Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Strength, jealousy and fear

About a week ago, I got my first traffic ticket in the mail for doing something that's completely legal in America, but not here. When I went to go pay, I opened my wallet and thumbed past nearly US$1000 waiting to be deposited in my wife's account, took a couple of bills out and took care of it.

I really didn't care. It's hard for me to get excited about having that much money, or being penalized for this or that, knowing that almost every last bill in my wallet is going to pay for some sort of family expense. That money might as well have been pocket lint.

And that got me thinking... how did it come to this? Of course it's because I got married, but how did so many things go so wrong, so quickly? There had to be some kind of common thread running through all the things I gave up to take care of my family. My freedom, my time, my money... all that stuff left at the same time, so they had to be connected somehow. And slowly but surely, I finally understood what it was that I gave up that bound all of these things together: it was my strength.

What is freedom, if not the ability to choose your path in life, work hard for what you want, and deal with the consequences through your own strength? In addition, money is power, time is untapped potential to express yourself, and adventure, dating and charity also require indomitable will. When I married, I gave up my strength so I could protect and care for those close to me.

I compromise because my wife and I, while similar in many respects, are different people. To do what I want would mean forcing her to do things she doesn't want to do, things which aren't possible with family life anyway. And even traveling a bit a week or hanging with a friend or two makes no difference, because no amount of anything ever returns my old life to me. I sacrifice because my son needs me to be there for him, and to do what I want would mean spending little time with him. I don't want to give up power over my life and my dreams, but I must.

It wasn't always like this. Back in my unmarried days, I was a true man: I took charge, was a leader, experienced new things, cultivated charisma and maintained a powerful attitude of perseverance. I went out and tried new things, and did what I wanted to do. More importantly, though, I combined being a confident beast with honor during my unmarried time. I did what I wanted, but I also stepped on no toes and hurt no person as I enjoyed my life.

Now, for the sake of my family, I have become a workhorse loser by suppressing that part of me who follows his dreams, and letting go of my ability to choose my own path in life. I have returned to the life coasting, order following, goalless complacent boy I used to be. So now, because I'm left without the ability to pursue my goals, or even have much of a say in what I do with my everyday life, an old, shameful feeling has bubbled to the surface once more.

Jealousy walked with me every day of my depressed time, and largely manifested as my stomach feeling like it was tied in knots when I saw other people enjoying what I wanted. I never felt it after I went abroad and those two lost weeks went by. Yes, I saw men with things I wanted, but I never felt like taking anything from them. I never considered another man's property, experiences or relationships anything more than inspiration for me to work harder and better my own life.

As a married man, though, I find myself in the same position as I was in my depressed time. For example, I still see foreigners every day. Four years ago, they would have been potential friends. Now, they're just constant reminders of what I gave up, and will never again have, in my life. They have the power to go out and enjoy life when they want; I don't. They have the power to change and become whoever they want to be; I don't. Every time I see other men out with their beautiful, smiling girlfriends, riding around town with their friends, drinking at a bar, or just hear them telling stories of the great weekend they just had, I feel like someone just punched me in the gut. I can't stop thinking about how I used to be these guys, and I can't forget that I'm never going to experience that young, free, powerful kind of life again.

Similarly, when I was in my depressed years, I hated Alphas and anything like them: CEOs, the police, the rich, America, guys with girlfriends, if they had strength, I hated them. It wasn't just people who abused their power that I hated, either: it was anybody stronger than I was. When I walked by men with beautiful girlfriends, I seethed. Who is this pop-collared loser with that hot girl? I would think. I deserve her more than he does!

When I finished working on myself and had acquired the same strength that I once decried those other people for having, I realized how much of a loser that I used to be. It wasn't those people in positions of power that I hated; it was my own self that I loathed, and I was externalizing my fears, failures and laziness onto people more successful than I.

