This is Part 6 of Bliss & Struggle blog series and presents the fictional (yet eerily relevant) story of Pete and his everyday struggle. You can visit the series home page for the full table of contents.
How can it be that the more I care, the worse I feel; the more I try, the less I seem to get. How? I live with this sinking feeling that no matter what I do, I’m doing it wrong, I’m missing the point, I’m falling behind…PeteThe Bliss Beyond Bullshit Blog
An everyday struggle: Morning
Was it always like this? When did it start? Pete didn’t notice it for a while, but then he did; and since then the same question keeps echoing in his head:
“What’s wrong with me?”
It’s like the world had been screaming something at him, but he couldn’t really understand what it was saying. From there, it didn’t take long for an unsettling suspicion to creep into his mind:
“Wait, is that it? Am I a worthless?”
“Well, one thing is for sure, I’m fucking weak. Because I should know better. And every time someone comes along and offers me a shortcut to happiness, a magic cure to take my mind off things, to give some meaning to all this bullshit, I should see through their lies. But no, I choose to pretend that this time will be different, that it will mean something… I refuse to hear the voice in my mind that tells me that it won’t make a difference, that in less than a minute I will feel like crap again, and just like that, I do it.”
And sure enough, one minute later:Fuck, I bought another useless piece of crap! Click To Tweet
And then there’s the packaging.
“Shit! It’s just like me to buy a piece of shit wrapped in five tonnes of cardboard and toxic plastic. Look at it, it barely fits in the rubbish bag, fuck it cannot even be folded! Here I go killing trees and polluting once again, I bet this ends up floating in the ocean and choking a baby seal… What’s wrong with me? I’m not just worthless and weak, I’m a fucking monster!”
And so Pete goes through life feeling like one big turd. Not always consciously, mind you, he is not the obsessive type. And sure he laughs sometimes, and goes out with friends, and plays with his kids, and knows what it is to feel happy, but somehow the feeling is always there: when the alarm wakes him up, when he looks in the mirror, as he sprints to catch the bus only to find that it’s too full… Yes, specially then, as he silently wishes that he could claw his way in because:
“Fuck those assholes!”
But of course he just stands there and waits, he doesn’t harm others, that was just a thought. But it was his thought. He knows it and he cannot pretend that he was joking; at that moment, that’s how he felt. And isn’t that further proof that not only is he worthless and weak, but that he most certainly must also be evil?
“Why am I like this? What’s all this rush and repressed rage for?”
“Just to avoid being late for work, that’s what it’s for. And I don’t want to be late because I hate the way my boss will casually look at his watch when I appear through the door. I hate that most of the times he says nothing, he just clears his throat, clicks his tongue or exhales. That’s so passive aggressive, I wish I could punch him. Fuck you too asshole! Nobody died because I was five minutes late, and anyway, late for what?”
“Yeah, that’s a good question, what’s the point of all this?”
Pete asks himself that question day in and day out.
“What’s the point of spending my whole day on this stupid shit that is a complete waste of everyone’s time?“
But he can live with that… Much worse are those few moments when Pete feels that he accomplished something, just to realize that his big accomplishment today is only going to help a few rich shareholders get a bit richer selling more of a useless product that nobody really needs.
“Why would anyone spend their hard earned money on this crap? It’s basically more of the same, topped with a fat thick wrapping of bullshit (figurative and literal) to justify a bigger price tag.”
Why? Pete knows why. Today, that’s on him.
“There you go, a worthy contribution for the history books. YAY for me! I am a worthless, weak and evil piece of shit whose big contribution is to make the world an even shittier place, one wasteful day at a time.”
Thinking so much about shit reminds him that he can go to the toilet to take a break, so he does. And after wiping the seat cover and flushing just in case (and realizing that he wasted more paper and water in the process, of course), Pete sits there, pants down his knees, hunching over his smartphone as he checks Facebook. Because at least he has that: he’s not alone, he is connected.
That’s when he sees his former schoolmate’s new Album: “The Moore family trip to the Bahamas”.
“Oh yay! They got upgraded to business class on the flight there! What the fucky fuck? Mark was such a loser, how in the world is he there?”
He browses the pictures: a glass of champagne during the flight, views from the room balcony, splashing at the pool, family picture all jumping in sync at the beach… Pete clicks on Like, but to him that Thumbs Up could as well read:
“You are a show off motherfucker and I hate you. I hope you get sunburned.”
But just as he thinks that, he feels bad about it. He didn’t mean it.
“At least I’m not a psycho, I feel remorse. Anyway, Mark is still such a loser, otherwise he wouldn’t need to share that shit all the time.”
