What a week, huh?
If you understandably find yourself needing a diversion from heavy topics, then you may want to skip this installment of the advice column. Both of these questions were submitted before the Roe news dropped, but they feel even more relevant now that the world became that much darker.
Okay party people, without further ado, let’s talk about dread and despair.
Dear Eve 6 Guy,
I’ll cut to the chase: I’m a parent of an almost 7-year-old. I love him so fucking much, but as the stink of the worldwide garbage fire gets more intense, I find myself wondering if I’ve made a terrible mistake in bringing another life into this world. My hope and optimism for the future is basically gone, and I don’t know how to move forward.
I think if I didn’t have a kid, I would be content to just live my life as a walking shrug emoji until the end. But as it is, I’m more like a walking ball of guilt, stress, and fear of failing every waking moment.
I know you’re also a parent to young children, so please, if you can, tell me how you find hope. What keeps you going? How are we going to prepare our children for a future that looks bleaker by the day?
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi Empty Tank,
I’m touched by this letter. It’s obvious that you love your kid a lot. Your fears and forebodings wouldn’t be so acute if you didn’t. I think that’s something to keep in mind. The dread wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have love in your heart, and if anything is capable of transcending fear it is love.
But lemme back up a little, because I feel like I’m blasting too much sunshine out the gate. First, I want to meet you where you are, so to speak, because I have been there myself.
I have two kids, 8 and 5, and the love I feel for them — even without considering the evils of late-stage capitalism and its effects on our present and their future — can be terrifying. Before having kids, I didn’t know that I was even capable of this kind of love. When my first was born, I did what a lot of new dads do. I wept.
The present moment, with all its imperfections and mind-numbing contradictions, is where our lives actually happen.
Nothing can prepare you for the enormity of the feeling and the double-gravity sense of responsibility attendant to it. There’s no virtue in this. It just occurs in spite of you. And from this impossible, otherworldly feeling of love some distinctly worldly worst-case scenario extrapolations begin to arise. At times, my mind can feel like a Cormac McCarthy fever dream.
Here’s one thing I know to be true: Running counterfactuals — i.e., “What if I had made a decision I didn’t make, and things were not as they are?” — is a trick of the mind to keep you out of the present moment. And the present moment, with all its imperfections and mind-numbing contradictions, is where our lives actually happen. Radically inhabiting the present moment is how you expose this sleight of hand.
The present is where the good shit happens: Your kid with a mouthful of missing teeth mispronouncing a word, drastically improving upon the way the rest of us say it. Them scrambling across the sofa to cuddle with you for the scary volcano part in Moana.
Moments like this can go highly undervalued and even unnoticed when my mind is diverted by past and future, but here’s the thing: Don’t beat yourself up for missing them sometimes. Just notice that you do — free of judgment — and then try to bring your attention back to the present.
Now you might be saying, “Okay, Eve 6 Guy, but the present moment is itself extremely fucked up.” Granted, but it is literally insane to allow matters that are thousands of football fields outside of your sphere of influence to keep you from appreciating what is worthwhile in life. And what is worthwhile in life is the love you feel for your kid and vice versa.
These emotional reactions to human suffering are unavoidable and not unreasonable.
Love is eternal and transcendent. It isn’t bound by the laws of the world for which I personally thank God. You yourself don’t have to thank God; just accepting this aspect of love as true is as spiritual as you need to get.
With regard to preparing your kid for the future: Nothing will make them better able to negotiate life’s trials and tribulations than their having grown up with a parent who loves them. You don’t need to do anything perfectly. You don’t need to not make mistakes. Just let your love for them be your guiding principle, and you will do your job as well as any.
So be gentle with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for your swings into depressive or fatalistic thinking. These emotional reactions to human suffering are unavoidable and not unreasonable. Just notice them, try not to identify with them, and don’t give in to the temptation to make them the whole picture.
The Eve 6 Guy
No silver lining
Dear Eve 6 Guy,
I hate the “starving artist” fantasy and always have — it’s bullshit. Unfortunately, I’ve gotten pretty close a few times, like when I was almost 30 and basically homeless.
Now that I’m 40, I’m getting close to starving again. I recently moved to a new city all the way across the country. I spent pretty much my last dime doing this to get away from high rent. I haven’t worked enough since moving here to pay off my bills, including $30,000 in credit card debt incurred after quitting a genuinely toxic and dangerous job three years ago.
