When Two Bottles of Wine Doesn’t Work
Sometimes when things are bad, we’ve no choice but to ride it out. Here’s what it looks like from the opposite side.
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I would look forward to Fridays, two bottles of wine and a chance to switch off the noise in my head. Sunday evening, I would switch back on in anticipation of Monday morning and the seemingly relentless pressure of the job. Joanne would say, “Sunday night Larry is back”. My whole demeanour would shift into fight mode in anticipation for the week ahead.
I must have been tough to live with.
When I reflect on that time now I realise, of course, it was all self-inflicted. I had no one else I could blame for the conditions in which I found myself although there were those who I did, within the confines of my own head.
In the ever-narrowing tunnel of my perspective and the pressure of an insolvent business, I could not see the grander picture. I could not see the direction I was heading. I was all in, 1000 per cent committed. It was do-or-die.
If the business was to survive and grow, if I was to be successful and maintain my status in the eyes of others, it was up to me to make it happen. Everything important to me was riding on this.
I many ways, as I reflect now, I put the blinkers on to the problems. But eventually, the problems overtook me. I had to let it go. Debt in the business was too high to sustain, and with the economy on the floor, new business wasn’t coming in. By January, I had no choice but to accept my fate.
It was a horrible time, but essential.
It took 20 years, but I finally took my mother’s advice… “don’t be killing yourself”, she’d say.
To be honest, for years, I treated her advice with some contempt. What could she possibly know about the business world? The truth is she knew nothing, but I was her child and what she did know was that I was heading for a car crash. Mothers know this stuff.
I think most of us believe as I did. We feel we have to make it happen, whether we are in business or not. We believe that we need to force our will on the world and everyone in it to get what we want, to become what we are not.
Now, that approach may work for a while, but eventually, all that force of effort begins to backfire. Our willpower, although perhaps strong in the beginning, fades. People close to us suffer, we suffer, businesses fail, and relationships end. It’s a shitty and unavoidable situation, but one that can bring about some value if we can see it.
The thing is, we can’t arrive at the start line as champions. We can’t know what we don’t know until we know it. Knowing only comes about through trial and error — through experience. So we’ve got to put in the time, serve the apprenticeship, fuck it up.
I am convinced of that because you see this world of people and things is fundamentally dualistic. It is up and down, left and right, in and out, black and white. We can’t have good without bad or hot without cold. When we pick up a stick, we pick up both ends and so if we are to be in this world we must accept its dualistic, and sometimes paradoxical nature.
So what’s my message to you?
Keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll figure it out. You’ll inevitably get it wrong because everyone does, but be relentless. Keep showing up because the work engages you — because it excites you. Concern yourself not with what you can get from it, what you will win, how much money you can make, or what person you will become because you can never predict any of that despite what popular commentators will tell you.
Go with the flow, get neck-deep in the work, go where you are drawn, let the work put a smile on your face and keep it lean. Don’t spend what you don’t have and always keep a stash for a bad day. There will be many.
Don’t be afraid to fuck it up. Break it, then put it back together. You’ll learn more that way. Don’t take advice for which you didn’t ask. Work for yourself, even if you are working for others. Take time for yourself and go into quiet places where you can be alone — you’ll figure out your most challenging problems there.
Don’t force it. Don’t let it become you and be brave enough to let it die if that’s what it takes to move on.
There’s always tomorrow.
Thanks for taking the time to read my stuff. Every morning you’ll find me sharing a new thought on life, art, work, creativity, the self and the nature of reality on The Reflectionist. I also write on The Creative Mind. If you like what I’m creating, join my email list to receive the weekly Sunday Letters