I remember a time many years ago when my life became smaller and smaller. Debilitating headaches, a relationship that I’d lost myself in, a meaningless job. Trips to the grocery store exhausted me. I dreaded Mondays. I turned to tv to try and unwind, escape momentarily from the encroaching dissatisfaction and stagnation of my life. My life was getting away from me somehow, and I didn’t know how to turn it around.
I gave up more and more pieces of myself until something deep inside me awakened with a roar and a physical, compelling need to change – everything.
In less than a year I had left my significant other, my job, my home, my entire life. I wandered for a bit, ultimately relocated, and completely changed careers – starting at the bottom. I started a rigorous fitness regime, for months pushing through the migraines that upper body work triggered, knowing there was no way to get to the other side without going through the pain.
By smashing my old life to bits and running full speed towards something new, I was able to sustain the momentum I needed to make sure the stagnation was left far behind.
This was not the first time in my life that I’d completely turned everything upside down in order to get out of the rut or bad situation I’d found myself in. There is something inside me that succumbs to others’ desires for and expectations of me, and nothing inside that is able to withstand those pressures. The slow erosion of my own will happens incrementally, often unconsciously, until it is too late and once again my life is not my own.
There are times now when I feel the weight once again of stagnation. The trailer park I live in seems to close in around me. I feel trapped inside this tin can, not strong enough to keep pushing against the forces outside.
I’m too tired for upheaval, to turn my life upside down yet again in order to jump start whatever it is that has given way to inertia.
What if it’s possible to make small, incremental changes? What if, when I feel anxious or sad, or unable to withstand the world outside, I am able to funnel that into something substantive? Something that is truly me? To redirect it to better myself?
When the neighbors sound too close, on all sides; when I smell the stench of their weed killers and strong cleaners; when I can’t go into my yard without being aware I live in a fishbowl – instead of withdrawing inward, I could let the anger and frustration out through my writing.
When I believe that wine, or cake, or ice cream, or beer are the things I am hungry for – what if instead I punch and kick and sweat along with a youtube video.
The passivity that has always lurked around corners and come knocking during times without drama needs a response that is active. One that channels those self-destructive thoughts and feelings – using keystrokes to bring up and out those deep feelings of dissatisfaction and anger; using exercise to expel the rot of old wounds that fester when I’m sedentary.
Incremental. In this moment I will not give in to my fears and doubts, but will ferret them out and face them head on, in fact I will expose them to the whole world. For ten minutes I will resist the urge to sit down, turn on the tv, and give up the rest of my day – for ten minutes I will engage my body and kick out, push out, sweat out, the voices that tell me I am small and don’t deserve to take up space.
I don’t know what makes a life meaningful and worth living. I only know that I’m too tired to shake everything up like a snow globe in order to get what is stagnant to start moving again. And I will not be content with a version of myself that is small and quiet, living a life that is small and contained, in an attempt to avoid pain. Because small and quiet and contained is pain. It is the worst pain; the pain of letting this opportunity to experience life and humanity and great effort and great success and great failure pass us by.