Friday, April 10, 2015

the good old days

Bear with me tonight; I am a bit nostalgic.And I ramble.

There have been years (three or four straight at a clip) where I felt actual happiness and didn't think much about each step I took in my life. In those years, I traveled wherever I wanted to whenever I wanted to. I worried a lot, but I also had a lot of fun. I dated men and those relationships ended (duh, as proven by my being engaged to a wonderful man today). I watch the Duggar family on TV all the time; while I don't agree with the vast majority of their life views, they may be on to something in their idea that romantic relationships are best pursued in a spiritual and non-physical way before getting to the next steps, many of them occurring after marriage.

I finally found a funny, kind, handsome and Godly man and I bring to the table a lot of baggage from relationships that weren't his fault, things I didn't deal with in full after they happened. I am thankful that the "baggage" is just the feeling of failure and with the exception of my ex-husband, I really did date a good group of guys who just weren't meant to be life mates for me. But the baggage is there and the fear that I will fail this great man looms. I never assume the future will be as good as it was; having depression/anxiety issues lends itself to a bleak outlook that one must combat and fight against in an effort to retrain one's way of thinking.

And that is the tip of the iceberg, honey. The fear of failure in the future runs deep and I blame only some of it on my being wired to be hard on myself and be anxious. I was talking to my oldest friend from elementary school on the phone for the first time in over 15 years and we talked, in real time, about how no one really is "present" anymore. We're all in our smartphones, too busy posting life on our social media accounts to actually sit and breathe in the smells, hear the sounds, etc. I have also discussed this topic with a dear friend from graduate school and we've talked about the therapeutic benefits to disengaging from all of the technology and just talking, reading a book, meditating, etc. We discussed the good old days of grad school when we'd all get there early (if you're in grad school chances are you're an overachiever of sorts, so most of my buds were at class 10-20 minutes before class start time, raring to go).

We talked about how, even though I only graduated five years ago this May, we used to all sit around and bullshit with one another before class. I had a smartphone then, but it didn't feel like a part of my body and it was easily silenced. I went out to bars and taverns with friends and we talked about all types of good stuff. My second year of grad school before I got married, I went on tried-and-true dates with a few men. Does dating exist anymore? Like, the non-boyfriend, seeing-what-happens thing?

This was even more common while earning my B.A. I used AIM and my flip phone to stay in touch. Texting was only for instances where a phone call wasn't possible and AIM allowed me to go "away" to spend time in real life with my friends at res hall programs, restaurants, or just walking around campus talking about everything and nothing at the same time. I met most of my long-term boyfriends through shared interests and social events with mutual friends. It's how I met my Mikey, it just took us six years to get to now :)

When I visited my family at home, I stayed in the know with what was going on in my social life and regret that in hindsight. All of my buds would have still been there after I spent a day or two immersed in my familial routines. But I was never really "there." Always on to the next thing mentally, even though physically I was at the dinner table or putzing around in the kitchen making salad or guacamole. Wondering what tomorrow would look like. And when it came, wondering what the next week looked like. And that is the essence of where I am at now. Always wondering when the panic will happen again to a debilitating point. Always looking over my shoulder.

I not only came to terms this past year with my mental health and the fact that I don't have just "phases" of bad feelings but an ongoing condition...but I also realized that I am a highly sensitive person. Don't mince words; this does not indicate that I am any less strong than someone who lacks sensitivity. Rather, things affect me profoundly. It's why, though I am SO much better this year than I was last, I am still not where I want to be. It's why all of my failed relationships that led me to Mike each took a piece of my heart because with each person, I gave of myself in a very holistic way and when things didn't work out, I felt like a piece of me would never come back and I would never feel whole.

I also realized that I can't help how out society is now. I can't help the existence of stupid articles about Bruce Jenner that I see posted everywhere, but I can stop being pissed off at the ignorant journalists who won't leave well enough alone and let a person (albeit a very public celebrity) live privately. I can't help that social media changed the landscape of how we interact with people and how we perceive things in a very profound way. But I can control how I utilize it and use its powers for good. I also can't control that I have a mental illness, but I can work on changing how I let it affect my self-esteem and stop worrying first and foremost about how my condition makes others feel. If I can rest knowing I have done all I can at the end of a day to educate, advocate, explain and work to help others understand and feel comfortable around me in a time where I feel like an alien in my own skin, then that has to be enough. And it is. Though I wish I could get some of those others to feel the same. Losing friendships in a time when you feel like you're just plain losing it is hard. Luckily, I've reestablished ties with more people than I have lost contact with.

But those good old days...I can't get them back. And while I can control whether or not to wallow in that fact, I ultimately do because life goes so slow and so fast at the same time. A workday drags on, but before I know it, we're one-third through the year. I wish, in years past when my legs felt sturdier and my heart lighter, I had taken the time to breathe in the smell of my old dorm rooms, find comfort in the sound of my Aunt Roseanne's voice and her Easter cooking, took time to talk about life and dogs on grocery trips with my mom, and savored my dad's antipasto and his wisdom over the past 15 Christmases. Or taken the time to visit my brother more in college and congratulate him on how much he did to make his way through school. Or enjoyed my courtship with my life mate rather than wondering when we would move in, get engaged, have babies...

It's like Andy said in the finale of The Office..."I'm still just thinking about my old pals. Only now, they're the ones I made here. I wish there was a way to know you're in 'the good old days.' before you've actually left them."