Anger, Anxiety, and Art
Posted October 16, 2016on:
I’ve really struggled with the blog in the last year. Fewer posts, fewer book reviews. You’ve noticed.
and NO, this is NOT a “I’m retiring as a blogger!” post. Although it is a very long, rambling post.
This is a post about how I figured out why I was struggling with the blog. It’s easy to know what’s going on. A little harder to know why something is going on.
Here’s the what:
I’d read a book, I’d enjoy the book, I’d have plans to write a review. I’d sit down at my computer, or sit to write some notes longhand, and nothing would happen. I’d have thoughts about the book, I’d have things I wanted to say, but I absolutely did not care about saying those things. I was completely apathetic. I’d play candy crush for hours, watch cartoons, bingewatch whatever on Netflix, read cooking blogs. Three hours later, it’s the middle of the night, and I haven’t started a book review, or put together interview questions, or comment on anyone else’s blog, or anything. And I didn’t care.
Ya’ll know the spoon theory? It’s where you have a finite amount of “spoons” to spend on physical and mental energy expenditures. Stressful activities take more spoons. If you have chronic pain, you’ll use a lot of spoons just to get dressed in the morning. The phrase “I haven’t got the spoons” is a polite way of saying participating in whatever activity will cause you to go into an energy deficit, and because #selfcare, it’s best if you don’t schedule that activity. When it came to blogging, I was out of spoons. When it came to a lot of things in my life, I was out of spoons.
I know what I write on this blog doesn’t matter. I know none of this counts as “writing” or as anything, really. But in my mind, I put a lot of energy into this. I like pretty metaphors, ornamented sentences. I like to write book reviews and other articles that I am proud of. It’s not art, by a long shot, but I am creating something out of nothing. for the purposes of this particular blog post, let’s call what I do here art. And art requires mental energy. or at least it does for me.
So, where were all my spoons going? And was there any way to get them back? And thus, we get to the why.
My first thought was maybe I was depressed. But I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel tired, I had very very few of the checklist things you find on those “do you suffer from depression?” internet quizzes. What I did have was anger and frustration, and heightened anxiety because I felt I couldn’t control the anger. I wasn’t depressed, I was Angry with a capital A.
I was angry at things in my life that were frustrating me. Things that made me feel helpless. Things that made me feel like I was bashing my head against a wall. Things I had no control over. Those things aren’t going to be going away anytime soon, but here’s the thing the anger and anxiety was blinding me to: I am in full control of how I respond to them.
I heard a great news story on NPR the other day, unfortunately I missed the beginning. It was a woman police officer talking about a time earlier in her career when she had lost control of a situation, it escalated, and the motorist she had pulled over spent the night in jail, and for about 15 minutes she felt like “she’d shown him!”. But then she said that the moment he made her angry, she had lost control of the situation. And as a police officer, she should never have lost control, she should never have gotten angry, that it was her anger that allowed the situation to escalate. Had she not gotten angry at things this man had said to her, she simply would have kept calm and written him a ticket, and they both would have gone on their way and no one would have ended up in jail that night.
Anger and anxiety did nothing for me but eat my spoons. It took and took and took, and gave me nothing. Because I was so angry, I didn’t have spoons left for art. Anger and frustration and the resulting anxiety was like a curtain that fell in front of me. I kept thinking if I just tried to create art on that curtain, everything would be fine. What I didn’t realize was the art was behind the curtain. My anger was keeping me from the bloggy art stuff that has brought me so much joy and satisfaction for the last six years.
at last, we come to moment of clarity:
I can have anger or I can have art.
I can realize that I am in control of how I respond to frustrating situations, or I can allow those situations to control me. Thoughtlessly spending spoons on anger means there are barely any spoons left for art.
And you know what? I’d much rather have art.
It’s been about two weeks since I had this little epiphany, and while those frustrating things in my life are still there, they’ve become noticeably less bothersome. And when they do reach the bothersome level? I’ll just reread this post, and know that I am in control of them, and not the other way around.