Remember To Horse Around, Or Risk Perishing

Remember To Horse Around, Else Perish by Bespoke Hogaboom

So today’s missive is just a reminder that life is too short not to goof off a bit.

Listen. The world is scary. You’re right. I get it. I am doing my best to make it better. I probably can’t fix it all on my own.

And listen: life is hard. You’re right. Just like you, I’ve known a lot of trouble in my life. I’ve survived childhood homelessness, emotional neglect, stalking, partner abuse, chronic illness, medical trauma, discrimination and abuse due to my sex and gender, and addiction – plus all the terrible shit going on in my country right now which honestly I’m not going into at the moment.

My troubles may not be the same as yours – but let’s be honest, we’ve all had them. 

So listen: at various points in my life, during these Troubles, I have lost my faith many times. I have had the kinds of balls-deep scares we all have known – scares that I really, literally feel in my bowels, the scares that keep me up at night (or launch me out of sleep)! 

And when I get this scared it can be really tempting to think I don’t have time to play, it is wrong for me to experience Joy, it’s wrong for me to be silly or give myself rest or recreation. I feel that dark cloud encroaching in my head and I am just so scared. Soon I’m telling myself a story I’m some kind of Cosmic Victim – the Universe is out to get me. I never say it in those terms because I know someone would argue me out of that and the fiction, in its twisted way, serves me. But that’s what I’m believing, that’s how scared I am.

The problem is when I’ve entertained this story for too long, and without seeking help… I start believing it.

I lose the ability to play, to feel Joy.

And that’s scary as hell.

***

If we don’t play, if we don’t goof off, if we don’t work that Creative, chaotic impulse, if we don’t find joy in either big things or little things – well [ flappy-handed gesture ] – listen, that won’t work out. I can tell you this from a lifetime of observation or, most emphatically, my own life’s experiences.

To the extent I voluntarily participate in my own pressure-keg lifestyle I am doing my part to guarantee I will flee to compulsive behaviors or maladaptive coping mechanisms.

We all have our different run-to’s in this kind of thing. Some people cope by obsessing over sex or relationships, by spending on things they know they shouldn’t, by diving deep into orthorexia or diet or workout culture, by over-investing in their job and professional identity, by fleeing to drugs and alcohol, or just acting out in general and being a super asshat then crying See I Told You So! when people invariably start to pull away.

Me? My go-to for years was alcohol – I’ve written about it before.

See I’m not that wise but I am kinda economical. Alcohol is pretty cheap, it’s everywhere, it’s easy to find, it’s socially acceptable.

***

I am not here to write about my drinking, but I will touch on it. I no longer judge myself for falling into that abyss. I had a life full of stress – external forces yes, and a big internal mess. I hadn’t been nurtured well and I hadn’t (yet) figured out how to re-parent myself.

It can be fun to make fun of drunks but let’s take a minute and agree I was pretty brilliant, honestly. I found this short-cut. And for a long time it worked! I’d work my fingers to the bone because I could get through ANY day as long as I had my glass to retreat to at night. I had a good run! Of course… I really hurt my relationships, and my self concept, and I almost died. BUT STILL. I mean it worked FOR A WHILE.

Other people use prescription abuse or gaming or sex or food or whatever – it doesn’t matter. The point is I set up this fucked-up stress-then-reward system, I made that choice, and eventually it got its hooks in me and I lost my choice. Kinda quick, really. As I’ve heard it said (paraphrased): “once having formed the habit and found I could not break it, once having lost my self-confidence, my reliance upon things human, my problems piled up on me and become astonishingly difficult to solve.”

***

Sometimes I don’t like to share about drinking, and not because I’m ashamed. But because people will take my tales of active addiction and use them as an excuse to immediately let themselves off the hook: “Oh thank goodness. I’m not that bad!” I don’t know if it’s an American thing or what but boy we love to hide our maladaptive behaviors, instead of just taking an honest inventory of them.

That’s why we like people who are a real mess (like me): they absolve us of taking an honest look at our own patterns and behaviors.

Hide this shit from others, or yourself, or not – that’s not my call. But what I can tell you is our emotional and traumatic legacies – and the way we often avoid doing something constructive about them – follow us – everywhere. Everywhere – trust me on this.

***

I am not a trained mental health professional and I’m not here today to give you advice. Because I don’t really know who you are reading here now, and I don’t know what you need.

But I do know that we all need to play.

And play is kind of a canary-in-a-coal-mine thing. If you’ve lost the ability to play – it’s a sign something is very wrong indeed.

If we’ve lost the ability to play, we probably need help.

***

When I look back at myself at my worst (my worst so far), I know that person was working very very hard. I have a lot of compassion for that person. So if I have a lot of compassion for Kelly back then, this means I should work to find compassion for myself right now.

And it follows that if I know Kelly-then and Kelly-now needs compassion – then I know you do too. Full-stop.

No matter who you are and what mistakes you’ve made.

I hope you find time to play. And I hope if not, that you tell someone. And you take that self-rescue seriously.

There are people who will help, and people who will care.

And people who can teach you better.

I owe my life to these people.

Good luck. I really am rooting for you!

***

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