That’s when Pete remembers something that his “friend” posted last week, a single picture with the caption “A beautiful sunset”. And sure, it did show a sunset, it casually also happened to feature Mark’s new fancy car framed right in the center of the picture.
“That was just to show off. The post might as well have read: Fuck you all, losers! Well, the joke’s on you, you are the loser. I don’t need to boast about my shit!”
But Pete’s not kidding himself. He wishes he was such a loser.
Scroll. Another Like. Scroll. A video of a new Kickstarter campaign blasts through the speakers.
“Damn it! I hope nobody heard it.”
He mutes the phone’s sound and continues to watch the video.
“Wow, that new backpack looks awesome, I need to check it out later.”
Share. Scroll. A bright red notification alerts him that someone just liked one of his posts. He checks it.
“Bah, my mother again.”
Scroll. Tasty video: “Bacon cheese and jalapeno bites”. Like!
“Fuck, I am hungry now.”
Pete decides it is time to eat. Paper, wipe, paper, wipe, paper, wipe, paper, wipe:
“There goes another fucking tree.”
An everyday struggle: Noon
Pete loves food, but even lunch feels like torture sometimes. But today is his lucky day and he doesn’t need to wait for a table. So he sits and looks at the daily menu.
The word salad stares at him from the page. Pete imagines a lettuce calling him out:
“What are you looking at? No choice for you, Pete. You know you should eat me, you fat pig! When was the last time you weighed yourself? You think that sweater is hiding your belly? It isn’t!”
Pete knows the salad is right, but he doesn’t take orders from vegetables. He considers the pasta instead, but then remembers that this week he is on keto, and carbs are the enemy. Pete loves carbs.
“Why is it that tasty food is always bad for you? It sucks.”
Every single dish on the menu has some carbohydrate or another: rice, pasta, chips… Every dish… except the salad:
“The fucking salad!”
Pete imagines a lettuce somewhere grinning, savoring his imminent defeat.
“No! I will get the steak, I’ll just skip the chips.”
But as he waits for his meal to be served, Pete recalls a documentary he recently watched warning about the devastating effects of the meat industry in the environment. Turns out that from all the things you could eat, none is more harmful to mother Earth than beef. Those bloated cows with their methane infused farts and burps are a menace to the planet and he had sworn to cut on his beef intake.
“Fuck it, the cow is already dead, so I might as well eat it.”
He knows one steak won’t make a difference, yet he cannot help feeling a bit naughty. And then he feels silly for feeling that way. And then he regrets not ordering the salad.
“I’m so weak, I’m ruled by my stomach. So much brain and it’s all fucking useless. I deserve to be fat.”
And just then the steak arrives. He sighs as he pushes the chips further to one side, as if bringing them closer to the edge would help him to ignore them. He starts to eat, it’s not a life changing meal, but it’s not bad.
“You know what this needs? Chips.”
And just as he thinks that, a waiter places a bottle of ketchup on his table. He didn’t even ask for it!
“This is a sign if I ever saw one.”
Pete ponders his options in silence. He reaches out and grabs one of the smaller crispier chips with two fingers. He bites into it. It feels like heaven. He drops the half-bitten chip and pours some ketchup on the plate. He dips the remaining half and eats it, and it tastes even better. Then he repeats with another one, and finally he convinces himself that up to three chips is still keto.
He bites every ketchup coated chip delicately, savoring every bit with delight, with his eyes closed to better feel the crunchiness, the bits of salt and sauce dancing in his mouth. Everything else fades and for just a few seconds, he is at ease, he feels happy.
But it doesn’t last. As Pete licks his fingers he feels the familiar pangs of guilt and shame.
“I don’t know why I even try. I should just give up. Weak worthless human.”
Thankfully something distracts him from his self-pity. The lady on the neighboring table is just leaving and Pete sees that she has barely touched her meal.
“See? That’s even worse. People dying from hunger around the world and some feel entitled to throw away good food. Shame on you, reasonably hot woman, shame on you.”
Knowing that he is not the only horrible person around lifts Pete’s spirit.
“I might as well just finish those last few chips. It would be a waste to throw them away.”
And so he does. The waiter picks up his empty plate and asks him if he would like some desert or coffee. Pete is tempted to ask what’s for desert – the chocolate mousse in this place is not half bad – but he shows restraint, orders black coffee and asks for the bill.
“I read somewhere that caffeine helps burn calories, so all in all, no harm done.”
