Tag: self (page 1 of 7)

Moving On from 2017

So, 2017 is finally behind us. Or, at time of writing, it’s about to be.

What a relief, right?

The year seemed incredibly long. News and events that occurred around Halloween or Thanksgiving feel like they happened years ago. It was exhausting, seeing the world get yanked unwillingly into a downward spiral perpetuated by a resurgent nationalist would-be oligarchy. Aspiring autocrats vied for power, and thankfully, the world fought back. Make no mistake, we are at war, with the stakes being the very future of our species. We have concerns that need addressing such as poverty, hunger, and climate change, but the unfortunate truth is that we can’t fully tackle those until we get rid of the power-hungry ignorant obstructionists.

2018, thankfully, holds the promise of us being able to do so. 2017 was a wake-up call, a year-long trial by fire in which common folk were called upon to rise up in the face of a new form of subversive, diabolical ambition. This may be less true for the world outside of the United States, but given the world-wide influence of the nation in which I live, it’s been difficult for me to see the rest of the world outside of the impact our current lackluster leadership is having. We’re in trouble, over here; we’ve tried to balance the bluster from our so-called representatives with a clarion call for help.

I spent a lot of 2017 wishing I could do more. I spent the first few months of the year focused tightly on self-examination: what I could change, what I needed to cultivate within myself, which parts of myself I needed to discard. As the year progressed, my attention grew more and more outward, being active in lending my voice to the resistance, and keeping my heart and mind open. It was hard at times, exhausting at others. I finally concluded that the start-up life was not for me, and in another instance of re-inventing myself, dedicated my time while unemployed to changing the focus of my dayjob career and trying to finish a manuscript that I’m eager to share with the world.

It wasn’t all trials and tribulations, to be sure. I rediscovered my deep love for Dungeons & Dragons. I made some new friends, and learned to appreciated quality over quantity for people in my life. I returned to therapy and balanced medication with meditation and writing. I took more measured, thoughtful chances, and was rewarded in wonderful ways. And I never, ever, ever gave up.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do not believe in the no-win scenario. It can be difficult to see, clouded by the tumult of the world and rampaging egos of others, but there is always a way forward. Where there is life, there is hope, a chance for a better tomorrow. Leaving one’s heart open to possibilities isn’t easy in this world. People will exploit such sentiment, leverage feelings, manipulate one’s mind and perceptions. But without an open heart, one cannot find some of the greatest things this life has to offer — progress, reconciliation, self-discovery, courage, and love.

I’m still percolating my thoughts on The Last Jedi, but among many other things, the film illustrates not only many ways in which people can fail (at times spectacularly), but how we can learn from our mistakes, and turn the outcome of our flaws into steps towards a better tomorrow. It’s a lesson we all need to learn sooner or later; for me, I could have learned it sooner, but now that I have it in mind, tomorrow cannot help but be better than all of my yesterdays.

I had allies in my journey forward, friends and family and loved ones. To them I say: thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. I did all of this for myself, as much under my own power as possible, but it would be uncharitable to say that I could have done so much without your love and support.

They say the best revenge is living well, and to be entirely honest, I’m going to keep living as well as I can, if only to spite my demons and failures and head weasels.

And, of course, I’m going to write as much and as often as I can. I have unfinished work that it worth writing, worth reading, worth sharing. Everything from unsent letters to that manuscript. I want to see what I can do when I really buckle down and make the words happen.

Thanks for sticking around; if nothing else, thanks for reading all of this.

See you in 2018.

No Pity

Courtesy Adult Swim

Good media doesn’t just entertain. It invites us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our world. It shows us things that can change, or need to change. And, sometimes, it points the way to the tools required to make that change, to be that change.

Take Rick & Morty. In the midst of all of the cruel cutting humor and Cronenbergian body horror, there are moments of true introspection and insight. “Pickle Rick” provided wonderful for-and-against arguments regarding therapy. We’re seeing Morty grow and change, standing up to Rick more often and seizing opportunities to be his own person. And now, in “The Wirly Dirly Conspiracy”, we more closely Jerry, the sad sack that exists mostly as a punching bag, a savage take on the typical “everyman” character, and the unwitting catalyst for the family problems that are just as important to the storylines as Rick’s alcohol-fueled mad science.

“You act like prey, but you’re a predator. You use pity to lure in your victims. It’s how you survive.” – Rick, to Jerry

Maybe it’s just me, but I had to pause the episode, step away, and take a long moment to think about myself, my past behaviors, and the changes I’ve made.

