Archive for the ‘thinking’ Tag

Looking Back

Today would have been my mother’s 80th birthday. And this past May 19 was the 20th anniversary of her death. I wrote in a recent post, about the unexpectedly emotional response that I had to finding her jacket at the back of my closet, that my grief had evolved beyond needing that physical reminder of her to recall her fondly and reminisce. That’s true. I don’t need an object to remind me of her presence. But pictures, objects she owned, fragrances she wore, even food she liked to cook and eat, are all powerful touchstones for memory. Yet I’m comforted by the fact that I can call up her memory, image, even her words and the sound of her voice, just by thinking about her.

Memory is a fickle thing. For a while there, I wasn’t able to recall her on demand. It scared me a bit and was the source of significant angst for me. My brain would lock up and then start castigating me for my failure. “What kind of daughter are you that you can’t remember your dead mother’s voice!?” My anxiety’s voice is loud and brutal sometimes. But eventually, after intentional effort to both fix her clearly in my mind and to quiet the grief and fear that causes that memory block, I have restored my recall ability.

I think about my mom a lot. Probably more often than I ever expected. Most of the time it’s casual recollections incidental to mundane daily experiences. A particularly juicy bite of tomato in my salad might make me think of the way she so, so enthusiastically enjoyed tomatoes, often eating them like you would an apple (shudder). Or hearing a fragment of an old country song, especially a Marty Robbins or Patsy Cline tune, will make me smile as I remember her singing them as she moved around the house or drove her car. The simple, un-forced recollections of how she was on a day-to-day basis bring me a lot of joy.

Sure, the big, stand-out memories are there. Like the time she appeared in my 7th grade chemistry classroom like an avenging angel to contest an unfair and incorrect grade on a major assignment that my teacher refused to discuss with me. I remember, even today, that while there was fire in her eyes and vigilance in her body language, she retained an impeccable level of calm, civil, professionalism in her voice. That struck me particularly, as my mother was not above raising her voice to get a point across, at least to her children. So that particular example of civil confrontation and negotiation has stayed with me and has had at least as much influence on my own professional demeanor as the negotiation training I received in law school.

Or there’s the numerous memories of her bedside manner when I was sick or injured as a kid. (I was and am a klutz, so these memories are legion.) My mom was a no-nonsense, almost cold medic. When I was in 4th grade and a neighborhood bully yanked me off my bike with a jump rope and the skin on my neck was severely abraded, my mom’s calm, clinical attention in the face of my hysterical, tearful reaction was instrumental in the fast, infection-free healing that followed. But it wasn’t until I was grown and out on my own that I realized that what I thought of with some hurt as her coldness and callous disregard for my suffering was actually her attempt to control her rage and revulsion so that I would freak out less and calm more quickly. Again, she taught me a lot about crisis management that I never would have learned and fully internalized in my book-based management training.

And, of course, there are the more fraught, some might call them traumatic, memories of her in moments of anger and disappointment. My mother could be hard, loud, strict, demanding. When disciplining me, especially with physical correction, I admit that I experienced moments of fear. That was part of the point, I’m sure. But I also remember being sure of myself because of her consistency, knowing what consequences (good and bad) would follow from what types of actions. I never feared that I didn’t know what she’d do or how she’d react. I could count on a firm consistency, even if it was harsh. But I could also count on fairness. I remember getting punished for telling my older brothers where she had stored cookies she’d baked for a church function, when I had done no such thing. And when my mom discovered the truth she apologized and made sure I, in my nascent and burgeoning sense of justice, understood that she had made a mistake because of false information and that she would be sure to do better verifying the facts in future. In that incident I learned that my mom, whom I held in awe, was fallible, but she was honest, fair and accountable to correct her mistakes. It’s easy to describe in this way with my adult brain, experience and vocabulary. As a five year old, all I knew was that my mom admitted a mistake, said sorry, and was careful to not make the same mistake again. That was huge for me then and remains a cherished lesson today.

Her consistency and follow-through really stand out for me and have contributed in material ways to my professional development. For example, she taught me about contract negotiation in high school. When I first learned to drive a car, she strictly enforced a rule prohibiting any other minors in the car while I was driving alone. So when I wanted the right to go out with my friends, we negotiated a written agreement on the subject, setting up milestones that would earn me the right to have friends in my car. She was a stickler, too, checking progress and providing guidance along the way. But when I achieved all prerequisites, she was just as particular in praising my achievements and giving me the privilege I had earned. That trust and accountability played a huge part in my growth and understanding of responsibility and personal integrity and are part of my management style to this day.

