The good thing about hard times is they make us philosophical. Very little helpful philosophy comes from a week at a tropical all-inclusive, except that one should balance water and alcohol carefully, and sunscreen is never a bad idea.
I noticed the misery-philosophy connection early on. I made any number of philosophical insights in the window between bingeing and throwing up: bulimia is a powerful insight-generator. Aside from the kind that allows for self-healing.
I’ve had some philosophical thoughts about a couple of things lately.
One, pain makes you mean. And by “you,” I mean me. Initially, I feel guilty, but soon, I feel entitled: I’m justified in sharing the misery that sometimes makes me feel borderline feral because, reasons. I forget that it’s not okay to rain undeserved suffering on the masses. Especially on family and friends, when their only crime is being in the vicinity. [i]
Two, I spent so much time focusing on trees in my life, I forgot to check on the forest location. There are extenuating circumstances: the aforementioned eating disorder, various personal difficulties, a selection of illnesses. They don’t matter. Reality is still reality. I’m still here, in a place I wish was different, because I chose trees instead of the big picture. Because I drifted without any real purpose.
A purpose beyond “get thin.” I got thin. It didn’t bring me the life I wanted. I thought it would; I realized my mistake when I got there, even if I couldn’t admit it for decades. The purpose with an eating disorder is too small. My life’s ambition didn’t have enough scope.
It’s too late for me.
That feels dramatic. I picture Dennis Quaid saying, “it’s too late for them,” as he presages the end of the modern world. I’m not sure lacking a life plan is quite that globally significant. [ii]
I do wish certain things that are no longer possible. I wish I’d built a life with a partner while we raised our kids. I wish I were moving into the next stage with a suitcase full of shared memories. I wish I’d done a better job at building a close family and developing family traditions. I have reasons and excuses, but still, I wish. I wish I’d been able to build a career. I wish I didn’t feel like I was still at the beginning of my adulthood, knowing nearly nothing, with no idea of what comes next or what I’m supposed to be doing.
I wish I didn’t have pain and that doctors were not, by and large, horrible when dealing with those of us who struggle with mental illness. [iii]
I wish I’d bought that dark green Mustang convertible years ago.
I wish I’d had a plan. I wish I’d had a forest.
On the bright side, I’m fifty-one, not ninety-one. Once I find myself some effective pain control and put together a plan for what I want the forest to look like, I’ll be good to go.
This brings us to another philosophical insight, not mine, but one common enough to find its way onto coffee mugs, the ultimate sign of ubiquity:
Time is precious: don’t waste it.
[i] Two things: one, people who say those who suffer are justified in hurting others are wrong. It’s understandable: it’s not justifiable. Two, sometimes people get the mistaken idea that I’m not mean. That I couldn’t possibly be. I try to be kind. I try to be nice. But I have a wicked tongue, and I know where to aim the knife. Some on Twitter would concur, if you asked.
[ii] I love The Day After Tomorrow (film, 2004). I’m sure there’s a multiplicity of things wrong with it, but I’m an uncritical audience. I’m entertained and remain concerned about climate change once it’s done. That’s a win for the director, and it’s also good with popcorn. Even after a seriously large number of viewings.
[iii] I never know which way to phrase it, “suffer with,” “suffer from,” or “struggle with.” If I’m being honest, none of them feels entirely right. They feel like they were developed by people who are neurotypical, and although I use them, they never quite fit.