0388 – I will write

There’s always something shitty about word vomits when I try to complete incomplete ones. There’s this looming sense of “I should try to finish what I started”, but that’s rarely possible. If I quit in the middle of a mood while writing, that mood’s usually gone, irreplaceable. If I finish an entire session of writing, I can then edit and play around with whatever is already written, but it’s very hard to write what I had in mind if I no longer have the right state. It’s a very interesting thing, and one I’d like to explore further in the future. [1]

I make no apologies for repeating myself. For the rest of this word vomit project, let it be known that I will often repeat myself. [2] Here’s the current thought that I want to repeat: I’ve been grasping at straws for some time, not knowing what exactly I stand for anymore, what exactly I care for anymore. I think I wrote a sort of manifesto or declaration of purpose a few vomits ago– fuck fear was probably it, or I need to carve out a space for me or something like that. Big, broad, general abstract sorta strokes, I’m sure they were. [3] But I want to think about the role and purpose of writing.

At some point in my life I wanted to be a published writer of some sort. As a child I think I might’ve thought that I would’ve wanted to write books, like Enid Blyton or Philip Pullman or Susan Cooper. At some point I got fascinated with Egypt and Space and Volcanoes and Earthquakes and all those sort of cool things, and I thought maybe I might become some sort of scientist or science writer, perhaps like Carl Zimmer or Lewis Thomas. Then I discovered magazines, and I thought I’d like to be a magazine writer, like maybe Tom Chiarella from Esquire. I discovered the Internet at some point, and thought I might like to be a blogger or journalist of some kind. I’ve just always liked words. I find it extra-pleasing when people use words with the original intent intact– like how decimate has its roots in the Roman military punishment of having a unit kill one tenth of its own, or how ravishing is about rape, and how for something to be truly tantalizing it has to be barely out of reach. Things like that. There are all this lovely little details in language and I get frustrated when people don’t put in the necessary attention to said details.

I realize this is something that’s true about me. I’m pathological about words, sentences, paragraphs. This is still true for me. It’s not entirely true within the context of this project, because part of the point of this project is to get me to create in such large volumes that I am able to rip myself away from the little details (in practice) and see the bigger picture. I can still take any particular vomit (and I seriously contemplated and continue to contemplate doing this) and rewrite it a hundred times, condensing it into its most base constituents. But I’m not sure how valuable that will be. Mostly I want to get to the end of this and read it and see what I still find interesting. And then I’ll expand on that. I think I might write short stories. I might like to publish novels in the future. I’ve never met a novel that I thought was utterly perfect– every single one has me thinking, “That’s mostly nice but I would do X differently.” So it’s clear that I have to be a writer. I might not necessarily write for a living but I have to be a writer. I once wrote a short story about a boy and his wolf puppies that had me in tears while I was writing it. It’s not edited, so it’s still quite a slovenly piece of prose, but I was crying because of what it represented to me. And I feel like a lot of what I’m doing in these vomits is trying to intellectualize what I’m thinking about. As I get better at writing without thinking, it might make sense to avoid trying to describe things in essays, and instead describe them in stories. We’ll see how that goes. But the point is that it has to keep on going. I think I could be top 1% in the world at this. I can imagine reading thousands of books in my lifetime, the idea seems pleasurable.

So I should pursue this. I should keep writing. I should start writing little short stories. Maybe I should already have started writing short stories into my word vomits by now– I think I haven’t maybe because it might require a little more effort than I’m bothered with right now. But I wrote about the wolf-puppies despite that. Maybe I need to re-read Bradbury. But no matter, I will write. It is my passion and vocation and I see that clearly now. I will write even if nobody else ever cares.

_____

[1] I’m reminded of Jay Griffiths’ writing in A Sideways Look At Time, where she wrote very differently for different chapters– writing from different locations, and even writing an entire chapter exclusively while she was on her period.

[2] I will most often do it with the sense of “I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before”. Sometimes I’ll know for sure, and sometimes I won’t know at all. But this recurring feeling I have that I need to somehow voice out, “Hey, I’m repeating myself!” is itself getting overly repetitive. It’s fine to repeat myself, it’s annoying to repeat that I’m repeating myself. So let’s cut this off here.

[3] A third thing– I’m often writing these vomits without looking back. I feel self conscious of the fact that I’m not really looking back. I do feel like I ought to re-read my old vomits by now, so that at least when I write, I write with the weight of knowing what I’ve written. Well– I’m in two minds about this. The first and most important thing is that I keep writing.

 

0387 – knocked down but bouncing back

I fell sick again. I fell pretty hard, too. It coincided with me pretty much overtraining for my fitness tests, and my arms were so sore yesterday and the day before that I had to ask my wife to help me towel off after I showered, and to dry my hair, and to put on my t-shirt. Which was pretty embarassing. I lost my appetite completely, and subsisted entirely on 100 plus and packets of milo. I lay in bed for hours tossing and turning. It’s been really nasty. I feel like I’m past the worst of it, but I can’t be too careful with this.

So already I’ve fallen off the wagon of doing at least one word vomit a day. I didn’t get any work done on Friday, though I managed to send my daily update email as promised, somehow, through the delirium. Thankfully I had planned to finish my week’s work by Thursday, so all that didn’t get done was “extra” stuff.

I’m re-reading a bunch of old vomits and juxtaposing that against some chats with a friend who seems to be going through what I went through. And I was saying things like, “All that’s holding me back is a lack of discipline, structure, routine.”

(here I left for lunch, came back home, got tired and decided to rest instead, and rested for days without writing)

And you know, those things are valid, but not necessarily the right lens through which to view things, within the context of “I want to fix things and get better.” It’s possible to say valid-things all day and yet not go anywhere. (See again: “I didn’t do well because I didn’t study.”) I realized this mainly when I was listening to my friend repeat those things to me (via IM) with a sort of deadness in his tone and a general sort of “I-don’t-really-know, I’m-just-saying-what-I-think-I’m-supposed-to-say”. And I realize… you do need to have something that you’re working TOWARDS. The discipline, structure and routine do not exist because they do not have a compelling enough reason to exist.

