Last sunday was my 26th birthday, and while it’s not a major milestone birthday, it felt that way. It wasn’t a big explosive day, or even a loud declaration of a day. It was just a quiet shift. I became a year older, and tried (the keyword here) to not make a big deal about it. Externally, I hope that’s how it was, cause inside it was a big deal. I’m no where near I thought I would be when I looked forward as a kid. Naturally when you’re young even your mid twenties seem eons away. You think that you have forever, because time moves so slowly. Like snails could out run time then.
As soon as you hit your late teens, and shift towards adulthood, time begins to speed up. Maybe you spend less time staring at the clock, waiting for school to get out for the summer. At some point, your focus changes. You worry about university, relationships, what you will be doing with your life. The all consuming idea that we have to find one thing to complete our lives becomes the focus. There’s little else we can see when in that tunnel vision. We lose appreciation for the small things. Those silly jokes exchanged with friends during lunch, the smell that permeates the air as summer shifts to fall, buying school supplies, feeling the sun on our skin. Those things are still there but our focus isn’t it on it. We don’t take that moment to appreciate what we have in front of us, because we are so focused on the goal. The endgame is what we want, not the small things that don’t feel like victories. More often then not, just being alive can be a victory. Being able to breathe fresh air, and feel the sun on our skin and the grass between our toes is enough of a victory, even for a day.
I don’t really know how we shift from being young and feeling like the world is so open and so wonderful to feeling so claustrophobic with needing all of our ducks in a row. That we have to have it all figured out as soon we are in our early twenties. That if we don’t have a path chosen by then, that maybe we aren’t good enough. That we aren’t smart enough or capable enough to make decisions that seem so simple. The truth of it is, it’s not simple. Choosing a path for your life is rarely something we just pick and go with. Often enough we pick one and realize that maybe it’s not a good fit, or that we don’t enjoy it as much as we thought we would. Or sometimes life makes the choice for us. That through circumstances outside of our control, we end up doing something different. We find a different path, and maybe that one doesn’t work either. Then, we feel hopeless, because unlike everyone else we might know, who seem to have it all together, we are floundering. We can’t decide on job, we can’t pick out anything. We are stuck and everyone else isn’t.
Comparison doesn’t do anyone any good. What they have and you don’t have, really at the end of the day doesn’t mean much. It just means that their path is different from yours. It’s no better or worse than anything else. But we have such a capacity to get stuck on it. What this one person has and I don’t. What I got instead of that. What I’m lacking and what they have in plenty. It’s like a hamster running on a wheel or sitting in a rocking chair. It gives us something to obsess over, to analyze again and again until we drive ourselves crazy, but it doesn’t get us anywhere. Instead we are tired, depressed and so very stuck.
Being stuck is something I revisit a lot when I write. It just keeps presenting it’s self as a topic. Whether I want it to or not. It keeps popping up, reminding me of just how stuck I feel. Stuck in depression. Stuck in anxiety. Stuck in those stupid thoughts that have kept me bogged down for so long that it seems like eons. That’s what depression has done to my sense of time. It makes almost everything feel like eons. The bad stuff at least. It stretches it out for eons. It makes me feel like a kid again, waiting until the clock ticked down to 3 and we were out of school for the year. I feel like that again. The heavy sense of anticipation lingering so heavily in the air that the perfume of it is almost smothering. Those last 10 minutes of the school year felt like eons to me. Time in my depression or in a panic attack feels like eons. The best way I can describe it is when they slow things down in a movie. How two people stay perfectly in sync with their time stream but everyone around them slows to a point where their movements are trails behind them. It’s kind of like that. You become lost in a different time stream while everyone seems to be synced up in the world’s time stream. You get dislodged from the world, and lost in your own.
