mental health

Ambitiousness, laziness

I spent the first half of 2018 worrying a lot. About small, practical things but also about the big questions of life. I was going to turn 40 in the summer and that bothered me more than I liked to admit. Was this the life I wanted to live? Was I really happy? What would the future look like?

Then suddenly my wife died. Already when she was in hospital and death was just one of many possible outcomes, it became clear to me that this was the life I was meant to have lead. This realisation helped me a lot during the next few days and then in the period after her death. I have not lost that feeling for a single moment since.

But I had been a bit naive in thinking that all those worries from before the summer had disappeared.

I am 40 now. On my own. Childless. Feeling rather ungrounded in life. Having come to realise I needed my wife more for my mental sanity than I ever liked to admit.

When I am feeling well, I am incredibly ambitious about my future. Not just about the many practical and meaningful things I want to do, but also about the kind of person I want to become. I have said I wanted to live a life that would make my wife proud, and nothing would make her more proud than me becoming a much better version of myself.

But ambitious though I may be, I am also lazy. I want to be a better person more than I want to become one. I also don’t really know how to go about becoming a better person and so I often find myself pretending to be further along the path than I really am.

I am a lucky person though and I know can find the help I need. While doing that, I find it helpful to regularly write on this blog, if only to hold myself publicly accountable and to avoid falling into the “I am fine” trap. Like mental health on the blockchain.

My ambitiousness clashing with my laziness is often interpreted as me being too harsh on myself. Trust me, I am not. If anything, I could do with being stricter with myself and with expecting more. No, losing a partner hasn’t always been easy, but I have caught myself a few times now using it as an excuse (to myself, mostly) for mistakes I simply shouldn’t have made.

I appreciate feedback on the things I write. It means a whole lot to me when people say what I write helps them in various ways. But just like there has never been a reason to feel sorry for me this past year, there won’t be a reason to tell me to be easier on myself. But by all means, if you feel like doing so, do cheer me on.

Thank you.

2 replies on “Ambitiousness, laziness”

Love it. It did touch my heart. Is honest and delicate. I don’t have words after what you wrote but just something to say: life is beautiful be yourself be driven thrive and live on. You have all my respect

Thank you for sharing your journey story with humble honesty. Two comments you have made seem to me worth reflecting on further as you face a different future in July 2019. First, was something about how you are content to have forgone completing a PhD because you learned what you needed to enroute, and the whole big baggage of expectations around a completed degree derailed you or dis-empowered you. This really resonated with me and I totally get it. And yet, in reading your expectations about going forward after a year of account-taking if not mourning, it struck me that you were in some way thinking of your future with the same anxiety producing albatross expectation of someone preparing for oral exams. Would it help you to think through your thesis experience now and how that might be an example of what doesn’t work for you? Is it the vast time frame? The amount of solitary work with an unclear audience for an uncertain outcome? As a coach I find it often helpful to find parallel experiences from our past to remember what didn’t work, so we won’t go there again. Although often we are all slow learners and do.
Your second and in my mind related comment was about ironing. You asked the Twitter universe if anyone enjoyed ironing as you did? Clothes neatly away in the cupboard. I hear that as a love of humble domestic ritual. The way small tasks build purpose into a life. Isn’t this information about yourself to gently respect as you ponder the rest of your life? Small gestures add up and I’d be curious hear more about your seeming drive to state your whole future goals right now as you pass this recent emotional milestone. How is this a helpful strategy for you at this point, or maybe ever?
Ironing might be a better metaphor for small goals attended to for the time being. Ambition is obviously important too, but not if it leads to wrinkles. Your writing and aesthetic is filled with thoughtful imagery and metaphors. Please don’t stop being playfully adventurous and experiment as you discover what raw material comes out with the wash.
I loved your Get Well cards to America mini-art project and the haunting poetry. Please keep the confidence to navigate and document, for better or worse. Many smile and listen, small victories as we each inch along in our own way through life, discovering who we are.

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