Hopefullessness

So there’s a thing I do, and it’s a problem.

If I have time to think, I can stop.  But it’s firm-wired in, and so happens pretty fast.  It goes like this:

I want a thing, let’s say I want to go window shop for feather dusters.  If I’m by myself, there’s no issue.  I go look at feather dusters.  If I’m not alone, but there’s not much going on, I might suggest we look at feather dusters, and then will back down quickly and readily if there is not mutual interest.

Continue reading “Hopefullessness”

Balance

I’m getting better at balancing.  Not good, but better than I’ve been.

The big deal always seems to be that I’m a self-concerned (to put it mildly) person with things that he’d like to do … who wishes to be a good person and was trained (by accident or design) to be willing to sacrifice his own convenience, comfort, or even happiness to forward that of others.  Worse, somewhere I picked up the misapprehension that to do so was a mark of Virtue, and to be sought after.

A moment’s thought reveals the issue with that concept, but for those who are challenged with a moment’s thought:   Continue reading “Balance”

Alternate endings

Life goes like this.  You can’t tell someone what your life is really like, because the only perfect map is a complete model of the terrain.  You’d have to recapitulate the universe to get it right.  So, instead, we pick and choose, and, in the process, we change things.  Always with the intention to mislead, although it might be an intent to mislead in the direction of greater truth, rather than away from that.

We all do that.  Polish the facts just a little, present them in just an order, such that the point we feel should be gleaned gets across.  We don’t try to represent things accurately and objectively, because that isn’t what we are experiencing — we, none of us, live objectively among the phenomenae.  We have reactions.

So.  Stories.  Life.  Now you know.

When one is writing a story (I’m talking about literature now, not the other kind), one gets to decide what happens.  There’s a lot of folk who claim that the story HAD to be written just so, HAD to end a certain way, but really what they mean is the story they wanted to tell had to go like that.  They chose.  Okay, then.

Maybe all stories work like that.  I’m talking life now, and literature both.  Maybe the metaphor bleeds actuality across, and taints and traits of the one are stained on the other through the medium of reality diluted in figures of speech.

Maybe.  I could analyze it for a day or two, consider deeply, draw inferences and pose difficulties.  Or I could just try it and see what happens, gain a data point that might draw a more curve-y curve than a single point might.

A long time ago, 18 months or so, someone commissioned me to make her a picture frame that matched, in pattern and finish, an aged frame she already had.  She purchased wood (a different wood), and stain (which would have colored the new wood opaque tar), and presented them to me with her model, asking me to use the wrong materials and come up with the right frame.

And, hey, I did that, mixing her stain with a bunch of other things (including rusted steel wool) to get just the right overtones in artificial and sunlight.  The patterns for the frame matched.  It was spot-on.  I got $20 for about three weeks of my free time, but I felt okay about that.  Future prices would be haggled a bit, and I wouldn’t let someone else declare the obstacles on the next projects.  I got my $20 and a hug and squees of delight.

A week or so went by.  She reached out to me, saying that the intention for the new frame actually required it to be deeper than we discussed.  It needed to be more of a shadow-box, really.  Could I take an extra piece of the wood, cut it exactly flush to match the frame, and just layer them up and make it deeper, then stain the new wood to match the existing wood that would then, as a whole, match the original frame?

Being an ass, I said I could do that.  Then life exploded, and by and large, I had no wood-working time available to me that was not better spent on something else.  I kept the frame and the stain and the extra wood, and they gathered dust and cursed my leisure time; I would walk into the shop, consider what I’d like to do, and realize I had this obligation on me and I could do nothing else.  I could not complete the work on the frame because I hadn’t the tools to do what was needed correctly.  Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t skip over it.

18 months of that.  When I thought of it, fairly frequently, I considered it a fine example of how lacking in virtue and trustworthiness I was, how useless and in fact detrimental I was to society as a whole, and how I should be sent into the outer darkness to live, unloved and alone, where my failures would not burden others.  It was, I felt, obvious from the problem statement what the conclusions were that should be drawn.

