Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Matters Most?

In the end what matters most is
How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?

I have a banner in my apartment that has this quote on it. It's nice, right? It's true, right? Yet somehow it always seemed a little empty to me...like I didn't understand it on any deep level. And then.

The other night I watched a DVD called Encounters at the End of the World. I thought it was going to be a nature-documentary, but it really turned out to be a human-nature-documentary. The film-maker/narrator was a rather melancholy man with a german accent and some unusual opinions. The film is more or less about the interesting people who find themselves at McMurdo base in Antarctica - what they do, where they've been, who they are, and why they're there. Very interesting people for sure, but the filmmaker got a lot of them looking as melancholy as he was. At one point he said a few things about how some scientists think that humanity's time on this planet is coming to an end sooner or later, and that really got me thinking (in a depressed fashion).

It would be arrogant to assume that humans are going to be around forever. And the end of humanity is a very unusual and sombering thing to contemplate. Unless we figure out how to build a self-sustaining spaceship with warp engines or find a well-placed wormhole or two, human life in this universe may cease to exist. What then? What was it all for? Where's the meaning?

The extinction of humanity adds a very different perspective on human activity. If we are going to be all gone someday (and maybe soon) what was the point of all the suffering? All the religious wars trying to get us all to believe the same thing? Indeed what is the point of suffering to create art, to track history, to do everything we assume to do for posterity? If no one is going to be around to know us, to understand us, what is the point of having lived and created and contributed to anything besides pure survival?

I tried to think of a way that we could have these things mean something in a self-referring way, like it matters because it affects the people who exists NOW, even if in the future nothing of us remains. And I agree that efforts aimed at reducing suffering and making people happy NOW are meaningful. But what about the pain we undergo? What about the 80 hour work weeks with 4 hours of sleep each night, the pain-staking labour some people have to do. What about the unnecessary suffering we are causing each other in the pursuit of some goal. With the perspective of humanity's demise, any goal other than reducing real suffering in the here and now truly seems meaningless to me. Why are people pushing themselves so hard to work so long to get some stuff that really adds nothing in terms of lessening suffering in their lives? Why are we sacrificing real relationships with each other - moments of true communion - to get more stuff or status or just plain money? When there's no one left to understand and remember, does it really matter if you were the President of your company or the mail-clerk? if you had a 20 inch television or a 64 inch television? if your lawn was green or motley?

Nothing. It won't matter a whit. When viewed from this perspective, what matters most?

How well did you live?
How well did you love?
How well did you learn to let go?

Now I understand. My interpretation: Enjoy your life, work to end suffering and cause joy, and don't worry about anything else.

43Things Goal: Get Out of My Own Way: Therapy & support helps a lot!

Through therapy I have made progress on this goal. It’s about a lot of things, and I’ve written a lot about procrastination and motivation on my process blog http://perpetualspiral.blogspot.com

Surprisingly (to me anyway) a big issue is Faith. Faith in myself, or belief in myself. I’ve gotten a lot of great support from my new online friends who are constantly saying nice things about my abilities and competence. That goes a long way with me towards helping me believe in myself. And thus there is less fear in me when I start out to do a task. I’ve been more productive over the last few months than I have since I was in school.

Secondly is faith in little steps adding up to big things. Being consistent and doing just a little towards your goals on a regular basis gets you there just as reliably as doing it all in one shot. This kind of babystepping is new to me, since i’ve always been such an extreme person – all or nothing. But it has become necessary because of my health to take a different approach. The more I do it, the more I show myself it works, and the more often I take the small steps approach.

Being accountable to others, while being supported by them. This has also helped me, especially when dealing with my volunteer work. There are times when I am so overwhelmed by the responsibility and the amount of things that I need to do – this is paralyzing for me. But because I work with such understanding people, i can tell them when I’m freaking out and they always offer to help. Sometimes there’s nothing I can delegate, but at least I can get more time and encouraging words. Because I believe the organization and my participation is making a real difference in people’s lives and will continue to do bigger and better things, I am motivated most days to do work. So on 99% of the days when I am at home and have no plans that take me away from home (like social visits or errands that take all of my energy away), I do several hours of work. I start with the regular duties and that gets me in work mode so I can tackle the other things.

So while I am still very much in my own way when it comes to my artisan self, a lot of obstacles to other areas in my life have fallen away and I just DO things without grinding my teeth and torturing myself first!

43Things - I've Done: How to find new friends

"I looked online and found a lot of people who are very nice"

How I did it: I joined Twitter, and I placed an ad in the friendship personals section on kijiji. I did meet a friend in real life, but most of my new friends are online - ok for me since I have chronic illness and can't go out socially very frequently. Amazing group of friends on twitter, like having my own 24 hour support network. It only took me a few months of regular twittering to gain an amazing community online. I'm so grateful and have added many of them to my smaller, closer Facebook Network.

I also got involved with health activism - I helped found a new charity for ME/CFS and have made a lot of connections with others who have chronic illness, and some very close friends :)

Lessons & tips: Really, just put yourself out there. Be honest about who you are, be friendly and care about other people and what their lives are like. Try Twitter. I can't say enough about it!



