I do things to feel better. Meditate. Stretch. Run.

It works… to a point, temporarily.

But the point of trying to feel better is to become able to change my life.

It’s not good enough to simply feel better, for a moment. It has to be used.

That’s the third step.

“What?” not “Why?”

I’m trying to write two pieces for this blog. They are both highly introspective and deal with formative times in my past. Danger. Danger, Shame, danger. The temptation to wallow in past misery, to relive trauma and open old wounds, to undo any healing that has happened since — all that is strong and real. But what might be even more dangerous is the illusion of understanding that arises.

To tell a story is not the same as to understand it. As I look back at my childhood and early adulthood there are many explanations, ready to be chosen and bent to whatever narrative feels right. It would be easy to find profundity in this, to connect dots, to see through-lines, foreshadowing, find out that who I am now is really not meaningfully different from who I was then, and that patterns persist for decades. Some of that might be accurate. Some of it might even be meaningful and useful for recovery. Some of those insights might even be necessary.

But still, there is so much danger. To go back in to that mental space and glean what I can from it will take care, and a certain lightness of touch. I have to be like a cat-burgler in my own recollections. In and out, fast, quiet, find what is valuable and take it.  Don’t get distracted. Don’t get trapped.

On that note this article seems pertinent.

One unicorn, a 42-year-old mother who had walked away from a career as a lawyer when she finally realized that there was no joy for her in that path, explained it this way: “If you ask why, [I think] you’re putting yourself into a victim mentality …. When I feel anything other than peace, I say ‘What’s going on?’; ‘What am I feeling?’; ‘What is the dialogue inside my head?’; ‘What’s another way to see this situation?’ or ‘What can I do to respond better?’”

Perfectionism

I have to do something.

The fear of doing it wrong, or it being the wrong thing to do, or me fucking it all up even if it is the right thing and I am capable of doing it — all that is paralysing me.

I have to be okay with the idea of fucking up. Of making a mistake, even a big one that hurts and costs me time, because making a mistake is better than doing nothing.

So send that shithouse CV. Apply for that ridiculous job. Go to that humiliating interview. Turn up. Turn the fuck up.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just as to be done.

Choices

I am free to choose to do whatever I can.

I am certain to suffer the consequences of those choices.

What I am suffering right now is the result of failing to make those choices in the past.

So, what will I choose to do today?

Obsessive rumination about M.

The desire to reach out.

Composing communications I should not send.

How long before I can displace this?

How long until I have changed enough to be able to find someone?

Isn’t it already too late?

 

The Unreliable Narrator

Today I started work on a CV. It’s both better and worse than I had predicted. There is more to put in that I had remembered, but there is also so much time unaccounted for, so many empty years.

But it’s a step.

And it’s an autobiography of sorts, as is this blog in a more oblique way — this place being achingly private, and a CV being humiliatingly public. Either way I am trying to tell my story — even seeing my life as a story is unfamiliar and disconcerting — and I’m trying to find a way to understand it as less bleak, less threadbare, less arbitrary and broken.

 

Write a CV

Send it to people.

“Self-authoring”?

Find a life coach in need of a challenge?

Find out what I want.

Five year plan.

Step by step.

A strategy.

A job?

A qualification?

An environment in which I can meet interesting people.

Ways to be kind. People to be kind to.

 

Little Yeses

From HERE

In Why the Brain Talks to Itself (2009), Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson found:

“The brain generates mental simulations (previews) of future events, which produce affective reactions (premotions), which are then used as a basis for forecasts (predictions) about the future event’s emotional consequences. Research shows that this process leads to systematic errors of prediction.”

“Passionate” is a word I’ve always had trouble with… Only idiots seem to regularly start sentences with “I’m passionate about…” Passionate about what? “Sales”? “Nutrition”? “Computers”? I don’t seem to feel that way about anything, though I’m jealous of those who do, despite my slight disdain.

It must be wonderful to be so driven, and to be so certain about the direction to push. Those people are blessed with a lodestar while some of us are scrabbling int he dark.

So, given that that kind of certainty and motivation is vanishingly unlikely to spontaneously appear, how do I generate drive and direction?

This article, from CareerShifters.org, has some possible ways of thinking about that.

What are my “little yeses”? What do I do that I enjoy, that I find easy, that I find stimulating and interesting? What do I do that I keep coming back to?

Reading. Reading about all sorts of things, but especially about science, psychology, history and humanity. Fiction too, but philosophically.

Writing. Writing here. Writing on social media where I am constrained by the lack of anonymity, the need for brevity and the need to be funny and/or interesting.

Bikes. Riding them. Racing them. Fixing them.

Making things with my hands. Solving problems. Crafting. Engineering. Bodging. Customising. Modifying. DIY.

These, or something like them, might be the glimmer of a few fairy lights that could guide me out of this hole.

