expectations, crawling insects infestation of hopes that itch extinguishing the burning fever the bloodletting leeches of things to come Acupuncture, pins and needles heaping on holistic self-harm trying to exterminate the sensation of skittering agitation under tight skin Silence the clicking, humming drone that violently vibrates my consciousness shut out the deafening cicada symphony with deadbolts and double pane windows Daydream beetles crawl snuggly inside every crack all these creeping cravings keep me from breathing it's better to be empty and let the air drift in and out I should know, hands that reach for honey get stung
The kind of love that I believed in has all bled out of me a conviction that once gave me courage crumbled and got carried off in the wind What is left when the reward you ounce sought in everything can never be made real? agony of unmet expectations The hollow space that remains behind disillusioned high hopes no one told me growing up was a lesson in losing everything The kind of love that I believed in was the last innocence to leave me I never chose to keep moving forward but momentum is a merciless force
Most days it makes me feel better to pretend I’m not a human being. I don’t feel like one most of the time. I’m just some strange type of yet-to-be-documented animal. When I think about life through this lens, it makes it a little easier to get through the day. I feel like I don’t have to be so hard on myself for not being what I’m “supposed” to be. In fact, it makes me feel pretty proud of myself that I’m able to blend in so well, given I’m a totally different, alien species.
When I start to feel depressed and inadequate for not having some kind of grand inner direction or drive toward a specific personal goal, I ask myself, what is my dog’s “goal in life”? Does my cat have some secret grand ambitions she works towards tirelessly every day? Well… to be honest she actually might, at least in the summer when she can go outside and try to catch the birds around my neighbor’s feeder. Even so, that’s at best, a short-term goal. She’s not trying to start a bird catcher company or achieve world-wide recognition for her hunting skills.
The human world makes it seem so obvious and natural to have some kind of “mission” in life. For as long as I can remember people have been asking me what I want to do or what my goals are. As if it’s just a given that I have these external desires to aim for. I’ve always felt like there was something wrong with me for not wanting anything like that. I’ve never been a very ambitious person. I just want to be happy and enjoy what I have, like my precious pup as she snoozes most of the day away as usual. I spend most of the energy I could perhaps use to inspire me to do something just trying to blend in with the “normal” people all around me. I don’t have the mental capacity to also be contriving some business or magnum opus.
It feels inherently shameful to be idle as a human. It’s like something is forever being expected of me. But being a random creature, such as myself, I don’t have to be weighed down by societies expectations. However I exist in the world by default is perfectly correct and enough. It doesn’t make me bad to not “achieve” anything in life. In fact, it’s bizarre that was ever the standard set by humans. Human beings have always been the weird, unnatural outliers of the animal kingdom. It’s not that I don’t fit in, I just fit in better with the majority of mammals more than people.
It’s hard work to be part chameleon and pretend to be so different than who I am every day. And it’s perfectly understandable that it takes up all of my excess energy. Sometimes others will say, just don’t pretend then, be yourself! As if this would make life easier. They don’t understand that, unfortunately, for me “being myself” would literally not allow me to survive. “Being myself” would be not pretending to be polite and make small talk with people. It would be not going to work and just vibing all day. It would be my complete and utter demise. I would be broke and completely isolated from everyone else. It’s a lot of work to pretend, but I’ve got to do it. However, as long as I remember that I am just pretending and I don’t have to live up to the world’s idea of a person inside my own inner mind and soul, then it isn’t so bad.
When I think of life in this way, it’s a lot more fun to be me. I get to feel sneaky and silly for how well I’m able to trick the humans into thinking I’m one of them. I get to just exist in my free time without pressuring myself to do more without a looming sense of guilt. I don’t have to feel bad for being incapable of understanding the vast majority of the population and their motivations/interests. I can just marvel at the insanity and take my little notes so I can try to keep assimilating better. It’s quite exciting and enjoyable to be whatever I am in a society of strange things called humans. I highly recommend it for anyone else that feels like they’ll never be able to live up to what they’re “supposed” to be.
