Monday, August 17, 2015

Never give up, never surrender!

At one point, when I was living at home again after college - under my mother's roof with no idea of a future for myself, I actually set out to commit suicide by taking Valium with alcohol. 

But after the first pill, I got to thinking about how things change. At the moment life seemed pointless, but if I died there'd be no option for improving things, and things did have a way of changing, and would probably look different the next day. 

I fell asleep around then, and woke up the next day, indeed feeling differently. And lots of things have changed for good and bad since then, including meeting friends who've become important influences, having all kinds of adventures and creating some cool stuff. I hadn't even discovered SF fandom at that point, or written a single novel.

I've never again set out to kill myself, but the urge has occurred from time to time, when circumstances have seemed hopeless. 

I get mad at myself for it. It's like this person who has been with me my whole life, enjoying every good time, wants to ditch me when the going gets rough.

You know how much influence our thoughts can have on our feelings. (I say influence rather than 'control' for a reason*) 

If my self-talk all dwells on the things I want and don't have (a mate, children, car, big house, money), or the uselessness of my works (how little I've impressed people I've striven to impress, etc. etc) and how impossible it is that I'll ever improve matters, it tends to darken my spirits and make life seem like a dreary wait for the inevitable grave. 

If my self-talk focuses on what I can enjoy here and now, I tend to stay in pretty good spirits. Also known as counting blessings and adopting an 'attitude of gratitude.' (All those 'attitude of gratitude' inspirational sayings are perfectly correct. I've collected a lot on one of my Pinterest boards - a lot are about inspiration and creative work, etc too). If nothing else, this focuses my thoughts on the resources available to make any changes to my situation. It's also a kind of magic. Focus on resources makes it easier to contemplate things I can do here and now to at least improve matters, if not solve every problem in existence.

Of course, being grateful for blessings doesn't address issues that represent real problems. 
It's easier to feel optimistic about life if I'm actually doing something (small or large) every day toward reaching my goals. To this end, I establish weekly goals. A certain amount of progress on the current novel, making a dentist's appointment, etc. I keep myself honest by checking in with a few friends every week.  "Never give up, never surrender!" (Galaxy Quest)

And we can't just ignore feelings of sadness, frustration, anger, despair or other ego-based needs. As a writer, I tend to view all my feelings - even difficult ones like sorrow and frustration and impossible desires - as resources. Strong feelings are the stuff dreams are made of - or, at least, the stuff good characters and stories are made of.

I just need to keep some perspective, not be overwhelmed or carried too far away. Having a sense of compassion for myself helps this. Imagining a love greater than my own helps me find that compassion in myself. Conceiving a compassion great enough to embrace the worst of my feelings leads me to conceive a compassion embracing all of us, even at our worst. It's the kind of perspective that can enable me to relate to my villains as well as my heroes, and knowing that acceptance in my own heart keeps me from giving in to the worst I could be.

(*from our Discordian teachings we know that an excess of control can break our spontaneous and playful creative spirits.)