It’s not much, yet, but it’s a start. Or the start of a start.

 

Grieving

I’ll never have a wife. I’ll never have children. I’ll never have a close circle of old friends. I’ll never have a career. I’ll never have the most important parts of life.

I lost those opportunities. I could say that I took them from myself, that I fecklessly wasted my best years. Or I could say that I was too weak and pathetic to know that that was what I wanted and then to make it happen. Or I could say that the loss of all that, of the core of life itself, was the product of illness, of a disease, and I’m not responsible for it at all. I could say I’m an innocent victim and, through no real fault of my own, had everything people consider important taken away from me, before I ever even had it…

I don’t which is true, if any. Maybe they all are, to some degree. It’s certainly easier and more familiar to think of it as a moral failing I am guilty of rather than a disease of which I am a victim. But I’m trying to be flexible in how I think of it now. Self-compassion etc. etc. There’s nothing to be gained from self-flagellation.

What I can’t get out from under is the grief. My heart aches. I feel crushed and broken and I don’t think it will ever feel better. Best I can hope for seems like some sort of numbness. Stoic acceptance of my lot. ‘There’s no rule that says everyone gets to be happy’ I tell myself. But I flail at that as I feel it descend over me — I want redemption. I want another chance. I want to go back and do it over, properly. I want the impossible.

And now I have to wonder if that is part of what is behind the trouble I’m having getting M out of my mind. She must represent a nostalgia for that time when my life was before me. Am I so desperate to talk to her now because I it might feel, just for a moment, like being 21 again?

Silly.

It’s more complicated than that. She really does seem like someone who, our history aside, could help me. Everything she seems to be interested in is spookily appropriate — her hashtags, the science, the positivity, the motivational aphorisms, her politics, her slight embrace of woowoo, the shining intellect. It rings all my bells.

So I’m really curious. I want to know this person. She seems really interesting. And hey, we used to be friends. She used to care for me. True, it ended badly between us but still, that was a long time ago. A lot has happened since then, at least for her I presume, and maybe it would be safe to talk now? To be civil? To be reasonable adults to each other?

But I don’t know anything about her really. Is she married with kids? Is she recently divorced or bereaved? Why is she back in the country? Is she back with her mum? Or is she living with her incredible husband, three kids and a labrador? Better schools here and house prices are lower…

None of that really matters to me. I’m not looking for anything more than some conversation and maybe a little compassion. There’s no question of a relationship, though I assume if I contacted her she might think that I were trying to rekindle something. I don’t really want that. It’s absurd. But that spectre might be enough to make it impossible for us to have any contact at all. And that would, I think, be a shame.

What I want is a friend, an adviser, someone who might be able to explain me to myself, who remembers me in a different time and can see what I can’t.

But what am I to her now? Someone she barely remembers and never thinks about? What would have been her reaction when I ‘reached out’ to her? Disgust? Compassion? Curiosity? Annoyance? I have no idea. I have no idea how welcome or unwelcome another push on that door would be.

So I’m stuck. Unable to contact her, and unable to put her out of my mind. I mentally dictate emails to her — I’ve even written an attempt here. And that’s part of the problem: there’s this tremendous internal pressure — I have so many things I want to say, not to her specifically, but to someone who will listen and care and perhaps respond helpfully and honestly. This blog is intended to release some of that. Not sure if that’s working exactly. So, without that outlet, the pressure builds, and I hold internal conversations with memories of people, and I can’t help but put a face to whomever it is I’m imagining talking to. Because of that lack of displacement over the intervening years, that face is still hers. I wish is weren’t. But it is.

There’s also the whole question of whether I can trust myself to behave like a reasonable human being if I did contact her. I have a poor record on that front. She has, in the past, brought out the worst in me. Not her fault, obviously, but I’ve found her secretiveness frustrating, and I’ve dealt with that frustration poorly. What I can foresee now if I did try to contact her would be a resumption of that secretiveness — entirely predictable and justified when confronted with a potentially crazy ex — and I would be unable to handle the rejection of either being told that she does not wish to have any contact with me or, worse, she would simply ignore me. I would find being ignored especially difficult to accept. I worry that I would escalate until she had to respond, and god knows what I might say or do to make her acknowledge me if I truly lose my grip on this. That’s the power I’ve given her in my mind. She doesn’t want it, I’m sure, but she has it nonetheless.

What do you do when you can’t stop thinking about someone?

What if the person you can’t stop thinking about seems like the kind of person who might be able to help? Knowledgeable, educated, distant enough to be honest.

What if they’re actually the last person I should try to talk to? Because to reopen that door would be so much easier that to close it again, and what would come through that door would be pain…

If only I had something to replace these thoughts with. That’s what should have happened. Displacement. But that didn’t happen for me and I’m stuck thinking the same stupid things I was thinking 10 years ago.