Out of excuses

It is quite obvious just how much I have been neglecting this blog. And I find myself out of excuses as to why I have not been writing. Putting procrastination aside (which is clearly the main reason), my job has also taken up much of my time and afterward, simply resting from work.

And since I have my freelance work, I can still claim that I write every day. Or most days anyway.

But it is not the writing I want to do. In fact, it is quite tedious at times as I am not engaged in the topics I write about.

The discovery that I feel most inspired to write when I am traveling is somewhat helpful. But it would kind of mean that I should take trains more often to places I’ve not been before. As lovely as that sounds, it is currently not feasible. I have a commitment to my job, which I actually enjoy doing as well.

But I do know that once I’m done with it, I will move on – quite literally.

If I have no reason to stay, it will be time again to leave.

Until then, I can’t wait for the next trip to happen and to feel in the mood for writing. It’s not as if I feel that I have nothing to say when I’m sitting at home. Quite the contrary. I always have something to say.

I watched this video on YouTube yesterday, where this guy talked about his Dopamine detox experience for the past year. He didn’t just do it for a day or a week. He went for an entire year on this journey, and it was very interesting. He was incredibly blunt, and I am not exactly his target audience (young guys are), but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get something out of it.

I know I’ve fallen into the same trap as so many others when it comes to instant gratification. Scrolling through Instagram to read yet another uplifting post, cliché, or watching the umpteenth video of a cute parrot or parakeet.

Or deep-diving into YouTube, watching videos about minimalism, financial stability, traveling, backpack reviews, and whatnot.

But all I do is watch. Or read. I kill time. I’m not doing anything. And I tell myself I deserve a break.

Sometimes that is even true. But who needs to spend hours on social media? Sure, I take some valuable lessons away and some things do stick. But beyond that, I am not moving at all. In any direction. Or with purpose.

Another video I watched talked about how fatal inaction can be. Letting everything happen to you and not taking action. Whether that is writing a journal, going for a walk, doing that work-out, paying off that debt, approaching someone new, or even just saying no to more work on your plate.

There are so many ways in which we can and should take action but never do. We feel powerless and let things happen. We let our lives happen to us instead of taking charge of it. How is that acceptable?

Sure, there is a time and place for social media. It can serve a purpose. But surely not for hours at a time.

And feeling like a slouch on your sofa and complaining about that flabby belly is not going to improve by eating more junk food and putting off yet another walk or work-out.

I’m officially out of excuses.

Let’s get going.

Still lost somehow

Not a day goes by when I don’t think that I must write. This blog is lurking at the back of my mind and I know I really should get back to it. I’ve let this happen in the past. I start something and then I let it slide until it seems no longer relevant. Or too late. It’s been so long now, I might as well give up. Right?

I have had a busy two months with job changes, more responsibility, less time, and waiting for things to settle into a new rhythm. I’m getting there.

So, what brought me here today of all days?

Hurt.

And writing is the only thing that helps. It always has been.

Sometimes it seems people can only be relied upon to hurt you. Cheerful thought, huh? I’d like to say it’s not all that bad, but lately, it seems I am more vulnerable. I get hurt more easily. By friends, by circumstances. Whatever.

Why is that? Is my skin getting thinner? I’m a spread more thinly? Spread out too much and less resilient than I usually am? Too tired? Not enough time to recover?

Let’s just think about this year, how very long it has been. The first half of it spent in lockdown, hardly seeing anyone, mostly at home, stressed about money, lonely.

And then life kicks back into gear, the job picks up, overtime comes back, no real summer, no real holiday, everybody busy, a promotion, still not out of the woods where money is concerned, friends who make themselves scarce, too many people too soon, and still remaining lonely.

All in all, I’d say I’m coping remarkably well. But coping isn’t exactly healing and I feel lost some days. Unless I’m busy, which is just another coping mechanism.

Today I decided to go for more mindfulness. Not watching something mindless and distracting, but finishing a book I started a while back. Not scrolling through social media so much. What am I even looking for? Just something lighthearted, I suppose. Something to make me smile, take the edge away.

But I keep scrolling and eventually, it just doesn’t do it anymore. I put the phone away, not knowing what to do with myself. I even thought I should get a hobby that doesn’t involve screens or anything electronic. I think that’s actually a good idea.

The hurt has dissipated somewhat. I think others are just as thin-skinned as I am. I triggered someone and she lashed out at me. I don’t exactly know what I triggered, but her response hurt. I had no ill-intention. Not that that helps. It’s not a particularly good excuse, is it?

When you feel lost, you just want someone to find you, I suppose. It makes us feel less alone. But I guess it’s up to me to find myself.

Writing helps because it allows me to simply ramble and sort through my thoughts. It is probably not even worth publishing but getting this out is better than keeping it inside.

