For Now

I’m not all I want to be.

I do my best to listen and to look
As I follow each hook and crook
And read every single book
While I do my best to cook
Up some kind of understanding.

I don’t think that’s too demanding
A task for me to stick the landing,
But here I am, stuck standing
With nothing more commanding
Than a sense of appreciation.

It fills me with frustration
That I can’t form the foundation
Of a simple proclamation
Because I’m stuck with the realization
That I can only speak for me.

I can’t just let that idea be
So I try my best to truly see
But I think we can all agree
There is no guarantee
I will ever get the words out.

Constant fear and niggling doubt
Cause both a flood and a drought
Of words as I try to write about
A path without knowing the route
It takes from beginning to end.

No matter what I intend,
There is no way for me to bend
My experience so I can pretend
That I have anything to append
To what someone else has said.

At night, while I lie awake in bed,
I dream of a time when my head
Is no longer filled with things unsaid
But, right now, I see instead
That I’m not yet all I want to be.

So, for now, I can only speak for me.

Anxieties Can Grow into Fears and Trusting Again is Like Going for a Swim in a Lake

One of the worst parts of my anxiety is how it can make something entirely reasonable feel like something I don’t dare ask for. A five-minute midday phone call to help settle all the nagging thoughts that are threatening to take up my entire day? Definitely not something I can request without at least an hour of writing the message and then half an hour of psyching myself up to hit send. Sure it SEEMS reasonable, but what if it isn’t? What if they’re busy? What if they’re actually pissed at me because of what we talked about yesterday and I couldn’t tell then because I’m horrible at reading people over the phone, meaning sending them a message now is only going to make them angrier at me.

It sucks. It was a reasonable request because we needed to talk about what happened and verbally recognize that we needed to continue the conversation. I felt much better and I can only hope they feel better as well, now that they know I want to continue working this out. It should have been easy. A two-sentence message and then a wait until the appropriate time for a five-minute phone call. I spent more time worrying about what might have happened, trying to figure out how to properly say what I wanted to say, and whether or not it was appropriate to say anything at all than I spent on the conversation that spawn all the anxiety this morning.

My anxiety can run away with me, more than my depression or my OCD can. If either of those ever feels like it is running away with me, it is usually because it is fueled by my anxiety. The thought spirals that consume me are driven by anxieties I can’t squelch. The internal storms that threaten to sink me are whipped up by anxieties that I can’t deny. A lack of information is the greatest challenge to controlling my anxiety and a strong enough anxiety can make it a monumental effort to ask for any information, let alone figure out what to do with it.

As I reflected on this, my worst anxiety attack in a while, I realized that I’m not really prepared to deal with something like this. Almost all of my coping mechanisms involve heading things off or reasoning them away. That can work with my depression because a lot of that is based on not dwelling on any one thing in particular, waiting it out, and reminding myself that it will end eventually. It works alright with my OCD because most of my OCD is based around obsessions and I can usually reason with them so long as they don’t have an anxiety behind them. It even works with most of my anxiety since I usually know I’m worked up over nothing or have evidence to directly contradict my anxiety.

The fears though, the big anxieties that don’t have answers and prey on uncertainties, don’t have evidence I can trot out and are usually about things that I should be able to assume but really can’t. They’re what feeds into things like my resistance toward being emotionally open and vulnerable with people or the nagging fear that everything and everyone I love is going to disappear without warning. I know most people aren’t going to try to manipulate me using my emotions or use any time I’m open about my feelings as a way to hurt me. I know that it takes time for people to leave and there are almost always warning signs.

The problem with knowing those things is all the evidence to the contrary. I’ve got a lot of experience with people using my feelings and what I’ve shared with them to hurt me in new and horrible ways. I’ve seen how people can suddenly vanish, either because they decided you weren’t worth their time, because it was easier than working things out, or because something horrible happened to them. A lot of these were fairly isolated events, but there were still a lot of them.

