I’ve spent my life since the age of 21 striving to be the best I can and to earn as much as I can.
My initial drive was to ensure I didn’t remain in menial employment as I had been, intermittently, prior to my return to education. I had come to realise that in each role I had been satisfied whilst learning the processes involved yet restless upon the eventual absence of challenge. I was determined to study for the qualifications required to gain fulfilling employment.
That simple goal changed within a year of starting my degree. I had met the woman who would become my first wife not long after the academic year had begun, and within three weeks she began to exhibit signs of a mysterious illness. She was eventually diagnosed with a progressive condition that would leave her paralysed unless operated on. The procedure was successful, but so much damage had already been dealt that she was rendered incapable of continuing her study or even working with any significant financial impact. A promising career was denied to her by a cruel birth defect. At this point my motivation moved beyond rising above the mundane to being the best I could be in order to earn as much as I possibly could. My hope was to ensure that a single income could sustain a comfortable life for the both of us.
I admit that this wasn’t entirely selfless. I feared struggle and abhorred debt, and the realisation that I was now supporting someone else magnified that fear.
We struggled and my fear began to generate worry. I deferred the final year of my degree twice due to financial pressures. After completing my degree I found that worry did not become some forgotten ailment, that in fact the 1st I’d driven myself so hard to achieve came nowhere near to delivering the untold riches I’d heard people tell tales of. By that point I’d committed seven years of my life to my career, from starting college through to university graduation, with a placement year and two years of low paid pre graduate work. Seven years down that path and I was still struggling.
I worked my way through several jobs, losing each due to an inability to manage my emotions. I know now that my BPD played a large part in that, and pretty much all subsequent employment issues.
All the while I was supporting and caring for my wife. However, the strain of doing so on top of raising our children, running our house, my poor mental health and constant worry about money eventually caused our relationship to deteriorate. We separated after nearly tens years and I was back to square one – I had handed everything, including the house, over to my ex-wife.
I found new employment, and within a few months a new partner and new accommodation. I was starting over again and building a new life from scratch. Except now I had a 20% deduction to my income every month in the form of child maintentance. I could see myself moving further and further away from the security I desperately needed. I was also supporting more people.
A similar story unfolded except this time the illness was a fundamental incompatibility between myself and my partner. I had the same problem with employment but was able to hold out longer due to an overriding determination to support my dependants. Instead of changing jobs every year or two I was lasting four or five. I had more children, married again and was still seeking my utopia. I wanted desperately to still reach a point where I could say that I owned my own home and didn’t have to worry about retirement. My second wife eventually told me she didn’t love me after I returned from a business trip. I learned later, and should have seen it coming, that she had been forming a relationship with another man. Another ten years. Another two children.
I returned to square one again, and with even greater responsibility upon me.
I have met someone new, we are getting married, and she has two teenage children of her own. The difference? Only one really. I know she is the right one for me, and for so many reasons. I still feel the pressure to succeed, to provide for and support the ones I love, and to remove any doubt about our future welfare.
Or should I say that I was feeling the pressure.
As I work my way through a third breakdown I have been learning a lot about myself and of alternative ways of thinking. I realise that so much struggle and pain over the years has been inflicted through seeking the ideal, attempting to find a state of being where worry is a thing of the past. I’ve been trying to return, without thinking, to the life of a child, where there are no bills, no mortgages, no tax returns, no pensions. To return to a life where the future is guaranteed to be comfortable and without need.
My life has had a lot of negative input but this endless and insatiable motivation has only compounded everything. It has made me lose sight of the fact that my partner, children, family and friend are fundamentally all that is truly important.
I’m at a stage now where my affairs are so far off course that I doubt I will ever own a home or even have a pension that will provide comfort in old age. So I cannot continue to allow this drive, this need, to control my life and emotions otherwise I will be lost, figuratively and perhaps even literally.
I should be content with now and put only reasonable and responsible effort and thought towards the future.
My need has caused so much suffering.
I am starting to move away from this way of thinking. Slowly. I am starting to feel less pressure too.
Learning about Buddhism has started to show me just how much of what I think, say and do impacts myself and those around me, and even good intentions can generate negative results. A change of view in this matter has nothing to do with abandoning possessions or wealth. It is more about realising that I should not see them as a source of happiness or contentment.
I think I can do this.