So what do I want? I must’ve written about a dozen “what I want” posts by now, some of them written in moments of passionate earnest, others written in sort of depressed, dejected frustration. Well. In this case I think repetition is key. I want to destroy the old me that was pained, frustrated, anxious, weary. I no longer want to even bother trying to “do justice” to him. The old-me was haphazardly, randomly constructed, a mess of inherited neuroses and all sorts of annoying issues. I realize that I use Trello for work quite regularly, and so I’ve created a personal Trello board for myself where I list out all the things that I know to be true. I list out a bunch of things that I hate. I hate being sick. I hate being weak. I hate being unreliable. I hate being wasteful. I hate being unfair and unkind– to others and myself. I hate being unfocused. I hate being unprepared. I hate feeling like I’ve reached some sort of peak or plateau, that I’m done learning most of what I’m ever going to learn. That’s bullshit. I’ve definitely learned less than 20% of everything I’m ever going to learn. In fact, considering the world we live in, I’ve probably learned less than 5% of everything I’m ever going to learn. Probably 1% of everything I could possibly learn.

And the thing is, all sorts of book knowledge right now doesn’t help me go anywhere. I asked a few friends to school me about the Greek situation, just so I have a semi-informed POV. But I have no interest in developed a much more accurate POV because there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not going to save Greece. Hell, over the past year it feels like I can barely save myself. I need saving. And I need to save myself, because nobody else is going to do it for me.

What is this saving…? I feel like I might have written recently (or thought about writing) about the idea that “someday my prince will surely come”. Someday my life will work out beautifully. I still do believe that, fundamentally. I believe it because there are too many times where I find myself thinking that I’m perceiving something other people aren’t. But these perceptions are currently a source of distraction and misery. They’re worthless as long as I can’t do anything about them. And my ability to do things is a whole other animal. My ability to execute.

It feels like I fell sick, as I often do, because of bad management. I am a terrible CEO of Visakan, Inc. I spend most of the time waffling off avoiding anything of importance because I’m afraid of smearing my ‘perfect’ perceptions and ideals and imagination with imperfect words and deeds and doings. But hey, fuck it. Imperfect is the only way forward. I’m sure I’ve written that before, but I’ll write it again as many times as I have to so that this stuff really gets ingrained into my mind and the way my brain works. I didn’t do word vomits for a few days while I was sick. So be it. I’m coming right back, and I’ll be better and stronger because of it. There is no turning back. I want to grow up. I want to be an adult. I don’t want to have to explain to people why I couldn’t do something or why I failed. I never want to do that ever again. I want to instead be explaining the actions I’ve taken, and the plans I have for further actions to be taken. If I’m 1% as great as my subconscious thinks I am, we’ll be achieving amazing things. The thing is that my action muscle is maybe 1% as strong as it needs to be. But that’s no matter. That’s just a matter of training, discipline, structure, routine, habit. And all I need for that is to do something again and again, every day, and then to add things to it. To add reflections. To add plans. I have my daily vomits. I fell down but I am back up. I will work hard and I will keep going. For a future that is full of difficult challenges. That will be the pleasurable sort of pain, like the warm soreness you get when you’ve been working out for a while– not the horrific ache of helplessness.

That’s what I want. I want to be strong. I want to be able to cut through the bullshit that life throws at me with sharp cuts. And when I’m done with my personal obligations– and I WILL get on top of them– I will help others do the same. And in the spaces we carve out for ourselves, we will rest peacefully, under the protection of each other’s watchful eyes.

 

0386 – soooo sleepy

Note to future self: I’m only writing this because I’m trying to keep a streak going. Will not even bother fixing the paragraphing. 

Damn I’m tired. Physically tired. But this is to be expected– it’s only my third day in a row waking up at 6am, and I didn’t get as much sleep as I wish I did. I’m going to work from home tomorrow– I’m still going to wake up early, but I’m going to take some naps throughout the day probably. But I intend to keep waking up at 6am every day.

It’s interesting to see how different I am when I’m tired. It’s totally a different state of consciousness. I forget a lot of things. And I can’t make good decisions. I sort of just default to this “Ignore everything, just go home,” sort of state. I have 900 more words to go and I no idea what I’m going to talk about. This is a challenge. So what does my mind default to when I’m this tired? Uhh. I guess I start describing my surroundings. I have a potted plant on my kitchen windowsill. My cats are sitting outside my bedroom door (my wife’s inside, and they probably want to be let in). I’ve started keping track of my stuff on calendars that we printed out with our new printer. Yeah, I finally got a printer. I’ve always sorta wanted to have one, but it never felt like a pressing need. It felt like an indulgence. But I figured, hey, if I’m going to be a writer, I’m going to want to print stuff out and read it on paper. It’s just a different experience, isn’t it? A part of me sincerely wants to print out every single word vomit I’ve written. And just hold it in my hands. It’ll just be this really tactile, concrete evidence of the work I’ve been putting into this, however silly or arbitrary or inconsequential. And also I’ve just always liked the idea of being able to externalize cognition, yet I’ve always done very little about it. It’s just one of those ideas I’ve held on to for a long, long time. I’m particularly in love with Brett Victor’s ideas about interactive spaces. About thinking with our hands, with our bodies. Laptops with Internet connections give us superpowers, but they also have us all hunched up, moving our fingers. I suppose a standing desk might be better. I have that option at work but I hardly use it. Why? I don’t know. Habit? Do I feel silly? It seems like I have some strange friction or blockage or inertia that keeps me from trying the things I know I should try. I want to get better at drawing little sketches and doing sketchy note-taking. So I should plan in advance and set aside some time to do this, maybe over the weekends.

