I have begun to observe a certain behavior of mine.
When I was in college, tumblr.com was all the rage for young creative types, yet I refused to create an account for a long time because, “I would spend too much time on it.” I didn’t play video games either for this reason. I thought it made me self-possessed and mature.
The year I finally caved and started a Tumblr blog, I was already living with guilt and paranoia that God would ask me to give up art and writing because I loved it too much. I had been taught to see passions as idolatrous, in competition with God and therefore a selfish, short-sighted threat to my spiritual life.
Tumblr exposed me to many different viewpoints. Young people like me, doing what they loved and figuring themselves out together. Passively absorbing the stories of other peoples’ lived experiences created the first cracks that eventually led to my departure from Christian fundamentalism. Not to mention, seeing everyone’s art and writing brought me joy.
So I suppose in that regard, yes, Tumblr was dangerous. I did spend way too much time on it. But my online presence, my art as well as personal growth, improved dramatically because of it. I was enrolled in a challenging major at university, and still passed all my classes, as well as wrote the first draft of a 700-page novel.
Ten years later, I still find myself deliberately restricting access to things I know I will love, mostly in the form of media. Some part of me is afraid I will become obsessed with it. That it will take up too much room in my mind and the frustration and imposter syndrome will drive me to quit art and writing completely. That I will spend all my very scarce work time watching, reading, daydreaming.
It sounds strange, writing it out. This subtle pit in my stomach. This unspoken, unhinged method of restriction and control.
I’ve been putting self-care on my goals list each week, and manage it at least one day out of the seven. Sometimes it’s cooking myself dinner, writing for fun on projects I’m not officially working on at the moment, shutting down all to-do lists for a night. Last month, it was watching a show I had been keeping on my radar like a kid at the candy window. I was afraid I would love it, and I was correct. I binged it all in one night, stayed up long past my bedtime on a weeknight. I felt like I was nineteen again, watching cartoons online after a busy week. I’m still thinking about it quite a bit. I’ve already rewatched some of my favorite episodes.
The soundtrack is gorgeous. A fascinating blend of genres, surreal and emotional, heavily incorporating piano and organ, which, as a child of traditional church musicians, speaks to a deep place in me that I still love and hold sacred. Listening to the score at my day job carried my spirits through an extremely busy workweek. I still crashed hard at the end of it, expected of yet another marathon of overwork and sleep deprivation choosing thirteen-hour work days over giving up on my passions, but the next day I felt less hungover, overwhelmed, and depressed. I was able to be more present with my partner on our weekly Saturday outing. I’m more inspired than ever to work on my creative projects.
I’m reminded of other works of art over the last year that I let myself experience and love, the ways they have comforted me, bolstered my nerves, let me process emotions I struggled to access on my own, how they have influenced my current work in beautiful and exciting ways.
I have been slowly learning to incorporate enrichment in my daily life. Intuitive eating, bicycling, journaling, birdwatching, music…I often feel like I am forced to forget these things in favor of the survival mechanisms tearing away at me. I watch myself showing up less and less for things antithetical to my health and wholeness. I’m not only resentful of continuing to indulge these things, but I can’t manage to make myself align with them anymore, even for short periods of time.
I suddenly find myself at a crossroads. I would have liked to make some of the steepest changes on my horizon this year when I felt more secure financially, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that either I very soon take myself out of the game voluntarily, or my body will do it for me. Swiftly and unceremoniously.
I think I was able to keep it at bay for so long by pushing it behind this fear of change I developed over the last year. But I’m moving in with my partner soon, which has forced me to begin orienting toward a whole cascade of change. Each new notice submitted, logistics planned, ad posted, my control over my own misery slips more and more out of place.
I don’t know what the next few months will bring, but I’m trying really hard to land on my feet.