A good sign

Starting the day off right

I started off this weekend, last night, planning how many things I would do today. The parts of my projects I would undertake and finally complete — so I can move on to other things… the tasks from work that I didn’t get around to — so I can get them off my mind… breaking down the hours I’d spend in my head, so I would free up some time to do other things.

Now it’s Saturday morning, and all I want to do is go about my life in a continuous flow, not blocking off time to do anything specific, not allocating hours for one definite undertaking or another. I just want to flow. See where the day, the weekend, takes me.

It’s raining today. Gray and a little dreary. It’s chilly, too. Not the best weather for running errands, as everyone will be out and about in their fast and powerful cars (think about how much more powerful and speedy our cars are, compared to just 20 years ago), running their errands, on a mission, taking care of business, after the business work week has ended.

That’s not where I want to spend my time. Not in the least. I want to steer clear of that whole big, busy mess, and just have some peace. Just have some peace and quiet.

That’s what I want most. My spouse has been on a rampage for the past month, getting ready for this business trip. It’s been very trying, to tell the truth. Every spare moment has been caught up in them spinning their mental wheels about things that don’t actually exist. And dealing with business associates who are even more delusional than they are. What a strange thing, to see people who are so capable of living well, getting caught up in lives that don’t actually exist.

Sad.

Other sad things — a friend of a friend died suddenly last weekend. Another friend of a friend passed away from cancer that went undiagnosed for two years. A friend of a friend was raped. And a good friend of mine is struggling with health issues. Actually, a number of friends are dealing with health issues — among them, mental health. And that’s a particularly tough one, because it’s hard to know how to help.

But to get too caught up in that sadness, is a trap I can’t afford to dwell in. It’s been like a martial arts exercise, day in and day out, dealing with the depression and dementia and delusions and the plain old craziness that goes along with one human error leading to another… to another… to another… each one snowballing into a rolling batch of crazy.

Lord, yes, I do just need to take a break this weekend. I need a break from everybody else’s stuff that has nothing to do with me, really. I need to not get bogged down in the sadness that others feel… not stay caught up in others’ drama, rehashing it in my own head… not staying stuck in the whirlpool of others’ imaginary crises, spending a lot of time thinking about it. In my own life, there is no such thing, and if I weren’t living with someone who brought that to me each day, like a weird-ass soap opera, I wouldn’t even know it existed.

So, this weekend, I’m going to live as though it never did exist. Because it didn’t, outside of the imaginations of everyone involved.

I’m going to read the published personal notebooks of famous writers. I’m going to catch up on some of my own reading. I’m going to work on some of my own writing. And I’m going to live my life… let it just go, without trying to control it or slow it down or stop it. Just let it flow.

And leave it at that.

If I’m tired, I’ll lie down and sleep. If I’m thirsty, I’ll drink water or hot tea. If I’m hungry, I’ll … stop and ask myself if I’m really hungry, or if I’m just low on energy (in which case, I need to sleep), or I’m just bored (in which case, I need to do something that piques my interest). I may do some cleaning. I may clear out my bedroom and get rid of the dust bunnies. I may run out and get an air filter for my bedroom, which has a bizarre amount of dust in it. The main thing is that I’m moving at my own pace, without the intrusion of others’ delusions.

I’ve got enough delusions of my own to deal with, thank you very much.

So, it’s good.

And so am I.

Onward.

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Letting things just be

You gotta know what’s what – for real

I had a long weekend, with a lot of work of all kinds. I did some work for my day-job, and I also worked with my spouse to help them with a business trip on Saturday. Then I spent most of Sunday with a house guest, who stayed until 5 p.m.

I typically prefer to have time to myself on the weekends – to be alone and undisturbed by others. I had a lot to do, and interacting with other people takes time. It takes a lot of time. And energy. And attention I’d rather put somewhere else.

One of the things that makes interacting with other people difficult for me, is that I really expend a lot of energy when I’m interacting with them. I really make an effort to see their points of view and to just let them be who and what they are. It’s a fair amount of work for me, because most of the things I see and hear and watch people doing, saying, choosing, really conflicts with what I would do, say, or choose.

But it’s their choice and it’s their life. Even if I can see that their deeds, words, and choices are going to lead them down an unfortunate path, I have to stand back and let them do it. It’s not up to me, to save them. Or even to give them a clue about what’s ahead. That’s for them to find out. If I didn’t care so much about the sufferings of others, my life might be considerably easier.

