Blank Slate – An Interim Review

After the premature and involuntary demise of my previous career, I have given myself permission to focus all my efforts and energy on my physical and psychological-emotional recovery. By using the term ‘recovery’ I refer to my prior firm belief that I had been suffering from some purely physical and so far unidentified symptoms. After those were diagnosed and cured in a relatively short amount of time, what I was left with were solely symptoms that you might typically and quite fashionably attribute to what is commonly known as a ‘burn out syndrome’. Now, I usually avoid foggy and insufficiently defined or completely undefined terms, if at all possible. I particularly dislike this one here, as it for one implies personal weaknesses like poor time management, but even worse, exudes an air of wimpishness. And if there was one thing I think I can claim with some degree of certainty and from almost 48 years of personal experience, it’s the empirically derived insight that I’m a tough and persevering fighter – minus the past five+ years, when I’ve allowed myself to admit to some personal weaknesses.

And indeed: Upon further investigation and lots and lots of introspection both with and without the help of the experts as well as from a thorough share of study of the relevant literature I can’t avoid confessing to myself that I’m anything but a perfect ‘bio-machine’ whose primary right to exist is on grounds of super-optimal performance, all the while society’s perception and requirements at large seem to suggest this very idea ever more merciless. When looking at the entire time of my upbringing and rearing and while consciously taking possible skewed perception into account, I almost can’t help but arrive at the impression that it followed one central idea: An uninterrupted and 100% dependable performance without room for low moments, being disgruntled, sad or even in despair. But human nature is of a different make as I found through mere observation.

After five or more years of thorough analysis of my being and personal history, the experience gained in adult life as well as said loads of study including occasional help from the ‘experts’ in their respective fields – that chapter alone might easily grow to become a book in itsself -, I am left with the mundane and deeply disillusioning realization that I kept exceeding my personal limits virtually by design. And I’ve kept doing this for as long as I can think and as a result of this early indoctrination of sorts. So if the term ‘burn out’ is meant to describe anything valid at all, then this: My burning of all personal stimulus and ability to inspire myself due to excessive requirements and both imagined as well as factual external expectations towards me. These requirements and expectations as well as my response to them (i.e. by overcompensating) permeate all areas of life, i.e. my personal as well as professional life and affected me on a physical, emotional and cognitive plane.

While some parts of my persona were damaged early on and unfortunately are likely to remain damaged and inaccessible for good, a path to healing must probably presuppose an acceptance of these personal limits and limitations and their gradual integration in my concept of self and ultimately my everyday life. This approach is likely to bring about essential and radical changes, which have already manifested at large – and will keep manifesting. There is my marriage which failed in 2003 and led to a divorce, which was followed by the disintegration and getting singled out from our mutual circle of friends, and ultimately my own and gradual dissociation from old relations, where one or the other individual beat me to it, as well. For now, I find myself having slipped into the scarce remains of our state sponsored social security programs, I have lost all my savings, needed to declare bankruptcy and got pronounced 100% incapacitated for work and 50% disabled. Of course, this massive belly landing in life had its psychological-emotional ramification: Major depression and sidelining ‘symptoms’, which make for the 50% of disablement. I can barely imagine, how anyone could drive their life more thoroughly into the wall, a life according to the standards commonly agreed upon in our western civilizations. Following this set of standards, I have forfeited my right to exist. And those poor bastards, who find themselves in the Hartz-IV/ALGII-system (in Germany), get this very message rubbed in their faces at the more or less tolerated risk of physical death.

Any previously existing idea of identity, which is associated with the idea of a successful career and the amassing of material security, vanished with this head-on collision as well. The shock of this massive failure inevitably lead me to comprehensive questioning of my concept of self, but also to questioning the very society in which we live and the accepted paradigms that give rise to their rules. It also motivated me to a thorough review of my personal strengths and weaknesses. However, as far as my view of the world and newly emerging concepts of identity are concerned, I draw a complete blank so far. At the moment my personal make doesn’t seem to allow for me to live anywhere else but in one of these western systems with all their subtle and often perfidious strategies of creating lasting dependencies, which seem impossible to escape from.