There is a sense of safety in youth the assurance that we still have time a comforting concept that assuages all fear in the slow crawl forward As the years pile up, we watch that comfortable cushion evaporate and wonder if we've been wasteful with our share of great potential Our failures sting more sharply and stagnation stifles minds once lauded as brilliant and unique grasping backwards for lost luster The first half of life is spent in ascent I was not prepared for the plateau peering ahead with hesitant eyes anxious anticipation for the inevitable fall Without regular praise from superiors small stores of artificial self-esteem shrivel in the severity of the sun it's time to learn to water ourselves There is no time limit on success nothing is wasted in our thwarted attempts this season of life is not yet over seeds can still be sown
I’ve been reading a lot of Charles Dickens recently. I’ve finished A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Now I am working my way through Oliver Twist. I have David Copperfield and Hard Times lined up after that. Reading these novels has been one of my favorite parts of the day for months now. After dinner, I have been curling up with a cup of tea, my fur children, and one of these books in my hygeekrog for at least an hour if not more each night.
I think that one of the reasons I find this new ritual so enchanting is the contrast between my warm, cozy, little nook and the lives being lived out on the pages in front of me. Even though they are works of fiction, somehow they make me appreciate my good fortune in life in a way I never really have before. There is a beautiful, simple dignity in the way the characters accept their fates and the circumstances they are placed in, no matter how unjust or painful. It makes me contemplate my self-righteous indignation at even the slightest inconveniences I face from day to day. How might I learn to let go and move with the events happening around me instead of against them? Characters being abruptly put in prison with no warrant or explanation make less of a fuss than I do when I’m cut off in traffic.
There are also other ineffable aspects of these novels that fill me with peace and curiosity. I think one thing is that they shine a light on our shared human experience that spans the length of time. No matter where you find yourself in history or in the world, we all must face quite similar hardships and injustices. Life is not about avoiding these things. It’s about how we face them. Dickens’ books are a reminder of the fortitude and resilience of all those that have come before us and survived and fought to improve society even in our species’ darkest moments.
I think one of the greatest lessons I have taken away from my evening reading is summed up perfectly in the title of one of these books: Great Expectations. While not meant in the way it is in the book, I have realized that I have great expectations. Not for wealth or social status, but for other people. I became rather disgusted and disenchanted with the entire human race quite early in life. I saw the incredible things that human beings are capable of and somehow came to seek out only this from my fellow creatures.
As children, we are raised to see only the best of human ability and achievement. We learn about soldiers sacrificing their lives for the freedom of their country. We hear about geniuses that have devoted their lives to advancing and/or healing society through new technology and medicine. We see the bravery, the resilience, the altruism first and foremost. Characters such as Hitler are painted as strange aberrations, rather than reoccurring figures or the other side of the coin of human nature. Therefore I think I absorbed the impression that human beings should all be more perfect, generous, and intelligent than anyone can truly be in reality.
This skewed perception led me to be let down a lot throughout my life. Ultimately it led to the pendulum swinging the other way entirely. I began to believe that human beings are all selfish, monstrous, and grotesque in our greed and disregard for others. It seems that now I only look for that hideous side of human nature in order to confirm what I now believe about our species. I take for granted the good I see in the world, because that’s just how it should be. Yet I still see every false step we take as a society as egregious and worthy of condemnation.
Charles Dickens’ works are a vacation away from that staunch, black and white thinking of mine. While the horrors of society are upfront and evident, Dickens shows that despite this suffering, this injustice, there is also deep love, selflessness, humor, and honor within us. Human beings are not the best creatures to ever live, nor are we the worst. We simply are. It’s okay to have high hopes for ourselves, those around us, and our society in general, but not to the extent that we lament any and everything that falls short of our great expectations. There is peace and contentment in taking what the world offers to you exactly as it is. Our ideals should be what guide us, not something seen as a guarantee. It’s okay to be proud and overjoyed by the small acts of kindness we encounter, precisely because they are not guaranteed. At the same time we cannot be shocked and disheartened by the opposite either. The complexity and mystery of life and those we share it with is what makes it interesting. It’s what makes life worth living.
