The Beauty Of Living A Reclusive Life

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For those familiar with The Big Bang Theory, there’s this episode where Raj takes Lucy on a date to the library. Except, because of both their social anxiety issues, it’s a texting date, where they actually spend the entire date not saying a word but communicating via text messages. It ends with Lucy’s battery nearly flat, and so she speaks out loud, and says to Raj, “Thanks for today. I’ve been trying to do more things that scare me. Coming here was definitely one of them.”

This morning I realised with a kind of shocked awareness that my entire week has been a texting date. I haven’t actually had a spoken conversation with anyone other than my family. I’ve only left the house once to grocery shop, and even then, I barely managed to utter a hello to the checkout chick and didn’t engage in conversation as I normally would. I have had many conversations, good conversations, meaningful conversations, funny conversations, helpful conversations. But they have all been two dimensional, over a screen, no human contact whatsoever. Kind of like a robot. Or a cyborg. Both of which I feel I could be mistaken for this week.

My initial reaction to my self-imposed reclusiveness was like, “Oh my god, could you BE any more of a loser who stays home all week and doesn’t get out the house and has no interaction with the outside world whatsoever?? Seriously woman, get some help, what the hell is wrong with you??”

And then I thought about it. And laughed. Because actually, I don’t have a problem with my week. In fact, I have loved my week.

My reaction was triggered by the way we have been conditioned and programmed to believe we must live a certain way to be perceived as normal. There must be something wrong with me to have stayed home all week. I should be busy and be scheduled and be social and have a full calendar to symbolise my full life. And if I don’t have these things then I mustn’t be functioning well. I need to get out more. I need to see more people. It’s not healthy for me to stay home all week.

Nope. I disagree.

What’s not healthy is the pressure we put on ourselves to act like we have it together, to pretend we’re coping just fine. When some weeks we’re not. Some weeks participation in life requires more than we have within us. And we need to able to recognise those times and give ourselves permission to rest and recover. Because if we were physically unwell, y’know, puking up our guts or coughing up a lung, we would do that. We would stay home for a week and let our bodies heal. And yet, when we are mentally, emotionally or spiritually unwell, we push on and try to hide it, as if we are weak, as if we have failed, as if feeling this way somehow makes us less than. Less than what? Normal? Human? Real?

What’s not healthy is the fallacy that we must be engaged with the world 24/7. That we must have our days so full that we need to schedule time for ourselves. That even when we aren’t present with others in the physical sense, we must be present in the virtual sense – switched on, plugged in, contactable, reachable, available at all times. When to live this way leaves us drained, sapped and robbed of peace, rest and much needed time to recharge and renew ourselves in mind, spirit and body.

What’s not healthy is our levels of exhaustion, our fatigue, our inability to slow down, our ineffective coping mechanisms and vices that do more harm than good. Something I discovered this week is the world didn’t stop turning just because I wasn’t an active participant in it. I’d like to think my presence in the world is more vital than it actually is. But I’m not so important that a week of staying at home and not getting dressed had any affect whatsoever on the outcome of the universe. The world won’t collapse without your input for a week. Trust me.

What’s not healthy is our attitude towards mental health and self-care. Toughen up, princess. Take a spoonful of cement and harden the f*#k up. Grow a set. Get over it. It has to change.

What is healthy is doing whatever the hell you need to do to look after yourself. However that looks for you, without care or concern of anyone else’s opinion.

For me this week, it’s been the permission I have given myself to not have to accomplish anything, to not have to interact with the world, to not have to get dressed, to not care about any of the afore-mentioned, and to make self-depreciating jokes at my own expense. It’s worked for me. And after an entire week of doing these things, I actually wanted to get dressed today. Not that I’m likely to leave the house or have an actual real life conversation just yet.

But there’s always next week.

And maybe next week I’ll try to do more things that scare me.

Although writing this was definitely one of them.

 

Winter In My Bones

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“The leaves fall gently and like autumn she brings sadness. The leaves are left behind and winter’s in my bones.” ~ Cat Empire

These lyrics repeat in my mind, over and over. They are so on point for me this week. Winter remains stuck in my bones and somewhere there’s a way to cure this sadness but I cannot find it. No amount of rest or sleep or yoga or books or words or herbal tea or music will shift this relentless winter from my bones.

It’s not one thing that causes this dull ache of winter within me. It never is just one thing. It’s an accumulation of busyness, tiredness, stress, demand, pressure, obligation. It’s all things, everything, that leads to a sense of being overwhelmed, where both mind and body collapse, though I’m never sure which one perpetuates the other.

