Life — Making Your Own Happiness

In my experience, there’s a certain type of depression/sadness that a lot of people have. It’s a very common affliction I like to call (as of right now) apathetic depression. It is the primary symptom of a state of life that is suboptimal for reasons that don’t appear to be your own. Your life sucks because you hate your job, you hate your family, you have no idea where your life is headed, etc. None of these things are your fault, so you just live day in and day out moping over how you drew the short stick when you were born.

I think there are people out there who drew the short stick, but you aren’t one of them.

The trap that a lot of people fall in is being comfortable in their contempt. It’s easy. Why blame yourself for the professional career you hate when you can just write it off by saying you have no other options? (It’s like in video games: nobody wants to blame themselves for their team losing; they will always point to somebody else first.)

Being happy sucks.

I say that because it’s not what people think it is. It’s not a magical state of mind that suddenly transpires when you get a raise or when you enter a committed relationship. Good events are easily overshadowed by that wall of the uncontrollable misfourtunes of life, because while it seems that good events are rare, misfortunes are constant and ever present.

But anyone can be happy, despite any misfortune and any life circumstance. I won’t pretend it’s easy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. But it is simple. In fact, you’ll probably nod to yourself and think “Wow, that was really deep, Kollin” as soon as I tell you the trick. (Or maybe you’ll just think I’m an idiot pretending to be philosophical, which wouldn’t be far from the truth.) The key to happiness is something you’ve already heard many times in many different ways from different inspirational quotes. But the inspirational quotes are just flowery ways of mystifying the truth right in front of our eyes. Ready?

Being happy is just a matter of putting in the effort to be happy. It means getting up in the morning finding ways to get excited for work instead of hitting the ‘Snooze’ button as many times as you can get away with. It means preparing for your future (near or far) instead of rewarding yourself for things you already had to do. It means taking steps to forgive and love yourself rather than dwelling on things you can’t change.

Most inspirational quotes are just an indirect way of saying that being happy is like going to the gym. It’s not easy. It’s a ton of work. Very few people want to go to the gym, they just want the results. It’s the same thing with happiness. It’s so much easier to dwell in misery because misery requires no action on your part. It’s also like the gym in that the more you do it, the easier it gets and the more you can lift.

Treating yourself to Starbucks before or after work isn’t going to make you happier. That’s a mental lie you tell yourself that will actually just perpetuate the problem. Caffeine addicts aside, you don’t (really) need anything but to commit to a personal promise that you’ll think about things with more positivity, and take action to ensure your days are better.

It’s hard, and you might need the help from friends and family to make that effort, but it is worth it.

Me — Having Something to Say

For the longest time, the MO of this blog had been “write for me, and anyone that reads it is a bonus”. That’s sort of translated to writing regularly about what I’m feeling about so that future me can look back at how very specific events have affected me over the years. For instance, I can look read the post about my cat that died November of 2017, or when I went to Portland, Oregon last July and how I felt during that time.

Most often, though, it just means that every week I commit myself to writing a “Me” post, but all I can think about is stuff I’ve written about in past weeks. At this specific moment, roughly three things come to mind: weather, and how I deal with the cold, getting up and being productive in very early mornings, or just general stress, and how the combination of an ever strengthening writer’s block and an omnipresent feeling of loneliness are working together to make insecurities more and more prevalent.

I’ve already talked about the former two, and the latter isn’t really something I feel is a good topic of conversation, even for a blog post. I’ll say this much, though: I’ve always imagined myself as having a bottle of emotions, and once every several months I rant to a friend about all my problems and then I feel nice and empty for a while. Recently, though, I haven’t managed to empty that bottle, and what worries me about that is that I’m starting to crack. In all honesty, I’m one serious tragedy away from a full mental breakdown. Not that I would wish it, but maybe that’s something I need—a traumatic yet cathartic release of emotion in order to reset my emotional balance.

But anyways, every week I’m struggling with finding a subject of conversation to go into. I really want to talk about my new D&D campaign, but that seems better for a Saturday post for arbitrary reasons. I don’t really like the idea of reviewing games or movies at the moment—the purpose of that was so that future me can look at my first impressions at all this media that may or may not end up being anything—but really I only go back at archived blog posts for references, and when I link them in new posts I don’t reread them. Part of that problem is that the current me isn’t far enough removed from any of those posts, so I know I haven’t changed, but still.

