One afternoon almost a year ago, feeling a little sad that an incipient relationship had ended, I decided to take a stroll to try and clear my head. There was a time when I would have submerged my head in a large quantity of alcohol to deal with unpleasant feelings, but these days walking whilst wallowing in cynicism I find to be less detrimental to my liver and relative mental well being.
Whilst I was strolling down Aungier Street I saw an ad in a window that offered 'past life analysis', As if the constant disappointments and vicissitudes of this life aren't wearing enough some dreadlocked shaman thinks I should go nosing about in other incarnations (not that I believe in past lives, but for the sake of composing this piece I’m willing to pretend). Jesus is there no limits to this self-improvement business! I’ve been in and out of psychotherapy for years at great cost and I thought I was making progress with the flawed ego I've developed in this life. Apparently all those breakthroughs I thought I was having in therapy count for nothing, until I deal with the abandonment issues I never knew I had from when my parents of a few lifetimes ago had the nerve to die of starvation during the potatoe famine.
Besides, I'm from an Irish Catholic background and unless my previous lives were that of a horse-riding Anglo-Irish aristocrat I'd bet good money that the memories that would resurface would be those of a miserable and unpleasant nature. I have no need to relive the moment I died of rickets and scurvy at the age of seven, crammed in to a Victorian Dublin tenement surrounded by the other twenty wretches of my immediate family gawking with trepidation at my demise as a looming precursor of their own fate, nor do I need to reawaken the horror of having been the priest's favourite trumpet player in the Artane boy's band. No thanks Mr Past Life Therapist (at what University did you gain that qualification?) you can hold on to those memories. I've enough misery in this life to deal with already. The only way any of this knowledge could affect my life would be negatively and I have no desire to develop the onset of chronic panic attacks every time I see a trumpet or a brass band. Besides, to even entertain the concept of past life analysis is the ultimate declaration that you have given up completely on this one. Now, whilst I’m not known for my unbounded optimism I’d like to think I’ll keep cracking away at doing all I can with this life until I’m left out on the compost heap.
Anyway, no one raised in a Catholic country has any business meddling about in the affairs of their previous lives. There is enough religiously induced guilt and shame to get over from this one. How is conjuring up shameful sexual memories from the eighteen hundreds going to assist you to live in the present moment when you have trouble living with the lust you felt towards the cashier in tescos from only a week ago?
Later on that particular evening, I went to a restaurant with a book for company. The book was very pleasant to dine with compared to a few of my more recent attempts at forging a relationship. For instance, it didn't once try and emasculate me or allude euphemistically to my lack of current earning potential which I find always makes for convivial dining. Nor did it expect me to possess psychic powers with regards to how my life might be in five years’ time. My past replies to this line of questioning went something as follows, much to the bemusement of the women on the receiving end: “I’m trying to cultivate a more mindful approach to my existence where I am more focused on appreciating and being aware of each moment rather than anxiously obsessing to get somewhere that might be nothing like how I had envisioned it would be anyway. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have future goals, it’s just that I keep them grounded in my actions in the here and now and the future will unfold accordingly in tandem with outside forces beyond my control.”
Why do people who are never content with the present, even when things are going well, assume that future present moments will be any different? Meanwhile, I dined in respectful reciprocity with my book, each of us accepting each other for who and what we were. I listened to its every word, engaged with it and allowed it to express itself as it was. It both challenged me to open my mind and stimulated me with new ideas. I don’t know will I ever find such symbiosis with a female of my species as much as I desire it.
At first I was contentedly alone in this restaurant, but after a while lots of attractive fulfilled looking couples arrived. This was not the place to be for an overly educated, but qualified for nothing in particular, financially struggling published author, with a haggard heart and delusions of grandeur. Besides, they were challenging the belief I used to cope with singledom that everyone found relationships difficult and here they were, the cheek of them, having the time of their lives. I needed to get away from them before I started to entertain the self-pitying belief that fulfillment and contentedness were the norm and that I was just unlucky to be genetically predisposed to being a cynical crank with a penchant for failed relationships. I feel ashamed to admit it, but I felt a sense of relief when the best looking couple had a blazing row, in fact I almost applauded them. Somehow the world made sense to me again, but in my heart I wished it didn’t so.