Earlier I signed a “contract” with myself that I was going to write two blog entries a week through the end of January. I’ve already failed to keep up even that modest pace. The fact that this is already an issue and I’m not even halfway through the 3-month period I designated for blogging (and only blogging) as my creative outlet (and outlet for exposure therapy) is a bummer, but I think if I pick up the pace I can at least catch up with the number of blog posts I should have had, assuming a two-per-week pace, by now.
I’d consider this procrastination to be a bad habit of mine, but the truth is probably more complicated. The reality is I have 10 hours of work/commute time blocked out each week day, and then a bunch of responsibilities to my family that don’t allow me to focus on doing things for myself. Also, our place is pretty small and I don’t have a lot of privacy in it, which is something I need to be able to write without distraction or self-consciousness. (Currently I’m writing this in a Taco Bell, (speaking of bad habits), down the street from my condo so I don’t have to deal with any interruptions as long as the other patrons are behaving. So far, they are).
Anyway, this leaves me little time for the kind of introspection and writing I want to be doing, but there definitely is time. I’m just not using the few hours I have every day in a way that allows me to be particularly productive. Here are the main ways in which I distract myself from making this commitment to blogging, and my thoughts about them:
- “Spinning” – This was the problem that forced me into a three-month blog “contract” to begin with. This is an OCD problem. I’m paralyzed with inertia that keeps me stuck in a routine that is “safe.” My OCD and social anxiety make it hard for me to leave my comfort zone, but meanwhile my brain comes up with long checklists of activities I could be doing, that would expand my comfort zone and make me a better person, but they’re scary and time-consuming, so I don’t do them, then my brain beats me up for not actually landing on one of those activities and doing it. Meanwhile, I just keep spinning around in this cycle of self-flagellation, never actually landing on an activity that might benefit me socially or emotionally. It’s more like an endless loop of thoughts like “I should volunteer at the food bank more!” or “I should take guitar lessons again!” but those things just go on a list of potential activities that never get done.
- Pleasure – This is a “problem” in the sense that I have the habit of looking at any free time I have without family or work responsibilities as times I can fill up with pleasurable, distracting activities. Some amount of this is just responsible self-care, so I’m not going to judge it completely negatively. But some of it, the parts that involve getting drunk and high and going to a movie or the neighborhood bar by myself, seem kind of self-destructive and anti-social. Instead of trying to connect more deeply with my wife or an existing friend, or doing something that could attract potential new friends, I disappear into myself and just try to feel the exhilaration that comes from using substances to mute the negative self-talk in my head temporarily (the booze), or to make my experiences seem cool and novel, even when they’re actually pretty ordinary, (the weed). I’m not anti-pleasure, but I think I could stand a little more moderation in this behavior.
- Maladaptive Daydreaming – I’ve got a really overactive fantasy life, and it often makes the story I’m telling inside my head seem way more exciting than doing anything in real life. It’s easier to stay in my head where I, as a character in my dreams, have control over everything and always get what I want. I think I will write more about this in a later blog post, as it’s a big topic and not one I’ve fully explored yet.
- Despair – This one is influenced by the news and my generally dim view of humanity’s ability to ever solve its problems, and the consequences that’s going to have for all of us. There’s a profound streak of “what’s the point of anything when the planet is dying?” running through my worldview that’s hard to tamp down right now. I would also say that this could be less about sensing the planet’s mortality and more about sensing my own. I’m 45. I’m having pretty typical midlife crisis feelings, but I’m not channeling them into absurd Dad hobbies or sports cars or anything, for the reasons mentioned in #1-3 above. Anyway, thinking about the hopelessness of it all could be a great motivator for artistic endeavor, but in my case, it rarely is. Maybe that will change as I get older, but who knows? It’s sort of hard to imagine this feeling getting better as I actually get closerto the grave, but I’ve heard that it does, so I’m remain open to being pleasantly surprised.
All of these things are just excuses, though. The reality is that the only thing that matters in this world is people connecting with each other, supporting each other, and not being afraid to be vulnerable in front of each other. That’s about as good an encapsulation of my actual worldview as there is, and I should try harder to embody it. I believe I should try harder to share myself, share some of the good fortune and privilege I’ve had with those who’ve had less, and reach out and try to make connections with existing friends, family, and potential new friends. My OCD and social anxiety make those things scary and try to distract me from this process, (and it’s incredibly good at it), but as long as I put in a little of the work to get myself back on track once in a while, I think I’ll be okay.
Anyway, happy thoughts everybody! Thanks for reading!