When I aimed for a word called healthy, I didn’t ever think that six months later I’d be alcohol and tobacco free.
I’m running to release the excess energy, which I identified as anxiety in accordance with Anodea Judith’s chakra workshop. I’ve been using her book Wheels of Life since it was gifted to me as a teenager by me grandma.
A long while ago, I posted about confusing the word for the symptom with the feelings of the symptom—completely different experiences. In Buddhism, this is called mistaking the moon for the finger pointing at it.
When I run, my chest is tight for the first two weeks. Every hill is a battle to put down thoughts like Is this what a heart attack feels like? I’m totally one of those high-strung people who would die of a heart attack at thirty. Oh lord.
Running is a practice in testing and training my instincts. My thoughts run negative and catastrophic against tests of will. No surprise there I guess if my time in the kitchen is anything to say about it. I was not a very nice cook or teacher for that matter. I am hard on people because I’m hard on myself and it’s a filter I forget to turn off sometimes.
Running teaches me to turn those filters on and off. If I let the negative thoughts get too loud, I’m not going to make it up the hill. If I shift my focus, sometimes the top of the hill comes and goes. Sometimes I’m thinking of what to switch my focus to still when the hill is achieved.
Doing hard things exercises the mind and trains us to overcome ourselves. I’m my own worst enemy, by far, and I identify different pieces of my personality as demons. Shame. Guilt. Pride. The victim. When they arise I picture a hero self slaying them with a sword. I’m actively battling my own demons on a daily basis.
They become tame and rise up again once in a while. A random craving for a cigarette, an old instinct to swing by the liquor store. Then I remember that’s over and heave a sigh of relief. The further those days get, the happier I am they are memories and this life is someone else’s now. That girl was nuts.
I started writing this post this morning a few hours before my grandpa died of a heart attack.
My grandpa was the best. I knew five grandpas growing up, and Grandpa Berti was my favorite. He was a a cooky old man and intelligent, rebellious, tech savvy, and a few marbles shy of a full bag.
He went to seminary school as a young man and exorcised demons.
There are exorcists on both sides of my family, so I guess it’s not that weird I’ve dabbled in this too. It’s too soon to talk about him already like he’s gone.
I ran harder today than I have in a while. I ran on my lunch break. I got the news. I called family, left early, ran more. Run. Run until it hurts.
When it hurts like this, all I want to do is drink. I sit outside my apartment building waiting for the urge to pass. Waiting. My legs don’t work anymore.
He didn’t drink a lot. At least he is pain free now. At least he had his faith, his family, a true love like the kind you only see in movies. He believed and knew he’d be happy on the other side.
It’s my grandma and my cousins who lived with him about whom I must concern myself. He is at peace and they survive him to feel the pain he is free from.
The pain becomes energy, a flow, a force hurtling me along.
Entropy is an interesting concept right now. Does the total pain in the universe always equal the same amount? Is it matter? When a person passes on, do we inherit some of the suffering they left behind when they stepped off this world to be free of it?
I hope so.
We are here to lift one another up.
To my grandpa, who always exorcised the demons by making us laugh.
I’m trying to remember that alcohol causes brain damage and that my brain is damaged.
I think I’ve always been a bit of a miserable person, kind of unhappy, sort of strict and generally reserved. I thought it was a personality thing, but the memories that have been slowly surfacing since I moved here (and since I’ve been cutting back and haven’t engaged in a night of binge drinking since that bottle of wine right before my period) are indicating to me that I was happy once before this. Maybe many times.
It can take up to seven months for the brain to recover from alcoholic brain damage if the damage isn’t permanent already. Even one beer one night will follow my thoughts into the next day. I can tell when alcohol is still in my system just based on the tilt of my thoughts towards negative paranoia and low self-esteem.
Whenever I get a glimpse of the surface I want to pull back and have a beer as though I’ve accomplished something just to sabotage it. This pattern was very alive in my life once…build it, make it, create it, sabotage! And move on. An unconscious pattern clearly mimicking my leaning towards alcoholism or against.
I was determined the underlying issues of my alcoholism would be discovered and I could deal with those instead of quitting drinking, but it turns out my self-esteem cannot thrive under the influence. When I think back to six months ago and how I was drinking a couple beers a day thinking it wasn’t a problem and how could it have that much effect…let’s just say I’m not even the same person I was six months ago. She was insane.
Alcohol puts my body immediately in an intuitive, fight-or-flight head space and it doesn’t relax me as much as another version of me is convinced it does. In fact, part of the reason I have a hard time relaxing, if I’m honest, is that I don’t know what relaxing is.
As the alcohol goes away, relaxation reveals herself in this sensuous, wholly normal desire to take my time reading. Writing was something I used to rush through and I’m starting to stop in the middle of sentences, think, ponder, take my time.
This is the biggest thing alcohol, or really any addiction, takes from us—time.
How do you spend your time? What do you think about? Are they happy thoughts? Is it time we’ll-spent?
By day two or three of getting sober, a mechanism in my brain starts to lure me back like cordyceps lure an insect to high ground. I walk into the seven-eleven on autopilot, but I’m on my way to Safeway. We stock our fridge with groceries. I’ve cooked more in a week than I had in a month. I start to notice what it feels like to think with a brain full of nutrients. My brain is healing. The paranoia and feelings of victimhood fade away. I start to realize the fear and guilt and shame shadow of addiction was an illusion built by my own actions and consciousness to keep me complacent so I don’t have to take responsibility to living up to a greater potential.
My fear and uncertainty subsides, replaced by strength and conviction. This is what alcohol was stealing from me.
Probably the hardest part about quitting, other than the physical symptoms—heartburn, gastric discomfort, nausea, panic, dizziness, and for some delirium tremens, seizures—is owning up to what a selfish asshole you’ve been. I’ve been a selfish asshole. I think a lot of people start on the road to recovery, begin to see themselves clearly, and decide they’d rather drink than face that mess. I know I have.
Recovery is work, at first. You come home feeling guilt and shame which were the feelings you were covering up related to how you relate to yourself and others, your traumas, your poor decisions, your tendency to trust the wrong people and never fully open up and the way you never learned to manage money and feel always like a child wandering around in an adult body hoping things work out, whatever, just chill and have a drink. No. You want a drink, have a kombucha or some ginger ale and make yourself some dinner. Alcohol is poison. The feeling you’re looking for is nourishment.
Nourish what’s good lover.
The work looks like cooking a meal, practicing chakra work to heal feelings of inadequacy and clear energy around how I relate to people, yoga, nature, mindfulness, the Tao Te Ching, Ram Dass, inspire. I envision healthy skin, a family, comfort, friends. My ego deflates, shrivels, dies, and a new one begins to form, like a snake that has shed its skin, or a crab rather, soft and fresh, off to weather the world where its shell will again harden.
This isn’t my first attempt at getting sober by any means. The last two years of my life were pretty much an exercise in how to approach sobriety from an angle that I’m not going to talk myself out of. Most alcoholics only meet this angle when they hit rock bottom.
Those words are almost playful compared to the reality. “Rock bottom.”
I was a homeless teacher once. That’s my rock bottom. No…it was the relationship I entered into after that in order to justify my continued alcoholism, a relationship which I then had to end after going to AA and realizing I wasn’t going to make it out with him drinking by my side. I felt hopeless. I’d fucked up a perfectly good life. I drank heavily daily for a couple of years. Many years. They seemed like a couple of years until I counted them.
