Thursday, August 2, 2012

Emotional mountain climbing

 (Subtitle: Where you don't even get to burn calories but you still might pull a hamstring)

The peaks and valleys of Glen Nevis. Bods/Creative Commons
"Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could."
– Louis Erdrich, The Painted Drum
I came across this today on a beautiful blog post about a woman in New Zealand who just passed away from breast cancer, and the sentiment could not have come at a more poignant time for me. 

Call this irony, or hypocritical, or yet another example of the failure of modern sensibility thanks to the Internet, but I woke up sure that I needed to share on my blog, with strangers from around the world (all 113 of you), that I have been feeling withdrawn. I'm too exhausted from psychoanalyzing myself to decide whether this is an idea I should feel ashamed about, leaving me in the all-too-familiar position of being completely past the point of possessing even one singular shit to give. I am quite simply overflowing with stress, angst, worry, and guilt.

It's what we do. People, I mean. I could probably make a solid argument that it's more a symptom of my X chromosome, but I personally think we are just more chatty. Both sexes tend to take on a heavy burden when we come out of hiding and participate in the world. My participation lately has led me to a place of utter sadness, in so many ways. It doesn't matter how many times I assure myself there's little point in fretting about things I cannot fix, or even improve. My heart is heavy, and it has led me to near total withdrawal. I'm not reaching out to people I love who may need it, because I feel so overwhelmed, and the fact that I'm not reaching out only makes things worse. It's a bad cycle.

Are you still with me? Has my cryptic, angsty vent triggered your involuntary eye roll? I get it. I have a good life, a privileged life versus a full 2/3 of the world's population and most of the population in this country. Things could be a whole hell of a lot worse. I guess this is the guilt portion of our show. I have it good, but I'm so preoccupied with worry about so many people in my life, including myself, that I'm not even enjoying the gifts I've been given (or have earned by way of elbow grease, belt-tightening, and lifting up my mythical bootstraps, depending on your ideological perspective). Any way you slice it, I'm feeling pretty guilty about feeling angsty, and what the hell is that about? I suspect it's my unproven theory that the people around me will be better off if I appear to be keeping it all together.

Somewhere around age 9, I concluded that it was somehow wrong to ever feel anger, sadness, self-worth, or to express any emotion that wasn't 100% positive, or at least carefully measured. Why that is, I don't know. I blame hormones, or possibly Madonna's seminal Live a Virgin LP. I'm sure a shrink would pinpoint some noteworthy experience like getting boobs too early, or a stressed home life, or my dog dying at Christmas when I was 6, or that one time I sipped from a glass of water and discovered it was Sprite. That will leave a scar. The fact is, I don't know and I'm not sure it matters. I only know that it sucks and as I veer dangerously close to 40, I'm pretty weary of feeling that way.

I used to have a big problem with people who make it a point to live their lives in vibrant color, throwing caution to the wind, making an ass out of themselves in the loudest, most public ways they can muster, calling people out on inauthentic BS, all in the name of honoring themselves above all else, at least some of the time. These days, I envy them for holding a spark of something I seem to have lost along the way. I get why the "old people" seem so embarrassing to younger generations. It can be off-putting to share time with someone who has looked at all the social conventions for several decades and concluded too many of those conventions were utter conformist bullshit.

I'm not sure where that leaves me. This isn't Dead Poet's Society up in here. This is my blessedly ordinary life, in which I'm blessed with beautiful children and a doting, brilliant husband. What talents I have, I'm squandering. I'm harder on myself than anyone else ever could be, and that's not a badge I wear with pride. I prize kindness above all other human traits, but I can't seem to muster any for me. I'm pretty sure I deserve a little kindness. I made eye contact with a homeless man the other day when I gave him the 38 cents I had in my pocket, so...

Maybe what I really need is a vacation/whisky bender. Who's in? I'm sure I'd be a wonderful travel companion, what with my penchant for bursting into tears over magazine ads for wholesome snacks your family deserves and my well-honed ability to quietly avoid anything smacking of honest emotion. Road trip!

In truth, I'm probably coming down the other side of my latest exercise in emotional mountain climbing. I'm pretty sure the peak was the day I spent rewriting humorous essays into dark parables about "the collective hopelessness." I suppose it's time to take another stab at the world of antidepressants, but the thought alone exhausts me. I may actually prefer the peaks and valleys to the flat line of meh. I prefer the occasional Earth-rocking thunderstorm to month after month of fog. That said, I'm bone-weary from all the mountain climbing, too. I'd greatly appreciate any insight, dear readers. The options in my comments section will always include Anonymous. So, really, feel free to vent about your own struggle with the mountain, or tell me to suck it up, or tell me how you found balance. I'm listening.