‘And it starts sometime around midnight’

 

At times my mind takes me curious places. Ever since I was a small child I’ve had this inclination to make connections between things- however disparate they may seem to be on the surface. It’s my particular way of making sense of the world- and it reinforces my deeply-held belief that we are all connected and essentially alike- by virtue of our shared humanity.

I’ve always been an observer- taking note of and carefully storing away experiences and memories and information- and the fact that I have a well-developed ability to retain information and images sometimes leads to a fair bit more introspection than may be completely healthy. Those ‘curious places’ can be more than a little dark and dangerous, at times. Remembering often leads to regretting. And that’s a slippery slope, for me.

Venturing into some of the darker realms means that I’ve been absent lately. From life in general, and certainly from around these parts. The drafts folder is full-to-overflowing with false starts that will likely never see the light of day.

I have mixed feelings about that. This forum, here in WordPress World, has become, over the past couple of years, one of my favourite places. I’ve had some really interesting conversations, read a whole lot of eye-opening and thought-provoking essays, and made a number of good friends – I’ve even had the opportunity to meet some of them IRL (looking at you, A-M. You know it’s feeling like 40 degrees Celsius with full sun and a breeze from the lake here today, right? If you’re thinking of heading out of Glasgow- although you know how your hometown stole my heart- may I suggest Toronto as an option? We’ve definitely had a summer the past few weeks!).

But something is off. I explained my lack of recent posts to one of my oldest-and-dearests last night, mentioning that, lately, I look at the drafts- or start working on something that catches my fancy- only to feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. The windmills are forever and always the same- and the tilting isn’t getting me anywhere other than frustrated and feeling completely ineffective and  ineffectual.

Not good. The act of writing has become counter-productive. It frustrates, rather than frees. Which sucks. Bigtime. I’m a writer. I write. Not writing is not good for cole’s soul (using the term irreligiously, of course).

Ironically, this means that more introspection is required if I’m to get to the heart of ‘what’s up with that’? (Cue visual of Kenan Thompson as Diondre Cole telling Bill Hader’s Lindsey Buckinghan that they are, once again, out of time, and he won’t be interviewed this week. The SNL sketch is oddly apt, actually…)

Over the past few months I’ve attempted to re-focus my energies- spending time with fiction, rather than struggling to articulate essays/commentary about those things that reallyreally bug me. The ultimate themes and messages- such as they are- are echoed, regardless of form. I am who I am, after all. The way I think- and the things about which I think- stay pretty much the same whether I’m writing a blog post or a novel. I write as a way to suss out answers. To get my thoughts straight on a given topic, and to provide those thoughts something like coherence and exposure to the world outside of my brain.

None of that is happening right now. I’m scattered and disengaged- pretty much all around. I’m in a holding pattern of lackadaisical ennui (how’s that for some purple prose?) that is both out-of-character and concerning.

But I’m working on it.

Per usual (for me), that involves a lot of reading, and listening to music, and paying attention to what smart, talented people have to say about things that interest and/or concern me.

While working on a presentation for the day job, I came across this TEDTalk (I DO love the TEDTalks):

Tattoos? I have none. Regrets? I’ve had a few. And, unlike Mr. Sinatra, I can’t call mine ‘too few to mention’.

Kathryn Schulz’ talk was personally interesting in many ways. I tend to move beyond the denial stage fairly quickly. I generally get that I’ve made an irrevocable, regrettable, decision pretty much right off the bat. The alienation and self-punishment? Those things sound more like me. And they last.

Perseveration? Oh yeah. That one is a biggie. The soundtrack of error runs round and round and round in my head. Ad nauseam. The memory of the action that caused the regret gets set on endless repeat. It becomes a one-song iPod that I can’t turn off.

So, illumination! Making peace with regret? You can do that?! As a fellow-perfectionist, I share her struggle. I rarely balk at forgiving others their trespasses against me (unless they are especially banal and/or heinous) but I have an inordinate amount of trouble cutting myself any slack at all. At. All.

‘Learning to love the flawed, imperfect things we create? Forgiving ourselves for creating them? Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly- it reminds us that we know we can do better.’

I like that. I like all of that.

It’s a far more human approach to looking at ourselves- our lives, our actions, our fallibility- than a lot of the ‘mindfulness-speak’ that is out there in the ether of ‘holistic health’ and the push for ‘positive culture’ that dominates our social media soundbites these days.

Funnily enough (although I tend to see it as another one of those connectivity things), the whole regret-thing (and the absolution of said regret-things) has been circumstantially at the forefront of my mind these past few weeks.

Been thinking about choices a lot as I try to figure out next steps. For example: What, exactly, do I want to be when I grow up? How do I define happiness? Has that definition changed? If my goals/wants/needs have changed, what do I need to do make those things manifest?

