Posted by: GeekHiker | June 24, 2009

Dichotomy

I’m sure that this post will make everyone say that I’m entirely too self-analytical.  Or, at the very least, that I think too much.

There’s been a shift in my thinking of late.  Not so much in what I’m thinking about, but how I’m thinking about things.  It’s as though my thoughts on pretty much any subject seem to be splitting in two directions simultaneously.

Geez, I hope this isn’t a sign of becoming manic-depressive.  Of course, if it were, would I even know?  Hmmmmm…

Anyway, it’s a lot more subtle than that.

It’s like trying to look at one’s life from an objective point of view.

On the one hand, I can say that I’m fairly comfortable with how things are at the moment.  I have a good job (which is definitely something to feel good about given the sheer number of people I know who don’t).  I’ve got a roof over my head, a truck in the garage, food in the cupboards, and can even afford to blow waste thoughtfully spend over $50 on a dish rack.

(For what it’s worth, I did use a 20% coupon.  I am nothing if not frugal.)

Yet here I sit, writing the first draft of this post that I know won’t go up for a couple of days, on a Saturday night, feeling dissatisfied despite it all.  Whether it’s simply that one can’t buy happiness, or a feeling that I should have accomplished more by now, or what, I’m not quite sure.  The feeling, though, is definitely there.

We all feel like that sometimes, and that’s why I’m citing it as an example.  Now take that dichotomy of thought and apply it to, well, just about anything.

Take travel. I’ve had a distinct feeling of wanderlust of late as well.  This is propelled, no doubt, by the fact that I haven’t done any significant travel in a while; heck, I haven’t done any trips over a few days in Gawd-knows how long.  Or maybe it’s being propelled by hearing tales from everyone I know who has or is traveling abroad, which I have yet to do.

Thing is, at the exact same time that I’m feeling this wanderlust, I’m feeling an enormous sense of lethargy.  A distinct lack of motivation has taken over of late, and not just in terms of longer trips.  Even weekend jaunts & hikes have been fewer of late, offset by just staying at home, going to the coast, watching movies, whatever.

Hell, last weekend’s backpack?  I didn’t even really want to go.  I forced myself to go, simply in an attempt to overcome the rampant lack of motivation.  And while I’m glad I did, I haven’t found myself returning with a new found sense of purpose as regards to traveling.

Hence I sit here on Saturday, punching out this post.

Wanderlust being balanced by a complete lack of motivation.

Going through some old magazines and tossing them, I stumbled across an old National Geographic Adventure magazine, and found myself perusing an article on taking a year off.  A year.  I found myself wondering if I could do it, actually do it.  If it was even possible, let alone practical.  Certainly it appeals to the wanderlust side.

But I can’t seem to get motivated beyond idle thinking about the subject.  More daydreaming, if I’m to be honest about it.  Certainly nothing that crosses into serious consideration of “hey, I should just quit my job and travel the world for a year.”  Hell, I’ve been having trouble getting motivated to go day-hiking, let alone start poring over airline flight schedules.

Even looking inwardly, I feel the split.  On the one hand, I feel better about myself, physically, mentally, etc., than I have in a long time.  But at the exact same moment I feel low on myself, and how I think the world sees me.

It’s like having both high self-esteem and low self-esteem all at once, at the same moment, in the same breath.

So you’d probably think by now that I’d be beating myself over this, no?  But that’s the thing: two minds there as well.  On the one hand, I’m disgusted with myself for the lack of motivation, whether it comes to doing anything with my current life or satisfying my wanderlust or whatever.  On the other… on the other I just don’t care enough to be angry with myself about it.

What I wonder, though, is where all this leaves me.  Does it simply leave me in a motionless state?  Like positives and negatives are balancing themselves out and leaving nothing in its wake?  Or like two equal forces colliding, canceling each other out?

Yet, it’s not like the feeling of detachment I had late last year.  I still have good days and bad days, joys and sorrows, ups and downs.

It’s like I’m conflicted with myself, my life, who I am, but simultaneously completely unmotivated to do anything about it or care all that much.

I can’t even decide if that’s a good or a bad place to be.

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Responses

  1. good post.

    the flippant reply is to say this is part of the normal ups and downs of life; that eventually you will get so sick of the restless feeling that a drastic change will occur, or that the lethargy will win out and in a coupla decades, life will approximately be the same.

    but that doesn’t even begin to touch on the simple fact that your combo of thoughts/emotions/likes&dislikes are uniquely yours, no matter how much is shared with fellow man. so any advice is only semi-valid.

    here’s a question: if you really don’t care, why write? and how is writing inaction?

