Life Lessons: Hubris

Today’s post is going to be dark and bitter and whiny. Do yourself a favor, enjoy some MJ instead — it’s bound to be more moving than my post.

The ancient Greeks had a term: ‘Hubris’.  It wasn’t enough that bad things happened to people sometimes; it wasn’t enough that the protagonist needs to go through dark times in order to reach the light again. They had to be brought on by something, in this case overwhelming pride and arrogance. Man thinks he is greater than the gods, and man is struck down for it time and time again.

That is my sin.

I thought I had things together. A job, a fiance, a car, an apartment. I made payments on time every month, dutifully paid off my debts and had to raise them again but paid as much as I could every month. I paid more to take care of my car so it wouldn’t go to pieces on me. I kept putting in time and money on various problems that needed my attention. I thought things were looking up; I thought I had things under control.

I thought I could have nice things. I thought my desires and my actions had any impact on the course of my life. That’s hubris right there.

“Azula was born lucky. I was lucky to be born.”  –Zuko

The thing is, I’m not allowed to have nice things. I’m only allowed to think I do before things come crashing down and are taken away from me. If I don’t feel like I’m drowning, then it’s a trap meant to lull me into a sense of complacency. That’s the lesson life has taught me over and over and, stubbornly, I continue to reject it. Other people have nice things. Other people work hard doing the same things I do and manage to come out ahead. But I’m not other people. I’m cursed, or unlucky, or whatever you want to call it. I’m the cosmic plaything of the series that is my life, fate’s butt monkey.

And yet, I want things. I want things so badly. I want a space that is my own, savings at the end of the month rather than panic, friends, good food…. I can’t train myself not to want more than I have. I’m not talking a mansion here: I want a two-bedroom so I can have a space that’s mine where I can lock myself in and concentrate on projects, a washer-dryer hookup inside so I don’t have to carry things up and down stairs, decent insurance so I can go to the doctor without worrying, the ability to come home and relax without having to sort through bills and life problems and fret. The ability to sleep at night. The ability to afford my own car. Some new clothes – secondhand is fine, but I’d like more than two pairs of work pants. Literally every time I plan to go to the Goodwill and get more, something happens and I can’t bring myself to spend money because it’s so tight this week but next week will be better I’ll go then.

Wanting things — desire – is the root of all unhappiness in Buddhist teachings. If I could just not want things. If I could just be okay with the miserable lot that is mine.  But I’ve never been able to do that. I’ve never been able to look at a bad situation and go “I shouldn’t bother making this better”. I’ve never been able to stagnate, I always need to be moving forward, working to make the next phase of my life a little better. Ambition. Is that so wrong? Apparently it is — every single time, I get smacked down because of it. But I can’t give up.

The sheer hopelessness of the situation is what landed me in the hospital. Things are objectively better than they were then, but I hate this helpless feeling. I toss and turn at night trying to find a way to keep the things I’ve earned, while in the pit of my stomach I’m sure I haven’t ‘earned’ anything, I’ve been given things temporarily and they’re going to be snatched away at the whims of fate or an angry God or whatever. Nothing I have is really mine at all, just another tool used to punish me for some crime I committed in a past life or maybe I’m just an awful person and deserve nothing.

I can keep my car if I stop going to the doctor. If I accept being crippled forever. That’s not good enough. I’ll keep trying, gamble everything. Maybe I’ll even get to keep some of it.

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3 Responses to Life Lessons: Hubris

  1. Colleen says:

    Hi.

    I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now, though lurking, and you remind me of the young woman I was. I could have written this post, ten years ago.

    So I’m going to tell you what I needed someone to tell me back then. I hope you don’t mind, because that is pretty presumptuous of me, but I’d rather have you angry at a comment, then keep silent if I could help.

    You are not alone, even if you feel that way. There are people out there that care about you, but the blackness that is in your mind is obscuring them.

    You are an agent in your own life, and your actions DO matter.

    You are important, and worthy of love and respect. Your story is in the conflict parts right now, but it’s still your own unique story and beautiful because of it.

    You probably won’t believe any of this just now. It sounds like the blackness has got you, and you can’t see very clearly. That’s okay. Just try remember this as you try to find your way out: you are worthy of love and respect, you are cared for, and you are important.

    I won’t tell you that your money situation or your health will improve – they might not. But if you suffer from depression (which you seem to), wake up each morning and tell yourself that there was life and laughter before this bout of blackness descended on you, and that there will be again. Eventually, that will be true.

    Again, I’m not trying to give you advice, and I’m sorry if this wasn’t appropriate. But I was young, homeless, and bipolar once, and all I wanted was for someone to tell me I MATTERED.

    And you matter.

    • yamikuronue says:

      Thank you.

      In all honesty, this has been a bad month or so. Sometimes I end up relapsing into the way I was during the Dark Times, and some ideas I formed then don’t seem to go away. Most days I feel a lot better than this post would make it seem. Winters are hard; I’m glad it’s finally warming up into spring. It’s so much easier to keep a sense of perspective when it’s sunny out.

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