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Saturday, May 26

Time To Think

You can add "The Long Way Down" by Nick Hornby to my list of books read on this holiday. I spent the entire day in the company of his cast of characters - a bunch of suicidal self-deluding types who discover something over the course of some 257 pages of narrative.

I think I probably most fear being self-deluding. If I'm not clear about my own mind and real life around me, then what chance do I have? It's something which I think I've prided myself upon. The constant taking stock of the situation. Constant reviewing of where I am and where it can be improved. However, writing this now, I know that that's not entirely true. I know that I often get an assumption locked into my head and refuse to shift it long beyond its natural end. Here's an example. Despite all the evidence to suggest that it's not the optimal plan, I still believe that I'll stay in my current bedroom when I come to rent out my house. I'm starting to doubt that at the moment, but it's an example of why I probably do give head-space to ideas that are not necessarily the right ideas, not necessarily the solutions I'd produce have given all the facts now at my disposal, yet I still believe these ideas to be perfect.

I think I'm big enough to change a decision once it's been questioned properly.

I know I believe better of myself than is probably justified.

Here's the problem, though. Do I do a constant fundamental reality check all the time and end up crushing my spirit with some of life's harsher realities? Or, do I give myself the scope to foster some slightly ridiculous aspirations in the hope that I might actually achieve more than seems possible? I quite like the latter approach, maybe tempered a little by knowing the difference between the stuff I think I can do and the stuff I KNOW I can do.

I often look at the story of Don Quixote for inspiration. I'd like to say that I read, digested, dissected and otherwise imbued myself with Cervantes' original text. Given that it was in Spanish, perhaps I should claim that I devoured the English translation. In truth, I got about 100 or so pages into it and got lost. However, I'm a fan of the musical adaption of it - "Man of La Mancha". So let's assume that the basic essence of the story made it across to the musical vesion of it. Let's assume that, in the story, a storyteller starts to explain how an old man goes a bit mad and adopts the manner of a knight, that he sees a simple shaving basin as a helmet that will give him strength and that he sees a wretched wench as a refined lady. Let's assume that he's "cured" of this and then, as he lays on his death bed, the woman, whom he saw as a lady, wishes he could be uncured, so that the optimism his condition brought with it could be restored. The moral of the story - sometimes seeing the world as you wish it were could be better than seeing it for what it is.

I forget whether I've harped on on this blog about this theme before. I think I'm amazed when I meet people who behave in what is termed a "Quixotic" manner. It turns out that, if you have a strong enough idea, people are often loathe to challenge you. As a result, you can sometimes succeed when an impartial observer might reasonably deduce that you couldn't possibly succeed. In fact, they may even judge your success as a failure by any reasonable standard, yet somehow it's a success to you.

I wish I had such cockiness to plough ahead with this sort of blatant disregard for the facts. To be a stand-up comedian, I have to plough onto the stage with enough optimism to make the audience laugh, even though I may well have looked at them and come to the conclusion that it's impossible to relate to them. So maybe I have some of these techniques. Maybe my aspirations in relation to my comic "career" are all about selective blindness to my limitations on stage. Maybe it's the other way around. Maybe I would have gotten further if I were more pushy and more capable of telling people amazing things about what I'd do for them if only they'd capitulate and let me prove myself.

Thing is, I hate high expectations - they're seldom met in my opinion. Better I should cause a drop in expectations and then hop over the small box hedging that results, rather than build the expectations like the unassailable of a well-guarded castle. The similies and metaphors are running away with me here, but you get the idea.

So, there has been much time for reflection as I've sat around in Jerusalem doing various shades of bugger all over the last few days. I've contemplated what the hell I'm doing in life. I've thought about work, home, family, stand-up, plumbing (this wasn't entirely my choice), money, successes, failures and what I want out of life.

