I have decided to embark on a year long journey discovering not only the greatest words spoken, written, learned, but to also learn how those same words apply to my world and my life. I imagine there will be times when I will search for a quote that moves me and then I will write. Other times the words will find me and help me to fulfill a need to be able to explain that which is so difficult for me to say. I plan to use the words of philosophers, actors, poets, lyricists, and those writers that can turn a simple phrase into a complex set of imaginary understanding. I will use this paragraph at the beginning of each post so you know that I am still on this journey. I do not guarantee to write everyday. I do not guarantee to bring to you the greatest words ever written. This is an exercise for me; a way for me to explore more than the obvious thoughts that float through my soul each and every night right before I go to sleep. I will never take credit for words that are not mine. And I will never take for granted that I know what each quote actually was proposed to mean. All I will do is take these words, honor them, and use them to explore myself, my mental illness, and the world that I am forced to live in.
“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” EPICTETUS
This quote has silently and stealthy been following me for the last year. I didn’t know it. I didn’t even know of Epictetus. And I truly don’t know if I would have noticed the quote if I wasn’t trying to find something that inspires me to look into this world and into the depths of my own messed up mind and try to find more profound answers than the ones that I struggle to articulate in my everyday world. But this quote has been my unknown mantra for the last year. And even though the year has been long and full of much more less, the idea of more of myself has been floating there for awhile.
I had one of the big zero birthdays this year. I am not altogether certain why it is that I fall for the somewhat annoying habit of believing that there are magical milestones out there that are going to change me into something that I will never actually be. But I do. I do believe that there are moments that open the doors in order to allow me not only my own introspection but allow me to find the strength, the literal strength, to try and be the epitome that I have always thought would be but seem to struggle to find in any corner of my soul. Most everyone wants to improve themselves in some way; even some narcissists (the definition of people who believe they are perfect) want a better home, a better job, a better wife. While a narcissist’s world and their need for perfection is incredibly different than my need to find solace and a journey to betterment I use the example for a purpose. We all want something more. We all want something different. We all want to be that character on the television that mocks are own sanity.
I am not good at pushing myself. I am certainly not good at making myself a better person. I can demand with the best of them. I can demand of those around me and demand of myself. But the single, biggest, and most annoying problem with my own demands is that I don’t and sometimes can’t follow through.
If I were an ordinary person, and I am most definitely not, I would probably be able to accomplish goals. Single, one-liners would replay in my head as I move into the new and better world that I have dreamed and then created for myself. I wouldn’t be able to do it all at once, I am certainly not Superwoman, but a part of me could work towards that something that would make me internally happy with the way and the who of myself. But unfortunately for me, and quite conveniently, I have one major block in my path to this surreal self that I can vividly see in my mind. I have a mental illness.
I don’t like people who use their diseases for excuses. While certainly not feeling well or having and dealing with myriad symptoms that come with chronic illness is an acceptable excuse to not join in certain family traditions, or exercise to the point that your sweat towel can actually be wrung out, or do any of the other things on that great list you have in order to make yourself better, using just the overall concept of a disease for a perpetual reason to not do anything isn’t our purpose. We are supposed to find ways in this world; even if those ways are only significant to our own happiness. We are supposed to be more or at least push ourselves to be more.
Being mentally ill means that I can typically go an estimate of two weeks on a journey before I turn around and sit down for the rest of the year. I can promise myself to workout and then I will workout – for two weeks. I can promise myself to go gluten free – for two weeks. I can promise to push out the negativity in my life – for less than two weeks. I am not a people pleaser as much as I am simply a person whose brain says no more than it will ever say yes. I have a brain that can convince itself (and my body) that leaving my house will cause diarrhea – and longer than two weeks. I can convince myself that I can not go asleep without taking a shower – and longer than two weeks. I can convince myself I am sick, I am injured, I need to baby myself, I need to just rest, I need to take less pills, go to less doctors; I can pretty much convince myself that anything is true. Unless it comes to the benefit of my own self. Then two weeks pass so slowly and so annoyingly that I quit the good I am doing to myself and concentrate solely on the bad. It happens every single time. Every time I get on that horse and begin to ride, the horse hits a tree and I fall in a heap of exhaustion and disappointment. I stopped buying gym memberships – for instance – a long time ago, because I would only be there for two weeks. During those two weeks I usually work myself to the bone but then that magical and completely encompassing brain of mine will change the rules.
I know that this heap of exhaustion and disappointment is my own brain. It is my own brain settling for the worse of me because that is simply easier than fighting to be the best of me. I sit here in the same pjs that I have worn all week, look around my messy home, and know that my brain is simply lazy. I have a disease and I am lazy; not a great combination for opening that door to something better. I can actually demand for myself a better something but I will never get it because that two week deadline that my brain has created in order to be blind to the truth of who and what I am is much more powerful than my ability to get away from the negative and find a personal positive.
Some days I question why anyone needs to better themselves; although usually the answers I come up with somehow make my own lack of journey palatable. I know the things I need to do to feel better, to get better, and to find the strength to be better. I know them. I can sit here and give you a list. And although society demands that we be something that we perceive to be true, I wonder often what it will take for me to meet my own demands.
So to answer the quote, “how long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” the answer is probably the rest of my life. Although I do promise with all my heart to whine about the difficulty of finding my best because that is what my brain does. Can I change it? Yes. Will I change it even in the hope of making myself better? I simply don’t know. Mostly, I know my own time limitations. And I long ago realized that this disease, this mind that is solely my own, has created a time line that in all cases must be followed. Can I chalk the idea of knowing that my mind only works hard in two week bursts to better myself? Nope. My two week timeline doesn’t have enough time.