The nice woman eventually asked to have the raw materials and the frame, to the degree it was a frame she needed, returned to her.  I did, and she was nice about it, although she never did say that it was all right that I did not deliver as promised.  I assume she stays up nights, hating me, hurting herself to spite me, finding strangers on sidewalks and in bars and low establishments with diseased patrons and telling them her tale of woe and misuse at my hands.

It is just possible that this is not exactly how her experience of this goes, but it’s what I tell myself when I am trying to be kind to me, to soften the blow that my actions make me so deserve.

That, friends, is the story I would tell you of the picture frame.  It is not a story that makes me happy with myself.  It may be, though, that a different ending could be put to it.

So, let’s try, for the sheer philosophic wonder of it all.

18 months ago, a nice woman commissioned me to make her a frame.  She’d purchased materials for it, and was excited by that, so I agreed to use the materials to let her continue to feel happy.  She and I agreed on the dimensions of the frame specifically, and how it would look, and I went home and made the frame for her, nailing exactly what we’d agreed.

Shortly after, she called back and asked if it was possible, after the work was completed, to make it come out to completely different set of specifications.  I had doubts myself, or perhaps I was just assuming I’d get that done without really thinking through what was involved.  Once thought through, though, I realized I’d gotten into a bigger set of technical problems than I could solve with the materials at hand — what should be done is actually start over.  I didn’t consider that an option though, and sidelined the project for months.

Eventually she tired of waiting, and called to check on her project.  Rather than lead her on, I told her outright that I thought 18 months ample to show I wasn’t going to be able to get to her project, and offered to return it to her.  She had no problem with this; I’d offered to try to make the re-specified version for no further cost, and she got all her materials back.  I returned everything and we parted on a friendly basis.  I even told her that, while I regretted not being able to deliver the new specifications, I mostly regretted not recognizing sooner and tossing my hand in a long time back.  We would both have gone on to other things.

…   …

Both of those versions are exactly true.  I can’t say that I’ve learned anything from the re-telling, but maybe there is something perking in the background that I won’t recognize until later.

Mind, if I tell you about it tomorrow, it’s likely that the story will be somewhat different.

Both versions, of course, will be true.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Taking an instant over the function of a glacial movement

On so many occasions, I have analyzed and determined and enacted, and, in the end, I find that my plans all come to the same thing:  I have a Genius Idea that, given my extraordinary superhuman energy and no new obstacles, cannot fail.

…er.  One of those givens appears to not be as true as I’d like it to be.  Perhaps two.

Typically, the plan is something like “I will rise early each day, grasp my pen in a relaxed yet firm grip and …” which fails for want of sleep, or “Daily I will take a lovely half-hour and …” which fails for unexpected events that call for that time slot, or — stuff like that.  Moreover, there is an inertial mass of multiple views of my life, all with their own obstacles and slants on any given goal, working together as a unit.  We shall refer to this henceforth as Pangestaltic Inertia, neologizing a bit from geologists.

Now, that one I think I can correct for.  But let’s wait.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been in the possession of unaccustomed stability and perspective, brought about by taking a week off of Life and getting lost at 9,200 feet.  Heroically, of course.  I’ve not done anything amazing with this stability, as I wasn’t certain I could maintain it.  It’s a month old now, so I’ll put it to work a bit.

What I discovered when I returned from the heights, was that most of the world staggered along without me.  Badly, but it did stagger.  What’s more, I had no loss of self-esteem for not having been central in the solutions for a week.

That sounds like I could lessen the unexpected events by withdrawing some of myself from other things.  Go back to being an employee instead of pseudo-management and pseudo-savior, for instance.  OK, started that, and things are doing very nicely.  Good.

Last night I borrowed some brain from my darlin’ redhead, and noted that, while the “disengaging” part of the plan was working, that isn’t the same as attaining something.  So I resolved to take some time out during the day (now, for instance) and go attain something.  Re-engaging with things I care about while disengaging from things I don’t.

Good, again.  Good.

But there was that Pangestaltic Inertia waiting for me.  I could see it, had seen it before, I knew how it would be.  I’d get a few minutes with a keyboard and utterly not write.

