0204 – fixing anxiety, pausing and changing environments

I’ve been feeling so anxious and cramped up recently. I haven’t been able to trace it to a single precise point- it’s caused by a lot of accumulated backlog, a lot of unmet obligations, so on. This is a recurring thing that’s happened throughout my life.

Pause.

I think my main problem- or the main feature of my existence that causes these problems and this anxiety (which I am very eager to be rid of) is my poor ability to prioritize, focus, monotask. I wrote about the importance of monotasking almost 150 vomits ago, but it’s still a problem.

Lately I’ve found it necessary to meditate. When I first started contemplating the idea it seemed like something interesting, something cool. I didn’t want to meditate nearly as much as I wanted to be a person who meditated. Even then- did I actually want that? I don’t think I was clear about what “a person who meditated” actually meant. I think I wanted to be cool, and meditation seemed cool. I think I was preoccupied with getting social approval. I didn’t really have anything great going for me at the time- I wasn’t really working on anything except my blog and my Facebook group maybe. I mostly just wanted to look cool, look smart, impress people, get Likes. I used Likes as a sort of proxy to convince myself that I was alright. As long as I can entertain people, make people laugh, or move them in some way to take some action, then I was going to be okay.

I don’t think I was entirely wrong about that, I think that was valid for the context I inhabited then. Makes perfect sense when you’re a conscript in the army. Makes sense when you don’t feel like you like school.

Pause.

So my main thing is an inability to focus. I have no filters. I haven’t quite figured out how much of this is genetic or inherited, and how much of it is behavioral, nurtured, learned, indoctrinated. And I’m not sure anymore if there’s much point in attempting to make a distinction. The most important thing is that I figure out how to cope.

Sigh, can we go straight to the important stuff?

I can’t focus and I can’t prioritize. I thought I knew why but I think I ought to start over in thinking about this. I need to worry less about the origin conditions- which I may never be able to figure out, or which I might only be able to figure out when I have a long enough break to indulge in such reflection. But I bet it doesn’t work that way. I bet thinking about it will just kick up a dust every time. Argh, I shouldn’t even be making such bets. I have no idea, so I should just recognise and accept that I don’t know.

Pause.

The cruellest thing about being bad at prioritisation is that it’s really hard to fix- because you’re bad at prioritising. You might know that you want to get better at prioritising- but what’s the first thing you do? Acknowledge and recognise that you have a problem, yes. I’m good at that. Step 2? Let me Google that because it seems silly to start from scratch on this one.

Step two of AA is to believe that there’s a larger power that can help you. Hmm. 3 is to submit to this larger power. Hmm. 4 is to make a moral inventory of your faults. Ok, done that. 5 is admit past errors- yeah, done a lot of that. 6 – accept responsibility, yup. It’s all me. 7- humbly ask God to  remove the shortcomings… hmmm. 8 list of people you’ve wronged… Yeah done that feels good. 9- make amends where possible except when it makes things worse- uhuh. 10- more personal Inventory 11- more prayer/meditation 12- help another.

Well… I feel like that’s good and all but not quite enough, when we’re talking something closer to cognitive-behavioral therapy of sorts. Needs more nuance, needs more structure.

I feel so inarticulate it hurts. I stumble over my words so much. Why?

I need to meditate more.

Pause.

Since writing the bulk of this post a few days ago, I have been meditating more. I have been taking more time for myself to reduce my own anxiety. And it feels like a great start. It feels like it might be the start of the solution to the mess I’ve worked myself into, and that does feel amazing. I wish I had learned it earlier, I find myself thinking. I find myself thinking a whole bunch of wishes, and I start formulating all these hypotheses and connections- which is normal for my brain to do. But I have to let all of that go, because all of that is a distraction from the present moment when I’m trying to focus on the present moment. Sometimes these connections and inversions are incredibly useful- when I’m trying to be creative, or when I’m having a conversation with somebody.

Pause.

I think the past year has been a challenge for me, and a year of transition of sorts. I was chatting with my wife about how much we are affected by our childhoods and our starting conditions- we spend at least about 10 years in a context and environment that we have no control over, and then after that our control is very limited (and influenced significantly by our experiences in the first 10 years anyway, so you might as well consider that still not-in-control). Exceptions might be if you have parents who are very focused on helping you think and learn for yourself, and if you’re exposed to different ways of thinking, seeing, being, and you’re allowed to internalize them, test them, so on and so forth.

Then we thought about- when do these things change? When do you get to change the effects that your initial conditions had on you? (Not talking very much about genetics here- we’ll leave that as an unknown for this context?) I thought about this in terms of time, but the wife pointed out that it makes more sense to think about it in terms of context/environment. You change when your context changes. Time is involved, but it doesn’t quite seem to be the key feature- time can pass within the same environment without much change. (Unless maybe over a really long time you build yourself a mental/cognitive environment-within-the-environment, but I imagine that takes really long and is really painful and hard.)

Pause.

We’ll see.

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