Monday, January 26, 2009

(Im)mortality: an introspective look at myself with the help of Alice in Chains

I've been meaning to write a blog for a couple of days now. My sister suckered me into signing up for this thing, even though I already have two myspace accounts (one is for my music--I'm not one of those people who signs up for the same thing a million times because I can't remember my log-in information) and a facebook account. And, somewhere in the depths of cyberspace, a Xanga account that I haven't logged into in at least two years because xanga is lame.

Now that I've sufficiently bored you with the perfunctory introductions, perhaps I will be able to slather something of substance on here. Actually doing this right now is sort of like "pulling teeth," if you will--I have a mountain of emotion that I don't particularly want to post, lest you think me some blubbering mass of all things pathetic. Yet it's something that needs to be done, and I figure that I might as well use this blog as my own personal therapy in different ways. If you don't want to read it, don't bother, I don't care whether you do or don't. But maybe I'll help someone feeling the same "sick" that I feel, or at least, maybe someone else will identify with it and we'll know we aren't alone.

For several years I have dealt with daily pre-occupations with death. Probably since age 12--at least that's when I first remember consciously thinking about it and feeling a sense of panic. Not longing for suicide or anything like that. Just trying to come to terms with the fact that earthly life is finite, and I am not able to process whatever lies beyond in infinite realms. That is not to say that at various points in my life I have not entertained the thought of suicide, but for the most part these thoughts are merely part of the package, and not something that I myself even take seriously. Part of that is because, no matter how horrid I may think my life at any given moment, I am so scared of the afterlife (would I go to hell if I took my own life? That possibility alone is enough to make me forcefully push away such thoughts!) that I cannot fathom "offing" myself. Nor do I really want to. But even in the most joyous of times, when I am thoroughly enjoying myself, a nagging voice in the back of my mind says, "some day, this will not matter, you will be gone, and all of the people sharing in this moment with you will be gone."

So, to use my first mention of Alice in Chains, I'm like a fly trapped in a jar (geddit, "Jar of Flies?" Dumb joke.) The jar is a prison that I cannot escape and I am frantically trying to free myself from this unescapable situation that is my own mortality. I'm buzzing around, suffocating, franitcally smashing into the glass trying to escape, until I give up. Another way I looked at it is, I'm a hamster on a wheel, running endlessly but getting absolutely nowhere. Only while I'm running endlessly and not getting where I want to be, there's a sick twist: the wheel is rolling down a hill, and at the bottom of that hill is Death; the end. As the years pass by and my situation fails to improve, I'm starting to roll faster and faster, until at some point, I will reach the rocks at the bottom, game over.

Another analogy that came to me is that I am on the edge of a cliff. Over the cliff's edge is death. But I can't walk away from it because there is a brick wall that stops me, so I'm trapped. Either I am foolishly pushing with all my might at an impenetrable wall, or I'm falling off the edge into the world beyond. So I am stuck in one spot, finding that I do not have the strength to break down the wall, but I don't dare step too far toward the edge of that cliff, or WHAM, I'm toast. The sick twist in this scenario is that the brick wall has been built by me, and I have trapped myself. My lack of self-confidence keeps me from trying to climb my own wall, or even better, just smashing it down, but my fear of the world beyond keeps me from leaping to my death. Instead I'm just stuck in a game that I have tired of playing but am too afraid to not play.

But the "fun" doesn't end there; there is another variable: my incessant perfectionism. Perhaps that is what has altogether zapped my self-confidence. If I can't do something right the first time, then fuck it, I'm not going to do it. If you tell me I can't do something, 9 times out of 10, I'm not going to prove you wrong--unless it's a command, like "don't do something" then I will prove you wrong out of spite if you make me angry. Or, I will feel so guilty at the slightest deviation from said command that I will find it difficult to sleep. And so my perfectionism causes me one by one to give up pursuits I once enjoyed. I'm fighting with all I have to keep picking up the guitar and playing, but I feel that I'm losing this battle. So the perfectionism slowly destroys my ability to enjoy anything, and I spend a good deal of my time angry with myself. If no one is home, I'm liable to go into a rage at myself. And while I am not enjoying anything, I am also not trying to achieve anything, because I cannot accept the fact that I might fail, so it is easier not to look for a better job, or really put effort into things because they will only end in ruin. I cannot tolerate failure, yet I do not have the patience and persistence to be successful.

I say none of this so you will feel sorry for me. Who knows if anyone will even read this. I'm not broadcasting this. But let's just say, I've been praying (at least as much as I can make myself talk to the Lord), and I read my Bible daily. I know that this is not how the Lord wants me to live. But it feels, quite simply, like I'm "Down in a Hole" (Alice in Chains reference #2). In fact, I named this blog "Down in a Hole" because if there is (sadly) a song that has become the soundtrack to my life, this is it. I have been at least a casual Alice in Chains fan for years, though my appreciation for that band has grown more and more as the years have gone by, because it's sort of like they "get" me. (I don't care how many people dog them for continuing on after Layne Staley's death, I think the new singer is awesome and I can't wait for new music from them!) So, I will share some of the lyrics from "Down in a Hole"

"...You don't understand who they thought I was supposed to be
Look at me now, a man who won't let himself be...
...Down in a Hole, feelin' so small...
I'd like to fly, but my wings have been so denied."

So in closing, what I've got to do is figure out a way to come to grips with my mortality, to end the ridiculous perfectionism, trust in the Good Lord, and reach my full potential. Sounds so easy, doesn't it? Yet it isn't. And I have to do something, because this combination will kill me eventually. Pehaps not in some horrible suicide, but whatever is left of my spirit will wither and I will simply burn out.


  1. Is it cloudy where you are today? I just read the entire book of Ecclesiastes and wrote up my post while you were writing yours. I've discovered - darkness makes me get introspective and wonder what the point of it all is. Sometimes I like a little cloud and dark to think deeply and write. Too much darkness though, and I stop taking pleasure in any of my toil.

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