Mantra

I don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, but like all of us, there are situations that leave me feeling anxious. I can identify that feeling and its causes rationally. I can confront the thoughts, fears, or worries behind that anxiety at their deepest and most honest level. And that really is not always easy.

But I still can’t make the feeling stop. It’ll pass eventually. Usually thanks to some distraction or another, which might be a light-hearted comedy or simply work. Music or a walk can help as well.

Sometimes, when it feels most urgent, I sit and breathe. I’m just trying to let go of the feeling, the thoughts that caused it, the fears underneath it all.

And I tell myself these things:

I am okay. (Repeatedly)

I am here now.

I’m not in the past. And not in the future.

I am only here now.

Everything will be alright.

I’m here in this moment, which is all I have and nothing else matters.

I keep breathing. And repeating these things as a sort of mantra as much as necessary. It doesn’t really help with how I feel, but it stops my thoughts from running away, which is helpful.

What is important is that I look inside not outside. I can’t change how someone treats me, talks to me, or ignores me when I would hope for something different. I have very little influence on the outside world, especially beyond my immediate surroundings.

I can only look inside and figure out what is going on there. Thankfully, I do know myself very well and opt for complete honesty. Admittedly, there are times I’d rather lie to myself as it would just be easier. But easy doesn’t help.

Sometimes it would be nice to receive assurance and/or clarity from an outside source. Sometimes friends can provide that. But I try not to be reliant on that because friends can’t always be there.

Nobody said caring for ourselves would be easy. And I cannot imagine just how difficult it might be for someone suffering from an anxiety disorder.

Practicing mindfulness

Following up on yesterday’s post, which was really a repost from October 2019, I wanted to add a few things. I chose to repost this blog entry because it still felt perfectly timely. Yesterday in particular I felt this restlessness, haunted by too many thoughts and still going after the next distraction.

But I also realised, it is no longer as bad as it had been when I first wrote that post. I am much more mindful now and I catch myself when I seek distraction after distraction. I know better why that may be the case, which differs depending on the situation.

I can stop myself. Not always, but a lot more than I used to.

I listen to myself very closely. Why am I feeling a certain way? How can I change how I feel – especially when I gripped by negative emotions?

The pandemic has done a number on all of us. But it has given us also a lot of time to touch base with ourselves. Well, perhaps not all of us, but many of us were given more time than we knew what to do with and a lot fewer distractions – at least outside of our own homes.

Given that I live alone and have only a small circle of friends, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time by myself. Admittedly, much more than I would have preferred. And whilst it hasn’t always been easy, I am privileged in many ways and don’t feel a need to complain.

Instead, I am trying to do the best I can. This includes to not just chase distractions and to learn about new things (even if I have felt no inclination to obtain new skills). I’ve delved into my psyche, learnt to understand myself much better than I have in the past and I’ve been practicing mindfulness whenever possible.

Being alone so much has been a struggle, though, so I have given myself permission to indulge in mindless distractions. We might be stuck at home, but our minds need not be stuck as well.

I am more aware now when I am seeking distractions and why. And I am certainly much more present in the moment. Where else should I be if I have no opportunity to make plans for tomorrow, let alone next week?

Am I lazy?

Yes, one could argue that I am. But only when it doesn’t matter. As in, I can just kick back, relax and do nothing. Or do irrelevant, distracting things. Like browse social media.

Also, I am extremely good at procrastinating. Postponing tasks that need to be done in favour of less important things. Those also need to be done, it’s just not that urgent. The good thing is, doing less important stuff still makes me feel somewhat productive and I feel less guilty for not doing what is more important.

Whether I consider myself lazy or not does depend on how I measure myself in terms of productivity, though. Being productive is not my main purpose in life.

I have totally unproductive days when I am unwell for some reason. I don’t do my freelance work (which is usually not super urgent), won’t do laundry, won’t cook or tidy very much, and only go for a shower because it absolutely makes me feel better.

I also have simply lazy days, when the laundry can indeed wait another day and I much rather read a book or watch a TV show or sit and listen to music or go for a walk or bike ride.

But is taking time for relaxation really being lazy?

Only if you measure yourself according to your productivity. Which fails to take into consideration that we need those self-care days and time to unwind and do nothing. It is okay to be unproductive.

I am not lazy when it comes to the things that matter to me and the work that I cherish. Sometimes I have to write a freelance article that bores me to tears. It may take me a while to get it written, but I will put as much effort into it as I would for an article, I am invested in.

Similarly, nobody would ever accuse me of being lazy in my second job, where I am a team lead, and usually the one putting out all the little fires and helping everyone with everything. And not only do I not mind, but I also actually enjoy it.

And during normal times when there is no global pandemic forcing event and concert venues to remain closed, putting me on furlough, I do a lot of overtime as well. We’re talking about a job here I do because I truly enjoy it, not because I need the money it pays.

So, am I really lazy?

I think not. Never when it matters.