The Gift of Frustration

It occurs to me that those areas in my life in which I have known mostly chronic frustration and failure might be the very areas where I have the most to learn. The problem lies with me. I have never successfully been able to pretend to agree with something I fundamentally oppose. Therefore, my failures have proven to be gifts from the universe, showing me what I really believe even before I knew it.

For example, I think certifications and accreditations are bullshit, and that the people who invent and support them are self-serving bullies who hope to take a shortcut to the top of the heap by sidestepping the masses who aren’t as clever, slippery or ruthless as they. Hence, I’ve never been able to make much use of my Master’s Degree, because I think the whole concept of higher education is nonsense.

Likewise, I wouldn’t make a very good policeman unless I agreed with each and every law I was asked to enforce. For some reason, I’ve managed to avoid applying for the job of prison guard, even in light of our burgeoning for-profit incarceration industry.

I’ve never gotten on my knees and offered a woman a diamond ring purchased on credit in order to fulfill some popular scenario of romance, because I don’t believe the people who wrote the script have my best interests at heart. Heck, my Master’s Degree is in play writing. I know arbitrary invention when I see it.

Any attempt to create a life by purchasing its key elements off the rack instead of creating them from whole cloth is doomed to failure. There are no shortcuts to self-actualization.

Through years of scanning employment classified ads, looking for work that might not prove too onerous, I entertained the notion that there might be some job I could take that would not be soul-killing, but that I could fake for a few hours a day, in order to save my real energies for myself later. Such an idea is nonsense – a barter made with Satan.

Even if I could persuade some poor employer that I was sincere in my intentions towards his job, I would be lying and in the long run I would be found out. For example, Iowa City is full of graduate students who are pretending to be waiters and cooks as long as they can fool themselves into thinking that they’re not really in the restaurant business, but actually poets or artists who are temporarily pretending to be. Their deception serves neither them nor the public. You can tell by the falseness of their ministrations that they are merely phoning in their performance.

All paths to hell begin with one seemingly innocuous step.  The Quakers clearly saw that violent acts begin with the apparently innocent act of naming. It’s not OK to kill other human beings, but it is OK to kill Viet Cong. Or Communists. Or Terrorists, Jews, or Homosexuals. The name switch supposedly removes their troublesome humanity.

The problem with self-deception is that it’s easy to forget the first step that led us down the wrong path, the path that leads to wasted opportunity, self-pity, and discouragement. Even if you do manage to avoid blaming others, if you can’t remember how you got there, it’s hard to retrace your steps.

Change is possible, but not if you’re unwilling to admit it when all signs indicate you’re on the wrong path. Otherwise, you just keep trudging towards oblivion, whistling in the dark to keep up your courage, shouting out hoarse words of encouragement to others you meet along the way, the same ones who will curse you later.

I think the hardest job in the world would to that of divorce lawyer. Your days would be filled with sifting through your clients’ dashed hopes, broken dreams, scenarios of victim-hood, legitimate anger and justified resentments. Heck, I’d rather shovel manure. At least at the end of the day you could change your clothes and take a shower.

I’ve been drifting around the world for over a few years now, and have found that there is no escaping my own head. No matter what baggage I leave behind, I take myself along on every trip. That’s both the curse and the gift.

Fortunately, here in Northern Thailand I feel I may have landed somewhere where I can stay put long enough for me to catch up with myself.





4 thoughts on “The Gift of Frustration

  1. “Any attempt to create a life by purchasing its key elements off the rack instead of creating them from whole cloth is doomed to failure. There are no shortcuts to self-actualization” … Sent the quote to my own child, my best friend, my mother in law, and crafty buddy… Probably the best, most succinct line of philosophy I’ve ever read.

  2. WOW – @ Jane Ryals – thanks for repeating that section… Dan – I do not know where that whole statement/expression/summation came from but it so totally is inside of me also… and now it will be outside also… “thanks” (again!) for sharing and I want to share your wonderful verbalization with many of those i know responding to similar vibrations…. health to you and “see you at the top”….

  3. Dan How I enjoy your brilliant insights and how you weave it all together. Thank you for writing it is such your gift to us. I hope you and Nicheta are thriving. I met a beautiful man, a therapist and contractor and moved into his house today. He’s like my best buddy. Love Rama

  4. Dearest Dan, This is too good not to share. Hope you don’t mind that it is now on my Face Book page. Where are u now?

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