Mental Illness as a Musician: None of your failures matter.


None of your failures matter.

Spoiler: none of your successes do either.  In the end, nothing really matters.  We will all be forgotten long after we pass.  And that is precisely why you have every reason to live the life that will make you the most fulfilled.

I came across this idea in the book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.  Everyone and their uncle is reading it.

And, this idea (about embracing life because it is meaningless) really is true.  Because nothing matters, you don’t have to worry about being a failure, and you don’t have to be burdened by your successes.  Live the life that makes you the most fulfilled you can be.  Don’t be afraid of letting go of the things that give you a sense of security; in the end those will not matter either.  Live life freely, knowing that all you really ever have is the here and now.

One technique I am beginning to do, to enable myself to live as freely and fulfilled as possible, seems counter-intuitive: I have started reminding myself that I will die.  This seems very morbid, and please do not take it that way.  It is actually a positive trigger to get me thinking about what I am doing, and if what I am doing, thinking, experiencing, feeling, is really worth my time.

Whether it is reminding myself that there are bigger things to worry about than a few typos by a colleague, or whether it is asking myself if I really should be writing a blog post when I’m so exhausted, or whether I am really going to let my hunger make me into an absolutely terrible grump, I can interrupt my day by telling myself that I am going to die, in order to make sure what I am doing is really worth the effort.

And, what can I say?  It works.  The strange thing is, the more I put things in perspective in this “negative” way, the more I can focus on what matters to me in life, and my life seems more “positive” (quotes around “negative” and “positive” because they aren’t the textbook definitions of those terms).

So, what do I want to focus on?

  1. Being present in my family life
  2. Being judicious in my choices at my day job
  3. Limiting my efforts on this blog to only the ones that will make the most impact

1. Being present in family life

IMG_3819You likely have seen my posts about #composercat, my adorable cat who seems to always be at my wife’s side or my side, or on our laps.   Not only is she incredibly cute, but she grounds me.  When I spend too much time steeped in my composing, she will remind me that both she and I need feeding, and a litter box cleaning.

I am also very fortunate to have an amazing significant other, who reminds me to care for myself (which is turning more and more into an innate habit).  She and I have gotten through a lot of crazy, bad experiences and situations happening to us, and our bond is the reason I am still in one piece.

I want to actively engage in my life with her, with my cat, with my life.  After all, without our lives outside of work, we are just work.  What kind of life is that?

2. Being judicious in my choices at my day job

img_2103

I am a textbook workaholic.  I derive pleasure from putting everything I have into work, no matter the stress or commitment.  I have, over the course of the past few years (and continuing today), established boundaries that are growing stronger.  The boundaries are still a struggle to enforce, but I am getting there.  I am being more judicious about what I choose to do and what I choose not to, and what I say “yes” to and what I say “yes–later” or “yes–but let’s find a better way to do so”.  It’s really tough, but I’m getting there.

3. Limiting my efforts on this blog to only the ones that will make the most impact

img_3576The more this blog grows, the more I realize just how many opportunities there are out there.  I used to be like a kid in a toy store with a large gift card; I would shop for the newest, biggest ideas and accept them all.  I am glad to say that I am telling myself “no” to new ideas now more than ever.  It is time for me to hone what this blog produces, and how it operates.  I am intentionally changing things so that I can test new strategies.  Some of these attempts will fail, and hopefully some will succeed.  That is how I hope to make a larger impact with this blog–with more focused, more impactful efforts, instead of throwing paint at a moving train.

What does this all mean?

It means that for those of us with mental illness, and those of us without it, we can choose how to live our lives by reminding ourselves that we have no reason to be inhibited from being our best selves.  In fact, we have every reason to be the best people we are, because if nothing matters in the end, then everything that we choose to value matters right now, and only now.  The moment is only instantaneous; you only have it each ticking second.  Don’t pass up the opportunity to break free.  Don’t miss out on being who you want to be, who you can be, who you can be content dying as, whether that comes today or in a century.

Happy composing; happy living,

Dan

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