Friday, March 19, 2010

Separating from the Suck

I have found that I often discover truths while talking with other people. During conversations things will come out of my mouth that then click in my mind, and I wonder,"Why haven't I thought of this before?" I don't know why this is true; I just know that I get a better grasp on difficult concepts when I try to explain them to someone else. Knowing this would've made calculus much easier. Maybe. Maybe I never should've taken calculus to begin with. But that's not the point.

Recently I was talking with someone important to me who was facing a dilemma in the truest sense, having to choose between two equally unfavorable options. Without going into specifics out of respect, the choice was essentially between someone that really mattered and something that really mattered. At the time, the two were becoming mutually exclusive; one could not co-exist with the other. We raised the question, "Why is life so HARD?" This question was raised during the time that I was waiting to find out if I have cancer (which I don't) and just after I'd been in a car accident which totaled our car.

The conclusion I proposed was totally original. "Life sucks and then you die." And in a sense, I believe that. Not in a belief window skewed world view kind of way; I'm not actually a pessimistic person. I do believe in inherent fairness and overall justice- just not in so short a frame as a lifetime. I went on to say that a big part of our journey here is learning to separate ourselves from the suck, literally to remove the very essence of ourselves from the mundane banalities of life that suck the hope and vivaciousness from our souls. The way the world works, from the smallest cellular level to the expanse of galaxies floating through space continually collapses toward entropy. Everything from our very planet to our very mitochondria moves toward chaos. We know that, we can feel it on a subconscious level, which is why our conscious level is so drawn to melodramatic phrases like "nothing is permanent," "we all die alone," "in the end, all you have is yourself." We are depressed, repressed, and oppressed from all directions, trying to fit into every mold we see someone else wanting for us. Whether or not it's there. And then we get angry because we don't feel like we're getting what we "deserve," trying to impose the order we think should be there on a system that does not recognize our authority.

Part of my journey is learning to distance myself from that. Not from life, but from the suck. My whole life I have struggled with chemical depression. Situations and events can make it worse, but it's a constant chemical imbalance that I have to battle with. And for a very very very long time I fought against taking any kind of medication for it. I didn't want to be "weak," I didn't want to be "dependent" and I was afraid of what judgments other people would make. I tried therapy, which helped but didn't fix the underlying cause. I tried exercise, which did fix the chemical imbalance by providing an excess of another chemical to fill in the blank. Then I got broken and could not physically exercise anymore. And that SUCKED. My depression flowed back, stronger than ever because now the chemical had situational to add fuel to that dark fire. And then I realized something; my brain is an organ, a physical mushy mass of matter. If I had kidney problems, I would take medication for it. If I had a heart problem, I would take heart pills. The medication is a tool that I can use, it doesn't make me a tool. That seemingly small paradigm shift changed a lot for me.

And THAT is what separating from the suck is really about. Paradigm shifts. Changing not the world, but the way we perceive what happens to us. Replacing expectation with hope. It is our constant perception that life is failing us somehow that is making this so hard. For example, I expected that exercising would allow me to manage my depression. And it did, for a while. But then when exercising (specifically running) was taken away from me, I felt angry, betrayed by life. But life didn't betray me. Life was just carrying on as usual, the consequences of a thousand thousand butterflies flapping their wings and changing outcomes. What needed to be changed was MY perception, because THAT I can control. If I had hoped that exercise would help manage my depression, I would've been pleasantly surprised that it did, and when it didn't anymore, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Like when you're young and there's a boy you like and you expect him to call and he doesn't, it ruins your night. But if you're only hoping that he calls and prepared with something else to do if he doesn't, then it is perhaps inconvenient, but not a game changer. That's one difference. I've come to understand that the plan that I make is really only what I go to if nothing else happens. Those plan A's that we all have we think are what happens first and everything else just gets in the way. The paradigm shift we need (by the way, a paradigm shift is when one conceptual world view is replaced by another; i.e., learning to plant a garden and grow food meant that humans could live in one place rather than constantly be searching for more food) is to understand that our plan A's are actually plan Z's- they are what we go to when nothing else happens.

We think of those happenings as interruptions, or deviations from our expected plans. Is it any wonder that we're upset and frustrated when what we expect to happen is really the last possible thing that could happen? In earlier posts I've mentioned that I do believe our life has a purpose, and by extension I do believe in God. I also believe that the greatest gift God gave us was the option to choose. Every action, every thought, is a decision we make for ourselves. I do not believe that God makes bad things happen. The neverending cry of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" "How could God let this happen?" is not a difficult question. Uncomfortable, yes, absolutely, but not difficult. He gave us the power to choose by providing choices. He cannot protect us from the consequences of those choices, or from others being affected by our choices, because that denies our choices. We all live here. We all love, eat, breathe, and die here, and if outcomes are changed by a butterfly flapping its wings, how much greater change does each individual effect? Bad things happen because entropy happens, because life happens, because the world is imperfect and imbalanced because we are not prepared to handle perfection and balance, no matter how much we may believe we desire those things here and now.

