Now that we have explored my approach to dressing, something of the psychology of the person upon whom the backpacking trip was inflicted will have become contextualised. Two forces war within me and they are Minimalism and Compulsion.
The Minimalist prunes the wardrobe, gives away possessions, packs lightly, goes on a roadtrip without a proper plan and sincerely admires the modest accommodations of the rural village and the freedom of spirit of those who would abandon security in order to have a mind-blowing adventure and aspires to the same. The Compulsive purchases, for example, scatter pillows, Indian takeaways, scarves, yoga pants, and novels that will not be read for the next 15 years if ever. That is the part of compulsion that is cosmetic. There is a deeper level to this, which is that material possessions such as sports cars, houses, and also qualifications, certifications, titles, CV line items and other intellectual miscellany, are all part of the widespread sickness of Affluenza. Somehow, I have been led to believe that all these acquisitions will lead to increased safety and security and that I am just one impulse purchase of a new pair of socks away from plugging a vast emptiness in my soul.
Carl Jung said “I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success of money, and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking. Such people are usually confined within too narrow a spiritual horizon. Their life has not sufficient content, sufficient meaning. If they are enabled to develop into more spacious personalities, the neurosis generally disappears.”
For my part I can report that my acquisitions have also coincided with the sudden appearance on the scene of fears and phobias each of a different ilk. I am afraid now, for example, of being thrown from a horse and breaking my back and being paralysed where as I child I hurtled along the beach and my only regret was that the horse would not take off and fly. I am afraid of the sea (particularly of sharks) when I used to swim far out and embrace the waves with joy. I am cripplingly afraid of heights. I am afraid of failure in my career and a loss of reputation (says the girl who frankly told a priest that she disliked the Church because its ministers were all sanctimonious). I am desperately afraid of burglars, murderers and rapists (that’s a South African thing, and particularly a Joburg thing). I’m afraid of terrorists. I’m afraid of snakes and bugs, imagining that there are all sorts of nasties within the environment that are just waiting for a chance to bite me and poison me so that I froth at the mouth and am rushed to hospital only to die in the car in a scene similar to the one in which Kim Bassinger’s son perishes in the movie ‘I dreamed of Africa’.
There’s a rational, practical part of me that tells me all these fears are completely founded in reality and that I should continue to maintain them out of a sense of self-preservation. The part of my heart that remains a jungle wilderness is livid and full of disdain and disappointment. Incidentally, that part also wars with the beige stilettos. That part is the domain of the shaman, the Wolf Woman, whose wisdom goes beyond that of the logical brain, and whose daughter I still am when everything else is stripped away. She tells me, irrefutably, that no number of post-graduate qualifications can shield me from snakes and sharks and wild horses and murderous freaks on the loose in the suburbs. No house, no car, no couches, no Russel Hobbs salt and pepper grinders, flat screen TVs, insurance policies, balanced funds or medical aid can ultimately prevent my death, for that is what I am truly afraid of is it not, if you strip away all the circumstantial gore of snake bites and shark attacks? “But… but… I need to be able to make a living!”
“When will you deem yourself worthy of making a living with what you have?”
“When I have my MSc.”
“So your worth doesn’t come from within your Being?”
“No, that’s not the point. The point is that the labour market out there is rough and there aren’t enough jobs to go around. I’ve sent hundreds of CVs and received no response. It has to do with BEE, you know! So I need to be such a big cut above the rest that no-one can compete.”
“And when you get the fancy strategic project management job and work 14 hour days, spend no time with your family or outside in nature, barely write anything except reports, and can’t work towards getting any of your novels to the audience that you know in your heart is out there waiting for you? Would you satisfy yourself with a job that was functional as you have now, even though it is not related to nature conservation and sustainability, which is supposedly what interests you?”
“Just stop it! I don’t know.”
The Wolf Woman knows that all this fear is fuelling greed and the greed is fuelling dissatisfaction and unhappiness and that this poisons kindness, trust, love, and prevents the openness towards the strange workings of Dream that make it possible to live authentically, connected to others in a big web that is greater than my own limited understanding.
There is no fixed point for ‘enough’. Maybe it’s enough to say I’ve had enough of doing work that doesn’t fundamentally interest me or allow my soul to sing. I’ve had enough of being too afraid to promote my art, too afraid to quit my job, too afraid to sell my shit, too afraid to say “You know what, fuck this. Enough is enough.”
The only question remaining is: am I brave enough?
From the 16 Meditations for Deranged Workaholics series.