Saturday Morning Musing

After spending almost two months reflecting on my emotional state and then doing everything but reflecting on my emotional state for a few weeks after a breakup, I’ve found myself finally settling back into some kind of normal life. I’ve processed the breakup to the point where all I need to do is let more time pass and keep myself from getting caught in any thought spirals (which is something I need to do regardless) and I’m back to monitoring my emotional state with regular (if much less extensive) meditation and reflect. As a result, I’ve achieved a sort of emotional neutrality I haven’t felt in a while. For the most part, it’s kind of nice. I had a small depression episode today that only lasted for about an hour because I knew exactly what was on my mind and what to do about it in order get through it quickly. The only real downside is that I’ve got this emotional state that is in discord with most of the music I’ve been listening to for the past six months.

Music is super important to me. I struggled with silencing the intrusive thoughts from my OCD and anxiety when I was younger, but eventually discovered that listening to music on top of doing normal activities like reading or playing video games would keep them at bay. Music was also what got me into meditation because a retreat I did in high school had a guided meditation where one of the retreat leaders talked to us while we listened to some calming music. When I wanted to achieve that same level of mental clarity again, I turned to music to help. Music has been the basis for my meditation since then, even if I no longer need it. I usually play the song in my head if I can’t clear my thoughts or I’ll get it playing on my iPod if my thoughts are drowning out the mental music.

Even as I write, music plays a huge role. I’ll create playlists full of songs that make me feel a certain way and use them to get me into the right mindset for particularly difficult or emotional scenes. When I need to write something that involves dredging up parts of my past that I’ve purposely buried, music keeps me from getting lost in the memories. When I’m trying to write a poem to help deal with something I’m feeling, I’ll find a song that resonates with that feeling and play it on repeat until the poem is finished. Hell, the meaning of songs at a particular moment in my life has inspired entire stories. The one I worked on during 2017’s National Novel Writing Month was inspired by a song and a book I read. Last week’s Flash Fiction was inspired by a song I was listening to and a TV show I’d been watching.

Musical is an integral part of my everyday life. I use it to help me deal with my emotions by influencing them in one particular direction or another. If I want to focus on feeling an emotion and accepting it, I’ll play something that resonates with it. If I want to focus on pulling myself away from the emotion, I’ll play something that feels similar, but pulls me in the direction I want to go. If I need a temporary but drastic mood change (when a big depression wave hits at work and I just need to get through the rest of the day), I’ll listen to something that sort of counter-harmonizes with the emotion. I keep a huge amount of music around and am constantly building more playlists because I like to weave music into my life. Which is why the current discord is stressing me out so much.

Right now, I feel like everything is pretty alright. Nothing is great, but nothing is terrible either. Nice things happen and bad things happen, but they move along quickly so everything just flows up and down around neutral. However, all of my music is tied to other mental or emotional states. My old neutral music is now tied existential reflection and emotional delving. Some of my favorite low-mood resonance music is now tied to the emotional tumult I felt as my relationship came to an end. Most of the rest of the music from the past six months is songs that remind me of the relationship I’m no longer in or how love feels, neither of which is useful right now. All of this music is discordant with my current emotional state and trying to just let the music wash over me and wipe away my intrusive thoughts is actually making things worse. I get frustrated and antsy. I can’t sit still or focus on anything for too long.

In order to get through this now-frustrating neutrality, I’ve spent the last week trying random songs on YouTube, screwing around with only Pandora playlists, and letting Spotify recommend songs until I want to throw my headphones across the lab or my room in frustration. Thankfully, one of my good friends does the same thing I do and we have enough connections in our musical taste that we can make good recommendations for each other on occasion. She had a brand new album she’d been listening to that not resonated with me, but had a few more albums show up in YouTube’s autoplay feature that also resonated. Thanks to her suggestions, I’ve now got a new playlist for this particular feeling. After spending the last couple days listening to it, I finally feel like I’m working through this neutrality and will be able to leave it for something more positive soon.

While listening to the music, I tried to pick through what was responsible for the downward trend of this neutral feeling. It wasn’t until this morning, as I lay in bed and fought against the desire to spend the day in bed that I realized that the hardest part of my breakup is that I’ve now got an entirely empty summer. Just over four weeks ago, I had a summer full of new things to do, new places to go, and new people to meet. It was exhausting to think about, but also so incredibly exciting. Now, I have nothing but free weekends. I’ve got nothing major happening this summer and very little to look forward to from one week to the next. What’s worse, I don’t even had anything I want to do. D&D is great, I’ve got tons of great books to read and review, there’s a new marvel movie out, I’ve got at least 100 Steam games I’ve never played, and I’ve got so much I want to write. Unfortunately, during the spring, I decided that spending time with my girlfriend was more important than most of those things and going out to do new stuff in new places with new people was just as important as she was, so now none of that stuff feels exciting or new. Interesting and engaging? incredibly so, just not exciting or new.

