Desperately Seeking Beauty in Everything

“Even posi people get sad”, a friend once said when I expressed that sadness feels like failure when your default mode is optimistic.

I don’t often use the internet to complain or express when things get hard, despite my strive to always be authentic. I am aware that, by deliberate omission, I am a part of the “everyone seems like they are doing better than they really are” illusion. I don’t find comfort in public commiseration, and most of the time, would rather shift my focus to something good than to rehash a problem every time I get a Facebook notification.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have them. And lately I feel a sticky lump of guilt lodge itself in my throat every time someone mentions how happy I am all the time. Listening to a recent podcast interview (we recorded over two months ago), I hear myself sound like a self-help book I need to read.

Last week, after months of deliberation and despite that it’s existed for over two years, I made my instagram account public. I had listened to enough podcasts and read enough articles to know that for creative work, networking and gaining business, it’s smart to have one. I never used instagram for it’s intended purpose (to share!) because I don’t like the “life is perfect inside this tiny flat square” false reality. I don’t want to be a part of that, and I don’t want to be affected by that.

instagram:  @SavetheKales

instagram: @SavetheKales

And yet, I spent hours deleting, editing, and curating my account. I got rid of 500 hundred pictures (shifted them to a new private account), some of which are my proudest moments of the last two years, because I don’t want to “brag”. I don’t want to be perceived as having things figured out more than I do. Is that a pathetic downplay of my accomplishments and most wonderful moments? If everyone else is using the internet to make themselves and their work sound AMAZING all the time, shouldn’t I? Is the rejection of that a noble attempt to bring some normalcy and honesty to the LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME LOOK AT ME culture that surrounds us all. the. time.? (Does it even matter?)

The truth is, anxiety and depression have been part of my everyday life once again, especially since the concussion. Emotional and mental health aside, my injury means I physically can’t do everything every time I want to do it. I need to rest, I need quiet, I can’t be on the phone too long without a migraine so intense that it makes me sick, sometimes I can’t stay awake past 9:30pm. People get frustrated and angry and call my involvement and enthusiasm into question. Then I feel worse.

The injury and lack of work (and money) from that has been stressful. There is the jumble of things it’s not my place to talk about publicly. And everyone is dying.

My immediate family has had five deaths in the last several months. When I called people to reschedule meetings, request extensions or explain I’d be out of town this week, I realized the phrase “I have to cancel, there has been a death in my family” has become commonplace in my correspondence. (More on this soon.)

A hard year. All around, a very hard year.

I think our capacity for loving is infinite, but our hearts and minds have a limit for pain and I have had enough for now.

In December, I wrote pages and pages of plans, projects and new ideas. “This will be my YEAR!” I triumphantly told myself, as I crafted a timeline of creative dreams and professional goals. This would be the year I got out of my own way and finally fucking made things happen. I thought so many more of them would be checked off by now. I’m disappointed in myself and frustrated by circumstances. Every time I get my footing there is another tragedy that  knocks me out emotionally and/or physically and, while I don’t like to sink into feelings of “why me?” and victimhood, my god it’s hard not to think that way.

 

wordoftheyear2014

And all this time to myself has been a balance of anxiety – knowing I can’t do things as well as I want to and living with the shame and embarrassment of that – and distracting myself so I don’t have to think so much. For this I have books and walks in the park. Trying to help my friends through their stuff.  Venturing in public for a few hours to be present and experience actual life. Season 2 of Orange is the New Black.

While organizing my book collection I rediscovered a copy of The Writer’s Market from 2008, gifted to me by someone who believed in me more than I believed in myself. Now it’s years old, but the symbolism of that is too powerful and I can’t bring myself to add it to the “donate” pile. Maybe this is part of healing, getting past the blinding hurt so you can get to a place of sincere and simple thankfulness.

A lesson learned too late is still a lesson learned.

And I thought about the expectations we set up for ourselves, what we should have done by now, and the pressure we create where there was none.

