The truth about the holiday season

Three steps back, one step forward

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Every year around Christmas and New Year I feel sad, lonely, and forgotten. A part of my subconscious imagines all the joy everyone must be experiencing, and I instinctively engage in emotionally self-harmful behaviors in order to distract from difficult emotions. It’s ironic how the chosen distractions turn pain into numbness, but upon feeling numb one wishes to feel something through further indulgence.

I learned something new from this year’s experience, though at no trivial cost. I could feel lonely during any time of the year I “wanted” to, so why Christmas specifically? The root of suffering during this season is that I feel unloved. People go home to visit their families, so no one is really around for several weeks. Our own family had lunch on Christmas Day and it was fine, but I still became somewhat unhinged after that. I feel unloved for many reasons, but it can simply be stated that I was never given ample opportunity to internalize my family’s love for me as a child, and that I am still underdeveloped in this aspect. Also, in comparison to everything else going on around, my Christmas holidays are a time characterized by mutual neglect of both family and friends.

Even if Christmas is more isolating than usual, there are two assumptions I can attack in order to break the chain of things from devolving into emotional torture:

  1. Everyone is busy and I have no cause to bring down anyone else’s spirits with mine, so I’d rather suffer in silence as if this is all some secret punishment I deserve.
  2. I shouldn’t be thinking so much about myself during Christmas.

The second point is the fallacy that I wish to address presently. When I feel unloved, it’s because I’m not loving myself. Somehow I forget to do so during Christmas, when perhaps it’s the time I need it the most. My longing to love others pains me also, but I should not neglect my basic necessities.

Deciphering my mental state

TLDR; I’m tired.

I’m quite confused about my mood and emotional/energy levels lately. There have been mixed signals.

  1. I’ve been tired from writing, even if it’s for fun or social purpose. And yet I have a strong desire and impulse to write.
  2. I’ve been having logical nightmares that I can’t remember because they’re unfamiliar and don’t make enough sense. I also haven’t been sleeping well.
  3. I’ve been exposed to over five times as much social interaction in the last week than a normal week, so in theory I should be socially exhausted.
  4. I’ve been quite emotional overall, meaning that it’s been hard for me to think things through logically or follow my past judgments without doubt. I’ve been confused and grateful and inspired and many other things.
  5. It seems I mostly recovered from a fever, but it left me physically and mentally exhausted. The unbearably hot weather hasn’t helped either.
  6. It seems like I’m forming a squish, which is probably a bad thing in this situation. For the first time ever, I used flattery in a situation where it felt normal. It was surprising and it feels dangerous.
  7. I’ve been a bit restless and unfocused due to only meditating once this week.
  8. I haven’t been able to run for weeks due to injury and at least once or twice I’ve noticed a restless desire to move around and expend energy.
  9. I usually crave music on a daily or hourly basis, but lately everything I’ve been listening to has been underwhelming, including my favorites. There are no songs playing in my head or any new obsessions.

I think it’s safe to say that I am socially overwhelmed with all the activity that’s been going on. Almost all of it has been high quality interactions, which explains why I’ve been quite emotionally affected by it. However, the fact that I haven’t succumb to the Ti-Si loop probably means I haven’t had the emotional energy to worry about anything too much.

Writing is primarily a logically taxing task for me. Writing too much goes hand in hand with logical nightmares and late nights. It also explains my lack of focus recently. When I have a productive day in terms of my studies, it usually means I don’t have much energy left for writing so in the past I’ve restricted writing to once or twice a week. So it’s a limited resource that has to be managed.

The musical apathy thing is very rare, and I think it must indicate lack of both emotional and logical resources. The emotional tiredness renders me unaware of what mood I should be catering to and what mood I might want to shift into. The logical aspect is that the music just passes me by with me hardly noticing.

I think when the emotional tank is empty, it replenishes steadily given time and space. However, when accompanied by intellectual exhaustion, I’m completely unable to sense my own emotional state. I tried to do this when writing just now and there is simply no access. This must mean that my logical circuit requires a moderate degree of activation in order for me to parse and interpret my emotional circuit.

Now, my being emotionally drained is also a consequence of decisions I made one or two weeks ago, when I had an adequate supply of emotional energy and greedily committed it. In this process, and comparing real-life interactions to online interactions, I’ve discovered something. First of all, engaging with less familiar people in a big room environment takes the most emotional energy. No surprise there. But in terms of online correspondences vs friendships and smaller group interactions with partial familiarity, the former category seems to have higher maintenance and latent costs in many cases. I never realized how serious it was until I decided to bite off more than I could chew. I need to balance my allocation of online and offline commitments more carefully.

I’ve been unsure whether I should consider that there’s a separate theoretical tank for social energy, but so far I haven’t needed it. However, the need to expend excess physical energy or reduce stress with physical exercise is probably something tangible. Physical wellness and exercise help to replenish the intellectual and logical resources.

I think it’s suddenly clear what to make of all this.

  1. I need proper rest. I’m physically, emotionally, and intellectually tired.
  2. I need to reorganize or restructure my social commitments to achieve better balance and recovery rates.
  3. Even when I’m tired, I need to keep up with physical activity.

Putting all these things together should help my logical tank to fill up, which should enable the emotional tank to replenish too.