Isn't it strange how, when everything seems to be on the gloomy side, when work isn't going well and your money situation is bad, when you're feeling as if you're on your own and lying face down, all of a sudden Life leans over you and starts to deliver a damn good kicking?
Two things: one rather dumb, the other another reason to tear my hair out, followed by an observation. On friday, the new Vice Chancellor delivered a welcome speech in the large lecture hall. There were some two hundred teachers and lecturers packed in there. I'd arrived a little earlier, and had got myself what I thought was a decent seat high up, even though I wasn't really in the mood to listen to my putative new boss. Anyway, once the audience had trooped in and spare seats had been found, the VC began. At the same time, one of the wardens turned on the extractor fan, and that's when I found, rather stupidly, that I had sat beside the fucking thing. It rattled and banged, and I had to endure an hour of some bloke far below me, waving his hands about and mouthing words I couldn't possibly hear. I couldn't get out of my seat either, as the place was packed. I had no choice but to grin and bear it.
Saturday saw me taking the car for its MOT. For some reason, we get it done on the opposite side of town from where we live. I dropped it off, then spent a few hours pootling round town, during which I was forced to buy myself a new pair of trainers because the crappy pair I had bought a while back were no longer wearable - in short, my feet were in agony. Another bit of cash to worry about. I came back to the garage, to find the mechanic with a pious concerned look on his face - the kind where you start to think, 'OK, what's this going to cost?'
'It needs some work, I'm afraid'.
Two Hundred Bloody Pounds' Worth of bloody work.
This month, on top of the usual things I can't afford, I now have the car, the phone bill, and Angus' Judo Club. Oh, and it'll be Sean's birthday on the 25th of next month, for which I will have no cash to buy him any presents.
So, stuffed once again.
Sitting in a bar later that night, watching people yell and stagger and realising that I didn't reallt want a drink I couldn't afford in the first place, I reflected on the situation: How has it come to this? It struck me that I was there, right then, as a result of circumstance, but also of a morass of undirected decisions - or karma, if you like. The situation with the lecture: well, I should have checked where I was sitting first - then I might have heard what was being said, and not been left in such a foul mood. A simple choice, really, based on direct observation. The money thing however, that's more complex, and is arguably the current result of a whole slew of personal decisions and events beyond my control. Going back to the lecture, I realised that it was a neat summation of a certain point of view: I couldn't turn off the fan, so I had to endure it - in other words, it was something over which, once a certain decision had been made, I had no subsequent control. The situation with the money had me thinking to what extent I could control it, and make decisions from which I, and my family, would benefit. Then the old phrase entered my mind:
Give me the strength and courage to change the things that I can and the patience to endure those things that I can't.
So, what changes? What gives? Which road do I set out on now?
And the thing is, I'm not alone. The majority of us live these lives tangled in the morass of poor decisions and half-whelped intentions, and we call it life. Very few people have this single, tight, determined line, leading to what they want.