Tuesday 22 October 2013

Superchicken and the Utopia complex

Take a good look at this homely chicken, for it is indeed blessed with near miraculous powers.
This photo was taken three minutes after I hit it with my car at 50k an hour.
I was coming into town the other morning and came over the brow of a hill and suddenly this chicken lurched out of the undergrowth and began a wing-flapping sprint across the road in front of me.
I had no time to do anything and the next millisecond I collected it with a dull thump and feathers flew.
I pulled up further down the road and looked back in my rear vision mirror.
All I saw was a motionless brown lump on the roadway, and my first thought was to drive off as the beast was obviously dead.
But my better, vegetarian, self took over and I realized I had to go back and make sure it was dead, and if not, put it out of its misery.
I've had do this before, once with a rabbit and once with a dog, and while not pleasant, is better than leaving it to die a slow painful death.
So I reversed up and pulled into the driveway the chicken had apparently been aiming for and got out of my car.
I yelled "hello", hoping that this was the home of the chicken's owner and I could hand over this unpleasant task to them, but no one answered and there was no immediately obvious front door to knock on.
So with a sigh I turned back to the road, found a rock and went to get the chicken.
To my astonishment, it was no longer there.
The roadway was clear.
"WTF?" I said to myself, then a movement flickered in the top of my vision and I saw it walking about in the undergrowth next to the road.
I watched astonished.
My car weighs 15kg (1.5 tonne) and the chicken scaled two at best, so it was the equivalent of an adult human being hit by a five tonne truck.
So marvelling at the beast's recoverative powers I got back in my car and drove to town.
It was relevant in a serendipitous way as this week I was planning to write about the Utopia complex
The Utopia complex is the idea that some magical day will come and you will have solved all your problems. 
I refer to it as the Utopia complex, but it may have a real name in clinical psychology. 
To describe it more fully, I can think of almost innumerable examples where I would say to myself, "once I get this, problem A, out of the way, then I can relax."
Trouble is, as I've learned over 48 hard years is that once you get problem A safely dealt with, problem B, previously rated second in size, moves up and expands in size to fill the space previously occupied by problem A".
So then you deal with B and C emerges and so it goes.
Is this dysfunctional?
Probably, every damn thing else that I talk about in therapy is, but is it, the Utopia complex, the search for a life with no problems, itself, an Uber, overarching problem, problem Zero as it were.
So as ever I'll digress and refer to a few things pertinent to this.
Here are a couple of things said by people I know.
Scott: "Everyway I turn it's fucked."
Clinton: "This week is always worse than last week."
What both these men said, though it may seem that both are eternal downers, actually helped me.
Clinton's comment helped me understand, for the first time in 48 years, that the problem free Utopia I have always sought, doesn't exist.
Likewise Scott's comment showed that there is always something to deal with.
One of the best examples of this was in a book I read, "To Serve Them All My Days", by R.F Delderfield.
It is the story of a man invalided off Flander's fields in WW1, and repatriated back to England with battle fatigue.
Psycho-neurosis it would later be termed.
He gets a job as schoolmaster in an English public school and begins teaching, and comes to love it, and can move on with his life.
One day while he is teaching news come through that the war is over.
We can't really understand now, how large in the consciousness of Europe that war loomed, but it was referred to variously as "the Great War", and the "war to end all wars".
So for the populace in general, and this former soldier in particular, this was momentous, staggeringly, joyous news.
The schoolmaster himself is at first thinking that this will lead to months of celebrating and little or no work done across the British Isles, yet within an hour of the news coming through, he is already starting to think about upcoming events.
The assembly hall is being revarnished and so they will have to split the pupils into two groups, junior and senior, and hold two assemblies, in a different, smaller hall, and this means he has to get out his notes and change his speeches to be relevant to the two different groups.
The 11+ (A level exams) are coming up and so he will have to start getting the senior boys ready for that.
And these are just two of the little issues in his daily life that have to be foreseen and planned for.
And within two hours he realizes that he has already largely forgotten that the most terrible conflict ever has just officially ended and his daily round if issues has taken over once more.
An example I remember was the longest week of my life when I had my first HIV test.
I went down to my surgery in Newtown in Sydney, and my doctor, Carol Chung, took my blood and told me how it worked.
First they would give my blood a prelim, grosser Immune System Activity Level (ISAL) test.
This simply measured if your immune system was doing work.
If this came back below a certain level, it meant you had not been exposed to the HIV virus, or had any other disease at work in your system.
This test, if negative, can return your results in 48 hours.
So two days later I rang Carol and learned, and to my unholy dread, that the ISAL test had showed activity and they would go on to the higher level, more specific testing.
I was panicked in a way I can't adequately describe.
I should add, the reason for this raised activity was that I was working as gardening labourer at the time and my body was covered with small nicks and cuts from the plants I worked with, and it was this botanical onslaught that led to my immune system working hard to keep infection out of the various wounds.
But I was in my mid-thirties then and my hypochondria was still in evidence, so rationality left through the side door and panic took over.
I began immediately trying to plan for a positive test and how on Earth could I go on with my life if so?
And so the long wait began.
The blood was taken Friday, I had called back Tuesday, then had to wait for the rest of the week till Friday, at the earliest, to get the results.
On the Wednesday of that week I smoked 90 Marlboro Red cigarettes (three and a half packets). 
My standard consumption was twenty a day at the time.
I struggled through the days, Friday came, I rang the surgery, the test were back, they couldn't give me the results over the phone and so I made the earliest possible appointment to see Carol.
If the week had been long that two hours waiting for my appointment was the longest.
But even longer than that was the thirty minutes in the waiting room, heart leaping like a salmon every time the door of Carol's office opened and a patient went in or out.
This is where I sat that most relieved morning.

