Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Gosh – it’s been a while hasn’t it?

That’s exactly what I have kept telling myself each day and yet I have let each of those days escape me, like the sighs that dissolve from my soul into the world around me, a quiet manifestation of the anger I harbour for my own forgetfulness.

Well I wouldn’t call it forgetfulness and I’m not sure I could call it laziness either. I don’t know what it is. The thought and desire to write is always there – but 5 months later here we finally are. I tell myself – where is the time? Where does this mistress hide herself and who is it that she elopes with to leave me here – without a single minute left to spare? She tortures; standing still in moments of fear and threat but running away in times of happiness and haunting me in times of regret.

But – it’s an age old excuse isn’t it – I didn’t have the time to. How could I not have had a single second, in the past 166 days, to do something which I started for myself? Something which is an outlet for me, which I enjoy and which is my own.  I know I want to, but I tell myself I have more important things to do. All this, at the expense of letting go of a part of me which I enjoy and which makes me more than just what the world around me knows.

I’m somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea. 

Life’s responsibilities , the adult lucifer, is a constant pressure. It whispers in your ear when you are about to fall asleep  reminding you of the bills you have to pay and the work you have yet to do. Losing yourself  to your adult life  – is like drowning in the deepest of seas. For who are we if we lose ourselves? What makes me different from you and what makes me more than  just a piece of machinery ?

What then is the lesser of these two evils?

Some say this idiom: between the devil and the deep blue sea, heralds , like all good things, from Greek mythology.

Thought to originate from Homer’s Odyssey, this saying has travelled its own journey to becoming a modern day saying.

In fact, ” somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea” in its Greek origin is known as ” being between Scylla and Charybdis “. But who was Scylla and who was Charybdis?

Our story is set between the waters of Sicily and Italy – known as the strait of Messina. It was through here which Odysseus had to pass on his long journey back home to Ithaca from the battle of Troy. However like most myths, there was a catch. In this strait there lay two monsters. The first was called Scylla who was once a beautiful nymph – but now  a six headed monster of the sea ( the tale of many women’s lives!) who had a hunger for the blood of men ( again, akin to many women’s lives perhaps?!)  The second was Charybdis – another monster but less of the physical kind and more the geographical. Charybdis was a large whirlpool , lying very close to Scylla and capable of swallowing Odysseus, his ship and all his men, in one. These two monsters were so close to one another, that Odysseus had to make the decision of which threat was greater and which had less of a chance of taking them all alive.

Odysseus really was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. 

The decision? Well as Homer writes:

“Sail on past her—top speed! Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew,”

Odysseus sacrifices a few of his men to the appetite of Scylla at the expense of being consumed entirely by the abyss of Charybdis.

And so like Odysseus I too must make a decision – whether to let  the stress  of life consume all of me or make the small moments to stop and enjoy life – pressing pause for a moment –  and dealing with potential consequences later on.

Well at least I’m not stuck between a rock and a hard place – for the sea is a much gentler mistress.

That and I know how to swim.

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Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

We live in a competitive world. The phrases “dog eat dog” and “rat race” only paint half the picture of what trying to be successful in the 21st century feels like. It’s hard enough trying to find out who exactly you are as a person – what you stand for, your beliefs and your ideals – let alone trying to find your place in society. Millions of us all hungry for success, in some shape or form, all wanting a slice of the american – dream cake. Success , like hunger, is human nature. What would it say about a race if they did not strive for more ? The hunger is what drives man not the appetite.

Alas there comes a time, when in the midst of your frenzied to-do list, that you realise that you have agreed to do too much , that in your quest for pleasing others in the hope that it will help you in the long run, you’ve said yes too many times, you’ve overestimated your body’s capabilities and that hurts not only your sinew but your ego too . That’s when you sit down and you realise, that your hunger,  has driven you mad. Your thirst for the taste of success has led you to lose all grasp of reality, time and yourself. You’ve been hungry for so long that your body has got used to working in overdrive, telling itself that by doing so you’ll get to the goal quicker and its hunger will be replenished by the rich flavours of success.

You’ve biten off more than you can chew.

This well known idiom is used to describe when one takes on more than they can handle, or to warn others not to . The saying itself originates from a scenario similar to what is warns others off – talk about practicing what you preach ! It is thought to derive from the early 19th century where fresh breath wasn’t first on people’s agendas and the chewing gum market hadn’t quite taken off . And so people chewed tobacco instead – a smokeless way to get your daily nicotine fix – passive smoking no problemo.

Now our ancestors – despite having horrendous oral hygiene, bad breath and a tasteless penchant for  spitting tobacco juices in public  – were friendly guys. (every cloud) So tobacco much like modern cigarettes was shared . However it is thought that when asking to have some of someone’s tobacco, certain opportunists would take bigger bites than normal. And so the guilt was well and truly written on their faces when their gluttony was revealed to all by the accentuated jaw movements of a man who’s eyes were larger than his mouth let along his stomach.  And so it became that when offering others a bite of their tobacco , people were warned not to “bite off more than you can chew.”

It is no longer a la mode to nibble on nicotine and so thankfully situations like the above are rare. But biting off more than you can chew is more than that .

Perhaps we are not all truly hungry, perhaps it is our greed for more that drives us crazy with ambition rather than the true hunger for enough to nourish ourselves. Either way, perhaps it is time to slow down,  to savour each mouthful and experience the flavours – the subtle undertones and textures of life – maybe that is the real success of this world.