I’ve thought many times about reclaiming my summer, filling it up with other things I can do with my friends or trips to visit people, but the neutrality (which turned out to have a decent amount of apathy mixed in) takes over before I get anywhere. Throw in the fact that thinking about why my summer is so empty almost always leads directly to a negative thought spiral and I find myself unwilling to really consider what I’m even going to do for any given weekend until I’m waking up Saturday Morning.

I really need to get more active. Schedule some trips and do something fun with people I haven’t seen in forever. It may not keep me feeling emotionally or mentally positive, but it will at least keep me busy and that will keep the apathy and negativity away. If I can also keep myself supplied with the right kind of music throughout the summer, I might actually come out of this feeling better than I have since I graduated college.

Stay on Target

Today was wonderful. I woke up leisurely, lounged in bed, and only got out of bed to give my friend a ride to his car. He’d wound up staying at another friend’s house after they went out last night and I was up for a drive and some pleasant conversation. Afterwards, I stopped by the local diner for a long breakfast and some reading. When that was done, I opened all the windows and doors in the house to let in the beautiful weather, created a good background music playlist, and lounged while continuing to read the book I started at breakfast and listening to my playlist. A few hours later, my roommate and I cleaned in preparation for the night’s D&D session, did some shopping, and then settled in to wait for our friends to arrive.

D&D was tons of fun, even if it did run a little late, but it finished in time for me to remember that I STILL hadn’t update my blog. AGAIN. I think my change to my normal scheduling is making it difficult for me to remember and/or prioritize updating my blog every morning. I should probably get back to that soon. Not for another week or so, though. I still have a lot of reflecting to do and writing it out is really helping me. I should probably go back and read through all of my old posts again so I can remember everything I’ve thought. There’s just so much I can’t keep it all straight!

A little variety in my life is important. I tend to ignore it in favor of the comfortable and familiar, since I build habits easily and let my obsessive nature take control so I always stick to them. As I’ve written in previous posts, that isn’t always a good idea. It can stress me out and turn something that should be a fun and fulfilling experience into a rote recitation. A spewing of words with no value beyond the fact that they are correct and the words currently in demand. There is no thought to them.

In other words, they’re the exact opposite of what I want to feel when I write and when I post to this blog.

I think I might get my buffer back together this week. Make that my project, since there’s not much else going on right now and all the stress of last week has calmed down to the point where I’ve almost forgotten about it. I haven’t really forgotten about it. I hope I don’t. There was too much important stuff for me to think about. It just isn’t dominating my mind today, thanks to the peace and calm nature of the day. Honestly, just thinking about it now is getting me kind of wound up about it and that’s no good.

I need to find a balance between the sort of absent-minded freedom from responsibility and care that I felt today and the heavy stress and anxiety about the future I felt Friday and Saturday. That’s my goal. All of reflection and meditation is tipping me toward too much stress, even if it’s helping me manage my anxiety. Responding with an entire week away from cleaning the kitchen isn’t really a healthy response to that amount of stress. Ideally, I’d be able to clean the kitchen and maybe cut down on just how much time I spent on reflection. We’ll see how that goes.

I just need to keep myself focused on my goals, reflecting on my thoughts, and asking myself the questions I’ve been writing down that don’t have easy answers. As long as I do that, I should figure out what it is I’m expecting this period of self-reflection to produce. Hopefully.

For What It’s Worth

During last night’s reflection, I had a hard time focusing. I spent almost an hour trying to clear my mind and start meditating, but I never quite made it. My roommates were being noisy (which is fine. That’s what excited people do), it was uncomfortably warm in my room, and I was exhausted. Every time I tried to relax and let my mind clear, some random thought would show up and bring a bunch of its friends along. Normally, that’s what I’m looking for, but this was before I could clear my mind so it was all about stuff I’d read that day or the games I’d been playing earlier that evening or the books I was planning to start reading this weekend. None of which is conducive to untangling the knots of my mind.

I took a break to get ready for bed because it was late and taking a bigger break from trying to meditate is better than fruitlessly trying again. A chance to reset, do some mundane tasks, and hopefully give the AC a chance to cool down my room without me in it. While I was preparing for bed, I caught myself feel slightly upset with myself about how the night had gone. Sure, I enjoyed playing video games with my roommate, but the game was less fun than usual because we spent a lot of time doing the same thing over and over again to unlock these quest item things we were given. It was frustrated to see how much work it would take to finish the quest and not to know if it was actually worth it.

