Content and Contentment

I remember when shower thoughts used to be deep and profound. That is one of the things I dislike about my forties. At some level, I have traded deep thoughts and pondering the universe with things like the best way to budget a purchase or what my next responsible step is towards achieving a goal.

When I was first divorced, I was dealing with a lot of turmoil in my life. So many changes hit at once. It was a stressful time, especially in the beginning when the mudslinging and outright lies of my then-soon-to-be-ex were looking like the only way that I was going to see my kids was through supervised visitations. All because I decided I had put up with enough abuse and decided to leave. There is a playbook, my friends, and every narcissist got a copy of it. They don’t deviate from it either. The endgame is to make everyone’s life hell because they hate themselves.

Needless to say, this causes a lot of stress.

So, in the beginning, I changed up the way I was living. Out on my own, I suddenly had a lot of time on my hands. I was not longer doing two loads of laundry every day, or cleaning the house after working a 9 hour day, or doing dishes, making dinner for five. I had only myself to take care of for a short time. I got to learn how to be a little bit selfish again. I read a lot of things that helped me through those stressful days. It seemed like every day was different. New challenges awaited me every day with sharp teeth and an insatiable hunger.

I was retraining my brain too. In the beginning–and I know how sick this sounds–but I almost missed the abuse. I would check my email or voicemail for the familiar beratement, the humiliation. The sharp words I had gotten used to over the years. I distracted myself from that need to be criticised. I began criticising myself.

I started going to the gym. I realized that I had withstood fifteen years of that bullshit, I could power through twenty minutes on the eliptical. It was a hard twenty minutes. Then it became 40 minutes. I dropped weight. My cardio got better. I also ate less. I ate a banana every day because a divorced dad blog suggested this is a way to take care of yourself. It gives you healthy calories instead of empty ones. And unlike alcohol, you aren’t pumping a depressed body full of a depressant. I ate so many bananas in those first couple years that I can hardly stand them now. I eventually lost so much weight at such a rapid pace that my gallbladder shit out and I had to have it removed.

My dad gave me a great piece of advice. He suggested I make a list and every day, I cross something off that list. Some days I’ll cross a few things off the list and other days maybe only one. I got good at making lists and crossing things off. It was a good way to combat the depression. Yes, I said it. Depression. My life was hell in my marriage, I won’t sugar coat it, but I was going through a process of grieving. It was the end of a life I had known. In some ways I felt guilty for what my kids were going through. And then I was scared of the uncertainty of what would follow later on–in a life on my own. Those words she said would sometimes resonate with me. “Nobody is going to want a fat, bald asshole like you. Not unless you get one of those mail order brides!” My worth, she thought, was attached to the value she gave me. Which wasn’t a lot. At this point, I didn’t know what my real worth was. That would take a lot of time, a lot of miles on the treadmill, and a lot of bananas.

In the time between then and now, I have crossed a lot of things off so many lists. Today’s shower thoughts were what step comes next. I recently have found myself laid off from a job I have worked at for the last eighteen years. This was something that was in the works long before the pandemic. My next stop in life is trying to figure out how to maintain a life with freelance writing. In the shower I was thinking about how much to budget to buy equipment to start a podcast. Blogs don’t reach the audience they once did, and for some reason, I really have liked the platform of podcasting. It’s not the sound bites of the ADHD afflicted media where you are supposed to consume and digest all the information you know in thirty second sound bites. Clickbait headlines. And counterfactual content that varies from one content mill to the next. Journalism is dead, and I feel sorry for these kids going to college to become journalists. They might as well go back to work on a degree in phonograph repair.

But here I was, thinking about what kind of mics I might need, if my old MacBook can handle it. What would I talk about? Would anyone even listen to it? Why are my words any more important than anyone elses? It just seemed like a lot of self-serving ego tripping. Then I thought about all those miles and all those bananas and all those lists. Even then, I had a list I was checking off. Start a podcast. Why? Because why the hell not.

The lists allow you to maintain order. And outside, people are driving in their own cars right now wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves. They are washing their groceries when they get home. It is the same sort of insanity I had to live through when I was married to a self-congradulatory germaphobe. I find myself at a part of my life where the sidewalk has dropped out from under my feet. The world we once knew is changing. I don’t think it’s coming to an end, but it is definitely changing. The old Ivory Tower where I used to work is part of a system that has been revealed to be outliving its usefulness. Even last week, my son did his schoolwork from home. What would be expected to fill seven or eight hours in the day was accomplished before 9 am every day, with two Zoom meetings in the afternoon with his teacher during the rest of the week.

What comes next for me is just a matter of checking things off lists. Now, what comes next for so many of the rest of us is a little new. People aren’t handling things very well, being cooped up. They fear an invisible enemy. They are facing losing their jobs. Their relationships might even be coming apart at the seams because they are stuck with someone all day long they might usually only see for a few hours everyday. They are dealing with this depression, this mourning of the life they once knew by putting empty calories into their body. Self-medicating with alcohol. Infusing their daily thoughts with social media and the echo chamber you get from that. They are getting angry. Angry at the government. Angry at the press. Angry with themselves. And they should be! That is just one of the steps of processing grief. As shitty as my marriage was, I still grieved it. The potential ahead of me was often terrifying. Like a dog that gets kicked and finally gnaws through its chain, what happens next? Well for some of us, we run into traffic and get hit by a car. For the rest of us, we start off small. We eat bananas. We take care of our bodies. We cross things off lists. We fall down and get back up. We go in new directions and seek out new opportunities.

We leave that world behind because it wasn’t doing us any good.

I don’t know what happens next, but I know I’m not going to poison myself just to numb the pain. To drown out the confusion. It’s time to start making lists again. Put one foot in front of the other. Barring any disasters, I have the next 40 plus years ahead of me. Granted I wouldn’t mind having those old shower thoughts back. Like if we couldn’t see colors would we still appreciate sunsets? Or what would life be like now if I had made difference decisions?

Right now is a day to make decisions.

I decided to spend some money to start off something new in my life. And then I blew some more money on some stuff I have been wanting to replace, that I lost in my divorce. It’s going to be a gamble, but I am content with what I have. I’m fine with waiting things out at home. I have a supportive family and girlfriend, a son who wants to become a YouTuber and has been practicing his own content delivery on the iPad, without any resistance. Unlike my 40 something self. I keep thinking my first podcast will be a lot of ums and losing my train of thought. Lots of hating the sound of my own voice. That fear of not doing it perfectly. What Content can I come up with to enthrall people?

Well, let’s find out.