19 October 2005

Dwindling Intellect

I read a fair number of other blogs written by smart, thoughtful, funny men and women who make interesting and incicive comments on life and the world. Sometimes I read something on a blog and think, "Hey, yeah, that's how I feel, only I didn't know it until I read it!" or "Wow, I never would have made that connection," or "Boy, I never could have said that so well." It's educational and it's entertaining and it's also sometimes a way for me to start to feel bad about myself.

I've gotten a lot better about beating myself up. I try so hard not to compare myself to others or to give myself totally unreasonable goals and expectations. I really try to be gentle with myself. But life is rife with opportunities to fall back into old habits, old coping mechanisms.

This morning, for example, I was happily eating my organic oatmeal with organic raisins and organic soy milk and no sweetner and I was feeling both satisfied and virtuous. Then along comes a coworker with a big box of muffins, and suddenly I'm stuffing pumpkin muffin into my mouth (because I'm a whore for the pumpkin--totally can't resist), and suddenly the muffin is GONE, and then I start to feel bad. The muffin will make me fat, the muffin is filled with things I'm trying not to eat so much of right now, my healthy eating for the day is shot, I might as well go swim in a sea of molten chocolate after having a reuben and a chocolate malt for lunch.

I know it was just half a muffin. But the whole food-weight-self-image thing runs so deep for me and for just about everyone.

But the food and beating myself up over food and body image is actually separate from what I originally started writing about. What I really wanted to write about is how I feel like I'm getting less smart by the day. (Yes, more beating up of self here.) I read all this great stuff on the net, I link to cool articles people find, read about concerts people are going to, books people are reading, discussions people are having. And I start to feel like, well, what the hell am I doing, thinking? I start to feel like I'm just doing the bare minimum to get by.

I know that at work, I do no more than what I have to. Work has really become for me a place to interact with colleagues who I genuinely enjoy and a place to earn some money. I do my work, I go home, and I totally forget about it until I'm back the next day. But what do I do at home? I feed myself (not very healthfully lately), I get basic chores done. I read. I sleep.

OK, it's not even what I DO. I actually DO a lot. But I feel like I just do without thinking, that's the difference. I go to the symphony, I go see plays, I read a lot of books. But once the events are over, they're over for me. I don't feel like I use my brain the way I used to, the way I could, or the way others do. I feel like my brain is atrophying.

I also feel like I am tired of doing all this stuff. Frankly, my main motivator in life is to spend time with my husband, in case there isn't much time left. And even if there are years and years of time ahead of us, it's a no-lose situation given that I love to spend time with him. At work, I think about going home so I can see him. When I'm at orchestra rehearsal, I'm pissed because we're not together. Any intrusion on our time together makes me angry. Yet I continue to do and do and do because I feel like if I don't, well, I don't know. That I'm not a good person, maybe? I'm not quite sure why I do all the stuff I do. Lots of of it used to bring me joy, and now it's just a habit to keep doing it.

I feel like I don't reach out to friends like I used to, like I should. Some of them are going through hard times, too. I'm not the only one.

I guess, ultimately, I feel like I'm not living up to my expectations for myself, the ones I claim I don't really set anymore. My own sanity just feels tenuous to me right now. The happpiness I feel about GH doing so well feels fake, because I know it could be taken away from me at any second. The happiness I feel for others when good things happen to them is often forced, because I'm jealous. I feel like I can't be a good friend right now to some people because it's hard to be around them and see the life I wish I had.

I'm tired of feeling like I have to shield people from the truth. My husband has terminal cancer. We're living on borrowed time. Yeah, a miracle could cure him, and of course I hope for that. But we're a long way from that, and the weight that this creates in my life, the amount of my brain that is devoted to thinking about cancer 100% of the time, means that a lot of the time I'm just going through the motions. I'm physically present, but I'm mentally absent. Often.

I suppose the solution is in some ways obvious. Quit orchestra. I've thought about it. Don't take on so many social obligataions. Protect myself. But old habits die hard, old expectations are hard to leave behind.

See why it's totally impossible for me to answer that sincere, well-intentioned, "But how are you doing?" question?

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