I love C. S. Lewis. He said "The truth is, what we call interruptions are precisely our real life, the life God is sending us day by day." I do not believe God makes bad things happen; I believe he nudges and orders events so that good things come out of bad ones. Like that car accident I referred to earlier. It happened the morning I was going to have my biopsy to check for cancer. The biopsy results take a week to come back. That morning, a teenager texting on her cell phone hit me from behind without even trying to break because she didn't even see me. I was completely stopped beforehand. Thankfully no one was seriously hurt, except our car, which was totaled. It was a bad day. I even called my cousin, who I know is going through a series of difficult situations, to complain about my day. And by most standards, getting in a car accident the same day you have a possible cancer biopsy is a rough day.

Now I'm pretty familiar with how the aftermath car accidents work because I was a paralegal. I also had to find a new car to buy and talk to my insurance, her insurance, the repair place, the car rental place. All of this was a very long and involved process, but not one that was strange or overwhelming for me. And it gave me something to focus on for a week while I waited for my biopsy results. I tend to be an obsessive over-thinker (a friend once observed that I must not get a lot of quiet because my mind is always going) and had I not had all those tasks to focus on, I would've spent that week researching cancer treatments and survival rates and support groups and grief counseling and making sure my affairs were in order and gradually driving myself mad. Now that teenager, who texted while driving, was going to get into an accident. God could not prevent that from happening and still be giving her a choice, because without consequences, there aren't choices. (Consequences get a bad connotation, but they don't have to be bad- the consequences of allowing yourself to be loved are pretty awesome). However, nudging the events a little bit made it so she ran into ME, who desperately needed something else to focus on, for whom a car accident would be inconvenient but not catastrophic, and who never really liked my car much anyway, is how He can intervene without taking anything away.

I do yoga, and I learned the meaning of a phrase I've heard over and over in the background chanting of yoga videos. I erroneously thought it was a Hymn to Shiva, The Destroyer, because one of the words sounded like Shiva. Um, no. The phrase is Om Namah Shivaya. It means "I honor the divinity that resides within me." That's part of why all this entropy feels so wrong; it's not who I'm supposed to be. But finding that harmony and balance, that zen, separating myself from the suck, is the purpose of the journey. My life now is not what I expected; I'm not where I expected and not doing what I expected. That could make me very upset. I could feel betrayed and angry and upset, because my expectations weren't evil or wrong, quite the opposite. But this is the life that I have. I can choose to feel guilty about the past and worry about the future, or learn from the past and prepare for the future. You do have to have a plan, a direction. But the change is that you have to hope, not expect, that it will happen, and be prepared when it doesn't happen the way you planned. Even when we want something we KNOW is good that does not mean we'll get it. And its those things specifically that make us feel so hurt and betrayed when it doesn't happen. That does NOT mean you won't get what you want, eventually, but it won't be the way you planned or when you planned because it doesn't work that way. We cannot control all the variables. What we can do is hope, work, and learn to bend so we don't break. And it doesn't work all the time; usually we don't see the benefits that come out of crappy situations until well after the situation has past and the benefit has been established, and then we have our moment of enlightenment (or "Oh, duh!").

Life may suck, but living is sure worth it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Not Good at Normal

I seem to be not very good at being normal. Some days I want to be; it feels like it would be so much easier. That fact alone (that it seems to be easier) proves that "normal" is my own delusion. Not that "normal" doesn't exist; it does, as the most common personal trait or event. But since no one has every trait that is most common or experiences every event that is the most ordinary, no one is normal. (And, conversely, even if someone WAS like that, having every highest occurring trait and experience that person would be so unique as to be completely abnormal, since it is normal to be deviant.)

But seriously, some days I wish for an ordinary life with ordinary problems and being able to get out of my head. My mind wanders often, and not always in meaningful or productive ways. For example, I was performing a menial labor task that required no real thinking, and so I started to ponder numbers and their visual opposites, like 12 and 21, 13 and 31, and so forth. It occurred to me that 12 and 21 were 9 numbers apart, and 13 and 31 were 18 numbers apart. Then followed a thought process that involved thinking of a formula to explain this relation, in that when two two digit numbers are visual opposites, take the larger digit, subtract the smaller, and multiply the resulting number by 9 and that's how many numbers apart the visual opposites are. Numerically put, 12 to 21, 2-1=1, 1x9= 9, 12 and 21 are 9 numbers apart. 15 and 51, 5-1=4, 4x9=36, 15 and 51 are 36 numbers apart. It's true for every two digit number; I didn't go any further than that with it.

