I’m listening to Elliot Smith’s “Miss Misery”. What a songwriter! Lately, I listen to this guy like every day, not lying to you, and that’s just something I do until I’m through with it and need something new that makes me feel things, then a new music crisis begins and after a finite number of these cycles, I die (of old age I hope).
But that has nothing to do with the title, although I have to say, lying down in my bed, listening to this playlist, and writing in my blog is quite cathartic and probably the beginning of a moment’s rest in an otherwise hectic day.
So yesterday I lost almost a full day’s work because of a major system update applied to my laptop that changed the way I work quite drastically, changes are hard to assimilate especially when you’ve built a lot around the way things were. And today, I had a third and final interview for a job I really, really want, and I felt so nervous! So today I had to work like a motherfucker, focused, fast, and relentlessly in a new, weird environment to make up for the time lost and be able to squeeze 1+ hours in the afternoon for my interview. The interview was a KILLER one, I felt like a mouse trapped by a very playful and evil cat who won’t just let it die; and to my surprise, it seems they will make an offer (I can’t wait for the news!).
After all of this, I’m just beat.
But there are projects I’ve been postponing for years, my art odyssey, sailing the seas of creativity, learning the technique and the craft from scratch while working on bringing to life concepts that have been locked deep inside the wardrobe of my secret wishes. So I face a bit of difficulty here: “Do I go find a way to please myself after a hard day? Or do I invest some time in the disciplines I require to master if I’m ever to make it as an artist?”
It’s not an easy choice, also it is neither completely right nor completely wrong. I could not image nor endure an existence that is made up of 100% discipline, virtue, and rigor. I aim to enjoy my existence and if everything is serious, scripted, and unflexible that will simply not happen. But then again, what’s the right time for each? Me being a 36-year-old, my life doesn’t get any easier, my responsibilities increase as my kid grows up, my career advances, and I introduce personal projects into the huge amount of matters that require attention, time, and money.
So I realize that although it’s perfectly acceptable to take time to rest after a hard day, it is not the best choice when compared to my aspirations and their size. So I chose to stick to my decision of keeping a daily discipline: writing and studying classical guitar. It wasn’t epic folks, it wasn’t full of heroism nor did a muse come to me and showed me how valuable my effort was: it sucked. My musical practice came very slow and didn’t sound so well, my writing wasn’t fluent at all and a truck cut the power cabling in my residential area so when I was finally gaining some writing momentum it all went dark.
So discipline is such, precisely because it happens in spite of feelings and events, but only if you’re willing to make it happen. Hence the title of the blog post.
Owning your suffering
Who wants to hear about suffering, right? I mean, isn’t it the very thing we avoid like the plague, and isn’t this avoidance the reason why we do a lot of what we do consciously or not?
But suffering is a reality, and realities are there to be seen, acknowledged, and dealt with. The opposite is one of many forms of denial, but the denial to see what exists and is evident is probably one of the worst abilities we have as humans; denial has buried entire lives decades before their bodies hit the grave.
So, if we face the reality and the constant possibility of suffering, the question is: how do we manage it? Well, we use it, and we seek to accommodate it so that in the means possible it happens in our terms and within our parameters; and when we accomplish this, that suffering has a much deeper meaning to us and produces less discomfort as well.
Let me give you a very mundane example:
“Rent is due, you’re behind and you know your landlord may want to evict you soon. Now, you know you’re tired, work is not going as good as you wish and you’re a bit down about the whole situation, you choose to ignore the risk and wish for the best; you read in some bullshit book that prosperity is manifested through positive thinking and thus, your efforts to resolve the situation are mental and sadly soon enough they prove to be useless as you actually get kicked out. Now there’s quite some suffering coming your way.
The alternate version of this is, you actually have a bike you use to go to work and run your errands; you realize that things are going south and on top of that, your landlord seems not to be tolerant of your rent payments any longer. You choose to download a delivery app and enroll in the system; Uber or any of those apps, you know you’re going to make some money there and it may take you a couple of months to resolve the whole situation and it’s going to also mean finishing your shift to work even more, taking shit you don’t care about to people you don’t know. You go a speak to the landlord, negotiate some installments for the amount due and commit to full payment of the current month as soon as you’re paid. You’re buying yourself two months of tiredness and suffering.”
