I have been wondering about asking questions about myself and how my life is going and when questioning myself becomes a form of general anxiety and fear. As an example, asking myself (gently) ‘What is happening in my life and where is it going?’ is different to thinking ‘My dreams aren’t coming true and my life isn’t going how I want it.’ It is the quick descent from one to the other that interests me. I do acknowledge that it might just be me that goes from pondering my existence to having angst about my existence, however, I have come to learn that a lot of people have worried about issues that I presumed were my sole domain.
I believe in its best form, asking questions about our existence and experience in, and of, life is an important part of life. I would not go as far as to say the unexamined life is not worth living as it seems a trifle harsh and uncompromising (would someone who is unable to question their existence through a learning disability for instance, be said to have a life not worth living?) but I do think it is of value to us as humans to look at what we were, what we are and what we aspire to become.
The slight problem with this, for me at least, is when the questioning becomes a torrent of self-doubt, recriminations and ultimately a sense of failure before I have even fully lived the life I have presumed I will fail at. This is not the case all the time, and I have become much better at controlling these wayward thoughts that desire me to feel much worse about myself than I should, yet, it is without doubt that I can slide into a fear spiral about my existence and what I am doing.
To give another example, I have been considering my approach to writing and how it differs to how I wrote when I was in my early twenties. If this version of me were a biblical figure, it would definitely be old testament style; fire, brimstone and severe judgements. I don’t recall thinking about what I wanted to say as the younger version of me had the arrogance of youth on its side. I didn’t need to think about what I was writing as it was obvious that something needed to be said about the topic I was writing or I wouldn’t have bothered to write it in the first place. Or so my younger self thought.
Ah, I miss that certainty. I don’t miss the arrogance that came with it, or the simplistic view of issues that I had, as we know that nothing is simple, merely a set of increasingly complex contradictions. There is a lot to be said for not overthinking however. There was no procrastination or doubt, there was simply writing flat out until my hand hurt. Yes, it was long enough ago that pen and paper were still the preferred method for my writing.
With the wisdom (???) of age comes a more considered approach to writing. I do wonder if I should be writing about some subjects as I may not know enough about it, or whether the subject is interesting, or what would make a good story etc etc etc. With that comes a longer period of not writing. Or a longer period of worrying over what I should write. This then leads to me wonder about how as I have gotten older, I have become less certain of things, which I thought would be the other way around.
It seems to come back to the question of questioning. What is the right amount of questions to ask? Writing without questioning can lead to misinformed and inflammatory results, which I am sure some people simply adore to do, but it is not really my cup of tea. Writing with too many questions can prevent the writing from starting at all, which rather defeats the whole idea.
So, perhaps the answer is to use the writing as a way of questioning, or to explore ideas that I do not know the full answers to as I want to find the answers. It has just this second occurred to me that maybe the reasons I write now have changed. As opposed to wanting to fix the world as a younger man and the certainty that I did indeed know how to do that, perhaps I write now to try and make sense of a world that appears to be increasingly more complex the more I think about it.
Writing with no doubts or questions seems dangerous to/for me. Writing with too many questions is plain stifling. I am thinking there is something in the middle where consideration is given, but not to the point of killing the writing to begin with. In the same way, asking questions about my existence is useful if I don’t allow it to get out of control and drown me in doubt and fear. As with many things, finding the right balance is the tricky part.