Wouldn’t it be nice


I woke this morning with my demons gleefully doing their best to destroy me. I tried for about 15 minutes to silence them, but today they were pretty fierce in their attack — so, I got up and made coffee.

Then, I went — don’t ask me why — in search of my old journals. Started reading some stuff I’d written over 20 years ago. Needless to say that was embarrassing.

And that’s when the Beach Boys made their appearance. Wouldn’t it be nice, they sang, and then I filled in the rest.

Wouldn’t it be nice to go back and tell that younger version of yourself to not be so fucking self-indulgent, self-centred and selfish? Most of what I read that I’d written those long years ago I didn’t even remember — and it made me embarrassed that I’d bothered to write it at all.

So that makes me wonder if, perhaps, I’ve completely misunderstood the purpose of journaling. While I always thought it was a way of expressing your innermost thoughts, the stuff you don’t tell even your best friend, and a way of purging the mind and soul of your darkest secrets, it turns out that reading that stuff later on is a tad unsettling.

I read about troubles in my marriage, parenting faux-pas on a grand scale, and bitter arguments with friends. I read about how I had handled these events, and I was appalled at how badly I had actually mishandled them.

Now, here I sit, sipping coffee that is too weak, because, when your demons send you tilting you forget how much coffee to put in the filter, feeling like the world’s worst human being. All because of some words I wrote a long time ago.

These feelings will pass. The immediate urge I had to pick up my phone and call or text apologies to those I felt I had harmed is passing. Can you imagine the surprise and discomfort following through on that would have caused. More angst!

What should I do with all those old journals? The first thought to come to mind is to burn them. I sure as hell don’t want another visit in those fraught pages. Do I want anyone reading those thoughts after I’ve died? What if I were to drop dead today?

I know that not everything I put in my journals was sad, bad or depressing, it just happened that that is what I stumbled upon today. Still, revisiting the past like that is a severe jolt.

In a way, I suppose, it’s a good thing.

Looking back on that younger version of myself I can see that despite my mistakes, my vanities, my frailties I was trying. Trying to understand myself and those I love and trying, most of all to do the right thing.

Hopefully, those that matter most in my life know that, and hopefully it is enough.

And, hopefully, the next time my demons come to visit I can tell them to take a flying leap. The past is in the past; my journals are proof of that.



February 1, 2010

The days are just flying by! 

I’m reminded once again how fleeting time is.  Every heartbeat is a moment lived, and it’s how you spend those heartbeats that matters.  Hearts can stop beating, without warning, it’s important to remember that. 

We are constantly bombarded with messages about living life to its fullest, living life-like each day is your last, never going to bed angry because that might be the last experience you have with someone and would you want that to be their last experience of you; using the ‘good stuff’ instead of saving it and never getting around to using it at all and what a sad, sad waste that is, etc., etc., etc.  I am always drawn to these messages, especially the ones that come attached to breathtaking photography.  They make me question whether I’m living my life to the best of my abilities, and whether I’m doing justice to the life I’ve been granted.

I know I’m not the only sap who’s emotions and thoughts are manipulated by these kinds of messages, they tend to resonate — deeply — with lots of other people.  Lately, I’ve begun to wonder how much stress this adds to our lives.  It seems that this is a fairy-tale standard of goodness against which we are constantly having to measure ourselves. 

Anger, frustration, fear, sadness, depression — all these are feelings and states of being which we are told are undesirable and which, if we only focus on love and positive thoughts, can be banished from our lives.  I’m beginning to wonder if that’s really all that wise.

Most great change comes about because of negative feelings.  Persecution, discrimination, and human rights violations tends to lead people to demonstrate and protest which then leads to conflict or war, political change, and new laws protecting the rights and freedoms of people and other living beings.  The desire for something better is the driving force, the motivation for attaining feelings that can/should be positive.

This is true even in our personal relationships.  Someone in an abusive relationship is going to have a hard time seeing what’s good in their life when their reality is a nightmare of fear, grief and depression.  Those same dark feelings, however, can be the catalyst that inspires someone to claw their way out of darkness into light. 

But, being told–constantly–that feeling angry instead of forgiving, envious instead of satisfied, oppressed instead of valued, bitter instead of grateful, is bad, is just as harmful as believing that you deserve only what you have.  Everyone deserves to be happy, that’s true, but living with your head in a cloud, thinking warm fuzzy thoughts isn’t going to get you there. 

I believe that all this motivational ‘stuff’ floating around out there is causing an epidemic of societal anxiety.  It’s leading people to constantly question the validity of their lives and to find them constantly lacking. 

It’s forcing people to go in to debt as they strive for ‘meaningful’ experiences like trips to exotic lands in pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, or, an authentic cappuccino.  It causes husbands and wives to walk away from marriages and families because they’re not feeling ‘valued’ or ‘appreciated’ instead of trying to work out their problems — because, you know, why should you have to spend even one moment being sad or unhappy, when the ‘perfect’ relationship is out there just waiting for you? 

It leads parents to spoil their children by giving them everything instead of making them work for what they want.  What if, for instance, the last thought little Johnny or little Janey ever had of you was that you’d said no to their request for a new Nintendo DS or to their demand that they be allowed to stay out partying with their friends?  How sad would that be? 

This guilt being heaped on us, be it through the internet, television, radio, books and seminars is debilitating.  A perfect example of this is the story that surfaced about the kids on a cruise just after the disaster in Haiti.  These kids had probably planned and saved and worked hard for that trip (well some of them were probably sent by over-indulgent parents dealing with guilt issues, but, anyway. . .) and, through no fault of their own, their cruise path led them past Haiti. 

So, they did what kids on a cruise would do — they enjoyed themselves.  All of a sudden the media gets wind of it and suddenly these kids and the cruise line are painted as unfeeling, thoughtless, selfish, arrogant, every negative adjective that could be used to describe them, was. 

How, I ask is that right?  Should the cruise line stop sailing past Haiti because the island was devasted by earthquakes?  After all, it’s still there.  Putting blinders on or changing sea routes isn’t going to change that.  And, it’s not like nothing has been done to help Haiti.  $6 billion dollars worth of aid, so far, has made it to the island, but asking or expecting the entire rest of the world to wear black and go in to mourning is plainly ludicrous. 

Another good example of how this whole morality wave has turned into a tsunami is the Jay Leno/Conan O’Brien issue.  Personally, I say: who cares?  But, a large proportion of the North American population, including Oprah, thinks this is something somehow definitive to our culture.  What a load of crap!  I don’t care why Jay Leno did what he did, and I don’t care how Conan O’Brien feels about it.  Both of them make obscene amounts of money and live lives none of us could even hope to imagine.  Are they good people?  Are they deserving of what they have?  Only they can answer that, and really why should it matter to me, or anyone else?

It’s not surprising that since the Tiger Woods scandal, the attempted bombing of an airplane over Christmas, and all the other tragedies and travesties that have happened in the past month that there has been a proliferation of ‘feel good, live your life for the moment’ type of messages flooding my inbox. 

I appreciate the sentiment, just not the guilt that seems to follow.  I think from now on, I’m just going to listen to my heart and stop paying attention to all the pretty messages that somehow make me feel like my life is not good enough.  Because, believe me, I enjoy every heartbeat of it.