You only get out what you put in, and life is what you make of it, right? So when things go wrong, when I’m unhappy, the answer has always been do more, try harder, give more, be more flexible and accepting, be more grateful, ask for less, want less. It takes a lot to bring me to giving up on something, or someone and generally if I do, I’ll just swing round and start applying the try harder and want less approach some other place. Give more and be more grateful for all that there is to be grateful for, all the small beauties and modest good things. And if that fails, be glad it’s not worse.
I notice it’s a way of approaching things that makes no room for a number of options. At no point does ‘try harder, give more, want less’ make it possible, much less ok to say ‘I am drowning’. Someone please help me, someone please do some of the doing so that I can draw breath. At no point does try more want less allow me to comfortably say I really am too tired and in too much pain today to do the things. It does not have room in it to ask people to go easier on me for a while, and there is not much scope for asking for help, either. Flagging up when something is hurting me, or more than I can bear, is something I find really hard to do.
Give more want less does not make me open to things flowing towards me. It leaves little space for asking what would make me happy. As a person who cycles round depression on a pretty regular basis, I have trouble holding the thought that my being happy is in any way a relevant issue. If it’s a side effect of something else, all well and good, and the appearance of happiness helps people around me to be more comfortable, so that at least is important.
Give more, want less. As though there are no limits on this, no practical, physical bodily needs that can’t be ignored if they turn out to be inconvenient. No demand on my energy that is unreasonable. This autumn I hit a place of not having any more to give. It was not an amusing experience. I kept pushing and trying, and couldn’t stop crying as a consequence. I hit a limit. I’m still limping along, trying to find other places where I can give, organise my time and energy better. Give more efficiently, give more wisely seemed like the way to go.
Want less, because my body wanting things has always made me uncomfortable. Food especially, but affection too, and I’ve been shamed for both along the way. I carry the belief that ideally I wouldn’t want anything, able to exist on air and not requiring any care or maintenance from anyone else. I am aware that being alive and human is not compatible with this, and that to want to want nothing is the most outrageous and unreasonable want of all.
At the moment I can’t do anything useful with this. I know why it exists, I know what it is there to protect me from, I haven’t got to a place of being able to own that, as yet. But I can name this part of it, on the offchance it isn’t just me. One of the things I have learned is that things we think are fine when we inflict them on ourselves do not look so reasonable when we see someone else doing them, and that way lies a chance at escape and freedom. One thing I can say is that it is not a way of living I would recommend to anyone else, it does not fix things or make things better, in any reliable way. There comes a point where all those positive living and thinking ideas about gratitude, getting out what you put in, and the like just turn into a big stick to beat yourself with, and that’s not very positive at all, it’s just self-loathing with a nice mask on it.