The problem of living without constraints

Hacksaw and log

One of the great things about browsing secondhand bookshops is the wonderful moments of serendipity and surprise you receive. Recently, I was in Barter Books, a wonderful place you really must visit if you’ve never experienced it. A book entitled Out of Sheer Rage almost leapt off the shelf at me. Not only was it prominently displayed, but I’d literally added it to my Amazon wishlist the day before, having been mentioned as a great read in the book I’d just finished.

I’ve just opened it to read it now, and there on page five is this wonderful paragraph. For context, it’s a book about a guy struggling to write a book about D.H. Lawrence:

One of the reasons, in fact, that it was impossible to get started on either the Lawrence book or the novel was because I was so preoccupied with where to live. I could live anywhere, all I had to do was choose — but it was impossible to choose because I could live anywhere. There were no constraints on me and because of this it was impossible to choose. It’s easy to make choices when you have things hampering you — a job, kids’ schools — but when all you have to go on is your own desires, then life becomes considerably more difficult, not to say intolerable.

Pre-Brexit, when both our children were in first school, I felt this to some extent as an independent consultant. Where is the ‘right’ place to live? Where’s the ideal place to go on holiday? How should I structure my day?

There are no correct answers. That’s the problem. We expect there to be. Then we hope there to be. Finally, we embrace whatever constraints we can get so we can get on with living.

Image via Nomad Pictures