Introspection meme

Water is my eye,
most faithful mirror;
fearless on my breath.
Teardrop on the fire
of a confession;
fearless on my breath.

Today’s Monday Meme digs deep, and I’m not sure I’m in the best of places to deal with it right now. Still, it’s a thoughtful one, and I could do with digging deep myself. I will warn you, though: flippant comments won’t be welcomed, as I suspect I’m going to be clawing up some stuff that I need to face but don’t really want to. Also, I’ve slightly edited one of the questions, for personal reasons. It still retains the same ethos as the original.

Regardless of your current number, how old do you actually feel?
Physically? Well, given that my knees are completely fucked thanks to an old injury that I didn’t take care of properly (I was 15 or 16 at the time, not an age when your future mobility is high in your consideration), I feel about ninety sometimes, especially when I need to do something simple that I ought to be able to do easily, like crouch or kneel and find that… I simply can’t. Well, I can, but not without some pain and the necessity of rising again by leaning heavily on something nearby (and grimacing). You remember that old ‘Sunscreen’ song, with the line: Be kind to your knees; you’ll miss them when they’re gone? So fucking true.

Mentally? I’m probably still loitering in my very early twenties. With healthy knees :-/

Which is worse, failing or never trying?
The honourable answer to this is “never trying” – because not trying is the safe route. After all, how can you fail if you never try? You’ll always be a success if you never try: a success at doing nothing. At least if you fail, you know you gave it a shot. It may not have been your best shot (in which case, do you pluck up the gumption to try again, or give up?) but you did take a decent run at it.

There are many things that hurt like hell when you fail at them, and they don’t only hurt you. When you know that your failures have hurt others, that’s when you might wish you’d never tried. But when it’s a friendship that you’ve failed at, how can you not try? I’ve fucked up and failed in friendships so many times that it’s all I can do not to punch a brick wall in anger and frustration at myself, but I always always keep on going, trying to remember what I have to do in order to be a good friend. I’ve always been a solitary soul – born to be alone, you might say – and I struggle so much with that.

If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
I would have sought out a job that fulfilled what I always wanted to do, right from when I was very small. Life – as it has a habit of doing – got in the way, and I ended up in a job that, while I love it, isn’t fulfilling me.

I would also have extricated myself from a destructive and confidence-destroying past relationship far sooner than I did.

Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
I wish I could say the latter, but I’m the worst perfectionist and, since this is nothing but a confessional blog post for me, I have to say… the former. I do believe in karma, and I try to balance out as much as I can. Financially, I give a monthly donation to charity, and emotionally I try to be the strong shoulder whenever anybody needs one (doing that has taught me a lot, especially when I’m hurting for my own reasons and have to quieten that so I can be what the other person needs me to be). I’m still learning, still falling down, still trying.

Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
People have called me highly intelligent and people have called me downright fucking stupid. I’m rarely fully joyful and I’m often worried (and always stressed; don’t even ask about the state of my shoulders, neck, jaw, and scalp when I wake up…). I’d settle for something in between, to be honest.

Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
Again, I wish I could say yes, but I have to say no. We’re back to that solitary soul (and only child) thing again, with the endless struggle to remember that all of my actions affect other people in some way. I can be incredibly thoughtless, and I’ve hurt people that are very dear to me. I don’t know what deity gifted me with the friends that I’ve had, but boundless patience and the ability to slap my sorry arse six ways to Sunday when that thoughtlessness raises its ugly head again would seem to be essential qualities :-/

Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?
It was seven years ago (see that destructive relationship thing further up the post), not five and yes, it does still matter. I know it shouldn’t – “You should be over it by now” – but shit, son, that stuff leaves mental and emotional scars that I’m still struggling to come to terms with.

With every other thing I’ve ever been extremely upset about? No, it probably doesn’t really matter now. But that? Yeah, still working through that.

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
When I finally realised the most cherished dream that I’ve had since childhood. Not going into details about it, but I knew it was about to happen and emotionally I was holding on, just waiting. Of all things, it was a tweet that finalised it. I just about screamed the house down with happiness, and probably scared the bejaysus out of my neighbours ;-)

Coming a close second to that was standing by Lake Nasser at dawn, turning around, and seeing Abu Simbel for the first time, lit by the rising sun. I’ve been an Egyptophile since my early teens (I doubt that many other 14-year-olds had a copy of E.A. Wallis Budge’s The Mummy: A Handbook of Egyptian Funerary Archaeology on their bookshelves) and that was another long-held dream that I managed to fulfil (along with seeing just about every other sight in Egypt).

If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
A million dollars? Probably not. At today’s exchange rates that probably wouldn’t cover the wages that I would earn until retirement if I stayed in my job. A million pounds would do it, though ;-)

If you knew the world was going to end tomorrow, who would you visit today?
Daros, without a doubt. I’d move heaven and earth to get to him, just so I could hug him and tell him in person how much he means and has meant to me. I can hold my relatives whenever I want, but Daros is thousands of miles away from me. Even if it took almost all the time remaining to the world to get to him, just one hug would be enough.

What do you feel is the difference between being alive and truly living?
The body is a work of wonder. Respiratory, pulmonary, endocrine, neurological; all these systems and more work tirelessly to keep us in the state of ‘aliveness’ without so much as a thought from us. Being alive isn’t necessarily even the process of going through the daily motions of getting up, going to work/school etc. It’s far baser than that. Amoebae are alive, so by those standards even getting up and going to work is truly living ;-)

Sorry, can you tell I’m a scientist? :p

Flippancy aside, I think truly living involves, in part: being able to fulfil your dreams, living in the moment, and being able to say at the end of it all that there was nothing more you could have wished you’d done. There’s a wonderful quote by Hunter S. Thompson, which runs thus:

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”

That’s truly living.

If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
Because we’re afraid of the judgement and criticism of others, and – if we’re perfectionists – of ourselves. We’re only human, and humans desperately want approval.

What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
This one’s difficult, because I’d still judge myself (perfectionist, remember?) Actually… you know what? If we knew that nobody – not even ourselves – would judge us… I think we’d all be a damn sight happier than we are. Going back to the previous question, about mistakes, it’s fear of judgement that holds most of us back in our endeavours.

I don’t know what I would (personally) do differently, because – to be pedantic – it would depend on whether that lack of judgement would have been there all my life, or whether it was “something I could get away with just this once”. If the former, then I’d probably be a completely different, carefree, daft-as-shit person. If the latter, then past experiences and history would have me constantly worrying and looking over a metaphorical shoulder, so I doubt I’d get as much enjoyment out of whatever I was doing.

If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d give them a copy of that Sunscreen Song and tell them to listen to it once every year. The older they get, the more of it will make sense to them. When you’re eighteen that song is all hokey bullshit, but as the decades start to mount up, oh boy does it ever make sense.

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