This is a long way of saying that Tuesday posts will no longer be restricted to “Me” posts, because I’m a boring individual and I don’t even have enough to say to interest my own writing muses, so nobody, not even future me, should be subjected to reading that sort of crap. (The preceding paragraphs that are only tangentially related to each other are a good example of this.)

That said: here’s something that doesn’t deserve a full post but I want to mention anyway. I got two pairs of nice cotton pajama pants for Christmas and they are so cozy I love them. One of them even has tea cups on them.

That is all.

Me — Holiday Free Time

Time budgeting is a very important aspect of my life. What I do with my day and setting a course for how to tackle it is vital because if I don’t get anything done, it affects my mood, and if I let that happen too much, it starts to really spiral out of control.

In between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I got so busy that I would be going to bed at 11pm and waking up at 5am to get stuff done. To be honest, and to my surprise, it was fantastic. I would get up early to finish homework that was due that day, go to class, then perhaps we would have a performance that night for my play, and then go to bed to wake up for the next day. On nights we didn’t have productions, I’d work on my final projects. Every couple of hours I had where I was comfortable enough to relax and play video games was a treasure.

But then, the production closed, and I got all my finals finished. I haven’t had a whole lot of hours at work lately, either, so suddenly I have a full week straight of nothing but free time. Then two weeks, then, three, and, well you get the picture. It didn’t help that I got sick on Christmas Eve and I’m still feeling the repercussions as I write this.

Let me tell you, the free time has sucked. I’ve hated almost every minute that I’ve spent to myself. I’ve tried writing, but I admittedly haven’t gotten a whole lot of that done. That part, I honestly can’t explain. Two months ago I would have been ecstatic to have all this free time. I was trying to get through a book, prep for a D&D campaign, and I’ve had a story rattling around in my head since July. Now that I have the time to do it, I can only shrug and thing “Sorry, not today”.

This wouldn’t be so bad if I at least had something fulfilling to do with my free time, but I don’t even have games I really want to play. With all the stuff that’s been going on at Blizzard my enthusiasm to play Heroes of the Storm has been shot. I recently bought a Switch but Super Smash Bros. isn’t the sort of game you could play for several hours at a time, and besides that, I don’t have anything I want to be watching while doing either of those things. Being caught up on Critical Role while the show is on a holiday break sucks!

For somebody that finds fulfillment in productivity, well, I’ve started to feel pretty terrible lately. That’s probably part of the reason why it’s taking so long to shrug off this sickness.

It’s not all bad, though. Classes start up Monday, which I’m very excited for. I did get an email saying that the schedules were moved around, and they put two of my classes in the same time slot, so I’m going to have to figure that out, but I’m not terribly worried.

I just need to start classes and getting more hours at work, because I’m dying here. I want to feel good about getting up at 5 instead of staying in bed because I don’t have anything to do.

Life — Intentionally Choosing Wrong

I don’t need to inform you that sometimes life leaves you with a decision between two awful outcomes. A lot of handling responsibility is having the wisdom to be able to handle the ramifications of bad choices, and knowing what to do in a lose-lose scenario shows an intelligence and maturity that, I would suppose, only comes with age and experience.

One of the largest sources of stress and discomfort in my life these past few years has been because I’ve stood on the crossroads of a scenario like this. It’s a long story, but its one I’ve told to several people, seeking the advice and wisdom of other people.

It’s sometimes impossible to say, really. Which direction do you go when your heart and mind point in opposite directions? You lose yourself thinking about everything with only logic in mind, because one needs to fulfill the soul’s desires to be happy.

I’ve spent countless hours and sleepless nights trying to solve this problem, but the more thought I put into it, the more I start to think that it doesn’t even matter what I choose.

When you’re caught in a position like mine, one that defies all sense, it seems that everything you could possibly do will be the wrong choice to make. But when there is no right choice, it’s all one can do to mitigate the damage as much as possible.

If you had asked me a few months or even years ago, I’d have told you that “following the heart” is a terrible idea. Sometimes it simply yearns for things it can’t have, or to hold on to things that should be let go. But now I think differently.

If pain and sorrow will come regardless of which path you take, I’m starting to think of it this way. Years to come, we will always be stronger due to the trials we have been through in the past. So if one goes through more suffering, one should come out stronger (and by extension wiser) than one who did not.