Why, you may ask, does it matter? It doesn't. A better question is why I was thinking about math at all. It was interesting enough to keep me from thinking about other things, more difficult things with less elegant answers. Like what am I supposed to do when I can't wear glasses because they give me migraines, and the back of my eyelids have developed a dermatological allergy to contacts? Lasik is never considered medically necessary, so I guess I save up for a few years and try to deal with my eyelids trying to blink out my contacts until then.
That's the least of my current concerns. The greatest current concern I don't want to talk about because I don't want to think about it any more, and if I began talking about it I'd want to divulge everything and that would just reveal what a terrible person I really am. Yes, yes, I know I promised to be honest here, but I'm not far enough along in this journey yet to be this honest. Suffice it to say that sometimes I consider horrible things as additions to a resume, rather than with trepidation or fear. I always wanted my life to be interesting.

Lately I've been tired of trying to be normal. Cracks are beginning to show in the overall facade of the "everything is fine, everyone is happy," that is my most often worn persona. I want to take a vacation; not just dropping my kids off with my parents and flying to Hawaii (although I would grab that chance in a nanosecond) but a vacation from being ME. I want to BE someone else for a while, fully and wholeheartedly, someone with problems and concerns completely different from mine. Not because I think their life is easier- oh no, that's an enormous pet peeve of mine- but just to get a break from MY constant inner monologue and deal with something new and fresh.

Now that I've mentioned it, let me explain my pet peeve: I'm 100% behind the idea that life is meant to be a test, to prepare us for something infinitely more expansive. We all have problems, crosses to bear, trials to overcome, and everyone's set of problems is as un-normal as they are. Growing up, whenever I was having a problem or trial or bad experience, my mother would employ the same tactic to make me feel better by trying to give me perspective; she would tell me about someone she knew who was having an even harder, longer, more painful experience than I was. This irritated me to no end. I had a bad knee injury and had to use a walker to get around my apartment and to care for my two toddlers; during that time a friend of mine twisted her ankle. We were on the phone, and she was telling me about how painful and frustrating her injury was, then suddenly she stopped and apologized. "Yours is way worse," was her reason for the apology. You know what? My knee being was as useful as having my thigh and calf attached by a marshmallow, but that did NOT make her ankle hurt less.

I'm behind the idea that life is fair- not in the immediate or mortal sense of the word, but overall, I believe that we're each going through our own test, and NO ONE'S LIFE IS EASIER THAN ANYONE ELSE'S. Conversely, no one's life is harder. Let me explain; we each have different talents and aptitudes, one of which is the capacity to handle pain. Let's assume that I have a pain tolerance of 100 points, and my friend on the phone has a tolerance of 10 points. My knee hurt 90 points. Her ankle hurt 9. Does my knee hurt more? YES. But I'm suffering 90% of my pain tolerance, and SO IS MY FRIEND. We are both suffering 90% of everything we can handle. It is the SAME.

And some people are tested early in life, some late, and sometimes yes, you have a problem and someone else has a much bigger problem at that point. That DOES NOT MEAN that over the course of a lifetime you will suffer less; we'll each get our full 100%. Our knowledge is different, our experiences are different, our trials and the things we find joy in are different, but that does not make any one of us LESS or MORE than the other. If you comparing your suffering to someone else's gives you perspective and brings you some measure of peace, good on you. That is your right and I have nothing but respect for gaining perspective. But don't you DARE minimize someone else's suffering just because you know it isn't the worse thing out there. You have no idea what their threshold is or what percentage of their total they've completed already. People tell you their problems because they want sympathy and support and love to get through it. Give them THAT, not a dissertation on the overall suffering of others.

And I never understood why my mom thought that telling me other people were suffering would make me feel better at all. People are HURTING, people are in PAIN; what in all that is going make me hurt less?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Old things

I tend to keep some items around for a very long time. Not many things, and not even things that have any kind of value, just random objects. Like my black coat. I've had it for over a decade now, but I rarely wear it. I have nicer coats and now a warmer climate, so it doesn't get a lot of use. I wore it the other day and it had something in the pocket. I took it out, some small papers from a public notepad. On those little pieces of paper was a poem I'd written when I was first in college, so between 9 and 10 years ago. I was very into free verse at the time. Here is that poem.

... theatrical farce.

Crossroads, with map, directions, and no fuel.
Got up when I fell down, hit my head and was knocked unconscious.
There is no such thing as my turn.
I resent work when it is tough because of stress and when it is easy because it is unfulfilling
and then I go home alone to be happy in my independence.
Glad to be lonely because then I'm the only one whining.