I miss my mom. I’d have loved for her to see the kickass house I now own and enjoy her pride in my professional accomplishments. I’d like for her to see that my maturation into, and acceptance of, my gender identity has been an enormous blessing, a freeing of my spirit that I worried as a teen and young adult would never happen. I’d like to know what she would think about so many things in my life and this world today.

But even though I can never be sure of the exact words she would use in those conversations, I am unshakably confident in three messages she’d make sure I received: “I love you”; “I’m proud of you”; and “You can do anything you put your mind to”. Those were the three most common sentences that she said to me in my youth. I took them for granted a lot as I grew up. But I never doubted their truth, then or now. (“Shut the door”; “In or out, but don’t stand in the doorway”; and “Not so loud” all vie for next most common sentences of my youth, for those who wonder. 😉)

Looking back, there are a lot of things about my upbringing that my inner child might wish to improve – our family’s financial position, the frequency and severity of punishment, my dad’s work schedule, among others. But my current adult self knows that, although it was far from perfect, my upbringing was full of blessings for my current life. My parents’ love for and commitment to the welfare of me and my siblings produced a family life that nurtured and educated and comforted and encouraged us to do and be good, to strive for excellence, to help others and give of ourselves.

If I am so fortunate that my family and friends who survive me look back at their time shared with me and see half the good and positive memories that I experience looking back on my time with my mother, I’d count that as a mark of a successful life.

Deliberation

It’s been some time since I posted. Lots of reasons for that, but not the least of them is that I’ve been working on being mindful and deliberate and intentional about what I put out into the universe. It seems to me that the old maxim that you get what you manifest has merit. At least, I don’t know of any use case where harm arose from being mindful and deliberate, nor from visualizing and working toward the desired outcome.

While positivity, gratitude, and kindness have long been a part of my self-discovery and self-improvement journey, I have frequently gotten mired in the negative experiences I’ve encountered and sought comfort, support, validation, and ideas for addressing those experiences, both in conversation and in posts on this blog. And I’ll own that several of my blog posts have amounted to not much more than primal screams into the void for the sole purpose of venting the steam.

Those things are bound to happen from time to time, and my taking note of them in myself is not a commentary, challenge, or criticism of myself or anyone else’s human response to negative stimuli. I just note for myself that, as I think more carefully about what to say in this space, weighing the benefits, if any, of those rants and primal screams is perhaps a better use of my energy than indulging them.

Something I’ve noticed in my private, handwritten journaling practice since the beginning of the pandemic is that my need for ‘out loud’ airing of grievances and external validation of my experience has shifted to a lower order of importance. There might be a lot of factors contributing to that, but the first one that comes to mind is that my brain has promoted dealing with the allostatic load of stress and anxiety bearing on my body and soul to a higher priority than dealing with the emotional need for validation and vindication. That’s a completely unscientific and personally-biased supposition. But it certainly makes sense to me.

Although I actively try to avoid comparing myself to the experience of others, I cannot avoid the knowledge of my privilege in having many aspects of life better than what I observe is true for many of the people I know virtually and in real life. That makes me wary of discussing the very real load of stress I experience from the prolonged isolation and the impact of global unrest and the unrelenting hate, stupidity and callous disregard of human dignity that the current federal administration (and many state administrations) permit and inflict daily. But these things make the pages of my private journal frequently. Thumbing back through the pages of my current notebook, I notice that the recordings of down days, and memorials of sadness at the world’s ugliness, and jottings of my irritation and anger at injustices large and small, local and global, are much more frequent than my notations of positive happenings or of the small, personal things that would have taken much more of my focus in other times.

Correlatedly, looking back through my drafts of potential blog posts, all of my attempts to address those everyday personal subjects seem to die on the vine. I get a few paragraphs in and my brain shouts “Really!? THIS is what you want people to read? This is worth talking about right now?” And then I quit. Because it seems wrong to discuss the mundane and disingenuous to point out the shiny bits in life, when so much is broken and tarnished.

