Holding Ground

By Trick Slattery

By Trick Slattery

Some crazy stuff has happened recently.

I’ve been forced to assess myself and my choices. Despite the sense that the decisions that I have made to rebuild my life, realign my priorities and rediscover my truest desires have been the best things I’ve done in my life so far, circumstances and the “real world” have come knocking at my door. I have had to open it, allowing Reality itself in. It hasn’t been an easy meeting, so far, but, like all challenges, it’s worth facing.

Materially, the situation here at base camp has changed. Financial stability is no longer provided by my partner, and the choices that I’ve made have created something of a financial pit that we are now struggling to dig ourselves out of. The stress and anxiety that comes with such a situation is impossible to quantify; it is simply a feeling, of suffocation, dread, and after a time, a bizarre sense of hopelessness that distracts you from what you know you should be doing, and tranquillizes you into a state of fearful reluctance to take action. Fundamentally, it consumes a disproportionate amount of your mental energy, and so you begin to spend the time that you have been gifted with, worrying about something that you know has no importance to the health of your human soul, but remains, nonetheless, an issue that you must attend to in order to exist within the system that your human world has created as a means to manage, and survive.

Money isn’t a terrible thing, in my eyes – it is simply a currency that dictates your position within a superficial system of categorisation that purports to validate your worth as a human being. My frustration stems from the fact that it seems necessary to compromise on your creative aspirations, to some degree, if you are to survive within this superficial system. As I sit at the computer, processing the amount of these intangible numbers on a page we need to live, I begin to find, against my will, that I am questioning whether my so called creative aspirations are really worth this stress. And that’s the beginning, isn’t it? It’s the beginning of the tragic descent back into the place that I wanted so much to escape, escaped, and am now contemplating a return to. What a compromise of belief that would be, to go back. Still, it might be easier than keeping my dreams alive.

Or would it?

In many ways, it’s difficult to really stick to living the life that you want to live, if that way of life doesn’t match the consumerist ideology that you’ve grown up with. When you let yourself be free of the desire to simply have for the sake of having, and focus yourself on the simple question of how you wish to spend your time, you realise the terrifying truth that without the illusion of money to chase, you don’t really have anything concrete to aim for. With the loss of desire for money, comes the loss of the desire of “stuff” that it brings, and you are left with terrifying fundamental questions about what really gets you up in the morning. When the desire for money dies, you are seeking something impossible to quantify. You’re seeking something, but you don’t really know what. You just know that you don’t feel the need to desperately clamber up a mountain of computers, cars, mobile phones and houses. You know that you need to survive within a system, and it is almost frustrating that you can’t do the things that you might want to do without a mobile phone or a computer, because you can see it for the bullshit and distraction from real life that it invites, but you have to retain some perspective. Life isn’t meant to be sunshine, fresh air and the freedom to simply do what you want. To make stuff, whether or not anyone is ever prepared to pay for your creations, just because that’s how you love to spend time. It seems sad to me that how you like to spend your time doesn’t matter, really. It’s how much money you can earn in the precious time that you’ve been given to satisfy the superficial requirements of the modern world that matters above and beyond everything else – and, if you’re really lucky, you’ll lose all sense of yourself and pursue the consumption of things rather than face the ultimate challenge of looking yourself in the eye and asking what it is that you truly want. If you’re lucky, you’ll only feel dissatisfied at the end when you’re about to go, and you realise that you spent all of your life trying to satisfy the requirements of a system that doesn’t give a shit about you at all, and won’t bring you any peace for those precious final moments.

That’s my biggest fear. To look back on my life and feel that it was all a waste. That I was too afraid to stand my ground and live the way that I wanted to. That I compromised. To face Death, knowing that I didn’t have the courage to truly live Life. That would be the biggest failure of all.

My perspective on my position in the material world has been challenged hugely over the last 18 months. I have gone from being a high flyer in the material world, to practically being a zero earner. I have allowed myself to be supported by someone for the first time, and discovered how much of my personal identity and sense of self was tied into the perception that my job created of me within the construct of society and the amount of money (or numbers on a computer screen) that came into my bank account on the last day of every month. At my lowest moments, I’ve sat alone, feeling worthless because of how people who know me, and even those who don’t, could perceive my choices. Despite my values, and the fire I have to express myself as an actor, as a writer, and as a human being, I have found myself wondering whether I should go back to the safety of the suffocation, a life of clocking in and out, and the painful regularity of numbers entering my bank account at the same point of every month of what would be a tragically monotonous existence. But, it would be a safe one, without the wolves sniffing at the door, ready to begin howling when they smell that you are at your most vulnerable.

In our household, debt has become a third presence. It’s lurking in the corner of the room at every moment, threatening our personal progress as human beings. It threatens my resolve to discover new ways to live the life I want to live within the confines of a materialistic, self – destructive system that seems to be imploding through it’s own endorsement of over consumption and the endless pursuit of a “better” life, tempting me back into the slow, painful death of working to pay the bills and keep on surviving, rather than living. I’m so far-gone in my way of thinking on the issue of money and materialism that I can no longer imagine being able to deal with such an empty existence. Money doesn’t bring me joy any more. It’s just something that I need to survive. It’s simply not enough to drive me to get up in the mornings, but it has to be. I have to have it. Even if I don’t want it.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate it when I am treated to dinner at a restaurant, for example, or am bought a custom made cake for my birthday. The generosity of those around me moves me often, and I am grateful when I’m treated to things that I just can’t afford – but it’s more to do with the kindness of a fellow human being wanting to give, rather than the fact that it is money that they are using as a mechanism for doing it. A friend picking up the phone if I call them at a silly hour of the night in a panic, or my Dad giving me a hug when I’m down, or a loving note left for me in the kitchen generates the same depth of human appreciation. It’s the love that matters, in the end. The money just doesn’t matter. It’s the love of the intent that matters, ultimately. Right?

Now I’m hit with a wave of self-criticism and embarrassment at my insolence.

I think I’m writing this because I’m angry and frustrated. And feeling unsettled in a few ways. It’s tough to hold your ground when the easy way out is to compromise on what you truly want out of your life.  It’s tough to remain relaxed and easy about the fact that YOUR life is dominated by the necessity to have something that you really aren’t that interested in. In many ways, I’m a huge hypocrite – I could be living on the streets, or in a commune, tilling the earth, but I’m not. I’m fundamentally selfish, and want it all. I want to be able to do what I want to do, and not have to deal with the material concerns of “real life.” I suppose all of this comes down to the simple fact that I would like to escape to the mountains or something, write all day, and not be weighed down by concerns about money. I want to be FREE. That’s what drives me, fundamentally, and the slightest sense that the freedom that I crave is being lost brings out the demon in me. The simple fact that I have to worry about it when I don’t even care about money in itself is simply making me stamp my feet like a bratty child and complain about how awful the whole system because I’m not able to do what I want. Yikes. Pretty pathetic when I consider that there are people in the world who ACTUALLY have problems.

All I have to do is hold my ground and keep on plodding along. It’s all anyone has to do, if they really want something. It’s a challenge, but life’s pretty dull without these problems to solve, isn’t it?

Sometimes it’s good to let yourself rant. You find the simple answers to your (in my case) often pathetic problems. You can see, plain as day on the page, what a baby you’re being. This has been most helpful. Note to Self: You have some growing up to do.

Now is probably a good time to start.


2 responses to “Holding Ground

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