I hinted in my last post that I’d probably be gone for a while. A while it has been—almost a month—and, for once, I actually don’t regret the time I spent away from my blog; it’s given me time to figure some things out.
You know when you turn on a digital camera or you open the Camera on your smartphone? You experience that few seconds between blackness and clarity where the lens goes blurry then focuses. Well, this past month has been my blurry moment.
I think everyone goes through blurry periods in their life. You’re walking down the street or commuting to work or scrolling through the Internet, and all the while you’re not really present in what you’re doing. Your actions don’t reflect your mind’s current state. Sometimes it may be that you’re thinking of a lot of little things (What time does the post office close? I need to pick up my dry cleaning. I hope the plumber calls back soon. Am I using the right credit card to buy this gas? I should really check my credit score.) that compound into one big thing—STRESS.
Sometimes you may not have any particular thoughts but your emotions feel out of control, it’s like a black cloud is following you or a menacing stranger is standing behind you. You know it’s not logical, but you can’t help but feel a certain helplessness, sadness, paranoia and a raging anxiety in your every waking moment.
And when you stop to finally acknowledge these things for what they are—stress, depression, anxiety—you say, “Why am I feeling this way? Why can’t I just be happy?” And sometimes there are tangible answers to these questions (I hate my job. I’m overweight. I have money problems. I’m not as good of a partner/mother/daughter/niece/aunt/friend as I expect myself to be.) that can lead to tangible solutions (I quit my job. I started exercising. I cut back on my spending. I remembered to call them.), but sometimes there are no tangible answers nor solutions. Sometimes you just feel terrible for no reason that you can fathom, and you go to therapy to talk about your childhood and you go to a psychiatrist to be told to take pills, and sometimes you can find peace in those things. But sometimes you spend years jumping from psychiatrist to psychiatrist and therapist to therapist and nothing’s helped and you’re STILL going through a life that’s all blurry. A life that’s not exactly pitch-black dark (You have shit to do, you have people to see, at least you’re not in a straight jacket, right?) but it’s not in focus either (Why am I doing this shit and seeing this people? Why can’t I just be happy? What’s my purpose?).
Given the prior discussion, it would make sense that some people have blurry days that are easily shaken off while others have entirely blurry lives that are as permanent to them as the skin they’re in. I’ve been a blurry person, and I’ve loved blurry people and I don’t wish an entirely blurry life on anyone. I wish everyone could shake off feeling uneasy, could logic away anxiety, and could be confident in their decisions and mindful in their actions. However, that’s just not the world we live in. You can only control yourself and encourage others. But really, let me repeat that, you can only control yourself.
So I’ve had blurriness on and off throughout my life, including various times this year—but like I said—for the entirety of the past month I’ve waded through blurriness. Today is the first great day I’ve had in a long time, which has made it much easier for me to reflect on the recent past. So I’ve come up with some points to describe what it’s like to be drowning in a long-term blurry existence:
1. A blurry existence can’t feel certain about anything.
For me, blurriness meant questioning everything I was doing. It meant second guessing all of my decisions. It meant that once I finally made a decision a constant unsureness would follow it, an unsureness at the validity of my own life choices. An inward negativity that said, “What makes you think you’re right about anything?”
2. A blurry existence can’t listen to others.
This unsureness was so pervasive it meant withholding information from others so as to avoid criticism and judgment. What others thought was meaningful advice I thought was a sign I had FUCKED UP ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. I couldn’t separate and analyze others’ opinions in a healthy way because of the constant uncertainty that acts like a fog in a blurry existence.
3. A blurry existence chooses laziness over productivity every time.
Blurriness meant not being able to focus on any one task without being distracted by another, which meant not chasing any of my goals or dreams. Because they’re so big, they’re so difficult, I can’t even focus on one small thing so how can I focus on any big thing, I am not capable, it’s impossible, I’m uninspired!
4. A blurry existence destroys your self-esteem.
It meant going through my days with all these negative thoughts. Picture a tamagotchi pet that does nothing but bleep TERRIBLE THINGS at you, all day.
5. A blurry existence is exhausting.
It meant sleepless nights as my brain worked overtime trying to figure all this shit out. Mainly this meant remembering every mistake I’ve made in the past or every person who’s ever hurt me, and feeling the hurt I gave and the hurt I received all wrapped up together in one 3 a.m. chest ball of, you guessed it, fucking hurt. It meant fitfully entering sleep to fitfully wake at, you guessed it, never the time I actually wanted to wake up.
6. A blurry existence doesn’t take breaks.
It meant not feeling relaxed, ever. Sure I could outwardly look relaxed playing my 3DS in bed or pinning things on my computer in the living room or laughing at yet another stupid reality TV show, but my mind and my heart were NEVER relaxed (hence, the black cloud and stranger behind you comparisons). I was always dealing with some kind of negative thought or feeling—and by “dealing with” I mean either pushing them away or trying and failing to understand and work through them.