An everyday struggle: Afternoon
And so he heads back to the office, where more pointless tasks, phone calls and meetings await him. Another bathroom break. Scroll. Like. Scroll. Basically more of the same, only worse, cause he feels sleepy.
“Spaniards get it; afternoon is meant for naps.”
As his blood rushes to his stomach, Pete finds it harder and harder to concentrate. His mind wanders…
All of a sudden he remembers about the Kickstarter he discovered earlier and opens the browser to check it out: “The ultimate urban hiker backpack”. Premium breathable materials, ergonomic back design with memory foam, triple hand-stitch for durability, 25 different pockets with a tiny footprint, reinforced hidden compartment for sunglasses… He needs this backpack.
“But I don’t hike much anymore. Yet, come to think of it, maybe it’s because my backpack is so shit: the hydration pack doesn’t fit properly, it’s so annoying. And if I hike more I will get fit again, and then I can eat whatever I want.”
Pete knows that he is trying to talk himself into buying more stuff, yet again. But he thinks that this time it truly could be different. He decides to share the link with one of his Whatsapp groups.
– What do you think guys, should I get it?
It doesn’t take long for the messages to start coming in:
– That looks sick, get it!
– Life-time guarantee. Sounds like a no-brainer.
– LOL. I just backed the 15L one in urban gray. What color are you thinking to get?
He misses hanging out with these guys. Weekends have become so busy lately with the baby around, he hasn’t been able to join them on a hike for too long. It’s not a surprise that they don’t even ask him anymore.
That’s it! This backpack is the solution, and if Mike gets the 15L, he is getting the 25L, and fuck the metallic black, commando green and urban gray, he is getting the orange scream, cause:
He checks the delivery time: 3 months.
“That’s ok, plenty of time for this Keto shit to work its magic and get me back on shape.”
– Got it. 25L Orange Scream. In 3 months I’m back on the trail in style!
More work. Caffeine. More work. Pete looks at the time on his computer screen. 6pm.
“5 more minutes and I’m out of here.”
Pete waits at his desk, pretending to continue to work, but he is just waiting. He arrived 5 minutes late this morning and despite staying till late often – time that nobody pays him for – he still feels guilty if he somehow doesn’t return those 5 minutes back.
“I’m such a dumb-ass for caring, I should just leave at my time, that’s it!”
But still he waits. And at 6:05pm on the dot, he packs and leaves. He tries to act as natural as possible, yet he feels like a thief scurrying himself out of the home he just broke into.
He knows his boss is looking at him, and then looking at his watch, and then back at him. Pete pretends not to notice.
“Fuck that asshole! It’s not like these others who stay behind are actually doing any work. I bet most of them are browsing online shops, chatting on Whatsapp or planning their next holiday. And what the fuck? I’ve stayed late three days this week, I’m barely seeing my family! And anyway, it’s not like I’m going home yet, today it’s the first session of my Mindfulness workshop – according to Sam Harris, that’s exactly what I’ve been needing.”
An everyday struggle: Evening
So he heads to his first Mindfulness session, and finds himself feeling awkward as the only man in a group of seven women, six other students and Kathia, the instructor.
“It’s OK. This is about me and my wellbeing, who cares if I’m the only guy?”
Pete cares, but that makes him uncomfortable.
“Worthless, weak, evil and now also a narrow-minded sexist pig? No way!”
So he pretends not to be bothered by it.
After a brief welcome and introduction to the multiple benefits of this meditation technique, Kathia guides the group to sit down, cross-legged, comfortably on the floor. Following her instructions Pete focuses on his breath: breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.
“I hope this is worth it, I paid for 8 sessions in advance.”
Two breaths in and his mind is already wandering.
“Focus man, focus!”
He tries again: Breathe in, breathe out. His butt hurts.
“How in hell are we supposed to sit comfortably on this hard-ass floor?”
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. And so 45 minutes pass.
“Damn, my whole body aches.”
Kathia encourages them all to practice every day and bids them farewell till next week. Pete nods and thanks Kathia.
“Next week? Thanks, but no thanks.”
But just as that thought crosses his mind, he knows that he doesn’t mean it. It’s too early to give up. And yes, he feels a bit more relaxed already. Anyway, he’s not going to waste seven lessons that he already paid for!
Time to head back home.
“Peak hour, damn. This will take a while. I’m the worst father in history.”
Thankfully he gets on one of the earlier stops in the bus route, so Pete finds plenty of empty seats. He makes himself comfortable next to the giant window and puts on his bluetooth earphones. He considers watching some Youtube videos of his favorite late-night host – ever since Trump became president, that never fails to lift his spirits – but he downloaded a new game yesterday, so he decides to play instead.