For now, I don’t see any alternative but to simply liquidate any remaining ‘legacy issues’ of my previous life and self-perception and to make the resulting situation of complete dependency and financial deprivation as bearable as possible. This liquidation might include almost all preexisting relationships, including family. Upon closer look, this almost naturally follows as a net budget of about 200,- $ per month simply doesn’t leave enough spending money for any form of socializing and almost inevitably results in complete social isolation. Eventually, there is nothing to talk about with anyone else, as the respective fields of personal experience literally drive worlds apart… Following this harsh development, I resorted to the questionable as well as pathetic attempt of replacing socializing in the real world with socializing on social media platforms in recent years. I have to regard this empirical experiment as a partial success at most with oftentimes unsatisfying results. It appears as if genuine socializing required some sort of ‘touchy-feely’ quality, which is mostly missing in the online world. In addition to that, communicating in writing only is very vulnerable to misunderstandings of all kinds and requires the participants to bring a minimum of general education as well as specific skills like e.g. the use of emoticons to the table in order to yield successful communication, particularly so in a setting, where gestures, facial expression, tone of voice and other means of interpersonal communication are missing. And last not least, writing lacks the immediacy and spontaneity of mutual experiences. I will have to expose my social media activities, which often resulted from mere despair and didn’t always follow too much reflection, to a tight regimen and possibly clip and delete them or at the very least, make them more focussed and efficient. Again, this is not all just a voluntary measure, it also follows the pressure of rising costs for electricity, which make hours on end in front of the computer unfeasible.

This entire process may be well compared with the careful sweeping and desposing of a pile of shattered glass, gigantic in its perceived proportions. It appears as if my entire basis for autonomous decision making as well as the majority of requirements for such decision making have been largely destroyed from where I’m standing now. From a point of logic, suicide seems almost inevitable. However, there is this thing called survival instinct…. Here’s to hoping I’ll find efficient ways to exploit it to my benefit and – errm – ‘resurrection’.

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4 Responses to Blank Slate – An Interim Review

  1. Cliff says:

    I think there are two distinct forms of change – willing and forced. I’m not sure where what you are describing falls, but likely a little of both. The matter of proportions is arguable. That said, you’ve identified that what you’ve done thus far isn’t working anymore, which is a sign of introspective growth, regardless of how you came to that conclusion. So, if old methodologies no longer work, you’re left with trying to figure out what will work.. Sometimes it’s easier to stick to what you know, even if you know it isn’t necessarily right for you because fear of the unknown can be in and of itself, paralyzingly terrifying. At least with doing things the same way you kind of know what to expect, even if it’s not what you truly want. That said, I have to ask you this – which is something that I can’t answer myself, but I think the question is valid: What *do* you want? Living in a constant state of hyper-vigilance goes against the grain of what makes us human, as we can not only reflect on the past, but plan ahead as well. I’m not saying that living in the moment is bad, but some regard needs to be given to the future in the absence of mortal danger. Casting aside what society and those closest to you try to push on you as far as what’s proper to want and expect from life, what works for you? What are your values? Money aside, what does it look like in your own minds eye to be a peaceful and content version of yourself? I’m not going down the path of positive thinking curing everything or anything like that – I’m just suggesting pointing that careful introspection to a perspective of looking forward rather than back or straight down at the now. It seems like a simple question, but I’m going on 3 weeks now and haven’t figured that one out… Though admittedly, the thought of casting nearly everything aside and talking my wife into joining me to join the peace corps for a couple of years and just try to help out people in a very direct manner sounds damn appealing to me. Will it solve anything in my own life? Not really, aside from having some sense of actual accomplishment for my efforts at the end of each day for a couple of years.

  2. renovatio06 says:

    You’re making very good points and raise some good questions. However, per your reply I have to admit that I must have failed to get an accurate report of my current status across. Yes, the proportions can be argued. Realistically speaking and when compared even to people living only a few thousand miles south in Europe, I’m probably still doing o.k. on the outside. To some even better than that. True. Which leaves the intrinsic aspects: Your mention of the state of hypervigilance is spot on, actually! And this is mostly from NEITHER being able to trust old concepts of going about this existence of mine any more NOR having found any good new concepts that might yield a shred of confidence in their probability to work out for me. In other words, what I’ve been doing for the past few years is not working and the old ways have PROVEN not to work for me. That leaves me completely dumbfounded and uninspired as to where to look, where to start scratching the surface in hopes that something new might show. My perceived ‘saviour’, i.e. music, doesn’t deliver any more what it delivered in earlier years. That is not too surprising as I have simply changed as opposed to earlier. To keep it short: What *do* I want? Basically peace. Good sleep. A comfort zone. One that works for me. And then take it from there. But every time I think I’m a little closer to that comfort zone, something happens and it is being taken away from me again. Like now, when much of the improvement of the living situation will change dramatically for the worse in about 2-3 months from now…

    I think, your idea of joining the peace corps is excellent! If I could be any more certain of myself in terms of being able to depend on myself, I’d think along those lines as well. And maybe I find that switch again that I found some 25+ years ago. But damn yeah – hypervigilance alternated by paralyzing panic is my regular mode of being at most times…

    Thanks for your thoughts! I’ll be going over this again.

  3. renovatio06 says:

    After last night, I think, I have some more clarity, at least where it pertains to live music.

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