Well, at least I’m writing about it now. I’ll want to review/reference this. Let me add it to my Workflowy… okay, done. And then I got distracted for a minute or two, but I’m back here because I really want to finish this and publish it and to go bed. Why am I writing this so late, anyway? I left work a little later than usual but not THAT late. I must have been drifting off after I got home. Oh yeah, I really took my time to have my dinner (a subway sandwich that the wife had bought and didn’t finish). I suppose all of this is just even more incentive and proof that I need to get myself quality sleep. I’m feeling as sleepy now as I usually do when I stay up until say, 5 or 6am in the morning (when usually going to bed at say, 230am).

How’s everything else? Well, it’s alright. I’m not sure if I mentioned this but I’ve discovered that it’s quite possible to read many books at once if/when I read all these books in different contexts. So I keep a book in my toilet (I have a pretty high shelf where I keep it, so it’s dry and stuff– I finished Tolle’s Power of Now, Strauss’s The Game and Wozniak’s autobiography all entirely during toilet time, lol), I have a couple of books in the living room (I seldom if ever get around to reading these… but it does feel like they’re “getting warmer”– the big one that I really want to have read is Levinson’s The Box), I have a couple of books in the bedroom– I believe right now I’m reading Stupid White Men by Michael Moore, who has a very quirky, witty style. And I have Games People Play in my sling bag which I used to bring to work everyday. (I’m experimenting with a habit of leaving my laptop at work as much as possible, which does make for a delightful, unencumbered trip home. I suppose I could bring my bag with a book even if I don’t bring the laptop. Hmm. I’ll try that next week.) I’m kind of curious about Stendhal’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater. And also I feel like I’d like to sample the Faulkner, Hemingway and Steinbeck that I have but haven’t touched. I’m just raving randomly now.

My current toilet read is “Conversations with Remarkable People” by Osho. It’s really cheesy. It’s amusing to think anybody might take it “seriously”. I feel like the only real way to take spirituality seriously is to embrace it with a sense of humor. If you can’t laugh heartily at how silly and absurd everything is, the way a child does, then you’re kinda trapped, aren’t you? I suppose some people like the idea of being trapped– it’s a sort of sacrifice, a purity ritual, or a penance of some sort. I am unworthy, I am imperfect, I must suffer and be punished, and through this suffering and punishment I experience some sort of significance. That sounds crazy intellectually, but I have a feeling that a non-trivial part of me actually is hooked on that game, or some remix or variant of that game. Yeah, I guess if I should finish any particular book that I’m halfway through, it might be games people play. But really, this whole vomit is just me trying to small-talk my way to the end. Get me out of here. I’ll look back on this and think “jesus, go to sleep you stupid idiot!”

or maybe I’ll be kinder to myself by then. In any case. We’re done. I can write words to fill out a page. It’s a thing I can do. Goodnight!

 

 

0385 – schedule revisions for learning through repetition

It’s my third day waking up early. I got more sleep last night than I did the previous two nights, so I’m more awake and alert than I’ve been the past couple of days. I took a cold shower and I sat around for a while, sort of semi-meditatively. I had planned on going for a run in the morning, but my shins are still really sore so I think I’ll do that tomorrow evening instead.

I met an acquaintance for dinner yesterday– we talked about our lives over McDonald’s. I enjoyed it. I should meet more of such people on a regular basis. I enjoy eating lunch with my colleagues every day– it can be a slightly different mix of people each time, and there’s usually some good conversation to be had. There’s no reason why I can’t do the same for dinner on a more regular basis. I spent most of 2014 in isolation, maybe hoping that being separate from the world would give me a clearer sense of who I am and what I want. And to be fair I think that did happen. [1] And one of the things I learned is that I wanted quality interactions with good people. Facebook was a sort of fast-food version of what I really wanted. (TLDR: I like meeting people.)

Uh, so what’s next? Yesterday I wrote about how it’s hard to truly have fun when I know I have unfulfilled obligations waiting for me. So the next most important thing I need to work on– and this is stating the obvious, again [2], is how to attack my obligations and break them down into little chunks and get them done one by one. This is extra hard compared to learning a difficult song on the guitar, because my emotions are tied up into it. Ugh fields come into play.

But yeah. So I’m going to publish this vomit, go to work, and just do what I’m supposed to do. I realize that I still spend a lot of time drifting between work tasks. But even that’s not the problem. The problem is not that I drift. Drifting is the symptom, that I’m not focused on the hard thing. I need to prioritize doing the hard thing. I should write down what the hard thing is, why it’s hard, and then do that. So I’ll do that.

_____

[1] I think I had some growing pains, some withdrawal from all the social media and all the performance. For a while I unfollowed everybody on Facebook, and I’d block FB and Reddit from my browser. After a long break I found myself longing for some quality human contact– I would occasionally get some of it on Facebook from time to time, usually over private messages with friends. So I figured that I could ‘eat the flesh and spit the bones’– I added back my favorite people, people who I’d be happy and eager to have dinner with. I made it a point to stop writing indulgent status updates. I think I’m doing okay on that front.

[2] Repetition is important in learning. I was thinking about how, when I was in school, I used to pay attention in lectures just long enough for me to nod my head and go “Yeah, that makes sense, I get it,” and then drift off. The problem is, later on when I got the homework, it wouldn’t make sense any more. And I’d think, “Well, it made sense to me at some point, so it should make sense to me again, I just need to do the reading real quick– so we’ll do that later.” And what would happen is, the amount of necessary readings would accumulate, and I would keep writing them off thinking it’ll just take a few minutes. And the minutes would snowball into hours, into days, into massive unmanageable chunks.

And even if I COULD theoretically do all the reading at once, which is a physical impossibility (and doubly so for me than for someone who’s well-practiced in doing that reading), it wouldn’t stick.

I’ve definitely experienced this with learning songs on the guitar. I remember far fewer songs than I’ve learned or played. There are a bunch of videos of me playing songs on the guitar that I no longer remember how to play. Some of these songs I can figure out again with a little bit of trial-and-error (and the cool thing is, as I get better as a musician– which isn’t even something I’m actively working on– I make fewer errors, my attempts get closer to what is accurate without me doing anything special).

