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, October 24, 2017

The other day someone called me Grumpy. Not like, “Are you feeling grumpy today?” Or “You’re acting kinda grumpy.” More like, “You ARE grumpy.” And the truth is, I agree.

I could make all kinds of excuses. I’m dieting. God knows that never helps. I exercise every day, and hate every minute of it. The weather has been pretty gloomy recently. Life’s schedule has been pretty hectic as of late. I suffer from a number of areas which seem to be chronic pain. And oh, by the way, I am bipolar and seemingly constantly battle depression.

However, truth be told, I think it is more ingrained in me than that. I think it goes back further than that. I have always been known as a very intense individual. Often accused of taking much of life and what it throws my way too seriously. Throughout my years the label pessimist has found its way to my side as people get to know me and spend time with me. My parents have this old black and white Polaroid picture of me that they would always refer back to. I’m less than a year old. Laying on my belly in the grass. Propped up on my elbows. And I have this look on my face that some major life challenge in need of a complex solution is rattling around in my little brain. Or if you look at it from another perspective, I look like a grumpy old man.

I FEEL grumpy, which I am sure doesn’t help. I have times of laughter, joy and being entertained with life…but they aren’t the majority. I daily think about and miss my adult children. I constantly fret over my weight but feel the addicting pull of food. I miss things like camping and attending pro sporting events. Yet I am simultaneously consumed with financial concern and worry. My negative thoughts far outweigh my positive and I’m left feeling grumpy. Or not feeling…just…am. I AM grumpy.

After my psychiatric hospitalization last year I noticed a sensation inside of me. I felt like a shell of who I once was. Other events in my life have robbed me of some of that essence, but this experience left a noticeable sense of emptiness. A feeling of never again being able to quite be who I once had been. Maybe this is part of the process of becoming grumpy. Of evolving into this grumpy old man that I find myself seeing in the mirror.

Hopefully, life changes will help. A new job with reasonable hours and quality benefits. Losing weight. Camping. Staying connected with the kids through modern technology. Maybe this grumpy man doesn’t have to become a grumpy OLD man.

But for now, that person was right. I AM grumpy.