When you run from yourself, the storm in your wake affects others near you. My best friend’s boyfriend called and said he was afraid of coming home and finding her dead and that he thought her parents would take better care of her, that they were better equipped. I wasn’t sure, but I knew the spin of a dawn-to-dusk drinking cycle and I saw that my friend drank all day to ease her pain. Watching her decline lessened my alcohol intake, gave me the courage to go to AA, and the conviction to leave the toxic relationship I was in.
I wish the real rock bottom wasn’t when my friend died and I lost my mind for a while in the midst of all of the restructuring of perception and rewriting of personal narratives which had to occur after her wake. My best friend was dead.
We were supposed to grow old together. It took a lot of time to rewrite our story in such a way that it ended in her dying, and a lot more time going over what I might have done better, why did we ever have that first drink, why did I ever follow in those footsteps which led us to drinking together? Hadn’t I learned from my family? How had I traced those same footsteps? We never had to drink. How different might it have been?
The guilt was immense once, but I’m resolved now. She made her decisions and I made mine. Sometimes we think we are making choices that will lead us down one path only to find our estimation of consequences missed the mark. I fear this outcome in terms of global warming if only because I saw how suddenly the consequences can go from possibility to reality, but hope is a major ingredient in recovery I think. What matters is how I proceed.
Or maybe the hardest part of recovery is vulnerability or realizing you aren’t worth anything to anyone and that this is the key to finding worth in little things like breathing summer air on a rainy day, seeing flowers in bloom, sipping tea, eating good food.
As my appreciation grows for these small pleasures, I find these pleasures are the ones to live for. A kiss on the cheek, a shower, the smell and feel of clean laundry, silence, the strain of my muscles in the middle of a run. I start to appreciate things that make me feel alive, that build my strength. The little things become bigger things. I read a book and my sober mind grasps the words and sentences differently than the drunk one. Words plug into linear structures called sentences instead of swimming around in a soup of subconscious symbolism and half-tangible ideas.
The every day, the mundane, is sweet and innocent, plain and sometimes boring, but it’s all I could ask for. My body doesn’t ache every day with thirst and withdrawal. The paranoia, guilt, and shame are going away. The mood swings are becoming less intense and the Taoism plus sobriety is helping me to navigate my emotions with reason.
My mantra lately is Relax.
Everything that was taken from me by alcohol came about through worry, stress, anxiety, and efforts to carve myself into something I am not, prevent things that haven’t happened yet, or to bolster my ego when she felt too small.
Approach with curiosity. Do you know you?
I start meditating on what comes into my life with the alcohol leaving. What’s new? What did it take away?
My favorite part of sobriety is that DJ and I haven’t had a fight since I quit. People don’t tell me I’m repeating myself anymore. Those circling meditations on who was out to get me or where the world was fucked up or how it’s all going down don’t occur anymore.
I’m grounded. We’re juicing and eating well. We are connecting. I feel better about offering myself and my time to people because I hate myself less and am remembering I’m as much a person as anyone else and no, there’s nothing wrong with me, and yeah no I don’t drink and that’s totally fine.
I wonder how many alcoholics get sober when they turn thirty. Turning thirty is nice in the fucks-giving department if you’re hoping to give less of those someday. Thirty is like the purge. Purge all those fucks.
A woman comes into my work and buys two bottles of wine on Friday, two more on Saturday, two more on Sunday. I can’t tell if she’s unable to get up from how drunk she is or how many pills she’s on when she sits down to look at the wine. She looks like a pill popper who drinks. She acts like a pill popper who drinks. She argues with me about the cost, about a membership she buys which saves her 5% off and would have paid for itself weeks ago.
She apologizes if she was mean when decides to keep the membership she paid for after I explain it has paid for a third of itself already and maybe she could try it out and save herself some money since I don’t have the code to refund her and what is she out doing purchasing things when she’s this fucked up anyways? She seemed so much less fucked up than the last time.
I see this woman and know she is my future if I drink. Her belly is swollen like a wine sack and her legs are slender sticks in jeans that are in their fourth or fifth wear judging by how they sag. Her shirt is a mesh knit, black stripes and a pinkish beige color that is the same color as her skin. It’s the kind of shirt that needs something underneath but she must figure no one can tell. Over it, she wears a fashionista Army-issue knock-off coat that covers some stylist-dyed do which sticks out of her hood flock of seagulls style.
She has money. Money, I thought once, would help me solve so many of my problems. But my problems were character flaws, values, and the dissonance between who I thought I was and who I really was.
Now that I’m not fiending anymore, I’m starting to see the blessings again. Money isn’t a concern at all at the moment. We’ve been saving and spending responsibly. We aren’t drunkenly spending on things like this woman who I hope to sell some food to next time she comes in and who I hope finds a way to see through the fiend to her fortune as well.
Word of the day: Humility
Practice: Active Listening
Will yourself today to hope, to listen, to be humble.
Writing exercise: What is coming into your life now that alcohol is leaving it?
…otherwise known as makeup sex, kind of looks like this.
I get home after a long day and the dishes are in the sink, the man is on the console and my heart’s just not into the whole forgive and chill out thing.
“You don’t hang out with me anymore.”
It’s just a thought, a judgment that bursts from my lips without any actual consideration into whether this is true. My feelings have driven my instincts and actions for so long that if it feels right, I think, it must be true except that’s not true at all.
Reason is one of the first tools of intervention and using it sometimes means checking your feelings, your reactions to those feelings, and deciding on which reaction to take based on the most positive projected outcome, even if your feelings are screaming “NOOOO!”
You know that feeling of I Need a Drink? That urge which isn’t even a voice anymore, or a thought, just a phantom-like, ruling impulse?
Reason is what allows the untamed canine of my mind to walk about the neighborhood without barking and snapping and pissing all over everything, mucking it up for everyone.
No, logic. Logic holds me back. I can reason myself into all kinds of stupid things.
But today, reason or logic don’t prompt me to consider any of these things. I haven’t yet created a flag that tells my brain to consider if this criticism is warranted or not, which is fine by me since that means it hasn’t been enough of a problem to warrant flags, at least compared to other problems.
Most likely, I’m just uptight after a long day and need a run and a bath and some dinner, but tight- wound, tightwad me just sees dishes and obstacles and complaints.
My man and I hang out all the time. If anything, we probably spend too much time together, so I don’t know why I’m saying things like, “we don’t hang out anymore,” unless there’s a part of me that thinks this is how I’m going to get what I really want.
I don’t even know what that is 75% of the time.
I’m hard on myself and nagging is my least favorite of the stereotypes attributed to women, or the wifely figure, in a relationship.
But there’s a place for a little nagging sometimes, especially if the end result is the ol’ nag n’ shag. At the same time, I don’t want nagging to become the mechanism by which I garner attention when that’s really all I’m looking for, which I end up discovering in hindsight.
The reason this sits with me today is that when I fuck up, nag, hurt someone, or otherwise enact some kind of damage upon myself or my loved ones or my environment, I have a tendency to think that talking about it or processing it or working it all out is going to make things better.
I was listening to Russel Brand’s Recovery today and he said something like, you can make amends, while I was thinking about all the damage I’d done to myself and others because of alcohol.
You can make amends for the things you have done wrong.
I fear fucking up so badly that amends will not be possible. I don’t want to pick little fights if they are going to add up, for instance, me just being a big nag.
My biggest fear, perhaps, about embarking on an alcohol-free life is that no amount of amends is going to help and maybe this is just the sad state of my life until it’s over.