All of that to say that because my private musings have siphoned my inner darkness during these outward dark days, I have been trying to be more choosy in what I say here. Not only do I want to avoid adding to the darkness for others, I want to cultivate a space for my heart and mind to explore positivity and to be open to other possibilities that aren’t focused on the sludge in the world and in my brain.

Unfortunately, my efforts so far have succeeded more in stifling and censoring my voice here, rather than encouraging more varied expression. But perhaps that’s the first step; maybe being quiet instead of saying what doesn’t need to be said, or doesn’t need to be said by me, is the first step to having something meaningful to contribute? I don’t know.

But, I do want you all to know that my silence here is not a signal of apathy or indifference to you or the situation in the world. I just want to make this space a place where personal growth, positivity and kindness are centered. So I’m going to keep practicing my granny’s admonition: don’t say anything until you have something to say. I’m applying that rule with this tweak: don’t post unless what you have to say is worth reading.

Stay well, my friends!

Tidbits and Rage

I can’t think long and critically enough to research and write something substantive. I’m struggling, like so many of you, with the toll this pandemic and the social distancing and isolation has taken on my cognitive acuity. The isolation is necessary, I know. But still…My concentration is shot, my patience is thin, and I’m not sleeping well. So deep thinking about things other than my job is a big deal.

Yet, I have a desire to keep this blog going and have something to say. While the “something to say” may be of dubious value, I am going to do it anyway. In list form. Sort of stream of consciousness-style. Here are ten random things from my head that I want you to know.

⁃ I wore at least one thing rainbow every single day of June.

⁃ The facts on Snapple lids are an incentive for me to stay hydrated.

⁃ Achievement unlocked: I ordered something off eBay and it took so long to arrive (9 weeks!) that I forgot I ordered it, ordered it again several weeks later from another supplier and received it 3 weeks before the first one. 🙄

⁃ I managed to set myself an achievable chore list for every room in my house and completed all but one task in the time I set for myself. I’m feeling proud about that, especially since the one task undone was a last-minute add that was not essential.

⁃ I have discovered, in the process of cleaning out my old house and getting it ready to sell, two Christmas gifts that I received two and three years ago, respectively, that I completely forgot I owned. It was like Christmas all over again!

⁃ I am hopelessly in love with my motorized tie rack. I purchased it for my new dressing room a couple months ago and installed it a couple weeks ago. It’s so freakin’ cool! And it holds every bow tie I wear regularly. There are five bow ties that didn’t make it onto the rack because I never wear them and they’re going in the next batch of donations.

⁃ I got some schmancy new shoelaces from a horribly niche online seller. I’ve installed one pair and am loving them! Can’t wait to try the other pairs in some other boots. This could be my next sartorial addiction!

⁃ It is ridiculous how guilty I feel when I don’t wear a tie for work, even though I’m working from home. I normally do – I’ve been dressing for the office every day as if nothing has changed. But this week has been so blistering hot that even in my comfortably air conditioned home, my dress shirts have felt stifling. And since all my short sleeved shirts are patterned, I’m hesitant to try pairing bow ties with them. Feels like a Butch Fashion Fail.

⁃ I was asked to advise the Crisis Management Team at my work in regards to various issues attending the re-opening of some of our global offices. In the course of the call I had to physically stop myself…seriously, I put a hand over my own mouth…from verbally slapping our head of physical security as he spouted nonsense that he believed was substantive contribution to the discussion. I exercised restraint, I remained courteous, I corrected numerous misstatements of fact and disabused many urban legends masquerading as science. All without jeopardizing my job. I feel like a bona fide adult professional.

⁃ Lastly, I need you all to know, internalize, and live the following pieces of irrefutable truth: science, not pandering to politics or economics, is what will bring this pandemic under control; wearing masks, practicing good hygiene, and maintaining social distancing and isolation save lives and the inconvenience of masks and remote work and distancing is an abysmally poor excuse for sacrificing those lives; racism and racial violence thrive in an environment of ignorance; police brutality is real and killing people daily – yes, even though you know and love someone who is a cop; black, indigenous, and trans lives matter and are being systematically jeopardized, both intentionally by racist, misogynist, patriarchal systems of power, and by the ignorant, would-be eloquent, language of harm, hate and pseudoscience spewed by privileged people with a public platform who choose to persecute difference, rather than embrace and celebrate it; love is love, love wins; and no one is free until we all are free.

