As I look at what I’ve put out into the world here recently, I see words I don’t like staring back at me. Struggle. Disappointment. Discouraged. Stressed. “Where does this restlessness and anxiety come from all of a sudden?” The truth is it’s not sudden. It’s stealthy. It’s silent. That unhappiness is creeping up on me again, slowly, slowly insinuating itself into my everyday. But I am getting better at this. I am getting better at seeing those telltale signs.
The frustrations and pressures of my jobs seem to be compounded daily. But is that really true, or is it just that my ability to handle the stress is diminishing? In any case, I feel myself stepping away from the emotional ties that bind me to those places. While that serves it’s purpose, which is to eliminate my stress and anxiety, it also deadens the thing that makes me good at what I do. To not care about the place and its problems is to not care about its people. I can’t kill one and keep the other. So they both die.
The thing is, it’s a creeping death. That pulling away spills over into the entirety of my life, into my personal relationships, into this world. Usually I just disappear. Where that’s not possible, I put the shield up. Mostly you can’t tell the difference, because I can laugh, I can smile. I can interact like a normal person. But I don’t feel, not in the same way. My emotions stay inside the shield where they’re safe. And yours stay outside, where they can’t touch me.
Now I have to choose: shut down, protect and conserve my emotions; or refuse to shut down and replenish them.
I said choose, but it’s not so clean and simple, because this is like a full out war. And I am not in the rear, methodically plotting and planning the best means of attack. I am in the front. I am fighting in the trenches, where it’s dirty, and fast, where the enemy is staring you in the face. It would be so easy to surrender; I’ve surrendered before without even realizing that my lines had been over-run. But now that I know, now that I understand, the only real choice is to fight.
I can spend time with people who love me. I can take walks with Louis. I can chat up my customers and remember why it is that I serve. I can obsorb the joy from those situations.
Yesterday I spent the afternoon at my sister’s house with my great friend, Toni, and her son Duncan. I had fun, I laughed, I replenished some of my emotional reserves. On my thankfulness bracelet, I have a bead for my family and friends, and a bead for all of the places that welcome me in. That’s what I have to keep in mind. Those are the things that I’m fighting for, and the things that are fighting for me.