But I do care. And it is extremely hard to watch people do the things they do.

Who am I to take them to task, though? Who am I to step in and draw their attention to things? We all have to walk our own paths, and we all have to make our own mistakes.

I just don’t much care for being pulled into the foolishness that they propagate. When the people doing the ill-advised things are in charge, and they are affecting the lives of countless others on a very large scale, well, that’s a problem. Especially if one of those people is me.

So, in that case, standing by and doing nothing, saying nothing, never speaking out and never raising any questions, is negligent on my part. We all have responsibility for certain things that happen around us. The real puzzle is knowing which of those things we are complicit with, and choosing the right path to take.

For me, the right path is (ultimately) off into the sunset — toward the horizon — and away from the situation where I now am. There is so much more that I can be doing with my skills and abilities, and nobody I work with is actually mature and experienced enough to recognize that. So, I’m limited by their lack of vision and experience.

It really does boil down to experience. And there’s not a damn’ thing I can do about that.

So, in the spirit of picking my battles, I’m working on stepping back and letting things be. I need to observe them and figure out which things I want to dive into, and which things I want to leave alone. A whole lot of drama can be alleviated by just being still and letting it settle down. Then the drama dissipates. The swirling mud sinks to the bottom of the pool, and we can get clear again.

The main thing is to just remain calm and allow it to be. Just be.

And in those times when I let things get the better of me, and all the dust and muck gets kicked up and swirled into a muddy mess, I need to just step back, step away, and let myself settle down… so I can stop stirring the pot, myself.

Half the time, the pot doesn’t need to be stirred, anyway, and all the drama and kerfluffle has nothing to do with what’s actually going on at the moment. It has to do with everything else in the world that people are experiencing — the imaginary past, the elusive present, the anticipated future. And it has nothing to do with reality. At all. Things would be so much simpler, if we could just let them be, but no… people seem to be hard-wired to dive head-first into drama.

Of course, I know exactly how that works. For sure. It’s a mix of biochemistry, neurology, and the combination of fear, anxiety, fatigue, pressure, stress… that whole big mess o’ things that — for some reason — we seem to think life has to be.

It doesn’t. We’re just trained that way. Everything from our media to our interpersonal relationships, are marinated in drama. It wakes us up. It makes us feel alive. It makes us feel important, or right, or righteous, or powerful. It makes us feel as though we alone know “what’s what” in the world, and it’s comforting that way.

But ultimately, all that amounts to is drama. Biochemistry. Neurology. Habit.

It’s not real.

And that’s the thing I need to keep in mind and remember. I did an okay job of remembering it this weekend, when I started to get all OCD over my work situation and started to get all worked up over scenarios I was imagining. The imaginary scenarios were both historical (they had happened, and I’d decided what they were about and what they meant) as well as anticipated (they hadn’t yet happened, and I was pretty sure they would). And I was getting really worked up over them, while I was trying to fall asleep last night.

But I got a hold of it and remembered that I was frittering away precious time on what was basically an illusion — something I made up in my mind about what was happening/going to happen, and what it all meant — and there was not much reality to it, other than the sensations that were coursing through my veins and making my heart rate go nuts. It wasn’t serving any purpose and it wasn’t helping me at all.

So, I stopped. I just let it be. I reminded myself that the only thing that was giving any of it any reality, was me and my conviction that I knew what was what.

Silly.

Once I stopped, and I got myself calmed down, I went right to sleep. Which is what I was needing to begin with.

And that’s progress.

It’s also progress, that I’m seeing more and more clearly each day, just now made-up our world really is. We invent all these interpretations of how things are and what’s happening and what it means, and then we leap into action without checking it out first. We “jump on it” and make a mess of things, and then we run around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to fix what we screwed up in the first place. It’s all very exciting, and it makes us feel like we’re making progress, but we’re doing the opposite — creating a lot of drama and suffering for ourselves and everyone around us.

So, in that spirit, I’m going to start my day. I’m working at home today, because I’m finally able to get a plumber in to fix a leak that has gotten progressively worse over the past two months. At last, I have the money to pay them, and I have the time for them to come to the house. Those two things have been sorely lacking in the past months.

Speaking of sorely lacking time, I think I’m going to take a day off, pretty soon. All this working, all this pushing, all the interactions with house guests and visitors and new co-workers has kicked the crap out of me, and I need a day to myself. I need some silence. Just silence.