Peace, my friends.

Bits and Bobs

Haven’t been by here in a little while. Life is so strange right now – hectic, tedious, frantic, boring, time racing, and time dragging by. The confusion of emotions and odd reality and adjustment to new norms and rebelling against all the wrong in the world makes it seem so futile to write here. Because writing here used to soothe and help sort things out and point me to paths of action. But now, there seems no clear path and the unclear paths are fraught with angst and danger – real or imagined.

But, as I’ve said many times in this space, I don’t want to give in to fear. Capitulating makes my spirit rebel and my gut churn. So, I’m going to write something, anything, to prove to myself that I can overcome anxiety and fear and frustration and boredom and do some little thing to feel better. In addition to these two paragraphs, I can do a list. Here’s a list of some things that have passed through my mind recently or happened recently or that are just cool things that break the monotony of awful in the world.

1. It’s definitely summer time here on the Great Plains. My yard, my neighborhood, my city are all green and the birds have returned to the trees. Today is an exceptionally beautiful day. I took a conference call from my deck this morning and loved the sunshine, clear skies and cool breeze. Makes working from home all the more appealing.

2. I went to my work office yesterday for the first time since the first week of March. Had to meet with our new CEO and participate in his site visit. It was an odd, anxious experience being back there. I liked seeing a lot of the people I have been missing. And I was proud and pleased to be a part of the occasion. But the cavalier attitude of many folks outside of official meetings, where distancing was enforced, toward mask wearing and distance boundaries really made me nervous. But I successfully avoided contact and kept my distance, did my work and made it home without incident. So glad to be back in my home office!

3. Now that it’s warm weather, we’re getting the minor exterior repairs done on my new house and will get fresh paint and deck stain this summer. Also nearing the end of the rolling, iterative culling/moving process. Soon we’ll be out of the old house and have it sold. I’m really looking forward to that being done.

4. While I was in the office yesterday, my company hosted a listening session conducted by five of our black leaders from across various functions. They each spoke eloquently of their experience with racism and racial violence throughout their careers. I was impressed at the depth and sensitivity with which they each handled the questions and topics they covered, while speaking fully and unfiltered on many uncomfortable truths. I was glad to see four, strong, black women and one, strong, black man speak passionately of their triumphs as well as their heartaches. And I was proud that my company gave them that platform to speak their truth without interruption and without the encroachment of other, more privileged voices diverting attention from them.

5. I continue to struggle with sleep and a huge and mounting pile of sleep debt. But in the last 5 nights I’ve managed 3 where I got about 6 hours of sleep. That’s something of a record for me of late. I’m grateful for that rest and for the nights when my brain slows down enough for sleep to happen at a reasonable hour, regardless of its duration. I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of an upward trend and that I can pay down some of that sleep debt a little faster. 🤞

Be well, my friends! I hope you have sunny days and cool breezes and plenty for which to offer thanks.

Here I Go Again

It’s that time of year again. Time to go to the company sales rally to kickoff the year. Last year, I had to skip it to prep for court. That was an excessively stressful time and, yet, it was better than being in a hotel with hundreds of sales people attending a bunch of ra-ra meetings with little real substance or lasting benefits.

I have a big problem with the amount that is spent on this event every year, especially when we’ve laid people off and tightened already lean budgets to the bone. It seems so wasteful. This year, especially; it’s being held in a city and country where we have no offices or facilities, so *everyone* is traveling, increasing expenses drastically.

But, in an effort not to be Debbie Downer all the time, I’m going to put effort into being positive and keeping an open mind. If I’m lucky, I’ll get to go to a world class art museum, perhaps a renowned botanic garden, and maybe eat some authentic food that I can’t get in Flyover Country USA.

We’ll see how it goes. But first, I must pack today, fly away tomorrow afternoon, and arrive in Madrid Sunday morning. If I survive all that, I may be in for a cool international experience. And…fingers crossed that I come back conference-crud-free!

Be excellent to yourselves and others while I’m away.

