I’ve known a few things about myself for many years now. First, that I must always be ‘working’ on something. I always have many projects in various states of completion (often to my detriment), and thrive off the feeling of being productive. That isn’t to say I work all the time. My interests are incredibly varied which (thankfully) takes me away from the computer which helps keep me sane. Second, I’m an extrovert. At least I think I am. The first definition I found is this:
extrovert (1): An outgoing, overtly expressive person
I would consider that a true statement about myself. The second definition appears to connect very directly to my first personal declaration:
extrovert (2): A person predominantly concerned with external things or objective considerations
I do seem to have an obsession with objectives, of which the feeling of being productive feeds back into.
Now, I don’t know if this directly feeds into what defines an extrovert, but I need people and feed off them in what feels like a very literal way. I gain energy when I’m around others, and inversely get very lethargic and lose motivation the longer I am alone, especially at home. I admit I’m not particularly good at approaching complete strangers in public without some sort of pretense or established connection. People generally have their guard up around strangers and despite the possibility of having a thousand coinciding thoughts, it seems impossible to find that out. Of course, some people seem to have the incredible gift of being able to disarm people quite quickly. Establishing the most basic form of trust that allows for real discovery to begin. I’m not so sure I’ve got any of that.
I do, however, feel right at home in situation where there is some commonality. For instance, I love going to parties or events where I only know the host or one of the guests. That first step is done! By being there, an implied connection exist. Or rather, a separation by just a few degrees which allows for comfortable exploration of who those around you are. The tension is eased, even if I was only imagining it in the first place.
The reason I’m rambling about any of this is because my progress oriented nature lends itself to generating certain amounts of anxiety. I don’t believe I’ve ever actually had an anxiety attack per se, but I’ve certainly come close, and the closest I’ve come was very recently. It’s no mystery to me why, which helps in figuring out how to cope with it. I’ll simplify life into three categories: work, self, and relationships. For work I meant the getting paid sort. Self can mean many things, but for me it means my interests, passions, and things that I do to satisfy my personal urges. Relationships of course means family, friends, and if you are so lucky a significant other.
It started with me having a minor personal crisis realizing that I wasn’t sure why I was working so hard on my personal pursuits (self). I felt like I was doing much of it because I HAVE to do something (see: need for feeling productive). I recognized this as a problem and decided I needed to step away from many of my personal projects (which often involve other people as I am, as stated, an extrovert and love collaboration). Not easy for me but it felt like the right thing to do. Instead, I decided, I would relax and focus on the relationship I had with a lovely girl. Ah, you caught that did you? Past tense…you see where this is going now!
Work (getting paid kind) also happened to be a bit stressful for a couple of weeks, or at least very draining. I had some new projects that required learning a lot of new tricks. Now, this I actually quite enjoy. The stress was fine and just a product of having to really apply myself to understand and learn new things. The problem was simply that it left less energy for dealing with the other two categories.
Finally, relationships. Sadly the lovely girl decided, quite surprisingly at the time, that we weren’t for each other and ended things. Now the nexus of the three was complete! My usual instinct is such situations is to immediately dive into whatever projects are going on. It was too late however, as I had created a personal embargo against them for the sake of my mental health. That combined with little energy remaining in the first place put me in an awful spot indeed. I felt trapped between what I had just lost and the wall I built up in front of my usual outlet, with the ceiling lowering slowly in a very Indiana Jones like fashion.
I’m in the twilight years of my twenties, with thirty plodding towards me quickly. I’m not so worried about that, but the point is that of my many important friends, most are at very different stages of their lives. Married, engaged, or simply busy with their others (as I have been myself for years) and best friends just aren’t the people you spend most of your days with anymore. Things are different now, which means more time with myself.
The evening where I was in the eye of the storm is uncomfortable to think about. Nothing is more terrifying to me than losing control of my mind. It doesn’t help that I read a lot of books about mental illness and asylums (morbid curiosity I guess). Days and weeks have passed, and predictably I feel better. My life is in a pretty fantastic place so even at the worst I find myself bouncing back pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying to find a way to make things better. I still, and always have really, had trouble working on things at home. Too distracted, too tired, and lacking in inspiration. Hell, I even have trouble READING at home (and I love to read), unless I’m in bed but I don’t make much progress that way.
Thankfully I live in the city now (for just over a year) which seriously does make a huge different. I would get anxious and antsy at home in the suburbs, but there was no hope…there was no life outside. Here, I know people are mere blocks away drinking at one of the many local bars! That’s a start, but only if I take advantage. I decided to make a few rules and goals.
- No ‘working’ with the TV on. PERIOD. It is impossible!
- If at all possible, work outside of home. A local coffee shop perhaps.
- If you are at home feeling anxious, get out of the house whether there is anyone to hang out with or not. Even if you DON’T want to hang out with anyone.
I’ve done much better at number one, but it’s also a pretty obvious point. Two was more difficult because I do really like my place, and I have an awesome office setup. I’m able to sit down and get things done, but the time I’m able to commit never seems to add up to much. I’ve made more trips to my favorite local place Diamonds to get focused able to produce content. The third has been the toughest and I didn’t really know what to do about it until spending time with a good friend that went through a divorce in the last year. That forced him to face a few of the same challenges and he was infinitely helpful to me. Some other good friends also helped me discover the project that is particularly important to me, one that I just can’t set aside. Feeling passionate about what you want to work on definitely helps.
The reason that I’m writing all of this is because my evening has been a very successful execution of these strategies. After getting home from work I made some dinner without loafing about first, watching a bit of The Office while I ate, and then immediately packed up for Diamonds before the fatigue set in. Once there I was able to focus and work without feeling drowsy or uninspired. The project I’m doing now involves a lot of writing, which went well enough and I expect will improve if I keep this up. After Diamonds closed at ten, I proceeded to the 331 bar for a pint of Surly Furious (a personal favorite) and I read a book, “The Three Christs of Ypsilanti”, for a couple hours. It was fantastic. I was focused on the book despite all sorts of interesting folks and music around me. The beer didn’t make me the least bit tired, and I really enjoyed the few interruptions from fellow patrons when they occurred.
It did sadden me that the last two times I’ve been to the 331, the same bouncer ended up shoving someone to the ground while yelling obscenities at them. The first time was a young woman, quite petite, which made me cringe. Now, to be fair, in both cases (the second being a small Mexican fellow), they were drunk, and refused to comply with many adamant requests to leave due to breaking rules and being too damn drunk. They got slightly physical but not violent, and since the bouncer was physically trying to remove them it’s understandable to try to protect yourself. The bouncer eventually gets to the “fuck this I’m calling the cops” point, but far too late in my opinion. Anyway…
I’m home now, and managed to write this extremely long post about my little exploration into improving how I cope with that thing we call ‘life’. I’m terrible and sitting down to write so this is great evidence for me that my little experiment is working! I intend to continue, and hopefully get the handful of articles I’ve intended on writing that will probably be more interesting to people than a long-winded ramble about my issues. If you actually read all this, wow and thanks! It was really just for me to get it all out I guess. Thanks, and goodnight!