Labels

Our dependence on labels is killing us, figuratively and literally.

“Flyover states”. “Coastal elites”. “Country hicks”. “Urban war-zones”.

When we fail to see our dependence on labels, when we dehumanize someone and divest them of the totality of their life experience and their worth through arbitrary categorization, we in-turn dehumanize ourselves. We let tribalism and fear rule our interactions in lieu of humanity and reason.

Reason is the sum-total of humanity’s evolution to-date. Reasoning grants us vision, but without empathy it remains cold logic. For progress to continue, we must come to understand that reason, empathy, and ultimately love are inextricably linked.

We deserve to exist beyond our labels, completely visible in our totality. We deserve to stand at our full heights, arms wide and eyes fixed upon the horizon.

We all deserve more than the sum of fear—which is no sum at all.

We deserve to be more than our labels, as does the rest of the world. If we can start by dismissing our labels and peering beyond them, even just a little, we will have shifted our perspectives. And maybe—just maybe, that’s what we all need.

Autumn

It’s the end of summer. I can feel the days getting shorter. The darkness at night at this latitude is both isolating and soothing. I think I’m becoming more okay with being myself. I feel less anxious walking down the street. I can look strangers in the eyes and smile at them. The gulf between my chin and my chest grows and feels more “normal” with each passing day.

I’m able to let things go in ways that I wasn’t able to before. A constant stream of questions keeps entering my thoughts when I get stressed out: “Will this matter in an hour? What about a day? A week? A month?” When the answers present themselves, I’m not just looking outward at the frustration. I turn inward. Reflective. Why was I frustrated to begin with? Was it because I was projecting my expectations on someone? Most of the time, it’s my expectations getting in the way of just letting the person be who they are. An overriding need to “fix” people or situations would wind-up blowing-up in my face. I’m finding it easier to offer moral support and ask for permission to give advice than to be prescriptive.

I’m figuring out ways to let people be themselves—and that includes me. Rather than being so focused on other people’s perceptions, I’m re-learning how to be me. I’m busy again with the work of loving who I am as opposed to trying to appeal to others. Either people will like me or they won’t. To quote one of my favorite books, “The Rock Warrior’s Way”:

“A warrior is a realist. He realizes that, in an absolute and external sense, he is no more or less valuable than any other human being. Outside factors, such as other people’s opinions, change capriciously in response to complex agendas. They are not reliable sources of self-worth because they are here one day and gone the next. A warrior knows that the functional, day-to-day value of life and of acts must be decided personally, internally.”

I am having to learn and re-learn that the ultimate measure of my life isn’t the length or depth, but the width of it. If I am living from a place of joy, of contentment, and I am able to be myself without compromise or negativity of belief, then I am living as fully as I am able to. So much time spent on trying to feel as though I am complete, never quite “making it”. Because I never felt as though I was enough. That I would never be “enough”. That there wasn’t anything I could do to be enough. Figuring that out has been problematic and painful, but day-by-day it’s becoming easier.

Proving Worth

Proving your worth is more than about statistics.

It’s about believing. It’s about delivering the beef. It’s about the positive difference that your contribution provides.

If your only claim-to-fame within the circles you travel in are the number of problems you solve, the size of deals you close, or the number of friends or connections you have, then you’re in it for all the wrong reasons.

If you’re not giving the game-changing performance that you know the effort deserves, then why bother in the first place?

Impact

I remembered a quote from The Hobbit earlier this evening that I had the hardest time ignoring. The quote came from Gandalf speaking to Lady Galadriel regarding his choice of Bilbo Baggins to follow the dwarves adventuring company to The Lonely Mountain, and it spoke of small deeds holding back the darkness where great power has failed.

Sarumon believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.

