Today I was poked, prodded, stripped, scraped, and made to pay for the privilege. And it feels pretty great.
Yes. I finally decided to woman up and make some doctor’s appointments. Not having health insurance for years trained me to not have regular appointments on my radar. But I’ve been insured for about three years, so it was time to start taking advantage of it, regardless of the high deductible. So now I have clean teeth, clean blood, a couple referrals to specialists, and a new pair of glasses will soon be on the way. I’m surprised at some things (especially at how satisfying that plaque scraper feels), not surprised at other things, and overall feeling relieved and accomplished. Mission Make an Effort to Take Care of Myself is a success.
I have been trying to attack the existential crisis I’ve been having – I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, if not here then on my hiking blog – on multiple fronts. I usually have a low hum of anxieties that sometimes rear up terribly, and I think they are contributing to it. Anxieties about overdue doctors appointments, when and what to eat, check engine lights that have been on for months, when I’m finally going to read those books in my Goodreads list or those months-old issues of the Atlantic, that study that I read online that contradicts that other study online, my Netflix queue, when I’m finally going to sit down and have fun and play a video game or write in my journal. Leisure activities have transformed into tasks.
One of my coping mechanisms, when I’m feeling off (and even when I’m feeling on), is purging myself of belongings. It feels immediately therapeutic to clean my apartment of clothing I no longer wear, unused makeup samples, knicknacks, that one bottle of lotion that I don’t like too much but I’ve been trying to use up for years, dog toys, that stupid thing I bought off Amazon that doesn’t even work well. I feel like I can hear myself think when I’m done, partly because the constant monologue that I have when I interact with things has gone from “I really don’t like this thing but feel obligated to keep it” and “I wish I could finally use up this bottle so I can get rid of it” and “I really need to fix that” and “I need to sort through this and organize it,” to “I can see the carpet now” and “oh hey, I forgot I had this shirt” and, best of all, silence.
But even purging is tinged with anxiety: not because of the money I’d spent on those things, which is long gone and will be replaced with other money, but because I am hyper-aware of my environmental impact. I haven’t used those green bags in the produce section for years, and I have trained myself to bring my own bags to everywhere from the grocery store to the outlet mall. I hold onto things in the hopes that I can repurpose them, and I feel guilty when I throw out semi-recyclable items that I don’t feel like cleaning or putting aside for a special trip to their recycling facility. Batteries. Plastic bags. Fruit and veggie scraps that I can’t save for the dog, don’t have the freezer space to save for soup, and definitely will not be driving up to my CSA’s compost bin. I once took a thumbnail-sized stone from a coworker who was going to throw it in the trash and planned to take it outside, then felt like I was committing a sin when I put it in the trash myself weeks later when cleaning out my bag. Objectively my impact is probably in the lower half of those living in developed countries, but I mostly see where I am failing.
So I’m trying to strike a healthy balance between the two. Concern for the environment is a good thing, but as a living creature I am still going to be negatively impacting the environment. This weekend, I dumped lotion and an almost-full bottle of soap down the drain and let myself feel joy about these burdens being removed from my mind.