Unnecessary Pressures of Monogamy
They gather like wolves on the boardwalk below, they’re howling for answers no wolf could know.Fox’s Dream of the Log Flume; Mewithoutyou
After realizing on New Year’s Day that my boyfriend has never made me laugh, and might not reveal himself to be funny as I was waiting for him to do, I’ve been sick with anxiety and rumination. I love him. The time we spend together makes me happy. I miss him when he’s gone. But at the same time, I can’t imagine being with him and only him forever if he can’t make me laugh. I just don’t think that would work out in the end. Not only is that a very attractive and important quality in not only my partners but my friends as well. I just know without that lighthearted, playful dynamic, after this little honeymoon phase, I will start to get pissy with him. With nothing to diffuse and mitigate my sour moods, I would surely become a bitter nightmare to be around. I am easily turned towards resentment.
I’ve been in this spot before. Unsure whether to be happy where I’m at and just wait out this concern, or to cut and run as fast as possible to save us both time and heartache. (Not that either would be entirely spared at this point.) Each time I find myself in this stressful situation, I can’t help but feel resentment towards society for forcing us all into monogamous relationships. When I take away that looming threat of “no one else, only this one person must meet your every need and desire for the rest of your life!!!” I feel no issue between us at all. Without that ridiculous, intimidating idea hanging over my head, I am perfectly happy, content, and deeply in love.
Polyamory has always been the perfect solution for me. Not only does it allow me to accept each person in my life for exactly who they are without expecting them to be more, it also relieves me of the pressure of always being available to my partner. No one can be everything for someone else. Even if they possess all the desired qualities, it’s too much to put on a single person, especially for a lifetime. This is why half of marriages fail. It’s a faulty, unrealistic system. It sets up this weird binary where you either want to be with this person every moment of every day until you die, or never speak to them again. It leaves no room for grey area. It tries to smash every relationship and every human interaction into a stupid little box, that to be honest, barely any truly fit into.
I’ve seen so many perfectly happy couples part because of this imaginary pressure put upon them. As soon as that initial spark begins to dim, welp I guess you don’t really love them. Better leave. As soon as you notice an attraction to anyone else, no matter how subtle, you never really loved your partner. Not only must you leave them, it would be cruel to stay with such wandering eyes! Your “soul mate” must be someone else. I’ve always known that my expectations and requirements for a partner are unrealistic. How many atheist, vegan, feminist, liberal, funny, tall, charismatic, outgoing, intelligent men and women could there possibly even be in the world, let alone near me? Even when I find someone with the vast majority of those qualities, I can’t help but feel like it’s a huge sacrifice to give up even one of those qualities forever.
Sadly even though polyamory solves a lot of my romantic relationship issues, it still isn’t a perfect solution. Say my boyfriend was okay with it and we allowed one another to see other people, we would have to either hide this aspect of our relationship from everyone we know and love, or be viciously judged and criticized for it. It would be a spectacle that would constantly have to be explained. Not only that, the structure of society leaves very little possibility that my partner would even be okay with it. When you hear your partner say they want to open the relationship, we have been conditioned to hear: I don’t love you. You’re not enough for me. And no one wants to hear that from the person they love. No matter how fervently you might insist that isn’t true, there will always be a lingering sense of doubt and insecurity spoiling things.
So once again, I’m left alone in my mind with an impossible decision to be made. Knowing I’ll likely find a way to regret whatever I choose, and I’ll definitely be deeply upset either way. I’ve been so distraught and fixated on this issue that I even had a dream that he made a witty reply to me last night. I woke up feeling comforted, only to realize that wasn’t real. I’m left with the feeling that no matter what, from this point on, that blind, blissful happiness of having someone has evaporated before my eyes. And the loss of that has left me in mourning, where I see myself remaining for quite a while, exhausted, frustrated, guilty, and disenchanted.