*sidewise jump for a moment*

So.  These days, I am The Guy at work.  People come up with clever development plans and they don’t work, not at all, and the people get lost and despair.  They come to me, weeping, and I soothe them.  In nearly every case one of two things is paramount as problem:  the person is working from unchecked assumptions or the person is trying to do multiple things at a time.

*jumps back, counter-ways*

I’ve spent a month checking my assumptions, and checking progress on the actions of those assumptions, and so forth.  I’m good, there.  I should disengage from some things, re-engage in others.  So, if Pangestaltic Inertia is still overwhelming, I must be trying to do multiple things at a time, and thereby sabotaging my progress.

Let’s see.  ”I wish to author” [verb usage, there] — when I say that, I initially think I mean “I want to write something.”

Dandy.  So write a brief bit about what I had for breakfast.  No, I really mean “I want to write something interesting”.  Ok, write about — no, I appear to mean “I want to write something interesting that other people will read — and enjoy — and that one of them will want to publish — for money — that will eventually become –”

Oh.  Well, nailed that diagnosis, didn’t I?

So, the list of actions I actually wish to take:

  • Write
  • Be pleased with writing as a process
  • Be pleased with having written [if you don’t think these are discrete elements, you haven’t tried it]
  • Have people read the stuff I wrote
  • Have them enjoy that Outside of my control.  Bad Scott.
  • Evolve my writing to promote others’ enjoyment of reading it
  • Send some of my writing out for consideration
  • Repeat the last two steps for the rest of my life, which will improve the success rate of publication as well as my enjoyment
That’s a lot of steps to do at once.  Glad I noticed.
Today I’ve done the first three steps.  I am sufficiently pleased with myself.  I would like for this to have been fiction, but one makes starts on these things, and traditionally I’ve always started by exposing myself in public.
Consider yourselves flashed.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Oh. Well. Obviously…to everyone else….

If one is being channeled into decisions or values that one doesn’t agree with, that is a form of oppression. If one gives in to this, one’s natural reactions will generally be rage or identification with the oppressor — adopting the oppressor’s values and expectations. Once one is identifying with the oppressor, one’s inner conflict is manifest as dissatisfaction with one’s own qualities, that one is falling short so badly.

…and, if one is constantly urged to not exhibit anger, this is an attempt of the oppressor to make the decision between rage/identification.

Oh.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Disquietus

No lengthy analysis. And no single cause. But.

I am enjoying the opportunities afforded me by a host of others who want things of my behavior. They either want me to do things — “because you want to, not because I tell you to” — or to refrain from doing things — because that’s how I ought to act (if I had their values, not my own).

Then the punishment free and frank exchanges of ideas begins, because I am an utter failure at being what most people want me to be, or even understand me to be.

I’m not entirely certain what, if anything, is appropriate to do in these cases. On the one hand, it seems self-annihilating to feel one set of things and act in an entirely different way based on the expectations or demands of others. On the other, that’s what keeps me from being arrested in civilized society. I imagine there’s some sort of continuum rather than polar states, but I confess that the discrimination to see the gradients eludes me.

I will note here that my expectations of others is that they will behave as they see they ought, and that they will act in their own interests where they can — whether that benefits me or not. My expectations are generally met, and that strikes me as appropriate; I don’t believe that others would benefit from living their lives to suit me (however much they would benefit from my superior judgement).

I’m also not entirely certain how far is appropriate to go to avoid the punis– the exchange of ideas. Obviously I don’t need to welcome them, but do I need to permit the venting? Do I run and hide? Strike back? That last doesn’t suit me; I don’t, in general, see much point to angry confrontation.

Hrmph.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Bats

So. Without anything in the way of explanation, here are some webutiae of the spiritual significance of bats.

From Phylameana:

The bat totem can trigger change or transformation. Its visit can be a warning that change will soon occur and not to be afraid. Sometimes the bat is a symbol for facing ones fears. It can also indicate a time of an awakening because the bat, a nocturnal mammal, awakens in the dark. Its presence can illuminate dark shadows. It can also be a sign of opportunity.

…and from StarStuffs….

