Living for the Weekend
The Atomic Dog is a weekly feature that isn't necessarily about weight training or bodybuilding. Sometimes it's about sports in general, sex, women, or male issues of some kind. At times it's inspirational, but it can also be informative, funny, and even a little weird, but hopefully, always interesting and a little controversial. We hope it reflects the nature of Testosterone magazine in that, just as no man is completely one-dimensional and only interested in one subject, neither are we. If it makes you think or laugh — or even get angry — it's served its purpose.
Friday, 5 o'clock PM.
Slip out of your arctic white, THX 1138-style overalls and head out to Happy Hour at the local watering hole and sling back a few Long Island Ice Teas and meet some girl with hair the color of carrot juice and you do the yada-yada thing until she says that her favorite movie is The Dukes of Hazzard and then it starts shrinking, shrinking, help me I'm shrinking, so you excuse yourself out of there and hit this dull-as-hell party but there's a poker game going on in back so you pull up a chair and after a couple of bad beats you're down about three hundred bucks so you go home and grab a few fitful hours of sleep before you wake up and hit the gym and really bust it up on squats which proves to be a mistake because about two hours later you're playing in a softball game and even though you just zinged the tar out of the ball and it bounced off the outfield fence, you can barely leg it out to first base when you should have been standing at second or third with a big Cheshire cat grin on your face but later after you soak in the tub for an hour the legs are feeling reasonably ambulatory and they hold up just fine while you walk over to the neighbor's house for a barbecue but after a few slabs of ribs and listening to some stockbrokers drivel on about mutual funds the gut and the mind ain't doing so well so you hit this Brazilian nightclub and a little bit of the Sa-Sa-Sa-Samba knocks down the ribs and then you meet this smoldery-eyed thing with hair all the way to her waist and a deep-dish parabolic ass so fine that it must have been designed by a team of engineers and you end up doing the I - don't - want - to - know - your - name - I - just - want - to - bang - bang - bang and by then it's morning and you drag yourself to church for the forgive me father, boy have I sinned thing and then skulk off to brunch — it's not exactly breakfast and it's not exactly lunch but it comes with a slice of melon — and then catch a late afternoon movie and get home in time to watch The Sopranos and then it's comatose time until the alarm goes off and you wash up and put on the THX-1138 overalls and go back to work until 5 o'clock PM next Friday.
As long as the dreary workweeks are book-ended by chaotic, fill-every-second-with-something-to-do weekends, you can survive, right? Keep holding on to a shred of sanity. Keep from driving your dreary Chevy Lumina off the Interstate freeway ramp and through that billboard of Paris Hilton biting an In-and-Out Burger while screaming, "Eat this, you pale, skanky bitch!!!!"
Oh well, so it goes.
My friend Gordo is in the midst of a coma of sorts. For the last 10 years, ever since his son and then his daughter were born, he's forfeited his life; forfeited it to piano lessons, soccer games, basketball games, tennis lessons, French Club meetings, recitals, and plays.
That's what he signed up for, right? The moment his genetic material dribbled down through his wife's genital nooks and crannies and knocked the zygotic 8-ball into the corner pocket, he signed some sort of cosmic contract to become the Disneyland cruise director for his spawn. After all, the children might very well end up being consorts to royalty and as such have to be well versed in all things and proficient in all areas!
Better change their names, Gordo, because Todd is a little too pedestrian to consort with royalty and Tiffany...well Tiffany, if I remember right, is Latin for trailer park trash and that doesn't sit well with royals.
Luckily, all that non-stop extracurricular activity kept Gordo from driving his dreary milkshake-stained Chevy Astro Van through the front door of a Chuck E. Cheese in the hopes of taking a few giant rats along for the ride to hell.
Years from now, he might realize that sadly, he and his children might have been better served by, like, talking, and reading, and playing together instead of signing up for every possible kiddy activity in the tri-county area.
Oh well, so it goes.
Then there's Al, who couldn't stand traditional schooling. He felt—even in elementary school—that the teachers were dull and mechanical. He said that he "preferred to endure all sorts of punishment rather than learn to gabble by rote."
He was, as a result, a mediocre student throughout his school years and barely managed to graduate from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. He hated the prescribed curriculum and avoided the lecture room in preference to pursuing his own interests.
