Fundamental Dissatisfaction Blues and the 20-Point Scale of Emotions

I was diagnosed as bipolar some time ago.

Every day I take a reading of my mood/energy level and enter it in my journal. I use a 20-point scale where one is totally depressed and deactivated and 20 is completely, dangerously manic. 10 is "normal." 12 or 13 is ideal.

I have never entered a number below five or above 15. I've only been tracking this number since December 2017, though. I've certainly been that depressed and that manic at various times in my past. Thankfully, I've found some tools, practices and, uh, supplements that generally keep me where I want to be. 

Today I am at a 13. Things have been nice. Earlier this month they were not as nice. I had several days of sub-10 scores. There were a couple of challenging stretches and I just wasn't feeling the groove.

Here's what I noticed about myself on those days of sevens and eights:

  • I am a creature of routine and I love routine but also I despise it
  • An absence of peak experiences in life is a real drag for me
  • Scrolling through social media feeds mindlessly awakens anger when I'm feeling low
  • I have a tendency to hold back the emotion and energy when I'm playing my music, instead choosing to conserve my energy and play it safe. This leads to gigs where I play well and put on a pleasant show (I am a professional, after all), but I feel like shit because I was not quite authentic. I had several gigs like that earlier this month.
  • I continue to feel traumatized by the death (and subsequent post-mortem discovery) of my feline friend, Morris
  • I miss my dad a lot, and I should probably expect some feelings every year around June 9th, the date on which he left his body back in 2017
  • My high sensitivity exacerbates all this shit

What I feel most, however, is a feeling of fundamental dissatisfaction. That's really the best way I can describe it.

Interestingly, I feel like the feeling of fundamental dissatisfaction is not just present when I'm below 10 on my scale, but all the time. Even when I'm feeling good and groovy. When I'm low, though, I refuse to accept it; I fight against it. When I'm feeling good, I regard it, accept it and let it be. Then I can move on to other, more satisfying shit that's not clouded by my failure to acknowledge the fundamental dissatisfaction. Oh yeah.

The Problem Is Not the Problem

All the things up there that were making me feel low are not problems to solve. They are things to notice. They are the weather. They show up and hang out and then they leave. Unless I fight them. Which only encourages them to hang out longer and reveal additional, terrible aspects of themselves. And then I stop exercising. And I eat like an asshole in reverse. Sorry about that one. I'm just trying to be authentic here.

Anyway, I have learned that it's my resistance that causes the suffering and depression and lowness. It's never about the problem, really. The problem is not the problem; it's my dysfunctional reaction that's the problem. So now I react better, which keeps me in the sweet spot on my scale, generally.

You're goddamn right I've read my Eckhart Tolle.

Gratitudinal Adjustments

One of the things that helps me when I'm below 10 is to try to focus on gratitude. Wow. I just typed that unironically. Old Matt was the type to roll his eyes at that kind of shit. He wasn't bad. He just needed to get to where he was going.

Anyway...

Gratitude really works. It's the perfect thing for fundamental dissatisfaction to dissolve into. Like sugar into water. Mmmmmm... Delicious sugar water.

So yeah, here's some stuff I'm grateful for:

  • Annie and my loving, supportive partnership with her
  • My family and friends, all of whom are loving and supportive in their unique individual ways
  • The many years I had to get to know, understand, respect and learn from my dad
  • A comfortable, safe home
  • Nearly unlimited access to clean, fresh water
  • The daily presence of nutritious, well-prepared and tasty foods
  • Ambition to work on my craft, particularly on days when I don't feel like it
  • My high sensitivity (even though it surprises me with a sucker punch from time to time)
  • Opportunities to express myself
  • A day job that doesn't suck, doesn't put me in contact with difficult people and doesn't interfere with my weirdo tendencies and lifestyle choices
  • Excellent taste in music. Truly the best. Unmatched.
  • Humility and modesty
  • A sense of humor

Each day's journaling contains not only my score on the 20-point scale but also a reflection on something for which I am grateful. I have a feeling that tomorrow I will be grateful for having written this blog post.

A Spontaneous Adventure in a Former Santa Fe Bowling Alley

I was going to write and post this piece last week but, ironically, I was too low, depressed and fundamentally dissatisfied to do so.

Every so often I need to bust out of a routine, which helps me rise back above 10 on my scale. In my funk last week I decided to say fuck it and go up to Meow Wolf for a day. So on Wednesday, I got on the Rail Runner and chugged my way up to Santa Fe. Then I boarded a bus that took me to the facility, which is located in a more industrial, less touristy area of town. Well, that's a lie. Now that Meow Wolf has become a thing, it is absolutely lousy with tourists! I was not prepared for that. I was not prepared for anything on this day. And that was exactly what I needed.

