I’ve definitely tried to “sort it out,” spending the last few years learning how to calm down, gain a peaceful equilibrium and focus on the moment, but the drive remains and so, to be content, it’s balance that must be achieved. I know “balance” is an overused bollocks word these days, but it is so apt in my case.
One of the reasons I decided to blog about drive is I caught the tail-end of a BBC documentary on some Kalahari tribesmen, and these guys herd cattle through the desert – seven days a week, 365 days a year. While I appreciate that there are a lot of dangers in their lives, not the least dying of thirst, let alone getting killed by rival tribes or any of the nasty things in nature – it made me wonder what living every day and every moment would feel like, without any mad rush or scramble involved? I watched these guys and found it hard not to question the pointlessness of the “Western” way – something I’ve done many times in my life – but then we have benefits they don’t. Although getting rid of the mad scramble would be nice?
I often watch documentaries on “developing” countries where the women are working the fields with a baby latched to their breast, or about people trying to survive suicide bomb attacks as they negotiate their neighbourhoods to shop for the only family meal they’ll have that day, or people living in massive humanitarian “cities” for YEARS, and somehow eking out a survival. It is a very different way of being and very hard to comprehend for the rest of us. I’m definitely glad to be in the “rest of us” gang though.
The reality is millions of people on our planet get up with the sun, eat when they are hungry OR when food is available, live in communities that support each other, and sleep when it’s dark. They live with more disease, a higher level of mortality (and perhaps more grief but that’s hard to define when the value of life is so different), are threatened with significantly more danger mostly from their fellow man, live in less than ideal living conditions that expose them to disease, travel miles every day just to get drinkable water or drink filthy stuff and die, and their daily focus is to survive and thrive as much as they can. Can you imagine how living like that would feel? Can you see a day coming where we all might have to live this?
Having encountered people living this way all around the world on my travels, I know that I couldn’t do it permanently, unless the choice was taken away from me of course. Perhaps it’s because I have lived another way and that way enables me to do things most people couldn’t even imagine? Hey, travelling to far off countries is something most people can’t imagine. Having a warm shower every day is unimaginable to many in the world, but for me, it’s one of the key “luxuries” that keeps me committed to the life I know. I’ve got to have a shower!
Colonialism (aka Democracy) is all about pushing “our” way of life on the world – which makes sense, because it’s a message of consumption and that’s good for business right? We’re capitalists after all and governments get elected because of big business contributions so everyone wins…well certainly not everyone. But then you wonder, would people living at subsistence level actually want our lives? Sure, they might live longer and there might be aspects they find appealing, but I could imagine them looking at us and thinking “what the fuck are these crazy people on?”
The whole question of drive came up for me again full force four years ago when I entered the world of motherhood. If ever there was ever a time to put my ambitions on hold and enjoy time, it was when Lex and Jax came into my life.
For the first six months I did well with Lex – I was really content – but then I started getting edgy to be out in the world again. Here I was, late 30s, very happy to be a Mum, but it was apparent that it wasn’t the only thing I wanted. I definitely felt an overwhelming love for my lads + a very strong compulsion to be all I could be for them (they deserve the world), but it left me with no energy and no time for myself. The problem was Jax’s pregnancy was so painful all the way through that I couldn’t sit in a chair and work, and then when he came along, I felt I should spend the same amount of time with him that I’d spent with Lex… and on it goes the guilt, the guilt. Obviously having two kids 15 months apart didn’t help.
These recent years for me have been a full-blown-in-my-face-work-out-what-you’re-all-about-woman-‘cos-neither-direction-is-going-to-make-you-happy-and-you’re-turning-into-a-miserable-cow! For the first time in my life, I fully recognised the depth of my drive CONCIOUSLY and decided I needed to embrace that quality in myself and work towards creating a life that enabled it.
But why is any of this so important to me? I certainly didn’t have a childhood focused on excelling at all costs. It’s just in me for some reason….
If you know me, you’ll know there’s a LOT I want to do and I’m pretty focused on doing it all, but I have to ask the question – will I ever be content with my lot? I mean what’s it all about anyway? My drive isn’t for “normal” things like houses, possessions, money or anything like that, it’s to keep experiencing and growing and to hopefully make a positive influence on a small-ish circle in this world. I also want to do great work that I’m proud of, live in a nice home and I like having nice things too. Hey ‘see it, like it, buy it’ is my motto after all.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be driven by – except maybe the nice things could appear superficial (which I’m not) but I don’t apologise for enjoying the finer things in life. But the question remains – will I ever be content? And why am I so driven? Will I always strive to achieve more?
So now my rant begins as I take this question to the broader “Western” world. We are constantly being marketed to and encouraged to upgrade to a bigger home, a newer car or better holidays – the message seems clear: work hard; save for retirement; get life insurance; and whatever you do, get health insurance because there’s no more public health available even though it’s the governments supporting the businesses that are making products that are making people sicker and you poor people who need government help while at the same time only being able to afford over processed crap sometimes referred to as food which the government supports, well you’ve only got yourselves to blame!!
We are encouraged to work harder so we can enjoy the 21st Century and eat food out of packets full of additives and preservatives, drink in excess, but exercise too and support the multi-billion dollar diet bollocks industry when a good education would serve everyone better but governments are constantly cutting back on education especially for the poor but it’s cool if you’re rich although you still have strong potential to get hooked into the diet industry because your rich parents probably screwed you up anyway. And when you’re sweating cos governments encourage exercise don’t forget to drink lots of soft drinks and “health” drinks (but your dental insurance won’t cover the damage if you can afford it), and don’t forget to consume massive amounts of sugar (cleverly disguised in labelling as healthy,) ‘cos it’s great for depression. Oh yes, what an opportunity. LIVE THE DREAM but be mindful of your share portfolio and keep an eye on it, although nothing will happen to people mismanaging it and sending the world into deep recessions – well suffer in your jocks because that’s just the way it is.
Work, keep focused, improve your life, spend more money, consume consume consume to get us out of a recession you didn’t have anything to do with starting anyway and support your country, and most importantly – support ignorance and intolerance at all costs… Because we are VERY lucky, ‘cos we get the chance to live this amazing life, put stuff in, on and around our bodies that makes us operate at less than our optimal capacity and we are destroying our planet to boot. Sounds TERRIFIC doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want all that?
Oh dear, I know it sounded like a bit of a rant and I could go on and on and on, but it’s true to an extent right? Is that where our drive is taking us? Wouldn’t it be better if we were driven to live simpler, calmer, peaceful, more happier, healthier and “fresher” lives? Let’s face it, if we did, many of the issues we face around the world would just go away.
But we remain driven and drive has existed within the human diaspora long before we started poisoning ourselves and over consuming. So the question remains – what’s it all about? A fear of death? A need to make a mark? Anyone else feel the same way or think about the same stuff?
Yours, without the bollocks
PS: from a consumption/desire for “stuff” POV I thought this quote summed it up quite nicely: “If men could regard the events of their own lives with more open minds, they would frequently discover that they did not really desire the things they failed to obtain,” Andre Maurois. Alternatively you can click on the link to get another life perspective – Ewan McGregor’s character from “Trainspotting”