I've tried changing my attitude and outlook to "be present" in the moment-employing mindfulness techniques while at work or suffering through a long line at the DMV. This has been about 50% effective, which is not a bad statistic overall, but for someone who feels "born anxious", maintaining mindfulness for extended periods can feel time consuming, exhausting, and (in the end) more anxiety-producing.
I've tried making the most of my "free time" to the point of estimating I have approximately 64 "free" hours a week I'm not at work, sleeping, or getting ready for work. This, of course, does not count errands, phone calls, paying bills, and the myriad other "adult" things we are required to accomplish everyday to be considered "grown up." (It also carries on the aforementioned "getting through" dilemma.)
I've tried militant list making and planning-an escape route of sorts-to give me meaning and purpose in current stressful situations. That works more often than mindfulness, but perpetuates the anticipatory anxiety I am trying to avoid altogether. Never mind all of these avenues typically have the shelf-life of a gallon of milk.
Each time I consider this quandary, I come out feeling more defective. It appears most people have it down. "It" being LIFE. These guys and gals seem to know who they are, what they want, and how to get it. Not only that, but they seem to know how to convert that self-awareness into financial success. On the other hand, there are just as many people who do "get through the week" at a job they don't particularly enjoy, but find satisfaction in family, friends, hobbies, and clubs.
I can't relate to either. Depression has tricked me more times than I can count into believing this universal dissatisfaction I have felt definitely in the past 2 years, probably since I graduated college, possibly since birth is me just being a lazy, bored, miserable bitch. Unhappy, unsatisfied, unappeasable.
The kicker is...I'm not miserable. I'm truly not. Sure, I have significant mood, food, and booze issues. True, I have untreated OCD (Thanks, South Carolina!). Yes, I feel lost and alone almost all the time. Those are things I have dealt with my entire life in one form or another, yet only in recent years has this growing dissatisfaction, disillusionment, and disinterest in remaining an automaton reached levels I can no longer ignore. Levels where it physically hurts to ignore them.
I'm also not lazy. I thrive on hard work, deadlines, and productivity. I was unemployed from June to the end of October and it made little difference in my mood or anxiety. I still worried about the future and had epic mood changes, trouble sleeping, and obsessive thoughts. The irony is routine works both for and against me. My mental health craves it for stability and security, but my spirit feels bound and strangled. Which has led some noteworthy revelations about myself.
In recent months three things have become evident:
- I am a very sensitive person, an empath who absorbs mine and others' experiences and feelings to the point of mental, physical, and spiritual unrest.
- I am a gypsy soul with a serious case of wanderlust and a side of free spirit syndrome. I love new beginnings, moving, having a "fresh slate", but find myself restless soon after arriving at these new adventures.
- I consistently set myself up to fail. I put pressure on myself to mold to the "norm" and when I do, immediately feel stifled, robotic, and (quite possibly the most disturbing) ordinary.
I believe the restlessness lies in expecting geography to change my worldview so much so that my creative/wanderer/activist self will be satiated. The fact of the matter is Greenville is Corning is Meriden in the sense that I (like every single responsible adult on this planet) have to earn a living to support myself. Just being a living human being costs money-a lot of money. Never mind the stacks of various kinds of debt accrued when my former self was transitioning to this newest place on earth.
In terms of conformity, we have maintained a love-hate relationship since adolescence. I was fortunate enough to come of age in the grunge era. I say this not only because the music, movie, and art scenes were on point, but as a body-conscious teen, having baggy cords and oversized tee shirts in vogue was a godsend. I assert had fate decided I adolesce in the present, I would have pulled a Martha Dunnstock. I wanted to fit in as badly as any teen girl does, yet at the same time I had a non-conformity death wish of sorts, wanting to be as far from the trends as possible and uncertain how to marry the two. Twenty years later and I'm just as lost.
I wish this post held more answers, but I fear the deeper I dive into this arena, every answer spawns several more questions. What needs to change? Will I ever feel satisfied? How can I be both authentic and a productive member of society when my authenticity so badly wants to give 9-5 jobs the middle finger?
I think the best I can hope for is connection with others who feel the same and remain optimistic that time will reveal how I can achieve my goals-personal and professional-in a way that is legitimate, satisfying, spiritual, and meaningful. To be clear, my mission is not a complete lack of disillusion in life. It is in disappointment that my creativity is born. To be without it entirely would leave me without conflict, too satisfied to rebel and speak my mind. And this gypsy soul has a rebel heart.
*Title credit: Song: "Moments" by Tove Lo in 2014