I try to recognize that there’s also a ton of evidence supporting the idea that people aren’t out to get me or that what I love won’t suddenly vanish, but it’s hard to remember it all the time. Also, it is hard to say being emotional vulnerable with people won’t be used against me when I don’t really do it anymore. I also can’t use evidence to prove people won’t just vanish because it is almost always sudden and almost always happens in ways you wouldn’t expect. How can you disprove something you don’t expect? Someone randomly getting run over by a bus or going to a movie theater or club that gets shot up isn’t exactly something you can work to prevent or say won’t happen to someone around you. It isn’t likely, sure, but it happens to people and every person is a part of that group.

The worst ones, the ones that can bring in my depression and OCD, creating the hurricanes I mentioned in my other post, are the ones aren’t wrong. If I get going on something like “my anxieties make me annoyed and frustrated and I’m more willing to put up with myself than anyone else is, so how much everyone around me feel when I’m acting particularly anxious/depressed/obsessed/neurotic/what-have-you?” then I run the risk of heading straight toward meltdown city.

That isn’t a fun place to go. I definitely do NOT recommend the vacation package, the over-night bargain, or even passing through it. Once you’re there, it is incredibly hard to leave and a pass-through always turns into a full-stop. You don’t just visit. You take up semi-permanent residence and usually need outside help leaving since the stationmaster is hard to find and the population generally isn’t interested in actually trying to help you leave.

When it comes to fears or anxieties I can’t deny and the ones I have no evidence to disprove, all I can do is trust. Trust that I won’t be abused if I’m emotionally vulnerable with someone. Trust that people and things in my life won’t just disappear if they have a choice in the matter. Trust that people aren’t just putting up with me. Trust is hard. Trust is easily broken and hard to replace. I’ve got a lot of pretty convincing reasons not to trust, but trust is an essential part of being a human and living in a community. You trust that someone isn’t going to break down your door and take all your stuff. You trust that someone isn’t going to hurt your loved ones or, at the very least, that there are people whose job it is to protect them. You trust that people aren’t going to use you to their advantage whenever they can. Without that trust, you become isolated and have trouble connecting with people.

That’s where I’m struggling. I don’t trust much. Hell, I don’t even really trust myself. Misplaced trust has hurt me more than anything else in life and I’m not eager to get hurt again. I used to be able to dive back in by affirming that it is better to love and lose, to take a chance and fail, than to risk never again feeling the warm glow of trust rewarded with trust and love. Then I spent most of my time in Madison, nearly four years, getting every hand extended in trust smacked away, being around people who made it clear they only barely tolerated me, and getting my feet yanked out from underneath me at work constantly. There were people who made me feel bad about some of the most basic parts of myself.

Thankfully, I’m away from those influences now. I’ve got a girlfriend who wants to hear about all the things I love as much as I’m willing to talk about them. I’ve got supportive, helpful roommates who I really appreciate. I’ve got a work environment that is positive and appreciates me. I’ve even had one of the first and biggest metaphorical hand-slaps contact me and apologize for how they acted. I really want to dive back in again, but my fear and anxieties keep me back.

Like going for a swim in a lake, it is almost always better to just dive right in. The rush of water will feel cold at first, but you’ll stop noticing it quickly afterward. Then you’re free to swim to your heart’s content. Sometimes, though, you need to check for rocks first and take your time getting wet. Eventually, I’ll be ready to take the plunge, but for now maybe I’ll just start with my feet.

Reigniting My Own Passion Is Quite a Striking Problem

One of the most common things you hear from people dispensing relationship or life advice is to appreciate every day and never take life (or your partner) for granted. This is good advice because people tend to get used to the way their life is and either lose appreciation for what they have or they start to believe their life will always be the same. If you fail to appreciate a romantic partner, it should not be surprising if they leave. If you do not appreciate the good things in your life, you can lose sight of them or stop doing the work necessary to maintain them. While this is great advice and something I try to keep in mind at all times, I also keep it in mind at ALL times.

You know what happens when you take this sort of thing to an extreme (well, what happens when I take it an extreme, since I can only speak for myself here)? You spend your life living in fear of losing whatever it is you’re appreciating.