It took me 5 months.

It made me supported

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Self-Care List: Distracting & Comforting

I've been thinking of ways to comfort and distract myself tonight, since my Twitter tweets are apparently invisible, or more probably nobody wants to talk to me when I'm like this. So here's what I've come up with

reading an engrossing fiction book, preferably by a familiar author

Things that won't help include taking a bath or shower since I'm bound to think about things while I'm in there and I don't want to think.

Right now I'm playing cards on the computer but that probably won't last much longer as the fatigue and pain (from sitting up and not sleeping) become too much for me.

Dark Night

I've known this was coming for several weeks.

I've just not really had a moment to myself for all of my passing thoughts on the subject to finally catch up with me all at once. I'd find white hairs on my head and stare at them for a couple minutes in the bathroom, feeling what that means. I'd think about it a little here and there. I even tried to talk about it to a couple people but I couldn't find a way to get across how serious this is. Yeah, everybody goes through it. That doesn't make it any less painful, and I have to go through it - like I go through everything else - alone.

I didn't even flinch when I turned thirty. I don't know why, but at the time I was able to see it as just another birthday, and still believed age had no meaning. Thirty isn't old, after all. It never has been except to really vain people. Why is thirty-five different for me? It's not just the white hairs I've only recently spied.

I had goals I was supposed to meet by thirty-five. It has been a magic number for me for years. I don't really know why I chose thirty-five, but I did. I told myself it was more than enough time to get those things done. By the time I was 35, I was supposed to look like I did when I was 25 - thinner, with my long hair grown back. I did manage to grow my hair long again before I put the dreadlocks in a year and a half ago. But the weight is still there. I'm sicker than ever, so sick it is literally impossible for me to lose weight and get in shape.

By 35, people are supposed to be grown up. They are supposed to have a life. Granted, a big part of me never expected to live this long, considering I spent most my life thinking about ending it. So I never planned for being an adult. I never made a long-term plan and stuck with it like normal people do. I never thought about how to grow a career or a family. I never even felt like I really wanted either of those things, and I still don't. But I see lots of 35 year olds and they are adults. They are professional people, responsible for themselves and others, they've built up lives over the years, lives that they don't seem to worry about not being able to live up to, maintain. They unquestioningly believe they deserve these lives, and they do. Why did I turn out so differently? Why am I still so un-grown-up, unprofessional, unhitched? Well, I guess I already answered that in this paragraph. It's a real paradox how much I've grown over the years, but never grew UP like everyone else did.

I know I did what I had to do to survive. I know it is not my fault, and it could not have been any other way. That doesn't help right now. I'm trying very hard not to think that the life I could have had was stolen from me. It won't help me to get angry about it right now.

Single women over thirty-five. Nobody wants them. If they try to get someone to want them, they get called "cougars" and laughed at, as if being an unattached woman wasn't pathetic enough. Not only am I going to be a single woman over 35, but I'm going to be one that is overweight, and chronically ill. Nobody is going to want me ever again. That is very hard to be okay with.

And unless I start playing the lottery and win it, I'm never going to recover from this illness. Or they'll find a way to cure us when I'm 80 and 80% dead. And really, that is unnecessary, because there are things out there that might help me, but I have no way of knowing, and no way of paying. I can't even get my doctor to investigate anything. All I can do is try my best to manage and cope and pray that I don't get worse, because I've no one to take care of me. If I get worse, I would end up in a nursing home or something. I don't even know if I'd be able to go to one of those even. I may just end up wasting away in my tiny apartment, unable to move.

So I am now contemplating that the remainder of my life may be spend exactly like it has been spent for the past year or two, never leaving this tiny room, never being loved. It is a very likely possibility. And I never believed that before now. I always thought something would change, something would come along that would make a big difference in my circumstances. Now I think the only thing that can happen is that things get worse for me. My mom dies and I have no lifeline, no safety net anymore. I run out of money, I don't eat.

I am mostly powerless to do anything about it. I've committed to volunteering for WAMCARE, and that excludes the possibility of doing anything to make money. Because all the energy I have goes directly to that endeavor. Not that I want to quit, but it does prevent me from having any other kind of project in my life. I used to believe that karma would take care of me. That if I just kept trying to be a good person, eventually I would get what a good person deserves. Which I thought was love and basic necessities and a little extra for comfort. I'm not that naiive anymore.

Look, I'm not giving up. It's just not in my nature to give up. But I can have my misery right now. I earned it.

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I sometimes write things that I don't really mean or believe. These are not to be taken literally, nor as definitive statements about me or my beliefs. Thoughts and emotions are transient, and I reserve the right to change my mind, generalize, exaggerate, give strong opinions, or write other possibly offensive statements. I don't lie, but I may say something that's not true to check whether I believe it or not, or to make a point. Call it creative license. This is my blog, and do have the right to say what I want. I'm using it in creatively therapeutic ways. Whatever the reader may think of me and my words, please believe that my core intentions are always good and I never willingly hurt anyone.