But now, nothing I do can improve my life. And those thoughts I had about frat boys with girlfriends in college? Now they come to me regarding foreign men here, who have hot girlfriends, make lots of money and have fun, and all the while not even making a token effort to experience the local culture or learn the local language, and instead spend their time bar hopping, clubbing, going to the beach, eating at McDonald's and drinking at Starbucks... the same things they did back home. I don't know what's more striking: the similarity between my current thoughts about other foreigners and my old thoughts about frat boys, or how self-destructive and useless these thoughts are in the first place. I fight these thoughts every day, and I would change my life to keep them from coming in the first place, but I'm married. All I can do now is struggle to keep them from taking root.

And all of this is connected to my video game addiction. How could I go from playing video games twelve hours a day as a depressed boy, to playing them a few hours a day abroad, to having them boxed up and ready to sell because I felt I didn't need them anymore, to the man I am today? The one who hoards games and plays them by the dozens every year? The answer, again, is strength. I have limited power over everything in my life: money, work, sex, chores, time... and everything requires at least some kind of approval of my capricious wife. But compare this to before I got married, where I answered to nobody but my boss, who paid me for my time, and my honor.

Video games are the last shred of power I have over my married life. Yes, they're not real, and yes, I realize that. But without them, I would have no control over any part of my life, no matter how illusory. I save the lives of imaginary people and explore imaginary worlds not because I believe they exist in an alternate dimension or anything, but because when I play video games, I can forget for just an hour or two a day that I have no power over anything else. What was once a surrogate parent became a hobby, then an obsession, then something I no longer needed, and finally came back to filling a void in my life.

Truthfully, if there's one "benefit" I've received from losing all of my strength to marriage, it's that I no longer have any fear. Aside from serious things happening to my family, like assault, rape, a car accident, kidnapping, drugs, murder or something similar, I don't really care. My entire life feels like a derivative, unsurprising, (barely) interactive movie that just keeps going on and on. After nearly four years of this, very few things even feel real.

My boss is yelling at me for something stupid. So? My wife and mother-in-law don't do it as much now, but it's been a week since either of them popped, so one of them is due to go off any day now.

I won some money in the lottery. So? It's not like I'm going to spend it on anything but rent and bills.

I have more useless work training to go through. So? I wasn't doing anything fun at home.

Only 5797 days to go, and I'm free. So? By then I'll be in my late fourties, and life's pretty much over then anyway. And I'll still be married, which means my wife may end up too unhealthy or uninterested to follow me on my travels around the world, so I'll probably just end up buying a house with her and waiting around in it for a decade or three to die.

I had a good trip with my family today. Great, but we're heading back home now, work is two hours away, I have chores waiting for me tonight, I'm going to wake up tomorrow to more sitting around and staring at the wall, and somebody's probably going to pop before I go to work again.

Before I got married, people begged me to take jobs that I applied for. Strangers approached me every day wanting to get to know me. Friends (including my wife) literally apologized to me for the slightest mistake, because they didn't want to risk losing me as a friend. I helped others through my words, my money and my work. I was thanked, trusted and honored in return for my efforts, but even when I received nothing, it didn't matter to me. I helped people where I could because I wanted to, and when my work was done, I was off to do something adventurous to make myself even happier. And all of this was possible because I was an amazing, powerful human being who tempered that strength with honor.

Now, people walk by me without a second glance. Nobody needlessly apologizes to me; they expect apologies of me. Nobody cleans up my messes or buys me gifts out of the blue; they get those things from me. All I do is work, sacrifice and compromise. People still make use of my efforts, but not only is my work usually not rewarded (or even recognized), but I don't have that personal strength to go off and do something I want to do to balance it all out. My life is a cycle of working for others and sitting around, with my desires forever pushed back or outright shut down by the needs of my family.

The vast bulk of my life is a wash, and it doesn't matter if good or bad things happen to me. Whether I solve a problem in my life or not, whether I get this or that monkey off of my back or not, things will just keep decaying or outright falling apart, and I'll spend the rest of my life cleaning up other people's messes. I won't be going back to the man I was, no matter what I do, and no matter how hard I try. And all of this is because I gave up all of my strength when I married.

No comments:

Post a Comment