Every time I meditate, I read through my little notebook of questions to ponder, things to keep in mind, and the central thoughts my meditation revolved around. Last night, when I was meditating after my review, I landed on a thought from a few days ago. I invest in people so heavily because I’m afraid of losing them. I try to appreciate every day I have with people and doing what I love because I know how quickly life can change. As I meditated, I realized I was filled with a sense of dread and quiet fear of something I couldn’t quite explain. Eventually, I linked it back to the idea that appreciating every moment carries with it the implication that you do so because you never know when it will end. If you do not moderate the thought carefully, you can wind up “appreciating” your life and your partner because you’re not sure how long you’ll have them to the point of constantly living in fear of losing them.

 

My OCD and anxiety routinely have a field day with the quiet implication that all the good parts of my life are only temporary. Constantly reminding myself to appreciate what I have while I have it means constantly reminding myself that it is very likely I will, eventually, no longer have it. This is a quiet thought spiral that will sit inside me and build until I’m panicking about something stupid like rescheduled plans or not having the time to work on something I wanted to do. At which point, there’s little I can do but ride out the storm and try to stay calm enough to refrain from doing anything idiotic. While I wouldn’t say that I constantly live in fear of losing what is important to me, I can say it is a stressfully frequent anxiety of mine.

The thing is, no one tells you that you should get used to having your partner or the positive things in your life around. If you continue to do the work required to maintain your relationships and the things you appreciate most in life, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be around for a while. People make commitments to each other because they want to stay as a part of the other person’s life. People don’t just go from wanting to be in your life to leaving it aside from freak accidents. There’s usually a pattern of behavior or a shift as the relationship changes before people separate. If you’re paying attention to the relationship, you can see it coming. The same is true of things that people appreciate, like jobs or hobbies. Aside from, once again, freak accidents, people don’t just lose jobs or lose access to hobbies. It takes time and plenty of warning signs.

I feel secure in my relationship. Maybe not to the point of having nothing that needs work or not worrying about whether or not I’m putting in the work I should be; the relationship is only seven months old so there’s still plenty of room for us to grow together and get to know each other better. I just don’t worry about anything legitimate. I worry about horrific things like car accidents, natural disasters, the eventual collapse of society due to socio-economic or political factors, and whether or not I’ll have had a chance to try to prevent the end of the relationship due to something extreme and unpredictable. Just like most of my anxieties and obsessions. There is no way to predict when society will collapse or if one of us is going to get struck by a car, so there’s nothing productive I can do to fend off the anxiety. All I can do is try to put it out of my mind and focus my energy elsewhere, which is a lot like trying to not think about pink and purple polka-dotted elephants. Doable, sure, but not without a lot of practice and no significant amount of mental effort that can be instantly betrayed by a single stray thought as to why I’m so forcefully blanking my mind.

Like I said in the post I linked above, I need to invest less emotional energy in the sort of panic-inducing line of thought revolving around whether or not something crazy is going to happen that will take away everything I love and enjoy. Chances are REALLY good my significant other will still be around tomorrow. And next week. If I just assume she’s going to be around forever, then I run into problems. Same is true of my writing. I will have opportunities to write tomorrow or next weekend, but I can’t just keep putting it off by thinking that I can always do it later. I need to find balance between my anxieties about losing everything and the trap of assuming there will always be more time. Being this high-strung all of the time is really time-and-energy-consuming.

One of the ways I’ve been considering pushing back against my inclination to over-invest and get caught up in disaster-focused thought spirals is to put more time and effort into choosing “me” over other people. Doing the lazy thing I want to do or advocating for the activity I’d like to do. Currently, I don’t do that very much. The past week and a half of writing reflective blog posts and not trying to write as soon as I get home from work has been pretty much the only time this year that I wasn’t caught up in trying to get something done. I’ve played more video games in the past week than in the month leading up to it. I haven’t read much more, but I’ve actually been buying books again, which is what leads to me reading books.

This is a common theme to a lot of my posts and the “what do I do about this?” part of each reflection. I need to spend more time and energy on myself. I need to value myself more and give myself the same benefit of the doubt I extend to everyone else. I need to work on living my best life and not sacrifice all of my todays on the altar of a potential, far-off tomorrow.