Studying for his final exams "had such a deterring effect on me that...I found the consideration of any scientific problem distasteful to me for an entire year...It is little short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not already completely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry, because what this delicate little plant needs most, apart from initial stimulation, is freedom; without that it is surely destroyed."
So Al got a job in a patent office. The teachers and professors had crammed so much useless stuff into his brain—made him spend every moment memorizing things — that it killed whatever intellectual curiosity he had.
So it goes.... No! Wait!
It seems Al pulled himself out of the morass! In between filing patents, Al, or Albert, as he's better known, wrote four research papers, two of which had to do with something called the Special Theory of Relativity. He went on to have a nice little career as a virtual rock star of theoretical physicists.
Mr. Einstein didn't let his conditions mar him or shape him. He successfully fought off something that psychologist Martin Seligman calls "learned helplessness."
Seligman believes that when humans or animals are faced with situations where they're seemingly powerless to change an annoying element, two out of three stop trying to change the situation. Further, when they're placed in a different situation with a different annoying condition, they don't even try to change things. They automatically drop their pants, bend over, and take it up the ass.
Learned helplessness. Two out of three. Hmm. I call it a crushed spirit, either that or an unfortunate absence of testicularity, but ultimately it leads to the same thing: depression.
The thing is, not everyone can be happy, at least not in the traipsing through daisies and giggling while birdies dapple your hair with wildflowers sense. Too many people are hung up on this Hallmark card definition of happiness and when their own life doesn't measure up, disenchantment kicks in.
I do believe, like Seligman, that you can find a happiness "set range." Most people find happiness in pursuing something that's meaningful to them, something that gives them pleasure, or doing something they're good at.
While you might dislike socializing, or be unable to appreciate nature or other common warm fuzzies, you might find happiness in taking a job where you're able to exercise your particular gifts every day.
Maybe that's as close to true happiness as you'll get. Maybe that's all you're capable of. That's okay, that ain't bad. Live with it.
While my weekends used to be pretty close to the weekend described in the opening paragraph of this essay, I ultimately found the jam-packed weekends to be a poor remedy for soul sickness.
I stopped. I slowed down. I took a lesson from Thoreau, to "simplify, simplify." Of course, simplifying in Thoreau's time meant having one horse instead of two. He didn't face the barrage of stimuli that we face today.
Regardless, I tried to cut loose from conformity and at least a little bit of the "corruption of materialism." I accepted the idea that having a calm, uneventful weekend didn't make me a loser.
Now I rarely plan anything. I just do what I feel like at the moment, and a lot of the time, what I feel like is smoking a cigar and reading and even thinking. It's actually pretty entertaining up their in my head. It turns out that a lot of the time, I get a lot more pleasure living in my mind than living exclusively through my body.
By occasionally slowing down, I'm able to reflect on who I am, how I live, and what I value. Self-awareness, buddy, self-awareness.
More importantly, I found a job that didn't cause me to live entirely for the weekends. Living just two days, or rather, a day and half (because dread starts sneaking up on you about mid-day Sunday) out of every seven is no way to live.
All of the preceding, I suppose, falls under my main tenet of life, my main philosophy, which is something I've coined flexible self-determinism. Okay, the term's a little stuffier than it needs to be. It simply means not doing anything you don't want to do.
Pretty easy, huh? Forget all those other "isms" because you don't need 'em.
Obviously, one has to have some flexibility as far as "not doing anything you don't want to do." Of course I don't want to get my prostate examined, but I'll do it. I don't want to pay a lot of income tax, but I'll do it.
The things I'm talking about not doing are unwelcome social engagements, ridiculous social customs; doing things that people expect of me but that I find distasteful or humiliating, and, most importantly, taking jobs that suck out my soul.
People who continually do things they don't want to do—when a choice exists—are saps. People who are unhappy — when they don't have to be — are saps.
Einstein chose to finish school, despite being sickened by it, because he thought it would get him a job teaching physics. He certainly didn't need the drones to teach him anything, but he made the choice; something he felt to be an acceptable sacrifice. And while he took a dreary job at the patent office, it left him plenty of time to work on his theorems.
That way, he didn't feel compelled to jam-pack his weekends with drinking, picking up girls, poker, softball games, barbecues, and Samba dancing.
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