The obligations and stresses in my life have recently (finally) reached the long-awaited place of “normalcy”. This has opened so many doors, both personally and professionally, but as I’ve been sharing on Twitter, it’s been rather confusing to figure what to do with a life where I have free time and the privilege of pursuing fun, hobbies, new professional ventures of my choosing, etc.
Yesterday, after a particularly monotonous and frustrating week at work, I found myself on the verge of slipping into a depressive state. Thankfully, after years of struggling with such things, I’ve learned to identify the warning signs and can take measures to head it off, or at least mitigate the impact. I tried going for a walk through my favorite neighborhood, saw the chiropractor over my lunch, took little breaks to chat with my favorite co-workers, took meditation/breathing breaks, etc. I would feel slightly better, able to function, until someone would come in and ask what my plans were for the weekend. I never had an answer, as I truly hadn’t given weekend plans any thought. I eventually realized the negative spiral and feeling anxious was occurring right after these encounters. Why?
There seemed to be no “valid” reason for such melancholy – this weekend is largely mine, with no obligations and little housework to be done. What was I feeling, and why? After digging, and digging, and digging a bit more, (I’m a bit emotionally inept), I began to identify the common themes of what I was feeling: overwhelmed, lonely, and bored.
Overwhelmed and lonely: S is out of town for His 2nd long work trip this month (never happened before), and I don’t have homework, housework, Him, or work of my own to distract myself. My best friend is also out of town, so it’s pretty much me, myself and I this weekend. I don’t even need introvert time this weekend, as I’m now able to come home after work and relax, instead of doing homework until midnight. I’m overwhelmed, because I literally don’t know what to do with myself when all I have to take care of or plan for is…..myself. I don’t know how to have fun….I’m not even really sure what that looks like. What might I enjoy doing? Even thinking about it made me feel anxious, because I had no idea where to even start.
Bored: Long ago, I learned bored is very, very dangerous….and is very easy for me to slip into. Many people find movies, tv, or reading fiction to be entertaining. I rarely find them to be so, and often slip into a melancholy state or phase of depression after “imbibing”. I find them to be “numbing” in a way…they’re an escape that either does nothing to provide the stimulation I need to recharge, or they’re an escape that works so well, I emerge and find myself even more unhappy, because reality is now even less appealing. They put me inside my own head, and what I need is precisely the opposite. I think, process, reflect, and reason enough for an entire village; the last thing I need is activities that foster more of the same. I want to live my life and enjoy it, not hide from it.
Mental and physical stimulation and challenge is something my body, mind, and spirit CRAVE. Generally, I prefer to find most of this in my work, but as work has been far less fulfilling or challenging in recent months, that need is no longer being met there. In my search for a solution, the question shifted: What can I do to meet this need in this new phase of my life?
S gave me some advice last night that worked wonders and sparked the reflections of this morning – “You don’t need to know how to play. Just know how to smile, and do what makes you smile”. Today I slept in (thank heavens for cooler weather and shorter days – finally able to sleep soundly again), played with pup, and sat in bed (a luxury I’ve not allowed myself in months) with coffee, watching Usain Bolt and Chinese gymnast biomechanics analysis videos. Odd to most, perhaps, but about an hour in this morning, I realized I felt more energized and alert than I have in months. I was starting to feel excited…I wanted to be doing something.
Track and gymnastics were my two passions as a young person. The 400 meters was my favorite and best event, largely due to my long stride. There is literally no other feeling in the world like that of getting past the first 100 meters, the anxiety of the beginning of a race gone, and simply letting my legs stretch out longer and longer, gobbling up the track…flying in a way. Everyone always said it looked as if I was gliding. It was never about the other competitors, where they were, or winning….it’s being present in every cell of my body, moving it the way it was designed to be, and feeling its euphoric strength in response. I never remember feeling short of breath or worried about time…it felt like freedom to simply be and fly out there..time simply stopped. I never felt more in my own skin, more beautiful, centered, and powerful, than when I was able to let my crazy long legs out and let them do their thing. Until this morning, I hadn’t realized how profoundly I’ve missed that.
Gymnastics was my other love, which I had to give up at age 12 when my parents got pregnant with my fourth sibling -they simply couldn’t afford it anymore. I was certainly no champion, but I loved it. Again, it was feeling the strength in my body, the focus making you entirely present in every cell, time slowing down as you tweak a single, specific muscle to make yourself fly through air….nirvana.
I found this feeling again in basic training in the Army a decade ago, pushing myself past what I what I thought my mental and physical limits were…I’ve rarely been more content, or felt more powerful. It was the first time I fully realized my athletic potential and pushed to see just what I could do. Years later, I found it again in weight-lifting and preparing for competitive body-building, which I reluctantly gave up after feeling as if it was causing just as much damage to my body as good. A couple of years ago, I discovered reformer Pilates, and much to my surprise, fell in love with it (and the reemergence of my six pack abs) and quickly landed myself in the advanced classes. I again had to give up my passion when I was laid off from my job last year and had a bout of extended unemployment.