So what’s the big difference between these two scenarios?
In the second scenario, you acknowledge the monster below the carpet, look it in the eye and in all its awfulness, and decide to deal with it. If you’re able to control it, you will indeed suffer and probably regret some actions that put you in that position. But you also have a clear timeframe in sight, you won’t be having a great time but you won’t be humiliated and homeless by the end of the month.
In the first scenario, however, you’re thrown by someone else into uncertainty, things are already out of your hands and there’s potentially no end in sight for the storm that’s upon you.
That’s what I mean when I say “own your suffering”. And it’s a bit of a drastic scenario, but it illustrates the point.
For many years, I suffered the fact that my artistic light was shut down, denied by mundane life and obligations. No time to create, no freedom either, no funds to get an education, enslaved to my technical career because it’s what gets me money, growing older and older and I can go on with the list…
You know, I was so wrong in the way I viewed things, but it took me a long time to realize. I mean, there were some awful realities to face: yes, I didn’t have the support I needed to start early in the arts, I missed some opportunities as a young adult and I took responsibilities out of my own choice that ended up limiting my freedom to move. So yeah, I fucked it up, but in no way did it have to stay that way.
As it turns out, the technical career I dedicated so much time and effort to, so that it would get me some money… guess what? It got me money! Not only that, but seniority gave me more flexible schedules and hence a way to organize my time more freely, and what about all the years lost? Not lost at all, it’s no secret that artists benefit much from suffering if they’re able to translate that into an art form worth appreciating, my life experience in other realms is a great source of knowledge for my books and songwriting and even the long wait, pushes me to be more decisive in my current efforts.
What will it all turn into in the end? Will I be a success? Will I go unnoticed?
Yeah, those thoughts are part of my daily anxiety, but I’ll tell you something after years of frustration and getting depressed because of this topic: I’d rather choose that risk of putting heart and soul into something that’s not as well received as I expect, than lowering my arms and adopting conformity with my current situation, and slowly grow bitter and bitter, feeling dreams are never meant to be fulfilled, that life is unfair, that other people had the opportunities I didn’t and so on… Become resentful, bitter…
No, I’ve known enough people like that, their lives are my definition of doom, imprisonment, and despair and it hurts me that so many folks with a huge potential just chose to give up way too early in life. But you know what? It’s their choice, they just allowed the default direction of the system to pull them and define them, they chose not to suffer the embarrassment of learning something as older students, the uncertainty of risking their grown-up stability for a dream, they chose to watch T.V, cook barbeques or party instead of building the vehicle that would take them out of the “unfair” existence they bitch so much about.
I’d rather fail with the full knowledge that I’ve chosen that pain, instead of waiting to see what my denial is bringing upon me, a pain I can’t control nor possibly revert.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not extrapolating a principle of general applicability out of my very specific life history. I’m applying ancient principles to my efforts in attaining very difficult goals, and this is what I want to communicate, for it may be just what you need to read today.
It may be that for many of you, this is a time to enjoy your family, your friends, your lover, a T.V series, travel, and entertainment. I don’t antagonize any of these in principle, it would make me a hypocrite as I’ve traveled many places, watched Breakin Bad about 4 times now, Death Note about 3 times, sung karaoke and danced with my wife and kid for hours, and have streamed the whole Death Stranding videogame via Twitch.
But I’m now facing a new stage, one that I could have had much earlier in my life and I would possibly be under less pressure now, but it is what it is. This is my time for discipline, effort, and suffering my belated dreams. And you know what? I’ve waited for this for many years and I intend to live it fully.
I do hope some of my struggles make nutritious food for thought, and if it seems to shed some light on a situation you’re going through, don’t ignore it, take that light and seek the monster’s lair for yourself; you may find out you’re more capable of dealing with it than you thought and just as I believe will happen in my case, it will not go unrewarded.
Remember: “Fortune favors the bold”.