I’m applying for tons of jobs for which I’m pretty sure I’m overqualified. They don’t even have to be for professional writer gigs, or any of the other things I actually want to do — as long as it pays and isn’t a scam, I’m good. I can’t do any work that isn’t remote, because I can’t put my health or my family’s in danger. I only recently applied for food stamps and can’t be sure that red tape won’t prevent me from qualifying. I am dangerously close to having no money left to my name. All I can do is hope.
I guess that’s what I want to know: What the hell do I do beyond hope?
I guess that’s what I want to know: What the hell do I do beyond hope? Hope is supposed to be this huge, powerful thing, carrying you through the worst of it, and yet hundreds of job applications — never mind almost 25 years of proving myself as an artist — are yielding almost nothing. (I can’t even get a writing agent unless I have a dickload of followers.)
Hope doesn't seem to be cutting it. My creative output is pretty good — I write down every tiny thing that happens to me so that I can appreciate breathing — but none of it results in making a living. And the high from an obscure actor/comedian/musician liking my tweet doesn't last as long as it used to.
I’m fortunate that my feeling is just “I want to curl up in a ball,” leaving out “and die” — because I’m not there. I hope I never get there again. So I still have hope, but I’m starting to hate having hope. I can’t even afford some desperately needed therapy, and I’m about to default on my health insurance because America.
Walk me through what the hell I’m missing, because it sure as shit isn’t a silver lining.
Hate Having Hope
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi Hate Having Hope,
I just had a conversation about this with my brother, who along with a bunch of his coworkers, was recently laid off. I’m not going to try and force a positive perspective here because that would be bullshit. This country sucks. We live in a neo-feudalistic shithole. Cost of living is skyrocketing while wages at best remain stagnant or — in situations like yours and my brother’s — disappear entirely.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much advice for you on what you should do on a practical level because it sounds like you’re already doing it. You’re trying to find work. Keep doing that. Don’t let despondency keep you from continuing to try.
Hopefully what I’m about to say doesn’t make you bristle with antagonism, but your question does veer into the philosophical, so my answer is going to too, and sometimes hanging out for a moment in this realm can be helpful.
The word hope holds some contradictions. Hope can be a form of desire, and desire can be a form of pain. Hope can be a kind of preoccupation with the future. That said, it is preferable to despondency, which is a fatalistic preoccupation with the future. I touched on this in the answer to the first question, but I think the only way to really counter despondency is by radically inhabiting the present moment.
The immediate present is where that God thing I mentioned in the first answer is. Stop rolling your eyes. Words only go so far because it kind of has to be experienced — but you don’t need to be special or anything to experience it. Anyone can choose it at any time. You don’t need to earn it or go on some expensive retreat or walk on hot coals. It’s right there, right now.
Directing your attention to the present can be a pretty powerful technique for exposing the mind’s tendency to devise cursed fanfic and for accessing a kind of peace.
This guy called Eckhart Tolle has an exercise for accessing the present moment that involves noticing the sensation in one of your hands. Pick a hand and give your attention to the feeling in it. Notice the kind of buzzing sensation. Now focus on your breath. Give your attention to the sensation of your breathing.
These are tricks that can get you used to directing your attention to “the now,” as Eckhart would say, and away from a future that only exists as a thought — usually a terrifying one — in your head.
This sounded like totally ineffective psychobabble to me until I tried it. But directing your attention to the present can be a pretty powerful technique for exposing the mind’s tendency to devise cursed fanfic and for accessing a kind of peace.
Finding your center in this way can help you to be more useful to the people in your life and even open up avenues to creativity and productivity you hadn’t considered before. This won’t solve your material problems, but it can offer some perspective. A view from above, if you will. It can help to dial down the frequency of your suffering and maybe make it a little more manageable.
You alluded to a time in your late twenties when you were in a position not unlike the one you’re in now, apparently worse, and you survived it. You and your family will survive this, too. Keep looking for work. Keep doing what you can do.
In the meantime, if you want to set up a GoFundMe to help you square your debt and get through until you can find work, I would personally love to donate to it and share it on Twitter, and I’m sure others would too. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — there is no shame in it.
The Eve 6 Guy