Survival is great, but what about post-survival?

General burnout wasn’t the only thing that made me initiate survival mode.  It was also a few episodes of being emotionally knocked off my feet by a metaphorical mean person dressed in tight blue denim overalls with a blue t-shirt underneath who used a heavy shovel to smack me in the soul shins to get me on the ground.  Why the outfit?  Well, the thought of those overalls with the blue shirt does not make me happy, and that mean person had to be wearing a bad outfit to complete the picture.

My suffering is not the focus of this blog, so let’s just say that the causes of my suffering would be well-understood by some, but laughed at by others.  I do have perspective, and I don’t want to exaggerate the blows, but pain is pain.

I am back on my feet, but I find that there is some feeling of emotional paralysis.  Can I dive right back in to creating enjoyment for myself after spending time not thinking much about the quality of my life?  The truth is that I have been afraid to.  If ugly-overall person returns again and I am not having much fun anyway, then I haven’t really been robbed of much.  I don’t look so vulnerable and almost pathetic, merrily and lightly walking along when I’m about to be knocked over.  If I can appear surly and alert during the attack, at least I won’t look foolish.  There is something extra cruel about an attack during enjoyment.

There is also something cruel, though, about encouraging oneself to be surly when it is possible to at least be neutral, or even experience some good feelings.  The attacks are going to happen because they are part of life, but if we allow them too much power, they do more than hurt us; they keep us from wanting to enjoy life.  Then, the cruelty is not coming from life’s nature.  It is coming from ourselves.

Our power is frustrating and liberating.  Effort is required of us to live well, but thankfully, in this and some other societies, we have the opportunity to do so.  Survival mode, for blessed me, does not mean walking for miles with my starving and sick children, starving and sick myself, in the hopes of getting some food and medical help.

I have used the horrors and injustice in the world as a reason to not put in the effort to be happy.  Why should I be happy when so many people don’t even have the chance?  I am no better or more deserving than they are, so maybe it’s even respectful of their struggles to suffer myself.  Then, at least I am not being a silly and ignorant person.

Such thinking does not pay respect to the inherent complexities of life.  Living well means accomodating many truths simultaneously, and not using some of those truths to support holding ourselves back.

When we have the capacity for it, gratitude is often the only wise psychological choice.  A truly grateful person is not a surly one.  I can know that I will hurt in life and hold on to the strong wisdom that goes with that knowledge, thereby keeping myself from being foolish.  At the same time, as long as I am not using all of my energy just to survive, I can actively create enjoyment for myself.And I know that when I feel good, I am more inclined to share and help than I am when I don’t.  So, to move back in to beauty as soon as possible is wise for oneself but also helpful to people in the world.

Off I go, then, to put on one of my favorite movies and work on some creative projects instead of wasting the entire day doing chores and feeling sour inside.  Post-survival, be brave enough to have some fun as soon as you can.  And avoid overalls, particularly tight ones.

Surviving dark, dark days

Lately there have been some days that have felt like, if my life were represented by an image on a piece of paper, it would just be an angry, soaking mess of way too much black ink.  Yes, yes, there are always things to be grateful for but sometimes one just feel so much pain that one’s access to joy is extremely limited.

These are my survival tips:

  • Keep breathing.
  • Drastically lower your expectations of yourself in terms of what you’re able to accomplish.
  • Do what it takes to keep yourself from doing harm to yourself or others.

Yup, that’s about it.

Why bother surviving the inky days?  Because not all of them are.

 

 

 

Envy, force-feeding, and finding an appetite

As a woman who would like to be a mom but who has not yet become one in spite of great efforts, I am given lots of opportunities to exercise something in the face of envy.  Something, because I have not yet mastered being a contented me when others have what I want.  Lately, there has been particular discomfort inside of me because one of my friends appears to have gotten a number of things that I want in life.  A few of my key dreams are coming true for her, and she’s being very casual about it all, as though my dreams are but stepping stones for her.  And the whole thing has made me feel, well, stepped on!  I know that I am committing the error of being rather silly, by taking my lack of her blessings personally, as though she were doing it to me.  That is the truth of how it has felt, even though I know it is wrong.

So, when I saw that Dr. Laura (love her or don’t, I think she’s a woman who is smart and wise and I listen to her regularly) would be commenting on jealousy and envy during one of her shows, I made sure to get that podcast.  Ear buds in place, I braced myself for I knew what was coming:  a huge lecture on how wrong it is to be envious.  ‘How dare you be such a spoiled brat that you ignore all that you have been given and focus on what you don’t have?  Don’t you know that millions of people in this world would be envious of you and your cushy lifestyle?  What have you done for them lately, by the way?  You selfish, self-centered envy-feeler.  I loathe you.  You are the ugly stepsisters, the wicked queen.  Just stop it, and be grateful for what you have.  And, by the way, only the lowest kind of person struggles at all when something good happens to someone they call a friend.  That’s you- low.  LOW.  Have an attitude of gratitude and get over yourself.  If you can’t do that, you’re weak and horrible.’  This was not at all what I heard from the Doc.

Bless her, she said nothing about gratitude.  At times, I have forced gratitude down my throat to the point where my taste for it has dulled.  Fortunately, her wisdom goes beyond my own brutal force-feeding techniques.  Here’s what Dr. Laura had to say.  Envy is an emotion.  It is best dealt with on an intellectual level.  There is malicious envy and benign/everyday envy.  It is something experienced by the vast majority of people, and this has been true throughout the ages.  Then the Doc offered a choice between misery and motivation.

pant pant pant  that’s it?   I’m not the lowest creature on earth?  It was comforting to hear that envy happens, but that I have a tool to guide its impact in my life.  Again, I was comforted because my envy is not malicious.  It doesn’t feel fantastic, but I haven’t brewed any poison for apples or made other evil plans.  On the contrary, I have fought my ugly feelings in defense of my friend!  Oh my goodness, I just realized this!  Look at the courage that it has taken me to not only watch some of my biggest dreams come true for someone else, but then to also look at a not-so-pleasant part of myself and desperately try to find a new direction for that part of myself.  That is impressive.

So now, it’s down to a simple choice instead of messy, self-torturing thoughts.  Misery or motivation?  Does a woman who calls her blog enjoylifedarnit choose misery?  Not unless she’s a total sham, which I am not!  I just re-read the first paragraph of this, when I said that my friend’s not-excited-enough attitude about enjoying my dreams bothered me.  Yes, I see the judgment there.  And what is my friend supposed to do?  Jump up and down with glee in front of my face?  Call me and squeal?  She knows me and my life, and she has probably been showing me sensitivity by keeping her reactions toned down.  Funny how writing a few thoughtful paragraphs can take you on a journey that leaves you in a much different place than where you were before writing.  I don’t feel stepped on any more.  I will still have to consciously choose between misery and motivation, but that is okay!  Apparently, I can do that quite well.

On an entirely different note (or is it?), this is the first day of my life that I have outlived my oldest sister, who died 12 years ago.  This morning, if I had been destined to live as long as she did, I would have died.  Now the tears come, along with a crazy appetite for gratitude.  I am proud and glad that I haven’t forgotten the value of being grateful; that is the right thing.  When it doesn’t come easily, I can be gentle in reminding myself of what makes me happy to be alive, from loved ones still here to strawberry jam to The Far Side to hot showers…I could go on and on….  My friend still has things that I want, but I feel pretty darned good being myself and having what I have right now.