It’s my own cheating heart that makes me cry

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I watched a film recently that tricked me into thinking the misguided protagonist was just a story prose, destined to be stopped by the little heroine at the end, only to discover I was in actual fact watching the origin story of a villain. The tables were flipped in my head and I was both enraged at being played a fool but contented for witnessing a piece of cinematic brilliance.

We’ve heard the expression, ‘life imitates art’. There is a saying that is often linked to Oscar Wilde’s 1889 essay The Decay of Lying, “What is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists have taught people to find there, through art”. Lovely and all, but I seem to find myself grasping a little at straws when it comes to how ‘art’ has mostly represented heroism and villainy.

I won’t pretend to know the finest corners of the art world. Most of what enlightened society deems as art is unfortunately not very compelling to me. Art, to me, needs to have a moving narrative. Pictures and painting stay far too still for my liking. Perhaps because I have a stunted imagination. Writing and films, that’s where art mostly is to me. Writing requires some motion from my imagination but it’s hardly cartwheels, while films are well, constantly moving, in one way or the other.

‘Films’ have been educating me since I was five that there is often a fence between both heroism and villainy. Sure, we revel in art that attempts to blur that divide (art house films have made a calling card out of this prose), but for the most part, the classic sentiment is relevant – there is always a protagonist and an antagonist in most films. Perhaps it is what’s necessary for the art form to make sense, to be compelling. These two forces are often at opposite tangents, with markedly different agendas, who agree on little while confronting on a lot.

Yet I find myself being both the protagonist as well as the antagonist of my life. For as much time as I have apportioned in trying to secure an existence where I am happy, I also spend possibly equal amounts of time pissing over it by making illogical decisions to undo these plans. It’s like I am both the coyote and the quick bird, Tom and Jerry rolled into one. That for every effort spent on a good deed, effort is also spent on me doubling back and brutally power-drilling said deed in the skull. If I were a film, I would be an absolutely excruciating watch.

A lot of us would be quick to draw a line between us and people struggling with identity disorders but yet we often behave as if we are wrecked by the same disease. How would you explain people who rocket their good and stable marriage to smithereens over a senseless fizzy affair? Or people who in most cases would lambast a movie character for making that stupid decision but would in turn, make that same decision for themselves when confronted with the same dilemma in reality. Why? That well-aged head versus heart trope again?

I think we usually position ourselves as wanting what’s best for us. But history would fashion a retort. If this were true, we would spend far less moments grovelling in the language of regret. ‘If only’ is a mistress we make bed with far too willingly.

Perhaps we fundamentally love misery so much that we would gladly play the antagonist ourselves even there is no one that readily wants to be one for us.

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Born under a bad sign

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We can’t give what we don’t have

I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot lately, mostly in relation to leadership and spirituality. The idea that you can’t draw from an empty pail to replenish a thirsty jar because you do not have what the other person needs. The phrase was obviously designed to elicit a reaction, specifically to load up so that when it was needed, we would not be in want.

Each of our existences paints a unique picture. Mine was essentially a genealogical recount of a life built on quicksand while people watched and laughed akin to those silly Japanese game shows where someone almost always gets wet or dunked into a vat of cream. My thoughts zip back to specific instances, my parents’ divorce, financial issues to the cusp of poverty, dysfunctional relationships, ageing and dependent parent to care for, etc.

I’ve felt like a bloated, overfilled flask for sometime now. And no, that’s not an examination of my increasingly portly physique (although that is also true). I do feel I have something to give. Nothing great or spectacular. I am not even sure if it’s really valuable. Namely, how I survived a bruised and tattered existence.

But in a world where disheveled candor has been replaced by carefully-posed ‘candor’, I find myself with something to give, but no one really to give it to. ‘Everybody goes through shit, they just don’t show it’, is the refrain fed to me constantly. I know that. But it’s awkward to serve a meal to someone who hasn’t walked into your restaurant. I sometimes feel I would’ve been better off being born in the 60s, slapped with the same narratives I’ve been slapped with and emerging with something to offer disillusioned youths by the time the cynical and broody 90s rolled around.

I feel like a soldier without a war sometimes. These days, it often seems like a person who largely cake-walked through teenhood with a few slips has more to give to the young and coming. Namely about living life to the fullest, and not just surviving it, like I have. I understand of course. I can’t expect a teenager to appreciate the importance of a sturdy mattress over a weekend night out. We want what we need, when we need it. There just doesn’t seem to be a need for me regaling tales of my war-mongering ways with life at the moment.

My tale is not one of triumph. It’s not a tale of charging neck first into a mastodon and ripping it to shreds. But it’s a tale of going up against challenging odds, being swung around like a ragged doll, tossed into the walls of life but yet finding enough resolve to not die. It’s not the kind tale that people would be accustomed to share these days. We love our underdog tales these days served with a large side of bravado and fearlessness. I was afraid and hopeless but I got out of it by weathering the onslaught.

But I do believe there are people out there who are being crushed against a wall like I was, no foreseeable cavalry in sight, sitting idly on a bench watching the world spinning wonderfully and beautifully around them without being included in its whirlwind. You know, when you sometimes feel like God skipped you when he was handing out rations or worst, forgotten that He ever made you (He has not). I’ve been there, hung on just tight enough and so I am here, ready to tell the tale. Unfortunately, not many people seem to want to hear it at the moment.

Perhaps when the channel switches to something a little more gnarly in the future.

Perhaps …