If anyone knows how to carry on, it’s Freddie. No matter that he’s a gander, he’s on the Internet with a “message of love, far and near” and has a lot of thoughts, bottled up for years, ready to burst their cap.
“I didn’t write the song, ‘If You Can’t Beat Them,’ darlings. That was John. It was a good song and fun to play live. There was that long guitar solo where Brian had the audience. But those are not my lyrics.”
Freddie says this to me in the living room one day as he places his bill against my cup of tea.
“Your tea is the right temperature, darling. Any colder and you’ll have to heat another pot,” he says.
“And if the tea gets cold, I’ll drink it anyway–or I’ll get up and pour another cup.”
“Why do that,” Freddie says, “when you can stop a minute and breathe, let yourself enjoy it while it’s hot. You put the muscle into making the tea, you’ve worked hard all day, now indulge.”
Freddie has seen a lot in his two years reincarnation as a gander. The humble home he lives in has changed in a myriad of ways. Last summer he witnessed the great purging of mice after I tore down the black plastic my ex put on the Duck House walls several years ago, and mice scattered like cockroaches. But we took care of most of them.
“I can’t ever do that again,” Freddie says, when I remind him of this fiasco.
“Me, neither,” I say. “I worked so hard. I was afraid the problem would get out of control and I had to do something. The situation was my responsibility.”
I haven’t told him that I found a couple of mouse turds in the pantry. The turds were old and hard, but they had to have been deposited since November as that is when I attempted to bake a strudel and last used the cinnamon. Fortunately, that mouse found nothing in the cupboard. But, late at night sometimes I swear I hear a tiny clicking sound, almost like minute lungs inhaling and exhaling or the smacking of a mouse tongue on mouse teeth. And I’ve seen them run from the duck feeding station outside to the gap between the siding and the addition.
What if they’ve found nourishment somewhere inside the house?
“And that’s why I didn’t write that song,” Freddie says. “My philosophy is different. I won’t join anything, darling, and you shouldn’t either.”
Life is a constant battle of some sort, but the fulfillment in the journey depends on how we look at daily challenges. I’ve noticed that when I go along in the moment, doing all that I can, being what I’ve mistook for being kind, I’m really not kind to myself–or kind to others, for that matter.
“If you join in and let life, the people that surround you, take you for a ride, you’re not living. You will have regrets,” Freddie says. “That’s something I could never do. Because you say NO to something, doesn’t make you a bitch, dear.”
He is right. Being yourself in a world that does everything to drag you down, whether deliberately or not–that’s an immense challenge.
“People may not be out to get you, but they can get you, subtly, if you go along and pick up everyone else’s pieces. Let them do their own legwork. You have even taught yourself to cook, albeit for a honey who deserves it. That goes to show anything’s possible, because we know you couldn’t cook.”
“Yes, Freddie, for once in my life I wanted to cook. Once I made the decision, cooking opened up to me as an art form and I wondered, then, how I’d not seen that before.”
And so it goes. I took responsibility for something that I could do. I have a partner who does what he can for me, so why not do something in return for him, something to make his life easier? That is a form of love. Perhaps I may do this, perhaps I am odd in doing this?
Some people have a way of rebelling against the most fundamental responsibilities, things a fastidious person may think are obvious. Yet simple tasks present endless conflict. Why?
People have naughty little minds. They have not found, as Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig puts it, their “inner duck”.
From the first reluctant fluttering of eyelids upon waking, there is this evil voice saying, “Eh, go back to sleep. Indulge. The blankets feel so warm. Do it tomorrow. Who cares?”
“If I had listened to that, honey, I’d have been shit,” Freddie says. “Yes, I overindulged in luxuries, but there had to come a time when I’d get up and work. If I didn’t work until four a.m., I wouldn’t have slept until noon. If I didn’t go on tour, which is exhausting beyond belief, I wouldn’t have had a gay old time in Munich come vacation. I wouldn’t have had a vacation at all. I’d have been selling mirrors on Addy Way the rest of my life.”
That voice he mentions, I know that voice well. Negative. Cunning. Downright depressing. A naysayer that keeps a person from reaching his or her potential. A bastard, really selfish and defiant, always looking outside for someone to blame, instead of facing the truth and waddling up.
