Archive for the ‘writing’ Tag

Random Bits

Catching up after a trip abroad is busy work! Cleaning out the in-box, unpacking the suitcase, laundry, dry cleaning, home chores, fighting off the head cold/lurgy that you picked up on the plane home…you know, the usual. As a consequence, I have not devised a thoughtful, well-ordered, substantive post in a while. And this one is not an exception to that. But I wanted to post. So here are some random bits:

  • I have recently watched more “tv” via streaming service than I have in years. I’m late to the party on Sherlock, but am *loving* it! Can’t wait for Season 2 of The Mandalorian. So, so, so loving the new Star Trek: Picard series! Catching up on Star Trek: Discovery and enjoying it, though the mushy annunciation of the Klingon portrayals is challenging. All in all, a good bit of entertainment!
  • My company announced the appointment of a new CEO today. Only time will tell if the newcomer will improve the culture and quality of life around here. I dearly hope so.
  • I was interviewed for a feature in Hispanic Executive magazine that’s coming out later this year. That was an ego boost, I can tell you!
  • The dressing room I’ve gushed over so much in recent posts is coming together. I am now in the slow-putter phase of calibration of its optimal layout. I love having this ongoing project to mess around with.
  • Sometimes I struggle with being patient with some of my younger attorneys. They’re doing well, on the whole, and I appreciate their energy and attitudes. But often they move so quickly and pay too little attention to detail. That’s a natural part of maturation, I know. But the energy *I* must expend cleaning up the messes they create in their haste is taxing on my nerves.
  • I posted a bit ago about an experiment I was going to do to try to break the writer’s block I’ve been suffering. I committed to writing by hand for 30 days. No word count or subject matter requirements would apply. Just write every day, whatever comes out of my brain. I started February 10th. I wanted a date that was not the first of a month and I wanted to do 30 days, not just a calendar month. I’m using a brand new, beautiful leather-bound journal that was gifted me by a very dear friend, and a nice, new, heavy brass pen I received for Christmas. It has been a good experience so far, enjoyable. I’m not certain if my creativity has yet been re-energized, but the habit of writing every day has been. That can only be a good thing.
  • My friends and I are in the midst of plotting a return trip to Asheville this Spring. Last year’s holiday was such a huge success and an epic relief of stress that we’re doing it again. Can’t wait!!
  • Choosing a new route out of my neighborhood this morning gave me a great view of some naked trees against the sunrise. I so love the pattern of the branches against the sky.

Friends, I hope you have sunshine and joy in abundance and find things in your life that spark the fire of your imagination. Be excellent to one another.

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.

Still No Context

Some things that are in my head, in no particular order, and for no particular reason:

⁃ Lyrics that speak to me lately:

  • Delicate by Taylor Swift: “Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate”
  • In the Middle by Jimmy Eat World: “Hey, don’t write yourself off yet…It’s only in your head you feel left out…Or looked down on”
  • Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindy Lauper: “Oh girls just want to have…That’s all they really want…Some fun…When the working day is done…Oh girls, they wanna have fun”
  • Can’t Stop the Feeling by Justin Timberlake: “I got that sunshine in my pocket…Got that good soul in my feet…I feel that hot blood in my body when it drops…I can’t take my eyes up off it, movin’ so phenomenally”

⁃ Getting asked to participate in a substantive way in a conversation among people you respect and admire, and having those people demonstrate courtesy and respect to you for your contribution, is a pretty great ego boost.

⁃ There’s an indescribable elation that comes when you stop listening to that inner saboteur, who coats every thought and feeling with doubt and negativity, and start believing, deep down and without reservation, what caring and well-meaning friends have been telling you: you matter, you have value, you are enough.

⁃ Taking joy in small, seemingly insignificant details of life brings perspective to my world and a joy all its own. Things like the rough, unconventional beauty of a gnarled old tree silhouetted against the rising sun; misty skies and hoarfrost on the trees; the spark of excitement in seeing a text notification from a fun friend; the glow of satisfaction at achieving a personal goal; the warm comfort felt when you find kinship in the mind of friend; and the thrill of discovery when reading a brand new book or seeing a new episode of a beloved tv show.

⁃ Effort, intelligence, transparency, kindness, humor not at the expense of others, and authenticity. These are among the sexiest traits I can name in any human.

⁃ Recently discovered (only mildly) guilty pleasure: assigning a secret name inside your head to the people around you, especially those that vex or try your patience. Thinking of them with that name, and with that certain mental inflection as you pronounce it, brings a tiny sly grin to the face that others want you to explain. Don’t. It enhances the enjoyment if you keep it a mystery.

Last one…

It’s the last day of the year. Last chance to post a blog in the twenty-teens. Here it is, for what it’s worth.

I’m at my office engaged in my least favorite activity – waiting for contracts to come in and counting down to the last one that can be reasonably expected to close. Always a mystery until it happens.

So, while I wait, I do little things here and there that are not terribly vexing when interrupted for things like absurd emergency approvals and grumbling visits from my irascible boss. One of those things is personal writing – just random jottings of thoughts and recountings of daily occurrences that are mostly mundane but have meaning for me in some way.

