succeed, procreate, die (without too much pain on the way)

At this age (my age), this stage in life (mine), you’re supposed to have found your context. A place to settle down; mentally, emotionally, socially, financially, geographically… you mention it. If you haven’t, then where are you going? You’re supposed to be going somewhere. You’re supposed to be looking — with increasing desperation — for that context, and there are expectations on what it ought to be. Perhaps it depends a little on where you live: here it sometimes seems to me everything revolves around professional and economic success, and — by this time in life — success in founding and keeping a family. Is life different in Säffle?

Granted, the aforementioned success is not the context I want, it’s not the context I seek, although I don’t know what to seek. I know it’s self-obsessed. It’s self-indulgent. I’m complaining about things I feel neither I nor anyone else have a right to complain about. If you choose not to lead a perfectly ordinary and sane life, that is a choice, too — it has benefits and costs and you have to accept everything that comes along with it, also any bad sides, as a part of the deal. But sometimes I experience a kind of tiredness at having no context. Of living outside any context. Of having to invent worlds to create a context. I keep thinking I should move away, to see if everything is better in the forests with the trees and the silence. Instead of these humans that are around me; humans who move around like ghosts. Maybe I’m simply in the wrong place. Or I live in the wrong times.

People here are so terribly ambitious, socially and financially. That’s all there seems to be: first, professional success. Working too many hours a day to achieve… I don’t even know what. Perhaps it’s about keeping boredom at bay, what do I know. (I’m rarely bored.) Anyway, then there’s that one compulsory thing you have to do: procreate. It comes a little later than success at work, but people my age are already settled, settled for good. It’s all that matters. Settled. For good. When people have those children, they have secured their context. So you have these ambitious people, who then turn into pram-pushing people. And that’s all there is in this world. I can’t even explain what my life looks like to people because it’s so far out there it’s almost incomprehensible from the perspective of normality. And the whole idea is: if you don’t have these things and aspects of life that other people have, you’re an odd human being if you don’t desire these things. You need to at least desire them. That’s the minimum requirement. Then you can be understood. Otherwise, not.

I sometimes think: there used to be more options, is that not right? Career, full-time job, marriage, children, that was not all there was, was it?  There did use to exist people who chose to lead their lives differently, didn’t there? Not today, not in this society, at least not here.

I assume this feeling of living outside any context ought to decrease with age. Instead, it seems to be increasing in force. You’re supposed to be in the process of finding your context at 20-25 and to have found it at 35. You’re not supposed to agonize over it, for sure. You’re supposed to desire a certain context. Even if you’re a space alien, you should settle down and pretend to be human. And if you can’t, at least emulate what the human beings desire, and you’ll have a suitable, proper, decent context. Dissatisfactory, I’m sure. But a context to exist in.

Oh, for dog’s sake, you moron, I say to myself, stop being so immature and try to conform to the demands of society today. I guess I could have done so, if I had made the choices I would have loathed to make, and if I’d made them ten years ago. I guess I could have forced myself into that kind of lifestyle I never wanted and still don’t want. From every point of view — except one: the not wanting it — it would have been good, wouldn’t it?

There’s that big problem: you don’t belong to the family you’re born into and you’re unable to create anything else for yourself. Not unable perhaps, except… yes, in a certain way, unable. Because there are no options — career, children, that’s all there is. There’s that and there’s being odd. You have to force yourself to be able to do that, or you’ll never belong. And I’m sure that even if you do force yourself, there will still be that nagging feeling: you don’t belong, you don’t belong, you come from outer space, you have no place among the humans, you’re no more than a fraud.

So I don’t go about life lying too much about these things. Correction: I do lie about these things when necessary, I do try to pretend being someone I’m not. Having seen my parents, my brother, his girlfriend for a couple of hours for three days in a row, I just couldn’t do it anymore. Today, I took a long walk instead, alone with mr Dog. Thinking to myself I should distance myself from them further — I don’t belong. They should reject me. I’m not saying that lightly. But they should. I never belonged there as a child either, and my brother, clearly, can adapt to the demands of society. He grew up, he grew past me. He will be able to change diapers without desperately feeling that his brain is atrophying. I never would be able to. (It’s still a great fear, by the way: they come home with that baby everybody will adore. Except the only person in the world who is still afraid of children. How can I be? Well, I am.) He’s so perfectly adapted to any context he finds himself in. He wouldn’t wander around life quite aimlessly toying with the idea of writing… devoid of ambition to succeed socially, financially and in every other conceivable way. And everyone here is exactly like that. I fell asleep on the sofa. I was exhausted.

