Monday, January 5, 2009
The Virtue Trap
Rushing to keep up is a way of life for me. I am frequently on time but frazzled, distracted, anxious about what I've forgotten. Time has a way of expanding and then suddenly contracting leaving me wondering how I've actually spent the last hour, the hour I was supposed to be using to prepare for a class, dress for an appointment, assemble a meal... As I've aged I've begun to have a secret fear that I am suffering from a mysterious brain disorder.. perhaps small seizures that render me unconscious for minutes at a time but don't change my demeanor? I appear to be present to those around me but my mind has temporarily shut off. Like a computer that automatically sleeps when idle but returns to task without error a minute, hour, or week later, as if nothing had intervened. Additionally, I have learned that I can expect pebbles, banana peels, roadblocks, and an occasionally gaping sinkhole in my path just to slow me down when I am on schedule. Why? I have never had a clue. This is just the way my life is. It's okay though. I am proud of my ability to trudge on and inordinately pleased by the fact that I can and do maintain a smile throughout. So it really hasn't been surprising to me that I have been unable to maintain pace with our TAW group despite the fact that we are adding an additional week to complete each chapter. Why would I expect to? The universe doesn't work that way for me. I reassure myself that I will catch up. I congratulate myself for continuing to be a spectator, and hopefully a source of support, for those of you who are staying on task. I am astounded by your progress, inspired by your growth. I am going nowhere but I am still cheerful as I wave from the platform as you speed toward a sense of strength. Meanwhile, I have spent the last three weeks staring at one sentence on page 99. Are you self-destructive? Dead stop. Am I? Through six days of snowbound inactivity I pondered. While celebrating Christmas and the New Year I ruminated. Am I self-destructive? Truthfully, it should be an easy question to answer. In fact, I've answered it many times while suffering through the mandatory review of symptoms required to renew my antidepressant prescription. "No. I'm not a danger to myself. I have a good life, wonderful husband, family, dogs, I don't NEED anything. I have every reason to be happy. I've just got this silly chemical imbalance, probably caused by a chronic pain issue, that has resolved, thank god, but I haven't quite been myself since, and hopefully someday I won't need these silly little pills but right now I really would prefer to have them because I'm a little bit afraid of who I will become if I have to face every morning without them. No, I am not self-destructive." Counselors tend to prefer this version. They generally don't like patients to say "Damn straight I'm self destructive! I haven't done a single thing I like in years. The only reason I hang around this place is because people seem to think they need me and it would upset them if I was gone. But if I think about that too much I find that I want to scream, so I don't. Sometimes I tell my cat to die because I don't want to take care of it anymore and then I feel terrible. I don't go places by myself because I'm afraid I might accidental drive into oncoming traffic and injure someone I don't know. I would hate to ruin someone else's life. Honestly, I'm not actually sure I am still alive. I think I might have died sometime around 1992 and my body is continuing to run because massive doses of caffeine and chocolate keep me upright." Nah, counselors don't like that at all. And, for goodness sake, I'm really not self-destructive. When I started TAW this time I promised myself that I would get past the first chapter. I knew it would be hard, like baking a sachertorte hard, lots of practice and skill building with plenty of yummy, messy fun in the process. Yeah.. right. I didn't expect it to be hard like performing your own appendectomy, with a mirror and butter knife, sans anaesthesia, on the back of a moving mastodon, in the frozen tundra, followed by hungry polar bears... And yet here I sit, butter knife at the ready. I'm not self-destructive but I have been destroying a vital part of who I am. After three weeks of thought I can clearly see this. I can't yet see a way to change it but I know I need to try. It's easy to see roadblocks when I'm looking for excuses to stay where I am. It's easy to avoid taking risks when I am needed by others. Frighteningly, it's easy to just stop thinking, and let time slip away, rather than risk people thinking badly of me because I am too busy to do what they want me to do. I don't do New Year's resolutions because as soon as I make them I start trying to find ways to get out of them. However, this year I have set for myself one small goal. To create something every week. It doesn't have to be big or fantastic, but it has to be something I fully commit myself to enjoying, even if it only takes a few mintues. It doesn't have to be useful, or for anyone. I can even toss it in the trash as soon as I have finished. This article counts. So does this picture.. which I didn't think was particularly creative because I was just messing around with my camera but it made me very happy anyway and I'm beginning to think that being happy is a lot more important than being virtuous.