Forsaken Paths

Trapped by the gravity vacuums of the past
where each of my roads diverged
left forever spiraling the drains
of decisions made long ago

Only able to follow a single strand of steel
from a once finely coiled, now fraying wire
the helpless feeling of never knowing
the full potential of any life 

Intrusive daydream distractions
of the paths I could have taken
pull my attention in different directions
hounded by a ghost of half-hearted regret
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Inertia

I don't know how to say hard things
without swallowing venom
it's more natural to pull away silently
than to try to solve my problems

Removing myself from my relationships
receding from myself inside substances
sitting behind layered walls of disassociation
until connection becomes a foreign concept

Stuck in the strange limbo of knowing
what I need to do and being too afraid to do it
sickening cycle of second guessing certainty
left paralyzed by life's pivotal moments

So much of my time has been spent waiting
for the pain of inertia to overpower
the pain of exerting my will in a decision
about the lesser of two evils

Hiding behind the bullet proof vest of helplessness
because at least then I can cling to the comfort
of feeling sorry for myself if I feel like
this suffering was not my own choice

How much longer can I spend cowering
behind a life I know is not right
for fear of an unknown, greater misery
if I move forward on the wrong path

I've always been too ready to lie down and die
instead of fighting for what I desperately dream about
but have never truly felt
that I deserve

Lingering

Hope holds me back from
making hard decisions
how long have I spent
hesitating on the threshold
of houses that were not my home

Just before my jaws close on
the final bitter bite of despair
"what if" makes me wonder
if I should put off taking that pill
for just one more day

It feels so much better
to convince myself that
this hopeless situation
is somehow salvageable
never sure enough to give up

Leaving my regrets
for the universe to decide
throwing my hands up
and hoping the next step
will be made for me in time

Soul setting out on a sailboat
praying for fair winds but
too afraid to pick up the paddles
patiently waiting at my feet
unable to acknowledge that burden

This life is mine to direct
a responsibility I cannot resign
doing nothing is also a choice
lingering in salt water is not
the same as searching for the shore

Mercy

I've never mastered the mercy
of letting something die
fear compels me to keep
a cold corpse animated
with artificial light 

Clinging to a casket ensures
I won't ever come to learn
what else life has to offer
but I feel too unworthy
to ask for anything more

There is no energy left inside
for seeking rising suns
settling for a soft hand to hold
as the darkness of night descends
seems all I can manage

Still that hot ember inside remains
more and more often sparking into flame
threatening to devour any illusion
I may choose to cling to for small comfort
whipped up by the wind of all that's ingenuine

Searching for deeper answers beneath
the one that keeps surfacing
unable to decide my own suffering
a life spent floating restlessly down-river
when will the ocean finally come?

Who Do You Want to Be?

I often find myself getting weighed down by the futility of a lot of the efforts I make in life to do good and make the world a better place. When it is so much easier to make an unethical decision than the ethical one, why bother doing the hard option if it won’t ultimately matter in the grand scheme of things? This is a question we all face regularly. I suppose some people behave themselves for fear of not obtaining an afterlife or displeasing an all-knowing, all-seeing God. But for those without religion, questions of ethics can be more complicated.

As someone who whole-heartedly believes the human race is circling the drain, it can be particularly hard for me to rationalize why I still care to do as little harm as possible while I’m here. I mean, I think we’re all fucked anyway. So why should I conserve water and electricity if it inconveniences me? Why should I recycle when most of the world is already a landfill anyway? A lot of people also use this excuse to disregard the idea of veganism. “The animals are gonna die anyway.” “Humans will never stop eating meat.” “Individuals will never be able to take down these huge industries.”

For me, veganism will always be worth it because every meal I eat that doesn’t contain an animal, is inherently opting out of the choice to cause more suffering in the world. But for people that are interested more in the environmental impact side of veganism, I can see how they might end up thinking veganism isn’t worth the effort. The world will not go vegan in time to save our planet, unfortunately.

However, at the end of the day, I think we are asking ourselves the wrong questions. Rather than wondering, “will this make a difference?” we should be asking ourselves, “what kind of person do I want to be?” Whether or not the entire earth is impacted is kind of beside the point. Our personal decisions, especially ones that have any amount of moral weight to them, impact us, and that’s why they still matter.

Do you want to be the kind of person that contributes to the suffering of animals or not? Do you want to be the type of person that puts your own personal convenience before the consideration of others? Do you want to be someone that cares about the planet and environment? These are the questions we should be asking ourselves when faced with a moral and/or ethical decision.

Personally, I want to do what I believe is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing. How about you? Who do you want to be?

Alternate Ambitions

The internet is great at giving us a false perception of the way other people live and conduct themselves from day to day. Despite this flawless image YouTubers and other influencers give off, one thing still seems real to me: their ability to focus their talents and efforts and present them in a consistent format to their followers. They find their content niche and stick to it diligently until they manage to build up a following.

