I don’t have all the answers. Considering how many in total there might be, I’d say the percentage I’m privy to is quite small. So why the expectation that I should have figured things out by now? First of all, there’s so much that is fluid, that is ever changing by the day, by the hour. Within moments everything could shift to a place which feels unrecognizable, so why am I concerned with working out how to be consistent in thought, act, deed, progress?
I do love a mystery. And I do love fixing things. I love a sense of closure, the feeling of “there, that’s better” when I’ve tidied something which hadn’t been for a minute or six. There rarely seems to be alignment though, and I’m starting to find peace in that, if not comfort.
It was put forth to me recently that having fun and being happy are not necessarily the same thing. Which threw me for a bit of a loop because I can think of countless times when that was true. And so I wonder if there is merit in defying the need to be happy by having fun regardless of the sense of hollowness I’m carrying, or if it’s best to quell the fun a bit, dim the noise to discover what is hiding inside the hollow, to dig deep into the dark spaces and not necessarily bring it into the light, because night blooming flowers are just as lovely, not everything needs sunshine to blossom, but give it space to breathe.
I am a gregarious loner. I am good around people but prefer to be alone. I like showing up to parties solo because then I can leave whenever I want and generally it’s earlier than everyone might expect. I used alcohol to mask the overwhelm, to numb and dull the need for quiet. I didn’t want to be quiet because it’s easier to hear the things which aren’t being said. I used to work at festivals and it was some of the grandest, loveliest fun times I’ve ever had. The noise and the music and the costumes and the laughter and the noise and the noise and the noise and I loved to be a part of setting it all up but my favourite part was monday morning when the last note sounded and we could hear the ocean again.
Please don’t think I’m equating fun with always masking something moderately unhappy. The fun was genuine, the laughter contagious, the happiness abundant. I’m only speaking from my personal experience, which is all I can ever do. I will never ever speak with anyone else’s voice ( I do enjoy attempting to write fiction in the style of beloved authors but that’s very different ) and I will never ever claim to fully understand anyone else’s lived experience. We are all so different in our similarities. We might be speaking the same language, using the same words, but the meanings and perceptions are so personal, it’s difficult to grasp that we aren’t communicating as directly, being as clear with someone as we might think.
I often use the example of “if I say the word apple, what do you think of?” Some people might think fruit, some might think technology, some might think neither of those. If you do think fruit, did you think granny smith? Pie? Sauce? If you did think technology did you think Laptop? Phone?
I said a word that you might understand, but I wasn’t picturing any of those things. I imagined a pink lady apple with peanut butter on it. At another point in my life I might have imagined a pie made of galas. Or cider, warmed up, with cinnamon sticks. So right from the beginning of the conversation, from the first word, we already are divergent in our thinking. The assumption that we are conveying ideas to one another exactly as intended is probably wrong more often than we think. However, if one decides to focus on the perfection of perception, nothing would get done. Whether you grow up a world away from someone or right next door means that we have our own perspective on what it means when one hears the word apple because the way we’re raised is different. And that’s cool. It really doesn’t matter what kind of apple you think of, as long as there is a realization that others might think something different and can learn to make space for that.
I get depressed sometimes. It goes in cycles, like everything. Even the moon has phases. Sometimes it lasts a few days, sometimes months, even years where the dips don’t go low enough for me to notice but there are certainly times of lethargy and waning in comparison to others. It often happens so gently, so insidiously that I don’t notice until one day my brain says, hey, have you noticed that we aren’t brushing our teeth or showering regularly or eating well for like 2 weeks now? One of the benefits to living alone is that no one calls you out of your lack of basic hygiene. One of the drawbacks of living alone is that … actually I’d still rather live alone.
One thing I do for myself which makes me feel good is I clean my kitchen at night before I go to bed. All the dishes in the dishrack, all the counters free of whatever, minor wipedown. And then when I wake up in the morning, regardless of what I accomplished the day before or hope to accomplish today, my kitchen is clean and blank slate ready for me to start my day.
I used to try and do this with my office, art projects, various things around the house but I have a major emotional attachment to the outcome of these things so took it personally when I didn’t accomplish whatever I thought I should have. The more I didn’t reach a certain point of execution, the more I fed into this notion that I was failing at something and eventually I didn’t want to show up for it anymore. So in a moment of maybe this will work, I decided to implement this small change. I’ve only been doing this since January of this year so it took me a while.
And it works for me. It’s made a noticeable difference in my days. Recently, I went into a bit of a depressive slump. And I noticed far sooner than I normally would have, because while all the other signs that my brain doesn’t usually acknowledge right away due to decades of practice, this time something that was incorporated was leaving one dish unwashed. Or one spot uncleaned. One thing, sometimes just a fork left in the sink. Something so insignificant but enough that my brain registered it as a clue.
And I do love a mystery.
My own brain was leaving hints that something was wrong, and I want to weep for all the times in the past it probably did this for me, like a friend who knows that now is not the time for tough love, but a well placed nudge might be just the thing. I’m not saying that this trick will work in the future, or that there won’t times when I skip cleaning the kitchen because I’m goddamn exhausted. Consistency doesn’t have to mean every single day. It just means that I’m trying.
However that looks today, is perfectly fine.
Because even if I’m not consistently good, I’m not consistently bad, either.