    And on a cheerier note, let’s all count up the good qualities of GH? For example, amazingly fab hiking pics (so I can pretend I still have access to land that isn’t coated w/ corn. or soybeans)

  2. Sat?! When did you write the draft? ;-)

    I COMPLETELY get what you are trying to say. And if I am really honest about it, I am kind of the same way. I have always loved to travel and have enjoyed it every time, but the older I get, the more reluctant I feel about traveling by myself (despite the romanticism of it all). These days I want to travel with “someone” (boyfriend, girlfriend, friend) and the thought of going to a place alone depresses the hell out of me!

    As for changing your life — it’s NEVER easy. Don’t beat yourself over this. I’d say MOST people feel this conflict at some point in their lives — some may live their entire life in conflict, daydreaming the couda shouda wouda, but never actually do anything about it. Some make dramatic changes and then realize that the “new life” is really not as good in reality as in fantasy.

    I have no words of wisdom for you as I am going through the same thing, but I am fairly certain that you are totally normal for having these thoughts and tendencies.

  3. ugh, I meant “coulda shoulda woulda”

  4. Sorry to say this but it sounds like a mid-life crisis is brewing. Next thing you know out goes the truck in in comes the red sports car. Nothing everyone else hasn’t gone through at least once.

  5. Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living, and the fact that you are examining yours is wonderful. I think this is the step that happens before we make changes.

    Imagine you wake up at some point in the future – could be a year, could be 5 years – don’t worry about the time frame. So you wake up, and how do you see your life if it were ideal? What do you imagine a typical day to be?

    I’m working on this myself lately. I can’t seem to fully picture what I want but I know they what we can imagine, we can make happen.

  6. Typo alert! Please insert “say” where missing from sentence above…!

  7. I think it is simply a plateau, neither good nor bad, just the time of rest before a big change.

  8. I have been where you are – I am where you are on certain days. Lately, I find myself wanting to stay in my pajamas all weekend and not leave the house – while dreaming of hikes and shopping and movie-going. It’s like social paralysis. I think the lethargy and lack of motivation only go away when you finally do something.

    I know it’s hard and feels huge to plan something like going abroad for a year, but it’s entirely possible. A friend of mine at work traveled the world for 9 months and swears it was the best experience ever (which I don’t doubt). Maybe the key is taking baby steps. Maybe start with a week instead of a year. And see where that leads you. If you can push yourself just to do one thing, it might shake you up and out of this funk. And life’s way too short to not go see the world if you have the chance!

  9. 1. It’s not manic-depressive (bipolar syndrome) unless: (A) You want to develop a 180 hole golf course. Tomorrow. or (B) You’re planning on building a huge wooden airplane. In your carport.

    2. Every creative effort is met with psychic resistance. Cf the book The War of Art. ( http://www.43folders.com/2007/03/08/tms-jonathan-coulton-2 )

    3. You may be having a crisis of meaning. According to Erikson, marriage and children are a stage of normal human development. There are other ways to live a meaningful life than marriage…ie join Big Brothers.

    4. If I didn’t have a wife and kids I’d be taking badass Nat Geo year-long adventures EVERY FREAKIN DAY OF MY LIFE.

    5. In my case the wife and kids are simply an excuse. Cf. Republican Governors who manage to travel to exotic places regardless.

    6. Practice mindfulness.

  10. This post could have been pulled right out of my head! (Have you been dream-stalking my thoughts?)

    We all go through times like this. Just believe that this is where you ARE right now, maybe its where you need to be. We all have times of expansion and times of contractions and times of reflection that just may be in the between of contraction and expansion.

    One day you’ll wake up and feel differently and you’ll grab the backpack or the passport of both and you’ll know exactly what you want to do.

    I truly believe this. I can’t not believe this

  11. I hear ya. I’ve been contemplating taking a year off myself. I just can’t figure out how to make it work financially, yet.

    It seems like life is passing me by sometimes.

  12. I’ve had friends suggest the year abroad idea as the solution to my own personal rut. Half of me loves to think of myself out there doing it and I get all excited for maybe 5 minutes..and then it fizzles out.

