Existential Crisis (Part 2)

Washington-license

I’m currently writing from my father’s home office. I have a sewing machine to my right (mine, which I placed on the desk last year), his drumset to my left, and pictures of our family and of his military career hanging on the walls.

It’s raining right now. The weather this morning was a humid seventy-one degrees and now, falling below fifty. My clock reads 4:15 pm. I am in Wilmington, North Carolina.

I woke up feeling a little down. A “zap of the blues” as one writer friend calls it. I think jet lag is catching up with me from my trip to Bellingham, WA. That, and the quick visit to Charleston, South Carolina to see my grandmother this weekend.

She’s 94, in a rehab facility, and only drinks Ensure and the chocolate chip cookies I bring. When I’m not there, I hear a few bites of chocolate pudding or Hershey Kisses are what sustains her. I’m still trying to wrap my head around this, and I’m sure I’ll write about it later.

Why am I telling you this? Not for pity. I share because life has its ups and downs and I’m currently in a lull. With that said, I am actually feeling ok although I’m a little sad. It’s ok to feel sad. You’ve got to feel your emotions before you release them. Just be sure to release them, you know?

I can handle these emotional slips now. I even gave tips in a previous post on how to deal with depression if you feel it starting to brew. (See link below!)

Because if I’m not careful to put my mental health first, depression will swoop in and pull me down with full force.

This onset of depression is the same kind of feeling I had in Bellingham when my license picture was taken and got progressively worse for the eight months I lived there (though I wasn’t completely aware of it at the time). The essay below is a perfect example of me faking it, yet projecting my undetected feelings onto others.

Disclaimer: In this story, I mention “battling the ego.” The ego isn’t a terrible thing. It actually keeps us balanced between the conscious and unconscious mind and sense of self. What I’m talking about is when the ego tips the scales, making one believe they’re too good for a job or a person and, well, you’ll see.

(Author’s Note: The photo below may or may not be the exact setting of this story. But I don’t want to say in case I get sued. So, it’s not. OR IS IT?!?!)

haggen-grocery-store

When Battling Your Ego, Prepare To Lose.

First published in the Santa Barbara Sentinel, March 2017.

I work at a grocery store as a cashier.

To say it’s been humbling is an understatement.

Instead of seeking a job in a cozy little boutique (my usual fallback plan), I pursued this job to see if I could actually work without ego.

That was my thought, anyway, as I filled out the application.

But one afternoon about a week after I started, I found myself crying on a park bench. Sobbing, really.

The sun was shining. Kids were playing. I was miserable.

Turns out, facing the ego is 1,000 percent more difficult than I thought.

And the struggle’s only begun.

Day One

The first day as a cashier was great.

My co-workers are really nice, and I was actually having a little fun. (Scanning groceries is kinda satisfying. I think it’s the beeping sound. A childhood fantasy realized.)

There’s also a sense of anonymity that comes with this job as if I’m playing a version of myself.

It also brings a type of relief – I can just do the job and go home.

Absent is the need to succeed. The pressure to be “the best” is gone.

Maybe this is what contentment feels like, I thought. Maybe I’ve finally found a little peace.

But as the days went on, the novelty wore off and the ego settled in.

What’s that guy’s problem?

It’s only been 30 minutes since I clocked in?!

My knees hurt.

Why the F am I doing this again?

I have a college degree!

That’s when it hit me: I was in the trenches. In the wretched bowels of the ego.

And the worst part? It oozed out to affect the rest of my life.

I found myself in a bad mood about 80 percent of my day.

Little things would set me off.

A slight change of plans, for example, would shoot me down a hole.

I was the new critic in town.

Nothing was good enough.

Then guilt would set in because I fell for the ego’s dirty tricks.

I seemed to retreat back to a place I worked so hard to get out of and willingly threw myself back in.

Up For The Challenge?

The middle of last year (the exact time I left my job in California, moved in with Jason, and “risked it all” for the sake of love), I made a vow that I would delve deeper into my self.

Go into the dark shadows and really face personal issues that make me shudder. Alleviate the emotional weight I’ve carried around for so long.

Anger.

Hurt.

Unworthiness.

Resentment.

And a handful of other hidden gems collected since childhood that can make a person feel not-so-warm-and-fuzzy.

I knew it would be hard emotionally, but for some reason, I had it in mind that it wouldn’t be that difficult.

Now that I’d made a conscious decision to face my demons, I could observe each like animals at the zoo. Examine them from a safe distance, learn from afar.

But no.

The ego is a sneaky bastard. It gradually pulls you into the suffocating muck of negativity before you realize what’s going on.

And I’m still working through it.

Practice Makes You Feel Less Insane

Each day (hell, each minute) I have to reset.

I sometimes fantasize about what it would be like to go back to the days of unawareness.

How much easier it seems to turn a blind eye to bad habits and cycles to break.

But I’ve gone this far and there’s no turning back now.

My third eye is permanently open.

But through this emotional discomfort, I see the other side.

If I try really hard, (like, really F’ing hard) the anger surrounding my heart dissipates, if only for a few moments.

It doesn’t always happen, but when it does, softness and ease take its place.

The challenge is to remain neutral, observe emotions when they arise, and allow them to pass without clinging and deciphering them into oblivion.

At least, that’s kinda what Buddha says.

I don’t want to be a person that feels “too good” for a job, certain people, or places on this Earth.

I don’t want that to be me.

So I trudge through, on my hands and knees, and continue to the battle with the ego.

And I’ll strive to do so until I am able to find some space and clarity to allow my inner self to be free.

Missed the first chapter? I got you, Boo:

Existential Crisis (Part 1)

2 thoughts on “Existential Crisis (Part 2)

  1. perhaps eork as a caregiver in a private home…the assistance you bring to a host family in need us immeasurable…wothy and ego boosting when you see the smile of the person you care for…it is hard demanding work, but well worth it…and when the ego raises it’s head in a self rightious fit….say there but for the grace of god go I….thank your lucky stars and know the family you serve cherished you….I know…I recently lost a caregiver for my wife and I am again lost..

    1. Hey Art,
      Thank you for being brave and sharing your story. I am so sorry that you are going through a rough time right now and I am keeping you and your wife in my prayers. I agree, loving caregivers are saints on this planet. The day before I wrote this post, I called my friend who is a Hospice nurse and thanked her for the comfort she gives to her patients and families. Seeing a loved one in that kind of state is heartbreaking and I often wonder what quality of life really means. Curious for my own life, and my parents have questioned this, too, if it ever comes to it, I asked what she thought of euthanasia. (I’m not suggesting this at all! I am just explaining the thoughts that my family and I are having during this hard time.) She said that it’s not something that her patients ask about. She also told me that we will all go when our time is right and that there is spiritual stuff happening right now that we can’t understand. That brought comfort in a way I didn’t expect. She also said, just being there in any form (physically, through FaceTime, notes…) soothe those we love to make them feel loved. I don’t know if this helpful, I’m not sure exactly how to handle these situations even though I’m going through a sliver of it myself. But I do want you to know that anything you are doing is giving your wife what she ultimately needs: knowing she is LOVED. Thank you for being here. We all feel lost when it comes to this and all we can do is the best we can. If you haven’t been told lately, YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB and you are not alone!!!! <3

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