Uncertain MooringsPosted: December 5, 2013
”The sea is the same as it has been since before men ever went on it in boats.” Ernest Hemingway
In the reality in which I live (and we all live in our own realities, intersecting but never converging) the concept of change is a terrifying thing. There are solid reasons for this, the lack of internal stability that comes hand in hand with my manic depression means that I compensate by enforcing external predictability. By limiting the number of new external inputs I can reduce the number of potentially harmful mis-reactions to a manageable degree. This manifests in a number of ways.
In order to limit my potential exposure to chaotic inputs I will only let a small number of individuals get close to me. I can have many colleagues but a very limited number of friends who I will seek to be with. These friends do not have to agree with me, or treat me with kid gloves – we can argue (indeed, I enjoy it) – but they are all people who I can trust to be responsible with my feelings. They are all people who will not push when I need to have my space.
To avoid fatigue I will avoid going to events on two consecutive nights, and by ‘going to events’ I generally mean leaving the house. This again relates to my experience of manic depression and the observation that I become restless and mentally agitated if exposed to too much stimulus over consecutive days. I may enjoy the actual events but when I come away the insistent thoughts and ideation are far stronger than they were before. The ever present haze of depression is harder to penetrate, the rushing of my mental processes that much more difficult to dam. I cannot go out night after night and simultaneously maintain control of my mind and emotions and so I don’t go out night after night. My manic depression does not control me, I control it; but some of the tools that I utilise cost me in time.
I tend to avoid excessive planning (or even any planning as my fiancée can attest). This seems unusual at first glance. To minimise uncertainty you would assume that thorough planning was a requirement. However, in my world, the feelings associated with deviation from a plan can be extreme. Before the event my thoughts will fixate upon the pre-determined timings involved and obsess about the potential to fail to meet those deadlines. During the event I will fail to enjoy anything that is taking place because I am worrying about the next waypoint and, ultimately, if we go off track I experience a terrible sense of fear and failure for having been unable to adhere to the plan. I cope with this by having no plan, by placing no timings upon events and pre-selecting no list of goals or requirements except, perhaps, ones so general as to be easily achievable. My decisions are taken, as much as can be possible, in the moment. I rarely fail to achieve an objective because my objectives are usually short-term, vague and easily achievable. I attempt to pass from one moment to the next without judgement or expectation. In my ideal world I have no history and no future, I am only now and I am at peace. The parallel with Buddhist teachings is not lost on me.
Of course the ideal world in which I only meet individuals who are responsible with my feelings, who do not press me to accept more inputs than I can easily process and who are happy for me to exist in a bubble of immediacy does not, can not, exist. Accepting the non-existence of perfection is something that can be hard for those who are ‘mentally different’. It is hard for me because I judge myself against an extreme of perfection that solely exists as an idea contained within me. If I cannot reach this perfection then I label myself a failure, but intellectually I know that the best I can hope for in such a contest is to occasionally reach perfection and that therefore only very occasionally will I be satisfied with anything I do. Perversely my judgement upon others is wholly reversed – of course they cant achieve perfection, it is an unattainable goal, and so I find myself willing to forgive them any transgression and reluctant to levy any punishment for a wrongdoing.
That, the above, is the day to day. It is the tension between theoretical need and actualisation. It is how I live from minute to minute and hour to hour. It is an adaptation designed to let me survive in what, essentially, is a hostile reality of my own invention. However, as I alluded to in the opening paragraph there is another time-frame that I am forced to address, that of lifelong happiness.
There are times in life when change, or the option for change, inserts itself. Moments of crux when we must make a concious decision to take one path or another and where the need for a decision is hard coded into the reality itself. The decision must be made because either the status quo has become untenable or doing nothing is a decision within itself. If your landlord decides to stop renting your home, you must move on somewhere. If you meet someone you love and, against all expectation, find you cannot imagine being without them then you must adjust. If you are offered a better job nearer to your home then you must choose to move forwards or forever wonder at the opportunity passed.
I have encountered all of the above and at these times I have no choice but to abandon the day to day. No choice but to turn the incumbent order upon its head and make those changes necessary to encode a new normality, find a new day to day. The transition between different day-to-day realities is hard. I must un-moor myself and ride for a time upon potentially treacherous waters in order to attain the new port – I must take a risk that I am extremely uncomfortable taking. But, there is no choice, and furthermore to refuse to take the risk would be foolhardy in the extreme. The option itself has shattered the current day-to-day and will quickly erode its comforting safety if I try and ignore the new possibilities that I have been presented with. The choice is no real choice, to stay in the safe mooring is to condemn myself to certain downfall, I must take the risk. I must make the attempt.
Next year, in January, I will be starting a new job, a job of frightening complexity. Next year, at a date yet to be set, I will be getting married to the most wonderful lady in my reality. I will be co-arranging a feast for friends, relatives and acquaintances that will be judged and talked about. Next year is set for a great deal of treacherous water and the possibilities of sparkling new ports of destination.
I have cast off from the day-to-day and am adrift, looking to find that sparkling port, looking to find that better place one step closer to perfection.