August 02, 2004
Jenica recently wrote about Pessimism v. Optimism. The bit that really speaks to me:
...the ability to spot that darkness, that network of malicious disrespect, is a choice. It's a choice to move into that dark distrustful place. It's a choice to look to find things that I myself don't see. It's a choice to take them personally. Because these two [people] are equally capable of enjoying the moments of small joy, of ascribing the best of motives to the world and of living on the bright side. The trips to examine the dark side, then, are a choice.I suppose I do fall into the habit of making that choice, without even really thinking about it. It's not a happy way to live, being skeptical and cynical about people - thinking that at best they're indifferent; at worst, intending to hurt you. It's a protective strategy, or so I convince myself. That way I can be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of others, the love and joy they share simply by being themselves.
And it's a choice I try hard not to make. I don't want to live in the darkness. I don't want to hunt for scraps of evidence to support theories of malice. I don't want to live each day waiting for the darkness to move in, looking for the shadows.
Making such a choice also makes it easier to enage in self-defeating, unproductive, even self-destructive behavior, in little ways and in big ways. Bad habits and poor decisions already interfere with my own life. It's bad enough to be careless with myself, but when my choices hurt other people, it's time to deal. To deal with my life, to engage it, not to retreat within - to hold back and hold out on people.
I've known this for a long time. But it's one thing to know, and another to act. I'm tired of just scraping by on minimal effort, knowing that I could do better. It's time to be responsible for myself, despite the inner voice that mocks me for being, well, a square. Crossed t's, dotted i's, coloring inside the lines - I want order in my life. Maybe because I grew up with a strict, orderly environment I felt I had to blast my way out of that mold, taking perverse delight in cramming for exams and doing all-nighters for last-minute papers, leaving clothes on the floor, papers strewn everywhere, paying bills in a scramble. In more important life matters, making poor or less-wise decisions because at least they were mine to make.
But it's more exhausting to pick up the pieces, to recover from the aftermath, than to stay on top of things - and not necessarily as perfectly as possible. It's the doing - and the finishing - that matter. Words aren't always enough, nor meaning well but not following through.
There is gentle progress in the really horrible blowup that happened between me and a friend. There was one difficult, voice-cracking, sob-wracked phone call, an opportune meeting that worked out. Subsequent friendly phone calls to reestablish neglected ties. Making similar efforts to reach out to other friends and family. I spent a good part of the weekend sorting out boxes, readying my office area so I can go through my papers. I'm going to the beach for a week with family, so I'm actually getting ready - laundry, cleaning house - although some of the impetus is that dear Marco is going to come cat-sit for me, and although I tolerate slobbiness for myself, I don't want to inflict that on my friends. When I come back, there will be appointments to make with the optometrist, the dentist, the GYN, the veterinarian. I'm also going to find a therapist; again, there's only so much I can inflict on friends and family, and trying to sort things out for myself hasn't been enough. At work I'm going to make the effort to do things as they come, not let the piles of paper stack up so that I'm scrambling at deadline.
Today it's finishing up packing and making cupcakes for the sweetheart who added me to the list for Finn Brothers soundcheck. Waiting in line by mid-afternoon, meeting new enthusiasts and hanging out with old friends. Tonight I will cheer until I lose my voice, enjoying some of the best music I've ever known.
It's all baby steps. Life is a work in progress, sure, but that doesn't mean I can't get things done if I set myself to it. But the point to getting things done is so that I find the time to enjoy life, and fortunately I get to do that this week. I get to go to the beach, splash around in the Atlantic, laze about in the sun (with SPF and big floppy hat).* See my nephews, including one I'll be meeting for the first time. Eat too much, laugh too much, hug too much, stay up late talking into the night. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Have a good week. xoxoxoxoxo
*Provided Tropical Storm Alex doesn't become Hurricane Alex. I hope I get to go swimming!