This is an impressive feat in my opinion. My creative interests are so scattered and fluctuating. It’s pretty apparent if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time. I can never seem to pick a theme or pursuit and stick to it. I have far too many things I’d like to work on. I realize that I can’t do them all. If I want to monetize these creative outlets for myself or create cohesive finished products for a personal brand, I have to focus my energy on one thing at a time. Focusing on one thing, feels like abandoning all of my other interests though. I tend to lose momentum and start feeling stuffy and stagnant when I work in one arena for any amount of time.

I should consider myself lucky. Maybe these influencers really only have a small set of interests or talents, and that’s what makes it easy for them to narrow down their creative range to catch a consistent audience. I’m truly blessed to have so many passions and creative gifts that I could turn into a personal or career path. My biggest obstacle is wrangling my attention and fixing it on a single endeavor to complete a bigger, well thought-out project. Maybe on some level I’m just afraid that if I devote too much time and energy to one creative medium and don’t receive a return on that investment, I’ll feel like a fool or a failure.

Just for context, here is a list of all of the things I’ve been swirling around in my head that I’d like to work on:

  • Podcasting (no idea what of the thousand topics I’d be able to settle on)
  • YouTube (same issue)
  • Online/Livestream Yoga
  • Private Yoga lessons
  • Vegan mentorship
  • Art (selling prints, commissions)
  • Writing (Poetry, short-stories, fiction, non-fiction)
  • Positive Affirmation Coloring Book (publishing and marketing it)

Obviously I can’t expect myself to actualize all of these possibilities. The vague idea of each and every one of them fills me with excitement, inspiration, and motivation. When I get down to the details and the physical steps I’d need to take to turn these ideas into something concrete, I become paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. I may have a lot of creative energy and valuable talents, but I have no idea how to market them or myself in any meaningful way. The idea of creating a mediocre finished product leaves me feeling awful. There is also a fear that by turning any one of these ideas into a business would rob me of the joy I have just doing them for fun.

If I had any money at all, I would likely go out and find myself a manager or someone to help me stay on track and advertise one of these skills. However, anxiety over money is the only reason I’ve been so eager to find a way to profit off of these ideas in the first place. For now, I’m planning on finishing the steps of publishing my positive affirmation coloring book. I’ve already got 30 drawings to compile for it and a good idea of who I would be able to market it to in my community as well as online. I’m just stuck in the limbo of trying to navigate self publishing and perfecting the tiny details about compiling them into a presentable book.

When I find myself struggling with these practical steps, I can’t help but feel pulled to abandon the idea all together and chase a different goal. Logically, I know I’ll eventually face the same problems with anything I try to produce. At the end of the day, I think lacking self-confidence is what’s holding me back. As I continue to try to move forward towards securing a self-determined future for myself, I’m going to try to imagine what I would do if I were confident. A confident person doesn’t get bogged down with the little details and agonize over making everything utterly perfect. I have great ideas. I’m extremely intelligent and talented. And I am going to make something incredible to contribute to the world. That’s the kind of energy that’s going to carry me forward into the next phase of my life.

Making the “Right” Choice

No matter the scenario before me, I find myself stressing over making the “right” decision. Even seemingly simple choices are blown way out of proportion. Should I take a walk or not take a walk? Should I order take out tonight or cook? Should I clean today or tomorrow? When you break life down into these small decisions, it can become overwhelming quite quickly.

It appears as though everyone around me is moving through life intuitively, with confidence in their decisions. Even big life-changing decisions like leaving a job, getting married, having a baby, going back to school. I guess it’s not fair to say these are easy situations for others to navigate. Maybe they are just as tangled up inside as I am. I just only end up seeing the final result. Still these decisions are made firmly, as if they truly know it will be the right one. When it comes to big decisions in my own life, I can’t say I’ve ever even made one. Looking back most major life-changing decisions were made for me like getting a scholarship to college. Or I just find myself gently pushed into one like when I decided to do yoga teacher training with a friend from work.

It feels like all this time I have just been allowing life to happen to me, rather than playing an active role in directing my own experience. I guess I’ve always felt safer not being in control of these things. I’d rather feel like a victim than feel at fault. Perhaps one of the reasons it’s so hard for me to make decisions is because I know how hard I am going to be on myself if I make the “wrong” one.

I go through each day in a precise set of activities. Even though it might be nice to break away from my normal routine once in a while, I’m always too afraid. It’s not even so much about the tasks themselves, like I once thought. It’s more about not having to contemplate what to do next. When I have a schedule to follow, that takes away a lot of the decisions I’d have to make in a day. Take away the routine and I feel like I’m at sea, drowning in an ocean of possibilities.