I keep hoping imaginary lives will come real.

I take my walks, long for silence, long for nature, I desire to go away, I read my books (and worry about blindness because then everything would be over), I wish the characters of books would come alive, because in every way they seem so much easier to be around. I keep banging my head against reality. I’m not sure what I want, people or silence. I’m not sure any kind of combination has any potential whatsoever to come true; my bets are against it.

Some days I wish a place like the ethereal kiosk was real, that it existed in the physical world. But it couldn’t survive the demands of reality, the harsh corners, the unrelentlessness of the facts of this world.

11 thoughts on “succeed, procreate, die (without too much pain on the way)

  1. Thoreau asked himself , ‘Does everybody have to march to the same drum-beat?’, and went off to live by Walden Pond with the water birds and spiders for company.

    Maybe many of the people who seem to lead such conventional lives are having similar thoughts and feelings to you but they also lack the ability to force themselves to behave differently. They can’t be anyone else any more than you can.

    Some birds always fly ahead of, behind or alongside the flock. Or they fly alone. Does this make their life any less valuable?

    Saffle sounds like just the place someone conventional should go to live.

    For a lone wolf of the steppes like you the capital city is probably best, where you can be among people but not of them.

    I guess the silence of the primeval forest will always call to you.

    My son has exceptionally good social skills, but sometimes when he comes to see me he doesn’t speak at all, reads my Daily Telegraph, and falls asleep on the sofa, while his wife tells me about all the family stuff.
    Now he really is an alien. He can hear the radiators resonating in the living room when I play the guitar, detect the presence of coriander in food at 30 paces and does a very spooky version of being able to read people’s thoughts.

    Here’s a nice poem by a young Tania Davis

    ‘And what about me!’ Says Mr.Dog.’ It’s all very well for her to want to bury herself in Saffle but I like Stockholm with all its familiar smells and exotic lady dogs. I bet the lady dogs in Saffle don’t even know the meaning of exotic!’.

    And finally, (I apologise in advance for behaving so much like a ‘Papa’ – my daughter calls me this when i have been giving out my ‘wisdom’ to her.), finally, – allow for the fact that your family may love you just the way you are!

  2. There’s a CAT in that youtube video, falk!! /mr Dog, shocked sleepless.

    Actually, it was kind of funny, the name Säffle just popped into my mind, I’ve never been there. Then I thought there’s nothing fun to link to about Säffle, but I googled and found the tourist board site and found it quite funny. You’re right, though, the lady dogs in Säffle are probably much less exotic, not to speak of less sophisticated than the city ladies.

    I will long for the primeval forest. Were I there, I’d long for the city, I’m sure. At least at times.

    Thank you. For your wisdom, too. And compassion. /a

  3. Damn Alicia, you write superbly, you cut to the quick, you hit nerves. Wonderful. (You should be published)

  4. No fear of big questions here! Alicia recently inspired me to read the lovely little novel “Källan” by Walter Ljungquist, a swedish anthroposophist. The title could be translated as “The Well” but also as “The Source”. Three children tries to find a mysterious well on a confusing and enlightening, treacherous and idyllic walk though forests and marshes. It could also be read as a search for a flow of meaning. I’m sure the joyfulness of a dog could be of help in finding that.

  5. Into the bunny-burrows! /mr Dog. <- what would happen if mr Dog wrote a canineosophical version of 'Källan', one wonders… not without some trepidation.

    'It could also be read as a search for a flow of meaning.'

    Yes!

  6. For some reason, that comment got stuck in moderation. Probably the positive mention of the cat’s taste. Says mr D.

    I tried reading Nesbit as a child; I’m not sure I got throught the book (don’t know which one it was either). Waldorf folks like Nesbit, don’t they? She’s on the short list of approved literature…

  7. Hm, I don’t know if Waldorf recommends that book, but it really is a great book. I loved it when I was little and my son loved it too.

  8. Five Children and It does feature a fairy, but it doesn’t act much like Waldorf fairies do. It’s a very ornery fairy.

  9. I had to google (because I had the book in swedish, and I didn’t remember the title: in swedish it’s called: Five children and a sand-troll!). A pity I’ve probably thrown it away then, because I might like it now. I thought I hated Le Petit Prince too, out of principle. I had to get out of waldorf to even be able to read it.

    With one exception, The Secret Garden. Btw, I happened upon this article today:
    http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2012/04/09/secret-gardens/

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