That is, of course, irrational. Some hurts are temporary. Some are long lasting. The day after this unreasonable declaration, I was all wrapped up in my mind about nagging my man and all the little wrong icky, prickly things I could conjure to fret over, and the fact that I have time to make amends if necessary showed me it wasn’t. The little nag which threatens to become a big problem of ignored threatens to be just as big a problem if handled too much.
I ignored all my instincts to try and fix right away, send a text, a blaming why don’t you message, but all I’m trying to fight is my own shame at having picked an unreasonable fight and now having to wait out the consequences.
My mom being the therapist that she is, I grew up learning how to talk things out, often right away. The problem with this is if you don’t feel the emotional impact of the interaction fully, you’re likely to repeat the mistake again. It’s a human thing.
So instead of feeling the impact of many of my mistakes, I’ve talked my way through or out of them only to make the same mistakes over and over.
It’s alright now to just let that impact be felt. Apologize when the time is right. Move on. Don’t do it again or the consequences get bigger. No judgment or blame. Just know this is a natural law of your human life. Reason and logic are there to allow us to make informed decisions based on our emotional climate.
Then again, if he hated the nagging, we wouldn’t have the ol’nag n’shag.
So maybe my judgment of the nag is the issue here.
I should have figured sobriety would be necessary for me. I kind of figured in high school. I had an aversion to parties, booze, pot that lost me a lot of friends then and later an addiction to those things which would also lose me a lot of friends.
The mere amount of energy I have put into trying to moderate substance use in my life should stand as a testament to the fact that my life would be better without those substances.
Jordan Peterson says to look where you haven’t looked before, where you’re most uncomfortable looking. If what you’re doing isn’t working, do what you haven’t done.
There’s a little loud voice in me that has known sobriety is my next move for so long and the thing that holds me back is this idea of letting something have so much power over me that I must actively shut it out when so many others imbibe and indulge without issue.
The friends I thought were friends were just people whose behavior justified my own.
I didn’t want to admit weakness, but it’s going to take a lot more strength to be sober than it does to drink, so clearly that whole ego trip is just the insidious voice of the addict trying to win.
The metaphor of the devil comes in handy to identify the clear line between the structure of my existential, hopeful self and the addicted Gollum hoping to get his hands on the precious again. I can think of no better representation of addiction and the ways in which addicts justify self-sabotaging behavior.
I didn’t want this to be a sobriety blog because I wasn’t ready.
What makes a person ready to quit?
In most AA groups, I believe the answer is rock bottom. I’ve hit rock bottom a couple times. I see it looming if I do not change my behavior. The addict in me wants to deny this, but she will not win this time.
You decide you’re ready when you decide you will not lose to yourself, to a beverage, to whoever laid trauma down on your impressionable body or psyche, to your pain.
Today, you are a dragon. Rise and burn it all down by walking with your head up and your shoulders squared, with clear vision and kindness. When your life lends itself to destructive behavior, burning it all down looks like being helpful, useful, kind, interactive.
The best part is that if you’re not the kind of person who does this, that’s okay. Addiction goes hand in hand with narcissism. You don’t have to start out by loving yourself.
If you’re like me, you probably think you are a terrible person who is weak, selfish, and can’t understand why she can’t plant two feet on the ground without detonating some kind of self-destruct bomb.
This is also narcissism.
Today, I’m ready to let go of this version of myself. She sucks.
I’m not going to wallow or hate on myself either. I’m just going to start by focusing on one thing I can do better.
Dedicating myself to sobriety today and writing a post here is a start. My personal recovery goal is for better relationships and friendships. My issues with those stem from some serious trust issues which decades of therapy have not fixed at all.
The best way I know to start cultivating trust is to keep your own promises—who can you trust if you don’t trust yourself? So today I will keep my promise to stay sober. I’ll go to work like I’m scheduled to do and I’ll eat some nourishing food.
On days like these, that’s enough. Just let that be enough today.
I’m starting to carry around the justincases…little bits of psychic baggage that are accumulating around a picture of what this life would look like justincase I’m not seeing things correctly.
I do not feel seen.
You know when someone gets you a present and it’s something they would like? And, while the gesture is kind, you want to give it back to them and say, “This definitely looks better on you,”? You know that kind of gift?
I did that yesterday.
We drove to the beach, a campground area that is my new favorite campground and that I imagined driving our family out to in the summer times as we flew down an aspen-lined country road on a sunny afternoon with the windows down.
It felt like Cali again. There’s nothing I like more than a long drive to somewhere beautiful on a sunny day with the windows down followed by a joint on the beach, a swim, a sandwich and a beer. Paradise.
This is what we do, DJ and I. We pick a place on the map, pack our shit and drive. We camp and have adventures. Sometimes when you’re adventuring you find that the adventure is a simple, straightforward thing. That’s rare for us, so when we arrived at the beach yesterday without incident I guess our adventure seemed unadventurous.
I didn’t take a picture of the beach. We’ll be back. Thimbleberries and salmonberries grow in thickets along an estuary separated from the ocean by the road. It’s too early in the season, but thimbleberries bring me back to childhood when the climate in Tahoe was moist enough to bring them to fruition in grandma’s front yard and the lot across the street.
The beach has sand and calls for an evening bonfire to be lit. The forest is wild and green, the trees stretching tall like slow-moving giants. My feet itched to explore. My kids, when or if they come into this world, will know this place. Tiny daisies litter the grass.
This is the second adventure into the wilderness that I am dragging him on in as many weeks. I’m starting to think he adventures with me because I want to, that his part in this is more tolerating than enjoying our outings. I’m starting to remember, too, that this is okay.
There’s something charming about the man who drags his feet behind his woman, complaining. He doesn’t always do this, mind, and it’s no judgement on his character. I complain far more frequently. Hands down.
Not every adventure is going to be adventuresome. Not every day is going to contain enthusiasm or joy. Many do. I laugh much more than I used to. The low days and the valleys are beginning to inform the meaning of my time in more positive ways. Often, I’m finding, those lows are based on a basic inability to communicate my needs, wants, boundaries, or to take proper action that respects those in others.
When we arrive, we walk around a campground that’s taunting, really, since everything is still locked down. We have no firewood, but crave a bonfire and some hot dogs.
The justincases is a term I use for this realm of thought I’ve hardly given credence to, being an extremist and a bit of a xenophobe.
I like when we show up to a beach on a rainy day and lament that we did not plan to stay and camp. I like when it’s uncertain, what we do next, and one must act according to what is best for all involved. When was the last time I consciously did this? Paused and asked, “What is most beneficial and least harmful to those around me? What action means an equal exchange of energy?”
There’s a line between flow and will. It’s a subtle current to navigate.
I’m working on Jordan Peterson’s Self-Authoring program. I’m listening to Russel Brand’s Recovery, and I have a daily practice of listening to Ram Daas, the Tao Te Ching, Upanishads, or some EDM, metal, punk, reggae, rap, Joe Rogan or my friend’s spiritual comedy podcast, PerceptionistsAnonymous.
I’m starting to believe staring at my phone activates the fight or flight part of my brain, that social media is toxic, that I surrounded myself with bad people when I was younger and in turn became a bad person. I am remembering myself again. I lived.
Fuck your social media. I do not care to be social.
I hung out with grimy metal heads with poor values and worse morals. Their only moderately respectable value was loyalty to one another, especially if one of them happened to stick his dick in a chick other than his girlfriend. Gross.
I thought that in order to forgive I had to be able to be in the same room with these people without resentment again. That just amounted to more damage only this time it was my resentment causing shit where there need not be.
