“It’s not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand.” ~ John Cleese
So, purely hypothetically, I could be in a situation right now where I’m unemployed and looking for work/ways of generating income. I say hypothetically because if I were to be in such a position it would be because I signed an uncompromising compromise agreement yesterday.
If I had done such a thing it could, again entirely hypothetically, have been because the company that I worked for had threatened that if I didn’t they would fire me for having fraudulently been claiming to be on sick leave after fabricating a mental health problem, a bunch of psychiatrist reports detailing said mental health problem, and several months worth of doctor’s sick notes. In addition to which they might have alleged that I was actually working full time elsewhere. And made a point of printing off copies of the many, many completely unnecessary emails that they’d already sent me, and I’d already replied to, and posting them to me without warning by recorded delivery. Thus creating a thrice weekly ritual where I freaked out the postman by having panic attacks every time he appeared on my doorstep without warning.
Clearly none of these things have actually happened. Because if they had the hypothetical compromise agreement would have contained a hypothetical clause forbidding me from telling you about them because you’re not my partner.
And telling you anyway might have prevented me from obtaining the derisive sum of money which had been hypothetically offered under its terms.
Anyway, should I have found myself being hypothetically unemployed I would be very anxious. I have a friend who had to leave his last position under circumstances of discrimination, and he’s now been out of work for four years. And the only difference between my hypothetical situation and his actual one would have been that my hypothetical compromise agreement contained an excellent reference in the appendices, whereas the reference given by his former employer simply states his job title and the dates that he worked there.
Now, I’ve been busy applying for things, putting myself out there, and working on my business ideas; but I have no factual justification for believing that things are any more likely to work out for me than they have done for him. So I’m not getting my hopes up about any of it.
I have in fact already established that if I were to get my hopes up it would be a very a bad thing. I had my hopes up a few weeks ago, when I’d plowed through tons of applications for great new jobs like a job applying machine, and my lawyer had told me that everything with my now ex-employer was all set to be ended equitably.
I was feeling all focussed and positive about everything. And then not a single one of my applications resulted in my getting so much as an interview. And immediately after that my employment legal situation imploded.
And then I didn’t want to be alive anymore.
I couldn’t so much as get out of bed for three days.
Because I’m a bit mental and I don’t cope well with disappoint or uncertainty.
Except that there isn’t all that much uncertainty here really. I’ve been alive for nearly thirty years. And in those thirty years it has been my unfailing experience that everything that can go wrong will, that everything bad that could possibly have happened has, and that nothing that should work out well, or even just fine, ever actually does.
On the basis of this wealth of experience it seems completely unreasonable to assume that anything is going to start going particularly right for me in the foreseeable future.
So I’m not going to.
That way, at least when I end up finding myself having been unemployed for four years I’ll have been prepared for it. It won’t be a disappointment. And most importantly it won’t see me wanting to dive off the top of a building as high as my hopes had one been on finding that my plans for my life have been dashed once again.
I mean. I’m still going to carry on with the applying, and the planning, and the reasearching. I’m just not going to start expecting anything to come of it.
But I’m finding that this is very annoying to other people.
First of all because they out right refuse to accept the veracity of my story about my friend. Presumably because it introduces the prospect of too much uncertainty into their own lives.
I present them with exactly the same scenario as I’ve just given you. And they tell me that, yeah, but, it’s different for me. I’ll get a job because I’m not funny looking. I don’t have ‘weird’ hair, or ‘weird’ clothes, and I don’t have tattoos or anything.
Well, okay, but neither does Stan.
So they say, okay, well you’ll just have to not be picky and take whatever comes along to start with until you can find something better, even if it’s just temporary or not something that you really want to be doing.
That’s fine, and I will. But so would Stan.
Then they begin to get a little testy, and tell me that I have to keep at it, and that I’ll never get anything if I sit around all day and just apply for thing here and there when I feel like I can be bothered.
Again. I’m aware of this. But so’s Stan. He doesn’t do this either.
Then people tend to lose their temper.