Meandering Thoughts

Here are some vaguely-related things that have been on my mind lately:

  1. Silence is inestimably valuable and wonderfully versatile. Silence creates space. Space in which to think and breathe and be still. Space for new emotion, new words, no words, and new silence to provide relief and meaning. Silence can soothe and help heal the hurts of a rough day. But silence can also be sharp or unsettling, and can just as easily agitate as placate. But the loaded, heavy, weaponized silence – whether used in battle between two people or just between a person and her own brain – is something to be avoided.
  2. It’s sometimes very hard to resist the temptation of feeling that you are owed someone’s time and energy. But remembering, consciously reminding yourself, that that person (regardless of what your relationship with them might be) doesn’t owe you their time, attention, energy or regard, makes receiving those things from them all the sweeter.
  3. Remaining intentionally and actively, mindfully positive is a challenge at the best of times. It’s rewards are many and varied. But when there are long, gloomy, cold days and lassitude seems to outweigh initiative and imagination, active, intentional positivity can seem an impossible task.
  4. The pace by which thoughts, emotions, connections build and reform is sometimes staggering. I’ve written before about how my brain tends to connect (sometimes conflates) certain ideas or events or emotions or experiences and then stubbornly refuses to revise or release those connections. That doesn’t seem to be the way a lot of other people think or the way the world at large works. So the dizzying pace of change all around me can seem overwhelming. I often feel like an anachronism, that I’m falling behind, or that I’m too slow and clunky for the world around me. That’s part of why I work so hard at positivity. I want to at least be a bright spot in the world if I can’t be the most modern or interesting.
  5. There is beauty in the chaotic, fractal, irregularity of bare tree branches in relief against a snowy field or overcast sky. I find myself looking out my office window at the nearly monochrome winter landscape, white snow melding into white clouds at the horizon, interrupted only by black tree branches weaving lacy patterns in undulating patches here and there. Sometimes I think if I watch long enough the wisdom they’ve encoded in their branches might reveal itself to me.

Investment

Here’s something I’ve figured out and that I want you to know:

Often it is difficult to tell when someone genuinely cares about you. Other times it’s crystal clear. One thing that makes it easy to tell is investment. When someone is invested in you, your interests, your feelings, it becomes clear and undeniable that they care for you and about you.

Investment, to me, is more than mere affection. It is effort and time. It’s listening and reflecting back what you hear in words and in deeds. It is communicating as well as communing. It’s empathy and enthusiasm and encouragement. It is stomping the brain weasels when the other person can’t make them behave. It’s being vulnerable and letting that person in. It’s being brave and letting that person see parts of you that you’re not proud of having. It’s trusting so they’ll trust you. It’s being a safe and soft place for that person to land

When it matters that you care about someone or that they care about you, being invested in their happiness, their interests, their feelings is the surest way to overcome that internal saboteur’s voice that tells them not to believe, that they’re not worthy of such regard, that they don’t have value.

Being invested in someone, putting in that effort and showing them your investment…that’s one of the rarest, most potent, most beautiful gifts you can give to another person.

#nocontextforyou

New year, new approach to posting to this blog. I hinted in posts a few weeks ago that perhaps the purpose this blog serves in my life is evolving and that I might not need or want to be so regimented in what, how and when I add posts here. Since then, I have all but convinced myself that assessment is accurate and a change is in order.

What that change entails, its scope, and how it manifests may evolve over time. But the immediate change, likely only I will notice, is that I’m letting go of the revered weekly posting goal. I think it served its purpose and I’m happy that I was able to maintain that streak for basically the whole of last year. But the psychic pressure that has put on me is beginning to outweigh the benefits that I saw from maintaining that discipline. So, if it happens weekly, all to the good. But I’m shifting my focus to being more deliberate about posting things that have meaning for me, even if that meaning isn’t obvious to anyone else.

Apropos of that, I’m making my first 2020 post a no-context list of thoughts that are loosely related to each other and very closely tied to what’s been most on my mind the last few weeks.

In no particular order of which I’m aware:

⁃ “But in that stubborn, nearly irrational way that liars often refuse to lie to themselves, my brain, so full of lying anxiety readily dispensed in cruelty, refuses to tell me comforting lies about how safety can be achieved. Instead, still out of cruelty, it bludgeons me with the harsh truth that safety is unreachable, has dropped beyond the horizon and the only remaining path is forward through the perils.”

⁃ Sometimes perilous things are exceedingly pleasant and enjoyable.