Now I see my resentment is over. Those days are in the past.
My perception is flawed because I am still influenced by those pains as though they exist in the present, though they are long gone. When I’m down, it’s clear I am the cause of my own misery now.
We are going to meet DJ’s coworker and her husband. I feel alarm bells and insecurities clanging in my brain making it hard to think and shortening my temper. An imagined reality and jealousy. I want to pick a fight with him about making friends with women.
I want to remember the version of me who trusts. I want to remember the version of me who is open and happy and secure in herself.
I want to remember the version of me who isn’t shallow and worried about the kinds of trips I’ve been tripping over. There’s a me that knows how to be happy. There’s a me who stands with her shoulders squared.
I have been circumambulating, watching this version of me appear and disappear like a carousel horse I’ve been waiting my turn to ride.
So this is the battle. After shedding the old, that long dark night of the soul that was this past winter, I am left with the bare bones of a personality and a fresh, almost innocent awareness of the present. Some yoga and meditation offer me objectivity. A lack of conviction in my perception allows me to question everything. There’s too much to relearn. I did not know trauma was so insidious.
There’s more than one trauma, more than one lesson, and my life has been a snowballing, destructive, pathway of self-avoidance at the expense of others.
Then I set out to heal and it got worse before it got better. Seeing ones faults isn’t easy. Ego deaths can be difficult.
From what I can tell from all these recovery or self-authoring or psychology programs designed to help a person heal from trauma and addiction is that taking responsibility for one’s faults and resentments is the first step.
While it may not be your fault, it is all your responsibility.
No one else has to live with you.
So when I say I want to be the version of me who trusts, I get to choose.
Who is this person? What does she do? How does she trust? How does she trust and keep good boundaries?
I think this looks like believing in the kind of love that is open-hearted, honest and allowing space for that.
My suspicious brain and my rational brain and my emotional brain are constantly at war. I think we all understand this in some way or another. What’s more, I think finding the sweet spot where I am aligned in all of those parts of the brain, where my actions are being taken with intention and belief, that is my aim.
It seems, too, to be the aim of many recovery and spiritual programs—balance.
I am still on this idea of discernment.
Discernment, our ability to choose, is supposedly what separates us from the animals.
What does that mean?
It means we can retrain our instincts, something that becomes especially important after experiencing trauma, even more so when you outgrow those traumas.
It works like this:
He’s ten minutes late.
My rational mind knows he’s at Have a Heart getting weed. My heart knows it too. My instincts switch on to when mom was late to day care which sometime meant hours and I never slept well. My instincts are trained to switch to anxiety. I’ve been cheated on, too, and the kind of walking-on-eggshells glass heart feeling I’ve been carrying around has been the cause for behavior I’m not proud of, mostly rooted in a victim mentality wielded as justification. The dark night of the soul involved seeing my past actions without the veil of victim and realizing how I could have taken more responsibility, made better choices, set better boundaries. And, while the things I experienced are not all my fault, it is my responsibility to deal with them.
So I choose to go to dinner with DJ’s coworker and her husband. My insecurities are screaming at me and the untamed wildling in me that comes out in social situations sometimes surprises me still. I’m afraid of her. I do not understand this part of me. I’m remembering what it’s like to make friends, what kinds of boundaries exist between people like distance and differences of opinion and taste.
I step on toes. I’m opinionated and have generally felt nothing more than a disdainful tolerance for people for the last four years or so. It shows. I tried to fight it too. My heart became all shriveled like a raisin even the sun doesn’t want to touch anymore.
I think my family broke me out of this phase honestly. I wanted to start a family at one point and realized I would not be able to raise a family in that environment…alcohol and cigarettes and poverty. I gave up on the idea. My family has struggled. My family is normal.
Don’t give up.
That I don’t change for no one attitude is stupidity and laziness designed as pride. We all change. We can embrace and shape it. That is discernment. I was stupid. It wasn’t necessarily my fault, but it doesn’t change the fact that my fear blinded me.
I’m learning new skills. This is how to fix your credit. This is how to separate business from personal. This is a dance we’ve all agreed on and just do what you’re supposed to and squander your spare time for all those hobbies and dinner parties. Here’s how you do sobriety: start with kombucha and vitamins. You’ll need some probiotics and antacids. Find ways to occupy your time like building a meal plan maybe or painting your toes.
Here’s how you relax enough to realize this is basically all we’re doing…looking for things to do with our time. Is this why civilization? Did we just get bored and arbitrarily create rules and try to enforce them and build new worlds because we couldn’t just chill?
Civilization is just a game of ego building, the same ego building we do in recovery. Done unconsciously, the ego becomes destructive like mine did. Like ours has. Done consciously, the ego becomes well-trained like that time I recovered from an eating disorder.
Wouldn’t it be cool if people figured out how to change their own minds to overcome their own ego projections and we didn’t need to tell other people how to live because of our own projected ideas of reality colliding?
Then again, where’s the fun in being just a blob consciousness? No conflict, no learning. Friction creates growth. That’s why fucking feels good.
Either way, there’s a choice. Meditation offers the objectivity necessary to choose, I think.
So I’m training my instincts, which are wrong, trauma wrong. This is discernment. I choose to trust. I choose to believe. I choose to be responsible for myself, my own self-esteem. I choose to learn how to make friends, how to observe, how to build new instincts.
It feels like that same screaming wrong feeling of eating when I hadn’t in so long. My body revolted against the rough scratch of cereal and the sun kissed fuckyou! brightness of orange. But I powered through. I ate.
I must see this situation for what it might be and most likely is: an opportunity to be a fully functioning, secure adult with a healthy relationship and friendships.
My trauma brain is like: this is all going to be fucked and it’s going to blow up in your face like it always does and everyone betrays you and waaaa waaa.
There’s a very real possibility of all possibilities.
And it all might get fucked and go wrong again, but I’m honestly tired of worrying what if. That’s not the life I want to live. A what if life.
No more pointing fingers.
This life is mine. This person is me. I take responsibility.
A lot of this cyclothymia deal involves paying attention to what I eat. I don’t worry about calories, but breads, pasta, and processed sugar are things that will make me crash. Sugar makes your blood sugar spike (you guessed it). Simple sugars are digested quickly, offer a burst of energy, and a crash follows. The recommendation is balance. If you get sugars from oats, for instance, the fiber in them will allow for slower digestion and a more moderate, even flow of energy over a longer time without severe mood spikes.
A chocolate bar will make you stoked on life for ten minutes and then maybe the day is a bit grayer for a while. This morning in the shower, I had an onslaught of depression and meaninglessness about half an hour after my donut. I’m trying to enjoy this lovely shower and the sugar crash hits, but I’ve forgotten that I’ve eaten a donut so I just feel like nothing is worth it and why bother out of nowhere.
Meditation is the only way I know of to cultivate the kind of self-awareness that allows for observational experiences of emotions when I’m experiencing intense emotions like hopelessness or anger or jealousy. Observing my emotions objectively after a donut is significantly more difficult than it would be after meditation, in any case.
I should not drink coffee but I love it.
This morning I ate a donut and it fucked up my whole day. Not worth it. The lows I feel from a sugar crash are worse than the come down after a mushroom trip. Come to think of it, so is the crash from alcohol. Nicotine was the worst. Somehow, miraculously, awesomely, I no longer smoke. Thank geode.
Differentiating a sugar crash vs. a crash from an emotional trigger vs. a crash from a current concern that is legitimate and requires attention are compartments I’ve been building for my emotions for a lifetime. As I grow, so must my understanding of where the boundaries of these compartments stand naturally. This seems neurotic to me. I wonder if it’s necessary or even fully true.
