Burned all my notebooks — What good are
notebooks? They won’t help me survive.
My chest is aching, burns like a furnace.
The burning keeps me alive.
— Talking Heads “Life During Wartime”
Feeling overwhelmed when the situation is bad is totally normal. When my life was a freefall of poorly placed faith, badly chosen partners, untenable, inconstant living situations, and marginal employment, I was forever swimming upstream at a feverish pace. Racing, leaping, grasping, waiting for the next big setback to smack into me and send me sprawling. When I remember my day to day struggle at the time, when I tell stories about it, it sounds (and _was_, in every sense) exhausting. But it was easy. It’s easy to come home so tired you don’t care where you live. It’s easy to shuffle from job you don’t care about to job you don’t care about. It’s easy to think of everyone as an enemy or an obstacle. It’s easy to dismiss all good things in your life as coincidence or happenstance, because then you aren’t surprised when they disappear again. After all, it’s not your fault, it’s just that life sucks forever and that situation NOT sucking was a part-time exemption. You had your vacation and now it’s back to the slog, sucker.
Well, my life isn’t a freefall any more. I’m no longer marginally employed. I choose the people I spend my time with and how much energy I expend on their needs with a more balanced and even hand. I’ve lived in my own house for two and a half years now. I own my car outright. I’m dating a wonderful person whose company brings me a lot of joy. I’m thinner than I’ve ever healthily been, I’m having sex regularly, I never really have to worry about money (day to day), and after weeks of PNR stretching, meditation, and plenty of swearing, I can almost touch my toes. I have friends and family who love and care about me, even my PETS are clean, healthy, and happy for god’s sake.
So that brings me to last night, when I was again sitting in my garage, endlessly fretting about whether or not my friends _actually_ like me. Whether or not my life has meaning. Whether or not any of what I have accomplished is “real”. Just a self-effacing pity cycle. Mope mope mope. I used to think this was OK, a defense mechanism for preempting disappointment. I encouraged it, even. I took snippets and misquoted Nietzsche and the Hakagure and pop culture. I cultivated a philosophy of pessimism. A grim hedge around my happiness — carefully trimmed to suit my mindset that I was fundamentally not worth attention or affection and that life is fundamentally unfair; a rigged game whose rules were either so unimportant I shouldn’t learn them or so ludicrously set against success that I should actively avoid engaging it.
This negatively weighted world is simple, and when things are bad, it seems to be a great philosophy. If all you know is self doubt and suffering, you are never surprised when you suffer. But I never knew what to do with joy, never learned how to trust my heart, and because of my overwhelming negativity, I never planned to live this long. It never even occurred to me that I might be 32, rested, well-laid, and gainfully employed some day. So, nonsensically, my biggest problem right now is learning how to be happy when I am _happy_. It’s harder than I ever thought it would be.