reverie v. reality

"today I am miserable, but tomorrow I won’t be" (litany against recurrent woe)

I say this to myself on bad days.

I say a lot of things to myself on bad days, but this is one of the better things. Big fan of positive mantras, over here.

I try very hard to be a "back-on-the-horse" type. I have to be, because I stumble so often. I'll keep a routine going for two months, get a little bold with my juggling act, try to add something new in, and completely lose control of ALL of my apples.

(I thought, at this point, I would be a pro at juggling. I couldn't out-juggle a seal.)

And once upon a time, I imagined that I would be at a very stable, successful, spectacular point in my life by the time I was approaching 30.

(I was wrong.)

I think so many of us fall into this mental quicksand 1 pit! We swan into our early 20s & the possibilities of How Your Life Will Be seem endless (and also the possibilities look like they're jumping up and down and waving wildly and calling out to you by name). I mean, you're just getting started in so many ways - there are so many paths to take at 20! Of course it feels like the sky is the limit.

And of course it feels like 30 is so incredibly far away when you're 19, or even 22 or 25. Don't get me wrong, it is far away! There's plenty of time. But, time is pretty damn relentless & the gap closes eventually and then that person at the end of the gap is still just you. Just you, with some time and some lessons in your bag of tricks.

And you're standing there with this bag, and you're like, "I thought I would feel a certain way or be in a certain place or have certain things by now - or I thought I would be certain of who I am, at least." (I mean - same. And because I'm a sucker, I also kind of thought the bag of tricks would have something a little more oomph - like, something would click and I would be wonderful - that I would just Know How to be Happy.)

More than anything, I've found that my 20s have just been a lot of trying and failing and trying again.

And this is going to sound like a tangent, but stay with me - I think a lot of growing up is just realizing that the other people in your life are actually flubbing it like 85% of the time and that all of the stuff they're nailing, they've been practicing for awhile now and had to fumble a dozen times before getting good at it -- like, y'know, the stuff we're all collectively stumbling all over right now!

It's just PRACTICE. Life is just a lot of practicing.

Which is both a blessing and a curse. A curse, because it means it's not just some magical day of Waking Up and Knowing Everything suddenly. A blessing, because it means that we're probably meant to be dropping our apples as we learn to carry them all (and that learning to carry them all is possible, with time and a little effort).

If it's just practice, it can be practiced. Which, maybe you're saying: Um...yeah. Duh.
But I need you to cut me some slack. I'm over here, like: OH!!!! DUH! OKAY!

I've always wanted a magical solution. My self-discipline faucet is wonky and hateful and soooooooooooooo annoying. I have to smack at it with a mental wrench for anything good to happen. Good news is, after so many years of mental wrenching, it's getting easier to get the knob to work when I want. (And I'll take a little bit easier. I'll take every bit I can get.)

I remember being 25, sitting in my tiny apartment at the little table I used as the dinner table/demarcation between the kitchen and living room. I would look to my right, and my sink would be totally and completely full of dishes. I would burst into tears over this.

Dishes were one of my biggest hurdles. I didn't have a dishwasher and I would get so stuck on the damn dishes. I was ashamed about it, and I was miserable about it, and I was just so sick of them sitting there, staring at me, but I couldn't make myself do them. Or I would do them, but - what felt like the very next day - there would be a completely new heap of them. It was dishes forever and ever - a personal Sisyphean 2 torment.

I'm not going to claim I've completely overcome the Dish Hurdle, but I'm better than I used to be.

What I'm trying to say is: I notice the small victories adding up. I manage the dishes. My room stays cleaner longer. I only have to do a weekend shutdown to tackle laundry once every few months instead of every month. I fall off of habits but I get back on them the next week instead of a month or two later. If I spend a night crying, I can wake up without the ghost of that feeling hanging over me.

(Maybe these things all sound really small to some people. Maybe they sound really huge to other people. To me, they are huge.)

I backslide, but I get back to 'stasis' faster. If I fall down, I get back up. The getting back up gets a little easier every time. I see this same pattern in the people around me now.

All this to say: I'm still often unhappy in a way that overwhelms me (life is frequently hard - I recognize that these two things go hand-in-hand) and my mental health is on a yoyo that is being weilded by someone doing some truly boggling tricks, but I find that I am also often happy. I find that I am more happy than sad.

And I find that - just by looking for it every time, by training my mind to search it out - even in my most grey and terrible moments, I can spot the faintest sliver of sunlight. (My own personal Where's Waldo of self-betterment.)

So, yeah. Maybe today I am miserable. But tomorrow I won't be. And if tomorrow slinks into today and I'm miserable today, again...Well, hey - tomorrow I won't be. I never want to feel like it's bad days stretching out forever and ever. It's not. I'll give myself that relief, every time: Today I am miserable, but tomorrow I won't be.

I will get back up. I will carve away a millimeter at my practice of living happily. It will get easier. I will try once more, and once more, and then one more time.

Tomorrow, then. Tomorrow I will be happy.
And we play it again.

Good luck out there,

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  1. This is what I call those pitfall places in your mind that happen when you're walking down the road of life and topple directly into a mental space that is hard to break free from, and which sometimes require solutions which are antithetical to what your brain is telling you. (ex. quicksand --> brain says: thrash & panic --> best action: relax, breathe deeply, and make slow and methodical movements // ex. depression --> brain says: isolate yourself --> healthier action: interact with people who fill your emotional cup)

  2. With reference to Sisyphus, from Greek Mythology - tasked with rolling the same boulder up a hill over and over for eternity.

#personal #reveries