A blank slate. Vacant.
I understand the significance of language, but I still overlook it’s subtleties. I’ll labor over word choice and structure (not grammar, at which I simply guess) to convey a meaning, but then, when it really counts, I’ll overlook the same effort in the message of another and screw something up. Sometimes I’m just oblivious, or too caught up in the ego of my own well crafted smarts. Pride, but like the bad kind.
My last post generated some intense dialogue behind the scenes. For whatever reasons, it resonated with people to the point at which some readers felt they needed to respond. I appreciate that, I really do. I don’t want to write in a vacuum. But one response in particular was so heartfelt, and held such communion with what I was saying, that I could only reply by being flippant. I threw it away not out of disrespect, but because the weight of it placed even more weight on my message, and I wanted to downplay it. This taught me two things.
First, I’m shy with sincerity and compliments. I’ve habitually undervalued my input in life for so long that I get embarrassed when someone elevates my efforts. One of the main reasons I started the blog was to develop community of a genuine nature, so I shouldn’t turn my back to it when it occurs.
Second, I need to be more in tune with dialogue with others. I’m learning awareness, and I can feel this in conversations with others during the days. But these conversations aren’t of much significance. Where I lack awareness is during the conversations that matter, the one on one’s where someone else is reaching out. These are the words that are tough to deal with, but if someone takes the time to read what I’ve written, and then respond, I need to be foster that communication rather than run away from it.
Like a guy said, “learning everyday.” Thanks for the lesson George.
In a lot of ways this has just started, but in others it’s been going on a hell of a long time.
There are aspects of my personality that put me at odds with a lot of things. I grew up being kind of a little shit, a mouthy know-it-all (I still know it all…) that looked at convention as something for the stupid. In highschool I knew I was going to study literature in university, and even when our school counselor suggested that I didn’t have what it took to get into university, I still knew I was going. In grade 12 I studied a bit, raised my marks, and enrolled. I was smarter than him.
The next question was about the choice to study English Lit.
“What are you going to do after school with a literature degree?”
“I’m going to drive long-haul trucks.”
“You’ll have to go to teacher’s college.”
“I think I’ll write poetry.”
“People don’t make a living out of writing.”
“I just want to write poetry.”
“But what will you do for work?”
“I’m going to write poetry.”
My responses were as much to get a reaction out of adults as they were the truth. Milton Acorn was one of Canada’s great poets, and lived largely homeless and poor. I knew I wouldn’t end up like that, nor did I want to. But I admired his tenacity. Screw the mainstream, I’m going to define this gig on my own. If you’re not on board, piss off.
And it was hard. Really, bloody hard. If I had to pick a time when my depression blew up in my face, it would have been in university. I had regular panic attacks about my future. I knew I wasn’t going to make a living writing poetry, and what does a person do with an English Lit degree other than become a teacher? My world was closed back then with a fledgling internet populated with “Hello World” text-based websites. I didn’t know what my options were. I didn’t know I had any. So I got angrier, and more “punk”, and I wallowed in the stink of it.
Fast forward a few decades, and I’m still that person. If it weren’t for money and a fear of employment prospects, I’d have the majority of my body tattooed. I do things with an all or nothing, quasi-self-destructive lean. I’m vocal when I’m pissed off, and don’t take much of anything topical very seriously. I still give the finger to the mainstream. I’m high strung, and I swear. Actually, I swear a lot.
So at first blush, the notion of me meditating is kind of laughable. Picturing myself walking slowly through a forest, purposefully communing with trees and plants, focusing on my senses, for me all of that seems pretty far-fetched. Picturing myself sitting in a room of females who, respectfully, are somewhat older than myself, listening to the chief female guide us through a lovingkindness meditation…well shit, that stuff just doesn’t happen. I don’t sit still listening to the soft, recorded voice of some hippy leading me toward inner peace. Hell, I just don’t sit still, full stop.
So I don’t know if I’ve been warped into some strange parallel universe or not, but strangely I find that I am doing these things. Maybe I’ve hit some kind of desperate low (not too far off actually), or maybe with my age comes the acceptance of things that I’ve known or felt for a long time. I’ve always been aware that living consciously, purposefully, carries a hell of a lot of weight. I’ve always accepted that meditation practice, in any of it’s forms, is something the everyone can benefit from, even something that everyone needs. I’ve never respected people who live on the surface, and certainly have believed that meditation is a powerful way of diving deep, deep under. But I’ve never pictured myself actually participating, until now.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve got a regular meditation practice, but it’s coming. I do my best to take at least 20 minutes out of every day, preferably near the middle of my work schedule, to get away and pay attention. During my work day I’ve got a thousand things going on at once and I’m never, ever out of touch with my phone and a computer. I panic if I leave my phone at my desk when I’m walking to go pee. That, frankly, is f’d up.
When I leave my technology behind and step out of the door I take a refreshing breath. I get to suck in all of this beautiful mountain air and drain whatever vitamin-D I can from the winter’s fleeting sun. And I get to narrow my focus to whatever is right in front of me, because it’s all that matters. I get to lose that regular tight feeling I’ve got in my chest, to forget (avoid?) whatever stresses I’m dealing with at work or at home and focus, really focus on what is really the only significance; the timelessness of nature and the power of simply being still.
I’ve still got my edge, it’s part of who I am and it’s not getting soft. If anything, it’s getting as sharp as …
If there is one aspect of being me that sucks, it’s the unreliable nature of my strengths. When I am strong, I have incredible fortitude. And when I am able to focus, I’m afforded great insight.
But if depression is one thing, it’s fickle. I can have long periods of productivity; weeks running or riding (or skiing) everyday, when I’m a powerhouse at work, and my writing flows with grace and ease whenever I sit at the keyboard. During these times I get my hopes up. I enter mountain bike races and ultra-marathons and I pour over maps of the mountains looking for adventure. I start short stories or dig up old novel drafts. I look at the future with hope and promise and excitement, each day an opportunity to improve on those before.
And then it crumbles. The days become labor. Walking the dogs a chore. Writing stops. Work grows into a spectre waiting for me to screw up. Race entries rescinded, and mostly without a refund. Probably the most hurtful development is the immediate end of any practice that might help me; my self-prescribed minimum of 20 minutes a day of some positive action becomes forgotten. I don’t meditate or exercise, but rather simmer in my self-loathing, not out of a lack of caring but in order to intentionally do myself harm. During episodes of depression, I want to punish myself. I don’t deserve to be saved.
I’ve been accused in the past of lacking discipline. I’ve been accused of lacking commitment. I suppose both of these things is true to an extent. It’s hard to have lasting commitment to something when you stop believing that what you are doing is actually getting you to where you want to be. It’s even harder when you lose the belief that you’re actually worth getting to a better place, that being alive is really worth the effort.
I have commitment, and I have discipline, but I can use these qualities against myself. What I need more of is the consistent faith that I’m good enough already (LOL, remember Stuart Smalley?), that the human race actually matters. It’s always there, just that sometimes it gets buried under the surface.