Life Overwhelming

How long can one person remain sane with the constant tug and pull of needs and demands in all directions? How do you decide who and when to push back? It is never easy to scream, “Enough is enough!”

I try to do this now and then, but as an introvert it often means my friends and family bear the brunt as the needs I am most comfortable pushing back on and asking to just leave me alone. But is that really fair? Friends and family are the ones you should be taking time out of your day to appreciate and enjoy, no matter what they need. No matter how worn down you are.

It is wearing, life. Rewarding always, but wearing, too. My fall resolution is to be more selfish. I shall plan meetings that allow me to step away from my desk and walk ten minutes in the sun. I shall not work overtime at the expense of my friends and family. To those who treat me as some unfathomable creature for still grieving, still mourning, I shall not apologize. My grief does not disappear for anyone’s convenience, least of all mine, but that is an honor and a prize that I shall not relinquish.

I don’t mean to neglect others, but to best enjoy others, I must first enjoy myself. If overwhelmed, exhausted and cranky, I shall only run the risk of dragging those I love into the mire and morass of that muddy torment of sticky need and clinging requirement. Once I extract myself, clean up and rest, then I can better distinguish where I can take pleasure in helping and where I must for the sake of work.

Keeping in Touch

How many people across the years have you promised this to without really meaning it? How many have you meant it and, with the best of intentions, really truly intended to maintain contact with? How many did you actually attempt it with, but got busy, meant to respond, definitely intended when you had time, paper, stamps, time, internet, nobody hovering, time?

I have gone so far as to maintain pen pals up to a year, two years, but then it dies down. I know I’m to blame and there’s always guilt, however, I don’t get better about it. I don’t suddenly make the time or really put in the effort. Sometimes it’s not a lack of caring, I’m just truly bad that way. There are no bread and butter notes, I suck at thank you notes. I don’t argue that these niceties are unimportant,  there just always seems to be so much more that is immediate and urgent.

And after time, my embarrassment and guilt lead me to procrastination,  avoidance, and depressed attempts to put it right. I write out one or two or three feeble attempts of excuse and apology, but then put those aside. My parents taught me that excuses never matter. Only the action or lack of action does. So the attempt is deleted as a sniveling, weak attempt at connection and communication. That needs a pause to cleanse myself of such thoughts and feelings.

And now communication with that cherished person who I really don’t want to lose has become a chore and it’s my own fault! Doubt sets in. Uncertainty that I should even saddle this wonderful person with my inconsiderate, self-absorbed failure at maintaining contact. They surely have more important, more satisfying, more responsive people to cultivate a distant relationship with.

And so I let another friendship, treasured and valued, but distant die. There is no one fault or flaw in my basic personality, but numerous little ones. Taken alone, they are nothing. Working together, they are a nigh insurmountable height of epic proportions.  My own mountain formed out of minimal little bumps.

Case in point: I started this post a week ago, fueled by my Tensor’s mother sending me wonderful pictures and I found myself stymied. So many things I wished to express and so much gratitude. An uncomfortable amount, mingled with sorrow and pain that I had no desire to inflict. So I delayed my response, hoping to gain control of my emotions. And delayed and delayed. And delayed my post to you, dear reader.

Fortunately,  she contacted me about something else so I was able to respond promptly to that. And in doing so, decided to finish the post as well.

As a child

Pictures. I have very few pictures of myself from when I was younger. I always hated having my picture taken.

Sometimes I wonder, if there are no witnesses, if there is no record, how many of the strange and unusual things I experienced are nothing more than my own flights of fancy? Why didn’t I document these things and why do I neglect to do so now? Do I have something deep inside of me that urges me to leave no footprint, to remain someone undocumented? Or is this a sort of hubris instead; expecting to be so memorable that such trifling mementos are worthless and a shadow of my true impact? No, I suspect it’s none of these. It is the result of disliking my own appearance and never living up in the flat image to my mind’s eye of my personality.

When I die, will that mean there will be fewer memories for people to draw from or share? My tensor’s mother sent me some photos from ten years ago. He would have been 15, 16. He was young, obviously; gangling, not yet grown into himself. Not yet quite so self-assured and independent. Happy, though. It was a he I never met, but caught glimpses of in the man he became. I treasure these images shared with me. These memories that are not mine, but that augment mine. I miss him.

If I die, what memories will there be left to share?

Little Things

All the little things I miss about you. It isn’t the large or overwhelming, though they still creep up to surprise me in their absence like a childish game to see how high you can make me jump in the startling — no, it is the little things I miss. The day to day joys and yes, even frustrations, that you were so skilled at causing were so much more beloved than I ever let on. We only know what is truly best once it is gone.

I miss your logical testing and playful silliness. I am bereft of the clever quips and the terrible fake Scottish accent or descent into archaic speech – this day greco-roman conventions, then High Elizabethan on the next. There is nobody to make jokes of absolute absurdity that still contain an element of background education and delight in mythology, theatrics, and inventive philosophy. I miss your aid and your talk of beards and your love of food. Your laugh, your smile, your raised eyebrows or nonsense declarations, such small parts to the great you.

