In repair

I woke up today with the inexplicable, incessant desire to fix something. My cupboard door eventually became the object of this desire, and it now swings open and closed free of squeak. It is said that sometimes people manifest their emotions into habitual acts and actions. Maybe my desire to fix something projects my own need for self-repair.

For reasons beyond what I care to delve into right now, I drove alone to another city last night because I needed a change of scene. I went through every mix CD I burned in the last year and relived the past through songs that once bore significance to me at certain moments in time. So much has changed since I first moved east last summer, for better or for worse. With the move back west happening so soon, I needed some distance from my empty walls and cardboard boxes, even some distance from the people I feel I’ve grown closest to while living here. Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, detaching myself now as to lessen the blow later. Maybe I just needed some perspective, and the only way to get it was to be in a different place so I can look at it all from a different point of view.

Twenty-three is around the corner. These past few weeks have warranted multiple mental meltdowns because of everything piling up. The CD is being reproduced. I’m moving out. My parents are visiting. There are still gigs to be played. Bills to be paid. Lawns to be mowed. Not to mention all the cleaning. On top of all this, I am a chronic (and professional) people-pleaser. Not only does everything need to be done, but it also needs to be done well, and people have to be happy with the results. Otherwise the world will end. Not really, but that’s just how my brain functions. It is my worst and most persistent habit.

I read about panic attacks today in a mental health article:

“Panic sufferers often describe themselves as “people pleasers,” who find it extremely painful to risk others’ dislike or disapproval. They may agree to others’ requests, suppress their own opinions, and put the needs of others before their own – sometimes to the point that they almost lose touch with their own wishes and feelings.”

This hit too close to home – and, well, it shed some light on my own recent meltdowns. I’ve made such a habit of putting a lot of heart into my work and relationships with others that it’s no wonder I’ve driven myself slightly mad from trying to keep everything in order and everyone happy. If there is someone in need, I can’t help but drop everything and be there for them. Never mind the extensive “To-Do” list.

In Hinduism, it is believed that the universe is cyclically created, then destroyed, then created again. Ever since I read this, I’ve been fixated on the concept. It came to me with great portent. I am very much the same way. I’ve never been one of those seemingly consistent people on whom you can always rely to bring the same kind of energy, at least not how I perceive it. As much as I’d like to remain positive and lighthearted all the time, I too subscribe to the human condition. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had spurts of productivity, energy, and enthusiasm for everything around me. Whatever project I can channel all of this into flourishes. Then, there comes a time when I start to feel like I’ve exhausted all of my capacities, my creativity, and my mind. All I feel like doing at that point is retracting and disappearing for a while until I recharge. So, keeping with the analogy of the Hindu universe, I create, am destroyed, then re-create perpetually.

One of my old roommates was the executive director for a local non-profit by day but still managed to take weekend trips to the southwest to go horseback riding. I asked her how she stays sane. She responded with, “No matter how many hours you work overtime and how much you bend over backwards for your constituency, they will still be there in need.” No matter what, there will ALWAYS be more work to be done. So there is no use trying to get everything done at once. Giving time to yourself is important too.

Having a healthy mind is just as important as having a healthy body and spirit. It’s time to fine tune my mentality before it wears out.

Yours in repair,

On Mortality

These days, my mom’s voice repeatedly trumpets in my head, “Make sure you take care of yourself.” Every since I moved to the east coast, my mom has iterated this phrase to me at the end of every phone call. What I once interpreted as relentless nagging has recently begun to take on new meaning. It has become a mantra that I repeat in order to remind myself to breathe and slow down because after all, life is sweet but it’s also temporary.

Because my mom’s ever-omniscient voice has been ringing in my head more often than not lately, I was immediately attracted to a novel I happened upon at the bookstore. In her novel Traveling With Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd contemplates aging through the lens of her relationship with her daughter, Ann. At age fifty, Sue prepares to, as she sees it, exit her womanhood while she observes her twenty-two-year-old daughter take root in it. The author explores the sense of nostalgia for youth and also the acceptance of the inevitable. After reading a few chapters of this book, my mom’s reminders and concerns suddenly made sense to me. As someone who is now looking back on her own life, my mother’s regrets and past mistakes have translated themselves into concern for me. I now understand the schizophrenic struggle that my mother endures, trying to give me the private world that I have harvested for myself while simultaneously wanting to be an intimate part of it. In a way, I see how she is passing on her duties to me so I can mother myself, so I can take care of myself and be okay if for some one reason or another she can’t be around.

This might come as a heavy thought, but I’ve been meditating on my own mortality. At the spry age of twenty-two, I have been told redundantly by those older than I am that I have “sooo much time.” While these comments continuously infuse confidence and keep my morale high, I have to stop to ask, “Do I really have that much time?” Two decades (and a couple years) have lapsed in what now seems like the blink of an eye. Who is to say the next two decades won’t follow suit? As my bucket list grows longer, I have slowly come to realize and accept that there may not be enough time for everything that I want to do. I can only do the most with what I have here and now.

Still, I haven’t reconciled the feeling of loss I sometimes feel when I think about leaving certain phases of my life behind. Like being a student, for example. My unquenchable thirst for knowledge had a grounds in which to flourish – within lecture halls, through term papers that I begrudgingly wrote with secret relish, tucked into conversations with fellow consorts. I miss it all, and I almost feel that when I graduated, the time for beginnings had passed. I remind myself, though, that as a member of the human species, I am entitled to adaptation. Now the world can be my classroom and everyone around me my fellow students, whether they are aware of it or not.

Every once in a while, I will have a cathartic moment in which I become hyper-conscious of the fact that I have been given something precious: a life to live out how I choose. Life is temporary, meaning everything that life encompasses is also temporary. Material things, pain, even happiness. However, I reject the cult of cynicism that often exploits this observation. Some choose not to grow too attached to anything in fear that it might be lost without warning. After having tried that, I know it’s not for me. I’m not happy unless I wear my heart out on my sleeve. It feels stifled otherwise.

I hope that by the close of my life, whenever it will be, whether it is tomorrow or one hundred years from now (taking into account future marvels of technology), I will have lived openly, laughed often, and loved sincerely. Until then (which will hopefully be a long time from now), I’m hoping to be better about listening to Mom’s advice and taking care of myself (and others around me) in the meantime.