lrb

A log of a 31 year old Englishman finding the ground again

An interesting week. The first group session of art therapy happened Tuesday, which ended up feeling a little anti-climatic. I didn't feel much, I didn't find much. I'm guessing it's a long game.

I've found literature again, and picked up the 2014 Booker winner The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. Reading it is all I have done so far today, which I guess is a testament.

Emotionally I have felt stunted and numb. This isn't a new way of being, I just haven't tried to paper over it with a fake, more vibrant experience. I've let it be. I'm imagining a kind of paradox in that by accepting my lack of feeling, it will ignite passion.

Overall, I'm trying to care less. Not about people, but about striving in life. I am happy with what I have, where I am. I'm only unhappy when the possibilities feel endless.

In what is probably a grasp for some kind of control, the past couple of weeks I've become obsessed with streamlining our finances and paying down as much debt as possible, as quickly as possible.

I'll be honest, we're around £15k in debt. £2900 of that is a loan, the rest are credit cards built up from a combination of spending above our income on frivilous crap, and overhang from when we moved in together and money was really, really tight.

But I'm incredibly excited to get rid of every single penny. I've spent hours staring at my spreadsheets and balances over the past week, more than likely sparked by my very recent diagnosis of Trigeminal Neuralgia. Loss of control – find it somewhere else!

I don't think this is an unhealthy version of taking control, it will be good for future me. As long as I'm not stressing and scared about finances – something I will keep an eye on.

Mrs lrb is fully onboard, and is almost in a more frugal mood than I am!

Something that rings true in my head is that you are not borrowing from the bank, you're borrowing from your future self to have something now, and sacrifice later.

Future self is now.

Another days passes and I'm seeing some benefit in using writing and community as an outlet. I've took to thinking about writing some short fiction, something I've taken to thinking about a few times now.

As ever, I'm preparing to write rather than writing!

During this preparation, I took a look at the submission pages of various literary journals and – my lord – how pretentious they can be! You should be blessed to give them your free and exclusive content and, on occasion, pay for the privilege.

This got me thinking a little about the difference between writing for yourself, and writing for an audience. This blog here, in honesty, isn't particularly for people to read and comment on (though it is certainly appreciated). It's an outlet for my thoughts and feelings, to make sure they have somewhere to go and be processed.

Writing for an audience seems a whole different ball game. I can't see how, what starts out as a creative endeavour, can't help but end up as a technical and formulaic process designed to maximise audience happiness. Much less about what it gives the author, much more about giving the people what they want.

It's something I'm thinking about exploring, anyway. The more immediate concern is a first therapy session tomorrow. The 50 minutes won't cover much ground, little do they know.

There's a strange push to evaluate the worth of everything you read, do and learn. If it doesn't contribute to your career or living to 110, then its value is questionable.

Experience for experience's sake is fading away. I think this is most prevalent in my neck of the woods, the Home Counties around London. Many people I meet assume I commute every day and work in the city, maybe tech or finance. They assume when I'm not doing that, I'm working on getting to the next rung of the ladder by working at home.

To be honest, I have always used my 'spare', non-working time to learn and grow, but I've often chosen what to focus on by its impact on my career.

Recently, I've begun exploring not wanting this rat-race career. Living on less money, and being more of a polymath – enjoying learning a wide range of skills from mending clothes to growing herbs (no garden for vegetables – yet!).

When I think of my job I think of jail. A restriction of freedom. I do enjoy it – and our small team are mostly kind people – but it leaves little mental room for much else. What is the purpose of life if you don't live it? Surely exploring the country, talking to different people, creating art in whatever form and learning about people who have come before us are valuable parts of the human experience?

Reading 'Early Retirement Extreme' by Jacob Fisk has brought this perspective on, if I'm honest. Or at least clarified some underlying feelings that specialising and dedicating most of your life to one (almost always pointless) area of one industry might not bring happiness and security.

But most of all, it is the pressure to be extraordinary. Living a normal life is no longer acceptable to society. You have to do something remarkable. If everyone can start a tech company and be a millionaire within 6 months, aren't you a lazy fuck if you don't do that? I think this is a lie. I think you are no less of a person for not reaching for the stars. If you're happy, you've won.

I'm a 31 year old man lost at sea, in need of a port. I've resisted self-pity and negativity for a long time, and will carry on doing so – but the truth is, I need some help.

Writing has always been cathartic, though I always end up writing for an audience. I'm a marketer in the day time (something I'm beginning to resent more and more), so I have to fight the urge to sell what I'm writing.

So let's give the over-sharing, timeline-of-depressive-notes a go!

Last week I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia, a progressive condition where the nerve on the right side of my face has no protection left around it. Possible causes include MS, which an upcoming MRI should either count in or out.

It's fucking painful, and it's fucking terrifying, to be honest. I'll need a lot of mindfulness sessions to cope if it carries on, which – from what I've read – is likely.

I'm not used to being the one needing help, that needs some support. I actively repel help. Back to that 31 year old man fact, I guess. I've always been open with my emotions though, just never taking that step to ask someone else to fix them up at all.

What the diagnosis has shown me is that I am already depressed, and the poor camel now has a broken back. I'm lost, ungrounded, directionless.

My memory and cognitive ability has been dripping away for some time, which leads me to expect that MS is at the root of the nerve 'issue'. I've only just admitted that to the doctor, and family. Colleagues might have to wait on that news, I can't yet bring myself to take that risk. What if they prepare to get rid of me, knowing I'm on a downward slope?

Anyway, I at least plan to check in here to exorcise some thoughts a couple of times a week. One thing I've written down that I'd like to work on is being part of a caring community, and I'm taking a look at the fediverse. Who better to reach out to than open-source heads?

Just forgive me for switching back to Windows after 15 years of *nix. I know not what I do.