My dad told me once that the happiest people on Earth are the ones who were born, raised, and died in Richmond, IL and never ventured further than Genoa City, WI. I think he was correct. Neither Dad nor I were so lucky…
The following is an excerpt from A More Exciting Life:
In childhood, the story might have gone like this. A parent needed us to be special – by virtue of intelligence, looks of popularity – in order to shore up a floundering sense of their own self. The child needed to achieve and could not, therefore, just be; their own motives and tastes were not to be part of the picture. The parent was privately in pain, unable to value themselves, battling an unnamed depression, furious with the course of their own lives, perhaps covertly tortured by their spouse. The child’s mission, for which there was no option but to volunteer, was to make it all better.
It seems odd to look at achievement through this lens- not as the thing the newspapers tell us it is, but very often as a specias of mental illness. Those who put up the skyscrapers, write the bestselling books, perform on stage or make partner may in fact be the unwell ones. Conversely, the characters who, without agony, can bear an ordinary life, the so-called contented ‘mediocrities’, may be the emotional superstars, the aristocrats of the spirit, the captains of the heart. The world divides into the privileged who can be ordinary and the damn who are compelled to be remarkable.
The best possible outcome for the latter is to have a breakdown. Suddenly, after years of achievement, they can – if they are lucky – no longer get out of bed. They fall into a profound depression. They develop all-consuming social anxiety. They refuse to eat. They babble incoherently. They in some way poke a very large stick in the wheels of day-to-day life and are allowed to stay home for a while. A breakdown is not merely a random piece of madness or malfunction, it can be a very real – albeit inarticulate and inconvenient – bid for health. It is an attempt by one part of our minds to force the other into a process of growth, self-understanding and self-development that it has hitherto been too cowed to undertake. If we can put it paradoxically, it is an attempt to jump-start a process of getting well – properly well – through a stage of falling very ill.
Excerpt from A More Exciting Life