Which I suppose maybe I should anticipate and stop winding them up. But at the same time I really feel the need to defend both my own approach to my life, and poor old Stan who’s being wrongly maligned as a work-shy weirdo, for no apparent reason, by people who’ve never even met him.
It’s at this point that people start banging on and defending Hope, and making vague and irrelevant statements about its supreme importance.
Now, I’ve always had an issue with Hope. Ever since we learnt about Pandora and her box in school when I was about five.
You might remember that Pandora was the insatiably curious daughter Zeus sent to the earth to marry one of a pair of brothers he was angry with. In a scheme to reek his revenge he had sent her with a box – well, actually it was jar, but I guess Pandora’s Jar just doesn’t have the same ring to it – about which he gave her no information besides the instruction that she was not to open it under any circumstances.
Zeus had secretly filled the jar with the sprites of all the bad things that now exist on earth. His reasoning being that the couple would then not be able to resist the temptation of opening the thing, and that then the weight of the guilt of having introduced misery and suffering into world would be their punishment.
Hope features in this story as the one thing in the box that remained after all the death, disease, and destruction had escaped. It too then flew off into the world, to offer a counter point to all the bad stuff.
This story is presented to us as an illustration of how hope could triumph over adversity, a tale that demonstrated that while the world might be filled with war, and famine, and disease, and mushrooms, and Jeremy Kyle, at least the gods gave us this one powerful good thing that was Hope.
Only, I could never understand how anyone had ever come by this interpretation of that story.
As far as I’m concerned, the lessons to be learned from Pandora’s story were thusly:
- If a vengeful person who hates you offers you a gift, don’t accept it. Especially if that person is Greek. And even more especially if that person is the king of the gods.
- If you really must accept the present then at least just stick it an attic or a cupboard somewhere and forget about it. Whatever you do don’t open it.
- Zeus gave Pandora a box of bad things that he wanted to see released into the world to punish Epimetheus and Prometheus. Hope was contained in this box of bad things. Therefore it seems logical to assume that Zeus regarded Hope itself as being a bad thing. More logical at any rate than the idea that a god who was perfectly happy to unleash war, famine, and disease on the entirety of the world’s population in order to get his own back on just two people he was pissed off with would think to temper his abominable gift with the mercy of one tiny, largely ineffectual sprite.
I’m perfectly open to accept that the sole reason that I feel this way is because I’ve basically been depressed for my whole life.
The sum total of the amount of time that I haven’t been depressed amounts to no more than fifteen months. If that. And I started sitting by myself in my room and crying about the fact that I was facing maybe another sixty years of having to be alive when I was, I don’t know, eight maybe.
I’m quite willing to accept that this has drastically altered, some would say skewed, my perspective on life.
In fact I know I look at things differently. I went to a bar once with some friends, and there was a competition on to win a date with the bar man. As none of my friends were single and I was they light-heartedly told me to enter. So I wrote the only love poem I can ever remember, Wendy Cope’s Defining the Problem.
“I can’t forgive you. Even if I could you wouldn’t pardon me for seeing through you.
And yet I cannot cure myself of love for what I thought you were before I knew you.”
My friends were horrified by my ‘anti-love poem’. They thought it was horrible.
While I was obviously aware that it wasn’t appropriate for winning a love poem competition, I couldn’t see any inherent problem with the actual poem. It’s about the only poem about love that I’ve ever heard that doesn’t seem ridiculous and unrealistic to me. Apart from the ones Carol Anne Duffy writes about rings, and I can’t remember those off the top of my head.
But the misery and ennui I can deal with. They’re perfectly normal for me. It’s the Hope that kills me.
That little nagging thing that won’t allow me to just accept life as it is, and leads to perpetual and occasionally life threatening disappointment when it’s so seldom ever realised.
Seldom because Hope seems to pay very little heed to facts, possibilities, or the way the world works.
If it would just shut up and go away I could work on accepting life the way it is instead of wishing that it would change to become the way I want it be.
Because that’s all Hope essentially is – wishing.
Some people’s coping mechanism is to keep hoping. Mine is to abandon it. I feel that they’re both equally valid life choices.