I wanted to make this year about writing. I wanted to write a blog post every day and work on some of my novel projects. But that’s just one thing. That’s just one part of myself and my interests that I’m address. I also want to hike more. I want to get back to reading at least a book a week. I want to continue strengthening and enjoying my relationship with my girlfriend. I want to do new things and stretch myself in ways I considered too scary or too difficult before. I want to be more than I am today. And yet all I’m doing is writing more. Yes, this is good. Yes, this is an amazing goal and getting nothing done but a year of daily blog posts would still be a huge accomplishment. None of that means anything if I’ve sacrificed every other part of myself to make it happen. I can do it for a month, to pump out a whole bunch of NaNoWriMo words, but I can’t, and shouldn’t, keep it up forever.

Every other year, after NaNoWriMo, I’ve always felt burned out and spent at least one month not writing anything. That obviously didn’t happen last year, and that was because I decided to stretch myself in a new way. Look how wonderfully that has turned out! I’ve made over two hundred consecutive daily blog posts! I never expected to make it this far without missing a day and all of this growth and new confidence is the result of a whim. A stray thought and just enough whimsy to decide to pursue it. I need to bring that dedication and discipline to the rest of my life. I need to do new things. I need to advocate for myself. I need to be open and honest with people, even if that’s scary. I need to figure out what I want out of this summer other than another ninety-two blog posts and then work on getting it.

I’m all fired up and ready to go, but I still have work to do. After work, I’ve got my weekly foam-fighting practice. Then bed and work tomorrow. I’ve already scheduled my next twenty-four hours and I can feel the thought of my ordered life draining some of the fire away from me. Pretty much every time I write one of these posts, the same thing happens. I lose the fire between finishing the post and leaving work. Then I go about my day’s activities, find a way to amuse myself for a bit, and then go to bed after meditating for a bit.

I need a way to keep that fire burning. I need to recapture the passion I once felt about everything I did. I want to be that person who used to be excited about everything and could get other people excited about stuff. Maybe trying new things and getting past the inertia from the past four years of doing less and closing myself off will help. It’ll be a real struggle, though, since I feel even more down and discouraged than I did before I got excited.

It won’t be easy, but I think it’ll be worth it.

Doing New Things is Scary

I’m not very good at doing new things. By which I mean that I generally do not engage in activities or experiences that are new to me, not that I lack a certain basic competency when it comes to performing tasks or participating in experiences that I have never done before. I’m actually pretty good at picking things up and running with them. Quick learning is a skill I’ve spent my life developing and is part of why I like writing new and different things.

Despite being confident that I can muddle through any new experience, I tend to avoid them these days. I started this unfortunate habit because I was so incredibly busy with work, writing, trying to live a more healthy life, and focusing on growing the relationships I was establishing in what still felt like a new city. Nowadays, I still use that excuse but I mostly avoid them because of fear. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of losing something important to me that is never clearly defined and never makes sense if I actually dig into it. I don’t do open mic poetry nights because I’m afraid of sharing often very emotion poetry in a setting where I actually have to look at the people hearing my poem. I can post a poem online and use the internet as a barrier to keep me insulated from any reactions to it, but I can’t do that in a setting that sometimes even encourages people to interact after hearing a poem. I dislike crying in public. Not because I think crying is bad, but as an artifact of my issues showing emotion. I don’t even like being frustrated, sad, or angry in front of other people.

I actually quite enjoy a good cry. Pop in Les Mis or something on the warmer side and I’ll watch it just for the bit that makes me cry. Feels nice, you know? Refreshing. But generally not in public and as a result of a poem of my own that I just read to a bunch of mostly strangers. I just bared my soul and am now displaying how emotional that was for me. Even though I know they’d be a bunch of people I’d probably never seen again, even the thought of possibly doing this is making me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. Sure, you could argue that being open and emotionally vulnerable with a group of people makes them no longer strangers. You could also argue that being secure in my own emotions and experiences means there’s nothing a bunch of strangers could do to harm me or manipulate me using the emotions I just shared. I’d probably agree with you on both counts. That doesn’t make it any easier to do. And that’s just the emotional outcomes of sharing my work. What if someone hates it and starts heckling me or gives really terrible “feedback” because all they want to do is feel superior to other people? I don’t know if any of my poetry is good and I’ve never really tried to build my confidence in it the way I’ve built my confidence in my prose writing, so sticking my neck out feels especially fraught.

