I am deeply afraid of losing the vitality in life. The roller coaster of emotions to which I have had multiple season passes is far more interesting than controlling my crests and falls. It is very boring when I control my emotions. Nothing is as low, but nothing is as high, either.
Turning to experiences would be my next bet. Alas, I live in a tiny rural town in Eastern Alabama. Cross that off the list. Being artsy and 23 in Auburn also puts me in the vast minority of age and interests. It is a difficult town in which to love Sufjan Stevens. Being a grad student cuts down my potential peer group even further.
Someone probably warned me about this, and I just didn’t understand the gravity of the situation.
All this to say: life is lonely and incredibly boring. Acquaintances abound, but friends are few and weakly tied — marriages, relationships, or the stress of school cause them to stay at arm’s length, even when they are interested in me as a person. The situation doesn’t make for very good art, either: objectively, this is an essay about boredom.
It would be very easy to become a workaholic. That’s pretty much the only interesting thing going.
Work as avoidance tool concerns me. I do not want to get used to this.
I have always feared becoming so set in my single ways that I dash future relationships on the rocks with my deeply-entrenched selfishness. Singleness forces selfishness upon you; no matter how much you give yourself away in service or love of God, you come home to an empty house and make yourself dinner. You don’t ask other people what you should make yourself for dinner — you simply train yourself to make decisions without others.
If it were just little things like dinner, it wouldn’t be that bad: the breaking of little codependent tendencies may actually be somewhat of a positive in future relationships. But it never stays at little things. When no one else is involved in your life in an intimate, daily capacity (which is the situation in which I find myself) the autonomy grows. When someone else is added in to the equation after a long period of autonomy, it is even more difficult to break selfish habits that are born in us. Do I need to add more difficulty to my already eccentric personality?
But hey, if I’m an island, at least I let some acquaintances visit every now and then.
Autonomy is really unhealthy.
It causes me to turn inward, and that results in sadness, anger and frustration. This, at least, is a direction. Down is better than unmitigated sameness.
However, I have been trying to grow in holiness and Godliness, and one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control. I’ve been able recently to see myself turning down an overly emotional path and reign those emotions in. This helps me stop being so autonomous and return to a stable state. In other words, the Holy Spirit is working in my life to teach me how to not injure myself.
This is going to sound masochistic, because it is: being healthy is boring — especially when there’s nothing else to occupy the mind. I would like to soften the blow, but the reality of the situation is that I routinely sabotage my own mental state simply because it is more interesting than getting up, going to work, coming home, going out and slowly trying to grow closer to acquaintances who don’t understand where I’m coming from, reading a book and going to sleep.
Marshall and Lilly ditch a boring party at their own apartment to go to a club in “How I Met Your Mother.” I empathize.
And this is why I fear the loss of vitality in life. Those things which I would turn to are not currently available to me. My spiritual growth (a good thing!), is causing me to leave my childish ways behind. I keep growing even when I’d rather stay back and laze off spiritually with peers than forge on in the future, going boldly alone. This is mostly a straw man argument, as I’ve already referenced my lack of peers. It would be a stupid argument if I had peers.
I make the argument anyway.
Perhaps it is a backhanded argument with God: “no, I will not grow, because I know you want me to, and you aren’t giving me any friends or fun.” Perhaps I fear — in my immense pride — that I will end up forever alone, running one step ahead of everyone. But it’s probably most likely that arguing with God brings some amount of vitality to life. Creating a palpable spiritual struggle is easier to handle and much more exciting than trudging ever onward through an empty, climate-controlled hallway.
Part of this is the faltering steps out of one arena of life and into another: joy from earthly-bound things (even struggle) is in the rear-view mirror — quite literally — right now, but I have not yet embraced the phase where I draw joy from desiring and knowing God.
Until this point, I have primarily known God as a sustainer. Things go wrong, and God fixes them; I feel closeness to Jesus Christ, specifically, when things are fixed. When I create the problem in direct defiance of the God, He is not so willing to swoop in and save me. I find that He disciplines me, leading me to quit being self-destructive. Learning to fish is more frustrating and less instantly exciting than being given a fish.
But there’s a lot of rivers in Montana to explore once I know how to cast a line. No one would say that the rivers there are not beautiful. Many a poet has described them in passionate, engaging, enthralling ways. But I can’t really imagine what they’re like and write well about them. I’m not that creative.
I have just come out of woods to the shore, but I am afraid of getting in the water. I do not know what will happen to me in there, and I fear the worst. I don’t see anyone in there to tell me what’s happening. Distant shapes move away from me down the river, and while the noise of what might be people is coming up from behind. I have run many times back into the woods to find bears or, worse, nothing at all — I make up moods to justify the mad rush backwards.
But I am at the shore now; even though the sound of the water and the cool smell lead me here, I am hesitant to get in. This is why I have come, but still I hesistate — do I really want this? Do I really want to mark myself this way?
Yet the life of God is infinitely more vital than that of the Missouri River — and I can only come as I was called: by my own name, by myself, in Converse sneakers and a scarf, out of my “exciting” brokenness and into my “boring” restoration to life, to know God extraordinarily and intimately and artistically.
I want to know God.