The real issue here is thinking that there is a “right” decision to be made at all. Especially about such insignificant choices like whether to go for a walk or not. Rather than just thinking, “Oh, a walk would be nice” and going, or, “Eh, I don’t feel like going for a walk today,” and letting it go, I agonize over whether or not I should. I use up so much mental energy arguing and debating with myself about the smallest things.

I take life, and all the decisions that comprise it, far too seriously. I blow each little moment way out of proportion. Most of the thoughts I suffer over for hours or even days, won’t make a difference in the long run. It’s like I have this delusion if I can choose what to do with each second of my life perfectly, all my problems will go away. I know that isn’t true though. There is no perfect answer. There are no “right” or “wrong” choices. There is just me and what I want. And maybe the problem is I don’t know what that is. Or maybe the problem is I’m always looking for problems, so that’s what I find.

What’s the problem with being indecisive anyway? I can choose how I frame even this dilemma. I could take pride in this “flaw.” I’m quite careful and conscientious. These are excellent qualities. I want to make the most of this precious time I’ve been given. I don’t want to be wasteful with a single second. I am insightful and capable of self-reflection. Already, this mental shift has put me in a better mood. Now instead of feeling afraid and broken, I feel happy and proud to be the way that I am.

It’s so easy for me to look outside of myself for answers. I feel like in order to be happy or to love myself, I’ve got to change something outside of me, like the situation or my behavior. That’s always just another distraction though. I don’t need to change anything external to be happy. All I’ve got to do is give myself the space to find different perspectives of the same “problem.”

When I find myself sweating the small stuff today, I’m going to return to one of my favorite mantras: Can I love myself even though…? Can I love myself regardless of whether or not I go for a walk today? Certainly. Can I love myself even though I have a tendency to choose the path of least resistance and default to routine? Absolutely. Can I love myself even though I often take life too seriously? Of course. Can I love myself even though I spend so much time worrying about making the “right” decision. Yes I can. And that’s all that really matters.

Sinking Ship

This year my place of employment took a huge hit financially. The state drastically cut our funding. On top of that we haven’t really been able to fundraise like we normally do because of Covid. It seems like everyone has been staying pretty positive on the surface. Up until recently I’ve just been trying not to think about it and hoping it will all turn out okay somehow. This place has been around for over 11 years after all. But with our therapist leaving for another job this August, I’m really starting to wonder if I should be exploring other job options too.

I really would like to stay here forever. I’ve said that many times, but it’s true. This place is better than I ever imagined any job could be. I actually look forward to coming here everyday. I feel like I’m just spending time with friends most days. However, I know that’s going to change somewhat without our current therapist being here. It’s really going to be sad to see her go. I hope that we’ll be able to remain friends, but she seems so busy and I’ve never been good at maintaining friendships in the past.

Mostly I am starting to wonder if I should go back to actively pursuing a teaching job. I did pay quite a pretty penny for the certification that I’ll have to be renewing here in a few months. I’m not sure that I would enjoy being a teacher as much as I enjoy being an advocate here, but it would still be nice to get summers off. Not to mention I’d get paid a hell of a lot more, plus better benefits and job security.

Honestly money has never been a big motivator to me though. I seem to be doing just fine with the ridiculously low wages I’ve always made so far. It’s much more important for me to like my job than to make a lot of money. I hardly ever feel like spending more than I need for the bare necessities anyway. The people I work with here understand me and appreciate me, oftentimes more than I feel I even deserve. I truly feel blessed to work with such incredible human beings. Which also makes the thought of leaving hard in another sense as well. I don’t want to put them in an even shittier position by abandoning them in their hour of need.

It really feels like standing on the deck of a sinking ship, trying to decide what to do next. The hardest part is I’m not sure that the ship will really go down or if we can salvage it. I suppose that my plan for now will be to ride it out. I refuse to give up on this place. It’s simply too amazing. I’ll do what I have to do to keep my teaching certification in the meantime, but I won’t worry about applying for any more teaching jobs. Then if in a few years this place does go under, I’ll become a substitute teacher while I search for a permanent position. Hopefully, in the end all of this worrying will have been for nothing.

Ten Scientific Reasons Why You're Feeling Depressed - Melanie Greenberg

Overriding the Algorithm

Everything that we consume becomes integrated, it all becomes a part of us. Whether its the food we eat, the things we drink, the substances we use, the physical atmosphere of the space around us, or even just the things we watch and listen to, all of these things effect us. Often in ways we don’t intend for them to. I’ve been contemplating this idea a lot lately. I’ve always been hyper aware of the things I put into my body. Although that doesn’t necessarily mean I make the right choices in that area often enough. My primary concern was always with the effects these things have on my weight and physical appearance. The subtler aspects of how what I consume effects my mental and emotional wellbeing always seem to remain largely overlooked.

