The System

There is no greater sorrow than to recall in misery the time when we were happy – Dante

We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met? – David Foster Wallace

One of my favourite films of all time is “The Matrix”. The first time I saw it I was blown away by the special effects and this was probably the reason why I enjoyed the film so much. As I grow older and watched the film over and over again I see similarities between everyday life and the sci-fi world of “The Matrix” and the special effects become irrelevant. I love the movie even more.

During the week my wife asked me if I wanted to go out for a meal tonight. I told her that I would like that but reminded her that I was “on-call” for work. She didn’t mind and arranged for her Mother to babysit. On the way to the restaurant my phone did not stop ringing. When I finally got off it my wife asked me to turn the car around and head back home. There was no way she was going to sit in a restaurant while I talked on the phone all night.

On the way home there was the normal silence that accompanies any moment in a relationship when one party or the other is angry. My wife was angry that I had spoiled her night and I was angry that she had thrown her toys out of the pram a little bit prematurely. As normal I tried to break the ice by talking to her and her reaction was hostile. This annoyed me. It wasn’t my fault I was on the phone? If I weren’t “on call” it would have been switched off. She knew I was “on call” but agreed to go out anyway. However, I considered the situation and understood why she was so annoyed. She had been looking forward to the night all week, had spent hours getting ready, looked a million bucks and I start her night off by talking about broken down trains!

We stopped at her Mother’s to pick the kids up. Whilst we were there my wife asked me to go somewhere else for a meal. I asked her what was difference between now and before when she had told me to turn the car around? I was still “on call”. I could still possibly have to answer my phone. She said she had calmed down now and I said that was not acceptable. I didn’t want to have an argument should the phone go again. The new simple rule is not to go out when I am “on call”. She asked me to take her to the pub instead and I said no. I didn’t want to spend the night sat next to drunken people who barely know me while I was sober. It was at this moment that she decided to tell me a few home truths.

She told me that I was a “Better Than” “Up my own arse”. I believed that I was superior and better than everyone else. I looked down on people. I had changed and changed for the worse. What had happened to the old Ching? Everyone loved old Ching, he was the life and soul of the party. Where had he gone? She wanted him back!

The old Ching is just a face on the back of a milk carton. He is a “missing person” and guess what? He will never be found. He doesn’t want to be found. There is a scene in “The Matrix” where Morpheus is showing Neo that the world he believes he is a part of doesn’t really exist. It is a lie. It is a lie called “The Matrix”. The Matrix was a system. My life is that very same system. I am no longer dependant on that system but everyone around me, those that I love the dearest are dependant on that system and they are fighting to protect it. When Morpheus opened Neo’s eyes to the real world Neo asked him why his eyes hurt so much.

“Because you have never used them before,” replied Morpheus.

Mine don’t hurt anymore. I have been seeing life for what it is for about 12 to 18 months now. My eyes have adjusted. I don’t think that I am a “better than”. I don’t think I am “Up my own arse”. But I can certainly see how some people could think that I am. I say things the way that they are. I don’t lie. I tell the truth. The truth hurts. If I wanted to move through life like a knife through butter then I would lie a bit more. I have decided to move through life like a knife through treacle and I honestly don’t mind. It’s everyone else that does.

She told me that people were thinking this way about me. I said I didn’t care. Remember I don’t lie.

Nearly two years ago I made one of the biggest decisions in my life. I decided to give up drinking alcohol. The main reason behind my decision was to try and improve my marriage. I thought if I gave up drinking then my wife would reduce her intake, we would stop squabbling and live happily ever after. A few months after giving up drinking I enrolled in a life-coaching programme. I was told when I started both journeys that I had to be prepared for some incredible changes in my life. Once I had decided to place that stake into the ground, once I had taken a decision to improve my life in so many ways there would be casualties.

I was told that once my life had improved I would find that a lot of the people I associated with in my old life would not make the journey with me to the new life. They would be too dependent on the system and they would fight to protect it. I was fine with this. I have never had any problems finding friends. But what happens if those people who cannot break free from the system are your close friends and family. What if it is your Mother, your Sister or your best friend? What if it is your wife?

I see people everyday. People trapped in the system. Have you ever wondered why you need an alarm clock to wake you up in the week but not on weekends? Have you ever been awoken by the shrill sound of your alarm clock, struggled to prize open your eyes through the sticky mess of sleep? Ever wondered why this happens in the week when you have work or school? Ever wondered how you wake on the weekends, without setting the alarm without the mucus keeping your eyes closed? People get up, brush their teeth, kiss their loved ones, tell them to have a good day, go to work, secretly will your life away, come home, kiss your loved ones, ask them how their day went, reply, shit, watch television, brush your teeth, kiss your loved ones and go to bed ready for the cycle to repeat itself. On weekends you may go to the pub, drink a few beers, smoke a few fags, spend the next day with a hangover?

Once a year you may go on holiday. Wake up each morning, nip downstairs place some towels on some loungers by the pool, spend all day lying on them, go to the hotel have a shower, go out, drink some beer, smoke some fags, wake up with a hangover, repeat the cycle.

If you step back and think about life’s cycle and dare to tell anyone that you think the system is wrong this is where people who are dependant on that very system fight back.

“That’s the way life is!”

If you don’t conform to the system you are weird, boring and annoying. Ignorant people who don’t understand why you are acting the way you are use these words as a defence mechanism.

Is asking someone to go to a pub for the night and sit by drunken people when they don’t want to, any different than asking someone to sit next to you in a casino while you play cards all night?

I don’t like the way life is. I don’t want to look back when I am at the end of my life tinged with regret wishing that I could have another chance so I could break out of the system earlier. See it for what it really is. I know you only get one chance. You don’t have the luxury to try to live life in the system and then a second life out of it.

People are dependant on the system because it is easier to cope. Life outside of the system is less predictable. It is a life riddled with fear. People like soft fluffy clouds not sharp bolts of lightning.

Life outside of the system is lonely. Especially when you have not fully crossed over yet. I am at that place. Stuck between two crossroads. I am leaving friends and loved ones behind and only have a few new friends and loved ones to talk to, trust and have empathy with me. I have decided to try and take 100% responsibility for my life. It has taken 35 years but I am finally breaking free of the system. I cannot look back and can only go forward but right now it feels so lonely so distasteful. I am scared. Why couldn’t more people have come along for the ride? They could have helped me, guided me.

One day I realised that I was stuck in The Matrix. One day I realised that the only person who could break free from the system was me. I had to take 100% responsibility for my life. It needed to change. I did and now I hate my job, have found out that I have very little in common with my friends and family, I am lonely, scared and am losing the support of my wife.

But I cannot go back. I don’t want to go back. I am experiencing new things. I have realised how much I love to write. How much I love to teach and help people. How much I love playing poker. I have met new friends through these experiences and retained some of my old ones.

Through all of this the one main constant through my life has been my son. Maybe it helps that he is only nine, he doesn’t understand what I am doing. All he knows is I am his Dad; he loves me and trusts me. When he was first born I used to hold him in my arms, dance in a slow circle and cry while listening to Coldplay. I used to stroke his little head and sing.

“No one said it was easy, No-one ever said it would be so hard.”