My Stomach Hurts
- Posted by James Altucher
Every night at about 2 or 3 in the morning I wake up in enormous pain. The pain gets worse every day. This has happened for about two years. It’s a straight line of pain that goes from one side of my stomach to the other.
Sometimes the pain is so great I can’t sleep unless I walk around for about twenty minutes. Sometimes I just stay up and start my day. Which means I have to go to sleep around 7 or 8pm to get a good night’s sleep. Which is critically important to me.
I’ve done everything to stop this pain. Its not an ulcer. Nobody knows what it is. I’ve changed diet several times. I’ve stopped eating dinners. I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or anything like that. I’ve taken medication for gas and other things. I’ve done cleansings that were so disgusting it fully reminds me that we’re barely just a few thousand years out of the jungle. When you sit on a toilet and every piece of genetic material comes out of you until it destroys the bathroom you think, ‘does everyone do this?’ Are we just shitting machines just passing the time for the rest of the day?
I know exactly why I have this pain and what it is. In 1995 I started freelancing. I had a fulltime job at HBO. A very stress free job. I would leave at 4 in the afternoon, go over to Astoria to Steinway billiards and play chess/backgammon and drink coffee with my Greek friends (Astoria was all Greek. And then there was me) all night long. Life was good. I had no stress at all. I lived in a room with no furniture other than a foam mattress my sister had bought me. Every weekend I had to clean the roaches out of the bathroom.
In the summer it was so hot my sweat would soak through that foam mattress and stay there, coagulating into a horrible smell. Whatever. I had no girlfriend who ever visited me in this apartment. I’d stammer whenever I had the opportunity to talk to the waitresses at the Astoria cafes but none of them would ever talk back to me no matter how big I tipped with two dollar bills with my phone number written on them. I had no chance. On the weekends I would watch movies all day at the Museum of the Moving Image (I had a free pass. Thank you HBO) until the guys would start gathering at Steinway Billiards for the evening.
But in 1995 it all changed. By day I had my fulltime job. And at night I was freelancing. I built websites for Toshiba, American Express, I even built timewarner.com as a freelancer while I was working at HBO, a division of Time Warner, as an employee.
I had dozens of deadlines, all for different masters who didn’t know or care about each other
I had scared people yelling at me. Because they had deadlines. And their bosses had deadlines. It was like a hall of mirrors where you see a billion versions of yourself. Who knew how far the deadlines went back. With everyone screaming at everyone underneath them. I was at the very bottom. I had nobody to scream at.
So I felt it. I began to tighten my stomach while I worked. And I would tell myself, I’m just doing a favor. After this website I’m done. I’m going back to the easy life. Cube life. I can handle the pencil factory. It was fun. I wanted to play chess and drink coffee and stare at those Greek girls shooting pool all night.
They were so beautiful. If just one of them would talk to me she would laugh at my jokes, marry me, have my children. We would have sex all the time. Maybe 20 times a day. Whatever. But none of them ever spoke to me. I was with the men, playing backgammon. While I stared.
Every deadline, someone yelling at me. And always something would go wrong. This was 1995. Nobody knew what they were doing. “YOU SAID you could have this done by tomorrow. I NEED IT! My boss will fucking freak out!” And his boss will, because his boss’s boss will. And so on.
And that clenching in my stomach never stopped. It just got worse. But I figured it’s ok, I’m young. What makes me better than everyone else is that I had the energy to stay up all night and do these things. That’s all. It will all be over soon and everything will be better.
And I was always doing things on the side. At my fulltime job I was doing things on the side. Then, on the side, I was doing things further on the side from my side-things. I had so many sides you can’t even name the shape I was working myself into. Its was like some weird four-dimensional tetra-quadrilateral.
And the pain got even greater. Now I had employees to pay. I had people now I could yell at but I never was the type to do that. I had clients who didn’t pay. I was pretending all the time to like people I hated. I went to therapy because I wanted to know better how to pretend to like these people.
But that’s ok. I’ll sell my company. Which I did.
But then the pain got worse. Because I had numbers to meet and new bosses to please. No problem. I’ll start a new company. But that went down in blazing failure. And I would go broke. Now there was pain in my head that was making me go blind to any pleasure in life whatsoever.
I would go to meetings pretending to be successful. We’d eat steak and drink wine and then I’d go home and throw it all up at night. That’s ok. I would clench the stomach until all the deadlines were over. Until finally I had enough money. Until finally I was deserving of enough love. Again and again. More companies, more sales. A roller coaster of love and money.
We all have a part of our bodies where we feel stress, where we feel love, where we feel anger. My stomach is where I felt stress. But I put off doing something about it.
Now, I have various techniques (The Daily Practice) I use to deal with the demons. They work. They bring me success when I need it. But I wish I had started those techniques in 1995. At the beginning of it all. The time to begin your practice is NOW.
Those nights when you lay up late wondering how the hell am I going to feed these kids, how am I going to make it through another month, how can I make that deadline, what will my investors say, when will I get that raise, or deal with my enemies at work – these worries stick to your body like gray dirty cement. The dirty cement carves itself over time into an ugly demon gargoyle. I thought it was temporary. But it wasn’t.
And it hurts.
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