So I have to repeat myself over and over again, because each time I do it I’m (psuedoscience alert) lighting up some neural paths in my brain that would wither away if I don’t practice them. It’s like doing my homework, and doing my revision. I know this. There are songs I can play without having to think about it at all, simply because I practiced it so much it became a part of my muscle memory. And there are songs that I have to fiddle around with a little before I can play them again. And there are songs that I have completely forgotten how to play, and have to relearn from scratch.

So… instead of saying “I need to remember”– which is dumb, because I tend to forget things, and I forget things more than most people, until it’s too late and there’s some sort of terrible consequence that jolts it into relevance (and then my lizard brain associates that with discomfort and pain and distress, and so it probably further wipes it from my regular memory… or something like that.)

So. I need to schedule revisions. I need to revise every day. I need to revise my daily revisions every week. And I need to revise my weekly revisions every month. I need to do this more than other people might, because other people either have a better natural inclination for it, or more practice from childhood. Whatever the case, it’s a limiting factor for me. Without a habit of regular, disciplined review, I again lapse into this general-wilderness-wandering lifestyle that does not serve me well.

That sort of rings a bell for me. It might be triggered by me realizing that if I had done 1 vomit / day, I would actually be over 90% done with this project now, instead of 38.5% in. So me publishing at least 1 vomit a day moving forward is actually going to be critical to my progress– because it’s a foothold, it’s something that I really want to do, am reasonably good at, have practiced doing, can keep doing, and want to keep doing. So I’ll publish a vomit everyday. This will be my cornerstone habit, along with waking up at 6am, and sending my boss an email before I leave work each day. The additional thing I need to work in is my personal review, which I may write about in these vomits (if it’s stuff I’m comfortable making potentially-public) and stuff in my notebook (which I have been writing in somewhat intermittently).

Okay we’re done here. To get a little meta, this whole post is worth revisiting, rethinking, rewriting. I’ll throw in some visual cues for reminders:

Mentor Me, Mentor Me Gate, Hermann Ebbinghaus, The Forgetting Curve

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.55.44 ama

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 8.55.36 am

Off to work.

 

 

 

0384 – express your values through planned actions

TLDR:

  1. Wake up early every day (so sleep early too)
  2. Review work daily (with accountability partner)

So what’s my plan?

I value…

  • growth
  • progress
  • triumph over adversity
  • Confronting my fears and making them my bitch, and being better and stronger because of it

Alright. So what am I going to do to express those values? What is the plan of action?

1. Wake up early every morning. I’ve woken up at 6am the past 2 days. This by itself isn’t very remarkable, as it’s a habit that can slip at any time. But I’m making an extra effort not to let it slip. I’ve gotten my wife onboard on this, so we both wake up at 6am together. We set multiple alarms– both our phones, as well as her computer. There’s a cacophony of alarms at 6am in the morning. We’re going to do this for 49 days, including the weekend. The past couple of nights we actually slept pretty late, out of habit or self-sabotage or something. But we’ve been determined to stick to waking up, and so we did. The day before yesterday I went for a run after waking up.

Today I didn’t do very much when I woke– I was really groggy, but I got out of bed anyway and lay on the sofa for a while. I did leave for work earlier than I usually do. But I’m not going to be too harsh on myself for that. The plan is to make the habit of waking early stick. If there are some withdrawal symptoms or initial inefficiencies, I’ll bear with them. I know from long experience that whenever I wake up early, naturally and well rested, I feel really, really good. I make better decisions. I have space to plan out my day, to do things better. So I’m going to keep setting these alarms. We’re tracking our streak on a calendar taped to the wall, so it stares at us every morning when we wake up.

2. Beyond that, I’m also committing to voluntarily sending my boss a daily email update of what I’ve done. The idea is similar– it’s to create a structure that I need and want to commit to, so that things get done regularly. And it’s a really small quick update anyway. The process of doing it clarifies my thoughts about what I’m doing, and the PROSPECT of doing it makes me want to make sure that I have something worth reporting. So as a result I tend to subconciously pick my tasks better (as opposed to what I often used to do when I wasn’t accountable to anybody– I’d pick vague, open-ended tasks and spend the entire day exploring things without getting anything done).

In a sense, everything I’m trying to do is really just trying to unlearn the habit I have of spending large chunks of time doing random, undefined things. I suppose if I were really wealthy or something, I might be able to afford living that sort of life. But even then, I do it beyond my own inclinations. When I’m exploring, it’s not exactly mindful, conscientious exploring. And it doesn’t have as much flow as I wish it did– I don’t always feel flow doing this weird random open-ended wandering. I guess because flow needs some constraints. You need to be working within some boundaries, some restrictions before you can truly experience flow.

I spend too much time completely unbounded, thinking that it’s freeing or liberating somehow, but it’s really not. So that needs to change, for my own happiness’s sake, for my own growth and my own learning. It’s much more satisfying to leave the office having done 3 simple tasks than it is to have spend the day contemplating and exploring without getting anything substantial done.

So this experience is what I want to recreate day after day.

I want to leave work everyday feeling satisfied. I want to publish a word vomit before I go to bed, that leaves me satisfied too. And I want to wake early, and go for a run, and eat healthy, and all of these things are little baby steps in the direction of progress and growth. They free up more cognitive capacity. When I fulfill my obligations, they get out of my head and free up more space for play.

It’s very difficult to truly enjoy play when you know that you owe people things. It has to be a very escapist sort of play– you have to sorta drug yourself, distract yourself, zone out. And that’s only pleasant in the sense that the pain and fear and anguish is momentarily gone, hidden just out of sight. It’s like the pleasure you get when you take off your really tight shoes for a minute, before you put them back on again. And that is not a sustainable way to live. That is a really sad, unpleasant way to live.

And I don’t want to hate on myself for that. I don’t want to be cruel or unkind to myself for that. It’s unnecessary, and it’s also distracting. The real question is, what’s the desired end state? And what’s my plan of action to get to that desired end state? And what problems will I encounter along the way, and how do I visualize myself dealing with those problems, to make sure they don’t happen again? And then what steps do I need to take to make sure that goes according to plan? And when I’m done with that, what’s the next desired end state? This is a new language for me, but I intend to be fluent in it.

