sunrise and sundown
the moon rolls through the night time
til the daybreak comes around
all my life's a circle
and I can't tell you why
seasons spinning round again
the years keep rolling by
-Harry Chapin, "Circle"
This post is not a pity-party invitation and I'm not attention seeking.
Some day, and not too far off, I'm going to be writing a long, very meaty and INTENSELY personal post entitled "It's Not What It Looks Like". Because that could very well serve as an epitaph, were I to die today. I have tried very hard -- perhaps too hard -- to defend my life choices over, especially, the last seven years, but what I haven't done, because it really is so terribly personal, is give you the context of those decisions. Lacking that, you're prone to assume the worst of me, and I would too. And let's be clear: sometimes, rarely, it very much IS what it looks like. I'm not perfect, far from it. It's not always misplaced idealism that leads me astray, either.
But that's right (or wrong) ACTION, and the biggest issue in my life is INaction.
I'm going through one of my cyclic depressive periods right now. They are all broadly similar: I rail against the undeniable fact my life is largely virtual, and of course I do this virtually. In one of my classic knee-jerks, I talk about simply abandoning online life entirely, am inevitably told I should seek a balance instead. To which I retort, would you say that to a heroin addict? Oh, don't cut out the heroin entirely, just go for a balance!
But as I've said probably far too many times to count, the fear of engaging in the real world is all but paralyzing. Most of my online friends are strictly online friends (thank you, Covid-19, you bastard) and even cutting down my online time feels like hey, you think you have no real life friends? Tell you what, shoot them all and then you REALLY won't have any real-life friends!
How DOES an introvert develop this chronic and powerful need to feel connected? I wish I knew.
My existence, even now when I'm double-vaxxed, is almost entirely housebound, which is one reason why that road trek two weeks ago was so welcome and cherished. Well, that's easily fixed, you say. Just leave the house, the door's right there. Yeah, okay, and do what, alone? Experiences may as well not even exist if they're not shared. I've seen movies by myself. I can barely remember them. I've eaten meals outside the house by myself. There's no joy in that. Also: while you will never catch me complaining about a mask in public (the fogged glasses and the vaguely, sometimes anything but vaguely fecal smell of the things are my two largest gripes), I'm not going to put myself in a mask-required environment without a good reason. Drifting through different environments all by my lonesome isn't a good enough reason. Sorry.
So basically I've just been going in circles. Some parts of my life have improved beyond all measure, but I'm not content and I'm tired of the un-merry-go-round. What's most exhausting, because it gives me that anxious rat-scurrying-in-cage feeling, is knowing that I alone am responsible for my emotional state, yet not knowing what to do or how to do it. And round and round we go.
Don't panic with this next, okay? Also, don't feel guilty. I've got enough guilt for all of us. Trust me.
When the word suicide makes its first appearance in my mind, it does so sneakily, like a snake or something similarly slithery and full of sibilants. It doesn't shout. It doesn't even whisper hey, have you thought about offing yourself? No, it just sits there in the shadows, presenting itself as an option if I want to consider it.
I don't. At all. But the word shows up anyway. And all the practiced gratitude -- because I do practice gratitude, consciously -- doesn't shove it away. And so, after a few days if it sitting there in the back of my mind, I'll drag it out and look at it, because that's what I do with my thoughts, especially the persistent ones, especially especially the persistent negative ones. I handle this particular thought with utmost care, because in 2014 it took on a life of its own and I have absolutely no desire to visit those depths again, thank you.
So I pull it out and examine it, very carefully and in an utterly detached manner, and what strikes me is that while I can't articulate a valid reason to kill myself, I also can't articulate a valid reason to go on existing...not living, existing. I've said before that I consider the internet to be vampiric. I stand by this: it sucks all the life out of living and replaces it with pixels on a screen. Piss poor alternative, but when you don't know your purpose and everything looks pointless, what other alternative is there, exactly? All my friends are online! My whole goddamn fucking LIFE is online!
The nature of depression is that it seeks and devises every opportunity to reinforce itself. It's also ruthlessly internal, in that the well-meaning and loving actions of others don't move the needle overmuch or for long. So please don't think for even a millisecond that I'm not profoundly grateful for the love of friends in my world. I am. These thoughts run on their own track, independent of anything else so far as I've been able to determine.
If I'm not careful, the thought that comes next is "nobody will care; few will even notice". THAT thought is a one way trip into those depths if I let it take hold. It's also (I hope) patently false. It's the pretend voice of my parents...they never lamented out loud that I became a nothing, so they do it in my head quite often. It's the voice of my over-developed conscience, telling me I don't deserve notice, let alone care. I mean, Ken, what have you done to be noticed or cared about? Not a whole fuck of a lot, right?
It always comes back to doing...and not knowing what to do.
I had a brainwave laying in bed last night. Four words. Play to your strengths.
Many people have told me variants of "you're the most self-reflective person I know". I suppose: the number of people who seem not to ever think about their thoughts and emotions, let alone share them, blows my mind. They're yours, people! Maybe the only things that truly are! Why wouldn't you be curious? Why wouldn't you share, in case someone else can relate? In any event, I do spend a lot of time in my own mind, when I'm not out of my mind, ha-ha. And it occurs to me, for the first time ever, that I'm seeking external validation for something that needs to be internal. It is a choice to be happy: follow that choice religiously, and that's how you "en-joy" something. By putting the joy in beforehand. You teach what you have to learn. I've been teaching this for years and not living it myself.
Because I didn't know how. I focused on others because that felt selfless. Making others feel good really does make me feel good -- for a time. I'm that person who made his friend feel good. Which is all well and fine, maybe even admirable, until I reflect that here I am defining myself in relation to others. It's easier to do that than to confront self-hate with an empty toolbox.
Maybe not completely empty. Play to your strengths. I am ruthlessly and relentlessly self-analytical. A friend last night suggested cognitive behavioural therapy, and that made sense because it's training my mind how to think differently about the stuff I can't stop thinking about.
Name a flaw in yourself that's developed relatively recently.
Easy. I'm a tubbo. A lardass. Three years of sedentary employment and a pandemic have seen to that. Also: I like food. I like food too much. Working at Walmart, that didn't matter because pounds melted off me before I could put them on. Now? Now I gain weight by breathing. It has progressed to the point where it is affecting my ability to engage in moderate outdoor activity.
But changing that means sacrifice, and a whole lot of it!
Maybe not. Maybe what it really takes is a different mindset.
But how do I get one of those? I don't know where the Mindset store is and I'm not sure I could afford to go in there if I did.
My Facebook feed had an answer: Noom.
I don't know whether it's a good answer or not. But I intend to find out. Perhaps the biggest reason I intend to find out is that they insist they are not a diet but a cognitive behavioural therapy course that changes your relationship with food by making you more mindful of it.
Food has long been one of the things I'm most mindless about. It's going to be a nice fresh turd in a few hours, why go to absurd lengths to make it? Just grab something and stuff it in there. Mmm, tasty. Or do I even notice? Not really. It's this pleasurable but very fleeting feeling: I can feel it again with another bite...and another...and another...
The program is pricey only because it's paid for all at once. I haven't started it yet, but I think I'm going to once I can scrape up that money. $27 a month -- less than a dollar a day -- and they ensure me that if I commit, I will lose 80 lbs by April 2022. That's the "slow and steady wins the race" option. The husband of a friend of mine did something more aggressive and has lost 68 lbs this year with the program. He renewed it, it worked so well for him.
I'd like to experience feeling proud of myself just once in my life. I figure that feeling is probably addictive itself, and will motivate me to do more, this time with an outward focus.
I want to live.