What hit me the hardest was remembering my own personal struggles as of late and realizing that I have been fighting these battles all on my own without reason. As if sheer force of will could overcome these tremendous obstacles and simply smooth them all over. I have been realizing more and more lately that the more I open myself up, that I accept my feelings and the situation for what it is rather than my expectation of what it should be. When my ego gets out of the way and I realize that I am not the only one involved, that our collective small deeds are working to solve the problems, then those obstacles seem much more manageable.
Just stinks that it’s taken me this long to start figuring this stuff out.

Journal Entry, March 03, 2013

Journal Entry for March 3rd, 2013

10:15PM EST, Arlington, MA

I can’t sleep yet, but the silence in the house is helping me think and helping me to more fully cycle through the thoughts I have swirling around in my head.  It feels like it’s been an eternity since I’ve been able to even think straight since I’ve been dealing with problems on multiple fronts.  In full-disclosure, if it isn’t already pretty apparent that I have and continue to suffer from bouts of depression and sleep deprivation then consider yourself informed.  I suffer from both, and admitting it openly feels like what I imagine taking the first breath after being in a coma would feel like.  I feel like a tremendous weight is off of my chest, but at the same time, I feel it everywhere else in my body.  I constantly feel tired, I am often in fearful retrospection of what I just said or did a minute ago, and I often find myself wondering if I shouldn’t just dive out of the nearest window and just get it all over-with.  But, realizing that those thoughts and sensations are fear-responses and implicit examples of the low self-esteem I have made manifest has probably been the single most important thing I have done for myself in the last several years.

As of this writing, I have agenda items for myself to talk to my doctor about my poor sleep and to also try and get a referral to a therapist to talk about my psychological problems.  I have to keep telling myself, “This isn’t the time for silence.”  And yet, all that I find myself wanting to do is to shut-down and withdraw from the world.  I have to keep fighting that.

Spent most of the day at home doing “productive” things like laundry and cleaning.  I still feel like I didn’t get much done, but the essentials got taken care of.  I don’t understand the way my mind works sometimes, but I am appreciative of the fact that my boyfriend is infinitely patient with me and my occasional confusion-induced tantrums.  There isn’t a single person on the planet I wish I could please more or do more for than him, and that’s saying a lot seeing as how most of the time I generally want to be left alone.  Leave me with what I have and a steady form of income and I will roam the Earth in quiet, simple contentment.  But embroil me in mental conundrums not of my own making that are impossible to overcome on my own and I become someone else entirely: a person that is easily angered, quickly exhausted, and better left alone.  It’s been a long few months, and an even longer span of time to get to where I am now, I’m just thankful I have someone as stubborn as me to kick me in the shins when I need it.

Finally got my truck title in the mail, which means I officially have a $5,000 asset in my possession.  Feels good knowing that I have some financial backing in the form of an asset along with a slowly-growing savings account now, and that I am inching closer to my goal of having a couple dozen grand in the bank in the next few years.  By the time I am 30, I want to have at least $25,000 in the bank and be in a position to where if I wanted to take time off and travel the world, I could.  Right now, I only have designs on maintaining my current position of employment until my shares become available and I can purchase them outright, giving me a lot more capital to work with and a lot more leeway to live my life on my own terms… whatever that means when I turn 30.  If that means buying a plot of land on the side of a lonely mountain somewhere in Washington or Colorado, then so be it.  If it means becoming permanently “homeless” and traveling the world indefinitely, I could think of a great deal worse ways to live my life.  But for now, the focus is on a stable financial base and getting fit.

I signed-up for a CrossFit class that will run Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursday nights from 6:00pm – 7:30PM starting on the 11th.  I’ve got designs on increasing my lifting capacity and potentially competing in a climbing competition or two either in late 2013 or in early 2014 if I can increase my bouldering grade a few levels in the intervening time.  But, that will all depend on whether or not I can either drop weight or increase my lifting capacity and grip strength.  Only time will tell.