When I’m done with this, I’m going to hit publish. Then I’m going to hand the laptop to my wife, and I’m going to go ink in the two crosses for the two vomits I’d have published. Then I’m going to scratch out the day, the 8th day in a row that I’ve done a word vomit. (It’s also the 7th workday in a row that I emailed my boss as I had planned.) And then I’m going to go to bed, relaxed because I know I’ve pretty much done my best– or at least I’ve done better than I’ve done so far, and tomorrow I will wake up at 6am, cross out the ” woke at 6am” box for the 3rd day running, and smile because I’m making progress.

 

0383 – review your principles regularly

TLDR:

  1. I want to minimize unnecessary fear, uncertainty and doubt
  2. I want to never feel sorry for myself
  3. I want the freedom to be spontaneous
  4. I want people to feel safe around me; that with me they can be themselves
  5. I want to work on interesting problems (follow my curiosity)

I’ve been reading Ray Dalio’s Principles and I’ve been finding them to be quite therapeutic. I’m not sure why. I guess it’s just knowing that it’s written by a person who I can respect and admire, and it’s written not to be performative but as a manual for others to succeed as well. It’s rigorous, clear, systematic.

Let me quickly try to recite it as much as I can from memory. It starts with values. What do I care about, what do I really, really want? Because if I don’t know what I really want, and I don’t make that clear, then when I’m confronted with difficult decisions I’m going to pick the easy way out. I mean, who really wants to wake up early in the morning when they didn’t get to sleep early? Who wants to drag themselves out to put themselves through a gruelling workout if their body hasn’t yet gotten conditioned to get pleasure out of the process?

And yet I know it’s really easy to just verbalize a bunch of things and call them values. Everybody values a whole bunch of things, don’t they? Or we claim to. I was turned off by this in school, and in the military, when there were a whole bunch of “core values”. Leadership, responsibility, honesty, integrity, all of those grand sounding lofty words that end up seeming like vague placeholders. I think that’s a shame, on hindsight. Values should be precious, they should be respected and fought for. And an individual who’s looking to develop values should start with something that’s honest and true, and something that she truly, truly believes in.

And that’s hard. It’s especially hard to decide to prioritize something over everything else. When push comes to shove I’m not sure what I value. If you put a gun to my head I think I might say something like, honestly, I value feeling safe and comfortable. If I look at my own history and past, that’s what I like… but doesn’t everybody? The thing is we live in a messy, complicated and difficult reality. A cruel reality that doesn’t owe us anything. So it’s difficult if not impossible to preserve a safe space for ourselves while remaining in that safe space. Safe spaces are created by fighting to enforce boundaries, to have a powerful membrane that keeps out the bad stuff and lets in the good. I value having a home that I feel at home in. And yet I haven’t gotten around to fully customizing it to suit my needs and interests. So do I really value it, or do I not? [1]

I suppose… given the harrowing, frustrating experiences I’ve had over the past few years, and the years before that, I want to say that I would really value the freedom to escape from it all. And I don’t mean by sticking my head in the ground and pretending it goes away– I’ve tried that, and that’s never been a sustainable solution. No, I want to escape my fears and anxieties by confronting them head on and destroying them.

So I guess I must value confrontation. I must value learning and growth. I say must not to mean “I am obligated to”, but to mean “it is clear to me that to live a happy life I have no other choice, and the alternatives are becoming increasingly undesirable to me”. I no longer want to ever languish in doubt and uncertainty. I don’t ever want to feel sorry for myself again. I imagine I might, but I want that to be contained and effectively managed. I want to create for myself a stable foundation so that I can be violent and creative in my art, in my writing, in my expression.

I want to earn the freedom to be spontaneous. And the spontaneity I’ve been experiencing so far has been somewhat hollow and false. I’ve been playing in the dark playground. What I really want is to experience flow and to feel like I’ve earned my keep, like I’ve earned the right to do whatever it is that I feel like impulsively doing. But even before that I want to temper and steel myself so that when I do have impulses that rise to my attention, these impulses are pre-selected by my subconscious to be in service of things that I care about.

I don’t want to impulsively be harsh or negative towards people. I want to be kind and loving and gentle and compassionate. I want people to feel safe and comfortable around me, that with me they can be themselves. Yes, I think that is what I really, really want. I want people to be able to be truly honest with me.

And I want to work on interesting problems. Am I suggesting that the problems I have in front of me right now are not interesting? That’s not true. Anything is interesting if you examine it closely enough. So my problem is that I have been evaluating the problems in front of me with my stomach, with my amygdala maybe. I associate it with pain and discomfort. It churns my stomach, makes me feel uncomfortable, and it’s easier to avoid it. What I need to do is to enlist my head, my prefrontal cortex [2] and bring the problem into full awareness. Under the light of conscious attention, the fog of war WILL dissipate and I will be able to unscramble my problems and solve the puzzles. And then it’ll feel good. It’ll be like being able to do calculus or trigonometry, after first being unable to. And that will be some great progress.

I value growth. I value progress. I value being a bigger man today than I was yesterday– not just because of all the perks, but because it gives me the freedom and opportunity to help and support others. And because it plain feels good. The good feelings I’ve had so far are minute, stolen. It can be better than this.

And I value the idea of being able to keep to my word. I’m still not on the ball 100% of the time, but I think I’m getting better.

_____

[1] When I’m down, I’d be inclined to say, well, I guess I don’t value anything at all. I’m not down right now, so I think I can say… I do value the things that I repeatedly say that I value. I just haven’t learned to properly fight for them yet. I haven’t learned to do them justice. But I intend to. Of course, as usual, talk is cheap. But me writing these vomits is one of the things that I’m committing to. This is the 8th day in a row that I’m writing and publishing a word vomit, and I want to do 49 days in a row to prove to myself that I can do it.

[2] All of this is psuedoscience, I know, but it sorta works for me and I’m not pretending to be any kind of expert here. I’m just saying what I need to say to keep myself going.

