Sincerely, “Feeling Like a Self-Absorbed Little Rat”
I’ve been holding my breath lately.
Yeah, I like control, I’ll admit it. There is none right now. In quarantine, I thought I’d attempt to let life
happen to me without questioning it, to stop micromanaging myself enough for the day to take me where I
need to be without a constant need for stimulation. I’m used to using distraction as a coping mechanism, a
busy schedule as a weighted blanket for my anxiety.
But, because I am the way I am, all I’ve actually been doing underneath my attempts at self-growth is
questioning every single thing. I continuously doubt my friendships with people that now exist
exclusively in the online realm. I examine my own mental state, the deeper meanings of trivial habits I
keep, and the trivial habits I keep that have absolutely no deeper meaning.
How introspective is TOO introspective? I’m irritating myself even asking the question.
I’m keeping a running list of “things I’ve noticed” (as suggested by the lovely folks at Manrepeller.com),
and I continuously find that instead of actually slowing down and being observant of my surroundings,
which was my initial goal, I only focus on what’s happening within myself. I jot down realizations I’ve
personally had, about my habits and my ways of living during isolation. I’ve noted things like: “dreaming
can be awful”, and “I wish I looked like Elle Fanning but that just isn’t going to happen is it”, and asked
myself if birthdays are even real (I was definitely having a full blown crisis with this one).
But I feel selfish. I haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on around me in the way I truly want to.
I neglect describing moments of interaction I’ve had with people on my daily walk. I don’t think to write
down the stories I hear in the news, where people are filled with confusion and despair about the state of
the world. I don’t add the stories my own friends and family have told me. Instead, I’ve become entirely
obsessed with how I’m personally doing, taking stock of how days are feeling for me, and blocking out
the world in many respects. I only write down what comes into my orbit directly. It feels wrong to look
back on the “things I’ve noticed”- there is so much that’s missing. How am I going to feel when I look
back at this list, and find out that during the pandemic I was a self-absorbed little rat?
It’s not that I think introspection is unimportant – obviously I value personal growth, it helps us be better
to those around us. But I know I’ve been ignorant to assume that my lack of control in this situation is
individual – rather, I now realize how entirely collective it is. I know I have more personal control than
millions of people facing this crisis. Going forward, I’m going to constantly remind myself of that.
But I’m still holding my breath.
What control do I really have? I can stay quarantined, I can donate, and I can virtually support those in
my sphere. But I’m curious whether I’m being too hard on myself or if I’m asking all the right questions.
Is there more I could be doing to help? I think the answer is always going to be yes, actually, in any
context. But how can I justify my attempt at personal growth with everything going on? Is it selfish to even want that? And also, how can I help others without the lurking feeling that I’m only doing it to help
myself feel a sense of control?
Breath = still being held.
Now, “completeness”. What does it mean, to you, to feel “complete”? Thus far in my own life, I’ve never
felt it! Not even once, really. There have been moments where I think I’m close to fulfillment, I’m
absolutely joyful, but then something shifts and I feel the itching sensation a piece of my life is out of
Deep down, I think I was hoping to find a sense of completeness during this extended period of time
alone. I wanted to find “peace within myself”, for good this time. But ACTUALLY, I don’t think it exists,
and I don’t think it’s important. I’m just going to say it! Happiness, in that plastic, perfect sense, is
unattainable. Full control, in any aspect of life, love, pain, loss, or otherwise, is impossibly elusive.
Clearly it’s important to feel joy and find fulfillment! But there is gray-area in everything.
One of my favorite poems by Derek Walcott, says “The day, with all its pain ahead, is yours”. I love it
because it’s ruthlessly self-accepting. It imagines a world where you can take the bad days, and the
endless questions, and exclaim, okay, this hurts and it sucks, but it is also a natural part of everything! The
poem knows that even with sadness and uncertainty, a day can be yours. Even with its expanding gray
areas and incompleteness, each day is worthy of your living it.
So, yeah, maybe this whole piece of writing was paradoxically self-indulgent – haha..HAHA very funny.
But I’m never going to get it exactly right. All of my thoughts, and yours, are important – the ones about
self growth, self doubt, telling your own stories, and telling others’ stories. It is equally as important to
support yourself as it is to support those around you. As long as you’re doing your best to raise the world
up, “the day, with all its pain ahead, is yours”, absolutely.
I’m going to stop holding my breath, come what may.
Practice self-acceptance always, but especially now. Sit in the gray areas, and embrace your questions. Do
your best (cheesy as it fuckin sounds), and live everything about the experience you’re having.
I’m gonna try doing the same.
Your self-absorbed little rat,