    Why the fizzle? Maybe it’s because I (and you?) like the sound of it, the idea of it, the escapism of it. But then I thought, maybe it’s about fear. I started to think about how many of the decisions we make in life are based on fear. For example, I’m afraid to leave my job at a big university right now for a non-profit opportunity because I don’t want to lose the perceived security. But my boss makes me miserable every day.

    So, what to do? Well, I can’t eliminate the fear, so I’m trying to sorta make friends with. Welcome it into the room, give it a seat, let it say it’s piece, with the hope that I’ll find some ways to start reubtting it. For the moment it still freaks me out.

  13. Sometimes you just need one little pebble to start an avalanche of change. Perhaps you have kicked your one little pebble down a new path and are on a new trajectory now. Seeing that old Nat Geo Adventure mag maybe didn’t get you OUT THERE but it did get you thinking.

    We have been sitting around all summer so far thinking hey, we should go hiking, oh right, all our gear is packed in storage. Well. I just saw pics of someone elses multi day kayak trip and even though i have read endless backpacker mags and travel mags, it was seeing those pics that finally made me say screw it, we are going to go and dig out those boxes and pull out our gear if it takes all weekend. 3 day canoe trip coming up starting friday.

    I hope you find your kayak pics soon.

  14. Yep, you think too much. xoD

    It’s just stages… a thing you’re going through, I say see where it takes you, relax. It’ll be clear later.

  15. You write drafts? Wow…I feel so wildly unprofessional now.

    To the topic at hand: Lack of motivation abounds at times. When I was working for more than minimum wage (before I tried for this damn degree) I would quit jobs when the lack of motivation hit. For me, I would figure out the system, manipulate it to doing slim to nothing all day, and grow bored very quickly. It’s interesting, I think sometimes our generation is moving so quickly that we forget to stop and smell the roses sometime.

    My ma took a year off. It is a real delicate balance between worrying about money and enjoying yourself. If you plan for it, you can pull it off. I think it’s interesting though, you’ve got suck great scenery around you (according to a prof here, you have mountains out there not just hills), you can do so much so close, for relatively cheap…it’s time to just get outside. It doesn’t take grand planning. Take an afternoon off. Go out.

  16. K – But that’s the thing, I’m not beating myself over it. I think that’s a good thing, but the reason why (that I just don’t care) seems to be not such a good thing

    K – Heh, I figured

    Homer_Dog – Great, more angst!

    Spleeness – In my ideal, I wouldn’t be alone. But some things in life we cannot control

    Spleeness – Noted. I don’t think I’ve ever been a hard-nosed grammar police around here…

    Kori – Does that mean the big change will be good or bad?

    Mel Heth – Ah, but is that lethargy when you’re alone or when you’re with someone else with whom you would prefer to spend your time?

    Phil – Well, that’s far more in-depth analysis than I anticipated from the post, thanks! But I wonder, what exactly do you mean by “mindfulness”?

    Hebba – Sorry, I’ll stop reading your thoughts now. I’m glad you believe it, as I’m not so sure…

    Existential Beatnik – If you figure it out, or just win the lottery and need a travel partner, be sure to give me a call

    Magenta – Certainly it’s all about fear. As for the solution to that fear, I have no idea. Maybe beer. ;)

    BackPackerMomma – I like the analogy, and I hope so too.

    Narami – I know, I know. ;) Relax? Me? LOL

    CripKitty – LOL, only because I then go back and check grammar and all that. Well, I do take the afternoons and go on weekends (as the hiking posts will attest to), but the motivation to do so is becoming increasingly lacking…

  17. I wrote a response last week, but the wp system seems to have lost it..*shrug

    Anyways, navel-gazing, writing – those *are* actions. They’re preparatory stages that will allow you to take advantage of opportunities as they come. So, no worries. If you’ve thought about things and are still meh, maybe right now isn’t the time for big change?

    If exploring different cultures is your thing, I imagine there are incredibly varied experiences within commuting distances. IMHO observing how different groups interpret the American Dream is endlessly fascinating.

    Trust your instincts – they seem to have led you to the good life so far =) (And if self-doubt creeps in, listen to cripkitty, she’s right on the money)

  18. M4891 – I dunno about my instincts. Sometimes they seem good, but sometimes they seem to have led me to what is, ultimately, often a very isolated existence.

  19. [...] 1, 2009 by m4891 After reading this blog entry, I got to [...]


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