 

0382 – wake up earlier for a different life

Yesterday when me and my wife were at the airport sending my parents off, I had a brain wave at some point– I can’t remember what triggered it exactly– but I turned to her and said, we really gotta start waking up early. As in, not just keep talking about it, but actually wake up early. Like, set an alarm at a fixed time and both get our asses out of bed together. And she agreed. It’s something we’ve both been talking about sorta doing for the longest time, and so we finally did it. We woke up at 6am today. She went for a run almost immediately. I decided that I wanted to do a word vomit and instead spent over an hour procrastinating on the Internet. A little silly, my bad. But I don’t want to beat myself up over it. The point was that I wanted to wake up early. I’m going to finish this vomit then I’m going to head out for a run of my own.

The interesting thing to note is how different my mood is. I’m working on firing myself up now, but yesterday night I was super wired and driven, and this morning when I woke up I still had some of that residual stuff but most of it isn’t quite there. And this is the reality of the situation, of the life that I inhabit. And I have to learn to cope with this. Ok the sun is coming up, I’m just going to go and run first and finish up this vomit later. The point I wanted to make was… there’s this constant ‘handshake’ going on, this passing over of emotional state from person to person within me.

_

Back from my run! It’s always a bit of a struggle. My shins still hurt. I spend a bunch of time getting distracted again, it’s now 10am. Well, I woke at 6am. Lingered until… 730. Went for my run, got back and it was about 815 or so. I’m not very functional after my run– very sweaty, heart rate very elevated.

_

Okay, now I’m at work and so I’m just going to go really fast through this vomit, finish it and publish it. [1]

Intent: I want to quickly sketch out the range of emotions and states I’ve experienced from yesterday. So– I visitedmy family at the airport, went home, read a book on the bus, felt motivated, dashed off a bunch of ‘high emotional energy’ vomits, went to bed with a strong intent of waking early. Then I woke early today, and I was intent on writing vomits and going for a run. I wasn’t super specific about how many vomits I wanted to write– I was hoping to write a few. But I barely got started, while I languished in distraction. This is a normal thing, especially when I’ve just awoken. I don’t have very much agency when I’ve just awoken. On hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have bothered with the vomit. I should’ve gone for my run. Or if I did want to do a vomit, I should ritualize it better. Maybe I should make a cup of tea and write without the wifi on– this is definitely something that’s doable when I’m writing in the early morning. Don’t need no internet then.

I sort of lazed around a little more. A part of me felt like I deserved it, because I successfully woke up early. That’s a new thing, that’s a good thing. I think I felt like that was my reward. Which is understandable, but probably not a good idea in the long run. I need to find some alternative reward. Maybe I should read a book instead. Random Interneting in the morning is always a bad idea. I think. When is it appropriate to random-Internet? Earlier I was thinking that I already know everything I need to know. But part of that is– I know a bunch of movies that I should watch and books I should read. And I find myself wanting to do research about those movies and books. Fine. Why was I on reddit and imgur, then? No excuses there. Reddit occasionally has gems but for the most part it’s a sort of common town square. And I’m not interested in common stuff. Well no, that’s not true. Common stuff is interesting. Robin Dunbar pointed out that language, gossip, and “common stuff” is the social currency that’s critical to our functioning as a social species. So there will always be an impulse to indulge in common stuff. There’s nothing bad or shameful about that.

What matters is having priorities. Knowing what comes first. Rather than try to figure out “what time of the day is it appropriate to let loose”, I shoudl figure out “how do I make sure that I fulfill my obligations every day”– and having done that, THEN I can let loose without any guilt, and without having to construct this sort of elaborate artiface where I have to figure out what is acceptable and what is not. Because you know damn well goddamnit that the elaborate artiface is actually a farce– it’s like getting drunk so you can pretend you weren’t responsible for what you did. The elaborate artiface is built when sober, and disregarded when tired, exhausted, out of willpower, facing something difficult or annoying.

So yeah. I can simplify my life. I can throw out the artiface. All I need to do is figure out what my obligations are, and what I need to do to fulfill them. And then do them, of course– that’s the most important part. But it’s a far simpler mode of operating, I need to acknowledge that. It’ll let me get more done with less annoyance and stress. It’s cleaner.

And I’m tired of the old complexity, it tires me more than my clunky old writing. So let’s get to work.

_____

[1] Here I realize I was going to say, “What I wanted to do with this vomit is this”. I realize that that’s going to be a common thing throughout these vomits, and it’ll be rather annoying over time. It’ll be a waste of words. So for brevity, moving forward I’ll instead use the phrase Intent.

 

0381 – fuck fear

When did I first start becoming afraid? I thought I was a confident person, I thought I had it all. There are loads of people who’ve told me that I was one of the more confident persons they knew, but of course that was all just performance. I got good at pretending I was confident. I got good at pretending that I didn’t care. I got so good at it that I convinced myself, too. I convinced myself that I was not afraid. But when I look back on my life, when I look at what I used to do, and how much I left undone, I realize I must have been afraid. I must have felt unworthy. I must have felt like it was not my time.

I remember now, when I look back. I was afraid that the guys in the gym would think I was too skinny to belong there. I was afraid that I wasn’t a real runner, and that me running would look silly. I’m gangly and skinny– I had skinny legs and I looked like a joke in my running shorts. Well, I don’t care anymore. I look like a joke, so be it. I’m taking responsibility for my life. I’m going to run anyway. If somebody’s going to laugh at me, good for them. I’m happy to provide others with entertainment. That’s all part of the joy of the experience.

