This morning I made a comment on an online group I am a member of that must have hurt some of the other members. A mean and craven comment. It goes against everything that I believe in and the way I wish myself to live my life. I just don’t like the person I’ve been becoming lately.
It is time I take an honest to goodness look at myself and my life and to focus on making the changes. I need to quit getting distracted by the computer and the internet. I need to feel substantial again and I can’t do that while continually living in an electronic world.
So I will be going on hiatus. If I come back it will be with more focus and discipline. And I hope to have a lot of unnecessary things cut away. It was nice sharing all these experiences with you these last two years. Perhaps we can do it again some time, perhaps soon.
Last year’s cherry leaves still clinging to the branches
After seven days of insomnia, the last three of which I got no more than three hours of sleep, I finally put my foot down and forced myself to reset my biological clock. Two nights ago I struggled to keep my mind from spinning out of control in the darkness, but to no avail, and so the snowshoeing day trip I had planned for myself fell through. I was just too exhausted to attempt walking in the mountains… Probably not even a good idea. So yesterday I forced myself to stay awake all day, no matter how woozy I got, so that by the evening I could be exhausted enough to make it through the night.
It worked, sort of. It was a fitful slumber: I kept waking to the pellmell rotating of my miind as it slid over various sticking points like the tines of a mucis box. During the week before my mind was an amorphous mass, all the anxieties and self-doubts bristing with urgency, so that none of it made any sense, but sifted through with a kind of red alert alarm: “I have to get all this stuff done now! I have to make the big changes *now*! It can’t wait till morning. I’ve put things off for far too long!”
Of course, by morning the troubles had accumulated to the point of mild insanity. My heart and head throbbed and just trying to accomplish daily responsibilities served to nudge me into irate outbursts. I couldn’t think straight.
Waking last night, though, I waded into the pools of anxiety and just stood there, taking deep breaths. Calming the wild-eyed horse inside me. Whispering to myself as if I were a skittish wild animal. Being gentle to myself and telling myself that everything was okay. That the morning would come and I could take a first step. The poinding heartbeats slowed, the fingers of cold air that seemed to have slipped under my quilt drew back, and the odd shadows around the room relaxed into familiar forms… a jacket, a bed post, a slipper, a book…
It reminded me of what one of my oldest friends, my first girlfriend, A., from Germany, a treasured friend since I was fourteen, said to me when I last saw her just after my wedding: “I think you don’t feel safe in the world and that is why you can’t sleep at night.”
How right she was. I rarely have trouble taking naps during the day. Perhaps it is the free rein of my imagination that partners with the darkness and the wind outside the bedroom window.
And then there is the silent presence of my wife beside me in the bed, to whom I cannot turn for reassurance or conversation. Too often the solution is to roll out of bed and tiptoe into the living room where I turn on the light so as to banish the wraiths floating about. Or occasionally to huddle in the darkness there, while my pet turtle eyes me from his rock, whispering to myself all the mistakes I have made, or all the wrongs I have commited, or confirming my cowardice over taking a stance and changing my life. Sometimes I switch on the late night TV and begin weeping with the sentimental movies. A stupid, weak, inadequate, pupper of a man for not holding up to the expectations and wishes of the women in my life. Or so I sometimes keep telling myself. What is it they want? Why do I have to continually fight to remain myself around them? Why is it that my sense of identity and joy has come to revolving around some other person’s whims? What happened to that adventurous and world-delighted boy who always knew what he wanted and the way he wanted to live?
Perhaps, and more likely, it is the sheer grip I have on my own expectations of myself and no one else can live up to those standards. Not even myself. I look over my shoulder and recall all the times my wife, my family, and my friends have told me that I am a difficult man, someone whom it is hard to like. An accusation that feels like arrows every time.
But I never willed myself to be this way. I never set out to cause others to find me difficult. It is like sitting in a tree and watching my shell perform some other person’s play. From up here all I can confirm is that I feel as vulnerable as anyone, as human as all of you out there. It doesn’t matter that I am a man. Or that some of you are women. Or that the way I perceive the world or act within it is any less strange or difficult or incomprehensible than that of anyone else.
I feel sad all the time these days, 24 hours a day. Even when I am laughing with my students or with my wife it is surrounded by sadness. I just cannot shake it. I read other people’s blogs, record the onward flow of their lives, listen to the range of activities and relationships and interests, and I get more and more down. I am jealous. I feel that I am trapped and haven’t a clue how to get out. I try to think my way out of it, but the logical arguments cancel one another out. I try to adopt a “positive” attitude as so many people (who always seem to be in an upward swing of their life at the time) keep harping for me to do, forcing myself to joke around and laugh, being silly when I don’t feel silly, or switching to intellectual argument mode, so as to keep from feeling anything. From people who don’t know me, haven’t taken the time or had the inclination to know and spend time with me over the years and see the whole, instead focusing on one little incident or stray comment that sums up, to them, who I am and what I am like.
And it seems it has been this way a long time now. Few people have watched me struggle with these past few years, at least not intimately. Almost no one has spent physical time with me, sat with me, shared times of quiet or laughter or eating together or just walking together. Not even my wife. And so I’ve been breaking down, slowly but surely. Loneliness and silence can softly rip you apart.