Time flows so differently when you live in your own head. Faster or slower, it doesn’t matter. We feel like we are no longer a viable part of the outside world. So we dive even deeper into our own heads. In a dream or a scenario we wish and pray so hard for it to come true, because then, then I can be happy. I can be someone else. Sometimes we get lost in our hearts. In a love or a heartbreak that just seems to overwhelm everything else. That we crave a family so much that when we see people walking their children with their spouse our heart aches too much to look away. We get lost in those moments that hurt, we get lost in the pain, stretching it out for what feels like eons, but it only lasts a moment.
Pain allows us to distrust a lot. Especially with ourselves. We lose our sense of time. We lose our sense of belonging in the world. We lose ourselves. Our confidence, our ability to speak, our ability to engage with people. We can become so fearful of just making small talk with someone that we isolate and keep our apartments quiet, so that our neighbors don’t engage with us. We lose our courage, and become fearful. I don’t believe we become weak, pain is not something that can be endured with weakness. We endure it with a different kind of strength. I think a lot of people come to the same conclusion about strength. That if you are physically strong, you have a lot of muscles. You look a lot like Thor, or another Superhero. You look strong. But if you are emotionally strong, that it maybe is being stoic and enduring. That it comes with a quiet strength. Maybe it does. But there’s not just the one type of emotional strength. It’s not just quietly living with your pain and surviving it. There’s strength in vulnerability, in sharing, in being open with your struggles. Which is something that some people seem to struggle with understanding. That by actually opening yourself up and sharing some of that pain, you can be strong.
I made this mistake for a long time. I thought that the only way I could be strong was by keeping it all in and denying the existence of any pain. I realized after years of doing that, that for me, it didn’t do any real good. I just feel deeper into my darkness. It’s never a one size fits all scenario. What worked for me may not work for someone else. Combinations of therapies, medications, lifestyle changes, exercise can all contribute greatly, but you have to try a lot of different things before you will find something that works for you. Even the combination I found, only helped so much, because I only really did the work in my therapists office. I took my meds and did what I was supposed to for school, but I wasn’t trying to work through that depression on my own. I retreated to my mind, and maybe that helped. It’s been so easy for me to look back and try to analyze what I did. I look backwards, or forwards. I can’t seem to stop and look around me in the moment. I could argue that I’m too antsy for it, and maybe I am, but if it requires me to get my brain to stop yammering for a moment, oh lord, that’s a tall order.
My brain loves to chat away. I’m always thinking about something that could happen or might happen, always planning something, always doing this or that. Always GO GO GO! I don’t really understand how that came to be, but some people are just wired that way. Some of us have our brains constantly chattering, and some of us have quieter minds. I suppose the grass is always greener. I’ve had suggestions of meditation and yoga, and I enjoy yoga from time to time, and I’ve attempted (keyword there) meditation, but if it’s longer than 10 minutes my brain does off on a tangent. Usually waiting for something stupid to happen. Like in yoga, I’m in a twist of some kind, and I’m afraid that my ass is right in the face of the person behind me, and knowing me (know this well) I’ll fart. Very audibly. Then I’ll get embarrassed and pick up my stuff and immediately leave. This hasn’t happened. (The farting has, but it’s been quiet, and I giggle, quietly. Farts are still hilarious to me.) I’m always anticipating those embarrassing moments, that usually don’t come, and if they do it’s because I get myself worked up because I’m somewhere else, then I get flustered and then I embarrass myself. This is because I’m in my head, and I listen to those stupid chatterchatterchatter thoughts that don’t do any good. They don’t keep me focused on the moment, they don’t keep my focused on the goal or the endgame, they keep me focused on what might happen. That’s not a great place to be. It just doesn’t do anything useful for me. It doesn’t help me plan anything for my day or my life, it just makes everything feel like eons.
This is my question now: How can I learn to control time just a little? How can I have a few moments of just a few moments, not years, or centuries or eons, just a few moments. Just to enjoy the sunshine and the grass between my toes, and my beloved fart jokes.
Still working on that one. Maybe it’s time to make friends with the unknown for a while. See what happens then.