I have a birthday coming up next month (all being well- shouldn’t count chickens/tempt fate and all that)- it’s not a biggie- no zero at the end or anything. But it’s been a while since I last really thought about those questions.  It was around the time of my last zero-at-the-end birthday (funny how those markers tend to make us take stock)- which puts it few years ago. Five long years, to be specific. So it’s past time to revisit the questions- and see where I’m at- existentially speaking. Especially since that last round of questioning led to some decisions that ended up being rather regretful, in retrospect.

Adulting and First World Problems. Ick. It’s whiny and ridiculous- in so many ways. I get it. I’m a good feminist- aware of all my intersections. The choices are myriad- a reality that is a product of my privilege. Everyone should be so lucky to have to the choices I have had- that I continue to have. I get that too. But the sources of that privilege- my family, my friends, my opportunities- keep hitting me with the insistent realization that I need to keep on striving to do better.

Which I can’t do if I’m locked into the perseveration of regrets.

There are these songs (I know- there are always some songs- as I said, I am who I am)… two of them. They speak of regret- in very different, yet complimentary, ways.

The first is a cover version of an older song, performed by a guy that I love so very much. I’ve talked about Midge before. A few times, actually. And he more than deserves all the positive print I can offer up. This song most definitely helped me through some rough times over the years.

It’s over. It’s done. It’s for the best. No looking back.

Healthy, right? Yet melancholy-as-Hell in tone, and speaking to the truth that even that which is the right thing doesn’t necessarily come regret-free.

I had the opportunity to see Midge live (again! Twice in less than a year!), playing a pared-down and fabulous acoustic show- just him and his guitar- back in March, and took the opportunity to meet him after the show and express my thanks for all the years of music and lessons and wonder that he has brought into my life.

(And made my bud, the incomparable Len, take my picture with him. That is an example of whatever the absolute opposite of regret might be).

Z

This other song, though…

It’s the one that keeps on running through my head. That whole self-punishment and ‘what the hell did I do’ sort of thinking that Kathryn spoke about. That’s much more my style.

And this song makes my heart hurt with the physical weight of such regrets…

Regardless of how often I listen to it, Airborne Toxic Event’s (I’ve talked about them before, toorage against the regret of the loss of love sends my stomach all butterfly-ish. Every time. That’s power– sourced in the fact that our human-ness means that we’ve experienced that depth of self-excoriation about decisions made or roads not traveled- and react to the memory of the regret.

It’s a big deal, regret. A big, messy, complicated deal.

So. Starting last night (interestingly it actually was sometime around midnight), inspired by a great, if much-delayed, conversation with a too-long-absent but ever-important person in my life, I’m working on annotating and embracing my regrets. Perhaps that evaluation will lead me out of my current stasis and back into some positive directions. Even if those directions end up being transitional- or transformational- and even if some of them are regrettable.

I can do better.

Past time.

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18 comments on “‘And it starts sometime around midnight’

  1. Right, I want you to know that I’ve read this, Cole. My usual is not liking and commenting till I’ve had the chance to listen to what you’ve linked but I’m doing this differently. Why? Weird. I knew there must have been something afoot with your absence but didn’t want to pry. And then you say ‘deja vu’ when you go to write. I actually changed the title of one of my last posts from deja vu to ‘Shape-shifted’ because deja vu wasn’t exacly what it was but kinda was too, iykwim. A sense somehow that it’s all a bit pointless writing anything at all. And that’s not like me. But it felt that way, has been feeling a bit like that for a while.
    I don’t want to go on here till I’ve had the chance to listen to the Tedtalk and the two songs.
    And you’re out! You and Midge in a photo scoop. 😉
    I’m about to crash here at yon time of night so I’ll get to listen tomorrow and get back to you.
    It’s so good to see your words here again, almost as good as seeing you in the flesh, and Toronto sounds great. Everywhere with a dose of sun sounds great. But way better if you’re there. I look like a corpse!
    We need a catch up. Big hugs, missus, and keep your chin up. We can all do better. I know for sure I need to. And this might be the kick in the jacksie I was needing too. In and out the dusty blue bells. And I don’t know where that came from but it seems apt. lol. xo

    • colemining says:

      Thanks for checking in, A-M. The ennui has been weird- and I’m sort of happy (in a way) to hear that I’m not the only one feeling it. Misery and company or some such, if you know what *I* mean. Thinking I’m in need of the mental shake-up- so will give it a go from this new perspective. Have to lose this detachment, somehow.

      It’s been soooo hot here this week- I don’t mind a bit, but there’s lots of complaining going on. Came home from a weekend trip to DC last week right smack into a heatwave. You won’t catch me complaining- it’ll be winter (and therefore horrible) soon enough.

      Isn’t that pic a hoot? Was definitely a lovely moment for me- and he was charming as anything. Must be because he’s Glaswegian 😉

      Have a good sleep. And we’ll catch up soon! xo

  2. bethbyrnes says:

    First off, I love your photo Cole. You look lovely IRL.

    I know something of the sentiments you are expressing here. I came to the conclusion a few months back, that I had said everything I care to say about the big issues that dog me and feel that those who agree with me don’t need to hear me re-state them. For one thing, those of us who agree on all these things can and have said them in our own words. Me fleshing out my ideas on these topics again and again from umpteen angles seems worse than redundant and boring, it simulates circling the drain of despair.

