At the end of February, I convinced myself to get out of the house and go for a walk. The sun was shining and the weather was at normal temperatures.
It was a healthy choice. So, I lead myself to believe. I’m not sure how healthy it was.
My choice was to walk on the sidewalk next to a busy road. The main thoroughfare of my town. So, first off, car fumes were plentiful. Next, I almost got mowed down by a Cadillac while in a crosswalk. The white light man had indicated I had the right of way. Then, on my return route, a number of horns beeped due to drivers frustrations with each other. That interrupting my thought flow, triggering the nature human fear response within me.
I hate car horns. I rarely use mine. The horn isn’t supposed to be used to let others know your level of anger with them. The longer the horn sound the higher the level of anger. And what is accomplished? Nothing.
Beep your horn to let others know you are present if they are merging or stepping out in front of you when you are in their blind spot or not paying attention. Or a gentle “toot” to someone sitting too long at a stop light because they were on their phone and didn’t notice it changed to green. We all have lapses in judgement. No need to take it personally.
I did have a short stint through a wooded area and that was the better part of the walk. However, due to the snow melt the trail was flooded layered with large mud puddles. I don’t have the shoes to trudge through mud soaked trails, so that was a bit nerve racking negotiating my way long the path.
I did feel better physically for having taken the walk, but mentally I was reeling from almost being mowed down, fear triggered by two horn blowers and the soggy toes from water logged trails.
I haven’t taken a walk since.
Perhaps, my next walk should be along the quiet back roads of my neighborhood. Or the quiet Wissahickon Trails that are a five minute drive from my place.
I think I can tag on picture taking along that walk to make it an artist’s date.
How busy is busy?
Busy is a word we use when we don’t know what else to use. So is it the word we mean to use?
Busy can mean doing things around the house, running errands, parental duties, or other domesticated life chores.
Busy can mean your job/career has you doing things all day; phone calls, managing people, spreadsheets, customer care, driving all around, or other job related tasks.
We tend to think of busy as things we do. And sometimes we do a lot of things during our days. These things can physically exhaust us.
“How have you been?” A friend will ask.
“Busy,” we’ll respond, not listing the five things we had to multitask in the last hour and the million and a half things we still have to do.
Besides that, busy isn’t a feeling. “How have you been” and “What have you been doing” receive the same response, “Busy.” And don’t even get me started on “Fine” as an answer.
The truth for me is that I do a lot at work and home. Tasks are not happening all the time, yet, I feel like I’m so busy. And I am. In my head. I am thinking all the time about what I’ve accomplished but mostly about what I still have to accomplish.
I’m busy most of my days thinking, not necessarily doing. During my down time my mind is going over things past, present and future. Rarely is my mind not pouring over something I did or didn’t do. Or should do.
I think I am busy not doing things most days, but I think so much about doing things that I’ve tricked my brain into believing I’m am continuously on the move. Our brains don’t know the difference between what is actually happening and what is only happening in our head.
This isn’t always a negative thing. Some of the best athetes will practice visualization for running plays, golf and tennis swings or throwing a ball. Writers visualize whole stories before even writing a single word. Musicians will visualize playing their instrument while sitting in traffic or standing in the grocery line. Fingers moving along an imaginary fret or keyboard.
Those are meditative practices that have been studied and proven to enhance a person’s performance. Watch the movie The Pianist to see what I’m talking about.
Our minds are always working, either for us or against us. We can choose to feed it with all kinds of things. Otherwise, it will feed on itself and the result is usually bad. Negative thinking will creep in and set up a home and then slowly eat away at everything until you are racked with despair, crippling anxiety and no self-worth.
I’ve been there. Many times.
Our minds are busy every second of every day. That’s why we will tell people we’re busy but not be able to give those internal examples about why we are exhausted from doing so much. We have convinced our brains and our brains in return have convinced us that we have been doing so many things.
I haven’t written a post in over a month. The past two weeks I’ve been busy thinking about how I haven’t posted in a long time. I didn’t realize just how long it had been until I looked it up this morning.
I’ve had doing tasks and thinking tasks over this past month. I’ve also had down time where I could have written something.
I was busy not writing. I was busy telling my brain reasons why I couldn’t write. I told my brain I was doing so much and had some much more to do. So my brain believed it and in return convinced me to believe it. What a lovely team of procrastinating liars we are, my brain and I. The perfect pair to never get anything done.
So, here is a post. When is the next post?
That will depend on what my brain and I decide to convince each other.
