Last week I wrote about the “art of practicing nothing” aka being present in the present moment. I’m sure there are folks who spend a lifetime mastering this skill, but as a recent neophyte to the practice, this is an almost impossible task to achieve. Even without my to-do lists and email/social media on my phone, I still found myself distracted by the littlest worries.
But nevermind the littlest worries. It’s hard to force myself to enjoy the “present” when I have 24/7 anxiety about my ability to survive in the coming years. And post-traumatic stress from previous failures at surviving. I read about suicides and drug overdoses on the daily, and then I read about another Type 1 diabetic dying from complications of the disease.
My life is on the line every day. I never get a day off from this disease. And sometimes it’s easiest to just ignore it so I can live my life, but then that’s when I’m most at risk. So where’s the balance? Where’s the fine line between safety and insanity?
I still feel lost. Even though I hope just being present will help me find direction and meaning in this life, I feel “directionless.” I’m not sure where I’m going. I’m uncertain that I’m on the right path – that I’m making the right choice. Sometimes I commend myself for getting out of bad relationships and being single, and then other times I lament not having that traditional family system to keep me going.
I’m like my cat, Norm. Even though I have it good, I keep coming back for the fight. I keep instigating battles with launch attacks and feisty behavior because it’s just in my nature – I can’t help it. I’m never going to relish in the status-quo. I’m always going to ask, how can we do better? And then I’m going to fight until it completely burns me out, and I have to take a step back.
But today I listened to a podcast on what happens to the brain when we experience a break-up, and I realized some of its revelations are relevant for even this moment. I’m not going through a break-up. But I am gearing up for my next big life change. I’m ready to take things by storm. I have a lot of anxiety and passion – I’m just not sure where to invest it.
And in this podcast episode, they discussed how maybe we experience pain so that we take time to chill, recuperate and conserve our energy for the next big thing. Maybe that’s what I’m doing? I’m not just being present – I’m conserving my energy for when I’m going to need it most. That’s how we survive.
What I Have Here
But there is something I’ve learned in my attempt to practice the art of nothing. Over this last week, even amidst the cloudy skies, I realized what I have here. That even among the dewy grass, there is potential for life. Take for example my job. I have no regrets about my recent career move, but every new position comes with its challenges. And when you add on depression and a lost sense of purpose, it can make even the most minimal task daunting.
And yet in this past week, I’ve been smiling and laughing. I’ve been opening up and collaborating with colleagues on what seemed to be minimal matters. But even though minimal, they matter. It’s not so much about what we discuss – it’s about the support and the connections. For the first time in a long time, I do no regret the day when I wake up.
I may not be excited every Monday, but when I walk into that open office environment, I immediately feel surrounded by friends. We may not be close enough to share a beer after work or attend a festival over the weekend. But in some ways, these colleagues have provided me a home – a sense of belonging. They have given me something lacking in my perception of the rest of the world. I commented today to a colleague that sometimes it’s the little jokes that get you through the day.
And when I look back on my life, it’s those little jokes I remember because they represent a moment when you felt a part of something equal – when you were not judged or criticized or ridiculed. You just were, and that was enough. And so was everyone else. You were no longer alone in this gray, overcast world.
That is what being present has meant to me. I’m still searching for my purpose. But I am not alone.
And when it comes to the little jokes, here are a few of my recent faves:
- Tweets like these certainly help bring a smile to my face even in our grim health policy reality.
- Jenny Lawson and Hunter S. Tomcat are the best.
- If you’re a Twin Peaks fan, you’ll totally get this (warning: hours of this song being stuck in your head will happen).
- “I’m Mary Poppins, y’all.” Go see Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We should all have this much confidence.
- Buzzfeed never fails … if you’re a millennial.