But even longer than that was the time it took for me to walk in when Carol called my name and to walk in and sit down. Even longer than all of the above put together was the time taken for Carol to open a manila folder.
Then she said, "you've got nothing to worry about. The test is negative."
To say I was relieved barely hints at the change that came over me.
I gave her a hug, then walked out into the brilliantly sunlit Newtown morning and sat on a bench under the sandstone wall of the nearby cemetary.
I called Leith, my friend and boss, told him the tests were negative and would it be allright if I didn't come down to work immediately, so I could just enjoy this feeling for a few hours, he said fine, and so I wandered about in a deliriously happy daze, enjoying, what I now see, was the only time in my life I achieved the Utopia complex.
But here's the thing, after just a few hours, and I remember this clearly, I even reported it to my friend Norman in a phone call later that day, I began to feel weird.
I searched around internally and discovered the reason, I had nothing to worry about.
Now that WAS weird.
But then my resting state of mind took over and I began to prepare to go to work.
Train schedule, cash for the ticket, better pack some food, damn, forgot to go shopping this week (for obvious reasons), better get some on the way, damn, haven't got enough for ticket and food.
Better go to the bank machine, damn, my bank machine is the other way from the station, maybe catch a bus to central, then train from there.
Now where's my ten-click bus voucher.
Damn, it's run out, better go to the newsagent and get another one of them.
Which is my closest newsagent? Think it's the one in Erskineville, maybe I can get the train from.... 
And so like the schoolmaster of old, the joy felt upon hearing momentous, cataclysmic good news, was within a short period of hours overtaken by immediate petty concerns to do with day-to-day living.
So I guess the message for this blog is that the Utopia complex doesn't exist in perpetuity, if you're lucky you may get it for a few hours.
P.G. Wodehouse often used to put it well with a weather simile to describe Bertie Wooster's frame of mind when snootered by other characters who moved throughout the country homes of Edwardian England with sinister intent, "The v-shaped depressions off the coast of Iceland had never been more numerous, nor more vee-er."
And: "If it's not one damn thing it's another."
Also: "Jeeves, it is possible that one day I may laugh again, though very doubtful, but if that is to occur it will be when I am as far from Totleigh Towers as it is possible to be on this Earth."
All this cataclysmic thinking on behalf of Bertie Wooster was usually having to do with having to marry a beautiful woman whom he didn't care for, or at worst, doing thirty days in the county jail for stealing a piece of silver ware.
So it's all relative.
Even the chicken that started all this must have been thinking that life was sweet.
After a near death engagement with the front of my car, followed by a couple of minutes of wondering, "What the Zark was that?!", it had returned to its resting state of consciousness and was pecking away quite happily in the undergrowth.
So there you go, if you attain the bliss of the Utopia complex, treasure it, because within a short time you'll be wondering what to make for dinner.



1 comment:

  1. Great post Locky... That chicken was definitely embroiled in the highs and lows of the Utopia complex