My inentions are good, but I never mention the leaks in the hull. I haven’t opened up about my breakdown on this blog so as to protect others and keep them from worrying. I kept repeating over and over that keeping quiet was a good thing, a strong and mature thing. That there was nothing to be done about it any way.
But I am not doing well. Talking about my anxiety over the demise of the natural world, while just as true, is partly a cover up. The truth is that I have tramped into the age of 44 and I look around and find myself almost completely alone. I am not happy with the work I do for a livelihood. My marriage has stalled and I can’t even find professional help, here in Japan, to see how to save something of it. I spend most days speaking not a word to anyone, until I head off to teach English to students and colleagues who see me as no more than a resource, something so ironic that I have to laugh. Those people who I know are my close friends and with whom these years apart have no effect on the bond of our friendship, seem shores away, almost like dreams from another time.
So the forced resetting of my biological clock was a necessary first step. Taking first things first. It is time to stop feeling sorry for myself and concentrate on those things that I *can* affect. Like caring for my diabetes. Like paring away all those cobwebs of ambitions and distilling a few skills and potentials that would culminate in work that I would find fulfilling. Like thinking about my own needs for now and getting them right. Like being honest and forthwith about what is really important and discarding anything that wastes time or feels unworthy. Like slowly rekindling the old friendships, looking for those whom I have lost, and finding new ones. Like stopping just talking and actually doing. Like starting life again at 40.
I’m not sure why I needed to write this post at this particular moment. Just needed to get the load off my chest, I guess. For anyone reading it, please take the self-recrimination with a grain of salt. It is a casting of one stone to skip across the lake’s surface. I have many more to follow, some of which might skip a little better, others worse. But just wanted to let you know that upon writing it I feel a lot better. The steam is letting off the coffee and I can heave a big sigh. And the sun outside already looks just a tad bit brighter. this dark cloud will also pass.
I came across this article while browsing for more enlightened content. All I could think of was that my level of tolerance for spammers has reached zero porosity… it seems the laws are working to make life viable for these blood-sucking vermin (all apologies to mosquitoes, tick, leeches, and vampire bats being in order), while all the rest of us must continue to endure them. But really, who truly CARES if spammers’ sites were overwhelmed by traffic or if their sites were shut down? It’s not like their lives were threatened. Anyone who inundates my site with garbage and makes no apologies, while providing me with little means of preventing them from using my bandwidth, ought to have their own sites shut down. Or better yet, their access to the internet denied altogether.
Am I being too harsh here? People aren’t allowed to walk unannounced into my house and using my appliances without my permission… why is it allowed on the internet?
For the past three days I have been bopping down memory lane, picking up songs here and there through a new personal online radio station service called Last:FM. Once you register what you do is add albums and songs from an online library of music (or from the songs you play on your computer or mp3 player) to your personal profile, which, once you’ve acquired more than a hundred tracks will be available to you as an personal online radio station that you can play and listen to. In addition, the more songs you play the more you attract â€œneighborsâ€ who have music similar to yours, so that your choices continue to grow and new music possibilities open up to you. You can also add a link to your website for readers to listen to your radio station.
I’ve already automatically catalogued thousands of songs and the list keeps getting refined the longer I play the songs I favor. So many songs from my younger days. And songs I had never thought to listen to before.
For three days my internet connection was down and it was like a bag had been thrown over my head. I couldn’t do my design work, or communicate with my family and friends far away, or open the browser and lose myself in the blogging for a while. It is somewhat frightening just how dependent upon the computer and the internet I’ve become.
The interesting side effect is that, because of blogging, and some of the recent discussions that have been swirling around me and neighbor blogs, my mind went into “topic overload” as more and more ideas shuttled into the waiting list and ideas began to crowd each other out. It got so that, while browsing an outdoor store this afternoon (in between a morning at the hospital and an afternoon hunting for a bit disk and information on routers at the computer store), I started stopping every other step to scribble down whatever mess of words passed between my ears. This is the state of creative anarchy that I’ve longed to stimulate daily in my drive to become a writer and blogging is the medium that has awakened it.
I came to the conclusion today that blogging is truly something new. It isn’t writing as in a magazine or book, which remain more or less static and set their feet down upon a solid surface, but more a fluid flow of words, one step complemented by the next. It survives and thrives on the interaction between participants; without the interaction a blog goes still and exists only in an imagined reality. The best blogs are ones where the writer and the readership grow together and get to know one another, a state of affairs that writers of books and magazines have until now only dreamed of.
A blog is like a dialog, and come as varied as there are people who write them. Those who have not involved themselves in them much might conclude from the name “weblog” that they are online diaries, and perhaps many new bloggers use them as such, but with more experience and exposure the blogs somehow change, and a community is born for each blog. Just like writers a following develops, too, and people return again and again for the continuation of the story.
Today it became clear just how much stories run through the fabric of our daily trains of thought. We are story animals. And if there is anything truly worthwhile about the internet it is the return of the round-the-fire oral tradition, albeit in written form.