Initiation, death-rebirth, changes are taking place which are blessings, facing facts in ones life, fears are always beneficial, trust instincts. Bat tells us it the end one phase of life and the beginning of another. Bat can show how to navigate in the dark and unknown. Soon you will see the world with a new perspective, teaches sensitivity to vibrations around you, navigation, introspection and demonstrates ability of observation and power of meditation and solitude along with ability of working in groups when necessary. Bat shows how to make those important transitions.

…and Shamanic Journeying….

Bat’s wisdom includes shamanic death and rebirth, initiation, viewing past lives, pollination of new ideas, transition, understanding grief, the use of vibrational sound, camouflage, invisibility, ability to observe unseen, secrets. […] Bats help us to release fear and patterns which no longer fits within our pattern of growth.

Bat flying into your life signifies that transformation of the ego self is about to occur, the end of a way of life and the start of another. This transition can be very frightening for many, even just to think about. But you will not grow spiritually until you let go these old parts of you that are NOT NEEDED. Facing the darkness before you will help you find the light in rebirth. The bat gives you the wisdom required to make the appropriate changes for the birthing of your new identity.

If this is your power animal, you would benefit from all types of yogic practices, especially those to do with awakening the kundalini. […]

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Hrm.

Work has been extravagantly furnished with opportunities to excel. That’s a positive spin on “too much to do and no way in hell will it all get done.” I have been failing, daily, to manage the production workload against the quote workload against the support workload against the helping-coworkers workload against taking a deep and shuddering breath.

And, of course, I’ve been house-hunting at the same time, and (this week) signing leases and moving at the same time, which precludes working late to catch up on some of the shortfall. The result is a world of people who want things from me, who aren’t getting what they want, aren’t getting what they get in a timely fashion, and who aren’t getting a chance to believe that things will improve any time soon. This isn’t my fault; we’ve had half our workforce shipped to other departments, and management isn’t fixing it anytime soon. It is, however, my responsibility.

Last Friday that thought gave me pause. I don’t have the power to change the situation, so I cannot be saddled with the responsibility, only the blame. I didn’t provoke the situation, so I cannot be saddled with the responsibility, only the blame. Blame is not something that one has to accept, so I chose not to. I wrote out my workload, and the algorithm that I use to determine what to do next, and showed concisely that, if I continued, the backlog and number of irritated customers would increase. I ended with a statement that I needed managerial guidance on how to change my algorithm to keep within the company’s best interest.

I got back a reply that provided that guidance, give or take. It’s a mistake. But. It isn’t my mistake. It’s how my leader is directing me. I shoved off several hours of work a day to poor souls who are already foundering, and did so with a clear conscience; it isn’t in my ability to manage the managers from below, even for the benefit of the Many.

It’s been a better week. I no longer wake in the wee hours dreading thinking about the next day.

I’m still not writing, I’m still not doing many things I’d like to do. I believe that, while moving and working full time, those are reasonable lacks, but they were lacking before we were moving. I think, I think, I think, that I have been living my entire life the way I had been working up until last week; I have my own load of work to do, and then see that things aren’t being done, and that people working next to me in my life have needs that they can’t meet, and I add all of that to what is rightfully my own load.

Effectively carrying other people’s load, as well.

And falling further behind, day by day, on my own life. Further behind on writing. On getting enough sleep. On being happy.

*looks impressed* This analogy thing, it’s pretty useful stuff.

I am, of course, my own Manager in my life, so I need to write me a nice email asking for guidance in prioritizing my life. I think it will need to include “sometimes do things even when those around you don’t want to, or are tired, or have conflicting needs.” Historically, I’m not good at that, but I have just had a demonstration that the results are good, and that I will be happier afterwards.

And we’ll see.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Puritan Work Ethic

For a change, this is short.

Like this:  without ever having it spelled out in so many words, I was brought up to believe that doing good things was a Good Thing.  I extrapolated from this in the simplistic sophistication that children bring to philosophy; if I do good things, I’m good.  If I do bad things, I’m bad.  If I fail to do good things, which am I?  At best neutral, at worst bad, probably not good, because we’ve defined good as “having done good things.”