At some point when I was very young, I developed a titanic guilt complex. I would be extraordinarily hard on myself. I would emotionally (and, at times, physically) beat myself up, punish myself, for making a mistake. I think that part of my motivation for doing so was that if I punished myself hard enough, other punishments would pale in comparison.

Another part was that if I was outwardly hard on myself enough, others would take it easy.

I, too, preyed on pity.

Writing that out is at once damning and freeing. It’s something of which I am deeply ashamed. I am struggling to put into words just how insidiously toxic such behavior can be. I think about my past behaviors and actions, impulsive decisions I made; the knowledge that those choices hurt people I love, respect, and care about hurts.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about those things I did. That I don’t turn the evidence over in my hand and look for things to correct and change. There isn’t a day that passes where I don’t admit to myself how afraid I was of being abandoned should these things come to light — and how much I still fear.

Courtesy HBO

Fear is no excuse. There is no excuse.

I cannot take pity on myself any more than I should expect others to have pity on me. The things inside of me that served as the roots sprouting that poison fruit are not excuses. They are explanations. When a tree in your garden is rotten, you have to deal with it, before it lays waste to everything. You salvage what seeds you can. Then, you cut it down. You burn it.

You plant anew and you move on.

I’m still hard on myself. I still examine myself more closely and more exactingly than I do those around me. But that is because I am still growing, still changing. I do wish, deep down, that those who were affected by my actions could see — maybe even appreciate — the changes I’ve made and the ones I’m still making.

However, the only validation that truly matters is the validation I find and give to myself.

Other people will always think how they wish to think, feel how they wish to feel. For whatever their reasons, the way they look at me is something beyond my control. It doesn’t matter if they choose to be “on my side” or not. All I can do is show up as the best version of myself I can muster, own my mistakes in the name of doing better, and be present for people I want to be present for me. How they deal with that is up to them.

They cannot and should not have pity on me. Neither can I.

I will talk about how I think and how I feel. There are others in the world who fight similar battles against depression, anxiety, PTSD, all sorts of head weasels that clamor and screech for attention. It is my hope that being open and honest and up-front about these things can inspire others, or at least reassure them that they are not alone. In the past, that would not have been my motivation. But that is what it is now.

The line between asking for help and begging for attention or pity can be a fine one. And if you’ve done the latter in the past as I have, there are those who may not believe that you are engaging in the former.

Look within yourself. Do whatever you can to remain on the side of the line that will lead to you changing and growing. Distance yourself from the people and things that would drag you to the other side.

This is not easy. For me, it is one of the most difficult things to admit about myself and one of the hardest changes I’ve made.

And I am never, ever going back.

There is no pity in my soul’s city.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

The Lonely Road to “Better”

Courtesy Warner Brs.

I have a confession to make. I don’t always fully disclose what I’m thinking or how I’m feeling. It’s not that I intend to engage in deception, obfuscation, or lies of omission. In my mind, I consider other issues far more important than something that occupies the entirety of a single head weasel’s diatribe. When it comes to therapy, I drill down below the layer of the feelings to general, foundational matters that could be holding them up. With others, I take the opportunity to shift my focus from something that refuses to change to something I feel I can change, and ask for help with it.

The fact is, the more I tread this road of getting better, the more I realize how lonely it is.

This is ongoing work, and precision work at that. When it comes to my own heart and mind, who is more qualified than myself to hold the metaphorical scalpel? Time and again, I’ve probed into the dark corners of my shadow, finding behaviors that have impeded me, or that even have informed toxic behaviors. I’ve cut them out like cancers. I try not to feel diminished by this, but liberated, because just like not every child is special, not every part of the self is good or valuable. Certainly, these aspects of ourselves have things to teach us; unfortunately, some of those lessons are learned in very hard ways.

Especially when we’re called on those problematic aspects by others. Or, worse, when aspects that need to be lovingly touched upon for healthy healing are instead exploited for the gain of others through shaming and emotional violence. But that is a discussion for another time.

No matter how we are made aware of what is required for us to get better, the realization can trip us up, perhaps even cripple us for a time. Anxiety over the past and present overwhelm us, attack us. Grief and self-recrimination join forces, twisting knives in our hearts and tying our innards in nauseating knots. We retreat, we hide ourselves away, we grief and we shudder and we cry.

We are not okay. And that, in and of itself, is okay.

I wouldn’t be where I am, able to articulate this, if I hadn’t spend a good amount of time not being okay. I’d visited that place repeatedly, falling almost immediately into suicidal despair, only arresting myself and getting the most direct and scorched-earth type of help I could. Doing this got me accused of “attention seeking”; all I wanted was some fucking help, right the fuck now. I wasn’t okay. I wanted to be okay. I wanted to get better.

