Monday, November 5, 2007

Imagining the Perfect Life

Last year, probably in December, I was hunkered down for what turned out to be the most horrendous winter I can recall. A friend of mine helped provide mental stimulation by exchanging some very interesting emails with challenging questions for me to ponder. Cleaning out the hard drive of my computer is providing me the opportunity to revisit a lot of critical moments from the past few years. I re-read this conversation with great interest--mostly because I sounded so lucid when I absolutely wasn't.

For some reason I'm slightly dizzy this morning.
I’ve been like that for days. It’s getting old.

Nothing coffee won't fix - I'm sitting in my office drinking my one cup a day!
Hey, that’s my daily dose, too. I drink Folgers Simply Smooth. For years I’ve wanted someone to sell a low-acid coffee, and Folgers finally did. Hallelujah. Before that I drank something called Rocamojo with coffee added in.

The BP dependence on regular sleep patterns - it sucks.
Ah, insomnia. How I wish it would leave me and take those goddam migraines with it. How BP am I?

OK - so I was thinking of the game 20 questions. For the sake of efficiency, I narrowed it down to 5!
You’re so efficient (or is it really that I’m not that interesting that you need 20 questions? Kidding.)

1.) If you could design 'the perfect life' what would it look like? Where would you live, how would you feel, look, act, who would you be with, what would you be doing, etc. (You can summarize - don't want to force you to write an essay when your fingertips are frozen from the cold).

Using my fingertips keeps them warm.

I need to live closer to water. I would like to live someplace warm but not hot, and not too far from the ocean. No winter. I’m not sure where that is. I prefer medium-sized towns to very small ones or to large cities.

The perfect life. Hmmm. Well, first of all, I would be taller. Even a few inches would suffice. I would be a hell of a lot thinner, preferably with a toned body representative of the sporty woman I used to be. Even when I was really active, I was still squishy. I would have better skin and no need for glasses. I’ve never been particularly pretty. I don’t need to be gorgeous, but pretty would be a welcome change.

In my perfect life, I would never feel awkward around people, and I would immediately put people at ease. My energy level would always be great. I’d be less cynical. I would not have big mood swings, but more than that, I would never be paranoid, irritable, agitated to the point of distraction, or chronically anxious. How can I ever achieve inner calm when inside I’m always squirming? I would never offend anyone (tact filter issue when things are bad). I would do as much for my husband as he does for me. I wouldn’t loathe myself.

I would be as funny as I am when I’m freshly hypomanic (and that’s pretty damn funny); I would be charming and a very good listener. I would not feel inferior all the time. I would have sex a lot more.

I would still choose to be with my husband. I would choose my friends much more carefully and surround myself with compassionate, intelligent, down-to-earth people who are open-minded, intuitive, and understanding, but who have enough time to spend being friends. Smokers need not apply. Nobody arrogant, grandiose, or negative would be in my group of friends.

I would feel well enough to ride my bike every day, and I would have the time to do it. I wouldn’t have to ride in an urban setting. I would be a much better skier. I wouldn’t have to work, but I would still work anyway, but without the financial pressure. In my perfect life, I would have no debt and no moronic behaviors that would get me into financial misery. I don’t need to be rich, but I detest struggling. In a perfect life, I would have a lot of time to do the things that make me happy, including gardening, playing with my dog, taking pictures, reading books, and of course, writing. In a perfect life we would have a housekeeper.

I would be able to travel, I would have the means to do it, and I would travel often. I want to see all of the good places, but I would still like to spend time working for an international aid organization. Maybe I could work for the UN helping refugees somewhere. Of course in a perfect world, there would be no refugees.

I would have a tattoo, a very intriguing tattoo.

2.) What scares you most about life as you know it or experience it in the present? What is the most unsatisfactory thing about life as you know it or experience it in the present? What is the best thing about life as you know it or experience it in the present?

What scares me most is the thought of losing my husband, my job, my house, and the few real friends I still have (including you). Life as I know it is complicated and sometimes very hard for me to navigate. I’m afraid my BP will cause my moods and behavior to deteriorate to a point where I can’t really be helped or where I’m left totally alone. I’m scared every day that I won’t live up to the world’s expectations of me and I will feel too ashamed to live. I worry that the way I feel now is as good as it’s going to get no matter how much effort I put into my health.

The things I like least about life as I know it are my financial obligations and limitations. This colors every other aspect of my life, and I hate being so preoccupied with money. I really, really hate being broke. I’m not good at it, and it makes me live with an unrelenting undercurrent of fear and anxiety. I would have more leeway if I hadn’t cut up my credit cards, but I felt I was doing the responsible thing. Maybe I was, but it made my life a lot harder, instantly.

The best thing about life at this time is that I get to make a difference in people’s lives. I know that if I were to quit today, someone else would do this work and every bit as well, but I like knowing that the fact that I cared may have made someone else’s life easier. The other good things are that I have you to converse with and spend time with, and that has made a huge difference in improving my outlook and in mitigating my sense of anonymity in this world. Being with my husband and talking with you are the highlights of my day, every day.

3.) Are you sometimes afraid that if we ever meet in person I might not like you as much as I do in the 'virtual' realm?

You have no idea. At least you have pictures so you’ll never say, “I pictured you as a tall brunette.” I’ve actually heard that a half-dozen times, from people who only “knew me” by phone. Seriously, though, I worry about that a lot. I’ve always believed I was much better on paper than in real life. I worry you’ll think I’m just a total dork.

4.) What preoccupies your thinking? I know currently it is probably the weather, but in general, what preoccupies your thoughts?

Money, money, money. The weather bothers me a lot, but I don’t brood about it. Money, on the other hand, is, as I said before, a source of unrelenting anxiety. The other things that preoccupy me are self-monitoring for saying stupid things, self-monitoring for signs of BP flare ups, and the constant, running dialogue I have going on about all things work-related.

5.) Do you ever think you will feel 'right,' whatever that means? What does that mean anyway?
I’m not sure what right is. I hope that feeling right means I’ll have more self-confidence, more optimism, a more peaceful feeling inside, and freedom from anxiety and self-doubt. It would mean having almost total control over where my moods go, and my emotions would never sneak up on me and smack me in the head. I’d remain calm in the face of criticism, and I would never think irrationally.

No, I don’t think achieving any of that is ever going to happen, but I keep taking meds and going to therapy in a total leap of faith that may or may not leave me sprawled out and battered anyway when and if I fall.

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