I don’t know how to swim and I’ve been afraid to admit it. Once I’m done with my running and I finish my run test, I’m going to be hitting the weights. I’m going to be going to the pool and I’m going to figure out how to swim. I’ve always been afraid of the kitchen and of food preparation. But I can prepare eggs now. I can cook chicken now. I’m going to cook more things. I’m going to wake up early every day. Why am I afraid to confront each day? Because I think that it’s going to be painful? It doesn’t make sense. I didn’t think it through. I didn’t give it much real thought. I didn’t use the light of my consciousness to attack the problem. Because when I put the light in there I realize that it’s bullshit. I realize that it’s all imaginary. Once I get rid of all that imaginary shit, it’s just me versus reality. And reality is hard and painful but it isn’t nearly as scary as I’ve been making it out to be. I can get knocked down I can get knocked out. I can rip my skin up. I can get injured– and even those injuries are preventable and avoidable, so the fear of injury is misguided. It’s far worse to be weak. It’s far worse to be powerless. And I’m going to become powerful. I already am powerful, I just need to realize it.

My emotional state is mine to control. Mine to regulate. Mine to move around. Mind to play with. It’s my playground. I have to stop pretending that life is somehow beyond me. That I’m not ready for life. I am. I’m here right now. Come at me, bro. I know that it can get a lot worse, but I doubt it’s going to happen anytime soon. You might hit me with cancer or a car accident or something horrible like that, but those are not the things that I’m afraid of, am I? Those aren’t even things on my radar. What am I afraid of, then? Why am I not bigger already? Why am I not stronger already? Because I worry about how I’d look? Because I worry about what I sound like? I deserve more than this. I can wake up happy and excited every day. I just need to do the work. I just need to prepare for it. If I know that I’ve given it my all, then I don’t have anything to worry about. I can prepare for all the possible outcomes. It’s much more fun and interesting that worrying about what the fuck everybody else is doing– who gives a shit? Why do I give a shit? It’s distractions! It’s worry! It’s an illusion. It’s not real. I have to remind myself of this every single day. I have powers and talents within me that I haven’t even begun to reach for yet, and this is me reaching. This is me believing.

What was I afraid of? What am I afraid of? The greater fear is that I will spend one single day in fear and weakness. That I will spend one day hesitating. That I will spend one day not giving it my best. And I have already done enough of that. I’ve gotten a lifetime’s supply of “What if?” and “I’m not good enough.” It doesn’t matter. I can move forward with what I have, now. I can do more, now. I can realize my dreams, now. I can prove to myself that I am capable of more. It’s okay to look stupid. Let’s do stupid. Let’s look as stupid as possible. Let’s screw up. Let’s make a bunch of mistakes. Let’s go. Let’s fuck shit up. Let’s get ourselves embarrassed. Let’s feel silly. Let’s feel stupid. Let’s do all of those things. We are ready and able to do beautiful things, so let’s just do them!

The doubt is a lie. The fear is a lie. It’s imaginary. It’s constructed. It’s arbitrary. Let’s deconstruct it. Let’s tear it apart. Let’s destroy it. All of this is like graffiti on a bunch of old boards. We don’t need to address them one by one. We can just rip them apart and tear them apart. What do I want to be remembered for? I want to be remembered as a grinder. As a machine. As ap erson who fought like crazy. Who did not give up, did not give in. Life is a lot more interesting that way. We’ve spent time and energy trying to have a good experience in video games. Good experiences being entertained. Well, there’s no higher entertainment than a good life.

I have dreams. I have goals. And I’m almost embarrassed or ashamed to I let those things fade. I still have these fucking dreams. They still matter. I still want to be a published author. I still want to write. I still want to make a difference to somebody. I still want to tell the truth. I still want to find something worth saying. I will be hungry. I will take it. I will take it all. I am relentless.

Fuck fear.

 

0380 – what I’m leaving behind

I have a lot of things I’m going to leave behind. I’m going to leave behind the bullshit that I don’t know what’s going on. I know exactly what’s going on. Everything I do is a choice. Everything I do not do is a choice. I’m in control here. It’s all up to me.

I’m leaving behind the stupid idea that I should care what other people think. Fuck what other people think. Other people aren’t paying my bills. Other people don’t have to sleep at night with my thoughts in their head. Other people don’t have to wonder, “What if?” with regards to me. I have been squandering my gifts. There are a bunch of reasons for that, and I don’t need to get into all of them right now. Maybe I never will, and that won’t matter as long as I’m moving forward. What does it take to move forward? I just need to act on the thing in front of my face. And then pick the next most important thing, and act on that. Right now, this is about proving to myself that I can do what I set out to do. And I set out to write this and I’m writing this.

I wanna change, right? Yes. I don’t want to be who I was. I’m tired of being who I was. That was a really limited life. That was a really cheesy, elaborate, anxious, silly version of me. That was my naive, nervous, broken self. That’s fine. I want to be better. I want to be wiser. I want to be bigger. I want to be stronger. I want to be clearer. I want to be able to navigate reality with strength and power. Physical strength for one, psychological and emotional strength on top of that. The power and ability to focus my mind like a fucking laser. Nobody is stopping me, only me. I’m carrying all this inherited bullshit in my mind because it never fully, properly occurred to me that I can toss it all off my back. Tomorrow when I wake up in the morning, it’s going to all come back. The same bullshit is going to replay in my mind again, that I’m not worthy yet, that I’m not powerful enough yet, that I’m not aware enough yet, that I’m not smart enough yet. All of that is crap.

I’m not going to be who I was anymore. I have made some small progresses here and there, and all of those little progresses were just little tests, little rehearsals for the big one, which is now. I’m an adult. I’m a human being. I’m alive. I’m awake. Reality is in front of my face and I’m going to confront it. Fuck social media. Fuck that thing where I wake up every morning and check my phone because I wonder what’s other people are thinking. It doesn’t matter what other people are thinking. What am I going to do when I wake up first thing in the morning? I’m going to read one of the many books that I’ve picked out for myself. I’m going to delete the stupid game from my phone that I’ve been playing for the past week or so. Fuck it. Nothing good comes out of it. It’s distraction. If I need to distract myself for a few moments, I’m going to meditate. Sit and pay attention to my breathing. Pay attention to the patterns I’m repeating.

