Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Survival

This is not a topic I cared to write about today, but the with all the turmoil in my mind this week I had to pour it out.  Hopefully it will drain away like receding flood waters and leave me on dry ground again.


It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you are not.


For people who don't understand it is impossible unless you live it first hand.  Until you feel its icy hot grip on your soul do you realize what it must be like.  Sometimes one is blissful unaware.  Things just work out that way.  Shrug your shoulders and move on.  Try something else.  But when the realization hits, it is akin to standing on the railroad tracks, staring at the train as it bears down upon you.  Frozen.  Unable to react.  Resigned to the inevitable.  Accepting of one's fate.

Life has no reset button.  Rare are true second chances.  I know of a few people who have kick started new opportunities.  I am amazed by their raw courage and determination.  What pulled them back from the precipice may remain a mystery to me.  All I can feel is that they possess something I do not.

What awakens the addict from a stupor and enables a life to be reclaimed?  I think it is fear.  What keeps the addict locked into the cycle of use and abuse?  Fear again.  The difference being fear can either cause one to act or freeze one in inaction.  We can be afraid for what we stand to lose, either way.  For all my recent writings I still live in fear.

Of myself.

The quote atop this post was sent to me in the wee hours of this morning.  It came from a true friend, someone that may not fully know or understand me but truly wants the best for me.  One part of me is thankful that such a person walks this earth.  Another part of me questions why someone would even bother.  But she listens.  I have special empathy for my wife.  Andria has to deal with me on a daily basis and is at a loss for how to respond when these moments arise.  All she can do, as can I, is hold on and hope to ride it out quickly.  Thankfully I do not become violent or speak out abusively.  All my anger is thrust inward.  The tendency is to cannibalize myself.

As for the quote, the message sent in the dead of night, I had but one thought.  For as little as I think of myself during weeks like this one, I fear that I am even less than that.  What if I am worse than the darkest thoughts I can imagine?

This shit isn't pleasant.  I am thankful I never took up drugs.  I am thankful I am not an alcoholic.  I am thankful I do not abuse Andria or our children physically or emotional.  I am thankful I do not harm myself physically - regardless of what people say about ultra running.

But for all that I am thankful, I would be most thankful for this cycle to end.  I pray you never have to experience this existence.  It is nothing to write home about.

________________________________________________________________


It is difficult to say how these cycles begin or end.  I do not know if the triggers are chemical or emotional, environmental or internal.  Usually I can feel the wave beginning to crash.  At that point there is no way to stop the tumble.  

Maybe this one started at the foot of the biking trail, as I looked longingly at the packed earth and swaying branches.  Turning away, while it was the right choice at the time, may have proved ultimately to be the wrong choice.  

Maybe it was the unhappy, inconsolable child during the ride home and days since our trip.  It is not her fault.  She is only a child, a precious gift that I do not deserve.  I wonder if I really am equipped to be a parent.  And here is a confession - whenever someone innocently proclaims that I am a good father I want to backhand them.  Personally I find that statement laughable.  I would love to be a good father.  All I can admit to is trying.

In reality, all I know is that when the voices tune up and form a chorus in my head I cannot shut them out.  They will sing to my failings and rejoice to my faults and I am simply an audience of one.  Lone sinner in the pews, waiting for this sad service to adjourn.

I am hovering on the edge today, not sure which way I am leaning.  I could be on the way to shore, letting the wave play itself out.  Fortunately I have felt the full drowning tumbling force of a crash once.  Only once.

All this is to say that if you know someone experiencing this sort of existence, don't tell them to keep their chin up.  If only it were so easy.  The best you can provide for is to be an ear or shoulder.  Listen. Ask a few questions.  Examine recent events for a root cause, should one exist.

Another quote pops to mind presently.  Another person - a survivor of far different demons than my own, someone who's story I admire greatly - says that we should spend more time living than analyzing.  Don't know if I am there yet.

If you do know someone in this same situation and do not care to listen - due to either lack of time or interest - don't bother asking.  You may get more of a story than you bargained for in the end.

6 comments:

  1. I'll never tell someone, "I know what you're going through". Nobody knows but the individual that's going through the stuff. I've had many bouts with depression over the years starting around 1976. These would cycle in and out. Each one would really get intense just before the air would go out of it and I'd be okay until next time. I've been to two shrinks over my life, tried various drugs for it. Through time, experience and realizations, I've been out of the cycles for around 2 years now. As we move through each episode, let's think that perhaps we gain a little towards ending them: a little insight each time or self-revelation that lends to a finalization. When one can't do anything else, one can run or walk: physical activity seems to help, at least during the exertion. And, I've done it to the point of just wearing myself out 'til I would just go to sleep. In any case, Logan, know that you can and will come out of this tunnel into the light. It's not terminal.