I am learning to observe the emotions objectively, sit with them. My fight-or-flight systems are on idle for the first time in a long time. Today the engines were on full bore. I woke up at 5 AM ready to go, made coffee, knit, did some reading, some listening, took the dog on a walk, all before 7.
People are walking closer together, talking on their phones, emerging from storefronts onto busy sidewalks without looking where they are going. The city is coming back to life slowly but surely. The sun makes an appearance now and then. The flowers here are bright and pungent and literally everywhere. Trees I do not know the name of drip with boughs of pink flowers that skittle the sidewalks with little petals in spring. Bold, waxy, serrated, green leaves emerge from these boughs overnight, giving the tree a masculine feel in summer. I think of it as a hermaphrodite.
I think they are crab apples.
These are the thoughts I’m starting to occupy my time with. Appreciate. Enjoy objectively as well as possible.
When I was younger, I drew a lot. Incessantly. I drew the Dragon Ball Z characters on the back of a boy’s shirt in high school, gave him the picture because I didn’t want it (it was a good likeness, but one eye in the drawing was slightly crooked and my neuroticism kicked in) and he asked me on a date the next day.
I drew so much I didn’t understand social cues like giving a boy a picture you drew from the back of his shirt might mean you “like” him. I liked him well enough, but I didn’t “like, like” him. We were a thing for about a week—until he phoned me one night with his buddies on the call to ask what kind of panties I was wearing.
I said “granny,” proudly. I was a prude.
Honestly, I would have been better off staying a bit of a prude. Being made fun of for not wearing a thong when you’re fifteen is rooted in the sentiments of women being useful to men in a purely sexual way. My lack of a desire to respond left me feeling useless in a way I didn’t know how to account for, not having identified much, at that point, with anything beyond music, sports, my wee boo interests, language, food. Ah life before the confusing introduction of the interplay between my own female self and the poor men who would become my unwitting victims.
That makes it sound like I meant to hurt them. Maybe I did. Maybe I distrusted and disliked men after hitting puberty because I was the girls who hung out with all the guys—I was sporty, strong, and pretty reserved by the standards of a lot of girls—so when puberty hit, I lost a lot of my friends. But then, it’s not men I distrusted; if I’m considering puberty the moment I stopped trusting men, it is human nature I distrusted, which explains the control issues and xenophobia, plus the eating disorder if you think about it.
Hitting puberty is like discovering an animal has been living secretly inside since birth, taken over half your brain, and must now be tamed and trained to behave or endured.
Use your intuition just not where it matters. That’s how I was trained. How backwards. I was trained to put my faith in men in such a way that they stood for the other half of me. I was raised with subconscious messages that I was half a person because I didn’t have a dick. Thanks every story about princesses and rag tag princes with tons of character from a company I cannot name because lawsuits, and from a generation that came from generations that treated women like brood mares. Read A Coal Miner’s Daughter. Actually, I think there’s a movie. You can watch it. Better yet don’t. Stay happy.
I have subconsciously been running toward my other half only to discover over and over that approaching a relationship as half a person doesn’t save me from having to find that other half. This half is the part of me that knows the action steps I must take towards becoming actualized as a fully functioning individual in society.
Were generations of women before me treated so piecemeal that none developed for herself a personality beyond the expectations of what that personality should mean? Did we develop in secret? Is this why the madness? Is the madness our gift? Hysteria reign!
Responding to my drawing in such a way that the gift of it felt like a mating exchange, in the most typical sense, is not just rooted in the “usefulness” of women. That’s my SJW talking, wanting some conviction of certainty and some finger of blame to point for hurts about this femaleness I haven’t reconciled.
Creativity is birthed from the same energy as sexual energy. I believe it’s what yogis call Shakti, the force of the divine creatoress, goddess of chaos, symbolically associated in the Jungian archetypal sense with the forces of nature, the unknown, the shadow. Gifting someone with a piece of paper upon which a likeness of something pleasing to them has been formed from the deep recesses of this energy can definitely be construed as both a mating call or a gift. Neither of us was wrong. We were just in a state of exploration of the world, but with different goals in mind.
We were on different pages.
Things like this…these missteps in communication…mark the awkwardness of all my years, not just the early ones.
We are all in a state of innocence and exploration of the world, for none of us has lived this moment, this day, this hour, before. Even if you believe in reincarnation, or multiverses, or whatever, this moment is now, now, now, and gone. Always.
After listening to the most recent interview with Elon Musk on The Joe Rogan Experience, in which Elon Musk talks about neural implants designed to fix all brain abnormalities and which may one day replace the need for verbal communication, I wonder if perhaps implants which create a universal language might be necessary in order to prevent us destroying ourselves. “What we have is a lack of communication,” Musk says (I may be paraphrasing).
But essentially the issue of language as symbolic of ideas becomes nullified as we learn to simply transmit the ideas using neural network implants.
Think of The Big Lebowski and Mod—she uses words like “coitus” and speaks Chinese, while the Dude is…well, he’s the dude. You would think he wouldn’t be able to follow Mod’s hyper intelligent, super rational monologues but he understands what’s up, he just uses a different language.
Same meaning, different dialects. How much time passes in the exchange and the interpretation? How many people judge outright and don’t bother to interpret or see on the same page at all when some patience and intelligence will show similar meaning dressed in different getups.
What awkwardness would a generation without these missteps miss out on? What’s more, what is the nature of the new awkwardnesses they must face? Would empathy even matter anymore?
With access to clear cut ideas, no room for error in communication, what speeds will we accelerate our evolution to? And to what end? Already, we have evolved beyond sustainable proportions relative to time. Perhaps it is this hyper speed we need to right the illimitable wrongs that brought us here to the sixth great extinction.
Is this just a symbolic reflection of what it feels like to turn thirty and realize it’s time to maybe start getting some semblance of an actual life together before it spirals out into a sad flushing of what might have been and what inevitably will become?
At times, I feel like Eowyn from LOTR who replies when asked what she fears, “A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire.”
My perception of my ego is as a cage. I feel trapped in here sometimes.
I read books. I write stories. I take solace in aloneness and creation and quiet.
This is one version of me.
To adapt, we are capable of knowing different facets of ourselves depending on the call of the situation.
To understand one another, we are able to encourage individuality by suspending disbelief, by practicing engaging fiction. The stories of others, the way people think, the secret narratives we tell ourselves about why we do what we do, are all fictional, designed to tailor unlike people into a cooperative, goal-based unit. Businesses, societies, religions, armies. Unified masses win out, historically, but to unify we sacrifice our individuality.
I wonder about this concept in terms of the modern American dream, as well as in terms of relationships.
When you’re in the right relationship, it’s not a question of you or them. You are a unit. I guess that means a good relationship requires some sacrifices of individuality. Not because of men and women but because nature.
It’s the laws of nature we distrust. It’s human nature.
This idea goes somewhat against the “Just be yourself,” euphemism in a general sense, in that the self is not a constant thing. Nor is it static.
The Self is more like a being we bring into focus based on the narrative we project onto the situation. What’s more, we have different layers of narrative capacities.
How many people do you envision yourself as?
I guarantee there are hypocrisies.
I love this.
We fight human nature. We are human beings and yet we put rules and laws and societies in place to organize against nature to perform unnatural things as testaments to skill, in a lunatic drive for comfort, rest, and ease which are states that do occur naturally, although not for controlled periods of time. Nature is a flow state.