I didn’t want attention for it. I had to do it alone. And I expected to. I didn’t want to. But, on some level, I knew I had to.

At one crucial point, it became clear that the lonely road, and hard days of walking it, were my only real option. To say nothing to the outside world, to share nothing of the walk along that road, to make my focus getting better. I was alone in my grief, isolated in my anxiety. I could, and did, get help when and where I could, in person and from professionals, out of public view. I wanted to get better for myself, not for the sake of any public perception.

When, in a recent discussion, the subject of ‘being on my side’ came up, I said this:

I’m not going to say anything calculated to get you on my side. All I care about is showing up, in this moment, in the best possible way I can. People can make their own judgments.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out that I don’t have to live up to anybody else’s standards. Sure, in a working environment, standards must be met if I wish to remain employed. But in my personal life, on personal projects, the only required standards are my own. To be honest, I think a lot of the blame that’s been placed on my shoulders for things past came from my personal standards being so low and secondary to the standards of others. When others became aware of the fact that I prioritized their standards over my own, it became easier for them to shirk personal responsibility and push the causes for discord solely onto my shoulders. This isn’t to say I had no part in the course of events; indeed, I’ve had to look back critically to find which of my former behaviors pushed events in one direction or another. I’ve accepted that it’s what happened, I own the things I did wrong, and I’m working, constantly, to get better in that and many other regards.

I’ve had to let go of how others see me, of wanting so badly to be accepted, welcomed, loved by others. I’ve had to learn how to love myself, to care enough about myself to want to correct myself, shape myself into a version that meets higher standards that I alone set, to be a better self. It’s been difficult. It’s been heartbreaking.

It’s been lonely.

I’ve worked to get past the public shame. I’ve worked to define myself, by myself, for myself. I’ve worked to get fucking better.

And I’m not done yet.

I’ll still get anxious. I’ll still get nauseous. I’ll still be haunted by memories, sidelined by grief, temporarily crippled by heartbreak. Some things, some people, we simply do not get over.

I am not going to let that stop me.

Neither should you.

There’s an aspect of each of our selves that we’ve picked up along the way, through informed behaviors of others or the endemic troubles of society around us. It’s up to us to push those aspects away, put them down, walk away from them, let them wither and die. That is how we move forward. That is how we meet higher standards for ourselves. That is how we get better.

It’s not selfish for us to do this for ourselves. It’s necessary if we want to survive.

And we shouldn’t, for a single instant, feel guilty that we’ve torn ourselves apart, thrown away and destroyed that which has held us back, and put ourselves back together.

It’s a hard road. A lonely road.

For my part, it’s the only one worth walking.

And when it comes to those parts that were in the way of me finally getting better, when I give them a face and a name, and I cut them free of who I was, away from who I want to be…

I’m really, really glad they’re fucking dead.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

Not The Same

While finding my groove with the new gig, and making plans to return more prominently to the Internet, I’ve been reconnecting with some of the music of my younger years. I’ve always loved Dave Grohl and his bands, especially the Foo Fighters — hence the pin I wear on my overcoat, right next to my Safety Pin and under “America Is Not The World.” Partnering with an audiophile and general music wyzard has brought Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, and Audioslave back into my life in a big way (also, you know, Seattle), and has introduced me to Big Wreck. Assembling a station on Pandora — which you can listen to here — has also reminded me of one of the seminal yet forgotten bands of my youth: Days of the New.

At the time, I was a bit less fully self-aware, and Days of the New was good stuff, but not quite in the same vein as Creed or Evanescence. While bands of that ilk have faded as my tastes and perceptions have grown and expanded, Days of the New comes back and strikes resonating chords. The vocals of Travis Meeks sit very comfortably in my range, which is always a plus, But the lyrics are what hitting those strings within me. There’s something simplistic about it, something raw and real, unfettered by artifice or hyperbole.

One song that keeps coming up is “Not The Same“, and… well, duh.

If you know me at all, if you’ve been paying attention, it should be obvious that I’m not the same. Sure, at this time last year I was trying to be more self-aware, more constructive, more this version of myself, but there was a piece missing. I wasn’t motivated to do it solely for my own good. I was doing it, if I’m honest, for the benefit of others.

Oddly enough, it was the behavior of others that made this clear, and I once again had to change.

There’s some sentiment out there that talks about not changing who you are. Songs have been written about it. About not letting the world or other people change you. And there’s some truth to that. However, if I hadn’t taken it upon myself to change myself, I would not be where I am now. And, as a direct result of these efforts, I am not the same.

