Present Day, December 31st, 2017

“…activities that arouse pleasure are short-lived but memorable, such as enjoying a good meal, watching a movie or reading an interesting novel. By contrast, those that offer gratification lead us to expand our identities and enrich our sense of competency, thereby offering more lasting happiness.” (The Bipolar Relationship)

Go ahead. Give that a second read. Maybe meditate on it for a moment or two. I can wait.

 

Tomorrow starts another year. Well, every day starts another year in a sense. There are birthdays that start another year. Wedding anniversaries. Hospital discharge dates. Almost enough landmarks to fill a calendar and make every day the start of some form of New Year. But this is the one that humankind shares worldwide. The New Year.

On and off throughout my life it has been a significant period of goal setting. You know, resolutions. And on and off throughout my life those have been helpful towards personal growth or accomplishment.

At some level, I have some informal ones lined up for this year: lose 50 pounds, read 18 books, camp 18 nights (I often set my goals to play off the calendar year number), etc.

However, I recently read the above quote and had a new thought regarding the New Year.

I had a Facebook memory today indicating that two years ago I was excited to try and rediscover my creative side. I was anticipating diving into a daily prompt journal and adult coloring book that I had received for Christmas, along with picking back up the piano which I hadn’t played in years. Two years later, none of those took. Which leads me once again back to the quote.

I have throughout my life done things for pleasure. Even today I experience pleasure on a weekly basis. Yet that more “lasting happiness” eludes me as I have battled the depths of depression. And I began to wonder if at some level it wasn’t at least in part due to lack of engagement in activities, or hobbies, or lifestyle habits that bring “gratification”. Not just pleasure. That bring that expanded identity. That enriched sense of competency.

It isn’t for lack of trying. There were the creative efforts I mentioned above. Throughout 2017 there were efforts to engage in learning a foreign language. First Spanish. Then relearning the German I had studied during my high school years. Then the Japanese which would be helpful in my current workplace. All to no avail.

The book quoted offered such examples as “painting, drawing, woodworking, growing plants and photography.” Some of these I know my inner self well enough to know are not cohesive with my personality. Others (i.e. photography) have been given a shot without lasting effect.

That’s the thing, I cannot seem to get a grasp on gratification. On that thing or things that bring me a longer-term sense of fulfillment than the momentary pleasures of daily life. That activity or activities that would provide an emotion that I can only assume would provide a positive counterbalance to the day-in-day-out struggles with depression and darkness.

All of which is to say, that is my big one. My main resolution for 2018. Put succinctly, “To explore the possibilities which might bring my life gratification.” I am open to suggestions and ideas and would love to hear from you if your journey has brought you to a place of such fulfillment. A place beyond the temporary high of a great movie, a good read, or a fabulous meal.

“More lasting happiness.” The kind that can’t be so quickly stolen by the downswing of depression. The kind that allows me to fall asleep with a smile on my face rather than the dread of another day waiting. The kind that allows deep sighs of contentment and peace.

Let the search begin.

 

Present Day – New Year’s Day, 2017

Not this year. Not today. I just don’t have it in me. I can not remember the last time this was the case. Years. Probably decades. In fact, I have almost been religious about it. Looked forward to it. But now? I just do not have it in me.

Today is the day millions of people will launch their New Year’s Resolutions. Over the past six or so years I have allowed the numerical year to fuel mine. 12 goals for 2012. 14 commitments for 2014. 16 resolutions for 2016. Even went as far as to connect the year to the next level. 15 challenges for 2015 including losing 15 pounds. Neurotic? A bit. You get the idea.

However, as the now past year wound down and this day approached there was never a second thought. I knew weeks ago. Probably months ago. It simply was not going to happen.

Not that there aren’t plenty of needs. Weighed in today 16 pounds heavier than when I left the hospital and 27 pounds over what my doctor recommends. Split the difference and wouldn’t it sound great to aim for 17 pounds of weight loss in 2017?

Opposite my weight, my reading has dropped to a hideously low level. Let’s aim to read 17 minutes a day in 2017! A little over a date a month is far from too many so how about 2017 including 17 dates with my wife. Hell, I’m not even trying and look how easily they flow.

But no. No way. No how. No chance. I simply am not ready to look another year of resolution failure in the face. I do not have that in me. Not even close.

I’ve been one of those people who have joined the mantra of shouting good riddance to 2016. If you have read many of these blog entries, you know a major reason why. There are others.

I’ll confess, I’m not a fan of the President-Elect and all that 2016 included in bringing us to where we are politically in America. Then I got to thinking, if you didn’t like those results in 2016, how is 2017 going to be any better when the “-Elect” part comes off the job title?

Owning my own business and driving close to 100 miles a day in a 9 miles per gallon F-250, I have been a big fan of sub-$2.00 per gallon gasoline. As we have seen over the last month, that’s gonna change. And not for the better. If you weren’t a fan of gas prices, health insurance premiums, or cost of living budget lines in 2016…yeah, I think 2017 is going to be significantly more disappointing.

In my home state, 2016 was the second hottest year on record. I have some familiarity with the arguments for climate change and tend to agree with them. Are we turning the corner in that area of global challenge in 2017? I think not.

International conflict. Civil war. National violence. Addiction. Crack down on racism. Elimination of stigma. Equal rights for all people. Yeah…fuck you 2016 because these are all about to be resolved in 2017. Right? Umm…no.

I find myself unable to resolve too much of anything for the New Year. I have yet to receive the final bill for my last mental breakdown, and over the past few weeks have not felt that far from my next. If you think 2016 was a rough time to be alive, try being one of us for whom every day is a rough time to stay alive.

So this is my only commitment for 2017…each day when I wake up, I will commit to giving my all to staying alive for the next 17 hours. To doing everything within my power that day to make it back to that pillow 17 hours later.

To recognize that I will likely fail more than I will succeed at the tasks of my day-to-day living, but that failing alive is probably better than succeeding at death.