, the parties, the problems of others… they all mean one thing: maybe I’m not alone. The quote from Lao-Tzu above says we shouldn’t be searching so hard and should just be content with what we are (yet another reason I’m the worst Taoist on earth). But maybe I’m not the only one weird and unformed and unsure of myself. Maybe it’s normal to feel this uncertainty and to search for something more out of life. I don’t know, but it’s a reassuring thought and one I felt like sharing.

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4 Responses to Are we all broken?

  1. Philip says:

    Seeing into darkness is clarity. Knowing how to yield is strength. Use your own light and return to the source of light. This is called practising eternity. Tao Te Ching 52. Perhaps we are desperate for meaning, for some hope that we are not insignificant in the scheme of things. Who knows? All we can do is love and be kind to others and especially to ourselves when we observe ourselves lost and bewildered. I am not sure we should be content with who we are, if we unhappy, it seems right to me to keep seeking, but gently, with soft awareness of leaves falling. Philip

  2. Lisa Wilson says:

    Loving the blog Doug! Your dad has never been “just a man” though; he’s always been my hero! X

  3. roweeee says:

    I have been fighting this gaping hole much of my life. Doing my writing and photography helps but I have particularly found solace playing the violin, which apparently is the instrument which most resembles the human voice. I finally found my soul song.
    The other thing I found about the violin is that the bowing seems a bit like the movements in Tai Chi. Well, I went to one class of Tai Chi so I’m no expert.
    Helping others also helps to fill the gap.Best wishes,

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