Mental Health · Personal Development

Dopamine

"The journey is the reward" © Nishanth Jois, 2012. CC BY 2.0.
The journey is the reward” © Nishanth Jois, 2012. CC BY 2.0.
Faith. It’s all going to come down to faith, isn’t it? Establishing belief that if I work hard on the things that matter I will see improvement.

Noticeable difference.

Faith. Even when it seems like I know better, I don’t. Forgetting every time I felt like I gave my all and got burned anyway. It doesn’t have to be that way.

I am not finite. There is no “all”. No matter how empty, how hopeless, how beaten down I feel. I can always get up again. There is always something I haven’t used yet.

It’s easy to feel I’ve been doing everything I can my entire life. Easy to assume that if any of it were going to make a difference it would have by now. Harder to learn to see the difference between fighting and learning. It’s never been about how hard I can punch, only how quick I can dodge it.

Divert. Disperse. Learn a different tactic.

Don’t try to stop the river. Rivers always find a way. At some point, the dam breaks, and you’re worse off than you were in the beginning. You must be gentle. Coax it. Day by day.

We don’t need elaborate gestures. Don’t need fireworks that draw our eyes up, then fade out into nothing. We need constant pressure. And I know that’s harder.

Harder because there are no grand ceremonies. No celebrations or finish lines. We just trudge forward and hope we’re doing better than we were.

Faith. Understanding that growth, that improvement, has always been gradual and near invisible. Only observable by looking back. By remembering where we were a month, a year, a decade ago.

This is not a fight. It is a slow and steady climb. And yes, it’s easy to feel like Sisyphus. But the boulder isn’t rolling down. We never go all the way back to the bottom again.

All the work is always counting. We will continue to push our limits and surprise ourselves. It’s okay to take a moment and throw some confetti.

Autobiography

Impermanence

Sprouting Onion” © Theen Moy, 2014. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
The ground has thawed. Spring is clawing up through the mud.

A line from Astronautalis keeps repeating in my head. “We swim against the tide until our every bone is broken.”

This.

We don’t think we can do this. Any of it. Keep giving it our best and knowing it isn’t even close to good enough.

But every day we keep existing is proof to the contrary. It’s always been sufficient.

Repeat.

In yoga my teacher talks about impermanence. Nothing stays. Joy, sadness, life. It all flits in and out of existence.

I roll my eyes in a very sarcastic “tell me something I don’t know” way as I exhale back into downward dog.

An hour later I approach her softly and start speaking before she turns to face me. “Thank you. That was exactly what I needed to hear today.”

Clawing our way up. Reaching.

Poetry

Mirror Mantras

"Erosion" © Steve Crane, 2013. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Erosion” © Steve Crane, 2013. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Talk about how easy this would be
if we could make ourselves understand
there’s nothing wrong with us.

“I am not fundamentally broken.
Shit. Why can’t I believe it?
What is wrong with me?
Try again. Repeat.

I am not fundamentally broken.
There is nothing wrong with me.
Repeat. Again. Repeat.”

Don’t do anything the way we should.
As if there is a certain set of procedures
we must follow to build
our lives correctly.

Lack enough self-discipline,
enough practice or proof
to believe we’ll be successful—
whatever that even means—
at anything.

“I am not fundamentally broken.
There is nothing wrong with me.”

The words are audible,
breathed heavy in the mirror every morning.
Good ideas, yes.
But not anything we know how to believe.
They drip with sharp reminders
we’ve never done anything to be proud of.
That nowhere has been safe and
there is no hint of permanence.

Every step in the right direction is only
fodder for the inevitable dissolution of
everything we care about.

“I am not fundamentally broken.
There is nothing wrong with me.”

Pound it out in squat racks and afternoon runs.
In the form of sun salutations in 6:30 AM yoga classes.
Notebooks full of letters to no one.
Conversations with dear friends
on walks, in text messages, in emails, and long conversations.
All them offering the promise
we’re doing everything right.

The repetition does not gain traction.
No matter how much evidence
presented to the contrary, we know.

Know we are broken
in all the dreadful locations.
Incapable of making anything beautiful
or worthy of lasting love to
kiss us in the hurt and tender places.

Always looking for something troubling.
Creating problems where there are none
and refusing to let our guards down.

Never had a reason
to do it any other way.
Stuck remaking the reality
presented to us perpetually.

We’re trying.
Harnessed the idea we could
learn to do this different.
But how could we master such a thing?

Our lives eroded by a series of heartbreak.
Separated only by moments of
standing back and looking up.
Shaking our heads and thinking,
“It’s nice, but it won’t last.

Things like that are not made for
people like us.”