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1. A weird thing about mental health is that pretty much everyone tells you to just go outside and go for a walk. This is okay advice. Going outside helps. Walks help. But I’ve had so many frustrating experiences the last few months where I’ve been “doing everything right” and still had anxiety. I went to my family’s cabin and I was surrounded by people who love me for four days, and I was in the sun all day soaking up vitamin d, and I was doing water sports all day challenging myself, trying new things (this is supposed to ‘spend’ anxious energy) and getting exercise. It was a long, idyllic weekend and every night I still felt that same familiar creep.
My mind would catch on something (on anything) and I’d feel panic rise the way it always did. I’d google a lot of things to try to find some fact because I always feel like there is some fact I can google that is going to make me realize how irrational I’m being. I had to sit with it and be uncomfortable, the way I always did.
I was frustrated because more than any other week out of my year, I was doing what everyone says you are supposed to do and the anxiety came anyway. I was a good girl. I was trying. It came anyway. Maybe it is going to come no matter what. Maybe I should take some pills even though all the podcasts I listen to say it will make you a zombie and that the pharmaceutical industry is bad. That’s probably true, too. Everyone is bad. I am an optimist and I truly love people and even I think everyone is bad.
2. I heard a podcast I loved a few weeks ago and I sent it to a friend who loves that podcast and she loved it too. The podcast was about how we are missing something, we western humans who construct cul-de-sacs and subdivisions and have the mistaken belief that we can or should separate ourselves from pain or other people or that our lives are better when we avoid suffering and have happy #blessed lives on Instagram.
The line I remember is, “We’re not going to burn down the suburbs and live in lean-tos, we’d probably be happier if we did, but we’re not going to.” We know we are creating a world that is bad for us. But we also know creating is good. So we keep on doing it.
The happiest people have so many ties to each other, but we avoid those because ties to other people cause suffering. The part I keep thinking about is how the friend thought it was a good podcast but avoids all this vulnerability, all this potential for suffering. The way she is suburban in the way he uses her heart. The way she remains separate in order to avoid suvvering. The way we all know what is good for us and try to avoid it, anyway.
3. To add on to my earlier point, I started walking 10k steps a day and I still have anxiety. Sometimes I think about a problem and I think “I will feel better if I go for a walk” and sometimes all the walk does is get me more worked up about the problem. Though, sometimes it also helps.
4. And I speak of the word problem loosely because the “problem” I had the other day is that I was upset because I wasn’t sure if I would ever be rich enough to live somewhere with granite counters. I am rich enough now to live somewhere with granite counters but I don’t feel like that is a good use of my money because it would be very expensive to live somewhere both with granite counters and near the lake and I love living near the lake. (Living near the lake is supposed to be this whole thing that helps my anxiety to begin with).
What’s struck me a lot this year is the way that things I’ve always known to be true (no one’s life is as good as it seems, the way people treat you is the way people feel about you, you can’t compare your life to other people’s) still ring true in theory, but can be so fucking hard to accept when it comes down to the minutiae of life.
5. A truly crazy thing about my 30s is the degree to which I compare my life to everyone else’s when I never thought I cared about everyone else’s lives. I was looking forward to this decade because everyone said you feel more confident and secure and you worry less. That’s true for me, but I also find myself feeling bad a lot for not having things I don’t even want!!! I have never been a person who wanted to own a house and I know this is a thing a lot of people dream about and want very badly. I am indifferent. I know a lot of people also want children very badly and have them and that is great for them. But suddenly, not having these things and not wanting these things is a big deal.
I feel like I should want them and that I should want them very badly and that I should feel bad that I don’t have them already.
And I know, life is a la carte, I don’t have to want anything other than what I actually want. But it is hard to not think I am doing something wrong — to not think I will regret not wanting the things everyone else wants. I don’t know what I can do about that. It seems so dumb to say I just care about my art and the way I express my one and only experience on this planet — whether or not that form or art is ever considered good or whether it is commercially successful — that the act of writing it down is enough for me. That seems like an insane thing to say and I am filled with doubt about how I might regret thinking that is what I care about.
But I don’t get kids. And I don’t get houses. And I just want to have amazing relationship with the people I am close to and talk about things and create things. I don’t know how to feel secure in this want, but I do know it rings true for me, it is what would make me happy and satisfied. It just feels weird it’s made out of a different substance than the things that make other people I love and respect feel happy and satisfied. Or like, it should be both and and I should be capable of doing more than I am. I don’t know. I feel behind. I feel worried. I feel anxious in a way I was hoping would be gone by now.