New Year’s Resolutions

I have two. They are: To go outside more, and to correspond more reliably.

The first doesn’t require much explanation. Chicago, it turns out, is an absolutely terrible place to exist in the winter. The number of degrees it was today was 3. It will not be many more very often in the weeks to come. It gets dark at about 4:30 in the afternoon, and my delicate constitution responds to this by telling me to hide inside where the dark and cold can’t get to me, sinking deeper and deeper into a warm and suffocating lethargy that saps my energy for weeks at a time. Outside is good! Outside wakes me up, even when it is a bit miserable. Outside will happen more, even when the air hurts my face.

The other one is… weirder. That’s an issue with deeper roots, and stranger ones; I don’t understand myself where it comes from, entirely, my fear of reminding other people that I exist.

Because that’s what it is, in large part, my fear of replying to emails, my bizarre phobia of listening to voicemails, my guilty pile of unanswered facebook messages. There remains a part of me, however mentally healthy I get, that is convinced that the only reason anyone likes me or engages with me is because I’ve managed to foil them thus far into believing that I am not the fuckup I actually am. The more correspondence, the more involved the professional or personal relationship, the more likely a fuckup on my end; and, of course, a fuckup on my end means that whoever catches it would be totally justified in breaking off all contact with me forever, maligning me to everyone they meet, never thinking well of me again, etc. etc…..

…It’s stupid. It’s deeply stupid. I know.

See, I don’t usually think of it in those terms. Those are extreme terms for a stupid problem. I don’t stare at emails in a panic, thinking to myself the words I am a fuckup and if I fuck this up they’ll know and they’ll hate me. It doesn’t get that concrete, ever. See, there is a sane and rational part of me that looks at those words and goes, “Sarah! That’s fucking crazy! Don’t do that!” and then stops doing it. No, I just– I just don’t reply.

Sometimes, I don’t even open the emails. Oh, God, I have spent literal weeks not checking my school email, back in undergrad, allowing it to remain Schroedinger’s responsibility – the correspondence I didn’t read didn’t come with a danger of outing me as a failure, didn’t drop any new weight on my shoulders. Of course, waiting to reply to emails, especially professional emails, just makes replying more cringeworthy as time goes on. It spirals naturally into a truly stunning guilt-whirlwind. It gets big enough, I’m often ready to drop the relationship entirely rather than send an apology email – because! As it turns out! Only people who have Fucked Up have to send apology emails! And thus would I prove myself right, and start the whole cheerful cycle over again, with new proof to hold up against myself in the caucus of my idiocy.

There are other factors too, of course. There are many people I know not-so-well but well enough, people whom I have liked a great deal, and people who have tried to know me better than they do. I’ve lived in many places, and lost contact with many people. There was a time, in the third or fourth place I lived and liked people, when I found the idea of keeping contact was wearying; I feared liking people for my memory of them, and resenting them for not being as good over a distance. I feared, again, that knowing them better would destroy their image of me, which was only possible because they hadn’t known me well.

There are people I love a great deal and know very, very well, and to whom I fear to give an inadequate answer, to offer less than I feel they deserve to them in exchange for their continued love of me. These, I don’t even fear to fuck up so much; I only fear doing fine, and not enough. I fear not for myself in those instances, but for them, who would trust me with their thoughts and not get nearly enough in return.

All of these things are stupid. I know. Sing it with me, the anxiety anthem: ~Knowing that a response is irrational does not stop one from experiencing it!~

I am, however, in a place now where I recognize how stupid this is. I can watch myself doing this, and choose whether or not to avoid it. This is a big step in a stupid, stupid journey. The next step, then, is the resolution: To adjust my big baby diaper and stride resolutely forward into the world of Just Fucking Writing The Email, You Absolute Moron.

The resolution is twofold: The first is Just Fucking Replying To The Email. Not letting professional, academic, or personal correspondence sit more than two days. Even if the reply is “Sorry, things are busy, I need another day or two to respond properly!”, the response will go out. I will set aside time for this, every day or couple of days. I will find time, before I go out and do something else, to respond to the humans who reach out to me. (ANXIETY MIND TRICK: Schedule your stressful correspondence for right before you leave to go do something else! Reorient your mind and change your physical surroundings to prevent minor stress from turning into a hate spiral!)

The second is Just Fucking Reminding People You Like Them. Getting back in touch with people and deciding, actively, not to give a shit about how long it’s been. Sending them something meaningful, and asking meaningful things about what they’ve been doing. Not living in a goddamn hole for fear someone will notice that I am a human being with human issues. Getting out of my own damn head, and choosing to think about how much I like the people I’ve associated with, and how many good things there are about them, and how wonderful it is to get to hear about what they’re doing, instead of my own dull imagined failures.

People rock, man. That’s so much more interesting a worldview than the one I’ve mired myself in. 2015: The year I internalize that; the year I finally let actions speak louder on that particular front.

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3 Responses to New Year’s Resolutions

  1. Amanda Molas says:

    I identify with this post so much it hurts. I actually have the “send it quickly before you go out somewhere” trick as a last resource to force myself into it, as quickly as possible so my brain doesn’t have time to think about how much of a fuckup I seem on this three-paragraph email. But when you get to that empty inbox — oh, that’s the feeling. Clear head, accomplishment, no open loops of unfinished business. I wish you much of that this year.

    (I use to keep my resolutions, just in case you find it useful too!)


    • Sarah says:

      Hey, thanks (SHE SAID, REPLYING THREE WEEKS LATER)! 😀 I might start using that – it looks really really cute! And good at providing rewards for stuff like this, that doesn’t always come with the rewarding “YAY I DID IT” feeling.

      Wishing you also successful resolutions – and I hope to talk to you again soon! ❤

  2. Pingback: Jesuit homilies, self-compassion, and mediocre poetry | I WROTE THING

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