0217 – frustration and writing

I want to talk about the relationship between frustration and writing, although the real reason I sat down to write this was to think about a particular frustration. [1]

I’m often frustrated. Let me list out the possible reasons.

  1. I’m easily frustrated. This is a problem with the lens I’m using to make sense of the world. Correcting my lens is the cheapest, simplest thing to do, and I should do it as much as possible.
  2. There’s a mismatch between me and my context. There’s something about the environment around me that frustrates me. Again, the simplest thing to do is to change myself, and I should do that as much as possible.
  3. There’s something about my context that needs changing. The first thing that needs changing is usually my immediate environment, rather than the world at large. The world may or may not need changing, I cannot and should not presume. It’s far more valuable for me to know what I ought to change about myself than for me to know 1000 things about what the world ought to change.

Let’s talk about my awareness of my own frustration.

Sometimes I am aware of the frustration, sometimes I am not.

When I am aware of the frustration, sometimes I know what to do about it, sometimes I do not.

What are frustrations that I’m aware of + know what to do about?
What are frustrations that I’m aware of but don’t know what to do about?

These feel like the kiddy questions, though it’s worth reminding myself that kiddy questions are sometimes still very worth solving. Or rather, I tend to underestimate the value of solving “kiddy” questions, because they SEEM trivial.

Then there are the harder questions.

What are the frustrations that I’m not aware of? Of these frustrations, are there any that I actually know what to do about? (Probably not.) How do I figure out what I’m frustrated about but not aware of? These are probably things that I assume to be perennial aspects of my reality, when they are only circumstantial or temporary in some way.

I like writing. Sometimes I write because I know that I’m frustrated. Sometimes I write because of a vague feeling, and only midway through the writing do I realize what I’m actually frustrated about. And sometimes I write thinking that I’m frustrated about X (this is the case), and then find that in trying to explain why I’m frustrated about X, I’m actually more concerned with Y.

In this case, that means understanding the nature of my frustration itself. How am I frustrated? Why am I frustrated? What should I do about all of it? I should go and sit and relax and meditate, and after my mind calms down, whatever remains that seems to be bothering me, I should deal with that. After having applied all the broad context, big picture sort of treatments.

I think in my particular case I am frustrated with the way that I’m living my life. I want to be living with these big, artful dance movements. I have this picture in my head of me being really fluid, graceful and smooth, in all senses of all things, but in reality I stutter and start and stop in a really painful, tense way. I want to relax, take big breaths, be calm and clear and focused. I’m being a little vague here- I don’t just mean these things in a physical sense, but in an emotional sense as well. And in the way I do my work. And in the way I interact with people. A sort of full-bodied, deep-breathing, wide-dancing way of life. I want that. I want to work towards that.

I think the first step towards that is actually to take bigger movements. Not to take bigger bites, but to be more deliberate in making big movements, and then filling up as much as I can. Hitting all the major and important things in big, broad strokes. I tend to focus on little details. I could write an entire separate vomit about this, and I think I will.

[1] I’m frustrated in particular about the shallowness of most interactions. Immediately, I can think of two camps that many people into– superficial agreement that we live in shallow times (/r/lewronggeneration), or a more defensive “Hey, humans have always been shallow, not all our interactions are shallow, get off your fucking high horse” position. That’s how the top couple of comments on a reddit thread about superficiality would probably look like. A more interesting, nuanced point might be how superficiality has always been a part of humanity, and obviously we tend to focus on the bad stuff in the present, and the good stuff in the past– though that’s just cherry-picking.

But I’m not actually interested in writing social commentary. Rather I’m trying to figure out how I ought to live my life, and how I ought to interact with the world around me. Should I or should I not engage with fashionable superficiality? I used to lean strongly towards “Yes, go in there and show them how smart you are”, but now I’m starting to lean towards “No, the opportunity cost of that is too high. You should focus instead on doing important work.” Important work needs defining [2], but for now let’s just be content to say that it exists in some sense. If we identify it, we should focus on it.

[2] What is important work? I don’t mean important in the objective, absolute sense. I don’t really want to think about that, I think that might be a losing game. I think I mean important work in the sense that I feel really fulfilled and satisfied after having done it. Work that makes me feel like I’m doing something that matters, even though I know that in the grand scheme of things nothing matters. In the slightly-less-than-grand scheme of things, we’re talking about things that move me, move people, evoke strong emotions in a sense that I enjoy. Playfulness. Love. Beauty. Richness. More emphathy. More buzzwords. I don’t know, I don’t want to dig too deep into this.

It could be as simple as… just things that make me happy, outside of narrowly-defined contexts. The challenge is to break from the narrowly-defined context to see things from a more global perspective.

All of this feels really… weak. But I’ll leave it for now and see where we end up later.

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