I never ate before sitting down to play, so I ate my dinner at 10pm and spent more time than I planned eating and playing a handheld game, so I wound up spending an hour of what should have been my reflection time eating and playing a game. Throw in the general feelings of frustrations and anticipatory stress I’ve got from how busy my next two months are going to be and the fact that my phone call with my girlfriend was nothing but planning out the next few weekends. All together, it left me with a sort of general dissatisfaction that is only possible to feel when everything isn’t a problem now or got you exactly what you needed, but you know it’ll be a problem later or left you with the realization that you didn’t get what you wanted and initially set out to get.

Nothing bad happened, it just wasn’t satisfying. The general dissatisfaction with everything I’d done since leaving work and the specific dissatisfaction I felt at being unable to clear my mind combined into a heavy weight that hung around me neck as I brushed my teeth. It was not pleasant. By the time I was ready for bed and once again trying to clear my mind for a last stab at meditating, the dissatisfaction and disappointment with myself had settled into my mind like a boulder covered in fly paper. It attracted all of the stray thoughts in my head and held onto them, but it was too heavy to clear away so everything got to stick around and buzz angrily in my head.

After a while, though, I realized that I was being unduly hard on myself. The day had been long, I was tired, and I was trying to sort out some plans for this up-coming weekend that were outside of my control. All I could do was ask people things and hope I could make it all work out in a positive way for myself. I’d felt sick after work (which was why I didn’t eat when I got home) and hadn’t even gotten home at my expected time because work is growing increasingly busy. Plus the whole “reflect and don’t do your normal blog posts” thing is throwing my routines out of whack and that always upsets me. I like my routines. They make it easier to control my anxiety and focus on enjoying whatever it is I’m doing.

It was interesting to realize and really think about how much of my sense of self-worth is tied to daily accomplishments. It isn’t just “am I making progress on my goals?” that’s getting me down on myself. I’m asking myself “did I make progress on my goals TODAY?” and that’s a pretty unforgiving line of questioning. In the past, a lot of my focus on making this more healthy (or at least less unhealthy) has been centered around what I define as “progress.” Doing things like considering resting up after a busy few weeks or taking the time away from working to refresh my mind by reading something new as progress instead of just the quantifiable, measurable “more words written/things done.” What I probably should be doing is working on addressing why I lose self-value when I don’t make immediate progress.

Not that I shouldn’t continue redefining “progress” while I’m at it. Doing these blog posts and meditating during what is normally my writing time is the opposite of what I’d consider progress, but it’s going to help me in the long run by making it easier for me to write. At the very least, I should have more mental energy for writing if I’m not trying to make my way through or around my current mental knot.

This whole “self-value” thought process wound up being very productive. Apparently, I value other people at a minimum level based on the fact that they are a Human and all Humans are worth a certain amount of respect because they’re Humans. However, I don’t extend this value to myself when it comes to considering my own value. I know the reasoning behind that (or lack thereof) is tied up in a lot of the issues I’m working through, but I know one of my defenses against self-destructive thoughts was to always have something that I was doing that I felt must go on. These days, I don’t need that defense any longer, but I seem pretty stuck with the instinctive need for some life-affirming task.

I used to write almost every day when I was in high school. I dropped off a bit during college, but my senior year and the year after college saw me writing so much that I’m pretty sure I wrote more during those two years than in all the rest of the years of my life put together, excluding the one that started November 1st, 2017. These past seven months of writing would put my current record-holding years to shame. I’m writing an average of 1000 words a day and I’m pretty sure I’ll pass my two-year record sometime in July. If I go add up all my words, anyway.

That’s a huge deal. It may not be my record-setting days from crunches like NaNoWriMo or previous vacations where I’d write 8000-12000 words a day, but it shows more growth and consistency than I’ve ever seen in my own writing habits. That’s worth a lot, since I know a lot of writers who struggle to be able to write this much overall, let alone write every single day. By the end of the year, I’ll have written enough words to have written the entirety of the Lord of the Rings. That’s a lot.

And, honestly, I’m a human being worth at least as much as a human being is. This isn’t about accepting myself or letting myself off the hook as much as I’d let other people off the hook, this is about valuing my thoughts, opinions, and contribution to being human as much as I value everyone else’s. If I can do that, maybe I can go to sleep early some night instead of trying to cram in as much as possible before I crash. That was another thing that came out of last night. I need more sleep. After meditating for a while on the ways I assigned value to myself, I woke up at 4am with a crick in my neck, drool on my shirt, and numb legs. It took a lot of effort to haul myself into bed for the last two hours of my night. Maybe tonight, I’ll actually go to bed early because I’ll remind myself that my value is the same as everyone else’s, even if I go to bed before I strictly NEED to.

