Friday, April 19, 2013

P: My Favorite Letter of the Alphabet

Wonderful words start with the letter P.
The letter P seems to be my favorite letter of the alphabet these days. Peace, perspective, patience and productivity--these four things comprise my most recent goals for self-improvement.  Upon reflection, recent might not be the best word to use. I should probably say they have been consistent objectives throughout my life, but I've been really focusing on them lately with much more intensity. The older I get, the more important it has become for me to actively live a balanced life in which I have patience for all the ups and downs that continuously occur.  I also want to be more personally productive, making each moment count for something.  Time slips by faster every year and its imperative to not waste anymore of it.  At some point in every day, I wonder if what I am doing is meaningful or I am just spinning my wheels and killing time.  I think if I can marry these goals together and keep them in the forefront of my mind, I will be able to live a life of meaning and consequence.

I've always wanted to lead a peaceful life, one in which I am comfortable with my place in the world and one in which i work towards creating a peaceful atmosphere and environment surrounding all that I do.  I think being peaceful requires a sense of balance and perspective that takes quite a bit of work to attain.  It demands a person to be both detached and attached to the people and circumstances surrounding him or her.  A person should be detached enough to understand that in the grand scheme of things, most upsetting and negative situations we encounter daily do not much matter.  They mostly consist of petty concerns which can be fixed or ameliorated with relative ease.  Therefore it is unnecessary to get overly emotional or angry about things because it wastes time and energy that could be expended elsewhere.  By the same token, a person should be attached enough to the people and circumstances in his or her life to care deeply and work diligently at being present in the moment and consistently making an impact.  It's important to always keep life in a perspective that recognizes the larger context in which it resides while at the same time maintaining close and meaningful relationships with friends and family.

Patience goes hand-in-hand with peace.  It requires the ability to keep calm and view everything with an eye towards the big picture.  I always ask myself when I am about to get frustrated or upset, if this is an incident or remark, or moment that will matter when I place it into a larger context.  Oftentimes, whatever the issue is, doesn't require an explosive or intense response.  If I were to get angry over everything that goes wrong, I would spend a lot of time being negative, and negative energy is wasted time that could have been spent much more meaningfully somewhere else.

Out of all my goals, I struggle the most with productivity.  I mean, no one can accuse me of not getting things done.  Somedays I am a whirlwind of activity in which every single thing on my list gets accomplished.  I feel good knowing I completed x, y, and z, but my idea of productivity goes deeper and feels so much bigger than just finishing mundane activities.  I want to be able to say at the end of the day that what I did mattered.  I want the energy that I expend to mean something, to have left an impact.  Some days I cannot believe that I am forty years old and I am still trying to figure out what kind of impact I want to make on this world.  I always thought I would have my shit figured out by now, but in a lot of ways being a grown up hasn't been anything like I imagined it to be when I was a child.  Being thoroughly middle-aged and still not knowing what I want to be when I grow up shouldn't necessarily surprise me then.

Nevertheless, I think if I am able to remain peaceful and patient, viewing the world in proper perspective, the productivity will fall in line.  Peace will allow me to stay in the moment and patience will keep me from wasting time on negativity. Perspective will give me opportunities to focus on more important things. Besides, one never really knows what kind of impact one has on life in general.  What we might think of as petty concerns or random acts might have very large ripples when taken all together over a course of a lifetime.  I might be rippling right now and not even be aware of it.

Now it's time for me to put my "P's" in action.  Here's looking forward to a day of peace, perspective, patience and productivity.  I hope you all have one as well. :)

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Renovation: A Work in Progress

I've been struggling with depression for the past several months now.  I have good days and bad days and mediocre days, all clouded with an underlying feeling of discontent.  Like a house with termites, everything is great on the surface, but not so good on a structural level. Upon reflection, I've discovered several reasons why I have been feeling off, but like most people, I've had a difficult time addressing those reasons. I am pretty self-aware and to a certain extent I understand my strengths and weaknesses, but I've chosen to be stubborn and not work with my strengths to eradicate my weaknesses.  It's a good place to start from, knowing oneself, but if one doesn't act on what one knows, then what is the point in having any knowledge?

One of the key things I do know is I have fallen into the trap that I warn other people about all the time. A person should never fill him/herself with other people and things in order to feel better.  A sense of wholeness has to come from oneself.  I've been filling myself with "friends" who aren't really friends, experiences which don't benefit me in any tangible way, reading, eating, and other escapist activities.  None of those things help except momentarily.  They may alleviate the symptoms of depression, but the root causes are still there and the bad days always return.  Until and unless I decide to do something about the core issues triggering my depressive thoughts, nothing will change.  Much like renovating a home, only when I get to the achingly hard part of working on the foundation of myself will significant and positive change occur. All the redecoration and landscaping in the world won't fix a single thing.  The house looks beautiful and well-appointed while the internal structure continues to rot.

As far as bad days go, yesterday proved to be a doozy.  It seemed as if everything I've been running from, everything that affects my mood negatively coalesced to bury me in morbid thoughts and ugly feelings.  By the end of the day, I felt so suffocated by all the unhappiness that my chest actually hurt and my body ached. Anyone who tells you depression doesn't have physical symptoms obviously has never been depressed.  Our bodies manifest what our minds refuse to manage, and if depression continues unabated it will lead not only to emotional distress but physical distress as well.  I went to bed thinking that I didn't much care if I woke up in the morning.  I felt like I could sleep for days and my absence wouldn't much matter. No one would notice and I wouldn't care.  How dumb is that thought?  Of course people would notice, my children especially. But it doesn't matter how illogical some thoughts become, the emotion driving those thoughts aren't based in logic.  They spring from feelings.  That's the thing about depression, it skews a person's sense of reality to the point where nothing makes sense, but everything feels profoundly real.

Fortunately for me, I couldn't sleep.  I lay in bed thinking about things and eventually my thoughts turned to my children.  They are the best blessings in my life, and I want so much for them.  I want them to have good childhoods and good adulthoods.  I want them to be healthy, happy, strong and compassionate.  I want them to be independent, confident and fearless.  I want them to thrive in all things.  I had a moment of clarity then, in wishing all those things for my children.  I constitute a key component in the creation of healthy, happy lives for them, and if I am not okay with myself, it's going to be difficult to give them the best lives possible.
As I previously stated, I know myself.  I understand that I engage in behaviors that are completely unhealthy.  I am a self-saboteur with a streak of self-loathing which lets me get away with treating myself in ways I would never dream of treating someone else.  One thing I absolutely refuse to do, however, is willfully harm my children in any form, and if that means I have to make myself better to do that, then by God, I will.

I woke this morning thinking about foundations, understanding what I need to do to stabilize my internal home, my idea of self.  There will be some digging, some shoring up, some discarding, and some really hard work.  No more moving furniture, no more paint, no more external trappings.  The days of superficial sprucing-up are over.  I don't just want to have attractive curb appeal, I want to be a solid, good home from the inside-out.  I am not just blowing sunshine up my own skirt this time.  I mean to make this self-improvement last. Moving out of depression doesn't happen all at once.  I am aware that there will be days when I achieve significant renovation and days when the contractor chooses not to show up for work.  The point of the matter is that I vow to work on being better every day, to keep the proper perspective regarding myself and life in general, to be more forgiving of myself and others, and to never give up in trying to do what is right.  Just like a house under construction or repair, I am a work in progress and as long as I keep progressing, my home will eventually be done. So in the meantime, please pardon my dust.