Beset: A Desperate Search For Happiness
in Times of Crisis
by Lee Bullen
in Times of Crisis
by Lee Bullen
After a turbulent life-altering period, Lee Bullen embarks on a personal journey to find a semblance of happiness and rediscover a love for life, but finds his every goal hampered by the brutal effects of the Great Recession.
Besieged with universal wallops and cosmic coshes, Lee tries to come to terms with his autistic son’s worsening condition while finding himself knee-deep in divorce, unemployment and financial disaster.
He’s a man in personal crisis, struggling on an island in economic crisis, during the Global Financial Crisis – not an enviable position! However, despite the multitude of omnipotent foes, he discovers that he himself may in fact be his own worst enemy…
Beset – A humorous, touching and bittersweet account of one man and his state of mind during the early 2010s.
Chapter 1 – Brand New Start
It’s 3 o’clock in the morning on January 1st, 2012, and I’m euphorically urinating the last remnants of the previous year into the inviting blackness of the Atlantic Ocean. The balmy evening has thronged past like any memorable New Year’s Eve involving an array of soft drugs, a fireworks display and a free, open-air rock concert held on a heaving plaza principal; but for me it has a more profound significance: A clichéd belief that the calendar change, combined with a physical cleansing of all things ‘2011’, would coincidingly invoke a monumental change of fortune…
Okay, maybe I’m reaching. But I’ve decided I need to grasp at something. The previous year had seen me divorced, made redundant, broke, discourteously dumped by my girlfriend, and embark on a trying course of treatment for my recently-diagnosed autistic son… and that was just October! One week in October. My birthday week, in fact. The rest of the year had been as equally unrelenting. To cap things off, I live on a foreign island with no family or close friends to call upon. I’m a single dad to my two children half the week, and completely at a loss as to who I am the other half.
As I stand on the rocks, shaking dry what has recently become my closest friend, confidant and only dependable source of feelgood therapy, I feel the clouds metaphorically burst and heavens open.‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall‘… ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ – Dylan knew the score. Or at least his early hits with ‘A-(Something)’ in the title did, seamlessly parroting my current sensibility. From nowhere, the ocean breeze develops a grandiose sense of being and douses my lower legs in warm piss. “Fuck you, Universe!” I shout, and disturb a few merrymakers also relieving themselves nearby. I inhale patiently. ‘Okay. I’m sure that was just a wind cycle from last year,’ I rationalise, now wearing the last remnants of 2011 for at least another hour or two.
I’m 38. Some might say that my situation is a ‘mid-life crisis’, but to me that implies an irrational compulsion by some middle-aged men to splash out on a sporty coupé orgasmically lavished on an episode of Top Gear they’d seen, whilst simultaneously test-driving a pretty young underling from the office. No, my crisis isn’t one of ‘have I still got it’. I’d lost my hair at 30, and the drawn-look of significant weight loss during a spirit-crushing two year period had aged me, but I wear it well in a weather-beaten kind of way and I’d accepted and embraced it – In my twenties, when sporting a thickly-lacquered comb-back, I was often compared to pretty 90’s boy-band types, like ‘Bros’. Now I’m compared to baldy action types and receiving more attention than before. Bruce Willis may be a grandfather and nearly 20 years my senior, but it’s something I’m willing to put up with after previously being dubbed ‘Vanilla Ice’! No, my crisis is one of faith. Not in a religious sense, but of life and the basic belief, will and zest we all need to feel to get us through our day. I’ve lost my ‘mojo’, basically, and I can’t even remember where I had it last.
Despite the relentless, year on year besiegement of universal wallops and loss of nearly everything, I’ve never seriously considered suicide as an out. I’m proper battered, and staring the prospect of homelessness square in the eyeball – and with it, access to the only joy left in my world, my two children – but I’d rather live life in limbo as a crazy cave-hermit, mumbling to myself and biting the heads off rats rather than biting the proverbial dust. I don’t think it’s in me. Still, I am, however, numb. Utterly numb. To utterly everything. Combined with a cannabis dependency Snoop Dogg would be proud of, I am – as Hugh Grant may say in a Richard Curtis gush-fest – utterly, utterly, utterly numb!
I’m living through a profound personal crisis during an interminable financial crisis. There are so many crises going on in my life I’m beginning to feel like the Middle East! My mindset is as conflicted as my need for coffee and cannabis, yo-yoing up and down and double-looping around my subconscious, strangling my very hopes and wishes. Consciously, I continue to pick myself up and follow the path of self-discovery and attracting a love for life, but spiritual growth feels more futile than ever. My two-year plan for harmonious happiness has been beset with problems, both internally and externally. I’m at rock-bottom, intricately spiralling down with the worsening economic and social gloom of the time. I had identified five areas of my life as the nucleus for obtaining joy, but each one continues to deteriorate in relation to every downturn of this unrelenting world recession.
My problems began in 2008, the same time as the Global Financial Crisis, however, unlike many financial institutions around the world, I’m not to be rescued by ‘quantitative easing measures’, or any other form of legal fraud for that matter. My mistakes and misfortunes aren’t going to be swept under the carpet and never accounted for; rescued by a distracted taxpaying public too full of fear to realise they’re paying the price, not the corrupt and gluttonous ‘powers that be’ responsible. Prospecting for scant nuggets in a mine of immeasurable shit alongside so many others – that’s my path. And just as I find myself on a small island without work for the fourth time in three years of international recession, I also find that I have no fight left. I’m battle-weary from the umpteenth ‘start over’. And who can blame me? A summary of my life over the previous three New Year’s Days looks like this:
Married (albeit, for the last weeks). Father to two beautiful, healthy children (aged 3 and 1½). New job teaching English in a secondary school (after most of 2009 unemployed).
Separated. Making a new home for me and the kids, who stay with me half the week. Two year old son diagnosed with Autism. Increasingly lonely and alone. Financially strained.
Divorced. Unemployed. Financially broke. Recently dumped and heartbroken. Weak. Alone. And firmly stuck in the untenable position of juggling all this with the increasing difficulty of coming to terms with my son’s worsening condition.
Okay, so 2012 hasn’t exactly come with a dream start! However, these are the results of previous years. It’s all about what happens next, and all I have is hope that I’ll find something to light a spark in the flooded engine of my soul – because if not, that mumbly cave-hermit thing may become an all too true reality…
The author shares his personal struggles through the rough economic times felt all over the world. While reading, I often felt like I could relate to him, and then I remembered most of the world could relate to him in one way or another. The only thing different he did was open up and share his life with us and tell his story on how he overcame the hardships and changed his outlook on the future. Highly recommend this book.
About the Author
Lee Bullen is a novelist and screenwriter who currently shares a Spanish writing retreat with his two children and an army of cacti. Although he openly admits preferring the company of his kids to any neighboring succulents, he does, however, have a favorite palm tree.
Having been battered and bruised by the indeterminable Global Financial Crisis (2008 till God-knows-when!), Lee finds it hard to write about anything else! His debut novel, Beset: A Desperate Search for Happiness in Times of Crisis was published in September 2012.