Every morning Monday through Friday, I wake up and work out. Every Saturday, I either do cardio or run for at least three miles. It isn’t always because I want to. Often, it’s just because I know how much worse I feel when I don’t. I think this is the one thing that I never, ever skip regardless of my emotional state because it ties into so much stuff: health, self-image, ingrained habit, etc. I feel like I can’t afford not to or too much will fall apart.
How healthy that perspective is might be debatable, but it’s definitely useful since it keeps me from skipping my workouts. Moreover, once I’ve done it, my mood improves at least for a while regardless of where I started. It’s nice to know that whatever else happens, I’ve accomplished this one thing and can see the results over time—and more often than not, I even end up enjoying the process itself. But here’s the interesting thing: it doesn’t just work for workouts.
I have longstanding issues with depression and anxiety. I’ve even been diagnosed with dysthymia, which basically means that mild depression is my normal mood. Over the last several years, it got progressively harder for me to focus on much of anything that once had meaning for me. So, for the most part, I stopped doing most of the things I once loved doing. Even if I found the will, I would do a thing for a while, enjoy it, feel lost once it was over and eventually give in to the voices that told me I would never finish, that I would never be good enough, that it was pointless to try. But when I did do something, even if I had to force it and even if the feeling was fleeting, I felt better for having done it. I never felt better for not having done it; I only felt worse.
You’d think I’d get it right away, but I guess I wasn’t in the right headspace for an epiphany. Then, one day, I got the idea to revitalize my internet presence and set up some sites for stuff, which I knew would have to be an ongoing project if I wanted it to amount to anything. I was feeling unusually inspired and wanted to see what would happen. Which ultimately let to this Tuesday.
On Tuesday, I made a drawing. I hadn’t wanted to draw, exactly, but I told myself I had to get it done that day—and did. I finished it despite the voices in my head telling me I sucked and that I should give up. The drawing turned out somewhat better than I thought it would and I was proud of myself for having made it, let alone pushing myself to post it where other people could see it.
That’s when I realized something important: if I want to do the thing, I should just do the thing, same as with my morning workouts. I might not be thrilled about it at first and getting it done might be a struggle, but once I finally do the thing, I always feel better. In fact, writing this blog entry feels good because I’ve accomplished something. No, it’s not the end of the process any more than this morning’s exercise was my last routine, but it’s still one little thing I can look at and say, “I did this much today.”
I know all my problems aren’t solved. I know I’ll still have issues with this, even serious ones at times, because as much as I’m loath to admit it, I am only human. But now, when I’m tempted to give up on something I know I want to do, I have good reason to reconsider.
Over nineteen years ago, I brought home an extremely cute and almost comically assertive five-month-old kitten. I’ll never forget how the little one introduced herself: she meowed for my attention and put her paw on my fingers when I reached through the cage bars. How could I say no? But I really found out what I was in for while we were in the waiting area and she saw a rather large German shepherd. This little bitty kitty girl, for whatever reason, started hissing at a creature many times her size. Luckily, the dog ignored her, but that’s pretty much who she was.
I named that kitten Casey. She became my little buddy who cuddled with me, commandeered my food, watched movies with me, freely yelled at me whenever she wanted or needed literally anything, terrorized the vet, and liked to be tucked in next to me at night. Casey was endless entertainment and kept me on my toes. She was also (at least with me) the snuggliest, most fiercely loving thing you could ever hope to encounter, especially in her old age. (more…)
(I’m not quite sure how to do this, so I’ll begin at the beginning and write what comes to mind. This WILL be a little disjointed (too many years and too much stuff crammed into a single entry), but I’ll probably expand on a lot of it over time.)
The first website I ever made was basically a personal blog before the word “blog” even existed. It was back in the Geocities era; I wanted a place to share my thoughts and the stories I wrote as well as occasional art. While updates can be sporadic at times, I’ve maintained a version of that in some form ever since.
It was such a neat idea back then, albeit a bit scary. Except it was far less scary than now because it was so new (read: many fewer concrete examples of how awful things could get) and people were generally friendlier for reasons I’m not sure of. And even as things changed, the good generally outweighed the bad.
I made those early sites because, like most creative people, I wanted to share my creations, and this new means of doing so was really cool and exciting. Frankly, it also helped me feel a bit less lonely, especially when other people actually responded. It was especially important to me for my last years in/first years out of a certain religion with cult-like tendencies; the internet was an anonymous space where I could be myself.
I created because I want to; then I shared because I could; then I just really, really wanted people to like me and give me a sense of self-worth (seeing as how I had none of my own) and that’s where it all went screwy. When you give other people the power to tell you who you are–to create, define, validate and destroy your sense of self–it’s never going to end well. Especially when, deep down, you just don’t like yourself that much. Creating became synonymous with pain.
After a while, I mostly just stopped. Part of it was simply life getting in the way, but the rest was growing anxiety combined with “it’s just easier to say stuff on Twitter.” When putting out bite-sized thoughts becomes a habit, it becomes harder to engage with things that take more effort, especially when you know that that effort might get no response at all or only lukewarm/negative ones. You get accustomed to existing in this little corner where you can be fairly sure nothing unexpected will happen, where everyone seems okay with you and/or you’ll be safely ignored.
I got used to being mostly invisible and found it rather nice. No pressure. No risk. No real surprises. No driving myself crazy with worry over what others thought/might think/might say or torturing myself with feelings of inadequacy, at least for that one thing. But right now (at least for now), my need to create and share is just a little stronger than my fears surrounding doing so. I miss the sense of purpose and connection it gave me; I miss giving that spark inside of me (which never really died) someplace to go and maybe—just maybe—to shine.