I am a man of many sins, but Greed is my deadly one.
Oh, I've dabbled with Pride and Sloth, and Lord knows I'm familiar with Gluttony. But it's really Greed that drives it all. That ever present need for more. More food, more tastes, and wine, more money, bigger house, more time. More, more, more.
I've always been this way. It seems strange to accuse a child of a deadly sin, but I was just as greedy then. If not more so, unrestrained by the wisdom of age and the knowledge of the effect I have on the immediate world around me. The one example that always springs to mind is my dessert options around my nan's growing up. She'd ask if I wanted ice cream, or lemon merangue pie, or apple pie.
I said yes. With some squirty cream to top it off, please.
It didn't just stop at food, although at a child's age greed hasn't yet had the chance to really branch out into a lot of avenues before food, time, and attention. As I was a bright kid, I'd learned that I could figure stuff out if given the chance and free reign. Whether it was showing the teacher how to work around the old BBC computers we had, or setting up the disconnected Mega Drive at 5am when I was three by trial and error because I wanted to play Sonic and mum would rather sleep.
The downside to this cocksure inquisitiveness though was the feeling that if I could figure it out, I could do it. Which meant if were told no, I couldn't, well that just didn't sit right with me. Who were they to tell me I couldn't do a thing? Just because they couldn't work it out, it didn't mean I was unable to. Why couldn't I eat that cookie? I absolutely could; I've eaten more before.
Gluttony, to Pride, all driven by Greed, and a need to achieve more to fill a hole that had started opening up even then.
My father died when I was three months old. He was driving back from seeing his kids from a previous marriage, when he was hit by a drunk driver. He was taken into hospital and given a check over, and they couldn't find anything wrong with them. The doctors wanted to keep him overnight for observation, but he had a young partner at home and a three month old newborn son waiting for him. He discharged himself as early as they'd let him.
He died in his bed that night. Punctured lung as a result of a broken rib.
I didn't quite understand what this meant for years. I mean, I had mum. Other kids just had one parent occasionally. This was normal, right? Eventually though, as I started hitting school age, I realised it wasn't, but it wasn't the kids who made me feel it, or the visuals of other happy families. It was the parents.
I remember one afternoon after school, I was at a friends around the corner. I think it was one of the first times I went over, so they didn't know me all that well yet. They asked about me, my family, and I mentioned my dad died when I was a baby. I remember it coming out almost nonchalantly, very matter-of-fact, but their faces told a different story.
The tone completely changed, like they were intruding. Their sadness only grew when they asked me about him and I couldn't really give them anything. I never knew the man outside of the odd story, and wasn't curious enough to ask at that age. How was I to really know I was missing something? But they kept talking about it, how sad it was, how nothing could ever really replace a dad. I didn't know how to respond. I didn't know what to do with this sadness.
This was the first time I recognised it. The first time it became a fact of my life, rather than just an abstract concept. My name was Nicky, I was a blue eyed, blonde haired little boy, and I was missing a fundemental part of my family, a man I had never known.
Worse, I had no idea what it meant. I had no idea how to navigate this pain. I had no idea which direction to turn for answers, because I knew no-one else who was in the same position, and I'd long learned to hide things from mum. The figure from my nightmares.
So, what to do with a cavernous hole growing inside? Fill it. Fill it with all the things.
Food was my option of choice. Bolognase my preferred meal. School canteen cornflake tart an inimitable treasure of delight. Biscuits an ever present snack. As much as I could get away with, and then a little extra, if I was careful and sneaky. And if not, I'll be told off, I'd feel terrible, and I'd do it again. But my greed was never satisfied.
I devoured books in days. Some of them just comic books, like Tintin or Asterix, but before long I was getting into 'real' books. I still remember the first time I read a Harry Potter book; I got it on a recommendation from the mobile library driver. It was the second book, Chamber of Secrets, but it was a 'give it a try' type suggestion. I was hooked. From that point, I would revenously read through them, managing the Order of the Phoenix in three days straight.
