Friday, May 30, 2014

Apathy and Exhaustion

I’d like to think that it all went wrong on one dramatic day late last summer.  It would be nice to blame all of my troubles on that dreaded day, but the reality is that things began to slip long before that and it’s become a free-fall ever since.  What happened last summer?  Nothing special really.  I spent a nice morning with a woman who I had grown very fond of over a couple of months and after taking her to lunch as a thank you for helping me with some work; I made my big move and asked her out on a date.  The general response to the few times I have built up the nerve to ask such an outward and potentially life changing question of someone has always been some kind of awkward silence followed by a polite dismissal.  I am used to this and pretty much expect it.  This day was no different, and even though I should be used to being turned down, it is still disappointing and discouraging.  So, I found myself back in my office at work a few minutes later trying to figure out what I did wrong, when I received a phone call from my doctor.  She was contacting me to inform that my latest labs (blood tests) showed that my transplanted kidney was being rejected.  It was a ten minute stretch that I didn’t need.  It’s strange to think that day had held such promise.

The funny thing is that those two rejections no longer particularly bother me.  The kidney issue was resolved through a few changes in medication and a lot of labs and expense.  This process wasn’t easy, but things are back in control and have been for some time.  The other rejection?  Well, that one stings, as most of them do, but that pain mostly fades with time, despite the acute loneliness that such rejection leads to.

So I keep asking myself why I still feel so damn terrible all of the time.  I didn’t realize it then, but I think something turned inside of me a few months before the double rejection day.  The hope of winning the heart of a lovely, intelligent and driven woman was only a distraction that gave me temporary motivation.  Maybe it started when I decided I wanted to move from my apartment in the ‘burbs back into the city where I feel I belong - nearer my dwindling social life.  So, as my lease drew closer to expiring, I started to shop around.  In the meantime, I began the process of getting rid of things.  I discarded, recycled, or donated boxes and boxes worth of stuff that I had unwittingly collected over the years.  I made those tough decisions about several items that I’ve generally held onto over the years for sentimental reasons.  This time, most of those things were discarded.  It was time to change and simplify my life – to move forward.  This felt positive.  Along the way though, I seemed to have discarded many of my things and a big part of myself.  Many of my interests and hobbies – the things that have kept me distracted, entertained and inspired all of these years seem to have gone missing.  It’s like I’ve lost interest with everything I’ve always enjoyed.  Some of my extended family and co-workers call me “the golf guy,” yet I have only played one work-related round of golf in nearly two years, and I do not have any inclination or desire to play anytime in the future.  At the end of the 2013 season, I gave up my Portland Timbers tickets after 12 years of rabid fandom and have barely paid any attention to the team since.  I use to mainly write short stories and fiction when the urge struck, and enjoyed the feeling of creating and always felt a sense of accomplishment upon completion – well done or not.  Nowadays, my writing has been almost solely focused on promoting the music I love, which feels increasingly hollow and pointless (it’s not as though I command any kind of audience to spread the word anyhow).  This process lacks the creative spirit of the artists that I admire and that I so used to crave to emulate.  I’ve even found my lifelong passion for music on the wane.  It’s as though I’ve heard too much.  I’ve begun to question whether or not I am stuck in a rut as I listen to long-time favorites, or newer bands who remind me of music of days past, but very little seems truly new anymore.  Am I really seeking out new directions and branching out, or am I rehashing my teens and twenties over and over again?  Am I simply stuck on repeat?

I feel silly providing these examples of my current listlessness.  They are all unimportant, mundane and simple individually.  However, I’ve begun to notice that they are emblematic of a problem that I do not fully understand.  None of these things have progressed consciously.  It’s as if a trap door has opened beneath me.  It’s as though during my effort to simplify and improve my life by tossing away extraneous bits and pieces, I’ve thrown myself away.  I’ve blown out my pilot light.  I’ve lost my fire.  I’ve lost my ability to live.  I’ve become what I’ve always fought against.  I’ve become an automaton.  For example, I’m allowing my job – something I’ve always tried to keep from defining my person – to frustrate and confound me.  Every day feels like an impossible, frustrating and endlessly stressful trudge uphill with no hope of ever accomplishing anything.  It’s become a trap - a steeper hill to climb each day.  I’m stuck in a perpetual cycle of living paycheck to paycheck with a carrot dangling in my face promising something better on the horizon.  Only that something never materializes, no matter how hard I try to reach it.  Yet, I keep trying until my batteries run out.

I’ve been through a lot of difficult times in my life.  Everyone has, and as with anyone, I’ve faced life’s challenges and muddled my way through one way or another, but for some reason, this time, I do not know what to do.  I am at a loss.  Maybe, I’m simply exhausted.  For much of my life I’ve focused my energy to do battle against an ugly genetic disorder (VHL) and the multiple surgeries that I’ve endured.  Now that I’ve been fairly stable for the better part of ten years, the tiniest little thing these days can come along and knock me out – blown over like a feather.  The lingering effects of those battle scars have taken their toll.  I struggle with the concept that I’ll never feel truly physically well again.  And I don’t mean in the ‘I’m getting older’ kind of way, though that is very real.  I am in real physical pain all of the time, which leads to sleepless nights and way too much time to dwell on my shortcomings and the people that I miss and who I’ve lost.  I don’t want to lose anyone anymore.  I don’t know if I can deal with it again.

It’s time to find a direction to re-ignite that pilot light, but I do not have a clue what it would be, or what it could entail.  I’m not struggling to decide which fork in the road to take, because I’m no longer on a road of any kind.  This must be my so-called mid-life crisis.  I don’t really know what that means.  Maybe it’s the side effect of spending years and a lot of effort trying to achieve those dreams of youth and never quite doing so.  Maybe it’s the realization that those dreams were doomed to fail from the get go and there is no plan B lying in wait.  I’m tired of facing these challenges on my own.

As of now, I am trying to schedule small short-term activities each week that I can look forward to.  These are proverbial baby steps.  The hope is that one day I will once again find my stride and start moving towards positive goals that fuel and instill me with a reason to live and breathe and to feel like I’m worth something.  This feels an insurmountable task.


  1. You described this so well, Chris. And while my particular circumstances are much different than yours, I feel a similar ache, a loss of direction and focus that is frustrating. In a recent post, I wrote about being tired and overwhelmed with much of the things that have consumed my attention in the past several years and being inspired by beautiful writing to create something wholly new, but I confess to being altogether lost as to what that might look like. Here's hoping we have simply hit early mid-life crises and that when we each find our respective passions, we can begin to feel as though we are moving forward again. I know that when I'm busy with things I love, I tend to think less about the things I have lost. I hope your efforts to find things to look forward to spark some sort of revolution for you, but for now, thank you for the perfect way you expressed this.

  2. it does feel insurmountable, doesn't it? i hate that pit, that well, that black cloud that appears never ending. i wish i had a secret phrase that would bring that spark back...feeling like you've lost yourself, like you've lost your way, is a terrible feeling. maybe it's a mid-life unraveling and maybe, hopefully, it's a chance for a new phase in are doing the right thing here. keep scheduling small activities and keep writing, please keep writing.