You, your ego self, may not want to go into work today for instance. You, your superego, knows that in the long term, a day at work is going to make life much easier for everyone.
We have the ability to switch our narrative to influence willpower.
In the face of sickness or illness, it is most important to maintain a narrative of strength unless you are so afflicted because you have never allowed yourself the surrender, in which case surrender may very well facilitate the healing you seek.
Before a soccer game, I would envision the plays, the game, the players, their moves, the field.
Before work I wake up and try not to envision work until I’m there.
In a strangely backward sense, the only way I’m currently managing my superego is by tricking it into being in the moment as often as possible. Awareness of the inevitable passage of time feels like pressure or misery, neither of which I care to be in now.
This tells me that adapting to my current situation requires slowing down, taking my time.
What’s funny to me is that its in my nature to resist the circumstances in which I find myself, no matter what those circumstances are. Resistance often creates the outcome of that which is being resisted. I relate this fight with myself, a sort of constant self-sabotage, to the previously mentioned idea that human nature necessarily challenges itself through diversity, as Darwin noted about the nature of animals.
We are no different from animals if we cannot abide a human code of conduct. I’m so xenophobic lately, I’d rather identify with an animal some days.
In his book Maps of Meaning, Jordan Peterson talks about how he discovered most of what he said, thought, and believed was not honest, not real, or reflected thoughts that were not his.
He goes about encountering this realization by first rejecting his Christian upbringing as a teenager, finding the story of Genesis could not be supported by science and logic, nor could any story about resurrection or virgin births.
Then, in college, he became an ideological socialist, only to discover that most of the people who supported socialism did little more than offer up complaints, talk about a better world, and did little to take action besides this discussion, a painting of words and enemies in the right wing, conservatives who hoarded their money and rights.
Peterson’s choice to abandon the socialist political party with which he had become aligned was set in stone after he read George Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier in which Orwell states:
This is the section of the book Peterson sums up as saying, “Socialists don’t love the poor, they just hate the rich.”
Peterson’s ideas eventually are such that he rejects all ideologies to the best of his ability, finding the most honest account of something inherently true and collective in (terms of morality) within dreams, much the same way Carl Jung did, and in stories, much the same way Joseph Campbell did.
Peterson draws from his conclusions a method of separating action from ideology in order to identify the contradictions of ideology from the individual framework of nuance in the here and now by rejecting the frameworks which “forged” him, which leads him to discover, arguably, the same Christian and socialist principles he rejected in a more experiential sense by walking away from them in the sentimental sense.
Maps of Meaning is fraught with moral lessons from the Judeo Christian perspective and Peterson is well aware of this. He also is considered a liberal in the classical sense, while many modern far left liberals can be considered Nazis in the vernacular sense. Conservatives too. The theme of this book seems to be finding balance between the paradoxical nature of sentimentality vs experience and where our sublimated unconscious desires play a role in shaping our instincts and individuality.
Orwell also stated in this book that, “This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All of his opinions turn into their opposites at the first brush of reality.”
Duality is the curse and necessity of sanity and consciousness—a curse because one finds that in avoiding what we don’t want we walk straight into it and in aiming for what we do want we walk straight away from it only to find the seed of our efforts blooming in the darkness of all lost hopes.
In The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious, Carl Jung writes:
“There is no consciousness without discrimination of opposites. This is the paternal principle, the Logos, which eternally struggles to extricate itself from the primal warmth and primal darkness of the maternal womb; in a word, from unconsciousness. Divine curiosity yearns to be born and does not shrink from conflict, suffering or sin. Unconsciousness is the primary sin, evil itself, for the Logos. Therefore its first creative act of liberation is matricide, and the spirit that dared all heights and all depths must, as Synesius says, suffer the divine punishment of enchainment on the rocks of Caucasus. Nothing can exist without its opposite; the two were one in the beginning and will be one again in the end. Consciousness can only exist through continual recognition of the unconscious, just as everything that lives must pass through many deaths,” —Jung 178.
In chapter 2 of Maps of Meaning, Peterson talks about this idea of the divine unconscious—the devourer, as feminine and as symbolically represented by nature.
Logos, order, and consciousness are represented by the eternal male.
Both, if gone unattended for too long, become their shadow forms. Nature becomes chaos to the conscious male archetype of knowledge, logic, science. Knowledge becomes limited, stagnant, irrelevant with the passage of time unless reinvigorated by chaos and/or creativity.
What I find interesting is that in the ancient concept of Yin and Yang, creativity is attributed to males. While in modern concepts of yin and yang, including in my dream book (again, based in Jungian symbolism which draws on ancient eastern philosophies) creativity is attributed to the female.
It seems to me that creativity may be one of the AND factors that may allow one to transcend the narrative of duality.
The creative chaos we may bring to this world may necessarily require rejecting some of its mandates for sanity in order to display the merit of those mandates against the stark contrast of what they buffer us against in the natural and subconscious realm.
To do this as an individual appears to mean withdrawal, from shopping, restaurants, technology, business…what presence does this pandemic place us in and what embodiments of your persona have arisen during this time?
I am practicing present moment awareness and discovering how very far away my mind is from my body at any given time…that is, I’m often in the Orwellian realm of the sentimentalist when I’d really prefer to be in the Jungian realm of the discerning, non-binary individual.
Being totally present in one’s individual life, for me anyways, requires negating the general rules by which we collectively operate, at least insofar as they dictate the actions one subconsciously takes.
Say the general rule is to avoid the dark alleyway, but this particular dark alleyway is one down which my teacher has told me there is a magic lamp that will unlock a wonderful future if I can face the darkness.
In general, I wouldn’t go down this alley, but in this circumstance, what looks scary promises something. Nuance is important and relative to the scale of reference or interpretive lens. This is why literacy aids in developing higher cognitive intelligence which we call critical thinking…perhaps what Jesus meant when he spoke of discernment: reading people, reading situations, reading and assessing using emotional and intellectual intelligence necessarily overcomes the dictates of black-and-white, binary thinking.
Collective dictates do not allow for the nuance of individual experience. They are too broad, the individual and her experience too tied to the moment which undoes the all-encompassing nets of sentimental collective categories. If we follow the collective constantly, we never find the lamp in the darkness. If we go into every dark alley looking for a lamp, we become one of the darkness’ inhabitants.
In order to know the meaning of one’s individual experience from the lens of the individual, we must disconnect from the collective to see what “individual” means in contrast to it, otherwise the experience is not an experience at all…it’s a sentiment.
When I was younger, this underdeveloped sentiment arose as an eating disorder. I didn’t know that overcoming duality was what I was trying to do by testing all the limits I took for granted. Testing your limits will show you what a binary thinker you indeed are.
This time, I was a little less hard on myself.
So I quit social media. That has been nothing short of a great breath of fresh air. That echo chamber of grossness is no reasonable reflection of a person or people. What I found was that the people I encounter every day had been infected with my encounters with social media. I perceived these people as those voices in that inter web platform and thought…how strange. I see all these things online, but the people in front of me are normal enough. They have their ulterior motives and goals and dreams, sure, but most people , in practice, are not the assholes we see on social media.
Beneath us, in the under dark of what we want the world to see is the asshole we’ve all tethered down to adhere to the general expectations of being able to tether that asshole down.
