0473 – strive to breathe easier

Haven’t written a full vomit in a while. Sometimes I get started but then I don’t finish. Had two or three starts recently but somehow didn’t feel all that compelled to complete it. I want to say “mainly perhaps because I was distracted by other things”- but that’s not nearly as clear-cut as it sounds. In physics, there’s this idea that if there are two bodies in empty space, you can’t tell which is moving towards the other. They’re either both moving towards or away from each other, unless you have a specific frame of reference.

Similarly, it’s hard to actually tell whether I moved towards distraction or distraction came to me, whether I was led away from my priorities or I moved away from them. It’s tempting to say “I got distracted” as if it were something that happened to me, because from the perspective of the naive ego-centric consciousness, everything that happens “happens to me”. It’s perfectly logical to believe that, the same way it’s perfectly logical to believe that the Sun rises and sets (when in reality, it is the Earth that orbits the sun).

So let’s try a slightly different way of seeing things, since the old way never really got me very far and frankly got pretty boring even a couple of years ago, or a couple of hundred vomits ago. Distraction happened. I moved away from my practice of writing every day.

Perhaps it’s a necessary sort of break, to move away and to breathe and rest and get some perspective. I accept that that’s a part of the process, and I no longer harbor as much neurotic frustration about that fact. [1]

So what then? I suppose I’d like to understand it all better so I can breathe more easily about it. As I write this I’m on the train and I’m observing all the humans around me. There’s a pretty young girl in a white sleeveless top, a stylish black-with-white-patterns bandage skirt and really stylish white-and-black heels. She’s lean and stands tall. But her arms are also crossed and she looks really nervous. She’s a university student, probably- there’s a lanyard hanging out of her black handbag, and there’s a cute little soft toy Keychain hanging. To my left there’s a lady in an almost full niqab, with just a slit for her eyes. We made eye contact for a second a while ago. Her phone has a magenta case. I wonder what her life is like. I wonder what she’s thinking. The girl right next to me is studying about logarithmic functions. I wonder if anybody really appreciates or enjoys the beauty of math in school. She does seem very focused, and I admire that.

Anyway the point I wanted to make before I trailed off into describing the people around me is- as I’ve grown older I’ve become more conscious of the nuances in other people’s body language. It’s clearer to me now that people are rarely very comfortable. It’s interesting to hear Jennifer Lawrence say she’s tired of trying to be cute. It’s interesting to see Olivia Munn look a little uncomfortable or bored in some of her sexy photoshoots. (Speaking of which, I always thought Singaporean girls on our FHM covers seemed really bad at being sexy. They have rather sexy bodies, but the language is all over the place. They’re rarely sensual. I get the sense that they’re trying to fit the role rather than expressing their own sexuality. Maybe I’m just projecting.)

For a long time I was incredibly self-centered- and I suppose in most senses I still am, and always will be, but at least I’m a little more aware of it with each passing year.

Real, deep confidence is very rare. I think I usually see it in rich men, and I used to vaguely think that if I got richer, I would be more confident. While that is partially true in the sense that the two are slightly comorbid (and I’m definitely a little more confident now that I have a full time job as opposed to being a younger, unemployed person)… Actually, I’ll explore this train of thought in my next vomit.

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[1] I recently revisited a piece somebody had written about Alan Watts, long before I had started listening to the man’s delightful lectures. In it, the author quotes Watts as being a little critical of the notion that Zen is about sitting still for hours and hours day after day. Watts talks about how cats lie around until they’re done, and then they get up and stretch and move on to do whatever they want to do next. And I think that’s the sort of approach I want to take to my practice. When I want to write, I shall write. When I want to do something else, I’ll do something else.

Agonizing about one thing while doing another is a very odd sort of perverse kink, and I’ve definitely been guilty of it. I think it’s something I learned to do when at school, and have carried it with me as a way of life. It’s a sort of performed helplessness, communicating to self and others that I’d LIKE to do everything, but I can’t and I’m so sorry. I think I developed this as a way of rationalizing my own incompetence.

I was talking to a friend about this- how I was self-flagellating a lot in my late teens and early 20s. I felt like there were things I wanted to do but I wasn’t doing them, and so I beat myself up internally- was I a fraud? A pretender? I know better now- I lacked project management skills. Discipline is a skill. My friend mused- ah, you needed a mentor. And I realize that had a lot to do with it. I never learned a musical instrument as a kid, I never played competitive sports. The only things I did were play video games casually and argue with people on the Internet.

So the challenge for me over the past couple of years, and for the forseeable future, is to practice and develop discipline as a skill. And to learn to let go of the damaging self-flagellation. That will free up action capacity that I don’t currently possess. I need to use that action capacity to better understand myself and the world around me so I can continue to take better actions in my own self-interest and to the benefit of people that I care about (but I repeat myself). I’ve definitely written myself to this point many times in previous vomits. The repetition might be necessary in order to reprogram myself. Is there something else to it though? Maybe. I’ll figure it out.

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