I wish I had more answers than I started with. In truth, I think I have fewer. I think that I'm a bit more aware of the brutal truth that I, in general, lead quite a privileged life. I'm aware that this life of privilege is linked intrinsically with my line of work and that I'm not incredibly satisfied with anything in life at the moment. I know that everything I want is a hotbed of contradictions. For example, I don't want to be alone in the way that I am as a single man living alone, but I don't really want to be living in a massive house-share - the one I'm racing to create, nor do I particularly want the absence of a girlfriend, nor the demands on my freedom to do what I do that the average girlfriend would... what? impose? that's not it... cost? that's closer. Everything in life comes at a cost, and I think I want things for which I'm not prepared to pay the cost.

That's a problem. Being the exception to the rule is not actually available to me. I'm not any more special than any of the people I know. I may do things that make me stand out in some way. I'm probably one of the very few computer-programmer/landlord/stand-up comedian/musical-writers in the world. So what? I can't have it all without it all conflicting in some horrendous way.

On top of this is the extra dimension of family. It's good to have a family. It's good to make a fuss of my 18 month old niece. It's good to sit around at my father's expense in nice hotels getting meals and company. Yet... well, I can't imagine any of my girlfriends past fitting into the environment I've flitted into these last few days. I can't imagine choosing a girlfriend on the basis of her resilience to this environment and I don't know if I might ever meet, at random, someone who would. In fact, I don't know that the sum total of all my neuroses, activities, commitments and interests could ever either appeal to, or avoid alienating any other living human being asked to join their life with mine.

It's different being a friend. You can be there for friend-time and don't have to be there alongside the rest of the stuff.

Life partners are for life, and maybe I can compromise, or reduce, my involvement with certain things which might act as a barrier to a relationship, but all of it? or completely? I don't know. I think I'm too selfish. I want it all...

Everything in life comes at a cost. Sadly, it would appear that the principal cost of the life I'm heading into is the absence of partnership and my own sanity. That's sort of sad. At least my lunacy will be entertaining for me (and hopefully other people who get to see me as I float between venues doing what I call comedy). However, it seems like my attitude towards relationships - I'm a serial monogamist - is at loggerheads with my attitude towards life - do it all and do it now.

If I could write a shopping list for everything I'd look for in a girlfriend, it would be full of contradictions. Moreover, I think I'd probably instantly dislike anyone who fit the bill. More probably, they'd not find me worth the effort. This is, itself, a contradiction, since item one on the list would be "someone who really really likes me and thinks I'm worth the effort". Damned contradictions.

If ever there were a better argument for the use of prostitutes - don't worry, I'm still fundamentally against that (as far as I myself might be included in such a thing - the wider debate is nothing to do with me) - I haven't seen one. It seems like there are several versions of me co-existing in the same life. Each one needs a different sort of partnership and they're all contradictory. So, a series of prostitutes with specialities, might suit... and could be diarised like I diarise gigs.

Or maybe a series of open relationships with open-minded women... who would have to be available when I need them... To agree to such a thing, these people would clearly be unhinged and that's going to get messy.

So. No.

In summary, having no delusions sucks. I'm going to die alone at some point.

I'd better make the most of the time before that happens. This probably means playing this year according to the nearest thing I have to a plan, and then doing some serious assumption-reviewing around September/October. The lot. Maybe something will occur to me in the next few months. Maybe I'll have an idea of what's the next thing for me to do.

I can tell you this. Things can't continue as they have been over the last few months indefinitely.

Although this particular bit of blether started with reference to a book about some people who had considered suicide, I'm at totally the other end of the spectrum. Though I'm concerned about my long-term future, I'm concerned about making it a good one, not ducking out. It pains me to believe that I've no room in my life for wife/kids/domestic bliss, but I think I may just have to accept that for now. It's certainly not possible this year and I can't see how it could ever come without so many conflicts that it destroys one or other of the two key adults involved.

As a selfish surviving sort of a fellow, I'm rather keen not to be destroyed myself. I quite like myself. I could try harder to be a better me, but generally speaking, I'm not too bad an egg.

Or maybe I'm kidding myself.

Self-delusion stand-up comedian kids himself. It's a good headline and maybe a good closer.

In summary. Life's weird.

Taxi for Frieze!


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