I used open mic poetry reading as an example (mostly because the one friend who read yesterday’s post and messaged me to let me know that it was, in fact, the one post she’s read since I started doing reflection pieces is the one who was always encouraging me to go to an open mic night), but I feel like it does a good job of illustrating just how complicated I’ll make anything new in order to avoid it. Which isn’t to say I’m wrong or that anything I brought up about going to an open mic night isn’t a legitimate consideration. Everything I’ve written about why I am disinclined to reading my poetry in front of people is true and a part of any decision I make. The big difference is I’m willing to just push past all of that consideration for things I’m more familiar with.

A D&D or Pathfinder encounters night at the local game shop? Not comfortable role-playing in a group because gamer communities at local game shops can be super tightly-knit and not the most-welcoming to new people. A book club focused around science fiction and fantasy books for people in their 20s and 30s? I don’t want to get into arguments with people about book analysis or have to defend myself if I dislike a book that everyone else liked. A local writers group to support each other as we work on our NaNoWriMo pieces? I don’t want the pressure of having strangers read my prose as I’m still working out the details of the story, nor do I want to get stuck with a group that isn’t interested in improving so much as just patting each other on the back for being a writer.

I can do it for literally anything. I actually DO it for pretty much everything. I supply my own reasons not to go or tell myself that I need to psyche myself up before I commit to doing anything like that. Then I never psyche myself up, make sure to keep the conversations with whatever friend suggested it to topics further away from “what should I do with my free time,” and eventually forget about it. At least, that’s what I did for a couple years.

Now, I’m trying to be open to doing more things. Trying new stuff. My girlfriend likes to go out and do things, like go to parties or attend performances by local artists at breweries. So I put the excuses aside, focus on the simple acts of getting there and getting back, and wind up having a good time. So far, I’ve been to more parties and local events since I started seeing her than in the almost four years I lived around Madison, WI before I met her. I even joined a Monday night D&D group with only two people I sorta knew from the foam fighting thing I do on Thursdays. I went to a performance by a small local musician she knows because one of her other friends was reading poetry from a poetry dissertation and had such a wonderful time that I’m actually considering workshopping some poetry with my beta readers to get some pieces together for an open mic night.

After writing that last sentence, I had to go take a break from writing this post to breathe deeply and think about something else. I’m still coping with stress and anxiety by ignoring it and busying myself, but there are times when no amount of addressing the anxiety is going to help and all you can do is plunge ahead despite it. This is one of those times. I don’t know when I’ll do it because I’m still nervous to the point of almost puking at the thought of getting up in front of people to read some of the poems I’ve posted here, but I’m at least thinking about it. And distracting myself with thoughts of presentation and what kind of business cards I could make to refer people to this blog for more poetry and some fiction as well. I don’t do advertisements on my blog because this isn’t about making money, but it still feels really nice to get views.

The old cliche about bravery is that “being brave” means feeling scared but doing whatever it is anyway. I don’t know if I’d want to go so far as to claim I’m being brave, but I definitely don’t want to feel as stagnant as I did a year ago and I don’t want to let fear rule my life. Which means doing new things, growing as a person, and eventually getting up in front of an audience to say something I feel is important to me. That is, after all, the point of writing stuff on this blog.

 

Threading my Way Through a Knotty Problem

As I start spending time in my evenings meditating and trying to figure out what’s going on in my head, I sometimes feel like I’m failing because so much different stuff keeps tumbling out. I start in on one thing, but then my attention shifts and I’m suddenly following some other string in the tangled mess that is my head these days. It makes me feel like I’m not making any progress.