So, I’ll look at my schedule and pick a day that works for me to just check out. Every now and then, I need a break. From everything.

But for now, it’s into the day for me.

Onward.

 

 

Back to work again

Writing helps

Well, this past weekend was interesting. Call it a wash. Call it an excellent use of time. I did things, this past weekend, that I haven’t done in years — read a bit of fiction and a bit of essay, explored various countries online, and wrote in my journal. A lot.

I haven’t really written journal-type stuff (outside of this blog) for a pretty long time. It’s been fits and starts, on and off, without much commitment. I’ve also been a bit wary of the whole journaling thing, because it tends to pull me into a self-consumed state of mine where I hash over the same stuff over and over and over again. And then when I look back, it really bothers me that I couldn’t get out off that loop.

This weekend, though, I did a lot of writing. I just didn’t care about the danger of “looping”.  I was sick. I was feeling bad. And it gave me some relief.

So, that’s good.

What was really good about it, was that I was writing in a different way than I used to, when I kept those “loop journals”. This time, I was writing for the specific purpose of getting my brain online.  See, I believe that the ways we use our brains determine how they are shaped, and I believe that writing is an excellent way of reshaping our brains. Keeping up this blog has been a huge part of my recovery — both because it helps me, and because it seems to help others. There are just no downsides (so long as I don’t let the blogging interfere with my daily routines).

What I did this weekend, was spend a lot of time really paying attention to my life and the world around me. I paid really close attention to the qualities and characteristics of the things around me — the minor parts of life that are so full of rich details that if we stopped to pay real attention to them, our lives would be as full and as wonderful as any action movie. I do believe that. The reason it doesn’t happen is, we just don’t try. We don’t realize that’s possible. And we don’t do it, so we don’t have practice, so it’s hard for us to do — and things that are hard are really no fun, so we don’t do them. And we get even more out of practice.

So, this past weekend, while I was fighting off my ear/sinus infection, I practiced. I looked at the patterns of raindrops on the roof of my car sitting down in the driveway. I examined the movements of clouds and the colors of leaves turning for autumn. I really felt the textures of the things in my house – the uneven surface of the bannister, the roughness of the walls, the weight and rumble of the sliding glass door. And even though I felt really, really sick, it woke me up in ways that I haven’t been awake, in quite some time.

And I realize that the big reason that my journaling didn’t help me — and got stuck in a loop — in the past, is that I was too much inside my head, too consumed by the confused thoughts and conflicts raging inside of me. I wasn’t journaling about the world around me, I was trying to “pin down” what was going on inside of me, and that — frankly — was a lost cause, because it was all a swiftly moving target that was constantly changing and morphing and flying from one extreme to the other, and it could never be pinned down.

But this different kind of writing — the “outside-in” writing, which is about what’s going on beyond my brain — is a whole other way of sorting through things. It’s like I’m exercising parts of my brain that don’t get any exercise in the course of my everyday logistics life. It’s like I’m
“airing out” the musty corners that don’t get much sunlight when I am so very intent on just getting something done that’s a problem for me. Focusing intently on doing things like making breakfast or doing my morning warm-up is good for the attention, but it doesn’t do much for my imagination. And the imagination part is what really rounds out my life and makes it enjoyable and worth living. Imagination is what I need help with, and this sort of writing — even just a few sentences about the shape of raindrops on the roof of my car — fires up that part of my brain like nothing else. It jump-starts my ability to experience life around me, in small pieces that don’t overwhelm me. And that’s good.

So, today I am awake with a very different perspective on things. I have finished my antibiotics, and I have another appointment with my doctor tomorrow to make sure my ears are alright. I still don’t feel well, and I have a ton of things to take care of at work today. I also have more things I need to do for my own life, because my spouse has been very, very sick and I am a bit more functional than they are, so someone needs to pick up the slack.

I feel, in a way, like I’ve turned the corner on something. I’ve had a pretty rough couple of months, with my job change and all the craziness going on inside my head. But I’m settled, now. I am settling in. I have a really good understanding of the physiological basics of keeping my life on track. I have a pretty good understanding of how to keep stress from wrecking me. I am determined to stick with those things and make my life better. And I have this new way of writing and exploring and improving how I think, how I feel, how my brain works — how I experience my life.

And it’s good. I can get back to work again. It’s going to take time, but I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy the process.