Sometimes I confuse the unleashed asshole for a discerning and rebellious individual and later discover they are both the same person. That’s the hard part…owning one’s shadow. just because you don’t always let her out doesn’t mean she doesn’t exist. Respecting our shadowy demons, our alcoholic rangers, our drug-induced euphoric epiphanies and boredom is the key to coexisting with them. Only by knowing, understanding, and respecting the nature of my hated self can I give her room to exist in appropriate ways so she does not become the divine chaotic mother demanding to be unleashed. She need not be repressed…just channeled.
What presence in the now brings the individual is discernment, receptivity, and action in balance with logic and emotion, hopefully. But broad generalizations about what should be based on the opinions generalized by the public take precedence in our individual judgements sometimes, acting as buffers to individual nuance.
Imagine we did not have any cultural stories, but instead encountered all of this life as something new, as children. Can you imagine encountering a giraffe if you were born in the Midwest from this lens of ignorance? No former knowledge of its existence? Is there anywhere in your life you have have been able to proceed into such unknown waters recently?
Today, the world’s books and crannies have been explored, but what of your mind? Your own internal universe? What of consciousness? Unknowns exist within by which we can unearth the power to consciously manifest the courses of our lives, but first there are walls to tear down. Public and collective opinion are the first obstacles.
For instance, Peterson relates a story about encountering a man in a prison who seemed to be the most unassuming of the prisoners, only to find out later the small, unassuming man had made two policeman beg for their lives while digging their own graves before taking it upon himself to shoot them.
The man appeared unassuming to Peterson and to others. He was quite dangerous.
I know someone who says racial slurs all the time but would take a bullet for someone of any color faster than any of my academic cohorts. He’s not an academic. He just likes to get a rise out of people. It’s funny to him. He also is calibrated to the kinds of instincts that demand he do things rightly…by that I mean he takes responsibility for himself, his actions, and his lot in the world, if not always in word, always in action and deed.
In some ways, that’s privilege for him. In other ways, it’s privilege to be able to get offended by words.
In other ways, that debate has nothing to do with me.
Take responsibility for yourself…all the fragmented parts. Learn them, know them.
The horrible part is I always learn about the fragments in hindsight…like oops, there’s that white trash drunk bitch I turned into because 25 isn’t the same as 29 and the lens of my goals has changed my perspective. What’s more, it’s allowed me to see a larger perspective around how poor my choices might have been. What’s more, dwelling on shame will lead to worse outcomes, so we must admit, reconcile, recover, and move on.
Don’t let the shame drown you out. Be brave. Be responsible for all of your goods and bads.
All of us have within ourselves contradictory experiences and beliefs and it’s easy to get caught up in the established contradictions of larger arguments that hold sway in order to feel powerful.
Most of the time, at least nowadays, those arguments alongside which we align ourselves in action, faith, and word have nothing to do with many of us except to bolster our opinion of ourselves and our usefulness to our social groups. This is inherently selfish, self-serving, and also selfless if you are acting in the interest of others. To act in the interest of others is one of my favorite examples of a dualistic paradox. It’s both selfless and self-serving, like love.
The most important question, perhaps then, is how do we align ourselves in thought and in action with who we’d like to become? Only then does joining a cause even mean something beyond wanting to join a cause, beyond the paradox of selfishness and self-serving ness, in that becoming the idea of a person is a fight against ones own baser instincts and closeted skeletons. Although self-serving, facing these also protects the people you love from them.
Similarly, if we are driven by subconscious instincts that have been sublimated by cultural ideals that mean very little to us personally but stand for who we’d like to become socially, what does that mean for the pursuit of love? Are you pursuing what you actually love or what you think you’re supposed to love? I bet at any given time the two are confused and conflated. Life is not black-and-white though we like to think in those terms, oddly enough.
I started having these outbursts at midnight. They occurred when DJ worked overtime. I didn’t realize until he later pointed out that they happen at midnight on the days he works long days that they were left over emotions from old abandonment trauma. Something as simple as being left at day care for too long made me freak out in my thirties. The brain is a a weird place my friends.
From a psychological framework, this looks like, “How do I become actualized or achieve individuation?”
From the lay men’s perspective: “Who am I?”
For the half-assed academic: “How do I take responsibility for my actions when I’m influenced by so many subconscious fears and instincts that I’m not even aware, half the time, of what’s really motivating me? Is that even true? Am I more powerful than I think I am? Can I be better?”
As someone who wrote a stream of consciousness journal online for six months and watched those beliefs change, I wondered about the weirdness of engaging with social media.
A person appears in their picture next to a thing they said by which others identify them and group them into another, larger group that stands for larger ideas.
That’s all great, except if you’re talking about it, it’s probably because you’re not doing shit about it. That’s also great because that person who wrote that thing that’s posted there doesn’t exist anymore. That person has grown and changed and moved on and yet you are engaging with a past version of their ideas. So whatever you see there is you.
Nietsche, for instance, was a person who lived a life and did normal human things, but we don’t know what those actions were which he took to create the philosophies he created. We don’t know what he ate for breakfast or if he jerked off to children crying or anything. We just know his ideas.
And people venerate these ideas despite the fact he was a miserable bipolar poor person who never achieved material satisfaction from his writing.
This is startling to me—both collectively and on an individual level. That we would give credence to someone’s ideas just because they remain known in academic or political or scientific spheres despite the actual quality of their lives or coherence. What’s more, the most outlandish are the ones who bring us the unknown about which we can talk and surmise but into which few dare to travel.
What have we left out in the unknown by grouping ideas and people together in little boxes to avoid the chaos from which our societies have sprung? What castle of sand is built upon knowledge swept beneath the rug for fear of having to expand the mind, to grow, to incorporate that which we don’t know into that which we do?
What I love is how what we know becomes something totally wrong at the drop of a hat, the switching of a lens.
When I decided I wanted to have kids, so many of my actions looked wrong in retrospect, both in how I treated those I love who do have kids (out of my own subconscious fear of becoming a mother) and how I so recklessly treated my body expecting, naively, that I would never change this idea.
Peterson says in chapter 2 that the perspective changes as the goal does. We become different people as we adapt to new goals.
Sometimes, those actions we’ve taken in the past appear reprehensible with new perspective.
The Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how close we are to involuntary change, how easy it would be for this castle made of sand to collapse into the waters of the natural chaos from which we sprung. There is a natural order which we have ignored in many respects. Does it demand respect now? Is this our wake up call to face our shadows?
It makes me wonder about fame and how we let people represent things they may not at all stand for and why we do this.
Why do we negate the passage of time and change?
It was similarly startling to Peterson when he discovered that most of the ideas, thoughts, and words he said were words he’d learned from ideologies and not words he actually believed in.
This is the same realization Peterson came to when he rejected ideology and turned, instead, to the nature of dreams.
This is the same concept Orwell was getting at, I believe when he wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier, “This is the inevitable fate of the sentimentalist. All his opinions change into their opposites at the first brush of reality.”
I think we’re all looking for a taste of that AND factor, the place at which the one thing turns into its opposite is the center point, the balance, the blade’s edge, the red road.
I think, too, that many religions and ideologies seek to communicate this AND factor, only to find its insufferably incommunicable, not only because achieving and maintaining alignment in a balanced state of being in heart mind and body requires navigation of the self through time and space which lends itself to all kinds of tricky situations in which context is key (that is, no generalization really works) but also because the words we use to describe the experiences become placeholders for having to take the actions by which we can become what those words and promises stand for, meaning if we use the words we no longer believe in them.
The act of creating a symbol out of an experience separates us from the reality of the experience.
Me trying to communicate with you via word or picture or video falls terribly short of the actual experience no matter how well I manage to document it.