An annoying synthetic melody blasts his eardrums. Pete decides to switch the sound off but keeps the earphones on. He is not sure if he does that because he is too lazy to put them back on their charging pod or because he wants to distance himself even further from the rest of humanity that starts to fill the bus.
“I’m such an emo.”
15 levels later and it’s time to get off the bus.
“Damn, I need to finish that level before I get home.”
So phone in hand and eyes on the screen, Pete exits the bus. He walks slower than normally, swiping his finger up and down, left and right, in full concentration, as if his life depended on it. He crosses a street, and then another. Pete knows this could be dangerous, but he’s done it many times before; he knows when to walk and when to stop.
He reaches his building and opens the gate without even thinking about it. Up, up, down, down, swipe left, down.
“I’m so close. I can do this!”
He gets on the elevator and reaches his floor. He just needs a few more movements. So he stands in front of his home door, swiping left and right, up and down, as the sounds of his wife Emma, his 4 year old daughter Susy and the cry of his newborn baby Eric echo across the hall. He is about to complete the level when it hits him:
“What the fuck am I doing with my life?”
He exits the game app. He feels dirtier and more ashamed than before.
“Seriously, what’s wrong with me?”
An everyday struggle: Night
He takes off his earphones, grabs the keys and opens the door. Seeing Susy’s wide smile as she runs to welcome him, brings forth mixed feelings of bliss and ever more shame. He kisses his wife, tickles the baby. Just on time for a nappy change. He complies.
It’s quite late so they all had dinner already. His meal just needs to be re-heated. No carbs, his wife remembered. He removes the plate from the microwave carefully, trying not to get burned, and sits alone at the dining table. His wife is helping Susy put on her pajamas and the baby lays peacefully on the crib. He unlocks his phone and checks Whatsapp: no new messages.
“I’m not going to play that stupid game again. Some Youtube is what I need.”
Pete opens the Youtube app and smiles. The first video on the home screen is just what he wanted to watch. He plays it at low volume. Half-way the video, Susy rushes into the living room to show him something. She is enthusiastic about it but, focused on the video, he doesn’t really hear what she is saying, something about a magic pony.
“That’s awesome sweetie!”
But he doesn’t really look at it. She insists and asks him to look again, grabbing and pulling his arm. Pete stops the video annoyed.
Just as the word exits his mouth he realizes he is being – yet again – a horrible father. He tries to rectify fast.
“What is it sweetie? Show me, show me!”
His daughter shows him and for a little while they talk and play while he finishes his dinner. It feels good, he feels good. Why doesn’t he spend more time with her?
“I’m an asshole, that’s why.”
His wife sits down in front of him and they ask each other about their day.
It’s time for Susy to go to bed, and after a whole day taking care of a small baby, his wife is really tired too. She is not sleeping much, either, with all those night feeds.
“I don’t know how she does it, I would go nuts if I had to stay home all day with the baby.”
He kisses them all goodnight.
Pete stays up, washes the dishes, grabs a beer from the fridge and lays on the sofa. He grabs the iPad and opens Netflix. He spends 20 minutes browsing all the different movies and shows that he could watch.
He feels too tired to try something new, so eventually he decides to play a new episode of a superhero show he’s been watching every now and then.
Thirty minutes in, Pete feels tired. It’s getting late. He finishes the episode, switches off the lights and heads to bed. His wife is asleep and so is the baby on the crib next to their bed. He puts on the pajama as quietly as possible, brushes his teeth, pees and wraps himself under the blanket. His wife mutters goodnight, and he turns to kiss her forehead.
Pete closes his eyes, but his brain won’t switch off. He goes through his day and as he does so, he feels his heart speed up, a mild stab to his chest.
“The bus, Mark, the steak, the backpack…”
He tries to focus on his breath, but there’s no scape.
“Up, Up, Down, Down, Swipe Left…”
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
“What has this day been all for? Shit, more shit, then some happiness that I almost let scape because I am a worthless piece of shit, and where do I find myself? Tired yet wide awake in the middle of the night.”
Breathe in. Breathe out…
“Where is this going? Nowhere, that’s where. I’m stuck. Everyone is moving, growing, having a great time and here I am, weak and fat and mean and bitter and feeling sorry for myself.”
“That’s the worst of all: Why are you complaining Pete? WHY? Look at your life, you have a home, and a work, and a wife, and two kids… come one! Wake up man, think about it!”
Breathe out… I am so fucking lucky. Click To Tweet