There’s not much good to say about that voice, a conductor of laziness, always on the sidelines barking into the mind that one should do the opposite of what is actually right–and fair.
I’ve thought about it in this way while observing animals:
A dog gets up and stretches. The stretching seems so natural–first the front legs go down on the floor and then the hind legs stretch back. Sometimes the dog yawns. Stretching upon rising is the thing to do for one’s body. Moving about stimulates muscles and prepares them for the day.
My God, how many people do I know, including myself, stretch naturally upon waking?
About the same number of people I know whose actions extend to cleaning up the aftermath of the party.
Almost everyone goes home. Every time.
Every waking moment becomes a chore to people who listen to the voice of laziness, instead of taking that extra effort to cultivate the “inner duck”, and it’s easy for people when they tune themselves out, become so engrossed in indulgences that time marches forward, unbound by responsibilities, and….ooops…it’s tomorrow. Too late. O well. Who cares?
“Well, darlings, someone does notice…and someone does care,” Freddie says. “In the end, was it all worth it? That’s the question a person has to face in the end. When the bills aren’t paid. When life winds down. Regrets are a real ulcer. Believe me. I couldn’t ask anyone but myself had I not kept at it–why this person had this and why I had that. I worked hard. I got what I had coming. Never could I question why I was in this situation, instead of that situation. I knew why.”
Life need not be a chore. Taking responsibility, even for the very mundane tasks required of existence, need not be difficult. There is a surrendering that takes place in the mind when a person “does” for himself. Instead of listening to that inner voice ass, a person can carry on one step at a time. Why make everything difficult?
- Pick up the broom.
- Move arms back and forth.
- Touch the broom to the floor.
- Move mounds of dirt toward dust pan.
- Throw that dirt away.
Listening to the inner blamer sucks. I’ve been there, and I must say, I was a selfish twat back then.
How great it would be if people could just…
And that’s where I come full circle, back to being unkind to myself, back to settling for less. Perhaps I am to blame for not laying ground rules much sooner, for thinking I was doing right by doing more.
But with this new year comes a new level–in my life, anyway. The least I can do is give myself a break by not doing all of the tasks that should be shared between several people who are all taking part in making those tasks necessary.
I have a lot of work to do. So easy to welcome the ass-voice and surrender to the ass-voice all day, every day while ignoring that “inner duck”. Easy to join them, yes, to tell yourself you’re keeping the peace, or that by doing this or that life is much better than it was before.
In reality, though, to “join them” is to surrender the soul to a monster I am on the cusp of defeating in myself. This is this way for a reason. This tree trunk does not bend for branches. Freddie Mercury was not a guitar player–for a reason. I’m not interested in hanging out in bars with alcoholics or letting myself be bullshitted into thinking I’m doing right by doing it all.
Imagine if Freddie had really been a maid or a house wife like he was in the video for “I Want to Break Free”…
“No way, darlings.”
Everyone must find their “inner duck”, or whatever they choose to call it, without excuses or remorse, or be slave to the inner ass-voice until the end. The way is simple, yet the most difficult challenge most people will encounter–because people can’t resist their inner ass-voice. Waking up in the morning and carrying on is like breaking through a cozy, yet thin membrane. Going out into the day, facing all life’s discomforts with honest effort–yes, it’s unpleasant at first, but with practice new habits form–is too painful for a lot of people. Surrendering to the ass-voice is like being overgrown by a fungus that holds the body and mind in a swamp.
People don’t really like it there, though they tell themselves they do. The short-lived comforts trump reality, for a while, but with the march of time people find they’ve wasted precious energy, castrated their minds and bodies, and disappointed everyone around them, whether they realize it or not.
Or, people exist in denial, imparting their inner ass-voice onto those around them, their personal suffering bled out in passive-aggressive ways into the many dysfunctional relationships they have with people willing to play their games.
“Remember,” Freddie says. “Most people don’t give a shit. They’re protecting themselves, quivering beneath the wings of their inner asshole because they are too weak to…”
“…do the right thing.”
“Thank you, Freddie.”
“Don’t have no time for no monkey business.”