Without looking at the scientific data showing correlation, it can be very difficult to even connect the way we feel with what we are consuming day to day. It is probably effecting us more than we realize, especially when it comes to anxiety disorders. In addition to cutting back on processed foods, artificial sweeteners, sugar, caffeine, and nicotine, I also want to start changing the content that I consume online. It would be interesting to make these changes just to see if I notice a difference. To log my mood and anxiety level throughout this process to try to gauge just how different I might feel without all of these harmful influences being so enmeshed in my life.

Knowing what I do now about the way our internet experience is basically tailor made for us by algorithms, I would like to try my hand at making that algorithm serve me instead of steer me. I’ve always been someone who enjoys the grittier side of movies and series. So the videos that are offered to me for easy access are primarily about murder mysteries, drug addiction, mental illness, homelessness, social injustice, civil unrest, etc. And while these topics are very interesting, they can also be very upsetting and depressing. When this is the only content that is readily available to you, it can start to feel like all that there is. I wonder how much of what I think and feel every day is directly impacted by this endless background noise of destruction, violence, and despair. Would I be a different person, would I think differently if I actively sought out different content?

One of the reasons the idea of the algorithm guiding our hand has been on my mind so much lately, is because of what’s currently happening on my Netflix account. Somehow I fell down a rabbit whole of watching English dubbed, foreign TV series. Don’t get me wrong, quite well-produced and intriguing stuff, but after awhile I get tired of the voiceover and the dialogue not lining up with the actors’ lip movements. Much to my dismay I seem unable to extricate myself from this issue. Netflix continues to suggest only these shows, and due to my general laziness I put up with watching another one rather than put any effort into finding a good American made show instead. Thus furthering Netflix’s propensity toward offering me foreign series and films. The algorithms that were created to assist us, eventually start to direct and limit our ability to make our own decisions. Only with great, intentional effort can we overcome this endless loop.

Another reason I am interested in the idea of changing the content I consume is to discover just how difficult it would actually be to do. How quickly would the algorithm adjust to a drastic change in interest? The only reason I haven’t done this sooner is because I enjoy the content I consume as I’m sure we all do. I don’t feel confident that I will be able to find more positive content that will interest me as much. I worry that I won’t be satisfied if I limit myself to only watching lighthearted, fluffy shows. I suppose if that ends up being the case, I can always transition away from it again. Perhaps I’d even be able to establish a nice balance between these opposing genres.

I’m going to do some investigating and see if there are any useful resources already out there online for ways to go about shifting your internet experience so that you are exposed to more uplifting content. It seems that someone must have already had the idea to consciously manipulate the algorithm for the benefit of their mental health already. It will be interesting to expose myself to a whole new side of the internet that has remained hidden from me until now. Who knows what I may uncover? I’ll be sure to make an update to this post once I implement this new plan and discover how this seemingly innocuous change effects me.

Photo by Anthony Shkraba on Pexels.com

Mental Energy

I remember someone telling me once that the time you spend mulling over your options in your head is actually using up energy. He told me that he thinks that’s why by the time I get around to doing something, I feel exhausted and uninterested. This made a lot of sense to me. I spend so much time, and energy apparently, agonizing over even the smallest decision. By the time I finally decide, if I ever do, I have nothing left to put into the activity itself.

While I found this idea very fascinating, it didn’t really help me to address the problem. I may know now that I’m wasting energy when I run through everything in my mind a million times, but how do I stop? How can I teach myself to be more impulsive? Intuitive? I wasn’t always so neurotic. I still remember being in high school making plans with friends. We always agreed that whenever a plan fell together all of a sudden, last minute, it ended up being more fun. Now it’s been literally years since I’ve made any last minute plans. I always want to have plenty of time to mentally prepare myself. But maybe that’s done me more harm than good.

When it comes right down to it, I need to remember that most if not all of these decisions don’t matter. Everything will turn out okay no matter what I choose. I spend my day to day in rigid structure to eliminate as many decisions as I possibly can. But of course I just find new smaller decisions to consider. What yoga poses should I do today? What should I draw? What should I eat? Which video game should I play? All absolutely inconsequential. I am always struggling, looking for the “right” answer. But of course there is no right answer. None of that stuff even matters.

I can’t even commit to the decision after I’ve made it. I continue to second guess myself. I want to remind myself that none of these things even matter. I could skip them all together if I wanted to. I began most of the things I do everyday because they are things that bring me joy. That’s it. That’s the whole point. Somewhere along the path of my life I have forgotten how to have fun, how to just be with myself in the moment.

I want to rediscover that connection with myself. I want to quiet my mind and listen for that soft voice inside. The voice of my inner child, my joy, my instinct, my intuition. I know that it is still there somewhere. I just need to uncover it again. And until then, I’ll keep reminding myself not to take life so seriously. Not every little decision is life or death. I am blessed with so many equally wonderful options to choose from. Each as good as any other. The point isn’t which I choose. It’s how I live in the moments to follow.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com