Wow, what a lofty title for a blog post! Now I’m feeling pressure. But it all boils down to one thing, really: boredom and apathy are antithetical to the life process. In short, apathy and boredom can kill.
Apathy is given as one of the major reasons why mighty Rome fell, and it’s certainly playing a role in the decline of the American Empire as well.
I often find myself struggling with apathy. It is as insidious and invasive as wisteria. When I start to take things for granted, like the basics—food, shelter, clothing—I find myself inordinately miserable. The newness and spontaneity inherent in life seem missing. Every day becomes like the last. I find myself wanting time to fly so that…
But then I stop myself: So that what? What exactly is it I’m waiting for? I used to say to myself, “I’ll be happy when _______________.” And that is what my life becomes when I start adopting this attitude: a blank space. We all know that the only thing we have is right now, that the present is called the “present” because it is a gift. But how often I lose sight of this I can’t even begin to tell you.
What I can tell you is this: when apathy rears its ugly head in my life it spreads quickly and usually manifests in my writing. How do I know this is happening? Because writing, what I see as a microcosm of life, becomes tortuous. I no longer care what happens to my characters. I no longer care if the story or novel ever gets written.
When this happens I try to remember what one of the greatest short story writers said when asked if he knew what was going to happen when he wrote a story. Hemingway replied to the interviewer: “Almost never. I start to make it up and have happen what would happen as it goes along.”
This seems a good lesson not only in writing, but in living. We don’t know what’s going to happen; that is why life is exciting and new. It is only when we “start to make it up and have happen what would happen as it goes along” that we are actually living and alive. Each day becomes less mundane and the space opens up for creativity and art to happen.
When I become stuck in my writing it is usually because I have over-planned things, and have stopped letting my characters do what they do. Writing becomes stiff and turgid, there is nothing to look forward to because I know what MUST happen next. A not so good way to write, and a not so good way to live.
I’m not saying we should all just sit down and write without any idea of what we are going to say, but—Wait? You know what? Why not? Why not try this approach, especially if you find yourself an outline person or a great planner, and if you feel stuck at any point in your writing. What if you and I just sat down and wrote? Or in other words, what if we decided to approach writing and life creatively. Not being in control of an outcome is sometimes terrifying and maddening, but it is also the stuff of creativity.
I am writing this because I needed to hear it this morning. I hope it helped you, too.
I want to say that the only reason I am sharing anything on this blog is because it might help someone. I don’t believe in dwelling on the past, but I believe it is important in understanding a person. The goal, of course, is always to transcend the tragedies that befall us.
I have to say that I think the teenage years are the most crucial in a person’s psychological and emotional development. I experienced paralyzing anxiety throughout my teen years. The fact that my parents got divorced and my mom remarried a raging alcoholic when I turned thirteen did little to alleviate it.
I often came home from the eighth grade to see my mom passed out drunk on the living room couch, which made bringing friends over extremely awkward. My soon-to-be stepfather drank straight vodka for breakfast and continued to drink all day long in his position as head of the paint department at a local hardware store.
One day I came home from school to find out that my mom had married the man who became my stepfather. It was as simple as that.
The arguments that ensued between my mother and stepfather in those years are too numerous and painful to fully recount. Suffice it to say that my mom started breaking out in black eyes and scratched limbs, while by stepfather, on more than one occasion, had his head split open.
I also remember coming home from school and my stepfather, though not a hunter at all, had purchased a rifle that day. He was firing off shots in the backyard.
The point of all of this is that I never knew what was going to happen at home; my anxiety went through the roof. And so I started coping with anxiety the only way I was shown how to cope with anything, really: by drinking. By the age of twelve I could make a mean Tom Collins.
This is not the place to recount my drinking career, which started early and ended a little later than I would have liked, but ended nonetheless (I hope and pray). But it is to say that anxiety was a large contributing factor to my early drinking.
I think my story is all too common among the dual-diagnosed. Self-medication through alcohol and other drugs is a very common method of self-soothing, and if this practice is picked-up early on, I believe it sets the stage for much damage in the years ahead. And there was much damage to come.
Can anyone else relate to attempts at treating anxiety by self-medicating?
Recently a friend sent me some quotations on anxiety. They can be found here: http://thoughtcatalog.com/2013/37-freeing-quotes-for-people-with-anxiety/. The quotes are awesome and I thank my friend for sending them. They help me and I hope they help you.
I thought it would be a good point of departure for starting a discussion about anxiety, and to share my experiences on the topic in the hope that you’ll share yours.
Let me start by saying that I have suffered from anxiety all my life. At a very early age I developed trichotillomania. I would yank out huge portions of hair from my scalp and hide it under the living room furniture. It got to the point where I had to wear a baseball cap in order to hide my hair loss.
I had several other nervous habits. I would have to squeeze my hands together a certain number of times and look over both shoulders before talking to anyone. I also had a compulsive urge to apologize, dragging up incidents from my limited life experience, and telling a person (usually my father) that I was sorry for the way I had acted.
When I became a little older and started going to confession (yes, I was a Catholic way back when), I had the need to tell the priest the smallest infraction I had committed, because I was certain that if I forgot to relay everything, even a negative thought, and if I died, I would be eternally punished.
That reminds me: one of the Catholic saints, Alphonsus Liguori, believed there was some magical number of sins that once you’d committed this number, say 700, there was no hope for you, and you might as well go about whoring and drinking because you were damned to hell anyway. I became obsessed with finding what that number was, and devoted way too much time and effort worrying about it.
I could relate several other incidents of early anxiety, but I think these will suffice. My point is that I am no stranger to anxiety and stress.
I’ll end for now, but I’d like to talk more about this issue next time.
Did anyone else have childhood manifestations of an anxiety disorder?
P.S. I’m trying very hard not to comment upon the current idiocy in Washington.
In light of the fact that October is National Depression Screening Month, I thought this article on 6 truths about depression and how to overcome it might be helpful:
I appreciate practical advice. When I first stopped drinking, a friend of mine told me that sucking on a piece of candy (with real sugar) can sometimes alleviate the desire for a drink. I tried this and it worked for me.
Today I’d like to offer some practical advice in the spiritual realm. Does that sound too much like an oxymoron? Maybe, but perhaps you’ll forgive me on the grounds that I am motivated solely by a desire to help you, who might be feeling spiritually empty.
My suggestion: obtain a recording of Alessandro Striggio’s (1536/1537-1592) Mass in 40 Parts. Try to get your hands on the performance conducted by Robert Hollingworth, which is, in my humble opinion, the best available.
I’ll simply say, listen to it. It can change your life.