The thing about being away from home is one day you have to come back.
You disappear for a while and clear your head, relax, indulge in only the things that make you happy and that make you feel at peace with the world, and you come back refreshed and recharged with a new positive outlook on your day to day life. By the same token, you may come back refreshed and recharged and happier than you were before, and upon the return home and to day to day regular life you may look at your surroundings and the things you normally do and get smacked right in the face with the reality that your life is not the one that you want for yourself. You return to the same surroundings and the same things you left behind on your brief adventure, and realize that they do not make you happy. You return to the same routine and schedule you have been following every day for longer than you care to think about, realizing it does not make you happy. You may even return and regain your place in your inner circle only to find that even that has not been making you happy.
My return to my regular day to day life after just a couple of weeks has been a bit of an eye opener for me. I have written previously about how I was tired of not having control over my own life and was looking to make changes and take steps to make it better, yet not realizing just how much of what I have been surrounding myself with has been due to circumstance more than desire, fulfillment or purpose.
My first 24 hours back at home and my first day back to work after almost two and a half weeks I was already boarded a plane taking off to yet another place in the vast north, to see what today’s list had in store for us, and I had the good fortune to be working with a very good friend of mine. En route to the hangar we were chatting and she was asking me how my little retreat had been, and particularly if it was nice to be home and back to routine. I stared blankly out the window, watching the trees fly by as I replied, “I don’t know. This isn’t the life I want for myself”. It was an odd response, and I’m not sure what she took that to mean, but our history together tells me that she understood quite a bit from that statement and was likely also doing a quick rehash of her current circumstances as she replied, “I know what you mean”.
I have a pretty decent life and I enjoy it well enough. But I don’t enjoy it as much as I should. I’m content, but not as happy as I could be. I am comfortable and like my little apartment and its contents well enough, but I’m not in love with everything the way I used to be, and the less care I am giving to it all is evidence of that. I sit here comfortably and peacefully in my favourite spot (back to my same old cushy green leather sofa) looking at the things I have collected and put out over the years and I feel a little confined and yet have a feeling of emptiness all at the same time. Even my dog has curled up back in his same old favourite spot, napping away on his matching cushy green leather sofa, and I sense that his feelings reflect my own. It took the course of just one morning to fall right back into the same old routine, which always felt comfortable and reassuring, but with a heightened awareness that everything about that routine is done by rote – there is nothing new, nothing inspiring, little to no effort and no mental engagement, and a dullness is already settling in.
I spent the bulk of my time just sitting out in the sun, watching the lake, playing with my mutt on the dock, watching sunsets, enjoying some adult beverages, sitting by a fire, doing a little fishing, and enjoying late dinners and early bedtimes with my man as he would commute early out to work and back in every evening in order to spend the night with me. If you were to ask yeah, “But what did you DO?”, I could easily sum it up as nothing. But I felt more awake and alive than I have in a long time. And every minute I have been back at home and going through my to do and to buy lists and my who I need to call and message lists I can feel it already slipping away from me. I had wanted to do a holiday update or a fun post – you know, some light and easy summer reading – but sitting here, cozied up with my laptop, this is what I needed to get out. I don’t want to lose what I spent most of the past month trying to regain. So I’m taking stock of what needs to change and what I can do right now, and preparing yet another list of what I can do to at least awaken my senses again and to create a life that is one step closer to the one that I love instead of just the one that I’m comfortable with and that I like well enough.
Sometimes you have to try to take a step back and look at your surroundings and your own self with as critical a view as possible.
I put things out because I love them and I want to see them and imagine that they add character to my space, but I find I have a tendency to breach the threshold of decorative, quirky and homey, my personal space better characterized as functioning as junk containment.
I can’t even open up my fridge right now because it is crammed full of just stuff; not the type of things I crave or that my body craves, but just stuff. There are takeout containers, multiple small milk containers as I’ve needed to purchase new ones each trip back in to town, duplicates of each condiment (which I use sparingly) as I always have to have a backup of everything just in case, and things that require purging yet the days I get around to cleaning it out never seem to coincide with trash days.
Though reasonably organized, I have a collection of recycling in the laundry room, detracting what little aesthetic there is to be found there as it is and creating mental clutter for myself, as I have placed my oversized bin just far enough outside from the door that taking out each can or bottle or plastic containment device piecemeal is an inconvenience and too much effort for too little reward.
Just in my immediate line of sight I can see a large stack of photographs, containing much loved photos of my grandparents in their wartime portraits and wedding photos and myself and my siblings the one time we were able to all get together for a professional shoot as a surprise for my parents. I have never hung them, because as much as I love them, I can’t bring myself to add just one more ounce of clutter to my space. Behind those photos down the end of the hall there is a bookshelf so overladen with just the books I could never bear to part with and old photo albums that the shelves are developing a visible sag in the centre. My cabinet tops are lined with the vases, Christmas flatware and unique serving sets that I have my (limited) uses for, yet have run out of space to house elsewhere. I have hundreds of DVDs that I give away or sell a dozen to a hundred at a time as I graduate over to Bluray, yet I have tired of sorting the most loved from the unused filler so there they sit. Even my fridge is covered in photographs that after a year of seeing every day have become virtually invisible, yet just add noise to my room. And that is just in my immediate line of sight.
Coming home to this has started to make me feel tired and uninspired, and then impacts on other areas of my life. I find myself without the energy to want to do much of anything at all most evenings. Forget socializing and having a life Sunday night through to Friday. When something new is added to my routine it is such a departure from what I am used to that I find it exhausting and overwhelming. So I basically just stick to my usual Monday to Friday wake up, go to work, come home, eat, get cleaned up, go to bed (with some dog time squeezed in) routine and then set too lofty of goals for the weekends to make up for all the time I did not take advantage of throughout the week.
Even my work does not add much to breaking up the monotony. A friend asked last week how long I had been at my current job, and I looked at the date I keep saved in my notes on my phone and said, “Wow, 13 years today”. Even when I go in and things need fixing or someone needs help they come to me to get it taken care of, and rarely a day goes by when I don’t hear, “You’re a machine”, “You work like a robot” (this is a huge compliment in my line of work, fyi), “You’re the expert”, “Thank God it was you working today; nobody knows this equipment like you”, and while I’m thrilled for the compliments, I can do it all half asleep, and usually do. After 13 years of doing the same thing all day, every day, even fixing the problems and patching things together and answering the more complicated questions has become more routine than anything else.
Because I really do love where I work, and I need the paycheque, and the benefits and pension are more than just side perks, shaking things up there is simply not in the plan. But I can do better everywhere else. And I mean to. Starting with doing a more thorough apartment purge than I have heretofore undertaken, a little redecoration, and working on adding more activity and working in more time with friends and family throughout the week – or at least undertaking some more fulfilling activities than what I usually find myself engaged in – as opposed to just living on the weekends, and trying to squeeze in more relationship time, I am hoping that I can keep the little bit of momentum I have found for myself going, and create some newfound interest in my own life again.
And then I intend to go back and do some more evaluation. You see, it’s not just the stuff and the job – those are just the easy things to pick at, and the stuff especially is just the easiest thing to take care of right now. But as I like to remind myself, baby steps.
Now to just keep the depression at bay and try to put my disorder to good use and I might actually succeed.