Hesitation & Uncertainty in Love
I’ve been dating someone now for a couple of months. It’s the first time in years that I’ve had a partner and on paper he’s absolutely perfect. He’s handsome, smart, progressive, atheist, and vegan. He reads, dresses well, lives a healthy lifestyle, and is always trying to make me happy. We agree on practically everything. We’ve never had an argument. We’ve recently even started saying, “I love you.” Everything is picture perfect. We make a very handsome couple.
Yet hesitation still lingers in my heart. This always happens. I get excited, then I worry I’ve rushed in too quickly. I start picking at every little thing. Such as the question of whether or not he’s funny. Being able to have that easy, witty banter with someone is very important to me. And while he checks an unbelievable amount of boxes when it comes to what I want in a partner, he has yet to check that one. It still feels like we’re nervous and awkward around one another. I keep waiting for us to become more comfortable, but we never seem to make much progress. I know that’s partially because he lives so far away and we don’t get to spend that much time with one another. Part of me fears that we may never find that easy companionship with one another though. Is he not funny because he’s nervous or holding back? Or will he genuinely never make me laugh? Is it wrong to continue on feeling this hesitancy? With everything else that is so amazing about him, does he also have to be funny?
If love is supposed to feel the same each time, regardless of who you are in love with, then I may be making a mistake. However, not being well versed in the art of love, I wonder if maybe each love has a different flavor and flow to it. That is what I hope for. Because I desperately want to be in love with him. He does bring me great happiness. He makes me want to be a better person. I enjoy talking with him. I miss him when he’s gone. I’m sad when he is too busy to text me all day. Is it okay to be cautious in love? Does love have layers? These and so many others are the questions I don’t have answers for, that I find myself having to face alone, too fearful to share my doubts with my partner.
In my past love, everything came naturally. It always felt easy, passionate, overwhelming, magical. Is it possible to build those aspects of a relationship over time? Or are they things that are either there or not? Is it okay to continue on being unsure? This is one of the reasons I have always been interested in polyamory. Nate may not be perfect for me in every single way, but he is perfect for me in a lot of very important ways. I don’t want to have to pick and choose what I’m willing to live without from my one and only partner. No one is going to be everything I need. But it’s hard for me to tell which of my needs should outweigh others. I always end up focusing on the areas that aren’t right rather than the ones that are.
If I knew I was free to have other partners to fill my other needs, I wouldn’t be having this difficult conversation with myself at all. I would more easily be able to love and admire him for who he is rather than worry about who he’s not. I could have one partner that is hilarity and passion, and another that is tenderness and safety. It seems unfair and unrealistic to expect one person to be absolutely everything you need. I feel so conflicted. I feel so guilty for feeling conflicted. I genuinely don’t know what the right thing to do is.
Body Image Double Standards
Growing up, I was always the heaviest of my friends. It isn’t even that I was necessarily overweight, I just happened to have very skinny friends. Because of this and many other factors, I have always had a negative relationship with my body and physical appearance. I’ve been dieting and striving to be skinny for as long as I can remember. Yet even after beginning a workout regiment in high school and losing 50lbs. I’ve never quite liked my body.
As my friends and I got older, a lot of them started to gain weight. This isn’t surprising. Our metabolisms naturally begin to slow down after adolescence. Now that my friends are all heavier than I am, it’s brought to light some interesting double standards I hadn’t realized I had before. My very best friend has been very upset about her weight recently. Seeing her worry about it absolutely breaks my heart.
To me she will always be beautiful inside and out. It upsets me to think of her not loving and accepting her body exactly the way that it is, no matter what it weighs. Obviously to me she is just as worthy of love and happiness as she was when she was 100lbs soaking wet. I’ve never seemed to offer myself that same kindness, though. In my mind, I’ve never been “good enough” to deserve my own love, let alone the love of anyone else. I always tell myself that someday I’ll love myself once I lose enough weight or look a certain way.
