Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Losing Streak

In sports all losing streaks end. No hockey team ever goes 0-82. No baseball team goes 0-162. No football team ever goes 0-16. Oh wait, they do. In 2008 the NFL Detroit Lions suited up sixteen times and sixteen times they left the field with the other team having recorded more points than them thus racking up a perfect season of defeats. On the opposite side of perfect of the 1972 14-0 Miami Dolphins. But even the Lions got to try again the next year with a perfectly clean slate of 0-0.

In life the slate does not get wiped clean with a new season nor is there any statistical probability to a "losing streak" ending. In business when a losing streak begins it very often never ends. Just ask Pan-Am World Airways. Or any one of thousands of previously successful businesses that started a downward spiral and couldn't pull out. In personal life it's the same. You could populate a city with people who've tasted success and then for a number of reasons began a descent into poverty from which they could never recover. Maybe they were born losers, maybe not. Either way, the losses began to pile up and they could just not stop the losing. Losing is contagious. Losing begets losing. When you're a winner, everyone wants to be around you. When you're a loser you lose alone.

People can sense it in you. I'm convinced that people are designed to sense losers and avoid them even if they are unconscious to the fact they're doing this. People sense losers in resumes and phone conversations. There are always subtle clues that the loser, unconscious of them himself, will give off. The harder you try to stop losing the more you look like a loser. Maybe it's the desperation that people sense. The loser must be shut out. The loser will be shut out.

Losing tears you apart inside. There are those who are hard-hearted and don't notice or they have a particularly strong ability for denial and are literally blind to their losses. They will be seen as "strong" but if they never feel or sense the pain of loss, how strong can they be? It's like they're lifting empty dumb bells to just look strong. It's merely an illusion. Many are not blessed with this blind spot and insensitivity to losing and losses. Some people are blessed with indomitable optimism. They get knocked down in life and they just get right back up. Some people can bear losing but it's like they don't give a shit. Lose in life and it's just another day, who cares? Others can't bear it. There are athletes who cannot bear losing, the losses are like personal pain. I cannot bear losing, I've always hated it. I could accept losses graciously if I was bested by a better man who did better than me that day. That I don't have a problem with. It's losses to my inferiors that I cannot stand.Or losses because of my own foolishness and ineptitude. There are "good" losses and there are bad losses. It is the bad losses I'm talking about here.

I hate losing because I like winning. What do I like to win? I like achievement. I like to attain. I like to be rewarded for my efforts. There are people who can go through life doing anything as long as they make a dollar. I was never like that. Ever. For me it was always about reaching, about becoming. To live without reaching, to live without attaining, to live without becoming anything is meaningless, a complete waste of a human soul and body. Maybe most people are born without souls. I often wonder. They seem so empty. To not reach, to not attain, to not become is to lose, a losing I cannot bear, a losing which sears me to the depth of my soul. To not reach, attain or become is to not live at all.

I think, at one point, I might have been strong. I can recall a time when I was almost always optimistic. But five and a half years of constant losing has exhausted that, has destroyed that. It started with photography. Photography meant way too much to me. I never had the talent to live up to my own expectations which were higher than anyone who knows me could ever understand. It was this that started the losing streak that would never end. It started with the financial losses. As soon as I started cashing in savings to buy camera gear I was losing. And that losing never stopped until I burned through every dime I ever saved, every investment I ever made and all the equity I'd built up through home ownership. If I factor in the lost wages that I would have earned while doing a legitimate job, the losses would easily surpass a quarter of a million dollars. For some that's a drop in the bucket. For people who have to sweat blood for every penny they make, that's a lot of losing. With that I lost any hope of any kind of comfortable retirement. With that I lost most of my hope, period. But that was only the financial losses. The psychological losses were worse.

I never considered myself an artist. That felt too pretentious to me. But in my heart of hearts I guess that's what I was. For it is an artist who understands what it's like to pour their heart and soul into something, into a creation of only their own mind. Few people understand this. For them, most of their efforts mean nothing. It's just "another day, another dollar".  I could give a fuck about those vacuous empty fucks. Vacuous empty fucks for whom losing means nothing. They gamble none of their heart and soul  and they lose none of their heart and soul. They know nothing of loss for they've never given anything to lose. Material losses may be recovered. The loss of one's soul cannot. And don't give me any bullshit about "God" can restore your soul. That's just a bullshit illusion of your soul being returned. If all it takes is some "word from God", then you never had a soul to lose in the first place. I don't give a fuck if you agree with me or not. I'm talking about my soul, not yours, my concept of soul, not yours.

