An effort to stay afloat while determining which way is up

Posts tagged ‘Uncertainty’

Happiness Put on Hold

I had it.  For one joyous hour it was mine. I celebrated with wine (which I’m trying to learn not to hate), called all my family members, and rejoiced in telling everyone the news about moving to France.  A teaching position was offered to me somewhere in Lille, sometime next October, and for the one hour after I heard the news, nothing was going to get in the way of that romanticized quintessentially French lifestyle I had dreamed of since high school.

Enter: my nemesis, the telephone.

"You're mine now, bitch."

The phone and I have always had something of an animosity toward each other.  Apart from the fact that the interface on this phone is horrible and nonsensical, I have always, upon hearing any telephone ring, been gripped by apprehension.  The two main subterranean roots at the foundation of this apprehension seem to be 1) my professional grade awkwardness concerning all forms of social interaction; and 2) the fact that (apart from family calls) bad-news telephone calls hold a majority over good-news telephone calls.  This particular phone call was not from my family; it was from my doctor.

Apparently, the routine check-up that I got as a part of my Let’s-Take-Advantage-of-Our-Health-Care-Before-It-Runs-Out-in-Two-Months spree turned up some “abnormalities” which need to be tested; abnormalities which could be essentially nothing, but could also be something frightening enough that I am reluctant to say it out loud.  Suddenly day-dreams of croissant-filled mornings and leisurely bicycle rides and day-trips to Belgium are rudely invaded by hypothetical scenarios where my savings has turned to crippling debt while I struggle endlessly to pay for  treatments worse than the disease which roots me to this spot and keeps me from accomplishing in life the things I have set out to do.

I just came back from a colposcopy, which is just as painful, uncomfortable, and shudder-inducing as those consonant clusters make it sound.  I know chances are good that this turns out to be nothing bad at all.  Given my age and history, I’m sure the statistics can tell me that I have nothing to worry about.  But despite all the reasons I shouldn’t be worrying, there’s nothing that can stop me from doing just that.  Fear never listens to logic, no matter how rational the mind in which it is contained.  It is an unruly, spoiled child running rampant in the recesses of the brain, messing everything up, moving things around where they’re not supposed to be, and generally running the place whenever it feels like as it screams all the while at the top of its annoying little lungs.  Unruly, spoiled children never give in to reason.  This fear will be my house guest in the coming weeks as I wait for results, and once again I will defer my celebration of my new opportunity, and put my happiness on hold until I am certain that this teaching position isn’t just another addition to the long list of “almosts” in my life.

The Shapes of Thoughts

Something is different.  Something has definitely changed, and worst of all, the change has come on so incrementally that I didn’t notice it until fairly late in the game.  The cathedral I once inhabited, with its Gothic arches flying up toward the center to meet harmoniously at the apex; with its centrally enormous but not-quite-gaudy red-velvet throne; with its hundreds of trap doors hidden by millions of cardboard boxes all labeled in Sharpie with my own large, untidy handwriting; this place, which was once my university, courtroom, playground, and sanctuary all rolled into one, now seems hazy and unclear.  I seem to have lost uninhibited access to the inner spaces of my mind.

As a child, I constructed my mind as a lofty, vaulted dome encircled by small arched windows.  Oddly, the only piece of furniture it contained was the European-style mahogany and red-velvet throne, raised on a small platform near the center of the back.  This was where my Self took residence, deciding important issues and operating the controls to reality.  Every one of my real actions in the outside world originated from that spot.  Other than that chair, the rest of the room was simply filled with boxes of information and memories, as if someone had just recently moved into the space.  The system of keeping everything encased in cardboard and strewn about the room may have seemed disorganized to the casual observer, but it was always adequate for finding whatever you needed.  The only other defining feature of the space was a relatively thin column at the exact center of the space.  This served as an anchor in times of need.  Whenever I had to memorize large amounts of information for tests, information which could be discarded after use, I freed up space for the temporary information by connecting some of my boxes to the center column with a long rope, and then throwing them out of the windows.  The everyday thoughts and memories would dangle freely out of the mind-space while the temporary information was stored in their place.  After the test, that information could be discarded, and the boxes hauled safely back inside.

The space also had advocates to help me see all sides of any issue and make my decisions wisely.  One was an advocate for logic and reason, the other for impulse and spontaneity.  They would each argue their case in front of the Self’s throne, and a decision would be reached accordingly.  They were identical in appearance, so Impulse and Spontaneity was tinted green, while Logic and Reason was tinted blue to tell them apart.  Honestly, Logic and Reason would win more than its share of the arguments, but no one was bitter about it.

This was how my mind operated for years, and I was thoroughly proud of the system.  However, in the past year or so, something has changed which I have only recently become aware of.  It is a bit difficult to explain.  It is as if the place I once saw so vividly, the place I essentially lived in, is now faded and unfocused.  The colors aren’t as saturated.  The room feels smaller.  The voices of the advocates have become muffled and almost unintelligible.  It’s like seeing a photo rather than being there in person.  It’s like dreaming about something rather than living it.

I want to know what has happened, and how I can get back.

I’ve come up with some possible theories.  My first thought is that it’s simply a result of the march toward inevitable adulthood.  Doubtless, imagination is required for the upkeep of such a place, and maybe only a few lucky adults get to retain their imagination throughout life.  Maybe as mine wanes with each passing day, my Self gets pushed further and further to the extremities of the space, until finally it’s on the outside looking in through the foggy glass of one of the windows.  Or perhaps I simply need to set aside time to exercise my imagination more; I’ll admit it hasn’t had too much excess play time during this last year’s bid to simply not fail at life.  It is possible that my Self’s eyes have been staring at the controls of reality so long and so intently that when they look up from their work, they are unable to focus anymore.

Another possible reason for this change occurs to me.  Could it be that, as I have become increasingly uncertain of what my life should be here on Earth, my mind is simply reflecting my nebulous state?  After all, if I am uncertain of my role in this world, how can my mind be certain of its role in me?  Perhaps the whole space and everything in it will continue morphing until I can decide who I need to be.

There is a third viable possibility to consider.  What if the fault is not in my space, but in my Self?  What if my Self is only seeing things as muffled and distorted because it is stricken ill, poisoned by the year of turmoil and self-loathing? In the past year especially, I have been internally reiterating how much of a failure I think I am because I’m not where I thought I would be by now.  It is not much of a stretch to think that this kind of mantra could turn poisonous to anyone exposed.  It could be that my miasma of negativity, initially meant for motivational means, has finally caught up with me.  Could my Self ever recover from the handicaps imposed by such toxic thinking?

In each of these scenarios, I can hold out slight hope for a return to the old ways.  I can try to strengthen the mind, to heal the self, to allow my space to redefine itself as necessary.  Or if I can never return it to what it once was, maybe I can construct something new to take its place.  Regardless of what happens, there is always hope.  With that thought alone, the colors become marginally more vivid, and the shapes of thoughts just a bit sharper than before.