The Seven Deadly Sins, Part 3 - Acedia
So, I'll be honest. I'd never heard of this one. Maybe it's because I'm not Catholic, and in my church, we didn't study the Seven Deadly Sins. Maybe Catholics didn't either, but it seems like they study all kinds of cool stuff, like exorcism, so I'm sure somewhere along the line, every good Catholic learns the Sins. In my church, the biggest sin was wearing jeans to service - "Look at him. He should at LEAST be wearing khakis. His parents aren't raising him right. God save him."
So, given that I wasted way too much time wondering about all this and laughing while thinking about how many Sundays I yelled at my mom - "God doesn't give a crap WHAT I wear to church and if he DOES, we have bigger problems!" - I decided to just look it up in Wikipedia. Here is their definition of "Acedia":
Acedia (Latin, acedia) (from Greek ακηδία) (the Greeks ALWAYS have to be first, don't they?) is the neglect to take care of something that one should do. It is translated to apathetic listlessness; depression without joy. It is similar to melancholy, although acedia describes the behaviour, while melancholy suggests the emotion producing it.
Wow - the Universe truly does have a way of intervening into our business at just the right time, doesn't she? The reason I say that is that there couldn't have been a more appropriate word to define my day. I'd had a conversation earlier this afternoon, the contents of which are totally unimportant, but which had bothered me for a reason that, at the time, I wasn't quite sure of. That happens to me a lot and, when it does, I generally take it as a sign that I need to do some meditating as to the deeper meaning of my discontent. That part is really important - the meditating and soul searching - because feelings sometimes can be overwhelming and its very easy to misdirect them onto someone else or misinterpret them. When we experience something that triggers such a reaction, it is typically caused by a deeply held hurt or regret and our bodies go through a neanderthal-like reaction that releases all kinds of chemicals into our bloodstream, triggering anger, jealousy, or simply a fight-or-flight response. Give into that, and you make the problem worse. I know that all too well. So, I took a shower, and as I let the water run over my head, it dislodged the meaning like a stream that erodes a chunk of the shore and washes it downstream.
The conversation was simple and meaningless. So, it was ridiculous that my chest started to burn and my eyes welled up with hot tears that screamed for me to run off somewhere and be alone. That's what I would have done in the past and, hey, if you keep doing the same thing and it doesn't work, just stop. Just stop and try something else. So, with water trickling down my face, I picked it apart. And, as usual, what I discovered is that I was upset with myself. That I was sad for bad decisions I've made in my life and what might have been had I chosen differently. It was all about freedom and the liberty that I had denied myself. Being a gay man, who was married and came out late in life is like being a baby again, except that you're bald, have chest hair and carry around huge amounts of baggage. Hell, I've picked up so many bags in my life that I could start a store, bags handed to me by assholes and rednecks and gladly picked up by me. "Sure, I'll carry your issues around with me. Glad to lighten your load sir," I'd say as I pulled each one up onto my shoulder. Hundreds of bags full of darkness and shit. And what happens is that after awhile you just can't carry them all anymore and one drops and shit explodes all over the place, covering you, those around you and everything in sight - and leaving you with a huge mess to clean. The key is to figure out how to untangle the mess of baggage and lightly set each one down so that it's not a harm to you or anyone else anymore.
I think we all do this, regardless of our situation. The power of the brain can launch man into space or trap us within ourselves. It's a sad thing that, even as we age and grow wise, the little filing cabinet that is our mind continues to diligently maintain an orderly filing system and occasionally says, "I know EXACTLY where that one is! Let me get it for you! Oh, this was the time you got embarrassed at school, this is a good one! Let me know when you're done, I have more...."
What I'd denied myself was the power of being me. When you have that grounding, no matter what you're dealt, you have a core from which to deal with it - a foundation to stand on as you fend off the insults, the disappointments, the betrayals. In my case, I expended so much energy ensuring that part of myself didn't show that I was a fragmented person. Balancing the two parts required such effort that there was no way to learn balance. No matter how firmly I tried to stand, I would always slip and fall, and while I was trying to catch myself, I was vulnerable to everything. And once you're in that spot, you're so overwhelmed, you don't know how to make right decisions. So, you just try your hardest to make it through every day until you get to sleep - and sleep becomes a refuge because it's the only time that you get to relax because there's no need to move or speak; no need to think or act; no one to judge you, to hide from or to perform for. Sleep seems like peace, but really it's just a very safe hiding spot.
What I learned today was a pretty integral lesson for my life. I found myself upset at a fantasy of what my life might have been like had I not put myself in the situations I did. I imagine all of the things I could have chosen to do or be, rather than the things I thought were right or necessary. I would have taken more risks, I might have soared, or fallen, but what would have been true is that the decisions would have been truly mine, not those of someone who wanted every action they took to seem right to the world. But, here I am, in this location, as this person. I now have two feet to stand on and the strength to make all of the choices I desire. And, I could sit around and regret all the things I missed, but how do I know that they would have happened the way I envision them sometimes, or if I would have enjoyed that life any more, because honestly, I have had a pretty good life in so many ways - I'm a pretty lucky guy. One thing I know is that I spend way too much time thinking about my mistakes and beating myself up over my life. I might be dropping the baggage, but I can still feel the imprint it made on my shoulders. It will take time to heal. In the meantime, I am going to try harder to be grateful for those experiences I HAVE had and trust in the universe that they all had a purpose. In fact, I know they did and sometimes I feel that the universe gave me boundaries so that I didn't make even bigger mistakes. I am such a strong person in so many ways, and I know that the trial, tribulations and difficulties I've gone through and put myself through have helped me just as much as they've hurt. And hey, people seem to like me, so I must've done something right -- the difference now is that I am more capable of telling them to fuck off if they don't.
I'm a big believer in the fact that if you stop growing, you die. I still have a lot to learn, but I'm feeling a lot lighter these days because the only bags I'm carrying are those that I pack myself. And me and these bags are going places.