Two years ago I was blinded by various distractions, misconceptions, perceptions, and unacknowledged fears and issues. That left me open to be blindsided by drama and truths that had to be addressed. It kept me from being honest.

Last year I was broken, trying to put myself back together, and overly reliant on others to help me do it. That left me open to be exploited and, subsequently, discarded; to be tossed about with my hands off of the wheel until the shifting winds and waves threw me out to sink or swim, with little in terms of a lifeline in sight. It kept me from acknowledging and cultivating my own strength and worth.

This year? This year, I am not the same.

And anybody who thinks I am is a fucking idiot.

I was asked the other day who I’m writing this sort of thing for. If I’m directing this rhetoric at individuals in particular, in some misguided hope I can change others. The truth is, if someone sees this, and as a result sees me differently, that’s great! I won’t deny that I maintain a glimmer of hope that being this vocal and this open and this persistent in telling my side of the story can put in stark relief the selfish wants and callous gaslighting of others.

But when you get right down to it, I’m telling my story because I’m sick and tired of holding my tongue when it comes to driving my own narrative. I’m taking the pen back from others who’ve held it. Around this time last year, I put out some kind of weak-ass bullshit about “hey, it’s okay if you need to see me as a villain, that’s fine, if it helps you heal I’m all for it” and so on and so forth.

Fuck that.

I’m not the same. I refuse to let myself fall back into those old patterns, those useless ways of thinking. And if some trifling, myopic people want to try and write me into a corner where that is all I do, it’s in my best interest as a human being capable of change and worthy of love and respect to snatch the pen from their hands and say “No. You do not get to dehumanize me in this way. Look to your own life and the ways you can make it better without making the lives around you worse.”

It isn’t easy. I still struggle with things. I can have a learned behavior kick in as a reaction to a situation that’s no longer relevant, or as a habit that I need to change. And while the results of such things are not okay, the fact that I want to change these things is okay. It’s better than okay. It’s what defines someone who is doing their utmost to act like a gorram adult.

I’m not the same.

Thank every single star in the sky for that.

Tuesdays are for telling my story.

Seriously, fuck off with your weak-ass bullshit, you bunch of trifling-ass bitches.

500 Words On Failure Rate

not a clever man

It might seem to the outside observer, who only keeps track of me through this blog — and I do believe there are a few — that the last couple weeks have seen me sitting around doing nothing but play Star Trek Online (which I do every night, no YOU’RE the one with the problem) and eat vegan bonbons. The thing is, though, I’ve been very busy. I have a new dayjob that includes a hellish daily commute, which is a problem that will solve itself once I can telecommute, and my drastically increased income has brought along with it a greater proportion of my home life’s responsibilities, the combination of which occupies the bulk of my time. While I do carve out time for writing, thinking about writing, and doing research for writing, there’s an unseen factor that some may not take into consideration: many of my projects fail before they even see the end of a first draft.

It’s not just because I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and also a bit of a magpie in terms of attention span. There’s also the fact that I can start a project, get well into it, then realize that it’s a bad idea. I set out towards a goal and get lost along the way. I end up in a bad place. I look back upon my work and say to myself “I am not a clever man.”

This is an over-simplification, of course. Having the wherewithal to exercise self-awareness to the point of realizing the flaws in one’s own work indicates a base level of cleverness. But I digress.

This failure rate is due in part to ill-defined scope — I have an idea and can visualize key moments but there’s no connective tissue or narrative flow — and an over-abundance of self-interest — characters and situations that resonate too much with people and events from the real world. While we write what we know, to write based on experiences to the point that direct parallels can be drawn feels, to me, a bit self-indulgent. It’s cathartic, sure, but not everybody is interested in seeing me work out my problems in publicly available prose.

So, into the bin it goes. Either I turn to a new page in my writing notebook, or I leave the draft to sit incomplete and ignored somewhere on the cloud before I eventually mine it for ideas in a better story, or just delete it entirely. This can also happen mid-project: there’s a reason I haven’t recorded a vlog in a while. The format wasn’t great and my delivery needed tons of work. I also wasn’t terribly confident and, as mentioned above, a little self-indulgent. Not my cleverest work.

Still, you can’t get a gem without hacking it out of rock. Alchemy happens with fire, patience, and destruction of imperfections. You have to dice your veggies before you add them to the scramble. So on and so forth.

I’m still here, still working, still being awesome.

Despite my failures.

On Fridays I write 500 words.

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