I read something on Facebook a while ago about the new Tomb Raider game trailer, and the tagline read something resembling “There’s a survivor in all of us”.  I think there’s a scared child inside of many of us, almost all of which have not yet had the opportunity to self-heal and to grow from the trauma we either received or inflicted upon ourselves.  From time-to-time, I imagine embracing this child inside, wrapping my arms around him, and saying it’ll all be okay.  He keeps asking me when, but I don’t have an answer for him besides “soon”.  I’m sure many others have gone through this same process, I just wonder if anyone has been lucky enough to make it out intact.  Here’s to hoping.

Misunderstandings

Seems to me that people seem to misunderstand just what it is that they are capable of.  People like the ease of being able to click a ‘share’ or ‘like’ button on a link or being able to comment on something that dances around the central problem that they are trying to make a statement about.

Here’s the rub: the ‘like’ and ‘share’ counts on someone’s article or link doesn’t mean a bloody thing.  What’s meaningful is adding your voice and your information to the conversation.  What’s useful is actually standing-up for something instead of just agreeing with someone.

It’s not necessarily being ‘partisan’ unless your entire goal is to piss the opposing groups off, but more like ‘being active’ when you actually say something of some worth or meaning.

‘Worth’ is rather nebulous, but if you’re not leaping headlong into the fray, why are you even bothering to spare a click or an ounce of your time on something you already agree upon?

Do yourself and the rest of the country (or even the world) a favor and actually do something about it.  You want to make a statement that you’re all about helping the homeless?  Volunteer some time at the shelter or give some money when you can.  You want to say something about discrimination?  Show your solidarity with a discriminated group and speak up for them when no-one else will.  You want to do something about poverty in your city or on the other side of the planet?  Get a donation drive going or give your voice to the voiceless in city council meetings or through various charitable organizations.

The point here is that a meaningless ‘share’ or ‘like’ won’t get anything done.  Getting things done means getting your hands dirty, and if that means getting into it with your bigoted family or friend in front of a bunch of other people and showing how wrong or backward they are then so be it.  At least you’ll be doing something meaningful.

Void

Spent most of the day on Sunday being brought nose-to-nose like a dog to a pile of its own excrement to the fact that I am completely and utterly non-committal.  For the longest time, I operated under the assumption that I simply deserved better after being treated with a degree of mild contempt and bemusement by individuals in my age group.  I felt a kind of entitlement to different treatment because of what I mistakenly believed to be suffering, bullying, and isolation from an early age.  When brought to the fetid ground that I’d left in my wake, I initially recoiled and went inward in an attempt to justify the behavior only to reject it outright upon deeper inspection.  The mere implication that I have been deluding myself into believing that I had ever been justified in the belief that I was entitled to something– anything is something I had not yet dealt with.  It only figures that the enemy I had not yet dealt with was staring me in the face from the mirror.  Spent the better part of a decade convincing myself that I am better than the lot I’ve been given, and that I was supposed to just reach out and take it and that it wouldn’t be a struggle was something that I invented for myself to make it easier to cope, I suppose.  Idiotic now that I am able to see it more clearly.

Never have I been so challenged.  Never have I encountered a situation where I have been forced to examine the most elemental reasons and motivations for my actions.  Never has anyone really had the temerity, the raw strength, the balls to call me out this thoroughly and completely.  I find myself completely and utterly unable to defend my position of non-commitment, and because of that, I feel lost.  So ridiculously have my emotional and mental defenses been breached, that I can’t even formulate a response.  Armor sundered, emptiness laid-bare for all the world to see and laugh with no refrain, I find myself without purpose or cause.

Perhaps this is what the ancient poets described when they wrote about the “dark night of the soul”.  I find that now most of my goals and ideas are hollow, ringing like fragile glass bells in the maelstrom of impotence and immaturity.  Truly a wonder, this feeling.  Everything else is wiped-away: every veil, every mask, every barrier.  There now only exists myself and the now; this very moment.  I feel empty, but a strange sense of calm at the same time.  I hope that this is some kind of emotional and spiritual progress, and not another step backwards.