7. A blurry existence bathes in jealousy.
A blurry existence meant scrolling and scrolling through my social media accounts and the Internet, constantly comparing myself to others and breaking down in tears more than once while diagnosing myself to be Not-As-Good-As-Them/ Not-As-Wealthy-As-Them /Not-As-Successful-As-Them /Not-As-Put-Together-As-Them /Not-As-Perfect-As-Them… the list goes on and on. It’s my “Not As” list, and it’s never ending. And it’s relentless. And when I should feel happy for other people, it punches me in the face instead.
8. A blurry existence is really lonely.
And it’s not that I don’t care about other people, it’s that I care about other people SO MUCH that I break myself worrying about them. And because I know how awful it feels to NEVER STOP WORRYING, I don’t want to worry other people. So I don’t call them because pretty much anything real I would have to say to them would deeply worry them. So yeah, it meant isolating myself so I wouldn’t bum anybody else out.
“Woah, that’s a bit much…” I hear everyone saying. Or, maybe, just maybe—we all struggle with this stuff to varying degrees at one point or another in our lives. And different things have the possibility of snapping us out of the blurry funk.
In my case I knew it had gotten bad when a close friend of mine became hurt and upset that I wasn’t calling her back. As it turned out, she was also going through a funk and needed someone to talk to. I realized it wasn’t just her I’d been neglecting, it was also myself.
First, I caught up with her. Then I opened up to another friend. And another. Yesterday I had heart-to-heart phone conversations with three different friends, two of which I actually initiated calling. To some people this may not sound like a big deal. But to someone living a blurry existence, it’s a victory worth celebrating.
Then I decided to deactivate my Facebook. I had an epiphany that it doesn’t elicit true friendship—or at least my definition of true friendship. And I realized I was spending more time with this fake version of friendship than I was actually connecting with my true friends. Don’t get me wrong; I care deeply about many of my friends on Facebook, but I kept them all at a distance (Facebook makes it very easy to do that) and it’s not possible to maintain a true relationship that way. And with so many statuses focused on sharing political or social opinions, there wasn’t much room for me to butt in with anything viscerally personal and true… anything that would bind me to another soul the way private conversations held in person or over the phone do. I honestly could write an entire blog post about deactivating my Facebook. For now just know it was a crucial step in my life’s coming into focus.
Today, just one day after cutting the Facebook umbilical cord, I woke up on time for the first time in ages. I began to go through my day with joy, a calmness coming over me as I cooked myself a hearty breakfast. I began to use the same productivity-related computer extensions and apps that I always do, but instead of falling prey to distraction and inertness, I remained on task and on schedule, getting a number of things accomplished. Even a task I had been dreading all weekend I completed without hesitation or self-doubt. What would’ve taken me three hours to do in the mental state I was in a few days ago took me 20 minutes to do today. That’s the power of a focused mind and a calm heart.
I think there are a lot of blogs out there that talk about ways to be more productive in your life and more on task with your goals, but what most of those blogs do not admit is that it takes more than a new planner to be productive. It takes more than a daily Chronodex to find joy in the years of daily tasks that add up to the eventual achievement of a dream or goal. How is anyone in this world expected to find happiness for themselves at the end of a long journey chasing their dreams if they can’t even find happiness within the chase? For me, it’s not possible to live a blurry existence AND strive to achieve my dreams. That much has been made clear to me the many times I have failed to strive for anything while feeling depressed or anxious.
I think that most people aren’t just lazy because laziness is preferable to them; if that were the case then retirement would bring automatic happiness for most, which—reality check—it doesn’t. There are so many blogs out there that talk about early retirement without talking about how to be truly happy before retirement, in spite of the “at work” equation. What happens to all the people every year who reach the end of that long journey to just end up in the psychiatrist’s office saying, “My life isn’t what I thought it would be. I’m still unhappy, but now I have more time to think about my unhappiness.”? They’ve lived blurry existences waiting for some magical day clarity would be given to them, and they end up empty-handed.
But clarity is not given. If you’re living a blurry existence, it’s up to you and you alone to figure out how to find that clarity. It’s a different path for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for another. I’m an ambivert, so a healthy combination of real socialization and intense “me” time was the answer for me. That won’t be the solution for everyone.
But I will tell you one thing. The first step out of a blurry existence is realizing you’re living one. And then saying, “You know what. I’m not alone. And I can get better.” You then take the first step on that journey to finding out how. If you need support, you reach out for help. But at the end of the day, others can only do so much for you.
This is your life.