Tuesday, July 10, 2012

PROOF OF LIFE


I don't normally share the contents of my therapy sessions, but since little else in my life really feels normal anyway, I have decided to open my thought processes up to a little observation in the hopes of more accurately communicating just what's going on with me these days. I will not belabor the details of sadness but will admit to it still being a large part of my every waking and dreaming minute. Sadness has caused me to retrench back into myself in many ways that I thought I had long since retired in favor of being more open and present. The resulting stagnation has produced little except miscommunication and misunderstanding and my further emotional recoil. It is a toxic, dangerous spiral.
About two months ago I began therapy through NIU. While I had hoped that in the ensuing years since last I sought help some sterling-silver panacea had been developed to rid me of my emotional ills, the truth is that while productive and beneficial, this therapy requires the same old slop of work and determination that it has always demanded. There are the celebratory epiphanies and desperate agonizing periods of regression. So while my life is not currently in the throes of downward spiral, my days and nights are spent living in what can best be described as a sine wave.


As a result, my therapist and I have worked to construct a clean foundation with which to begin the transformation of this up-and-down pattern with something more approaching contented forward progress. After much introspection it has become clear that for me to begin, three items need to be addressed first: Make the decision to finish or leave school; Ruszczak Family Conference and Shred my old therapy notes. For some of you reading, the first of these will be surprising, since almost everyone who has ever known me knows how much I have talked about finishing my degree. But as a precondition for this process to work, all should-have-s and must-do-s have been swept off the table, everything in my life had to be recognized as being completely optional and driven by my choices and decisions alone. This implies my ownership of what happens from here on out.
Over the last nine months the volume of work required to complete my schoolwork has become almost overwhelming, and the heart and soul of my desire to finish this degree has been dying of malnourishment as I have turned my attention to almost everything and everyone and where else. So the time has come to recognize the crossroad and choose a direction – either I finish my work and graduate this December 16th or I withdraw from school and petition to have my last year erased. Every other option has already been considered and eliminated. It's do or do not.
The second of those – the Ruszczak Family Conference – comes down to some very practical and currently salient questions regarding the continued financial stability of my household , most notable me. Before leaving for therapy this afternoon I sent away what amounted to the tenth monthly installment of household bills – ensuring that everything is now paid until the end of August. But I am at the end of my financial rope and have no further ability to conjure additional string out of thin air without the input of the rest of the family. I am proud to say that we have managed to stay afloat for far longer than I think anyone thought possible last October – but I am unable to continue this without reinforcement.
The last one may seem out of place – surely shredding one's previous notes could not compare in urgency with the other two – and yet for me right here and now it ranks as highly as those having to do with far more tangible concerns because of the emotional investment I have accumulated in the keeping of those note for so many years post-therapy. I have not looked them at any length for twenty years and yet they represented for me my proof of life – the repository of my mental energies and insights. But I require that energy in the here and now and so I must move beyond yesterday's answers and gnosis even at the risk of having to relearn some of their lessons. They represent the me that was becoming the me that was, and do not speak of or to the person writing this blog today. I have managed to purge a considerable amount of “stuff” these past months and years, but the time has come for this particular set of notes to go.
For anyone who has ever sought to encapsulate their life into writing – whether journal, fiction or notation, the weight of this decision will be obvious. For anyone who has ever been in therapy, the decision to destroy the old and move beyond its boundaries will be apparent. I am both agonized and excited.
My next session is one week from today, and this is what I have pledged to accomplish during this time. Your encouragement, suggestions, and prayers will all be appreciated.       

2 comments:

  1. I can empathize with you about finishing/not finishing the college degree. I just finished my UG in May at NIU and even though, it was what I wanted and I am now moving onto a PhD program, the act of completing the degree and the transition the necessarily followed has thrown me onto an unstable emotional plane. One part of me feels that perhaps I expected too much from that degree. I thought - inexplicably - that it would change my life. And indeed, the education itself has, but I expected that having the degree in my hands would change things too. It hasn't. And the disappointment is made worse by the fact that I can't explain why I thought it logically WOULD. It is after, only a piece of paper. The real transformation was internal.

    About the last "senior" year, you might be experiencing senioritis. Everyone makes fun of this "fake syndrome" but it's real. I thought I was motivated enough to overcome it, but my last year was brutal. If it's any consolation, when I thought that I couldn't keep going on to finish, I just thought about how long and hard I'd worked to even get to my senior year. (I started community college in 2004 and I graduated with my UG in 2012). When I thought about those years I spent working towards my degree, I just couldn't throw it away by giving up. If nothing else, I wanted to say "I finished this. I can. I am. And if something comes up in my future, I have the precedence to say: I will. And really mean it".

    In my senior year, to help me stay focused, I actually began to do extra-curricular academic work that reminded me of the thrill of academia. I wrote a paper for a student conference, and I presented it. I did research for one of my professors. I also started doing OTHER things I liked to remind me how to enjoy life. I started writing a novel that I'd been wanting to for awhile. And I bought lottery tickets. I needed to be reminded of HOPE and the fact that I DO have a future. AND that I am the one - the only one - who can shape it.

    :)

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  2. Your words are wise and compassionate... I will take them to heart...

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