I just know winter is here and with her comes defeat, frustration, impatience, anger. There is lack of motivation and inspiration. There is no creativity. And so winter too brings grief. No words fall from me. Instead pages remain empty as the bitter gale cuts through my skin and seeps into my marrow that shrivels against its spite. Words are always my way back to life and without them there is no life, only a numb detachment that leaves my mind as blank as the page in front of me.

But it’s during these times of winter I must yield to the season and all she offers to teach me, if only I should be silent enough to hear. For if I allow it, winter also brings stillness, reflection and surrender. It brings quiescence. It brings dormancy.

And most importantly, it brings transformation.

For winter is a time when the deep work of the heart is done. And if I can learn to resist the fight and find a way to sit with her, she will do her work within me. She will bring change, renewal, life. In her time, not mine.

Winter is my preservation, and I no longer fight against it. Instead, I choose to surrender. For I know there is a work being done that I cannot see. And though I may not yet understand what that is, what I do understand is that spring always comes when the work is complete.

Always.

Photo credit: Robert Wnuk via unsplash.com 

 

When Freedom Of Choice No Longer Sets Us Free

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I’ve been thinking this week about privilege.

Because, the fact is, I’m privileged. Everyone I know is privileged. So goddamn, sickeningly privileged. Privilege creates discomfort within me. Because while so many all over the world live in fear, violence, oppression, control and persecution, we live with privilege, affluence and freedom.

And yet, we aren’t satisfied.

We’re restless, agitated, impatient, unsettled, disappointed.

Why? In a world where women are banned from wearing a burkini or forced into arranged marriages, and children are trafficked into slavery, and thousands die of malnourishment and disease every day — why are we, the privileged, so unsatisfied?

Nobody dictates us, controls us or oppresses us. We are blessed with choice. So much choice it’s ridiculous. Which of my five pairs of jeans shall I wear today? The ones with the buttons or zip fly? Skinny or boyfriend? The black coat or the grey? Should we buy a house or rent? Where will we holiday this summer? Two kids or three? Which restaurant should we eat at tonight? Red wine or white? Latte or long black? Private school or public? Go back to work or stay at home? Stay married or go our separate ways? Which of the 78 cereals in the breakfast aisle should I buy? Public health or private? Gel, shellac or acrylic nails this week?

And suddenly, there are 28,496 different choices laid out before us, choices that attach to us like strings, that pull us every which-way until we can hardly think straight anymore, until we feel compelled to consider every choice and weigh it up in its entirety. Until we’re frantic with choice. Until there is so much choice, we are overwhelmed and no longer know which choice to make. So we just don’t make one. Instead we become indecisive and apathetic.

We are no longer set free by choice, but paralysed by it.

See, with freedom comes choice. But the paradox of choice is when we’re given too much, we lose our freedom, and instead become captive to our dissatisfaction.

For how do we know, in the face of so many choices, we made the right one? Could we have made a better one? What if there was a better option, and we missed it? How do we know we didn’t settle for less than we deserve? Suddenly the other choices begin to look more attractive. No matter how great the choice we made was, we somehow still feel let down, disappointed. We should have made a different choice, one that would have made us feel more fulfilled. We are no longer satisfied, but restless and without content. There must be a better choice out there.

Thankfully, we still have 28,495 choices to choose from until we find that satisfaction we so desperately crave.

My head hurts with it all. I’m tired in the face of so many choices that distract me, preoccupy me, consume me. I long for a more simplistic life, to find the balance between extreme oppression and extreme privilege. I long for contentment in what I have and where I live and who I am. I long to come to a place of rest, a place of stillness, where I am not lured by choice and swayed by its fickle promise of unattainable satisfaction.

I don’t believe the answer is found in more. More choices don’t enable us more freedom, but imprison us to the endless pursuit of supremacy. We come to believe what we have isn’t enough, and we must strive for which we are entitled — more choices, more money, more possession, more of what we’ve been told we deserve. More, more, more.

More is not the answer. The answer is less.

For here in this place of less, we find simplicity. We find gratitude and appreciation in what we have. Less clutter and more space, more peace, more contentment. No longer plagued by the seduction of choice, we find fulfillment and satisfaction in our lives exactly as they are.

We must be mindful in our life of privilege, affluence and freedom. For yes, with these things comes choice. But having choice isn’t synonymous with needing more. If we allow choice to control us, it will. If we allow choice to breed dissatisfaction in us, it will.

Instead, we must allow choice to once again liberate us. To learn to live in balance and harmony with the freedom of choice we have. To never forget that choice is a privilege denied to many. To make the power of our choices count.

To live more simplistically that we may be less overwhelmed by choice, and more overwhelmed by the satisfaction and contentment we find in this life we are so blessed to live.