It isn’t the important,  the life-altering, or even the romance. It is the little things that define a person. Every little thing helps to compound that vast aggregate grief, the loss and the anguish, but in every day, what I miss are just those many, ever present, little things.

Inordinate Joys

It still makes no sense to me, but I am filled with joy every time I receive these emails. And as a semi-rational mind, I still seek to investigate and understand this non-understandable concept. It is the joy of a link, of someone who knows the darkest ravage of my heart, but still talks to me about topics I simply enjoy.

Perhaps it has to do with the fact that this relationship (friendship? Acquaintanceship?) Remains free of demand or particular expectation. The brother of a friend does not mean instant friendship status, nor does the soulmate of a brother require particular relationship from anyone. So we are at our leave to walk away and abandon these conversations at any point. Maybe that is the joy I find? That neither of us have yet, though nobody would fault us if we did.

It does beg the question of how awkward would it be to sit down face to face and converse, for now there is history. Which could cause a stronger bond or could, potentially,  influence us against one another (in such things as preferred composers – his, Schubert; mine, Liszt.) I still think it could be favorably entertaining should we ever try it, but who can say?

Perhaps it is for his brother I have these lingering sentiments, but I simply can’t believe that is the reason for the sudden and overwhelming delight that the receipt of such an email brings. Even prior to reading it, even prior to the contents which may very well be confused, amused or completely contrary. It doesn’t matter. I’m still overjoyed. I feel like a giddy child with a new friend who I can’t believe likes me, even if that doesn’t truly define the situation at all.

I begin to worry that I will be horribly let down, no matter how carefully I limit and contain this experience within my own mind. Isn’t such unabashed,  unquestioning joy a self delusion bound to end in ignominious pain and sorrow? And yet… and yet… I still smile.

Take me down a notch

The flu always takes me down a notch. Perhaps more so than most people find. I had a flu and ended up paralyzed from the waist down and took years to recover and regain feeling. My tensor had a flu and died. The flu is no light and easy thing.

Life wears on, drags on, the day to day needs and requirements never pausing, but my body has slowed, aches and begrudges even simple activity. When that is paired with the pure effort required to drive a grieving mind and will, I am left more exhausted than ever and without any sign of relief in view.

So, when I sink so far down, I need to look elsewhere to lift me up. Today, it was the Virtues.

If we lean towards Aristotelian ethics, our moral virtues are the disposition to behave in the right fashion and a learned practice to balance out our vices. For him, the virtues were those of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. Prudence is intended to be, quite literally,  recta ratio agilbilium or the right reason for things to be done – knowledge and foresight are the hallmarks of prudence. Justice is that which ought to be done and the satisfaction of providing what is due at the time it is. Fortitude is the concept of bravery and courage – a very Grecian virtue, but not without use in today’s era. Fortitude is the ability to stand firm in the face of threat or strife. Finally, temperance is our ability to enjoy pleasure without sinking into the morass of gluttony.

But is the supreme good the activity of a rational soul within these standards of virtue? Or is there something deeper that applies?

Of notable absence upon Aristotle’s list are traits such as Integrity or Dilligence. If we pay attention to Confucius, other main virtues are worked into the philosophy by which man ought to live, though such virtues may have even less applicability to the modern world: Jen – human-heartedness or that benevolence that gives man his humanity; Li – benefit and the social order; Yi – righteousness and the desire to do good; Hsaio – filial piety, reverence – perhaps synonymous with obedience for your elders – a concept we see less and less of in the modern era; Chih – moral wisdom – a comprehension of right and wrong; Chen-tzu – the ideal man – the upright person we all must strive to be; and Te – governing moral – lawful rightness.

An interesting comparison between the two. Confucius’ system was very clearly designed towards a governing structure while Aristotle’s was less so, but the question becomes, can either of these truly apply to life as we see it? It also bears noting that Confucius’ standard was of the view that humans are born good and evil is something to be learned, while Aristotle’s view of humanity’s moral state was that humans are neither inherently good nor evil, but seek to learn goodness.

My natural inclination is to move straight towards Kant which is the direction of my own philosophical musings, but one bouche amuse at a time! To move from this into the question of moral question is to take virtues into the entirely next level, since that’s where we begin to question moral absolutism versus moral relativism and moral universalism which may provide very different ideas of how these virtues play out in any moral or ethical question that arises. But that’s a consideration for another time.

Aching

The dull throb sometimes escalates into agonizing wrenching pain. I feel used, abused, and wrung out like a dishrag. Damp and discarded,  without a thought of mildew, I’ve been left at the side of the sink, still wound taut and unable to release the painful twists that I’ve been wrapped within. Fold after agonizing fold has been left with the ignominious water-soaked crumbs; invaders now trapped and ignored, now to rot.

Unmitigating agony, the dull pain just continues unrelentingly. Sharp anguish might be easier to bear, for it doesn’t roll across you like the uncaring tide, breaking and eroding with each and every wave, no end in sight. Such pain is not for the weak of will or heart.

As much as I hate visiting the doctor, it’s time to seek a renewal of my prescription for migraine relief.