anxiety, depression, expectation, relationships, tuesday morning coffee

Tuesday Morning Coffee: Doldrums

doldrums: plural noun

dol·​drums |  ˈdōl-drəmz

1: a spell of listlessness or despondency

2: a part of the ocean near the equator abounding in calms, squalls, and light shifting winds

3: a state or period of inactivity, stagnation, or slump

Erin: all of the above (except I am most definitely not near the equator)

I don’t know what has been up the past few weeks, ever since we returned from Mexico really, but I feel like a Caltrain I saw the other day. Waiting at the railroad crossing, at rush hour, I could tell the other drivers on the road were doing the same thing as I was: craning to see up and down the track why the crossing arms were down and the lights flashing, when no train was coming. Eventually, we could see the train was moving at about half its normal speed, still blaring its horn and grumbling on the tracks, but chugging along in slow motion through the intersection.

I feel like I’m grumbling along, big and clunky, generally going in the right direction but at molasses speed, somehow missing the momentum to go any faster.

Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

Worse, too, is that I somehow feel like I have an entire rush hour intersection of people watching me, looking at their clocks and sighing, tapping their fingers on their dashboards, willing me to go faster because I’m holding everyone up.

So there are obviously two things on my mind: the reason why I’m feeling so lethargic, and the reason why I think anyone notices. Well, rather, why I think anyone cares.

The first I can eventually come to a place of “to everything there is season and a time for every purpose” sort of mindset: the weather sucks, work is a bit disjointed, I’ve got a lot of assignments for class and my writing workshop, I have some other stressors in my personal life, etc. Bits of life that stack up and sit on my shoulders and slow me down.

So, then, the second: this paranoid feeling in the back of my brain that somehow it matters.

I don’t mean that to sound depressing, like I’m sitting here thinking “no one cares about me.” In fact, quite the opposite. I can almost feel imaginary eyes on me, judging when I get out of bed in the morning (so late!), judging the amount I’ve felt like running (so little!), judging the amount of writing I’m doing (not enough!). In truth, the judgments are tiny, a flicker of a raised eyebrow from those eyes on me, which I interpret as “doing it wrong.”

I just had a conversation with a friend about the freeing sense of disconnecting from the expectation that anyone notices us. The contradiction that we spend all this time hoping for success and to be noticed, and then to get blank stares when we talk about it. The flip side, is that if the average person in your life doesn’t judge you for your successes, they probably aren’t judging you for your failures. Especially if you can frame that failure as a step towards learning.

They’re probably all too busy worrying about their own successes and failures.

Even without social media, it’s hard to imagine most people you know in their pajamas, moping around their house, a pile of dirty dishes in the sink or an overflowing laundry hamper, giving themselves pep talks just to get out of the house. You see them at work, at school, at play, and that is one brief flash of their life. Or, you see them on Instagram and not only are they decidedly not in their pajamas, they look put together and perfect and living their best life. Gag me.

So, then, if no one cares about your success or failure (just your Instagram feed :eyeroll:), then guess what? They’re certainly not going to care about the process by which you live your life. They’re not going to care if it’s messy and erratic and illogical and not the way you did it yesterday or a year ago or when you were twenty-two.

I read once (probably from Brene Brown, this sounds like something she would say) that there should only be about five people in your life whose opinions matter. Five people who may, in fact, celebrate your successes and commiserate with you about your failures. Even those five people probably only want to see you taking at least one small step, even if some days that step is sideways, towards being your truest, most authentic self. And, if they don’t, they shouldn’t be one of your five people.

Those five people definitely are not the owners of the judgmental pairs of eyes I feel on me. They are not eyes at all, they are hearts and arms and hugs. The kind of people who will tell you when you have spinach in your teeth—gently—but hold up the mirror to help you remove it, not tell you that you’re an idiot for eating a spinach salad.

The kind of people who will not only wait for your slow, grumbling train self to roll by, but to walk with you down the tracks, at your speed, feeling whatever doldrums you’re passing through together.

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