I’m going to become a novelist. I’m going to become a writer of significance. I’m going to make a lot of what people read everyday look like really stupid shit, because it is. I’m going to write things that open people’s minds, that make people go “Huh, I never thought of that, that’s so true, wow.”  This is my decade. This is my peak existence. The world is my oyster right now, and it won’t always be. I will write short stories. I will write essays. I will write whatever the fuck it takes to light up my own life, and other people will find that useful too.

I’m going to struggle. I’m not going to lie down any more. I’m not going to be limp any more. There are 7.2 billion people in the world. 7,200,000,000. If 7,000,000,000 of them are full of shit, there’s still 200,000,000 people that I can reach out to, that I can help out, that I can become a part of, that I can grow with, learn with.

I’m going to burst free from my circumstances. I’m going to break through. I’m going to tear apart the nonsense that I’ve been sleeping in. When I wake up in the morning I’m going to read something good. I’m going to write something shortly afterwards. I’m going to meditate and reset my mind. I’m going to repeat my mantra. I can. I can. I’m made for it. I’m designed for it. I’m born for it. I’m going to keep going. I’m going to keep learning on my commute, and then I’m going to put together a plan for my work and then I’m going to fucking execute it. I will be a force of nature like nothing else I have personally ever witnessed. I’m going to make the people around me go, “Whoa, what the fuck was that?”

And I’m not going to care about that, either. It’s just an indicator. I won’t sit around talking to people about it. I won’t get distracted. I’m tired of being distracted. I’m just going to focus. I’m just going to get rid of all the fucking distractions. My mind has been craving for focus. My mind has been craving to be taken to a higher level and I’m the one that’s responsible for it. And so I’m going to discard all the old shit. I’m going to throw shit out of the window. I’m starting over. It’s me versus me, and I’m going to win. It’s me versus my bullshit, and I’m going to win. It’s me versus my ignorance and my outdated little fears and worries and anxieties, and I’m going to win. I’ve already won, it’s just putting in the daily work now to pull that reality towards me.

 

0379 – I can

I’m feeling rather impatient. I find myself thinking that I should be done with this word vomit project already. But I’m not, so I have to do it. I want to keep going and I want to be done. I guess there’s a bunch of reading that I should do, and I want to get to it as fast as possible. There’s work I want to do too, and I should get to that as fast as possible. Right now all I can do in this very moment is to write, so I’m going to write. I’m a little worried that this feeling might pass, and so I guess I should get it down into a post so that I can revisit it.

The true villain is time. The fact that we all die. That I’m going to die. I’d like to convince myself that I’m not afraid of death– that when it comes I’ll embrace it like a dear old friend. That’s the ideal goal, isn’t it? But I’m not ready to die yet. There’s a lot more I want to do. [1]

I find myself wishing that I was significant to the planet. To the species. That I consult with the best, that I operate at a higher plane than I’m currently on. I feel like I’m destined for greatness– and I have to define that for it to make sense, so that it’s not just some fancy wishful thinking that anybody can do, that we all do as a form of escapism to avoid our present circumstances. I want to confront my circumstances and take them down. I recognize that the world ahead of me is a challenge, a puzzle, and that I can and will grow and conquer it. I’ll die eventually, but not before having conquered. Not before blazing a path of glory for others to follow and learn from. Not before I help millions of people. I want to smile, I want to wake up in the morning and feel significant. And I already am significant to some people, in some ways. The challenge is to attack those problems directly. To hit strong and hard, to lean into the pain.

I was re-watching a couple of videos of Aaron Swartz after rediscovering his writing. The man is dead, that’s a tragedy. But his ideas and perspectives live on, and it’s up to people like me to represent them to keep them alive. I believe there’s a better way of being. I believe there’s a better way of seeing. I believe there’s a better way, and that the only way I can fight for it is to embody it, to represent it. I have to violently attack and discard the things that no longer help me. That no longer make sense. That no longer represent the ideals that I believe in. I need to pursue truth. I need to rip out all the broken bullshit that I’ve been carrying with me for so long. I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I’m an adult now. I’m a man now. I’m in charge of my life, nobody else. I’m responsible for how I feel, nobody else. I’m responsible for what I choose to do, nobody else. Every moment is a precious opportunity begging to be seized. And I want to seize them all. I don’t want to give up on myself anymore. I don’t want to quit anymore because things were hard, because things were uncomfortable, because I was afraid of what people would think about me. Clearly it’s much better to have shipped things than to be anxious in the harbor, wondering what if. Fuck it. Publish. Ship. If people think I’m dumb, I can apologize, I can respond, react, start over. I can add more. I can fill more. I have courage. I have conviction. I have faith that my current circumstances are not a jail. Like everything else in existence, they are only temporary. And I will get what I fight for. Reality will not take care of me. Reality does not give a shit. Reality simply is. The way for me to navigate it is to identify and understand the truths and the reality. The first rule is that you do not fool yourself, and you’re the easiest person to fool.

Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s right. A lot of stupid things feel good. I’m short-sighted. I don’t know much. I have a whole bunch of false beliefs and ideas. The only thing I can actually do is to seize the present moment. To focus in the moment about what needs to happen next. I’m thinking I should write a bunch of vomits right now. I can do maybe 3. Or I could do something else. Fuck it, I’m deciding that I’m going to write a few more vomits. I’m just going to blaze through. I have power. I have strength. I have abilities. I have been doing this for years now, I’m not a newbie. I’m not a rookie. I’m not a child. I am where I am, and this is temporary, and I already know what I need to do in order to get to the next step. To go to the next level. I can make myself proud. I can make my loved ones proud. And we can be far more than what we are now.

I can. I can. I can.

_____

[1] And I know that my to-do list will still be overflowing when I’m on my deathbed. That’s fine. That’s a part of it. But I’d like to have done some of the good stuff before that. I’d like to do all the good stuff now. I should’ve run at some point over the past couple of days. I haven’t. That’s fine. I’m just going to write in a blaze of glory and then I’m going to shower and go to bed, and wake up fresh and clear. That’s the plan. And I think my body will listen to me. I feel like my body is ready to listen to me today. That’s a privilege and and honour, and I’m going to honour it with this writing.