Worse, lovers, friends,
And I get lost in this drive to be successful
And this is not about me.
I cry because 30,000+ people commit suicide every year
because people too weak to go forward were trampled by those too busy to look back
Or people who didn't die and won't live
and you tell me the other option.

We created this culture
just like the guns that kill us
and the pollution that kills us
and the drugs that kill us
and I'm not saying that our culture kills us.
Lobotomy patients still have heartbeats.

I reject this culture.
I am not a revolutionary or a commentary or a tributary or a sanctuary
So is everyone else!
So care!
Care about death and work and love and hope and courage and ambition and dreams!
You don't have to believe in people, just believe they're worth it.
And you tell me the other option.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Middle Distance

This is not a journal. At least, not in a traditional daily event recording sense. 3rd grade is my earliest memory of wanting to be a writer, a real writer with the ability to change people by using words. I've begged on my knees for me to be a writer. The one thing I've been failing to do is write. Little things, here and there, a few poems published in places no one will ever read, short stories, but nothing real, nothing me in a very long time.

The purpose of these entries is to change that. I don't expect to say anything profound or earth-shattering here. This is a place for my stream of consciousness to take shape, for me to practice putting my thoughts and feelings and stories into concrete words so that someday I will have a story to write, something to offer up to the world that I really worked on and opened up my veins to fill. Some of it will be stories, some of it will be rambling. If you read this because you know me, then you probably have little idea how hard it is for me to admit to insecurity. If you, random reader, stumbled across this in your wanderings let me offer up something, one wanderer to another; we are the opposite of lost. Lost is knowing where you're going, knowing where you belong, and not knowing how to get from where you are to there. I know where I am. What I have no idea about is where I want to be next.

That may sound strange considering my first paragraph, but I'm a complex person. Not in the sense that I am complex; more in the sense that I have a complex. Several. I am insecure and easily threatened and desperately seeking affirmation and the strongest most underlying belief windows I have all say that I can never share what they say because then people will know.

I'm rambling. Let me attempt to be concise: a "belief window" is basically an invisible "window" hanging in front of a person's face and through which he or she perceives the world. Each person's window contains written statements of their own beliefs, and those statements are created by that person's own experiences. For example, if I had been bitten by a dog when I was small, the words "dogs are dangerous" would be written in my window, and I would view all dogs through it. Whether or not the statement is true doesn't matter; people everywhere have "I'm not good enough" or "I'll never be as good as, as pretty as, as smart as, etc." scrawled on their windows everywhere, statements that once under objective observation are immediately ridiculous. And we know they are, but "knowing" and "believing" are two such separate and even disparate terms that the one hardly influences the other.

Did I mention that I'm smart? Oh, it's very important to me that people know that I'm smart. I'll "never be as pretty as" and "never be as musical/funny as" my siblings, so smart is what I got. If I sound harsh or bitter, let it slide. People usually start writing because they have something that's been stewing around inside them for so long that it starts leaking out, and most often the things that people hold onto are negative, so first writings or entries or poems usually come across angst-riddled, and then mellow out like a deflating tire.

I suppose I should say something about the title of this post, and the title of my blog. It's my desire. It's what I want to find, somewhere. When I was younger, I had passion. I talked to rivers and the moon and believed that I could have anything I wanted if I only wanted it badly enough. Everywhere was music and everything had magick and I lived furiously. I had every goal, every dream, both for the next minute and the next lifetime. I've lost that. Now I don't know if the music is gone or if I just can't hear it anymore over the clamoring of the mundane, and I feel sick because I can't find the magic and I don't know if its because I don't believe it anymore or because now every Christmas I know how expensive and stressful it is to be Santa Claus.

But I can't give it up, can't walk away from all the cables tethering me to this life, because I've chosen what to tie myself to and it requires me to pander to repetition. I don't want to be that unconnected anymore, while at the same time, I want to hear the music. I have to find that balance between focusing on only the immediate survival needs before me, and on goals and objects so far in the distance that they're only there because I hope they are. I need to find a middle ground where I can be that writer that I've always felt I needed to be, where the music and the magic can find me when I can't stand not having them anymore and I can believe that my belief windows aren't absolute, but where the tethers that matter most and that I need most are not slackened. That place between the near and the far, that middle distance.

Comment if you like; I'll read them and I'll care about them and I've left them as open as they can be, but I don't dare ask for comments. Not for this. For any stories or poetry or writing ideas I post, yes, please, absolutely. I'm horrible at taking criticism but I'm hoping this format will provide enough of a buffer for me to deal with that. For just the rants, as you like. I may never know what you think otherwise.