I have concluded that we as human beings love numbers and lists. They are everywhere.
The internet is full of those lists. Click bait lists promising you that if you follow their simple, easy-to-do steps you will reach a personal nirvana. You will be more social, you will have a fine looking body and you will be in a financal situation where your only problem will be which Tiffany’s diamond bracelet to purchase. You know, because all your other bills will have been taken care of.
So when we want to improve ourselves we turn to lists. The best lists are numbered lists.
The 5 best ways to save money. 4 easy steps to a healthy looking body. 10 things you are doing now that keep you from achieving a more relaxed and happier you.
We as humans like lists. Give us a list of things to do, buy, or talk about and you’ve given us a purpose.
What we like more that lists is checking things off the list. There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment when we look at a list with lines drawn through the words on it. That is a good feeling.
Some of us can become obsessed by lists. Obsessed with the feeling of “getting things done.” I put that last part in quotes because are we really getting things done? We feel like we are and that matters a lot if we are to continue that behavior.
Sometimes we can make lists too long and so we never complete them and never feel that sense of accomplishment. We end up feeling overwhelmed, discouraged and dejected with ourselves.
Those thoughts and feelings lead to never getting things done.
A complete, manageable, numbered list is like a promise of accomplishment. It is the key to putting us in a healthier, personal and financial place. Make a list like that and you’ll have people flocking to you.
The possibilities are endless if you have the right list.
The one thing that is not endless is time.
We only have so much time alive on this planet. That may seem a little morbid but it is the truth. We don’t truly know what will happen after we die. All we know is what is happening now in this waking world.
Our time is numbered.
We are limited to the number of hours we watch TV and movies. Or spend reading books, magazines and internet content. Or the number of times we will see friends or family and interact with them.
Thinking that way could get us to enjoy the moments with them and to stop the rush of thoughts in our heads of what we have planned for after those encounters.
My kids snuggled in bed with me the other night. My daughter, 7, wasn’t feeling well so she wanted to be close to me. My son, 11, didn’t want to sleep by himself. They have to share a room when they stay with me. I’m limited to the amount of dollars I get each paycheck to pay for an apartment as a single dad.
I slept between them so my daughter could be close to the edge of the bed in case her “not feeling well” turned into a need to rush to the bathroom.
We laid down, both of them to either side of me. My daughter reached across my chest holding her hand out to her brother who took it to comfort his little sister. A real precious moment. One of a finite that will happen and that I will be witness to.
Then they turned it into a game. They squeezed each others’ hand to some musical beat in their heads while the other would have to guess what the song was. An impossible task that neither one had a chance at guessing correctly. Soon they gave up and parted hands.
That may be the only time that happens, but I was there to witness. To be present in that moment. I had to pull myself out of my own thoughts to be present. I could have ignored the whole thing and kept worrying about work the next day, would I get enough sleep, could I finish my work before I had to leave.
I was leaving work early that next day to go watch my kids sing in their school Holiday show. Another finite event.
Perhaps it was that I was already thinking about finite school show moments that made it possible for me to recognize that moment in bed as a finite experience.
I had been primed to recognize the importance of recognizing those moments.
Practicing that skill of being in the moment when it happens could be the only thing to scratch off one of my lists. Maybe it is the only list I need with only that one item on it.
Be present to recognize the importance of the moment.
Because the moment is all we really have.
Recently, I woke up in the morning with almost paralyzing anxiety. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to go to work. I wanted to call out sick. I wanted to just stay in bed.
I was sick. I was in a grip of hopelessness.
There have been some changes happening at my place of employment and I am overwhelmed.
I’m a manager and whenever there is change, I am one of a few who have to coordinate the change among our limited staff and resources.
And I am worn out.
One of the other managers is moving on and out of the company. She is number four of those who have moved on within the past two years. Every time one of them has moved on, more change has occurred.
And I’m worn out.
In the mornings, I wake up to NPR playing on my clock radio. It’s news I can listen to. Normally. But that particular morning it was one bad headline after another. Budgets that support big business. Political support of child and women molesters. Repeal of protected lands so oil and gas companies can drill.
I had watched a Netflix documentary that past evening, “Saving Capitalism.” If you want to know what it’s about, just see my description of NPR’s news cast in the last paragraph.
A raping of society in several ways that keeps getting worse. Nothing was right or fair in the world.
And I am worn out.
I eventually got up and out of bed. I’m not truly sure how I did it but I did. I showered and even managed to get food in me. My anxiety usually suppresses my appetite, but I made myself eat.
