Programming note: Body of Knowledge, my regular Saturday feature, will return next week. This week I’m taking a break from it because to be frank, I didn’t have the time over the course of the week to check out any cool items that I could end up sharing. Sometimes that happens, I guess, and you just have to roll with it. And in this case, rather than show up empty-handed, I figured I’d offer you, my dear readers, a little something.
It’s no secret–at least I don’t believe it is–that I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately. I made an effort over the past few weeks to fill my time with things I wanted to be doing, with the thought that in so doing, I would be able to fill a little bit of the void that has been bringing me down. I went for group runs, ran more races, spent more time socializing and less time at home getting nothing done. I enjoyed the things I did, but I also really ran myself down. Additionally, in simply being more active and more involved in other projects, I failed to address some of the more significant things that are going on in my life that are probably responsible for a lot of the emptiness I’m experiencing: I’m not satisfied with the work I’m doing (and no matter how much running or socializing or racing or yoga I’m doing after work, my job still takes up the majority of my day); I’m not making an effort to eat any healthier; and I’m not addressing any of the financial issues I’m constantly worrying about, which are leaking into my anxieties about food.
Throughout history, the mind has been referred to as a slate, and one of the greatest debates concerning human psychology is whether we are born with a slate that has already been decorated with all sorts of sentences, directions, and images that will dictate who we are, or whether this slate is blank at the time we’re born and just waiting to be filled with the information we acquire through our experiences on the planet. We also often talk about a “clean slate”–every time I find myself in a mild depression, I turn to this concept as though it’s a solution. Wipe the slate clean, and just start over again. Erase the negativity and the things that are bringing you down, and start anew by covering the slate with what you want to get out of life, your plans for the future, goals, the things you love and to have surrounding you.
I’ve tried to wipe the slate clean so many times, and every time I’ve tried I’ve believed that I could do it. The problem is, though, that the slate can never be truly spotless. Every time you start over, you still hold the same slate in your hand, and you can still trace the same lines you made in the months, weeks, and days before–as anyone who has tried to erase a chalkboard knows, the marks don’t go away that easily, and always leave lines that can easily be traced, allowing the writer to fall back into the same pattern he or she was in before. It’s hard to find new words, new plans, and new actions when the ghosts of the old ones are still there staring back at you.
And that’s where I find myself now: trying to wipe my dirty slate clean, but haunted by the demons of my past. It has begun to pervade many aspects of my life:
- I want to take care of myself by cooking, taking more control over food selection and preparation, and feeling more involved with food in general; at the same time, I have a hard time generating any interest in food. If I could eat something unflavored that didn’t require cooking but contained my caloric and nutritive needs for every meal, I would solve this problem simply by doing that.
- I want to pursue a job that I will feel passionately about and enjoy doing; but I’ve faced so much rejection in applying for jobs that I felt I would have been perfect for, that instead of actively searching, I feel dejected and scared to continue putting myself out there.
- I want to get more serious about my running and training; but my recent races and training periods have been so uneven that I don’t know if I should keep trying, or accept that maybe I’ve peaked.
- I want to write for other websites, grow my blog’s readership, and expand what I’m doing here; but once again, I feel intimidated by the rejection I’ve experienced in the past. Inquiries at other sites are, more often than not, unanswered, and I begin to wonder if maybe it’s a sign that I don’t have anything to offer.
On a day like today, when I have hours of time stretching out a head of me, there’s obviously an opportunity to try tracing different lines and patterns on that slate. But the previous marks always manage to fool me into thinking they’re indelible, and that they represent the only path. Breaking habits and thought patterns is not ever as easy as anyone thinks it will be, but I’ve been so unhappy for so long at this point that I feel it’s absolutely essential that I find some way to do it. Is it just a question of trying harder? Ignoring the previous marks, pretending those ghosts aren’t there and pushing blindly forward? I don’t know, and maybe that’s why I’ve felt so stuck for so long.