Forgive me, for I have sinned. I thought I was invincible. I thought one ego death was enough to last me a lifetime; I was wrong and I realize now just how ludicrous and naive such a notion sounds.
But what exactly made my wings melt, you ask? Doubt.
Doubt can manifest in many ways: a wavering faith, traumatic events of any caliber, newfound cynicism or an uprooting of previously repressed and unhealed wounds; maybe all of the above if you’re like me.
I once read somewhere that your mind is a ship, and doubt is the water. You only get a shipwreck if you let the water in, in through the cracks.
I guess that’s why I call myself a crackhead.
Ha, I kid.
But in all seriousness, it’s self- doubt that’s been the culprit behind my recent and current ailings.
Or rather, my refusal to admit that I, too, can feel this rather human emotion, that I suffer from this anthropoid phenomena — that I dare to be imperfect: my forcefield penetrable. I didn’t want to believe that my once fortified immunity to bullsh*t could be compromised, my energy pervious to external influences and free radicals of mismatched frequencies.
See, the thing is at 20 you think you’ve broken through a threshold of boundaries; you’re riding high. Then higher and higher, at 21, you’re one with the sun. The sky is limitless.
And at 22, you hit a ceiling.
That ceiling for me came in steps. It was one shortcoming after another. At each one I figured it was fine. There’s another day, the sun also rises. But I started to let it affect me, in ways that didn’t actually better me. One subpar grade after another — that I still managed to get by with, broken and bent friendships, I’ve always been a loner anyway, a bruised psyche, and eventual deterioration of my faith in myself.
Outside voices started to creep in as whispers between my ears. What are you doing with your life? Graduating with an English degree in the year of a predicted recession? Going to grad school? Where are you going to live? *insert random triggering memory from childhood that you never dealt with* Oh, and you’re losing weight again? Oh, nevermind, now you’re drowning your feelings in Mexican food at 11 p.m. And so on. I’ll spare you the details, though this is my third column now at The New Paltz Oracle where I use a page of publication as free therapy.
In fact, as I sit here now, attempting to seal myself in a bubble at Lagusta’s Luscious Commissary, trying and failing to avoid the constant updates of the Coronavirus, I find myself in a rut. A “funk,” as my friend Joe would call it. It was in a conversation with him that I realized, I was jumping in between extremes, yet again.
Despite my Libra rising, Buddhist votary and yoga practice, I know no b-b-balance. Not the slightest clue of the thing. I went from blatantly denying any problem to wholeheartedly thinking I’m a piece of sh*t.
See, Balance has often lingered in my face. It teases me, like an exotic dancer. You can watch, but you can’t touch! I typically, albeit subconsciously, ease this predicament by surrounding myself with folks that do know of this enchantress embodying yin and yang. I like to draw on quiet admiration for these souls in my circle. I like to live an inspired life. I’m not a jealous person, but I wish I had whatever they have.
I watched YouTube video after YouTube video of perfect people living aesthetic lives, waking up at 5 a.m. and probably never undergoing human experiences like depression or pooping. Even their “bad days” look like my good days, but I absorbed the rhetoric of being nice to yourself … so, I started to give myself “mental health days.” We all know these, aren’t kids in school getting excused for them now? And that’s where the scales really started to tip.
I couldn’t figure out just how nice to be to myself and how much self-discipline to have. I’d stress and over-stress, as my friends say, about things I wanted and had to do right, so much so that I was probably actually self-sabotaging. Then, after the turmoil I could have predicted, I’d tell myself, “welp.” Water was leaking in, the doubt grew. After much turbulence I came to realize, I was being impatient with myself. For each good day, I’d have three where I’d spiral.
Patience and balance are a union that creates inner peace. They go hand in hand. In order to achieve them you have to be honest with yourself about who you are, what you’re doing, etc. I wasn’t allowing myself to move with the ebb and flow of the universe. I wasn’t — still am struggling to — let myself be me, be human. Is it safe, is it safe to just be who we are?
I remember a lesson from some of the darkest days of my life, junior year honors chemistry to be exact, where we learned to calculate margin of error. See, when conducting an experiment, you don’t hope to fail, or expect to be completely wrong. Rather, you give yourself a safety net where you know you’re close, and you try your best, but realize that not everything can be perfect. Shoot for the moon, for even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars … or whatever corny mumbo-jumbo. I figured out that I was looking at my percent error formula all wrong. It should be encouragement, rather than self punishment or an excuse to let myself give up completely.
What the people I admire have is a good formula of patience and balance. It’s not an innate quality, but a learned one. One I know now that I need to use in order to fix the holes in my ship. I have to ride the waves, sailing them rather than letting them take me overboard.