Which isn’t true. I’m making progress. Just like untangling anything, sometimes you can only work to untangle a single thread for a little bit before you realize there’s something else is preventing you from making progress. Then you shift your attention to the next thread and get back to work until you run into the same problem again. Eventually, if you’re lucky, you can make the whole thing easier by finding a single thread you can untangle and pull out of the knot entirely.

That did not happen to me last night. I spent a lot of time shifting between threads and I made significant progress on one of them, but I think I’ve got a lot more work to do before I’m ready to start pulling things out entirely. I’ve been writing down the thoughts that come out of this so I don’t lose track of what’s going on and so I can return to things that feel like they’re not finished or like there’s more I want to consider before moving on. I started folding laundry as part of my meditation and that worked really well because it gave my hands something to do while my mind was engaged but I started falling asleep as soon as I tried meditating without laundry to fold. I need more sleep because, right now, my main limitation to how much time I can spend meditating is that I keep falling asleep while trying to meditate.

Regardless, the big thought that came out of last night has to do with the way I commit to things I like and the driving force behind that commitment. I realized (not for the first time, but it really clicked in the context of my writing and relationship) that one of the reasons I tend to 100% or 0% everything is because I’ve lost a lot of good things in my life and I want to make sure I squeeze every second/ounce of enjoyment and positive emotional input out of them that I can before I lose them.

I haven’t lost a lot of people, thankfully, at least not in the sense that most people mean when they say that. I have, however, not had very good luck at developing history with people. Outside of my family, I have a couple high school friends I still occasionally talk to and a handful of college friends I’m still close to. Most of my childhood friends moved away when I was young. A lot of my friends from high school and I all grew apart. Same thing for college. A few people from my life did things that made it easier to walk away than to try to stay friends with them and I got pretty good at letting people go.

The same is true of things. I’m not terribly attached to things because I’ve moved a lot and I was made to throw out some of my favorite stuff when I was younger because my family went through a “Harry Potter is bad” phase as a result of what I believe was the influence of some of the more reactionary/conservative members of a home schooling group my family belonged to. This taught me that “things”  are transient, to be enjoyed while you have them, and to not mourn them once they are gone. Which means I’ve gotten good at letting go of things I can’t find or have lost. I move on easily, when it comes to things I used to love or enjoy.

Taken together, it paints a pretty interesting picture. I obsess over the new things in my life and let the old things slowly fade. I invest a ton of time and emotional energy into people who are important to me, trying to build strong relationships as fast as possible with the people I like, sometimes at the cost of maintaining older relationships. I do this with all the stuff I have and do (because this applies not just to possession and “stuff” but activities as well) because I am very aware of the transient nature of life. “Someday, all my things will be gone and I only have so much time in any given day, so I must do things now or else I run the risk of never enjoying them or doing them.” That thought process was why I spent literally all of my free time during March and April of 2017 playing Breath of the Wild. That though process was also why I give myself such a hard time when I fall short of my daily writing goals.

With people, there’s a similar thought. “I must establish a strong relationship quickly because I care about this person and want them in my life. If I can establish a strong bond quickly, we have a better chance of making it through whatever goes wrong.” Because something almost always goes wrong. I’m sure some of the things that went wrong were my fault since I invested so heavily so quickly, but a lot of them just felt like people being people: mercurial and not always predictable. Only a few did something that was actually nasty or awful. Then, if/when things fall apart, I move on and don’t look back, investing all my energy in new relationships. It isn’t exactly healthy, even if it isn’t as stark in real life as I’m painting it here. I am still in contact with a lot of people from my past, but I don’t generally communicate with them.

While its less of a problem with stuff, since I can practice enough self-control to not let this mindset negatively impact my life, I struggle with it in my relationships. Particularly with my girlfriend. I often feel like not seeing her for a week is a huge loss. Or if we don’t do something on the weekend. Or if there’s a short trip we could be going on together but only one of us goes. It doesn’t really make sense and it often bugs me that I feel so frustrated or anxious about those things,  so even keeping it to myself and preventing myself from acting on these feelings doesn’t prevent it from having a negative impact on my life. The anxiety sits in my stomach, lurking in the dark, and rears up whenever there’s a missed opportunity to do something with her, but it spends the time between events muttering about making sure our relationship is strong enough for whatever comes up.

