I don’t tend to post reading advice but this is a massively introspective piece about (fundamentally) my mental health. I process things by writing, I find more connections that way and I thought I’d share this particular set of thoughts. It’s based on various journal entries, collated and polished for publishing (I don’t write like this in my journal) and shared with a mind to others who may find the following 3000-odd words interesting or useful. YMMV, obvs.
“Life is a mystery,
everyone must stand alone”
Nary a truer word has been spoken, life truly is a mystery at times and, between you and me, I’ve given up trying to figure it out.
To be accurate, I have been trying to give up finding any sense of higher power – be it fate, God, Allah, or Cluthu – for some time because, quite frankly, life can be such an utter shit show it’s hard to believe that anyone has their hand on the tiller. I’ve a few decades of presumptive knowledge that I’m still battling against but more and more I find I’m happy to just keep on keeping on. It’s not always easy though and there is a part of me that envies the true believers and their simple answers. It’s all part of Gods plan. Right?
I used to believe in God, or at least I went to church a lot when I was a kid, but then I discovered science and facts, and realised that whilst it’s an interesting read in parts, the bible is complete fiction based on the stories and letters of some men (and we all know how reliable and trustworthy men are…).
Yet it’s hard to not imagine that there is something, somewhere, a giant space slug perhaps, that is gently tweaking the events of my life into some semblance of order. Is that down to a deeply rooted desire to find an explanation for the unexplainable? Is it a symptom of my own lack of self-confidence? Am I really being left to my own devices to fuck up my life as I choose? That’s a LOT of responsibility so there surely must be something else running the show here, a Department of Life perhaps? Am I even allowed to call myself an adult, and how the hell do I know when I finally reach adulthood cos it sure doesn’t feel like I’ve managed that yet either.
Surely, SURELY, there must be some divine being, a guiding hand, that is carefully moulding the myriad moments and decisions that have gotten me to this point in my life. Who, or what, has been guiding me to be right here, right now? Ohhh I’m getting all religious again.
Recently some events have caused me to reflect on the past couple of years and no matter how I try to rationalise things there is a small part of my brain that is clinging to the hope that, actually, this isn’t all MY doing at all, it’s all because Cangelflup The Almighty Of All Everything has deigned these things to happen.
How else can I explain how various life events, some of which were planned, some of which were not, are all starting to align in a way that suggest that this is how it was all meant to play out? For, if there isn’t an entity, some cosmic sort or other, that is nudging things along in accordance to my place in the galactic gantt chart of being, then I have to take on the realisation that I am apparently an absolute genius that is so off-the-scale SMART AT LIFE ™ that I’ve not even realised until now just how much I’ve got my shit together.
And, dear reader, we all know that is not the explanation. My shit is most definitely still scattered all over the damn place (not literally, obvs).
Yet I can’t shake that feeling, the sensation that my life is starting to take a new shape, things are starting to align. Various past events, new things, and changes of some old (bad) habits; all of these changes that are disconnected from one another yet are all coming into play at the same time, and are combining to make my life… better… nay, GOOD.
Editors note: Bear with him, he does know that these things are, of course, connected because they all concern him, but he’s on a bit of a self-discovery kick at the moment. Either that or he’s had too much caffeine, you know how it goes.
Hey, I can read that you know! That Editor is so rude! Anyway, where was I…?
Ahhh yes, there are factors in my life that seem to be aligning.
On the surface they maybe aren’t all good things – I can thoroughly recommend you DO NOT break up with two partners within days of each other (even though you knew you had to) – but that was the choices I made because deep down I knew it was right for me. Those decisions were thought about long and hard and were, rightly, difficult to face. I guess that is a downside of being poly, being very honest with yourself and others about your emotions and actions can really REALLY suck.
But some of the other decisions that are now looking like they were, all along, part of some evil genius mastermind plan, were made on the spur of the moment.
I’m not good at making spur of the moment decisions
I wasn’t good at making spur of the moment decisions in the past but part of my counselling (one of the things which has definitely been a part of this overarching alignment) was to be more spontaneous. On the strength of that and some gentle nudging from a rather awesome work colleague (she knows who she is), I booked into a 10 week Bootcamp at a local gym. I had never done anything like that before and, 25 odd weeks later I’m still doing it and already agreed to switch to a newer monthly programme for all of 2018 and, even odder to me, I’m absolutely loving it.
