I have a week left living in Flagstaff after three months here doing contract work and I am experiencing a whirlwind of emotion. A week from now, this charming small town, wonderfully tucked away in the Coconino Forest and Northern Arizona mountains will be but a memory. I have no complaints. It’s been a lovely experience seeing the Fall colors slowly transition into the frosty, glistening white world of snow and ice. The seasons are felt here in a way that is much more pronounced and present than back home in Tennessee. The small-town community of mostly nice, personable people and the effort they put into lighting up the town with Christmas lights make it all the more illustrious with mirth and levity.
I took a walk today by a pond near my apartment and at a local park overlooking the mountains right outside of town. I really soaked in the moment knowing that the unique sights, sounds, and smells of this place will be lost to me in time. I am feeling a weird mixture of emotions. It is somewhere between a premature nostalgia for what will soon be past and a frantic, excited anticipation for the future. To be both saddened at the loss of a place while also wanting to hastily move on to the next thing is a strange sensation. I am saddened with missing my family but excited to get to see them soon with a newfound appreciation for them. I am also saddened at missing the friends here who I have made and come to love. It’s quite a lot to take in, especially for someone who boarded up their emotions for years. It is a whirlwind of perfectly contradictory emotions all spinning in my mind as one entity.
I have been doing contract work for well over a year. Going to new places now seems to be a drug for me. I have noticed a pattern moving from place to place. The initial couple of months is filled with a frenzied intoxication of excitement and adventure as I dive headfirst into the new. I usually stay gone on the weekend, soaking in the local culture, food, natural sights, and hikes. After I have settled in a place for a bit and the spark of exurberence has all but dissipated, I start to get a nagging, aching feeling in my mind and body, like coming down off of some drug after a prolonged venture.
Even though I love traveling and am blessed to be able to do it, it feels like part of me is running away from something in the process. And as long as I am rolling, I am not collecting the moss of my past traumas, my complicated relationship histories, my self-loathing, my insecurities, and my feeling of being lost and adrift in an indifferent universe. Every time I feel myself slow down, I feel these feelings crawling back up through the mental muck I have buried them in. Things have slowed to a wretched hobble the past couple of weeks, and I find myself confronted with myself and time.
My sober self and idle time can be a scary thing. My mind feels like a bad neighborhood most days. I find that there is a pervasive tension in my body and I am in possession of a mind that wanders endlessly for negative thoughts to attach to. My mind is like a junkie and anxiety is the drug, simultaneously being a relief and a misery for me. Self-doubt and self-loathing are the vices of my psyche and I want so badly to get clean, and yet I cling to behaviors that perpetuate them.
And it’s simple right? It’s just taking steps to be more grateful, more mindful, more positive, and to empower and encourage myself every day. Even therapy seems like a broken record at this point. Only so much can be said, now it’s time to start putting in the work and developing the motivation and discipline to truly better myself. If anything else, to be a genuine, loving friend to myself would be nice. I know what I have to do, and I can usually get in a good routine every now and then with practicing mindfulness.
I stumble and regress, though. It’s part of the journey I suppose and I can’t be too hard on myself. We all falter and I at least have tools to pick myself back up and carry on. It is during times like these, however, where I am just waiting to finish my contract, when a visit home and a new place are just on the horizon, that I find myself idly tortured in some fresh limbo. Waiting for something new, waiting for my drug. And it is so easy to fall back into the same patterns of the past.
Life is hard. I certainly feel lost at times, aimlessly wandering for peace of mind, for human intimacy, for some sense of meaningfulness. All of these things in my head boil down to anxiety, and manifest as such. But I must remind myself that this anxiety I deal with every day isn’t so bad. I always think about how my body is tense and aching with anxiety, but anxiety is really not all too different from general excitement and exuberance. They can both be thought of as heightened states where your body feels tense and like there is some kind of turbulent energy coursing through your veins.
When it comes to anxiety and excitement, it’s just the contextual frame you put around those feelings that make them seem good or bad. The way you interpret those feelings, whether you are drearily anticipating work or going on a roller coaster, is up to you. But most of these feelings aren’t inherently bad. We tell ourselves they are bad, and thus perpetuate a narrative where we suffer. If there is anything I have learned, it is that the external world, that which we fear the most, is secondary. The external world is only a projection of the real master, the internal state, the mind.
With all of this in mind, I practiced mindfulness and gratitude today after several days of having a black cloud over me. I am proud of that. I did something. I stepped in a new, hopefully more positive and empowered direction. I have much to be thankful for and I don’t want to let the negative brat in my mind win. I will keep fighting the good fight and see where this life takes me. To the next adventure!