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  2. Right. There. With. You.

    My only solace in times like these is my own mantra that I've learned is the only certainty in my life: "this is always only temporary..."

    I use it to remind myself regularly. Sometimes it makes me feel better, other times worse, but it always helps me gain perspective when perspective is exactly what I need.

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  3. You say acceptance like it's a bad thing. It's not. It's also very different from resignation.

    If it is cold outside and I wish it were warm, I might find myself suffering because reality is different from my desires. I might suffer because I cannot will it to be warm. I might suffer because I believe it's too cold to go outside and do the run I wanted to do, and that upsets me.

    The deal is that I cannot change the fact that it's cold outside. I cannot will it to be warm. I cannot will away an injury. I cannot change the fact that my coworker has a habit that annoys the crap out of me. I cannot change the fact that I said something I regret saying.

    One's happiness (or, conversely, one's suffering) is dependent on how one deals with these realities that one cannot change. Do you get frustrated when reality differs from your desires? Does that frustration cause you to suffer? The problem, then, is not reality but your lack of acceptance of that reality.

    In Buddhism this is called equanimity. In AA it's called acceptance.

    I come to this trail head and I turn away because I'm injured. I absolutely yearn to run at this moment. My suffering at this moment is not from my injury but from the conflict between my yearning desire to run and the reality that to do so would worsen the injury. There are three separate things here: the injury, the desire (more specifically, my clinging to that desire in this moment), my reaction. Which of those three can I change? Which of those three can I not change?

    What makes me miserable in this instance is not reality but despairing the inability to change a reality that could only be changed by going into the wayback machine and making some sort of adjustment to the past, or by being God and making some sort of retro-active adjustment to my genetic structure and/or mortality. And since neither of those are going to happen, I basically have two choices: accept the fact that I am injured and cannot run, and go about my day with happiness and gratitude for the many blessings I do have in my life, or struggle in anger and despair at the fact that I am injured and cannot run, and f*ck all the blessings I have in my life because they are not helping me for sh*t in this situation. Either way, I am injured and cannot run. That reality has not changed.

    This is the oft repeated statement: pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.

    Resignation is to sit on my ass moping (suffering) about stuff that I can't change. Acceptance is to admit I cannot change it and move on, with equanimity and without suffering, working instead to change the things I can.

    Some years ago the Dalai Lama was speaking to a bunch of western students and one, Sharon Salzburg, asked him how he dealt with the self hatred that caused such anguish for her and many of her students. He looked puzzled and turned to his translators. They had a little powwow. Everyone looked a bit confused. The Dalai Lama turned back and asked her what self hatred was. It did not exist in his culture. They discussed it for some time. Finally he said "I thought I had a very good acquaintance with the mind, but now I feel quite ignorant. I find this very, very strange."

    Finally: in AA there's a saying: "We seek progress, not perfection". What matters are the actions you take in the moment, not how far you might be from some ideal. If you believe in God, the perfection you seek would be God. You, on the other hand, are human. There's not much to be gained by berating yourself for being human. Time is better spent working towards the ideal rather than despairing not already being there.

    Your friend who says we should spend more time living than analyzing is right. And all you need to do to be there is to stop analyzing. It's not about what you think. It's about what you do.

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  4. Geoff said so much, so well. Thank you, Sir.

    Know you aren't alone. There have been times lately, when I would give much to feel less for just a while. I know there are way to accomplish that, legally and illegally. They aren't worth it to me. So I deal with it. And some days that's all I've got in me- just dealing with it. Some days I run until I can't, sit down, and deal with it. Should you ever see me, feel free to sit down and deal with your shit within earshot.

    -N

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  5. Wow, Geoff. Just wow. Amazing. Thank you.

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  6. Gotcha, Logan. I totally hear you and feel for you. And now, for the big, ultra running metaphor:

    I know a lot of 100 mile runners who have a "do or die" mentality: They PUSH. They PRESS. They GO ON THROUGH THE STRUGGLE NO MATTER WHAT. This attitude has always puzzled me, as I've always seen hard moments in a race as just those: Hard moments. They last for as long as the easy moments. But in the end, they're just patches of time in our lives. I can take them and leave them equally as easy. This translates into my overall view on life as well.

    I didn't always feel this way. It took a shit-ton of therapy and an existential crisis to shake my world and see life for what it is: Moments, strung together. They're all beautiful, and part of our tapestry. As a culture, we spend a significant amount of energy PUSHING and PRESSING to be happy, when really, it's as simple as letting go, and just allowing yourself to "be" whatever it is that you are.

    I'm not perfect. Far from it. I have gone through darkness, and will continue to. But remember: The sun still shines behind the clouds. And sooner or later, you'll feel it's warmth and love.

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