So by this logic, it can’t be all bad to follow the heart, choosing the result that will lead to the most potential pain. Not only will life be a little bit easier for the time being, but if and when that huge hurdle of pain and misery does come, it will thicken the skin more than anything else would have. To put it simply, humans are all saiyans from Dragonball Z when it comes to emotions: every time they recover from a life-threatening injury, their power is multiplied unimaginably.

They say time heals all wounds. I’m not quite certain of that. But what I am certain of is the fact that with time, comes wisdom. I believe that with where I am now, everything will turn out right in the end, (almost) regardless of what I do now, because if I make bad decisions I’ll learn from them, and if I don’t, I’ll find success the easy way. But who am I kidding? Even at its calmest life isn’t easy sailing. So why not follow your heart to mitigate the pain?

In Memoriam.

In light of everything that’s going on in my life at the moment, I’ll be taking a (brief) hiatus. I expect to be back within the week, but I won’t give any dates as I don’t know how long it’ll take for things to calm down.

So, instead of a review as I normally do on Wednesdays, I’m going to say a bit about my cat.

20160425_191147.jpgThere’s always a cat in my family. Usually at least two. We’ve lost some, sure. But this decade, as far as pets are concerned, has been met with bearable goodbyes. Many pets have moved and changed owners. For the past ten years, (minus a few since he was a few years old when we moved into the house), we’ve had a ragdoll named Oliver. If you know anything about ragdolls, you’ll know that they don’t care about anything. He was never afraid of new people, and you could even pick him up if you wanted to. He didn’t care. My favorite thing to do with him was to cradle him like a baby, belly side up. It was pretty adorable.

He was pretty spoiled. He got cat treats multiple times a day (I never gave them to him, because he never stopped meowing when he wanted something and I didn’t want to encourage that behavior). He loved getting pets but he didn’t snuggle. He would never climb onto the bed or on your lap with you. Mostly he liked sleeping on the recliner, and that’s where he spent most of the time. That or being shooed out of my mom’s room, where he wasn’t allowed. One thing he loved doing was running to the front door whenever his favorite people got home. As my mom would say, he was a good dog.

2015-02-23 16.42.52.jpgThe weirdest thing about him was that Oliver loved the rain. Whenever it rained outside he would beg to be let out (even though he’s an indoor cat). He seemed to be happiest in the rain, and sometimes even begged to be let into the tub after you got out of the shower.

But a few weeks ago, it became apparent that he wasn’t okay. He stopped meowing, and became more reclusive. Soon he wasn’t eating very much, and started drinking unusual amounts of water.

He has kidney failure. It’s only going to be a matter of time if we don’t do it ourselves. We make sure to keep an eye on him to make him as comfortable as possible, but as far as we know, any breath could be his last. It’s harder than I could have imagined, watching this happen. It’s heartbreaking to see him wither from lack of nutrition. When you pet him now you feel bones more prominently than fur. As much as it pains me to see him go, I can’t imagine he wants to stay. P.S. We put him down this afternoon. It was clear that it was his time. Now that it’s over the healing process can truly start.

 

In my last post, I mentioned how I’m not an outwardly emotional person. Things really don’t make me sad. Being the speculative mind I am, I’ve often wondered how a situation like this (or even worse) will affect me when the inevitability of time takes its toll. Yesterday I was struck with something overwhelming, and I cried for the second time in multiple years.

I did not expect to be affected this much. He was a part of the family before I was. I’ve never been the one to regularly clean the litter box or feed him, and I almost never gave him treats. I have never considered him my cat. He peed on stuff and was pretty annoying because he never stopped meowing when he wanted something, even if it was just some head scratches.

But this post is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever written. I’m not exaggerating when I say I could have more easily written a third book than this. This is the first thing I’ve ever written that has made me too overwhelmed to continue. All that said, this song (link below) makes me cry literally every time I listen to it. It’s such a beautiful song, but since I can bring tears to my eyes just thinking about it, you can probably imagine it’s too painful to listen to regularly.

But, tears can be cathartic.

 

Goodbye, Ollie. I’ll miss you.

 

Life — Emotions

For better or for worse, I think about every situation logically. I try to see every side there is to see before I consider what I should be doing about it. It makes it pretty easy to deal with a lot of stuff, admittedly, but it also makes it very difficult to vent when I need to. For example, I’ve never been upset by anyone dying in any movie, or from anything bad happening in a book. I always think “Oh, that’s sad,” or “Whoa, did that author really write that scene? Dark.” It’s nice, but it comes at a price.

