Walter’s Wisdom

ONCE UPON A TIME… During my 20’s I was in school studying psychology. I was preparing for graduate school and had a brilliant career track ahead of me.  Every time I got in an elevator at a hospital, I would envision being there in slacks, a shirt & tie, ID badge, holding a clip board, and pushing “4” for the mental health floor where my patients awaited me. I was on track for a white picket fence future. I was on my way to being Dr. Jensen, Ph.D.  (Jensen is my legal last name, though I never use it.)

Some things went wrong.

Presently, I find myself sitting alone in the middle of a massive food court eating cheap chinese food all by myself. I’m that weird artist with with a dozen projects and half of them are likely to be terrible ideas. My Tarot birth card is The Hermit, and in this moment, nothing seems more appropriate.  I think about my kids and wonder what they are doing, what they are saying, what they are playing with and doing to amuse themselves. I wonder if their homework is done. But, they are 100 miles away, and these are parts of their reality I’m largely exempt from now.  I think about loves that I have foolishly let go. I think about my friends, and wonder where they were at, and secretly wish they were here keeping me company.  I contemplate growing old and dying alone. I’m alone now at 36, why should that change?

I’m awash in regret about my past. Obviously, one can regret one’s own choices in the past.  But what do you call it when you regret the things other people did that affected you directly, but you had zero control over? Whatever that feeling is, I am feeling a lot of it. And yet I’m also grateful for my life as it is now. My life has it’s moments of brilliance that would never be possible with “plan A” in effect.  Gratitude and regret, all at once. It confuses me. I feel guilty for siding with either side of this debate, because I feel that I ought to honor both – and yet homage feels mutually exclusive to one or the other.

Tonight, solace arrived in an unexpected place:

In Season 3 of Breaking Bad, Walter White is talking with his son about the divorce between him and his wife, a decision to put Walter Jr. in a new school, and other various life changes.  His son is upset with the whole scenario.  One of the main themes of this show (for those of you that haven’t seen it) is Walter White’s inner struggle to do what is right for his family, in the face of no good options.  He’s constantly racked with guilt and conflict. In this moment, some clarity seems to emerge.  He says to his son:

"I am the man that I am" - Walter White

This line has been ricocheting around in my head and heart all night long. One of the reasons I have been enthralled with Breaking Bad, is that I can identify, to an alarming degree, with Walter White.  I’ve done a lot of the things he does in this show, albeit on a smaller scale.  As a father, I have found myself in difficult circumstances that I never expected to encounter.  Walter’s problems are archetypical of the human condition. It’s the story of Adam and Eve: given a mandate that seems impossible to accomplish without breaking a few rules along the way.  Walter finds himself in a dingy, dark Garden of Eden of sorts, and must choose which ways he must be “bad” in order to be “good”.  His guilt and inner conflict permeate the show so much, that you can feel the visceral inner battle in your own guts as you watch him struggle.  He crucifies himself for being “bad” while trying to be “good”.

In this moment, when Walter said “I am the man that I am”, he seemed to settle into an acceptance of who he is. This phrase, “I am the man that I am”, intimated a release from the litany of “I should be” and “I ought to” statements that serve as his personal crucifix.

I needed to hear this tonight.  I needed to feel that sense of acceptance. I needed to be inspired to let go of the fight and just allow myself to be who I am. To get off the fence and just get on with it.  To stop the “shoulds” and “oughts”.

I am the man that I am.

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