Questioning Happiness

I’m relaxing here in my hammock listening to podcasts and I have this feeling. It’s like a rock is getting bigger and bigger in my gut. I feel guilty and worthless. I’m currently unemployed, I have little desire to apply for a job and I’m waiting on things. Turns out I hate waiting. Waking up every day after sleeping in not having anything to do or a place to be- is torture. My friends are working so they’re unavailable, I’m totally alone. I’m skating by and I hate it.

I’ve been a driven person since I was little. I put one thing in front of me and ran at it full speed. We all have this need to move forward and contribute. In the job I recently quit I was trapped. I felt I’d mastered everything they had given me so I started looking elsewhere. I started volunteering with Search and Rescue (SAR) so it gives me something to do at least twice a month, plus when people are in need. I’ve learned about myself recently that I am incredibly externally motivated. I love helping people. But when I don’t have a job, my friends don’t need company, and I’ve run out of fun things to do shit goes downhill fast. I go to the woods to fill my time with something meaningful to me, but it’s not productive. Our society is totally focused on being productive and I can’t tell or justify this resistance I have because I know my depression twists my words in my head. It’s hard to think clearly. Is it ok that I’ve spent most days in the last week not accomplishing anything?

It makes me think of when I was working, what did I do with my free time? Well I stayed at home watching Netflix for most of it. Socializing when others were available and occasionally doing really fun things. The free time is the same on a day off as it is for me right now. And I’m not spending it very differently. I think I should be. But should is a terrible word. I think I could be spending my time better. I worry that if I start doing lots of things now when I get a job I’ll have to give them up and that will let people down. I hate letting people down, it eats me up more than most things.

Too much free time let’s me think too much. But it also brings up things I bury away and try to ignore. Such as: what do I want? What a stupid question. I don’t know what I want. Some people do. I knew what I wanted until I had it and then I didn’t even notice when I moved past it. Moving past something you always wanted without noticing is scary. Now obviously I’m not totally past it because I still think about it. It doesn’t matter what it is the real question is am I festering on it because I want it back or because it’s comfortable? I spent 23 years leading to that place and the 3 years since then I’ve been drowning in place. I have no direction, I can’t find the shore. There are things that bring a strong sense of enjoyment, a large dose of dopamine, but if I just do those things won’t it wear off? What is the right direction then? Happiness is more than just enjoyment. I want to be content with my contribution to life and I’m not sure how to do that yet.

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Current struggles

Writing is my biggest struggle. I get carried away, I’m terrible at conveying things in the way I want, my flow is always off, and I’m generally crap at it. I recently looked back at writing from college and it’s a miracle that I passed. It takes so much effort to write something well than for the average person.

It’s funny then how when I’m out alone in the woods I’m always inspired to write. It bothers me in some way because I’ll sit here, like I am now, and want to be able to write something to inspire people. I’ll start thinking about it and then I won’t be able to let it go. I’ll just sit here and think about it over and over and over. Thinking is my biggest problem because it’s about 90% of what I do. I’m constantly stuck in my own head. I feel it’s become even more of a problem lately. I have a harder time listening to people, even when I really want to, because my mind will take something they said and run off on a tangent with it but the thoughts are so LOUD it’s impossible to shove them aside and actually listen.

I feel guilty. Guilty for not listening well enough, guilty for the thoughts I have. That’s the other thing that comes with over thinking, guilt. I’m really good at it. When I’m depressed, which has been a lot lately, I sit at home thinking about things I could/should do with my life and then make myself feel guilty for not acting on them. So then I get paralyzed by the guilt and anxiety about everything that could go wrong, change, not go how I wanted, the list goes on and on. So I spend my time sitting on my couch feeling like total shit because I can’t shut my mind off. Part of me blames social media but probably not for the reasons you think. I’m alone constantly. The only way to find people to spend time with is social media or texting. I just got back from a 10 day backpacking trip with 14 people. I loved it, why? Because you could simply get out of your tent and find someone to talk to and engage with. With technology it becomes your online life line to other people if they’re busy. I spend so much time alone because I don’t have lots of friends and I live alone. And I’m so desperate for interaction that I’m attached to my phone in hopes someone wants to spend time with me.

On good days I’ll motivate to go on a solo hike. I like hiking and exploring, interacting with the world around me. Observing things like the deer eating grass a few yards away right now. Camping trips, to me, mimic the life of an animal. Simplicity in that the priority is to survive. You never have to wonder what you should be doing, you can always be looking for another meal or keep moving to find a new place.

In my real life I’m in a shitty place, I don’t know what to do next for a job, I have just enough money that I’m not in danger of losing anything, and I’m depressed. For me depressed also means a serious lack of care for myself, when I’m in this place I don’t care what or when I eat. I’ll go days without eating because I don’t care enough to get up and make food. I’ve realized recently that I starved myself on multiple occasions because I just didn’t care. Now if someone else needs me I’ll be there as fast as I possibly can to do whatever they need. They need food? I’ll buy or cook them whatever it is. They need emotional support? I’m there and willing to give 100%. Their pet is missing or injured? I’ll put my life on the line to get them back or better. But I won’t do any of these things for myself. Clearly I need help, I went to therapy for some other issues but this is a different monster. And you know the one thing I never want to be is needy, god forbid I need help with anything I should be able or expected to do on my own. Will I ever get out of this rut on my own? Nope, probably not. I’ll have a day where I surge forward and get things to a point where I can be fine. Take right now, I’ve applied to one job that I’m 98% sure I won’t get. I haven’t applied to anything else, between pride, depression, and fear I’m stuck. I should be looking for and applying to jobs but I have zero motivation. The fact that I can sit in my apartment all day doing nothing and still survive is total bullshit. I have food I can just snack on without having to cook, and I have a phone, tv, computer and internet to entertain me all day. I hate all of those things because they allow me to be complacent.