⁃ A broad, richly detailed and imaginative vocabulary is an exceedingly beautiful thing.

⁃ Those things…or that person…that randomly pops into your mind, that instantly refocuses your attention whenever encountered, that so fully possesses your imagination and consumes your consciousness that you lose track of time? That’s your passion. Pursue it, even if you might fail. Even if failure is certain. It’s the pursuit that matters.

⁃ Rancid brain-weasels don’t deserve your attention. “Stomp them” mercilessly, as I have recently been wisely advised. Preferably while wearing some devastatingly stylish “stompy boots”! Codicil: stomping brain weasels for a friend is a kindness and a mercy.

⁃ There are few things in this life more satisfying than letters from a smart, witty, incisive, and honest correspondent.

⁃ Making room for mystery and magic in your life is never wasted effort.

⁃ Sharing your view of a colorful sky and sitting quiet and still together is among the best kinds of comfort you can find in another’s companionship, even from afar.

Portents

Sometimes there really are coincidences and inexplicable juxtapositioning of separate things in life. Not every seeming pattern is actually a pattern or a sign from the universe, spirits, ancestors, angels or demons that may have the ability to communicate such things.

And sometimes they are.

Lately, over the last several months at least, I have seen an uptick in the frequency with which I have encountered certain phenomena, most especially in the frequency of the feeling of anticipation, of something impending, coming my way.

With most feelings and phenomena, the over- or under-tones they bear can fall anywhere on a spectrum from wildly hopeful and positive to abysmally bleak and dreadful. This feeling of pendency, of possibility and opportunity is mostly hopeful and positive. Occasionally, it acquires an ominous flavor of apprehension, presentiment, augury and foreboding. Other times it’s somewhere in the middle resonance, tasting of expectancy, chance, suspension, and promise. And at still other times the prickly, eerie aura of divination, foreshadowing, premonition and prophesy are most prominent.

But at all times in this recent surge of this anxious foretelling is a strong sense that every instance of it is a genuine portent of things to come.

I struggle mightily with this, as my logical, linear-thinking brain has no framework of scientific analysis in which place this phenomena to satisfactorily explain this possibility. While I am not so arrogant as to believe that I know all that is knowable about analysis and examination, I have ample evidence that my application of these fundamental cognitive tools is usually effective and accurate. So, when faced with the inexplicable, my inquisitive mind fritzes over its thwarted desire to explain the why and how of a thing.

Indeed, in the last 48+ hours I have confronted two very big and significant portents that have had my guts and grey cells tied in knots trying to rationalize the utterly irrational, as well as internalize the surprisingly rational. In particular, my instinct to uncover the logistics of how these things might come to pass has occupied many hours and much of my energy that I would otherwise have spent sleeping or in more productive pursuits.

Working through some of these puzzles with friends, I’m challenged by the repeated advice to let go of the “how”, the “why”, the urge to control logistical outcomes, and simply trust that the universe will bring about what is meant to be. I have been reminded by multiple sources that it is faith, and not logic, that is the ideal tool for dealing with this impending advent. Scraps of scripture learned in my youth concerning the nature of faith…substance of things hoped for, evidence of things not seen…are on infinite loop playback in my head. And the war between logic and faith, will and willingness, rages in my chest.

I wonder if that isn’t the ultimate, meta portent? What if the pattern of prescient contemplation is not only a tool to prepare for whatever is coming, but is also the substance of the impending revelation. If the universe wants me to see that the logic and reason I treasure and rely on is not a pathway but an obstacle, what better way to show me than by filling my life with phenomena immune to logic and only discoverable by faith?

That’s some epic, angsty, emo, existential crisis-driven fever dream right there.

Maybe I should just stop looking for patterns and methods and answers and explanations. Maybe being “blown about by every wind of change” is the best policy – going with the flow, as it were. But I don’t know how to do that, either.

So what’s left? If logic is unavailing and extracting the how and why of something impedes the advent of the portent, yet passively floating from swell to swell on the ocean of chance is not possible, what’s next? Is it simply doing nothing?

Can anything that results from such a process have lasting value? Will whatever emerges from such inactivity be salubrious, nourishing? Doesn’t the lack of effort to bring about the outcome necessarily diminish it? Does accepting such a windfall call into question my personal standard of ethics and integrity?

