Saturday, October 3, 2015

A lot of thoughts for your Saturday afternoon

Sometimes my resting state is low-grade sadness. Or worry or what have you.

I think I've let this become a habit, after years of battling emotions. Years of expecting a battle to always follow the short-lived calm.

And I think it's time I work on doing what I can -- because some of it's out of my control -- to turn that resting state of discontent into one of calm and being.

I've come a long way, thanks to medicine and therapy and friends and family and supportive prayer and a loving man and a cat and just simply growing older and realizing that life does go on. That I am strong, that sensitivity sometimes makes life beautiful, that crying can feel great.

But just now, I got to enjoy about 40 minutes to an hour of contented sip-my-coffee-work-on-my-writing-peruse-Facebook-pet-the-cat time before my brain said, "Times up, time to feel sad now."

It's kind of ridiculous.

It's fairly upsetting.

And I'd like to see a new life pattern.

I've recently fallen in love with Christina Perri's song "I Believe."

In it she sings the following line: "I believe if I knew where I was going, I'd lose my way."

I don't know how much truth there is to that, but it's a nice sentiment. And maybe it is pretty damn true. We sure like to trip ourselves up as humans, trying to figure out what's happening next.

Most days I'm pretty good about the whole personal calling/vocation thing, at least.

I feel confident that I should write. I don't feel like a phony calling myself a writer when asked at a party what I do.

But I can get in my own way by telling myself I'll never finish my book(s). That I'm not disciplined enough. Not funny enough.


That one's killer. Just death.

When you're trying to write a memoir, and beyond this feel called to write one, probably the worst thing you can think is that your story's not interesting. How's that for motivation to isolate yourself for several hours and do nothing but explore that uninteresting story down to its every detail?

Yahoo! Sign me up! Give this coffee a warm up! (And make it Irish while you're at it, because I don't know how else I'm going to keep my self esteem stitched together long enough to write for even five minutes.)


I'm so neurotic I can overwhelm myself just coming up with lunch plans. I can be at work at 9:30 a.m. and start thinking about errands to run, my ratio of current hunger level to number of adequate snacks stockpiled at my desk, and just start losing it. Not panic attack losing it, but goodness gracious just wasting too much energy thinking about something as simple as lunch.

I remember a professor of mine asked us, "Do any of you just think sometimes," and here he clinched his fists and closed his eyes and tilted his head heavenward in agony: "Should I eat Chinese?"

I remember having a bit of a crush on him in this moment because yes, I knew exactly how he felt. I know all too well the emotional turmoil of deciding what to eat. And I don't usually even love to eat. If you've read this blog before you know I find daily meals to be a chore. Unless it's a Costa Grande burrito or Jimmy's tomato bisque, in which case we'll have lunch three times in a row.

Luckily, these workday lunchtime woes are easily forgotten, because I get distracted by filing and email and copy machine breakdowns that I fail to break down myself.

But here on a Saturday morning -- and weekends are generally the most fertile breeding ground for idle worries -- I can find myself just suddenly in a state of muted gloom.

And when you haven't made plans beyond drinking a cup of coffee in bed and 10 hours later meeting up with Alex to attend a party, the gloom can threaten to hang around. And worse, to grow bigger in its bacteria-laden character.

And I really think it's a habit to start feeling this way, when things get quiet, when an hour doesn't have enough planned structure, when one's options are to do valiant work that he's called to do or to simply sit back and enjoy some coffee time with the cat. Or maybe just clean the kitchen.

Let me take this opportunity to remind you that I do NOT agree that happiness is a choice. I believe that choosing to have a positive attitude can help boost one's mood. I believe that being around kind, happy people can put spring back into your step. But I think that if you are naturally inclined to melancholy or depression, this is not the result of you declining to make a choice to be happy.

Pardon my French but I think that theory is bulls*** and I fear it has caused many problems in our society.

If people could be happy by mere choice, we would all be happy.


But I do think, in my own personal case, that maybe after a decade of having a bent (due to biology, personality, and circumstance) toward anxiety and excessive reflection about the meaning of life, that I have possibly created a groove in my brain folds that veers toward these kinds of thoughts.

One thing I learned during my second major bout of therapy, during Graduate School Take Two, was to tell myself "I'm OK." To literally say it out loud. I was like the parent to my own inner toddler, and I could convince myself that I was OK by telling myself such.

I also realized that I could thumb through my racing, anxious thoughts by viewing them as pieces of clothing at a store. See a blouse, not interested, move on to the next. Forget the blouse. Do the same with my thoughts. Move on and forget them. Don't muse over something that you don't want.

So now that I've rambled for 1,000 words (congratulations if you've made it this far down the post!) about all this, I will come back to Christina Perri.

In that same song of hers I mentioned earlier, "I Believe," she sings: "This is not the end of me, this is the beginning."

She sings this line over and over. It's beautiful and moving and rhythmically calming to the listener.

I think I'm going to replace my "I'm OK" mantra with "This is not the end of me."

Next time I fall into melancholy after my Saturday coffee and cat time, I'll remember that I'm not finished as a person. Whatever emotion has landed in my chest will not stay with me forever. I will count my blessings and remember that it's so great that I have a whole Saturday to do all kinds of things I love. To read, to craft, to feel the cooler October 3rd air. To look forward to nine hours from now when I'll see my boy toy and schmooze at a birthday party.

This is not the end of me. And it's not the end of you, either. Carry on and pet a cat if you have one near.