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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Like a Record, Baby

Every day, for years now, I’ve been waking up feeling lost, a wide painful chasm in my chest that I continue to fill and refill with the huge lead task of trying to figure out why I am here.  At the same time, I believe that there is no reason why we are here, I believe if there is to be any reason, we bring it.  This is a bit like trying to comprehend the vastness of the universe or the void of nonexistence altogether, but much less inclined to inspire wonder and awe.  Since my human mind has no capacity to comprehend the dissonance, it spins in an infinite feedback loop.  My brain works like a skipping record and if I could only pick up the needle the insanity would stop, then I could enjoy the moments of existence.  I could sigh, dream, and hold the hands of those I love.  I do get some sweet moments, when I’m riding horses, doing yoga, laughing with friends, writing, or kissing my dog that the skipping stops.  These brief interludes of bliss comfort me during the times that the skipping record is turned up so loudly I sometimes fear relief will never return.

Although this is neither the first nor last time I've experienced cognitive dissonance in my belief system, I think there is currently one major reason my mind record keeps skipping.  I’ve been resisting, in my own way, something about myself for a very long time.  I suppose, like many people with depression, anxiety, and other mental illness, resisting aspects of myself goes along with the general belief that something is “wrong” with me.  That, however, is a post for another day.  This post is for a specific aspect of myself, one that when nurtured makes me fulfilled and healthy in mind and body, but one which I continue to resist or ignore as unimportant or “wrong”.  Why do I do this, even though this exact quality has been shown by research to make people live longer, happier lives?  Yes, there are data from Harvard, who has the longest running study on happiness and health to date (you can read about the study here.).  The data have shown time and time again that the key to long, healthy, happy lives is in our relationships- specifically our closest relationships and our sense of community and belonging. 

Despite knowing that I value more than anything my relationships and my sense of belonging and community, I continue to resist it, blast it as unimportant, claim that this can’t be IT, that is just too easy for me.  In my low moments I ask myself, “Why can’t I do anything MORE.  Why am I not DOING anything meaningful?  What about my career?  Seriously Ashley, what the hell are you doing with your life?  All these other people are…” blah, blah, blah… skip, skip, skip…

I continue to waste so much energy and time looking for that “thing” or those “things” that I’m “supposed” to be doing when I could be investing that energy into the people I love.  Don’t get me wrong, I DO dedicate a lot of energy to my relationships, in fact I think more than most people, but why can’t I let who I am be enough?  The people in my life, creating a sense of belonging are and have always been the key to my happiness and health.  Yet despite my efforts to tell myself that I am enough the way I am, I still wish, that I had a different mind; a mind more organized, more innovative, more intelligent, more business savvy, more driven, more gifted, more of society's definition of success.

We are bombed with information everywhere in our society telling us that success means we need to be rich, famous, powerful, innovative, pretty, glamorous, thin, and driven.  I’ve known for years that deep down I do not want that to be my definition of success, but since I have not yet come up with a specific alternative definition, I don't have another record to play, my brain continues to abide by the old definition, spinning and skipping away. I need a new defintion of success.  Sure, I want to "have close relationships" be a “good person” and I want to be “happy” but what does THAT even mean?  

It makes me sick, causes my depression and anxiety to skyrocket, when I try to follow society's definition of success.  I am happiest when I prioritize my relationships, my sense of belonging, but AT THE SAME TIME I don't see that as a valuable trait for one to have in this world.  Therefore, my record is continues to skip.  I’m ready to set myself up to feel good, to play a better goddamn record.

So please tell me, how do you define, or WANT to define, success?  What are the things that bring you bliss, and are you truly valuing them?  Do you think those qualities are important in society, and why?  Where are you placing most of your physical, mental, and emotional energy?  Where is your record skipping and when does it play smoothly?  In short, what the hell does your record sound like?

12 comments:

  1. Scary powerful, Ash. So much so that I don't even know that I have the capacity to respond without becoming a overwhelming ball of emotion. This has definitely framed things in an "important to consider" light. How on earth do we make choices when there are so many conflicting variables?!

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  2. Scary powerful, Ash. So much so that I don't even know that I have the capacity to respond without becoming a overwhelming ball of emotion. This has definitely framed things in an "important to consider" light. How on earth do we make choices when there are so many conflicting variables?!

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    1. Thank you, Cori! Every time I write one of these posts (and part of the reason I don't do it often) is because I wonder if people will read it and think, "What the hell is she talking about?" Ha. But I think about these things a lot and it helps ME to write it out. I would be delighted if it makes others think as well. So, what do you think success is? Like, what does it mean to you to "be a good mom" for example? So many hugs to you!!! <3 xo

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  3. I have about a zillion responses to this, but last night I was completely overwhelmed with life, and couldn't swing it. But the one thing I heard, as a teenager, that hit me and stuck with me, and for which I'm forever grateful is this quote from Joseph Campbell, on the Bill Moyers series "The Power of Myth". Check out this video, and stick with it for at least two minutes. https://vimeo.com/62378811 “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”

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    1. YES. I love Joseph Campbell. His books are in the "special section" on my bookshelf. :)

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  4. I will also be honest, I struggle with this too. This thought that all things are possible and life requires you to bring meaning to it can be overwhelming. But the "overwhelming" comes from this idea that you might waste your time. Like, if such transcendence is possible, if I am not spending every possible second of my finite existence coming nose to nose with the cosmos and fully apprehending the glory of the universe, I am wasting this little life of mine. I have to check myself and remind myself it's OK to waste some time. Because it's actually fear talking. It's like a spiritually-aware version of "FOMO", the fear of missing out. You don't need to worry about it. Eternity is eternity and I'll be there soon enough. I'll be content with glimpses of it now and then, and until then, I'll try to increase the intelligence and joy in the little human corner of the world.

    "Living's mostly wasting time / And I waste my share of mine.": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5wrzwINOJM

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    1. OMG YES. YES. Thank you. Perfect. I so needed this.

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  5. And who the fuck cares about society. Surround yourself with cheerleaders and they are your society. You seem good at this. I am happy to be one of them. I think you're astounding. For reals.

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  6. One more thing. I am also questioning the idea that we make meaning, if that means our ego invents everything full cloth and ex nihilo. Finding meaning feels more accurate, and when you find it, it engages older animal parts of your brain. I find that also takes some pressure off and is more satisfying.

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    1. Hmmm I'm not sure I fully understand how finding meaning verses creating meaning takes pressure off. For me, it's the opposite. The thought that there is meaning "out there" we must find causes more pressure and is less satisfying. You can only ever "find meaning" within yourself however, which is really you creating it.

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  7. Have you ever considered whether you are feeling safe with yourself or in the world? I have recently listened to a podcast which looked at the feeling of safety (actually us feeling not safe) and how it is reflected in our anxieties. Reading through this made me think of it just now!
    The other thought that comes to mind reading your post is the link to your later post about people pleasing... for whom do you want to be more than you are at the moment? Why is there such a strong need to be more when really the people in your life are enough (I know you think so)? I have not had the chance to meet all of your friends yet, but they MUST be a reflection of yourself because somewhere deep down you have sufficient respect for yourself to ditch the people who do not serve you in your life (I mean serving in a supportive, loving fashion). And these people think you are amazing, no matter what! You really are and I am glad to have you in my life.
    Saying that... and that is something that I have been trying to grapple a lot recently, too... COGNITIVE DISSONANCE! Really?! How can we link our logic more with our emotions rather than the other way round?

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