Y’okay.  Pretty simplistic, and failing to take other things into account, like ability, cost, circumstance, responsibility, responsibility to be happy and fulfilled…simple.  For a kid, it worked.  If it works, I don’t fix it.  And, being me, I took things to their extremes.  After all, if it is good to do Good Things, it will be better to do more Good Things…and if I don’t do Good Things, I won’t be a good person.

Hellooooo John Calvin.  I had, by accident, fallen into the premise of Virtue by Works, with the implied corollary that if I fail to provide Works, I fail to have Virtue.  No Salvation, to Worth, no Love.  No worth or love, either.  Implied in this is the concept of “total depravity”, which isn’t nearly the fun the name indicates.  Basically, it is the notion that we are inherently sinful and without value unless we do Works.

  1. I am a valuable person only if I am useful to others
  2. I am only loveable if I provide value to others
  3. I have no inherent worth, only derived worth
  4. I am inherently corrupt (well, that’s true, but I work at it, too) and worthless and unloveable

Wow.  I’m pretty sure that most of that is either wrong or is based on false assumptions.  #1 is false; I can have value to me without being useful to anyone else.  I can have value because they like me and feel better when I’m around.  #2 presumes that my being loved is in my control.  It isn’t.  People love who they love.  Given time and diligent effort I might convince someone to stop loving me, but it would be just that; convincing.  And, if they don’t love me, I can’t get them to do so by Works.  #3, I suppose, is just a restatement of #1.

#4 is what I say to myself when I am overburdened and depressed thereby.  I’m not accomplishing all that is set before me, therefore I am useless.

Which means that, if I am burdened to the point of failure at work, I determine that, by my failure, I am useless.

If I am fraught and tired and depressed because I am stupid and think I’m useless because of work, and I don’t write, I am further useless.  Not because I didn’t do something I enjoy doing, but because I didn’t Accomplish Things.

I am determining my happiness by my value to other people. No wonder I frequently fall short on my own best interests; they aren’t even on the list, except that they matter to those who love me.

Cotton Mather, you were a horse’s ass.  I can tell by your works.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry

Werner Heisenberg was here — or maybe he wasn’t

The artist is, frenzied, pacing back and forth.  Piles of torn hair litter the floor, and there is a look to his eye that would send sane men skittering back.  A bit of white froth is at his lip.

I seem to be stressed.

There’s reason, of course — everyone has reason for what they do, however unreasonable it might be.  Mine are, generally, internally coherent.  That’s not happenstance.  I spend a major portion of my energy keeping an analytical eye on myself, checking things over and making certain I’ve not skipped my tracks.

I spend, in fact, what the philosophers call a buttload of time navel-gazing.

And there, the rub.

Backing up a bit:  I seem to be stressed.  There are many changes in my life just now.  We are about to move, about to take on roommates, about to make add some changes to how we treat money, budgetary changes, income changes.  There have been changes thrust upon us; both our workplaces have experienced upheaval.
Both of us are carrying greater load at work than we can manage, and more is coming.

That’s a lot of change.  Change — good or bad — produces stress.

Stress produces reaction.  Reaction, in me, produces spot-checks on my behaviors and thoughts.  The spot-checks produce careful analysis, which, in the end, will produce a shift in paradigm and my behaviors.

Again, I do this pretty much all the time.  I’m wrought, I look myself over, consider if my internal landscape needs modifying, and then do so.  A habit, it seems to me, that will continue to refine my decisions and behaviors, leading eventually to Buddha.

Part of the process, for me, is to challenge the base assumptions for fault.  This morning I was raking through the previous day, looking for ways to improve things.  I noted that I was doing so, and noted that, since there have been stressors, I was doing this rather more than usual, there being more opportunity and perceived need.

But I was in self-analysis and challenge-the-base-premise mode, so I pursued the thought.

Change begets stress, stress begets behaviors and emotions, which beget spot-checking which begets personal change –

–which begets stress, stress begets –

– oh, hell.  The more that happens, the more I am unbalanced, the more I think, the more happens.  I am perpetual energy.

My CBT is a mental disorder.

Crossposted from Epinephrine & Sophistry