Andric Ljubodrag Conceptual Photography
Over the last year and some change, I started meditating every day. Some days were better than others, but I was getting better. My mental health has been a constant struggle in my adult life, and meditating, along with running, had been one of the things that helped.
About a week ago, I went hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. It was as close to a spiritual experience as I’ve ever had. And I rode that high for a couple days after coming back to reality, but the past few days have been some of my darkest. Still meditating, still running, but still broken.
The other day at work, when my impending reality was starting to settle in, I pulled a quote from a movie from my teenage years out of thin air. I haven’t watched The Replacements in a good ten years or longer. It was a movie I had watched a lot though, so I knew a lot of the high points. In the movie, Keanu Reeves’ character is a washed-up football player who joins up with a bunch of other washed up football players to play professional football when the active players go on strike. It’s a rom-com, and it’s not that great a cinematic achievement. But, I enjoy it, so whatever.
The night before the first game, the coach, played by Gene Hackman, talks to Reeves about his nerves. And the quote, which I had never thought about in depth, was this:
“Like a duck on a pond. On the surface, everything looks calm, but beneath the water, those little feet are churning a mile a minute.”
Now, I’ve heard the positive spin on being a duck on the pond. In work and in life, you’re almost expected to be working on a million things at once and all the while, maintaining a cool attitude about everything.
But in dealing with anxiety and depression, it’s the opposite. You’re putting on a front to everyone around you that everything is fine when nothing is fine. Your brain is a thunderstorm. Heavy winds won’t let you focus on anything and just when you’ve forgotten the last one, another lightning strike sends a sharp reminder of whatever will hurt you most. You may smile or laugh. I laughed and joked a lot yesterday with people I don’t agree with in a place I can’t stand. But I got through the day without having to expose myself.
Words have always been a much easier method of expression for me, and I don’t mind being vulnerable. I do mind having a deep discussion about what’s going on with me with people who I don’t want to have that connection with. And part of not having that connection with people is that I work in a place that specializes in eroding connectivity: a bar. But I digress…
The further along I get into meditation, the more I learn. I’ve learned that I was subconsciously resisting the world around me, and that was why I was unhappy for so many years. I’ve started steps to change that. I’ve learned that continuing to try to fit into the society around me is a moot point because I don’t. I’m unique in a way that few people that I’ve met can understand. I have to be okay with that. And I’ve learned that I have no idea what I’m doing, that none of us truly do. I have no idea what job I want, or what I can do to make a decent living for myself. And I’ve learned that I’m okay with that.
I’ve always been the person with a plan. Without a plan, I was wasting time or wasting my life. I was the teenager who dreamt of the “white picket fence” scenario. Marry my high school or college sweetheart, have a couple kids, live in the suburbs, etc. I was being influenced into that by the people around me, the people who had all done that or would later go on to do that. And there’s nothing wrong with that, at all. But it’s not for me.
My family is of varying stages of moderate to wealth when it comes to money. I would classify most of them as successful and content. I am the black sheep, for lack of a better term. I don’t fit into any mold that they have laid out, and as much as it alienates me, I don’t want to anymore.
I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling out of place. Feeling judged, feeling outcast, the same as most people feel. And I have found a home, a place of belonging and one where I can be around people like me. It’s the pond, with the other ducks.