Attending the gym regularly lead to a need to eat better so I’m able to do the type of high intensity interval training that Bootcamp involves, so my diet has improved. And because I’m seemingly incapable of not training until I am utterly exhaused I’ve had to be stricter on getting a decent amount of sleep lest I spend my weeks as a zombie. I’ll say this now, those people who say at least 7-8 hours sleep a night were really on to something!
Overall I’m healthier, fittier, lighter, and happier within my physical self. Not completely happy just yet but I can see and feel the differences and … well let’s get to the next item in what is rapidly becoming The Inventory of the Life of G.
A few months back a friend asked me if I wanted to go to a guided meditation session. I said yes immediately (cos spontaneous!). Since then I’ve managed to get myself into a daily meditation habit. Even if only for 10 minutes (current new app obsession is “Oak” btw) it lets me slow my brain down and bring my focus to the here and now, instead of going back over the past, or projecting into the future, neither of which are massively healthy habits for me. Going to the first guided meditation sessions also nicely aligned with the counsellor suggesting (independently as I hadn’t mentioned it to her) that it might be something to look into.
I’ll pause here for a moment and cast my net a little wider. If you have a friend or colleague who mentions they are either trying to lose weight, or work out more, or are trying yoga for the first time, or… whatever really… if you see a difference in them, tell them! Having colleagues and friends mention that I seem much more relaxed and happier, or my physio noting that I’d lost weight, gave me the encouragement to keep these things going. That passing comment holds more power than you might think.
Right, back to me!
Next up is my current abode. With an increase in my rent due I decided to end my tenancy and look for something else. Part of what attracted to me to my old flat was the space, it was big! But that quickly equated into a need to fill it with “stuff” because, well, it was a big space and I could afford it. A few months prior to hearing that my rent was going up I had read THAT Marie Kondo book (which is good but as with all these things, take from it what YOU need, it’s not a bible… ohh there’s that religious thing again) and started to go through all my possessions with a view of reducing the clutter and ‘stuff’ to just things I needed and things that meant something to me.
Inspired to take my ongoing de-cluttering a step further, and with a looming move now planned, I started to go through everything I owned. EVERYTHING. It wasn’t always an easy process, especially for the sentimental items. In fact at times it was surprising to find the sentimental attachment I had to the most inane objects. Yet once I was in the habit of assessing and considering all of these items, it became a fun exercise, and a bit of a challenge. Plus there was something really enjoyable at actually taking the time to look at things I owned and asking myself why I owned them.
Looking about for a new flat was both depressing (there are some truly awful places out there) and revealing. I already had a vague notion of downsizing (from my large two bed flat) and found myself choosing smaller and smaller places, finally ending up where I am now which is easily a third of the size of my previous place (if not smaller). The upside of having deliberately chosen to downsize is that I now find myself questioning my purchases much more often because I just don’t have the space any more. Do I really need THAT? Is it replacing something I already own, and if so, is it a better version of it? Will owning THAT be something I’ll be happy with in a years time? WHY am I buying this?
Equally living in a substantially smaller space means I’m keeping on top of household chores more as there isn’t any place to ‘hide’ things. For me a tidy home is a calming place, a place that I alone occupy. The lack of clutter makes it seem quiet and peaceful, my little sanctuary away from the world. It gives me space to be with myself and through that I’ve learned how to be comfortably alone, again something that I’ve struggled with in the past; although as with most things the balance is to have enough alone time to be content but not too much that I start getting a little out of kilter, turns out I need social interaction way more than I thought I did.
So far the theme of the year seems to be self-reflection which, whilst it can be good in limited doses, can also start to become a blocker if you try and second guess every moment of your day. More recently I’ve found that a mirror of how I believe I am seen by others (in the work place) has been far more instructive (and horrifying!). Watching a recent work colleague spend most of his time in an agitated, angry state, railing against all the (perceived) wrongs being done, made me realise how much I have changed in the past year and made it even more evident to me that I was doing something right. I sure didn’t wanna be THAT guy (and I have been that guy a LOT in the past).