I took many deep breaths along the way. I used all my coping techniques that I could think of to get me through.
Then while getting my shoes on, my wall broke down. My skills were of no use to me anymore at that moment.
The tears came. Real crying came. Not just watery eyes and feeling overtaxed. But real crying. Sound and all.
I hated being brought to that point. Why had I been brought to that point?
The crying felt good. I obviously needed to cry. I was hurting inside. For many reasons. I had been strong for so long. I had to stop being strong. It was hurting me.
I’m still hurting. I’m still getting up each day. I am still worn out, but I’m looking forward.
It is time. Time that I was looking and attempting to move on from my pain.
I am now fully aware that I have for the longest time not believed, nor felt, that I am good enough.
Good enough to be accepted
Good enough to be loved
Good enough financially
Good enough intelligently
Good enough creatively
In my head I will justify why I will not ask for more. I believe that there is always someone better to do the task.
There is someone better to be a friend.
Someone better to be a partner.
Someone better to do the job.
Someone better from whom to get love and security.
I believe I don’t deserve more money at work because what I am doing is not deserving of more recognition or financial compensation.
I was in a relationship for 20 years and I believed I was not enough. I didn’t communicate enough. I wasn’t assertive enough. I didn’t take control of situations enough. I didn’t make enough money in my single job and should have worked more to provide enough.
That is what I believed.
Some of my “not enough” thoughts are my own concoctions based on things I heard and saw as I was growing up. Some were developed through the years as an adult.
These self-damaging beliefs are so pervasive I find it very difficult, at this moment, give you a list of reasons why you should spend the day with me. Or be my friend. Or date me.
Yet, I could make a healthy sized list of why you would be bored in my presence. I will not do that here and now. It may be a healthy sized list but it would not be healthy to do.
I continue to have those thoughts that destroy my sense of positive self-worth. I knew they were here inside me. I knew they kept me from taking risks. But I hid from them. I didn’t know that hiding from them was giving those beliefs power over me.
Because I was hiding I didn’t realize that I started to accept these beliefs that I was not good enough. That is why I never paid attention to the things I do that give me worth. And even when I knew I had worth, I believed that somebody else deserved [place thing here]. They deserved whatever it was more than I did.
I would look at another guy walking down the street or in a store and my thoughts would be, “That guy is better looking than me. He’s in better shape than I am. He probably has a high paying job and can afford to go out and spend money with no problem. So, any girl I would be with would regret being with me because she could have that guy.”
I have this negative scenario that loops in my head: If it came down to a choice be between me and “that guy”, “that guy” would always be chosen over me.
Since I believe that and live that in my actions, of course “that guy” will get chosen or “those other people” deserve more than I do.
Those guys deserve the love, money, and relationships more than I do. They are more willing to bet on themselves than I am. They say “I am worth it. I want it and so I will get it.” So they deserve what they get because they believe in themselves more.
This is the battle of thoughts that I fight everyday. Or do I really fight in this battle? Sometimes I think I do. Other times I think I was defeated a long time ago and continue to nurse the battle scars.
I am aware and recognize the negative self-talk that is fueling the negative self-belief. And I am able to stop wallowing in self-pity. These are steps in the right direction, but the process is too slow.
I need to get out of my negative headspace to save myself. Being more honest in my writing is part of that process.
Music Post 004a – My 20’s Soundgarden
I recently read the Pandora write up on Chris Cornell. I like to read up on the history of bands and other music artists. Whatever is available I’ll soak it up. So, in reading up on Chris Cornell, I was reminded that Soundgarden released an album in 2012, King Animal. I wondered why I had not purchased it or at least try to listen to it.
As I recall, a lot was going on at that time in my life. I believe, I had mentioned it in my post about the Foo Fighters (see Music Post 002). I was busy with life, family and career.
I decided to listen to the excerpts from King Animal on iTunes. The tracks rocked. I enjoyed them. And I felt a pull. A pull back to the 90’s, alone in my dark bedroom with just the light from my TV to illuminate things. Sometimes, I would listen to my CDs on my Sega CD system because I liked the screen saver. I spent many nights like that, alone, pretending to be a drummer, guitarist and lead singer. I’ve been dreaming that dream since listening to Beatles records in my bedroom in the 80’s.