I think this toxic mindset is one of the reasons I worry so much about my best friend. I’m afraid, terrified even, that she might think the same hurtful things about herself. I just couldn’t bear for her to think of her body the way that I think about mine. This has made me realize just how cruel and hurtful I’ve been to myself all these years. If I wouldn’t want my best friend to think and feel this way about her body, why have I been allowing myself to feel this way for so long?
It is so strange to me how vastly different the standards are that we hold ourselves to compared to those we hold other people to. Shouldn’t they be the same? If I truly want my best friend to love herself, every bit of herself, exactly as she is, wouldn’t the best way for me to ensure she does that be to lead by example? If I want other people to love me and accept me for who I am as a person rather than what I look like, doesn’t it make sense to show myself the same level of love and respect that I hope to receive? I pride myself on being a rational, logical person, yet I continue to live my life following a nonsensical set of personal rules and expectations.
Although I’m sad my friend is struggling with her self-esteem recently, at the same time I am grateful that she has given me unique insight into my own self-esteem issues. Now I not only want to change the way I think about and talk to myself for me, but for everyone else I love as well. I’m tired of sounding like a hypocrite when I tell her that she is beautiful and wonderful even though she may be overweight. How can I expect her to believe my words are genuine when I am simultaneously hating and berating my own, thinner body?
Sometimes it takes a good friend to help us realize how we should be treating ourselves. When we take a step back and look at ourselves as friends, it becomes quite obvious how unacceptable and unrealistic our own standards are. I am going to work hard to be a better friend. And that starts by being a better friend to myself.
Meeting Someone New
Living with crippling social anxiety for most of my life, it is such a strange feeling to not be nervous about meeting someone new. I have a date with a vegan guy I met online this Saturday. It will be the first time we’ve seen one another in person. I think this is an example of a scenario where most people would feel at least a little nervous. But surprisingly even these types of encounters don’t phase me anymore. However, now there are other mental obstacles I face when meeting someone new.
For the longest time, I had basically given up on everyone. It seemed like it had been ages since I met anyone that was even remotely interesting, let alone funny. I began to think that I had just been lucky early on to meet so many wonderful people that have since slowly trickled out of my life. I had little to no hope of finding more people that were able to live up to my expectations. But now I’m starting to challenge that way of thinking. This last year and a half at my new job working with so many hilarious, fascinating, and intelligent people has reawakened my hope in humanity. Like I mentioned in my post yesterday, our minds subconsciously confirm what we already believe, even when it’s something we would really rather not be true. I wonder if perhaps at least some of the people I’ve written off in the past few years could have actually been perfectly nice if I’d given them more of a chance.
As I try to mentally prepare for meeting this person a few days from now, I have a very narrow line to walk. I am learning how to keep myself from expecting too much from someone while also not assuming they have nothing to offer me. Normally I have a tendency to do one or the other. When I expect too much from someone, I begin to get irritated when they don’t meet those expectations. Not only am I disappointed, but I actually feel bitter and resentful towards them at times. On the other hand, when I decide that someone will probably just be another boring waste of time, my mind tends to notice only the details of our encounters that support that predetermined idea.
It is hard for me to allow a new person enough time and space to show me who they really are. It can be hard for me to stick around long enough to get to know someone fully before making my ultimate judgement. That is partly because I feel like I am leading them on or wasting their time if I’m not feeling all in right away. I’m worried I am giving them a false impression of how invested I am in the relationship. It’s also difficult for me to stick around because sometimes it just feels like I am trying to force something that isn’t right. I guess I just feel pressured to make up my mind about people after only a few dates. Sometimes I even keep seeing someone because I feel like by doing so I’m giving them a chance, even when deep down my heart and mind have already been made up.
My intuition is something that I question a lot. It seems like I am usually able to tell right away when someone is a really good personality match for me whether it be a friendly or romantic relationship. But there have been times that unexpected people have become essential parts of my life. I never know when I should trust my intuition or when I should challenge it. Or even whether or not it matters. Maybe my intuition and initial impressions are going to influence me either way.