With books came knowledge. I was a smart kid, but I needed to be smarter. Knowledge would help me understand, would help set me a part. I wouldn't be the kid with the dead dad, I'd be something more, something better. I wasn't the most atheltic of kids, for perhaps obvious reasons, so I had to be good at school. I had the aptitude, I just needed more.
But it was never enough, and it never has been. I grew up poor, so watched others enjoy luxuries around me I would never dream of asking for. I flunked my A Levels (aptitude means nothing if you're unable to use it, burdened by the ever growing pit of despair inside), so while everyone else went off to uni to 'live their best life' (sorry), I took a minimum wage job to make up for the shortfall in mums benefits after I became I legal adult. Before long, I had a new way to fill the hole: being the Provider, the man of the house.
Then I lost that job after being caught stealing. Right back to Greed and foolishness, being caught up in the wrong idea with the wrong guys.
Each failure, each new development in my life, each new memory resurfacing from a lifetime of burial made the hole wider and wider. I became desperate, heading in every direction to search for a way to fill it. Nothing ever did, at least not permanently.
Eventually, I settled down, got myself a wife, a dog, a house in our name. I got a job that pays our bills and still leaves enough to save and enjoy. Life is good, but still, I have my dark moments, and I get the same pull.
More food. More comfort. More money.
More. More. More.
Just this morning, I was anxious. I woke up screaming in the night, which ends well the next morning. I had a laundry list of things I wanted to do today, but no motivation. I wanted to go the gym, try and counteract some bad eating habits that popped up again this week, plus get that sweet endorphin boost. I wanted to tidy up, knowing my wife would have a bad face pain day today after going out last night. Get Ted walked early so he'd be all worn out from playing, make it easier on her through the day. But that meant effort, and my anxiety was telling me I had none to give.
The first thing to hold my greed was the book I was close to finishing, Dune Messiah. I started reading it, watching the time pass by in the background, and kept stringing myself along with 'just one more chapter'. I read 60 pages before it was getting close to Ted's walkies.
Then I ate my way through a packet of custard creams. And some cereal bars. Then back to reading.
I've since had lunch, a fistful of chocolates, more cereal bars, and cheese. I even nibbled on the parmesan. I finished my book (my greed at least being good for something). But now I haven't done what I set out to do. Now I'm tired, have less motivation. Now I'm back to sitting on my backside, trying to figure out what's next.
And the hole gets wider, with only myself to blame.
Only, it suddenly clicked earlier that there's a really easy solution. An answer so blindingly obvious that I nearly facepalmed.
The hole isn't real. Not unless I make it so.
I know. Groundbreaking.
I should clarify: I never actually believed that I had a physical Grand Canyon in my soul, one that I could interact with or fall down. Nor am I saying 'suck it up, buttercup' to myself in the mirror as if that would erase decades of mental health issues that have piled up in said hole.
But I do very often present it as a physical blocker in my head, one that I can't climb or negotiate my way around around. Instead, having fallen at the very first hurdle, I resign myself to the gloom of my fate and stare down the pit, wondering what I might try today.
There's another way, though it requires some effort. Mindfulness. Of where I am, of what I have, of what I can and cannot do. Mindfulness of priority, of what's really important vs a 'want'; what's fixed and required vs what's negotiable. Some things can be let go, and others achieved if I realise that theose mental blockers aren't physically stopping my body from working.
Like I say, obvious, but it's also hard, and it's much, much easier to fill up on dopamine by eating everything I can and browsing terrible Reddit subs then feeling awful for it later. The last part being crucial to the furthering of the sin. Feel awful, fill the hole. Feel even worse, fill it even more.
No excuse though. I'm not so vain to believe that I'm not going to fail along the way off the back of a simple observation and a blog post, but spending my life chasing greed is a real easy way to lose everything. There are better ways to face my problems than at the bottom of the biscuit barrel.
I have a good life, the best wife, and, well, enough. Everything else is a bonus.
Words - 1,823
Running total - 12,724 (25.4%, 1,041 words ahead of target)
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