Most specifically, it means I’m bad at comforting people. I never know what to say when somebody is having a hard time. I can say “Well, think about it this way”, and offer a logical reason to be less sad, when realistically I’m trying to make them think like me when that’s not how it works. Instead, I should just nod when they need help and be a metaphorical (or physical as may be the case) shoulder to cry on. It’s difficult on my end because what that entails is me saying “Yes, yes, you’re right, there there” when I’m really thinking something like “You’re so single-minded” or “This isn’t even a big deal”. I guess that speaks more to my lingering narcissism than anything else.

But when it’s something big, I find I’m left speechless because I don’t know what to do. When tragedy happens and the people I know and love are overcome with grief, I can’t help but feel a little broken when I don’t feel the same way. Am I stronger for being able to hold things in better? I wouldn’t say so. Though it may seem otherwise, I do have emotion, and not being able to sound sad when everyone else is makes me feel unsympathetic. It makes me feel that much more alone in that sense, which doesn’t help.

The worst part is, I have no advice to give here. If nothing else, perhaps it can provide some insight into the minds of those that may seem careless. I would be more empathetic if I could, but the fact is a fake emotion would be obvious and likely do more harm than good. The best I can do is be there for people and hold my tongue when necessary (which in many cases like this would be always).

Tears are cathartic. With a lot of situations that bring high levels of emotion, it can be necessary to vent. I think there are few situations in which one should rein in one’s emotions, because being open with them helps the natural coping mechanisms run their course. If you’re like me and you have a hard time expressing your thoughts and feelings, it can be detrimental.

It’s not good to keep your emotions bottled up. What I used to do (before my blog) was write about the situation I was in, what got me there, and how I feel about it. But in the end, it doesn’t really even matter what you write. It’s a method of getting things off your chest/mind, and even if you don’t share it with anyone, it can bring a lot of release. It doesn’t have to be public, but you never have to handle things alone, whether you tell yourself that or not.

Life — Suicide

I don’t have to tell anyone that sometimes, life just sucks. In the best of times, we are never living in a perfect world, while the opposite end of the spectrum seems to be all too prevalent. Why is that? Well, it’s for a lot of reasons. But before I get to unpacking this topic, let me just say first that I’m not having a hard time right now. Yes, my life is stressful, but it isn’t beating me down at this very moment. It’s just relevant to me currently, because I’ve seen it happening a lot lately.

From my experience, life hits hardest when its unexpected. Sometimes, horrible things happen that we can neither prepare for nor anticipate. That’s one reason often why earthquakes are referred to as the worst natural disaster: there is no definitive way to know when it will happen. All you can do is ensure you are always prepared.

So, I’m not the best at giving advice. I never know how to handle certain situations, even if I know to expect them. At best, when somebody’s going through a hard time, I can only comfort by being somebody to talk to or hold. It may sound weird being a writer and improv actor, but I never know what to say to help somebody, especially in the moment. Too often when I try I make things worse.

But if there’s one great thing about life, it’s that it never has to be endured alone. No, I’m not going to argue that fact. But regardless of the circumstances, I believe people will find that they always have someone or something to hold on to. Life can suck sometimes, but in those moments we really see what there is to hold on to.

I’ve recently been certified in QPR, which is basically Suicide Prevention. I do know the protocol for helping somebody out of a dark time, and without going through the process of sharing that knowledge with everyone, the single best piece of advice for somebody in a rough patch is that it is impossible to know whether or not things will turn up the next day. Life isn’t always bad. It may seem like its not worth it now, but tomorrow could be the day things change. Taking one’s own life is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Another argument is “I’ve been through professional treatment before. It didn’t help.” Well, if it didn’t help before, how are you still here to tell people about it? Isn’t that very fact proof that it did?

So, I don’t know what’s going on with your life. And there are people far more qualified than me to guide you where you need. But if you’re ever having a bad day, or simply want somebody to talk to, I’m here. Depending on the means you have to contact me, it could take me a day or two to respond, but I’m still here. Don’t ever think that nobody cares about you. There are people that you will never meet that care about you more than you can imagine. All you have to do is find them.

Picture unrelated. Have some puppies and a baby.