It's really, really weird that my very first visit to Meow Wolf – and the House of Eternal Return immersive art experience contained within – happened just last Wednesday. The place, which is a psychedelic wonderland seemingly created with me as its target audience, has been open for, like, three years now. Annie has been there more times than I can count. And yet, I found myself unable to line up a visit with the reality and schedule of my life. So I'm glad I took the opportunity to break out of my precious, precious morning routine to do something different.

Lots of families were there. Lots and lots of just regular, mainstream families with little kids and shit. There was a line. A long line. Laughably, I envisioned myself just moseying in there and hanging out with a handful of other psychedelic weirdoes. It was a Wednesday morning, after all.

I believe every single family that was experiencing their once-in-a-lifetime western road trip last week decided to use Wednesday as their Meow Wolf day. And the line to get in was located under an unencumbered sun. And I had to pee. And I was feeling a panic attack coming on. I felt like I had dealt with the major challenges of just getting there on the train and bus. I was not prepared for further difficulties!

Finally, the line began to move out of the sun and into the building, which housed a bowling alley in a former life. But I was still kind of freaking out. I had pictured the day unfolding as if visiting a museum. Instead, it was more like visiting a crowded theme park. I got my ticket scanned, paid the extra dollar for the 3-D-ish glasses, used the restroom and entered the installation. I started wandering and began to experience the initial flowerings of awe. Almost immediately a youngster ran into me and killed my buzz. He didn't even say, "excuse me!" I think he might be on my lawn right now, too.

This situation presented me with a choice: I could have a terrible time and live the day through the lens of complaint and dissatisfaction. Or I could accept the situation, accept myself within it and go with the flow of the day. I chose the latter. And I had a spectacular time!

I spent a good four hours in The House of Eternal Return. It's sort of like an escape room crossed with a puzzle, mixed up with a massive art installation and infused with mystical, cosmic, psychedelic attitude. At times, it felt like being inside Annihilation (the book or the movie, actually). It's a bit like a freaked-out House on the Rock. There is a mystery to solve if one chooses. I chose not to. Next time.

I just wandered around. I climbed, crawled, sat, peered, gaped and tiptoed my way through the entire installation on a random circuit that took me exactly where I needed to go. When I started feeling bored, a new room presented itself or a performer gave context to the space. At times when I started feeling anxious and crowded, I found a door that opened to a room in which I was the only occupant. Favorite spaces emerged and I found myself wandering back to them.

After Meow Wolf I met with my sweet friend Jill, who is also a highly sensitive person. It's good to talk with her about all this stuff. We ate at Tomasita's, a restaurant that has near-religious implications for me. We did some shopping. Shared some laughs. Related. I got on the train back home feeling refreshed and fulfilled.

Use the Mania, Rest in the Depression

In the weeks after my dad left his body in the summer of '17, I remember being super manic. Almost like my psyche was implementing the mania as a defense against the overwhelming feelings of grief that had permeated my being. The grief was still there. But I was basically the personification of Ric Flair's "Woooooooo!"

I still didn't know what to do with the mania back then. I remember being kind of a dick a lot of the time, actually. Just a ball of loud asshole energy. Ask Annie.

Now I know that it's useful. If I can just focus a little bit I can make lots of stuff happen. I can get unfinished songs written. I can make unpleasant phone calls. I can do more than three things in a day, basically. So that's what I try to do now. I welcome it and I'm grateful for the mania. As long as it doesn't rise above 15, you know? It's really good for output.

I can also use the depression. That's the time for me to rest, reflect, practice gratitude and focus on input. Fuel. Stuff like that. I think I have it figured out. Well, it works for me, at least. For now. And that's just fine.

News & Notes & Nonsense

it's been a while since the last blog post! Here's what else is happening in the Matt Kollock world:

  • I am actively pursuing musical relationships with other people. Things might be happening soon. I will keep you posted.
  • I have shows coming up this summer. Lots of them! Here's where you can go to learn all about my live-performance schedule.
  • I am booking many of those shows thanks to a new and already fruitful relationship with Albuquerque-based booking agency Jams of Enchantment
  • I have begun recording my songs in their solo singer/songwriter format. I hope to have releases available by the end of this summer. Stay tuned!
  • I just started watching Deadwood for the first time. What a treat to be able to experience it as a newcomer! It's such a great show. My dad would have loved it. I feel like I'm watching it with him.
  • I'm running regularly again. I really, really want to keep it up this time. The weather is not cooperating, but I don't care. It's just additional resistance. I have to get stronger.
  • I just did a radio interview with the delightful Rachel Kaub of radio station KGLP in Gallup, New Mexico to promote the upcoming Ancient Way Music Festival, which features a whole bunch of talented performers and me. I will let you know when that becomes available for your listening pleasure or pain.
  • Annie and I saw a skunk last night on our walk. We smell fine.

Okay. I'm going to leave you with that. I'm going to really try to get another blog post out there next week, but this might have to fill the space for a while. The summer is going to be busy. I will do my best to keep you apprised.

So long from the sweet spot!

Leave a comment

Add comment