If losing everything financially was hard - and it was - then losing at photography was death by a thousand cuts. Every failure - and they were all ultimately failures - stung like needles of ice. They were all failures because they never lived up to my dreams. What price can be put on dreams? A very high price if you are a true dreamer. I dreamed of the stars and never left planet earth. I never sold more than a hand full of prints. I was never accepted for a single assignment I applied for. I never won any recognition that I sought. The empty praise of so-called friends was meaningless. Nothing resulted from anything I aspired to. Nothing came of any attempt I made. There wasn't a single solitary thing that I attempted that didn't result in failure. Others have attempted to redefine "success" for me. Well, fuck them. They have no idea what I wanted, what I needed, what I strove for. They have no idea what my dreams were. They have no idea how high I reached and how far I fell. Do I need people who tell me that shit smells like perfume? No, I do not need people who try to tell me that shit smells like perfume. Or that shit is anything other than shit. I have some good memories from photography, memories from days spent in nature capturing nature. But I did not set out to do a hobby. I set out to reach, to attain, to become. I reached but I did not attain. I reached but I did not become. I attained nothing but pain, a pain I felt almost every single day, a pain I feel deeper with each passing day to this very day, a pain I can no longer bear.

My eighteen months as a "photographer" - and I was that in name only, not in any successful sense of the word - was eighteen months of constant, non-stop losing, losing that tore my soul to shreds, losing that destroyed my soul. Photography did not kill my body but it killed my soul. Without a soul, the shell of the body is meaningless, worthless. And I know that there are but a small handful of people who can understand this for as I said, only people who've poured their heart and soul into the creations and dreams of their mind can understand. It matters not that my creations lived up to neither the world or myself. Either way they were failures in my eyes. If I'd achieved either one or the other it might have been different. But I did neither, my art did neither. If I'd achieve one or the other, maybe that would have tempered the financial losses, the financial sacrifice I made. But they did not. The relics of my art mock me from my walls, relics that will be meaningless once I'm gone, relics that will see their way to the landfill. Everything I ever earned and worked for sacrificed for useless junk that will be buried under the tracks of bulldozers.

But that only began the losing. There would be four years of non-stop losing to follow.

I did not always see it as losing. We humans play psychological tricks in our mind to disguise the losses, to blind ourselves to the losing. It's how humans are able to carry on despite losses in life. Without this ability humanity would never have survived. But I was cursed with a lack of this ability. I could never trick myself for long, I could never delude myself for long. I could see too well into my heart of hearts. Maybe that is the curse of the artist's heart.

I did not lose sight of the bipolar mind here.The bipolar mind and creativity and the creative drive.The bipolar mind was not created equally. For many, for most, it's nothing more than an empty meaningless energy they cannot control or understand. Those minds are not what I'm talking about, I'm talking about the creative manic mind. The creative manic mind pushes one beyond where one might ordinarily think or dream. It opens up galaxies of inner solar systems of visions and dreams. It stretches the mind beyond its normal capacity. This is the grandiosity that is observed and spoken of by doctors. For those with the talent and energy to keep up with this drive and are able to avoid the worst of the polar opposite depressive crashes, these visions and drive are a blessing. For those of us who are not, it is a curse. An ultimately deadly curse. I could never live up to the drive of my visions or the visions themselves. I truly was Icarus. I was driven to fly high and ultimately truly crashed into the sea. And it is in that sea that my soul drowned. My body will surely follow.

For someone who despises and deeply loathes losing as much as I do I think I've been remarkable resilient these last five plus years. But how much losing can a man endure? How much, when every loss is like the whip of a cat-o-nine tails across the soul, can any man endure? How much should he endure? There is always a limit to everything. Life is not without limits. The soul does not have limitless capacity for pain.

And who can measure or judge the pain of another? We each set our own standards for pain. Do I set my standard too low? I don't know. Maybe others set their standards too high.

This downward spiral, this long losing streak has taken everything I ever had away from me. I've lost everything. There are a few possessions left but even these are losing meaning. All I really have left is my body and that is a body without a soul, a body not worthy of life. I mean nothing to others, I mean nothing to myself. I once wrote a short story called A Man on a Ship about being a mere passenger on the ship of life doing nothing to contribute to the health and functions of the ship. He could not stand just being a passenger. And neither can I. Daily existence is meaningless. The daily drawing in of breath is meaningless. I live for higher purpose. Without that higher purpose life has has no meaning. Perhaps the worst loss of all for me was that loss of higher purpose. To live out my days at some meaningless task for the sake of affording some sort of basic shelter and basic food stuffs is not life at all and it is a life I won't bother with. It would be nothing more than a daily reminder of losing, a daily pain of losing, a pain I can no longer bear.

It is this pain that I want to stop. I have lost everything. I have lost every dollar I ever made. I have lost my soul. I have lost my identity, have lost any sense of who I was, who I am or who I might become. There is nothing else but the pain. I've tried for years now to stop the pain, to stop the losing. But every effort is just another loss. I've applied for over two hundred jobs, every application representing hope, representing an end to the losing. I put so much hope into each one, sure that this would be the break to stop the losing, to turn things around. And I'm zero for two hundred. Or two hundred and fifty. Or three hundred. I've lost track now. More death by a thousand cuts. There is only so much losing a man can bear, only so many cuts a heart can withstand.

I want the pain to end, I want to make the final cut. Soon I hope. Soon.

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