    I decided instead to focus my blog on more positive things for the time being at least, so I don’t alienate all the people who have been kind enough to follow me even though they likely don’t agree with me on any of the heavier topics.

    Sometimes I tell myself I won’t post a particular week, and then I do anyway as I do like the consistency and discipline of sticking to it. However, this week might be an exception as I have guests and it is 100F and very sticky and humid here, uncharacteristically and that makes me feel anything but talkative (may be a good thing!).

    Anyway, you have plenty of company and I for one am thankful to see you back, saying just about anything, as whatever you express helps my mind reach new thoughts and motivations.

    (Btw, my birthday is August 11th, so we share an August birthday, among so many other things!)

    Hugs.

    • colemining says:

      Aren’t you the sweetest? I was a little drenched from standing under the lights at the front of the stage- Midge was actually on stage, mind, but he doesn’t have a mop of hair with which to contend 🙂 I’ve cut most of it off for the summer- which turned out to be a good thing, what with the weather we’ve been having (today felt like 40 with humidity- which is 104 in Fahrenheit…).

      I could have guessed you’re an August Lady- so many of the best people are (I’m the 26th, so Virgo to your Leo)!

      You’ve hit on it exactly- as is so often the case. The ‘circling of the drain of despair’- that’s definitely in the neighbourhood of what I’ve been feeling. Boring as hell. And futile.

      I tried to take a page out of your book- started a couple of ‘musical interlude’ type posts- all about the positive, but even those started sounding like repeats. I think the reexamination of my priorities is in order… I maintain that the things I (and you, and so many others here in WPW) have to say are important and worth hearing- I’m just exhausted from shouting into the void, I think. Feeling like I need to change-up a whole bunch of things- just need to figure out where to begin.

      Thank you for the support, as always. Enjoy your company- and take whatever breaks you might need in order to deal with the heat/humidity! Hugs back! xo

  3. quiall says:

    My friend you were missed. I understand the ennui, I hate it but I understand it. I am just down the road and I am really not enjoying our weather these days. It is supposed to get better for the weekend. We can only hope. Be well.

    • colemining says:

      Thank you, Lovely. Trying to shake it all off- but thinking I need a real reevaluation of a whole bunch of things.

      I hear you- while I love the heat (and hate the cold) I know that not everyone agrees. And, to be honest, the walk to-and-from the job has been a little stifling this week. Hope we get at least a little cool down for the long weekend.

      Hope you are well. Thanks for the visit, and your support. xo

  4. I’m glad you’re back. I understand what you write of. I suppose I have been able to move past some of this because I now find my children experiencing some of the same and I don’t want them to be weighed down by regret, so I try to impart a bit of fatherly wisdom. Perhaps some of that is finally taking hold in my own mind. If I could get them to take to heart anything it would be always give your best, don’t make the same mistake twice if you can help it, and if you’re doing those two than learn to accept yourself as you are.

    • colemining says:

      Thanks, CBC. No surprise- you’re a wise man. Balancing the decisions and the potentiality of regret… it’s a hard one to suss out. I have a good imagination, so all-too-often I can see potentially horrific results that are way out of keeping with the most likely scenario.

      I guess as we get older we need to weigh the ‘just do it’ and the cautionary tales a little more thoroughly- which can lead to agonies of soul-searching and, ironically, missed moments. ‘Tis a funny thing, regret. It’s a good thing to explore more fully, methinks. Just have to make sure it doesn’t turn into a wallow in self-excoriation.

      Thanks, as always, for your visit and supportive words. It’s good to be back. I’ve missed my peeps. xo

      • I don’t know you except from your (very well-written) blog, but you don’t strike me as someone who would make a passel of mistakes, Cole. My impression is that you take others’ needs into account as much, if not more, than your own, you’re devoted to leaving the world a better place than how you found it and you have much compassion. That the world had more people as introspective and caring as yourself.

      • colemining says:

        Such lovely sentiments, CBC- and very appreciated right about now. I think that’s part of the tension- wanting to make things better and feeling like the walls that prevent such progress grow ever higher without so much as chips being made in the stones of intolerance and inequity. Makes it hard to figure out how to keep to it- without letting other aspects of this life of ours fall by the wayside. I think that’s where the regrets mainly lie. Knowing if/when to throw in the towel and change direction. I think that’s likely the source of my current struggles.

        And that’s one of the many reasons why this place is a good place. It brings together those of us of like mind and compassion. Thank you for helping me remember that reality. It means a lot.

  5. Ste J says:

    Well ,hello there you have been missed around here, it’s tough to be on the journey you are undertaking and I wish you well with it.

    • colemining says:

      Thank you, Steve. Taking stock is always a good thing- just hope that it provides some progressive movement, this time out. I appreciate you visiting, as always.

  6. Whatever your journey, wherever you are heading, I wish you love. I like what you create here, it is important, so take your time. We will wait. Hugs.

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