Reflecting on all of this (thinking – it’s what I do best), I’m seeing that I’ve not been challenging myself in the areas I need to be. I’ve not been taking care of myself, feeding myself in the ways I need to be fed. Perhaps I truly wasn’t able to – time, finances, and energy have been a scare commodity for a couple of years. Somehow I suspect otherwise. Running is free, after all. Regardless, I’ve forgotten what excites me – what I love doing. How much more productive would I be at work if I were feeding myself outside of that sphere? How much more would I be able to give those I love if I were fulfilled and had the challenges and stimulation I need? What amazing doors, friendships, and challenges would present themselves if I were out there doing, instead of hiding, trying to recharge in the wrong places?
This has some profound implications when I look at society as a whole, but also those of us in M/s and BDSM as well. How often are we “numbing” ourselves to our lives, to others, from our dreams, by putting our time and energy into things that don’t recharge us, or are in actuality, are a means of hiding ourselves from our reality? It’s easier to hide in fantasy or activities that distract us from what is really going on in our lives, than facing the fear of pursuing the dreams we so deeply desire. How often do we make excuses to not attend events, meet with friends, apply for a better job, or leave relationships that don’t truly make us happy or meet our needs?
Even more interesting, how do we see the line that differentiates escaping from reality , and genuinely pursuing the things we love? One person may use a given activity as an escape, and another may engage in the same activity with a completely different perspective. I’ve heard many fellow masochists describe play as their “escape”, which actually makes a great deal of sense, but for some reason never quite resonated with me. Now I understand why. For me, it’s not an escape from reality…it’s merely a different aspect of reality that brings me closer to myself. It’s a way of spiritually connecting with S, shuts off my constant thinking (mostly), and brings me back into my body, mind, and spirit, so that I can feel again. It brings me back to reality, centers me in my reality, and allows me to fully engage and experience my life again….it’s not an escape or a way to get away from an unhappy reality or my life. Perhaps it does serve another purpose for others, and that’s perfectly valid. The perspective during, the outcome, and the intention behind engaging in an activity is what needs to examined by the individual.
The crux, the end result of the topic is this: We make time for obligations and societal “checkblocks” we loathe. We find the money for movies, alcohol, and new shoes….yet it seems we can’t find the time or money for the things we really want to do: the cool BDSM convention or class, the chiropractor who can help with the chronic neck pain, or the martial arts studio we always dreamed of attending.
It requires a shift in perspective – we can actively pursue our dreams, or we can let them sit there, focusing on the obstacles in the way….because then those dreams sit there, pretty on a shelf, and are “unattainable”. If we view them as unattainable, and continue with such rationalizations, we are never forced to leave our comfort zone, or face the fear or challenges that exist in our reality. We can sit in the same spot, sighing over the same things sitting on the shelf, but never have to take the steps to make them our reality.
Even more frightening for some of us, what happens once those dreams have become our new reality? Often we subconsciously don’t believe we deserve to have our dreams come true (for any number of reasons), or we don’t want to face the fear of making the changes necessary to reach those dreams. Many of us are so used to living lives of chaos, that even though we crave stability and freedom, we secretly fear it, as it is completely unfamiliar, and thus frightening. It is far easier to exist and stay in the environment you are familiar with, rather than one where you don’t know the rules or what to expect, so we often make subconscious excuses, and stay trapped in the same patterns, situations, and behaviors. In other words: self-sabatoge.
Seriously. I’m as guilty of it as anyone, but when I find it in my life, I weed it out ruthlessly. Time is precious, life is finite; I’ve no desire to waste my time here pussy-footing around with insecurity or fear. We choose how we spend the time we’re given, and you never know when that time might be up. I refuse to look back and see that I spent my time daydreaming about all the cool things I wanted to do, sitting on the couch intimately learning every episode of numerous shows on Netflix, rather than actually doing the things I’d always wanted to do. Those shoes are pretty and that movie looks cool, but I’d far rather pay for Pilates, BDSM conventions/classes, and being able to travel with S now and then. I’ll gladly give up pleasure and an escape for a few hours, to be able to build a life that makes me feel alive, healthy, and excited every single day.
What is it that you’ve always wanted to do, even if you never admitted it to yourself? What is it you want here? Craving connection and relationships, want to be yourself without fear of judgement, someone to play with, or a deep D/s relationship? Go to a munch and meet kinky fuckers like yourself, take your kinky spouse to a BDSM class or discussion group, stop giving your emotional energy to the online / long-distance Dom that vanishes every other week or will never be able to give you the time you need, and find someone that you can physically touch and be with in your day-to-day life. Better yet, if you haven’t found precisely what you need, be by yourself for awhile, connect with community, and let yourself develop and find a partner organically. Develop friendships with those in your community – connecting with others leads to real growth and change, and in many cases, often leads to finding the best intimate relationships. If you are continually engaging with those who are emotionally or physically unavailable, take a look in the mirror, because you’re opening the door for them, whether you know it or not. Ask yourself WHY you aren’t doing or getting what it is you really want, and then start working on what you find there. Stop seeing the obstacles and hiding – get out there and start DOING.
Today, I’m starting my own new life – figuring what that looks like, what is is that I get to be excited about taking off of my own shelf. I’ve been overwhelmed…because I’m underwhelmed in my life, and was trying to hide from the challenge of facing it. While I work that out…pup and I are going for a run.
What will you do today?