Being taken back to those nights in the 90’s, I realized I wasn’t that kid anymore. Not that I don’t have those same dreams of being a rockstar, at times, but I’m not that kid, now a man. A man who cannot afford to waste my time wallowing in my own self-pity and depressed mood. There was a time I could soak up that music and bathe in the anguish and angst that was so prevalent in my generation at the time.
I wouldn’t have been able do that in 2012. The Nate of 2012 was married with two kids and had a career. As much as I enjoyed listening to the Soundgarden of my 20’s. The Soundgarden of my late 30’s wasn’t a good fit. I just wasn’t melancholy about my existential self anymore. And especially now in my mid-40’s, I don’t think I could grasp existentialism. I’ve got bills to pay and kids to feed. And not only kids to feed, but kids to maintain a healthy relationship with, and I can’t maintain a healthy relationship if I’m wallowing in some type of self induced misery.
At this point in my life, I’ve listened to and read books on ways to get shit done in life. I listen to podcasts like The Art of Charm, James Altucher, Tim Ferris and Marc Maron. The guests and authors of those books and podcasts are people who have chased their dreams and made them a reality. Or they just plain did the things they wanted to do and ended up doing those things for a living. I’ve heard their successes and how they got there. There is no room for quitting (which I do a lot) if you want to succeed.
So, I cannot wallow anymore. That is a form of quitting.
The demons I fight are my thoughts with the voices of others. My fears sound like people I know telling me, “You can’t do it. Life sucks. There is no way out. Nothing will change.”
I fight those voices everyday. The thing about having other people’s voices in your head is they start sounding like your own voice. So you start believing all the negative you are telling yourself. I never told myself I couldn’t do something. We never tell ourselves that originally. That notion doesn’t happen naturally. That shitty advice comes from others. It is their fear injected into us. And once I listened, I let that fear in. It is a bitch to shake. It doesn’t want to let go. I’ve held back doing a lot of things I’ve wanted to do because of it.
Fear doesn’t want to let go because it will die. I wish it would die, but wishing won’t make it die or go away.
I have to keep kicking at it and pushing it. I have to stop feeding it. My body needs to reject it like a transplanted organ. That donor of this fear and bad advice gave me something toxic that my body/brain should be rejecting.
My brain should be screaming, “These are not my thoughts! These thoughts do not belong here! They are killing us! Get them out of here!”
. . . Wow, I didn’t know that is where this post was going. But here I am.
I will go back and finish listening to the King Animal excerpts and most likely not do more than that.
The three Soundgarden CD’s I own from the 90’s will continue to be my Soundgarden. I think I’ll learn one of those songs to include in my year of Learning a Song per Week (sort of).
I won’t get into how I came to listen to The Art of Charm podcast. That is a topic for another time. Right now, this is about their Minisode Monday #73 that I just listened to: The Positive Intent of Emotion.
My interpretation of the message is that every emotion is intended to produce a positive outcome. Our happiness, sadness, anger, etc. are produced in our brains to create a positive outcome for us.
That would mean that our brain is capable of helping us survive. I can see this technique used by people who suffer though trauma. Their strength and resilience lay within their ability to reinterpret the emotional pain they experience in the moments of the trauma and after.
I have lived through my own traumas and the ability to keep moving forward has been key to my survival. But I did not know the science behind it or see what I did as being a positive coping skill. I just did it.
For others, they may need to develop the understanding that a “behavior” their brain is to create emotions so they survive the ordeals in which they find themselves.
However, there are brains, like mine, that don’t seem to work in such a perfect way. Sometimes I act in ways that seem totally selfish and self-centered to get my own needs and wants met.
Maybe that’s what’s supposed to happen. In order for the host body to survive the brain must produce the emotions and thoughts it needs to keep the host body alive.
That makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is when the brain produces emotions and thoughts that cause people to want to end their lives.
Why does my brain produce thoughts of self-harm and suicide? That is not going to prolong the life of my brain’s host body. Those thoughts come and go. Even when there doesn’t seem to be a reason. So, why do they happen?
Perhaps, the negative emotion that feeds the negative thoughts can be filtered through a more positive lense. I think that is the suggestion from Jordan on The Art of Charm. He has interviewed many doctors and scientists over the years that study human nature and the brain. They have done the research and experiments. They have written about their findings.
Life changes through explosions. One type of explosion is education. Another is application of what we learn.
I have put forth effort to seek out the books written by those specialists. I have a willingness to try the methods about which they write.
So, now, my effort will be to rethink my emotional responses (especially the negative ones) to make them work positively for me After all, my brain is trying to tell me something. Perhaps, I should listen.