Which is probably the core of the anxiety: the fear that something outside of my control is going to happen to my relationship and I’ll lose something I highly value. I know that to live is to be unable to predict the future or control what goes on around me, but there’s a huge difference between knowing something intellectually and overriding the instinctual fear of loss drilled into your by a lot of your past important relationships.

Going hand-in-hand with that is the fear that no one will ever pick me over other options rooted in the fact that even *I* do not pick me over other options. Got a friend (not a close friend I spend a lot of time or emotional energy on) who needs help? Let me just throw away my need for relaxation and desire to have a calm morning before the plans I made for that afternoon so I can help them. Got a project that I feel I should be working on? Let me just ignore how tired I am and how much I need to just be quiet and breathe so I can keep working on it until I collapse from exhaustion. Someone needs something that I have? Guess I don’t really need or want it. Someone I know needs financial assistance? Good thing I’ve got this money set aside that I was planning to use to pay off my car loan early. I really suck at ever prioritizing myself, even when it should be clear the amount of good I’ll be doing for someone else is heavily outweighed by the bad I’ll be causing myself.

Thankfully, I’m working on choosing myself right now. That’s what all this meditation and contemplation is supposed to be. Also, now that I know the root of the fear and anxiety that is making me go a little crazy in terms of emotional investment and attention, I can work on addressing it. These threads might still be a part of the tangled mess, but I’ve figured out one of the big knotty bits and I can finally start working on unraveling it.

Saturday Morning Musing

There’s a part of me, deep down inside me, that worries I’ll eventually run out of words. Not in a “be unable to write or talk because I can no longer use words” sort of way, because even I do not have enough senseless anxiety to worry about that. This part of me is specifically afraid of running out of Things to Say. It worries that I’ll eventually say everything I have to say of any consequence and I’ll no longer be able to convince myself that I should be writing.

I don’t remember who it was, which irks me greatly, but I saw someone on Twitter post that to be a writer, you need a bit of an overly large ego. The whole idea of being a writer is predicated on believing that you have something to say that people want to hear. You can’t really write a story or a newspaper column or even a tweet without believe that what you are writing is something that someone wants to read. Sure, a lot of tweets are pretty dang meaningless and don’t have much thought put into them, but there’s also a lot of rather casual arrogance out there about writing.

Just like when you talk to a friend, writing a message includes the implicit belief that they care about what you have to say. Tweeting includes believing that the people who follow you care about what you have to say and that random strangers could potentially care about it. Writing a blog says that I think you, whoever you are, care about what I have to say. Writing a book says that I think a bunch of strangers will care about my thoughts or stories. No matter what I do, I have to believe that what I have to say is something that someone wants to hear.

I know it might just be a result of my OCD and the particular ways my brain words, but that thought feels like a vortex it’d be really easy to get stuck in. I struggle regularly with the belief that I don’t have anything worth saying. I don’t really posses an ego large enough to simply brush past that doubt, so I often wind up trying–and failing–to justifying writing something. And it isn’t just blog posts. It is everything from text messages to Facebook or Twitter replies. I can’t tell you the number of messages/comments/replies that I’ve typed up and then deleted instead of sending. For today alone, my best guess would be at least two dozen.

Some people say that anyone can be a writer and that is definitely true. What people often fail to take into account is that, like any other trade or art, it takes a lot of work to actually be decent at it. People go whole careers without ever being good at it and even fewer ever wind up being considered great. Writing gets treated as an after thought in a lot of work places and by a lot of people, but our increasingly electronic world depends more and more on writing. Thanks to the internet, the main way we interact with people is through writing. Video chat may entirely replace text-based communication on the internet eventually, but I think it’ll be a while before then since video still uses a lot of cellular data and that can still be very expensive for a lot of people (myself included).