Writer Cheryl Strayed said her whole life she had a book inside of her that she never got quite right. She was 32 when her mother died and with her grief grew “a second beating heart”, a book, that she could finally purge out of herself. It was published when she was 35.

I have to believe through intense life experiences (not always tragic, but often enough they are) can come our own second heartbeats. They force us to face ourselves and maybe maybe maybe, when we start to breathe again, we can finally create what has been there all along.

View of the Market St. Bridge in Wilkes-Barre

A few nights ago, my mother and I were having coffee in her backyard, and I admitted its very hard to see the point in anything right now. She said, “I think there is a point, and I guess we’re just supposed to keep going until we figure it out.”

Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

 

12 thoughts on “Desperately Seeking Beauty in Everything

  1. I’m so sorry you’re struggling right now. But your honesty is also appreciated. I agree we need to find a way to balance the curated “everything is awesome” mentality of our social media lives with the reality of the pain and frustration in our everyday lives. I’m still learning this as well.

    I agree with your mom. You find the point (or, in my opinion, the points) as you go along. Take care of yourself and accept the love of your family and friends and you’ll get there. Sending you internet hugs (they’re real, I promise!) xo Hill

  2. I think most people who are active at all in social media struggle with the same things, and I do think that you can post stuff that might seem like brags yet still be humble. Maybe one of your posts that you think will be considered a brag might actually be completely motivating to someone. (I know for me for example when I see Hillary’s posts of her amazing garden it motivates me to spend at least a little time in my own, even if I know it will never be as awesome as hers!)

    And I think even though we post things to share with others those same posts can also be for ourselves. It’s nice to be able to look back on things you’ve done and posted and remember how good you felt in that moment.

    • Susan, you are so right on with this. I try not to overdo it on the self-promotion because I see others do that and I find it impersonal and sometimes just it’s just plain creative gloating. I also favor the idea of “we’re all in this together” over “I’m going to beat you”. But, you are so absolutely right. I met a friend over the weekend who referred to this fear of seeming like a egotisical jerk as “pathologically humble” and I can’t stop thinking about that. Perhaps a post about that concept is coming soon. I appreciate your words and support so very much. xo

  3. While some may choose to overlook your post because it’s not an “everything is awesome” type of update, I can personally say that it gives comfort to those of us who are experiencing struggles in our own lives in our own way. If nothing else, it helps to know that I’m not the only one, we’re not the only ones, who lead lives that are still a work in progress.

    Thank you.

  4. Hi! You’re lucky that doctors now know so much about concussions. I turned 21 on 6/17/91 and engaged in in some reckless behavior and outrageous shenanigans. Long story short – I ended up with multiple concussions. I’m not proud. All I got was some finger wagging from my doctor. I couldn’t understand why I was so dizzy (on and off) for so long after that fall. It took all summer for me to feel right.

    But, eventually, I felt better. I healed. It’s what we do! And you will, too. Just give it as much time as it needs. I guess in my case, I needed to learn that I am not indestructible. I also appreciate that nothing worse happened to me that night besides making an ass out of myself and falling on my head several times.

    In terms of the anxiety and depression…you can’t feel the highs without the lows. The ditch you’re in now will be mirrored by the peaks you will climb a little later on in life. Whatever you’re feeling and doing (or not doing) right now is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing right now. That is the main law of life, in my opinion. Hang in there and please keep posting to your blog. It’s a lovely blog! Just like you!!

    • It’s hard to think that uncomfortable things are where we need to be, but I agree with you. I don’t like it, but there it is.😉 Thank you for this thoughtful reply.❤

  5. Thank you for this. It spoke to me on so many levels. Cheryl Strayed has helped me through some really low times, so I’m glad you find some comfort in her words. Pema Chodron also helps me out a lot. Here’s a good remind about the temporary nature of all the shit (good and bad) that comes our way: “We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” Take care.

    • I appreciate your kindness and your thought so very much. Pema helped me out of a very dark time once before, and I love the quote you shared with me. I had forgotten about it.❤❤❤

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