After writing this is proceeded to be able to let go of those thoughts and be productive. I treated myself to lunch because why not. I did an errand I’d been putting off and I sat down and completed the online course I’ve been avoiding for about 6 months! I’m feeling balanced and good right now so maybe I just need to let out all those thoughts so they get out of my head.

New favorite place

This is one of the most beautiful place I’ve found. The creaking trees, tiny wildflowers and gorgeous view make it somewhere from an Aldo Leopold book. I can hear some noises from town but very little. Two border collies appear, one notices me. I doubt the owner will, she is on her phone. I’m not hidden by any means but simply in a place no one bothers to look. The playful look on the one dog’s face when he noticed me, sparks a fire in me. The openness, the curiosity, and the positivity remind me of a child, and how I aspire to be. We were all once that way and it’s a shame our culture forces us to change that. Sitting here quietly observing nature is my personal meditation. I feel no need to talk, I am alone. Company would be nice but the expectation of conversing would ruin the peace I am in. The mountains across the valley are getting rain. Snowbowl is being encased in a cloud. The mountains and views of the bend in the river makes this place special. I want to ditch my bag and go running free where ever I can. Everywhere we go we have stuff with us, this journal, my bag, and car keys. They weigh me down with the realization of what I have to go back to. I need the bliss of denial for awhile longer to heal whatever part of me it is that’s aching. It’s my mind, a byproduct I think of a childhood of summers running wild and without care in the north woods. A Buteo of some kind flies over the trees, lands briefly in the top branches and soars on looking for dinner. Looking down the hellgate is now blocked with a sheet of rain. The L & M are still in the sun, the rain behind them. A big cloud is coming over the mountain behind me, it might rain. Most people would head back but I want to stay out. Being wet never hurt anyone. It’s time to keep going, keep exploring.

Green Hills, Flowers, and a Heron

Today’s adventure started because after work I was incredibly restless. Since I had closed I knew I only had a couple hours of sunlight left, so I went to the closest trailhead. Now I had been here sometime in the last week and only the yellow flowers had started to come out and today it was a different world.

I started out hiking really fast because I thought it would burn off my energy and realized I needed to slow down and enjoy the view and just relax. About halfway through the length of my hike I was cresting the top of a hill when I looked to my left and I saw a great blue heron taking off from the ground. If you’ve ever seen a heron you know they’re quite large. I stopped to watch it pass over me and then fly up the valley into the rattlesnake. When I started to look around I realized the people both in front and behind me had also stopped to watch this dinosaur fly over us. It was a beautiful and rare moment that reminded me of being back in northern Minnesota at my parents cabin.

Later on in my hike when I started downhill I was on a different side than I had been earlier. Another thing that always reminds me of Minnesota are Lupines, the flower. I always get excited when the Lupines start coming out because it really means summer is almost here. So at first I noticed the stalks were coming up and they were starting to bud. The further I walked along this trail the more in bloom they became. Until suddenly I looked around and I realized I was in a field filled with wild flowers. I couldn’t help myself and had to stop and take a couple pictures.

Running from the storm

Yesterday I decided to go on a podcast hike. I went up to a new area and found a few geocaches. While I was up on the mountain I heard thunder in the distance. Thunderstorms have always reminded me of home back in the Midwest so I sat and I listened and watched the storm come towards me. After a while I decided it was time to get moving since the storm was coming my way.

Part way back to the car I decided to stop and take a quick Instagram live video and immediately after I made the video the wind picked up in the storm came right after me. I’m talking 25 mile per hour winds, minimum, whipping around me, it was hard to hold my phone steady, it was insane. I’d seen this guy behind me on the trail and suddenly he had caught up to me, he must have been running away from the storm. Just as he passed me was when the wind really picked up and it was coming from behind so it blew the dirt against the back of my legs and it stung so much I had to get off the path. I did record a short video of that moment (at the bottom of the post) after he passed me when I felt like I was going to be blown over. I had to put my sunglasses on even though it was dark out to protect my eyes from all the dirt and dust and the rain. The rain was coming down so hard it felt like hail, in fact it might have actually been.

At this point I picked up speed and started jogging on the path to get back to my car faster. I almost passed the turn down to my car, I saw it at the last second and realized I was going to have to turn into the wind. At this point I just started laughing and full-on running. I pulled my bag tighter to my body so it wouldn’t flop around, held my sunglasses on to my face and started running downhill in my sandals. I’d just been telling some of my friends how much I hate running and how I doubt I could run very far if I needed to. Thinking about those conversations I started laughing even harder and kept running as fast as I could without falling. At this point my face is getting pelted with the rain and I’m trying to see despite wearing sunglasses in a dark storm running down to my car. Somehow rain got into my ear, so I had to cover my ears and continue running. The last part of the trail down to the cars is the steepest so I actually had to slow down and almost walk. By this point I was soaking wet and all I wanted was to climb into my warm car. Once I hit the flat part I ran as fast as I could to my car with the thunder and lightning and rain going all around me.

Now most people would think that that was a terrible Adventure but for me it was perfect. For me a good Adventure always has some element of surprise or the unexpected. When I got home I felt good. To quote what I texted to my best friend: I feel 100% crazy and 1000% content.