Wide Awake Asleep At The Wheel

I’m that Tired Guy, the one staring at his reflection in the mirror wondering where the gray starts, the baldness ends and a wry smile framing it all.  I’m that Tired Guy, exhausted from yet another battle with the Ides of Corporate America, weary yet stolid, looking to scribe something worthwhile, memorable, humorous or at the very least SOMETHING.

Yesterday I arrived at Chez Tired Guy in time to see both of Mrs. Tired Guy’s kids playing with a large battered cardboard box.  Mini Tired Guy was coloring one box flap with a variety of crayons while Crazy-Haired Little Tired Guy sat proudly inside the box, making ecstatic gurgling noises and smiling as if he had discovered the secret of fire.

“What are you guys doing?” I asked curiously.

Mini Tired Guy grinned at me.  “We’re making a spaceship!” he stated happily.

“YEAH!” crowed Crazy-Haired Little Tired Guy enthusiastically.

And there it was.

My heart swelled up larger than the Grinch’s from That-Pagan-Holiday-Story-By-The-Lyrically-Gifted-Rhyming-Guy.  I had been so fixated upon lofty production goals, TPS reports, the pitfalls of inane corporate intrigue and the melancholia of the everyday working man’s world I had once again forgotten the rest of me.

It seems to me
I could live my life
A lot better than I think I am
I guess that’s why they call me the workin’ man,
They call me the workin’ man

Gone was the day’s accumulated work detritus, snuffed out so suddenly and utterly by the sheer awesomeness of that moment.  I stood there catching my breath, eyes welling with tears.  It was as if I had been struck in the noggin by a heavy mallet.  My tunnel work focus evaporated leaving me drained, relieved and so very, very tired.

Imagine that…me…tired.

Precisely.

Both boys were flexing their creative muscles, and their quintessential innocence had brought me back from that awful place I like to call “The Doldrums”.

The Doldrums?

Glad you asked!

Think of it as an imposing black fortress with vast, unassailable walls, massive, forbidding towers and a rusted portcullis barring your escape.

Or consider it as an endless expanse of listless ocean without a hint of a breeze, which is one literal translation, but then put yourself on a small dinghy in the middle of it without any sense of where to go, what to do and how to travel somewhere, anywhere else.

And you know its impact on your very soul, how it molds and twists, drags and drains, a crushing weight accompanied by a dull, monotonous and nearly endless array of “have to do’s” and “how to do’s” and “when to do’s” coupled with triplicate copies of every email you sent for the past twenty-two years.

Put simply if you find yourself in The Doldrums and ever wondered how you got there just think back on that first moment when you wanted to take a vacation, raise a family, or order a sandwich and realized it cost money.  Lots and lots of money.

(No I’m not railing against capitalism here.  Or about thievery.  Or how much I detest sporting teams from New York.

Just hear me out ok?)

Some even consider it a game of sorts, where winning is everything and losers are discarded chaff, ridiculed or ignored.

Play, play the game tonight
Can you tell me if it’s wrong or right
Is it worth the time
Is it worth the price
Do you see yourself in the white spotlight
Then play the game tonight

Most focused upon their career, job, occupation, salt mines, coal mines, gold mines and land mines.

You’re probably there right now as you chew on my latest sandwich.  And maybe this one doesn’t sit so well with you.

Or does it?

If this is all-to-familiar to you go ahead and nod vigorously.

You wake up at precisely 5:45 AM, swat the alarm like a mosquito, roll out the same side of the bed, blindly questing feet discovering overturned slippers, staggering wearily past sleeping dogs, cats and dust bunnies until the vanity materializes into a hazy half-view.  Gripping the faux finish with both hands you shake your head in a vain attempt to sweep an unkempt mop of wispy strands away from sleep-encrusted eyes only to realize the amount of time it takes to make you pretty is probably not worth all the effort if anyone really cared. Which some do, some don’t and half the time is more than fifty-one percent willpower and ninety-nine percent a realization you can’t wear THOSE shoes with THAT outfit and be considered trendy.  And you still haven’t combed the dreadlocks, shaved, showered, brushed a single tooth or contemplated the forty-five (and counting!) push-ups you swore you’d do if your flabby gut would just stay out of the damn way.

Mirror in the bathroom recompense
For all my crimes of self-defense
Cures you whisper make no sense
Drift gently into mental illness

Working stiffs collecting a paycheck, hoping to gather enough shekels and pay the monkey grinder to keep the doors open another night, staving off the specter of financial ruin on the one hand, and the looming omnipresence of bar mitzvahs, braces, car payments, sweet sixteens, college tuition, rehearsal dinners, retirement and the occasional bail money.

Necessity is a mother all right Mr. Franklin.  She’s a mother with about eight screaming mouths to feed and not enough arms to hug them all.

I want the things I want because I want them.

You dig?

And I’m certainly not alone out there.  You know who you are.

Creatures of habit.

Soldiers of routine.

Thankfully my boys reminded me once again how I easily fell victim to The Doldrums.  I spend an inordinate amount of energy focused upon attaining that brass ring.  I get in early, I work late, I work from home, I check my blackberry when I’m on vacation.  I can’t seem to help it.  It’s my own damn fault.

It’s like I was driving along the same route I always take home from work, eyes scanning the road yet my mind was fixated upon assignments and deadlines.  Quite honestly I’m wide awake asleep at the wheel.

You know your paint by number life 
Doesn’t excite you
It’s a watercolor world
That you’re livin’ in
And when you close your eyes at night
You’re wonderin’ just where you’ve been

Success is a narcotic, perhaps the worst kind.  Once you’ve tasted from the cup you want more and more.  Bonus plans, raises, incentives, extra credits, back slaps and the occasional ‘atta boy.

“Look over here!” cries the pointy-bearded little man hopping up and down wildly at the podium.

Behind him is a crimson curtain billowing with possibilities.  His dark eyes gleam with mischief.

Performing on a stool
We’ve a sight to make you drool
Seven virgins and a mule
Keep it cool, keep it cool
We would like it to be known
The exhibits that were shown
Were exclusively our own
All our own, all our own

Resistance is futile.

Or is it?

I know I’ve written in this space many times before about losing my creative touch, failing to appreciate the simpler things, reminiscing upon bygone days and feeling decidedly (un)whimsical.

And maybe you’re tired of reading about it.

But constant reminders only transmogrify into nagging when guilt overrides common sense.

(Yeah, I just used “transmogrify” in a sentence.  Pretty cool eh?)

Or in my case, when my kids’ precious precociousness smacks me between the eyes as powerful as ordering the Code Red.

I can handle that truth.

G’night folks.

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