Yet here I am, struggling to keep up with my daily blog posts because I feel like I don’t have anything worth saying. I find myself circling back to previously picked-apart topics and thinking I don’t have anything worth adding. I can’t find any thought or idea worth writing a poem about. I can’t think of any story worth telling here. That nothing I have to say is worth posting about.

It took me a while to realize that in order to consider whether or not something is worth saying, I actually need to have something to say. There’s little reason to shout down something as worthless if there’s nothing actually there and one thing I know for a fact about myself is that I’m not going to shut myself down over nothing. There’s always something at the core, even if I can’t seem to find it. Every thought spiral, every depressive episode, every single needling anxiety. There’s always something there, beneath the emotional/mental turmoil.

While it felt like a huge epiphany at the time, I’ve got to say that it really hasn’t changed much. I still wonder if everything is worth posting or writing or even considering long enough to see if I have enough there to write about. Hell, I wrote most of this out and then nearly trashed it since I don’t have much of a conclusion or anything thought-provoking to say. Mostly, I just wanted to say this so maybe someone else thinking the same thing would know they’re not the only one wondering if their words are worth it.

I’m pretty sure they are. Probably. You never know until you try?

Where I Am

I watch them grow
And I see them change
­                           Here where I am.
I see them move,
With great breadth and range,
                           Here where I am.

I saw them fall
And get up again
                           From where I am.
I watched them learn
What we might have been
                           From where I am.

They walk away
While I stay quiet
                           Right where I am.
I watch them go,
Filled with disquiet,
                           Right where I am.

I’m still standing,
After all these years,
                           Stuck where I was.
I’m stuck standing,
Rooted by my fears,
                           Still where I was.

­

Cracked

It started with a small crack. He had underestimated just how much small cracks mattered, but it made sense. A small crack was all it too to eventually break down any rock. One sentence, said once, and it changed everything.

It was always there, in the back of his mind. Other moments that would have meant nothing now had a way to worm their way into his mind. Fears that previously would have had nothing to latch onto now found a foothold. As time wore on and the crack grew bigger, he started to feel like he was looking at life through it. Everything came back to the crack.

If he’d done something about it when it was small, he might have been able to avoid the eventual breakdown. A small discussion or some work to try to patch things up. Anything would have been better than letting it go.

Eventually, it was ruining his life. The fear and doubt had wormed their way in so that there was almost nothing left to him but the rubble of his once unified sense of self. So he ended it. He broke it off.

It did not go well. She didn’t see what the problem was and she wasn’t willing to talk about how bad things had gotten. He wasn’t willing to try to make her see it. Eventually, after many tears on both their parts, they split up.

In the weeks that followed, as he swept away the rubble and tried to figure out what to do with what was left. Once he started picking up the pieces, it became clear he would never be the same. Eventually, he knew he’d be okay. Different, but okay.

 

My Voice

My voice can fade from lack of use.

My neck is caught up in a noose
Built according to my own design.
There never was a loop so malign
As the fears so doggedly adverse
And twisted into this evil curse.

The end of the cord lies in shaking hands
That seem to have their own firm plans
Of when to tug and when to let be
Because this rope is not to kill me.

I wove this rope of silence and fear
Of the loss of all that I hold dear,
Despite insisting all of the while
That my thoughts and truths were not on trial.
Lies told by my insecurity
To preserve my sense of maturity.

This lesson I learned as I have grown:
My silence belongs to me alone.

Moments of Quiet

It is these moments of quiet,
As my brain creeps toward sleep,
That keep me up at night.

The time before is calm and soft:
Full of lingering traces of all
I have accomplished that day
And everything I desire to do
When I wake on a brand new day.

The time after is strange and quick:
Full of half dreams lost to me
As soon as their story has ended
And small movements that feel fast
As my body begins to slumber.

During, though, there is only silence.
I am left with the darkness of my room
Mirroring a darkness inside of me
I can only manage to drive away
With things that would keep me from sleeping.

During these moments of quiet,
I am the captive audience of my fears
And every single thing that went wrong
During any day I can remember
Plus a few more I had once forgotten.

It is no wonder I do not sleep well
When I cannot bypass these moments
Without crashing from awake to asleep.