Friday, August 15, 2014

The Road Less Traveled

Today is the first day of the rest of my life without my immediate, my nuclear family, as they say. We all had the bad brain chemistry, some of us quite painfully and for quite a long time. I have spent nearly all my life trying to help them; I don't need to do that anymore. But now I have to replace the project because trying to help them was a way to help myself, to give myself a reason to feel bad so I could feel better. But of course there are plenty of ways to feel bad--I'm in no danger of running out; I can always find someone or something to worry about. But I don't want to do that anymore. I want to find ways to stop feeling bad instead, followed closely (I hope) by feeling good. So, what are those methods?

Ah, there's the rub. As I've said over (and over) in this blog, making the bad feeling go away is not easy. It comes over me so fast sometimes that I forget it's not real, not based in the empirical world, but developing from my brain and its inconvenient wiring. So to recognize it is the first step, as always. Then to make it go away usually requires a focused activity such as scanning, reading mysteries, writing, exercising, bookkeeping, or one of the other non-destructive activities I've devised to put a temporary fix on my pain. But then what? How do I move from not-feeling-bad to feeling good? They're not the same, after all. Oh, it's true that the absence of pain can be a relief, can be elating all by itself. But after a while, being pain-free becomes routine and the psychic energy one expended on suffering must be expended somewhere else.

And here's where the road diverges: at the crossroads, the former sufferer must find another source of pain or find joy. It would seem not be a tough choice--who wouldn't desire joy over pain? But the pain is familiar, well-known, an old enemy, a noble adversary, even. Getting back into the fight is attractive; anticipating the struggle, the agon, is thrilling. The ever-elusive joy, on the other hand, seems illusory, a sham, a fiction found in romance novels and Disney films, as insubstantial as a rainbow. And as we know, the quest to catch a rainbow always ends in disappointment. So why try?

Well, the answer is this: because joy is not a rainbow, it is a feeling every bit as real as pain and can be experienced as easily. It is not something you obtain or achieve. It's something you already have access to, that exists inside your brain. You just have to find a way to release it. I have to find a way. That's my new project.