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An Early Confessional: Living with myself

I confess from time to time to resenting not being able to get away from myself. This is a problem I’m surprised I haven’t read about more. The fact that I am subjected constantly to whatever damn thought my brain happens across. I cannot escape it. Not only can I not escape it, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to even talk about it. I’ve sniffed around the edges of it with people, but just the edges.

“Do you ever have thoughts where you feel like if they ever surfaced, you’d never be seen in the same way again?”

We can ask questions like that and feel pretty comfortable that the person we’re having the conversation will laugh a little, probably nervously, confirm they do and quickly change the subject. That’s always a little comforting, but it doesn’t really get at the problem. The nature of the problem prevents us from getting into specifics. Not many people are – I certainly wouldn’t be – willing to press further.

“One time this [horrific idea] popped into my head. Have you ever had thoughts that bad?” In that situation, I’d hope I had chosen the right person to trust with this information but who wants to be there when we’re wrong and the other person’s face recoils in horror? “Good lord! No! You monster!” I guess for this reason I shouldn’t be surprised to not read about this problem more often.

I think most of us deal with this by assuming it’s normal and trying not to dwell on it. I don’t want to weird anybody out here by leaving this open-ended. I’m not Dexter. I’m not constantly fending off ideas to kill. But I will say the problem isn’t just the twisted thoughts that are easy to dismiss as wacky. The mundane things can work you over, too. Sometimes the thoughts I wish I could escape aren’t bad things at all and that’s one of the hardest things to live with.

It will sometimes occur to me that I could do something very generous for somebody else and for one of a variety of reasons, I decide against doing it. Usually, I just move on because it was an idea I didn’t want to act on. Those happen all the time. Sometimes, though, I can’t help but linger on it. Why didn’t I do it? Obviously, I didn’t want to badly enough. Why didn’t I want to? What does that say about me? Add up enough guilt from these omissions and it can add up.

One day, I found a release from these internal dialogs in a most unexpected place. I queued up a Louis CK special on Netflix and I don’t remember the specific joke – it may have been one in which he was saying his daughters were assholes – but I was laughing out loud at it. I was surprised to find myself not only laughing but filled with a bit of euphoria, even relief.

This feeling reminded me of the most common explanation I’d heard for why people listen to the Blues. When they felt down, they liked to listen to music approximating similar experiences or emotions. It made them feel better. I never understood that idea. When I was down, I typically turned to uplifting pop music to drag me out of my doldrums.

This experience I had with Louis CK’s comedy, though, brought light to that reasoning behind listening to the Blues. If I understand it correctly, the idea is to listen to this music that’s getting at how you’re feeling. It lets you wallow in those Blues for a while, cover yourself in them, and take comfort in the fact that other people have had to work through similar things. This is actually a much more mature approach than how I had always used music when I was down. It’s acknowledging the depths and trying to work through them, where my turning to uplifting music was really just a distraction, a refusal to deal with the root of the problem and just trying to move away from it.

Compare that Blues approach with Louis CK’s comedy. I’m sitting here as a person who’s been dragged down with some of this dark shit my brain subjects me to. This comedian, though, lays out his equivalent of these thoughts in a way that’s funny. He owns up to these thoughts and literally thousands of people find them laugh out loud funny.

Not only are they laughing, but they get to realize part of the humor is that this is a shared experience. We all think our kids are assholes from time to time. If we don’t have kids, we have a parallel thought we guard just as closely and we’re happy to see it doesn’t make us a monster.

This epiphany actually made me feel very grateful toward Louis CK. I devoured all his standup I could find and when Season 3 of his show, Louie, went down paths I was disappointed in, my gratitude allowed me to still shrug it off and look forward to Season 4.

There’s only so much salvation, though, in knowing other people have to deal with similar problems. At some point, you have to find a personal way to deal with them. Since I’m writing this, it’s obviously a struggle I’m still trying to deal with and I assume I always will. I think I’ve made progress, though.

It recently occurred to me to pay a little more attention to the infinite little things that pop into my head and to try to do more of the good ones. On the one hand, it feels very good. I’m amazed at the satisfaction that builds from tying up the garbage when it’s full rather than cramming it down for another time. From just going ahead and emptying the dishwasher instead of hoping my wife will realize it hasn’t been done yet. From just deciding that no, there’s no reason you can’t go to your nephew’s Christmas concert.

On the other hand, it makes me feel like a piece of shit that doing these little things more feels like such an accomplishment and such a big change. The sheer amount of laziness, indifference and inertia I had surrendered to is astounding. Knowing how much I still choose to set aside, how much room still remains to improve, it makes me wonder if that internal storm would have eventually pulled me under. I’m not even sure what that would look like, but it’s a scary thought nonetheless. And if it’s a possibility, have I done enough to avoid some eventual plunge or just delayed it? It’s a question that sometimes leaves me wishing I could get away from myself.

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January 17, 2013 - Posted by | Friday Afternoon Confessional

4 Comments

  1. I confess that this is an inadequate response to an eloquent and impressively revealing Confession, but everything about this suggests that you would benefit immensely from meditation. I further confess that I have never been any good at all at meditation, nor have I tried very hard.

    I confess that I have enjoyed studying myself via the teachings of the Enneagram, and I recommend taking the 36-question test here and then reading the top two type descriptions. The Enneagram is similar to Myers-Briggs and other personality systems, but it distinguishes itself, IMHO, in its attention to fluidity and relationships — relationships both in terms of how two people of different (or same) types relate to one another, but also in how the various types play themselves out within one person who may have more than one tendency acting itself out at a time.

    Thanks for writing such an honest FC.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | January 17, 2013

  2. Thanks Josh. I’ve not risked much with these lately and wondered if that was one of the reasons the comments have slumped. I thought this might make people feel a little more comfortable sharing their thoughts or earnest confessions if they so choose. Thanks for the suggestions as well.

    Comment by mattintoledo | January 18, 2013

  3. I confess I am depressed like hell (& not by this post). Lights out. First time in years I thought about killing the only person that matters to me. Won’t do it though; I like others, they give me hope.

    Comment by Guido Nius | January 19, 2013

  4. everybody is self-centered which is very understandable bc i am like that myself, so i think the reason the blog comments are sparse is that the former contributors have left and withdrawn with them their readership, mostly younger people who are too busy building their lives, and partly due to their attitude towards me as if like i was the ToS, too bad, as i always thought i was just trying to make friends
    so the reason is not you guys, you are a few of the most kind and tolerant people i know in my limited experience of the blogosphere and i don’t comment much here anymore just bc think to not stress you out by my “trolling” as it is seen pretty much everywhere i visit online, that’s the perils of sincerity i guess
    i confess i had pretty serious flu last two weeks and still have a little cough, and the first new year dream which is believed to come true was me calling to optimum arguing them to not bill me 150 instead of their usual 50 b/c i dont watch tv and dont need their 500 channels tv promotion, too stupid, to have a hatsuyume in years and years and dream like that, it was caused i think by my not very wise “trolling” of the site which doesnt like me no matter what and a little nye feast i guess
    now i have to spend the year arguing with people about money, which is what i do for living anyway living from a grant deadline to deadline, i wish somebody give me money which is in the end it seems all that matters

    Comment by read | January 19, 2013


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