Perspective

Last weekend, hubs and i were doing our once a week stocking up on essentials. When i saw him, my heart sank. Anxiety jumped on my chest and began twisted my guts with both hands. No mask. Little girl with him – no mask. He’s skimming closely behind other shoppers, laughing and speaking loudly. Rage knocks on my door and asks if i want to come out to play.

I can’t, i tell it, we’re social distancing, remember?
Ha.

As someone living with serious mental illness, i have an established, daily routine of checking in with my thoughts and emotions, in order to manage the way my brain works and maintain a decent level of functionality. The COVID pandemic, and its intense politicisation, has amped up my anxiety so high that, for a while there i was practically paralysed. Unable to take a step or even a breath due to the 800lb gorilla in the room. BUT, i’ve been working at the problem for months, addressing my thoughts and making small adjustments in the hopes of managing a little better, functioning at a higher level, and finding a way to help those around me.

This post is not going to be preachy. I don’t tell people how to think, or behave, or live. This blog is for sharing how i figure stuff out and create more of the life i want. I share for my own benefit, and out of care and concern for my fellow humans. I share so readers know that it can be done; this is not a guide to how.

The first thing i do is shift my perspective a little. Whether or not it’s true, i tell myself that he’s probably a decent enough guy, and he’s doing what he thinks is right. I remind myself that we’re all dealing with more stress than usual, and that it can be tough to figure out who’s correct and/or telling the truth – especially if you’re like me, and weren’t taught critical thinking skills. He’s got his adorable little daughter with him, nattering excitedly and flitting around his legs like a bird. A parking lot seagull with a french fry. I smile at the imagery, and my chest expands and my guts loosen. I head in to pick up groceries, almost breathing naturally.

But like i said – i don’t know him, and he might not be a decent person. He might, in fact, be an ass, but in this case it doesn’t matter. He’s leaving, so i don’t have to interact with him. I don’t have anyone along with me that might require a different response, like kids that know the girl from school, or someone with whom he’s friends. The way i choose to see him and his behaviour is for me, and is a reflection of who i am and want to be as a person. I want to be kind and good and helpful. That, and also to like myself and feel comfortable in my skin. I don’t like myself as much when i’m snide and sarcastic* and snarky. And even if i knew him personally to be a jerk, i would still be letting go of his actions, just in a different way. In any of the scenarios i can quickly play through in my mind, engaging him seems a losing battle, one that costs spoons i can’t spare. He might be a good person, and unless/until i know otherwise, the possibility is enough.

I’m a terrible arguer for one thing. I was raised with a mother who brooked no questions or even discussions around any issue she considered settled. She knew everything and was right about it all. She was my model for how to respond to others, and so i was a cantankerous contrarian outside the home. I argued hard and unfairly. I played a dirty game, full of straw men and ad hominems and gish gallops (yes, i’ve been learning about logical fallacies, and how i’ve been guilty of all of them). I didn’t know any different, but still, i was a shrill and strident know-it-all whenever i felt my beliefs were being questioned or threatened.

I’m not equipped or experienced in the art of fruitful discussions, especially those had amongst folks of differing beliefs who hold strong opinions. The older i get, the healthier and smarter, and i’m being convinced that changing people’s minds isn’t in my wheelhouse. I’m truly enjoying being quieter and keeping to myself. I like extending grace to others to be who they are. I like that people feel welcome and safe around me now, that they can relax and not fear judgment. I’m learning when and where to ask questions, and i’m seeing that the best and most helpful thing i can do for others right now is to be quietly and firmly myself. There are so many voices out there –more cacophony than choir– and it can be nigh impossible to separate out just one to give one’s attention.

In an age where studies indicate a fair number of people reflexively “double down” on what they think is true, and see outside viewpoints as a threat and those who hold them as worthy of derision, i see a niche for me with those who seek internal balance while building external bridges. I think that, in these small, quiet spaces, i might be able to help some. Maybe. Hopefully.

These days i prefer to listen quietly, or better yet, to read these chats/discussions/debates/arguments from the safety and solitude of my Little Crooked House. That way i’m relieved of my social anxieties and personality quirks and mental illness oddities, and i can just absorb it all and then mull it over at my leisure. (Which is immediately and obsessively, but hey, progress not perfection, eh? Heh.)

So yeah, that’s my post for today. It’s not much, but it’s something. A glimpse into how i handle something that we all deal with, and that’s perspective. How do i see the world, and is that how i want to see the world, and further, is that how the world IS? Are there ways that i can reasonably and safely shift my focus, my thoughts, my attitudes, that might lessen my mental/emotional load? I believe there are, and some of the things i’ve done seem to be working/helping. Here’s 1 small example with my typical meandering and wacky explanation. I’m trying to be entertaining and insightful while being true to who i know myself to be.

If i’m to get any blogging done, i’m going to have to relax into what i’m able to produce given my present set of circumstances, namely, that i’m in the worst fibro flareup i can remember in recent years. The pain is intense and constant and diffuse, which causes mental fog, the result of which is i’m having great difficulty remembering words, constructing sentences, and generally making any goddamn sense at all.

Bear with me.
Peace and Love,
~H~

* You’ll pry my sarcasm from my cold, dead hands. I used to be flat out caustic with my use of it, however, i’ve matured and developed discernment regarding when to use it and with whom.

IMAGE: Egor Myznik