Brutal Honesty

Today I hate my life. Sounds dramatic…I know. Emotional, over the top, a bit excessive…yes, yes, and yes. But you know what? It’s the reality of my experience lately. This is depression.

Have you ever been “stuck”? …on a thought, a feeling, or in a place in life? Have you ever felt so overwhelmed with negativity that you are literally immobilized with sadness? Have you ever wondered if people would actually notice if you were gone?

I think about it a lot. I often think about the fact that if it weren’t for my own exhausting efforts to connect with and reach out to others, I would probably never hear from anyone. In fact, I’ve actually put this theory to the test and have found it to be true.

We are such an independent, individualistic society. And while to some degree I find myself relatively confident in my independence because of my introverted personality, I am also very “relational” and find myself needing to connect with others for a sense of community. I love relationships, learning from others, supporting and encouraging those who need it and sharing a laugh at the world’s craziness.

But let me ask you something: How often do you express genuine gratitude to those people around you? How often do you check in on people – friends, family, even acquaintances on Facebook. How often do you freely offer a hug, a genuine smile, or a helping hand? It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your own world, rushing from one activity to the next, focused on your personal obligations, never considering how you can contribute positively to the world around you.

This is definitely where I’m at today…feeling like an island in a big nasty world. As I went about my day of errands and activities today, thinking about all of the things on my “to do” list, I was suddenly struck by an incredible emotional fatigue. I am tired of life, tired of the rat-race, tired of trying, tired of keeping face. The energy it takes to live life just seems like an overwhelming burden right now. I made it to band this morning, played for two exhausting hours, remembered to stop at the market and grocery store for food, and now I’m at home curled up with a warm blanket and my kitty.

In a world so interconnected with social media and instant communication, life-tracking with “check-in’s” and insta-photos, I think we are so used to people broadcasting their thoughts, feelings, and daily activities that we have lost our empathic ability to inquisitively and actively care about those around us. It makes me think about a really specific example from my concert band practice on Saturdays.

During our coffee break time, I have noticed that there are always a fringe group of members who line the benches or stand quietly against the wall. Then the other 75% mingle freely in the middle, enjoying the snacks and refreshments, debriefing the week between practices. During these times, there is a lovely retired gentleman in the band who regularly makes sure to check in on me. We carry on a genuine exchange of experiences and ideas, thoughts and reflections. It’s really nice. And I see it as a true example of community and well-developed social skills.

This is what I miss. I miss the connections of family and friends who actually give a shit (pardon my French)…people who miss you when you’re gone or when they don’t hear from you…people who actually wonder how you’re doing and what they can do to help you. It’s like people don’t have time to care about others these days because they are so wrapped up in their own stuff.

I rarely hear a genuine “how are you?” anymore – with the intent to listen and not just respond. In much the same way, I have even found myself apologizing for who I am or how I feel simply to appease those around me (knowing that everything I do and say seems to draw an “annoyed” response). My personal feelings don’t matter. But my-oh-my…if I don’t consider the position of someone else at certain moments, do I ever hear about it!!

In a world that supposedly values objectivism, we are losing our innate human ability to sense and respond to emotions. They are not acknowledged or valued or understood. Given this fact, then, I find we are becoming more and more disconnected as a society, and less and less capable of communicating with or relating to those around us.

No wonder I am in such a dark place today.

…this is my life…

Focus

It’s been another couple of weeks since I’ve written.  Gosh, this life gets overwhelming sometimes. For anyone who hasn’t read my blog posts in the past, I encourage you to have a look at some of them to give some context for this one.  My Blog is a place of personal expression and enlightenment where I hope to connect with others through my experiences – many of which are due to an brain injury sustained as an adolescent.

Today I have chosen to write about focus.  It’s something that I struggle with a lot, both on a macro and micro-management scale.  I fully believe that more and more people are plagued with this as well, living in this fast-moving society that we live in.  In this busy, loud, multi-tasking world, it’s difficult to stay on track these days – whether with one particular task, or on a grander scale of aligning life choices with one end goal in mind.

Focus is such an abstract concept, but an important one.  I see people all around me struggling with this same thing, so I don’t feel alone – nor do I believe that my struggle is “due to” my injury.  I think that’s a huge thing for anyone to accept post-trauma.  The awareness that we are not alone in our experiences is one level of acceptance, but that our experience is not necessarily an isolated incident due to only this type of injury (brain injury) is a deeper level of acceptance.  But I digress…. (ironic, as I discuss the concept of focus…) lol

Whether it be in our moment-to-moment interaction with the world around us, or our overall commitment of energy as a whole, I believe we can all benefit from an increased level of focus.  “And what might that look like,” you ask?  Tuning in more intently in a conversation, directing more energy in a physical exertion, or simply freeing up your mind to attend without inhibition to the task at hand – all of these instances can amount to greater focus and, in turn, greater performance or a deeper, more alert experience.

Try it sometime.

It’s how the best physical training coaches direct their athletes, how musicians perfect their craft, and how good friends establish such a strong connection.  It’s the practice of “presence” – being fully in the moment, physically/intectually/emotionally.  If you are looking to improve a skill, deepen a relationship, or just experience life more fully, I highly recommend this personal practice.

And don’t be discouraged when you find you have to take a break, or you feel your mind wandering, or you feel like you’re making the same mistakes over and over.  Let your awareness expand through the experience.  Take a minute to reflect and notice what you notice about your presence, your performance and what is happening around you.  The repetition of this practice will help to increase your mind’s sensitivity to the experience, and you will surprise yourself with the improvements you will see.

This is my life.