I’ve noticed that it is often easier for me to get a feel for who someone is when I am able to spend time with them in a relaxed, group setting rather than one on one. This way I am able to observe them. I can see the way they interact and react to other people instead of just me. I’ve always felt it was easier to get to know someone when they are around their friends. This is one of the many reasons that online dating is especially hard for me. It doesn’t seem to work well for me to try to get to know someone in a vacuum. But I don’t know what I can do about that. As an adult I’ve found it exceptionally hard to meet new people, especially people that have the same interests and values that I do. I was hoping once I found a partner that was vegan everything else would come easily. Sadly, however, that hasn’t been the case. To my surprise, a lot of vegans still manage to be terrible people.
So as Saturday draws near, I am trying not to worry about what will come of it in the end. I am trying to stay curious, to stay open-minded. I want to allow myself to just have fun with whatever happens. I want to go into it with a light-hearted, playful mindset. With only the intention of discovering what this new person is all about. Perhaps it will be my soulmate, perhaps we’ll become good friends, or maybe it will just be a one time adventure exploring the local trails on a warm sunny day in spring. I am keeping my heart open to whatever the day may hold.
Hyping Yourself Up
The other day I was texting a friend of mine, and we began to playfully tell one another about how good the following day was about to be. We were saying things like, “tomorrow is going to be incredible” and “we are going to have such an amazing day.” At the time I didn’t really think much of it. We were just messing around. It was almost bordering on sarcasm. However, I noticed something about that “incredible” day that came after. It truly did end up to be one of the nicest days I’ve had in a while. I felt calm, happy, energetic, light-hearted. My anxiety didn’t seem to be bothering me as much as it normally does. I thoroughly enjoyed my day at work and the company of my coworkers. There was so much laughter, so many smiles.
I genuinely think this day was a direct result of that conversation my friend and I had the night before. Even the words alone, without much belief or intention behind them, were able to have an effect of my reality the next day. To me, this was a shining example of the power of mere words. How often my inner voice has the opposite effect on my reality. Without even noticing it I have been ensuring my own discomfort in many experiences. I look towards the future with apprehension and fear. I tell myself that everything that lies before me is going to be so unpleasant, so difficult, so unwanted. Then I end up unconsciously affirming my own expectations.
Since that talk with my friend, I’ve been trying to intentionally get myself excited about my life. I’ve been trying to wake up early and exercise before work the way I used to instead of wasting my whole evening with workouts. Even though I dreaded the idea at first, as I was falling asleep the night before work, I visualized my alarm going off the next morning. I didn’t just imagine the motions that I would go through. I pictured myself waking up feeling well-rested and excited for my renewed morning routine. I tried to feel exactly how wonderful and happy I was going to feel when I woke up. I was somewhat surprised to find that it actually worked. I have been doing this thought exercise as I’m drifting off to sleep each night and this week I have easily been able to accomplish my goal of waking up earlier. And I have thoroughly enjoyed it every day.
I would like to start utilizing this newfound mental tool for the other events throughout my day as well. Rather than dreading the boring, tedious things I do each day like driving to and from work, making coffee, feeding my pets, doing my makeup, I am going to start using visualization to make each of those normally humdrum experiences enjoyable and meaningful. I figure that if I am unable to stop myself from thinking about the details of the future, I might as well start at least changing the way I think about them. I’m working on shifting my internal dialogue from “oh, god I have so much to do, I don’t want to do this” to “I am so excited about being able to do all the things I have going on today.” Even during the times that I really don’t believe it.
I used to view this type of thing as useless self-denial, as a form of lying to myself. And some days it does still feel like a lie. Some days are much harder than others. But that’s okay. I am going to keep trying anyway. Because I’ve realized that emotions are not something that are true or false. They are not solid, immovable facts. They are things that I get to create and interpret any way that I please. The ability to interpret our own reality is one of the most miraculously powerful things we have in this life. I want to train myself to make the most of it.