Melancholy

Rainy grey days and soft muted nights,
Fog in the trees obscuring the lights
Of passing cars and the lone street lamp
As the world revels in the wet and the damp.

The quick pit-patter of dripping rain
Against the roof and window pane,
The bend and sway of leaf and tree,
The storm-blown scratch of spring debris,
The susurrus of water on grass
As the clouds roil, break, and pass.

A hint of loam and earthy strength,
A touch of fresh that runs the length,
Something new to mark the year
As the scent rides wind far and near.

The cold pin-prick of rain on skin
To mark the storm will now begin,
The deep chill gust that cuts to bone
And leaves stout souls to walk alone,
All hint of warmth retreats from hearts
As the skies open and the rain starts.

Unlit grey rooms and seats to rest
By windows with forehead pressed,
A crack to pull in rain-soaked air
And a blanket warm waiting near,
Silence reigns loud to give the storm
Ample room to sooth and perform
For those who watch and wish to be
Nothing more than melancholy.

 

Wrapped in Silence

As you sit in your bedroom, legs extended toward the foot of the bed and your back leaning against the wall, you can feel the heavy weight in your heart beat against your chest. It beats arrhythmically, out of tune with your heart and the pumping blood that courses through your body.

The weight is silence. The silence of the quiet thump of your heart and the rushing of blood in your ears. The silence of thousands of synapses firing as wild, uncontrolled thoughts tumble through your mind without leaving more than a faint trail that is wiped away by the same winds that give them agency. The silence of love unspoken and bitter last words that can never be reclaimed. A silence so complete that you can feel your voice, the voice with which you narrate your existence and that gives you a sense of self, fade and crumble in its face.

Outside, there is a similar weight pressing inward. It works its way through the blanket that wraps your legs and the sweatshirt you wear until it nestles against your skin like an itch you can never quite find, no matter how long you scratch.

This weight is also silence, but a separate silence. The silence of a fan blowing in the background, a constant whir that never ceases or varies in any perceptible way. The silence of an apartment full of people who are all busy with quiet things. The silence of a nearby highway humming with the steady stream of cars full of people who make their way from one place to another without ever conceiving of you as a being with your own hopes, dreams, and thoughts.

Some people, somewhere in your building, make a small noise that you know exists, but it is not strong enough to make its way through the walls and plaster that guard your apartment against their intrusion. The few people who, passing in their cars, look in your direction cannot see you for the brick and aluminum that guard the outside of your building against intrusion.

The two weights press against each other, pulled to each and yet repulsed by each other, constantly trying to escape from the other in one direction while being pulled toward it in the opposite direction. As the ebb and flow of their tugging begins to tear you apart, you quiet your mind and lay aside all of the rambling, rumbling thoughts that tumble through your mind.

This new silence, the silence of the mind after a long day; the silence of the mind when all thought has come to naught; the silence that reigns over the darkest moments of humanity; the silence that lifts up and glorifies the brightest moments of our lives and the lives of those we love; this silence settles into your mind.

As you sit and feel the power of this new, third silence, you let it flow out of you. It sweeps down to your heart and pulls the first silence with it. It glides outward then, capturing the second silence in its grasp and slowly wraps Silence around you, embracing you with a blanket devoid of warmth but resplendent with comfort. It pulls and tugs until not a scrap of you is left uncovered and slowly settles until you can feel it seep into your very bones. It takes such a hold of you that you are left wondering if there ever was something other than silence in your life; you wonder if have ever had a voice or heard a sound or if it was all a dream from which you have woken.

You feel the muscles in your chest expand and contract as you breath. You feel the muscles in your throat prepare the way for the word that will shatter the silence. You feel your tongue curl and move so that, as the vibrating air passes, it will make the correct sequence of sounds that will forever destroy this heavy, peaceful silence. As it builds, you can feel it coming, you can feel an end to everything you’ve ever know coming on the crest of this wave.

And then your muscles relax and the moment is passed. As your breath keeps its place in the first silence, your throat keeps its place in the second silence, and your tongue keeps its place in the third silence, you feel a fourth silence settle over them all. With this silence, the silence of the word unspoken, you feel the warmth that was lacking settle into you, the comfort is no longer cold and strange but familiar in a way that you cannot comprehend but wish to never be without again.