The truest experience is here now and the consequences of that are so great on a large scale that the best thing I can do in my small world to influence the large scale in my limited capacities to affect change is to be the best I can be to myself and others…like really be that.
Actually DO that.
So where do my words stand as placeholders for my actions?
Six months ago, I was in a similar place that Jordan Peterson claimed to be in his early college days after renouncing ideology altogether.
I was paralyzed…what’s right? What’s wrong? What matters? Why does anything? If everything leads into its opposite why try? Why do we all continue to abide by the rules of a society that venerated greed, selfishness, and environmental destruction? Except that, if everything leads into its opposite, we’re all going to be good as gold here in the damn near future because this is some weird shit.
Probably we’ll be all rich in spirit and really dig being there for each other as the world collapses in flames around us. Won’t it be beautiful?
Or the world will be all gorgeous and awesome and it will damn near (if not totally) wipe us out. Maybe one and then the other. Maybe we’ll rise from our own ashes to find we’re on a weird time loop in which we are visiting our past selves from space as future selves trying to influence the passing of time on such a way as to not end in our own inevitable self-destruction as a species.
Like how the Avengers go back in time to rewrite the history they didn’t like.
Really…who the hell knows?
Know I don’t give a damn.
When it really comes down to it, when faced with insanity, with where is my next meal coming from, with am I going to survive this? When faced with the fight or flight instinct in which the consequence is very much one’s life, people are not their words or their ideologies. They are lucky to be alive.
Some people are living with things I can’t begin to understand. I only know that because of how people do not understand my own thing. It’s super frustrating and can be a thorn around which resentment festers, or it can be the reminder that kindness matters.
Is it really that or is that all I’m focusing on? I’m as guilty of thinking in black-and-white, here-or-there, them-or-me as any racist.
Maybe the AND factor is choice, but then we must be free to choose, and no one is freely choosing to act upon their subconscious inclinations. That is…what you fear is what you act upon whether it be to condemn it or to avoid it.
Will power and intelligence can work to influence the right actions to correct an indirect course, but that’s the best we can do.
Sometimes fate intervenes. Sometimes dreams are realized in a twisted, backwards sense.
We are not in control, but we do have responsibility to control ourselves on a social scale.
These questions of the larger political and economic impact of the sphere in which I exist, while valuable in some ways perhaps in that they manage to keep me in line and out of jail, were doing the same thing that the questions of ideology did for Peterson in his early college days:
They were creating a wall between my knowledge and my experience which hid me from having to embrace self-knowledge.
I didn’t know myself, my impact on the world as I knew it and encountered it, and I certainly didn’t want to see myself, know myself, or love myself, let alone live her.
But taken out of the larger sociopolitical context, when I started to pay attention to the people around me, their thoughts and desires, their actions and wishes, I started to realize that this is the larger world—these people—and “they” are people just like me.
They are people who aren’t all educated by a system that tells them to use specific language, so they wouldn’t know any better. They are people who are as separated from themselves as I was/am.
I don’t know how many people actually say what they mean, act on what they believe, or act rationally on what they believe. I think I, and many others, offer too much credit to the human’s delusion of control over him/her/theirselves.
Our subconscious…the dream world…constitutes the reasoning for most of our actions and we sublimate most of what we don’t want to become or believe in to the subconscious in order to behave appropriately in the collective.
We also live in an environment that is fast paced and has a lot of people operating in fight-or-flight mode most of the time—especially our world leaders. The higher up the economic rungs one climbs, the more responsibility for others.
I wonder, are we collectively meeting our subconscious?
Is this pandemic allowing us to meet what we have ignored in ourselves? In our lives? In human nature?
The access to language with which we dictate the consequences of action is a privileged one.
The access to knowledge containing any respectable nuance requires this access to language.
What’s hilarious to me about Jordan Peterson’s work (I respect the man very much) is that he is an academic. The people his work might serve most, if the idea is to become rich and successful as our Judeo-Christian culture displays through action all the time, are those who don’t have access to the language with which he communicates his ideas.
Peterson was vilified by some, at the start of his famous career (he had a career before fame), as one who supported the alt-right because he was against being told what language he should be allowed to use in addressing trans students and was fired from an academic post for it.
He was against the restriction of language, which is a restriction on individuality and creates room for the government that is supposed to care for us to work against us by inflicting punishment for using the wrong words.
1 in 5 Americans are illiterate. Our prison system is as much a corrupt business (like schools and processes food if you do any research into it at all) as any. Punishment from prison does not mend the behavior…bit it does line pockets. And it keeps dangerous people locked up.
There’s an AND factor we are missing. At least, I was missing it.
Both are valid stories…the corrupt businessman’s and the noble politician, the academic and the racist, the bourgeoise and the socialist.
They are usually one in the same person.
There’s an AND.
Restricting language from a socialist perspective to better the use of language actually undermines the people socialism is trying to protect, which is why Orwell wrote what he wrote and why Peterson condensed that into, “they don’t love the poor; they just hate the rich.” In which case the socialist is the bourgeoise he is against.
We’re all hypocrites though.
The restriction on language itself is one that assumes the man in the kitchen has the same access to your bourgeoisie knowledge as the teacher in the classroom or the educated SJW nazi who thinks that standing for something in word means they also stand for it in deed.
Takes one to know one goes the saying.
“Educate Yourself,” is a saying I hear often and think, yeah! Do that!
Think of the people you know who are uneducated. Ask yourself why they are uneducated. Ask yourself why you do not take it upon yourself to educate them. Maybe we discover not everyone is going to go to college and come to the same conclusions you do.
In which case, maybe your conclusion is wrong. It doesn’t encompass the whole of human experience. It negates. It condemns.
Deed and word are not the same thing.
I knew that when I was told the word of God by people who made me fear the deeds of satan.
Understanding the nature of a person, on the other hand, requires a little more digging, a little more honesty, and a lot more discomfort and accountability on the part of the self.
This primal desires require acknowledgement at one point or another. We either drowned it out with substances, acknowledge and acted upon constructively, or act upon without acknowledgement, often destructively.
Concern with the larger machinations of the world’s political and economic structures when I have no say in them was a waste of time, words, and effort.
I needed to see my deeds and their impact on the scale on which my deeds made impact. And, well, I stood for plenty of things I don’t practice. That’s the hard part of recovery.
I like it, humility. It feels good.
Facing myself and my flaws did not.
As far as I can tell, the AND factor is the idea that most of us aren’t driven by conscious, rational, controlled action at all. We are driven by human nature, much of which we have sublimated into the unconscious for the sake of perpetuating the ideals of a culture that we have outgrown.
The AND factor, I think, is that we don’t even know what motivates our actions most of the time, but we think we do.
Write down your actions every day.
Write down the reason you took that action.
Do this every day and it’s unlikely, still, that you’ll get to the unconscious cause of that action.
Peterson got to the unconscious heart of his desires by rejecting the frameworks that nurtured him: religion, society, ideology.
We discover what drives us by rejecting what drives us.
Try, instead, rejecting everything, only to find you became everything you didn’t want to be.
What’s infuriating is that this is the way, it seems. We are doomed to circle around and around the truth of the chaos that birthed us until returning back to it.
Perhaps the and factor is to forgive, to live, to be kind. We’re all flawed. So what? Let’s be kind to one another, understanding that human nature is not made to bend to the moral machinations of man. Mother Nature calls. We can find a way to tame what’s within or let it destroy us. Either way there will be pain and suffering. I like the idea of being there for one another