24 May 2021
By Ramone Whittle
“Every time I try to leave something keeps pulling me back (me back)
Telling me I need you in my life
Every time I try to go, something keeps telling me that (me that)
Everything gon’ be alright”
These are lyrics from a song entitled ‘Pullin’ Me Back’ by an artist named Chingy featuring Tyrese. As a person who makes music myself, I find it ironic that I forget that all music was made in a particular moment. All artists are in a particular state of mind during the creation process and what we as the audience hear – the melody, the lyrics, the performance – are all attempts at articulating the various layers present in this moment. This song was released in 2006 and is fairly popular within urban culture. Up until recently it was nothing more than a catchy song to me, but to my surprise I’ve found myself in a place where these lyrics describe my current moment. In previous posts I’ve been met with a situation and as I worked through it, I arrived at some sort of conclusion. I then shared my conclusion in the hope it was useful to you, the reader. This time however, I have no conclusion. Rightly or wrongly, I am using this as a platform to voice my frustrations; perhaps the answer to my irritations will regard this post as an SOS call and respond with haste. Let’s get into it.
I have a need to move forward but I don’t want to. I hear fulfilment and purpose calling my larger-than-an-iPhone-sized conscience; yet being who I’ve been, being addicted to that which isn’t good for me, chasing that fix, scratching that itch, feels much better, at least for a moment. But can I not have both? Can I not feed my craving whilst walking in freedom at the same time? Why does that which is wrong for me feel so… not wrong? This may just sound like millennial questions, millennial problems. “Grow up and get on with it”, right? But how do I move forward when part of me feels anchored by ball and chain? I research, I discover, I apply what I’ve learnt to the best of my ability, then find myself at a place which looks a lot like the place I just came from.
Things have changed. I know that, yet it looks and feels the same. I’m stumbling over the same issues. While the reason for failure may be different, when will the results look different?
“I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas Edison
There are plenty of quotes on success, and I was reluctant to even google it, but there seems to be a clear correlation between results and failure. Motivational speaker Earl Nightingale said, “Success is the progressive realisation of a worthy ideal.” If I put these two concepts together, the road to freedom will contain many detours and dead ends, and moments of clarity and confusion. The goal to be set free from addiction may potentially not be a 100m sprint but rather a triathlon. Does knowing this make the discomfort any more bearable? Is there an immediate reward for picking the right path? Or doing the “right” thing? Can I get the quick fix the wrong path provided on this new one?
The addiction seems to know all the right things to say, knows the exact moment when to call your name, how soft, how to smile whilst doing it. Ahh, can’t the right path call me like that? Oftentimes there is silence on the right path, and you encounter even more problems along the way. So why bother? Why delay gratification? Why endure? Why persevere? Tell me, why resist? An answer (a destructive one but an answer nonetheless) is standing right in front of me. This “answer” knows I want a bite of its freshly baked “relapse tart.” It smirks whilst watching me squeeze my eyes shut as I attempt to resist. I hear it say “aww bless those cute cotton socks of yours! You want me that much, do you?”
In previous posts I’ve spoken about love being a sustainable source of motivation. Over the years there have been many songs that have incorporated the notion of “the things we do for love”, the idea being that we do difficult and sometimes silly things in the name of love. If I apply that here, then out of love for myself and others, I am to continue to pursue freedom, no matter how hard and even futile it may feel. Dr Matthew Stevenson, academic, author and pastor said, “The past always has a way to authenticate you – ‘come back here, me and you are cool’”. In other words, just because what I used to do (even if that was 5 minutes ago) ‘knows my name’, as hard as it may be, I must leave it behind to become who the future says I am.
To be honest I don’t fully know who the future says I am, I don’t know what it’s going to look like, and I probably wouldn’t even recognise myself if I was shown. This current me has no reference point for Ramone 2.0, but I do have this nagging inner feeling that tells me “there’s more”.
Sometimes I talk back and say, “are you sure you are in the right body? What are you seeing? Because it surely ain’t what I’m looking at”. Maybe that’s the point, maybe I’m not supposed to see the whole picture right now. If I did, I’d disqualify myself even more and be deep frozen with fear.
This is probably the first post I’ve written in real time. I initially said I didn’t have a conclusion and I hoped the answer would find me as I typed. Maybe what I just said is my answer. Maybe I’m not supposed to see the whole picture right now, why ‘X’ happened, why ‘Y’ didn’t happen, why ‘Z’ keeps happening. Ultimately, I’m still here. Blood still flows through my body, my lungs still have the capacity to receive oxygen, I have the means to move forward, even if that is just one small step at a time. So let’s do that Ramone, just keep walking forward.
One of my favourite films is Finding Nemo and in it Dory (played perfectly by Ellen DeGeneres in my opinion) sings the phrase “just keep swimming”. In the film they are on a journey with many twists and turns, many surprises, but in the end, they arrive at their destination. To do that they had to keep going whilst holding onto the hope of success, no matter how unlikely things looked. Likewise, I believe there’s a Creator interested in humanity no matter how stuck we feel, and if we continue to keep moving forward in the name of (non-narcissistic) love for ourselves and others, either through medication or counselling, whatever the necessary method is, we will get to where we are supposed to be.
To be continued.
These pieces are part of our writer in residence programme, and are the writer’s personal views.