All these questions arise from the values with which I was reared, and they are evidence of the challenge to these values that this policy of inaction incites. I don’t have answers. I suspect they cannot be answered this side of the outcome being realized.

Which begs the question: Can I perform this experiment, sticking it out until the end, or will I retreat to the safety of my illusion of control and forego the chance to know the outcome?

Assumptions

Wow, sometimes I think I might be prescient. I started writing this last Saturday, following a train of thought that has been nagging at the back of my brain on and off for a while now. A couple of things have happened in the three days since I started writing that seem to confirm all my thoughts on this topic. Weird how the brain works sometimes.

——— o0o ——-

Everyone assumes things, big and small, right and wrong, from time to time. There are some overt assumptions given as a starting point in certain situations that everyone involved agrees to be true. But often when we speak about assumptions it is in the context of blind assumptions, those thoughts that set a baseline, coloring our actions and outlook on a given topic, person or activity, without much basis for that thought or opinion. Those kinds of beliefs can be tricky to navigate and hard to challenge and change, especially when they are about ourselves.

Lately, I have been encountering assumptions that I have about myself in odd, unexpected ways. For the most part, I think that’s a good thing. Being aware of what we think about ourselves helps us examine our path and can help us make good choices (or bad) and take us in new and exciting directions. It can also make us retrench in those beliefs, habits, practices that we find comfortable and true, often regardless of other knock-on effects of keeping those things in tact.

At times, I feel that this constant self-examination, endless striving to improve, to be and remain positive, to challenge every shortcoming, is just another treadmill of “not good enough”. It feels like all this self awareness, personal growth and discovery work is more about destruction than construction. Some days it feels like there’s nothing good enough in me and I’ll have to completely remake my entire being in order to get to a place where I can look at myself in the mirror (both physical and metaphorical) and be content that the person looking back is acceptable.

This self assumption of inadequacy is insidious. It lurks in places you don’t ever expect to find assumptions. There are plenty of overt, obvious places where it is easily recognizable. These are predictable and annoying, sometimes hard to cut loose, but they don’t have much camouflage and are capable of being tackled head-on. The cynic in me sometimes thinks these are intentional distractions, ruses placed by the subconscious to divert attention from the deeper places where this assumption truly lives, to make it nearly impossible to root out and eradicate. If all our energy is focused on the surface assumptions, then the roots have time to go deep and unchallenged.

A place I’ve recently confronted this assumption – that I am not and will never be good enough – is superficially obvious, but there’s a taproot from the obvious surface to the hidden depths that I didn’t expect. And that unexpectedness makes me question if it’s really an irrational assumption or just the plain truth that I have to accept.

The surface bit is easy: I encounter disapproval/rejection/reprimand and I immediately assume I’m in the wrong or not up to standard, so that treatment must be deserved and I need to change and improve to be worthy of better treatment.

Now, clearly, there are times when everyone falls short and that self-castigating assumption is accurate. Being a mature adult means taking accountability for our mistakes and flaws and committing to do or be better. This is a healthy response to confronting personal shortcomings.

But the deeper bit is harder to articulate. It’s part “I’m working really hard to improve X quality/personal trait yet am not seeing expected results” and part “damn, I thought I’d mastered that one, but I guess not”. I guess what it boils down to is that frequency matters, more so than personal effort. Basically, if criticism is repeated, especially when it comes from different sources, then I gotta think that it’s not my irrational insecurities, but fact.

That’s painful on a lot of levels, but mostly it hurts to know that my inner saboteur was right all along. It’s painful and embarrassing to discover that I was a fool to take comfort in the easy platitudes of well-meaning acquaintances who urged me to believe myself to be good and smart and worthy, when my brain was telling me where I was falling short of all of those standards.

So what do you do when the illusion is revealed and all your comfortable self beliefs are debunked by cold fact?

I suppose the healthiest response is to redirect all that self-improvement energy to a more realistic, achievable goal. When your inadequacy has been proven to be reality, get to work on becoming adequate. Seems fairly straightforward. But so much in life that seems simple is not. Bootstrapping yourself to the finish line from square one is really f’ing hard and exhausting. Especially when the leaden weight of failure is still hanging around your neck.

So the real question is how do you take that leaden noose off your neck?

Let me know when you find out, won’t you?

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