I’d like to think I’m complex. I’d like to imagine that the worries, obsessions, horrors I see as I gaze lovingly at my navel are, in some way, unique or novel or at least a little interesting. In part because I believe the neuroses that I both nourish and fight every day are enough a part of my personality that I’d hate to think they made me banal. In part, it’s that I think I still have an ego-driven investment in the idea that my pain in special, that my problems really are big and worth the energy I invest in them, that the experiences that have resulted in the capital-I issues that I struggle against with varying levels of grace and failure are important enough to leave me panting or giggling at the difficulties of my own psychology.
But I am not complex. I suspect most of us aren’t, really. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine that was so funny that it left me gasping for air as she related her disappointment at discovering that some of her problems really were related to her relationship with her father. “I didn’t want to be that cliché!” she said.
I told her that I actually thought that Issues and Neuroses were probably like the little white balls in the lotto machines. Finite numbers in the box, a little vacuum extrudes five and then you’ve got your unique lotto number. The neuroses lotto spits out little balls with things like “afraid of success” or “daddy never loved her” or “can’t commit” on them, and we take them and coddle them like just-laid eggs. We carry them carefully, sure that ours are special and fragile, and that they’ll make a huge mess if they break. And then one day we bump into someone, eggs go flying, and instead of breaking, they bounce. We sit there in stunned awe and we have trouble sorting who this “fear of failure” ball belongs to, and try not to lay a brand new egg as we discover we’re all carrying around the same little neuroses after all. We have a choice, then, to gather up all our balls and carry them off like eggs that never bounced around or to give them a good toss and see how messy things really get when, eventually, they break. (Please expect extended metaphors here on this half acre.)
I can’t decide whether this little metaphor makes me feel better or worse. I can’t decide whether or not I’m glad to know and laugh about the fact that all my hopes for interesting complexity are for naught and that, just like everyone else, I’ve won the neuroses lotto. It is incredibly comforting. But I think I'm very invested in just how unique my problems must be, because then it means something bigger when I solve them. Either way, I’ve got lotto balls to spare. And when I broke a few open, they made no mess at all.