Meditation has helped with this, and having some work colleagues point out my ‘new’ calm demeanour has re-enforced that even further.
Outside of work I now find myself far more willing to say yes to something on a whim, than go with my past behaviours of analysing everything and considering my options first. It’s probably the most fundamental change that I have noticed in myself and even though it does mean my calendar is pretty rammed full it’s of things that I enjoy and want to do (you don’t have to say yes to everything, choosing the right things to say yes to is just as important). Yet I’m still just as prepared to NOT go to something I committed to, or to turn up late to something which for me is a BIG DEAL, I am the guy who is always at least 15 minutes early. Ultimately I am allowing myself to fail which is a much much bigger deal to me than it probably sounds.
There are other things I’m noticing. I find myself smiling more every day. I feel more patient and calm, and I listen to myself a lot more as well. It all boils down to the realisation that I am finally looking after me first, and it all feels like the last couple of years has been heading towards this point. Sure there have been some crappy moments but that’s just part of life, and reflecting on the past year I realise that I’m happier that I’ve accepted that I’m on a journey, than of any of the specific milestones I’ve achieved.
Of course there is no guiding hand at play here, and I’m starting to accept that what this all amounts to is simply my acceptance of ‘this is life right now’ at play. Rather than my old view of rehashing my behaviours and actions of the past, whilst second guessing my future ones, I’m much happier to live in the present and find myself, more and more, being much more focused on HOW I spend my time, rather than what I’m doing. Does being here, doing this, make me happy? Is a very simple but powerful question.
It feels like this is where I should be. I’m in a place where I am putting myself first whilst making more of an effort to reach out to the people I love. I have some amazing friends, some newer than others, and their support and encouragement through this past year or so has been more beneficial than any of them realise. They are few but they are mighty and wonderful and generous, I’m very lucky to be a part of their lives.
Despite all of that, another key learning has been around how to be alone. It may sound like I’m avoiding that with such a ‘rammed schedule’ but part of my scheduling includes a level of cutting out time just for me. Sometimes I just sit and read a book, sometimes I go for a walk, sometimes I sleep in late and watch movies all day; regardless, I don’t plan what will happen on those days, I just spend them alone.
There is a tendency to view being alone as a negative thing and sure, if it is a permanent thing it can be, but a big part of me solving the mystery of my life has been learning to stand alone and understanding that I am the only person responsible for me. There is no grand plan, no supreme being or holy seer. We are all in this together but only I can look after my well-being, both physical and mental. I tend to keep the following in my head, a mantra if you wish (but this post has been far too self-referentially wanky so … maybe not).
There is only me. There is only today.
OF COURSE there isn’t ‘only me’, I’m lucky enough to have a loving and supportive family and a group of friends who would drop everything if I asked them for help. The amazing thing is that having spent the last year and a bit learning to be alone, I find myself far more open to the thought of sharing my life with someone else again. But that’s another topic for another day.
And OF COURSE there isn’t ‘only today’ but I find myself pondering the past far less often than I used to, and whilst I have plans I’m not as wedded to them because who knows what tomorrow will bring.
There are more cliches surrounding all this I’m sure, but overall I’m just struck by how the events of my recent life seem to have been converging to where I am now.
And then I realise it’s all down to me. I made the decision to get some counselling, I made the decision to go to the gym, I made the decision to move to a smaller place, I took stock of me and made some changes. And they worked.
I am happy and content with where I am right now. Something I’ve never really let myself be…. maybe the title of this blog is finally true.
I’ll close with another confession.
I have always been an emotional guy, I used to tear up watching Lassie and a few topics will always illicit a lump in my throat. I used to think that was because I was, naturally, just a bit sad. But I’m not, I’m in love. I’m in love with the world, I’m in love with my friends and family, hell I even love you for reading this nonsense (whoever you are).
I opened with a (deliberately cheesy) song quote, and I’ll close with another (less cheesy) that has been on frequent play for most of the year since these lines leapt out at me and helped me realise what I’ve been waffling on about in this post. I was grieving, grieving for the me that, somewhere along the line, I lost.
I’m so glad I found him again.
“My steps keep splitting my grief
Through these solipsistic moods
I should call my parents when I think of them
I should tell my friends when I love them”
Also published on Medium.