Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Chapters

True to form, I have been feeling so optimistic recently I have been downplaying the potential intensity of any oncoming low moods.

Surely, I think, they won't be that bad ever again! I mean gosh, I'm really feeling much better. This whole medication thing is a terrible idea. Completely out of proportion. Not even sure why I would still go see a doctor; it seems like a waste of everyone's time.

We'll see, the more reserved me says patiently (if a little dryly) in the background.

I will still see the psychiatrist this upcoming Saturday, and if she gives me a prescription I will hold it tight in my sweaty little hands and either fill it right away or wait to fill it - we will see.

In the meantime, I've been focusing more on pursuing my life's purpose and doing things I actually enjoy doing, versus things that feel like a waste of time and leave me empty or feeling like crap. It's the most novel idea.

Take Facebook, for example. I have always enjoyed Facebook, and while it can become tiresome in the way that being lightly but repeatedly pummeled in the gut and knees by a two-year old can become tiresome, I end up staying for the engagement if affords (a bonus for an introvert like me), for the entertainment, and - and this point cannot be overstated - because I am extremely lazy when it comes to actually staying in touch with friends.

Compose an email to a friend, complete with updates and thoughtful inquiries? No. That sounds like a lot of work. But with Facebook? Simply share a photo or tidbit with hundreds of acquaintances one second, then interact further with a smattering of others simply by clicking "like" on any one of their posts - done! (And here's the thing, you don't even have to genuinely like anything you click on.) How about that, how easy is that? Pretty easy, Facebook. Pretty damn easy.

But the thing is - it feels like crap. There is some good stuff on there (there better be - those are people I like and love in my news feed, after all), but mostly... it's a lot of clutter. It doesn't feel good to read. It feels worse to engage in it. And I get the same feeling when I browse other websites (often linked to from Facebook) offering mere scraps of information masquerading as articles, until I click on one link to a "story", then click on the next link, then the next, then the next... until suddenly it's 11:47pm and I'm looking at slide 28 out of 32 on an article titled "32 Photoshop FAILS from Real Magazines - and you won't believe #23!!"

None of that stuff feels good. It's a waste of my time, and worse, it's a drain on my spirit. When I waste time on those websites or other crap activities, I don't get to spend time doing the things I want that fulfill me - like reading actual books, writing, or planning what I'm going to do next with my kids. I don't get around to tackling actual tasks that need doing, like applying for my passport so I can leave the country and travel at some point, or figuring out how to pay down my debt.

In view of all of that, I turned off my Facebook. And instead of reaching for my phone or laptop in free moments, I'm picking up a book instead. So far it's feeling pretty good. And I don't miss it.

On a completely related note, I've also just finished reading a book. I enjoyed this book thoroughly, and find myself thinking of it now less as a book than as a kindred spirit. It's the kind of book you find yourself scrambling for a pencil in the middle of so you can underline a poignant sentence, or closing mid-chapter to pause in contemplation of the passage you've just read.

But what is this book? I'm so glad you're asking. It's Walden on Wheels, by Ken Ilgunas. It's about a fellow who graduates from college with student debt, then finds himself increasingly disillusioned as he tries to find a job and earn a living while being vigorously pursued not only by his growing debt, but by his increasing questions about society, responsibility, consumerism, and what it means to be free.

The conflict he feels is not uncommon for that stage of life. When one graduates from college, there is the pressure to find a job, keep the job, get an apartment or house, get a car, get a mortgage, and so on, even though we are not always sure why exactly we are doing those things (never mind whether we are actually enjoying them). Ken challenges these notions by finding unconventional solutions, starting with taking a series of jobs in Alaska, sleeping in a tent, and hitchhiking his way across the continent until, debt-free, he decides to return to school to get his Master's degree, but only if he can secretly live in a van so he can afford tuition and expenses without having to go into debt once again.

It's a thoroughly entertaining read. It also seems to have come along at an ideal time for me, as many of the concepts and ideas espoused by the book's author match sentiments I have been having myself. More than that, as I start to feel like myself again I wonder if the depression I have battled for decades has more to do with a cognitive dissonance between my ideals and my lifestyle than a biological imbalance, or some other simple, shapeless "there's something wrong with you" - though of course only time will tell. It would be too easy to think that all my depression and anxiety could be altered simply by making changes to my lifestyle - but, surely it would help?

After finishing this book, I am left with two conclusions:

1. There I things I need - not want, need - to be doing to fulfill my life's purpose. These are the things that tug at my heart, that leave me scribbling the same statements and questions in my journal and on scraps of paper around my home. Unless I am working towards and doing those things, I will not be happy or fulfilled, and might even come to fill my time with other activities that not only leave me empty, but that will potentially destroy me.

2. I need to dramatically change my lifestyle so it is more aligned with my values, and so I can pay off my debt.

How will I do all of this?

To be continued.

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