One of the several running entries in this log I keep now hosts a bit of writing of which I am particularly proud. It has the makings of a good story, of sorts. I imagine it as one of those gritty, atmospheric type tellings, a glimpse into the narrator’s world, full of their emotion and internal dialogue. We’ll see how it works out. It might never see the light of day, but it might become something. Who’s to say?

Also in between last-day crises, I have been chatting with friends via text. I like that medium of communication. It makes up for a lot of the faults I suffer from in face-to-face conversation, like nervousness, brain freeze and stammering. But what it doesn’t do well is convey expression of tone. I’m constantly worried that my comms will be misinterpreted as curt or snarky or disrespectful because of my word choices or sentence structure. But by and large, it’s nice to have free, instantaneous communication with fun conversationalists right in the palm of my hand.

Friends, my hope for you and for me is that the new year is gentle on your heart, mind and body, that it’s myriad opportunities also come with the courage for you to seize them, and that your peace is full, abundant, packed down and overflowing.

Happy New Year, all!

Now For Something Completely Different

Lately, my posts have been about me, my struggle with anxiety and sleeplessness, my elation over my new house, my continued attempts to be positive and find at least one good thing in every day. Those are good things, mostly. Also, predictable and likely boring.

So today, I’m writing about something different: me. Oh, right. That’s not different at all. What is different is the aspect of me that I’m writing about: writing.

I’ve revealed here before that I’m working on writing and being creative, generally. I even crowed about one of my short stories being selected for publication in an anthology to be released this coming spring. Writing beyond this blog and unrelated to my profession is, to use a hackneyed phrase, a passion of mine – a quiet, unassuming passion, but passion nonetheless.

It’s an area of my creativity that is fraught with complex emotions. As a student, the mechanics of writing, especially sentence structure and composition, were challenging for me. I encountered a lot of harsh criticism that I really didn’t understand – much of it seemed to tell me to do what I had already done, without acknowledging that what I’d written already met the edicts my critic was imposing. I felt stifled and inadequate, though without any clear reason why my writing failed to please.

And then there’s the self-criticism, borne of insecurity and reflecting that formative experience, that’s at least as harsh and confusing as any external commentary. Constantly worrying about whether someone will “get it”, will appreciate the thoughtfulness and creativity I’ve poured into a given piece, has been a significant hindrance to my creative productivity.

Putting something out there for someone else to consume and comment is a risky business. Egos can get bruised, feelings can be crushed, confidence can be scorched. All for the thrill of taking thought from ether, putting it into words in an order and structure unique to its form, and setting it free to become an entity unto itself. Big payoffs and big disappointments abound. Which it will be is a mystery until it happens. Sometimes it’s worth the risk. Other times…not so much.

When I get lost in the conundrum of weighing those risks, I often resort to the safety of retreat. Simply putting the questions – what if, why, when – out of my mind and focusing on the how. What is the next step? If this story or essay or blog post is going to happen, what’s the next thing to be done? That works for most writing problems I encounter. Giving me a finite goal and a short horizon to view usually lets my brain work the problem.

That trick doesn’t seem to be effective on a real block, however. When I’m struggling to plot a story or even come up with a creative idea, “the next thing” is hidden and out of reach. It’s maddening.

I’ve been battling such a block for a while now. At first, I thought it was a combination of work stress and personal disappointment after a fairly ignominious and humbling dating experience. But as I have experienced a lot of emotional highs and great blessings since, prompting a few good blog posts and a lot of easing of stress, the expected lifting of the block hasn’t occurred. I keep starting to write and either I spend hours with nothing but a blinking cursor on a blank page, or scribble frantically and end up with nothing but some disjointed, crumpled handwritten notes to show for it.

So, in an attempt to break the block, I’m combining tactics: naming the demon to sap it’s power, while narrowing the focus to a single step. This blog admitting to the problem is the naming: I have writer’s block.

The single step I’m contemplating to break that block is writing by hand. It’s not a new, revolutionary tactic. It’s been done throughout history, literally. Since humans began recording, we’ve been writing by hand. And yes, technically, even electronic writing is mostly done by human hands on a keyboard (though dictation by voice isn’t “by hand”, it still usually requires a human action to get started). But there’s something alchemical about taking a pen in your hand and moving it across the page in a rhythm of strokes to form words. For my brain, this magical transmogrification of the staticky, noisy thoughts into ordered, coherent thoughts is activated by the physical movement of the pen in my hand in a way that doesn’t happen with my fingers on a keyboard.

Maybe that’s got something to do with the fact that most of my work is done by computer keyboard. Maybe the change from typing to old-fashioned writing shifts my brain to another gear? I don’t know. But I’m not going to question it. I’m just going to do it.

I’ve got a brand new notebook, sized just right to keep with me everywhere, and a pen. I’m going to commit to writing down thoughts and snippets and ideas as they occur, not obsessing over order, chronology, neatness or coherence. I’m just going to write what occurs to me when it occurs to me for an entire month. Then, the following month I’m going to take the time to read through the notes, mark what I think goes together, and decide if it can become a finished work. If so, I’ll also decide when and how long I’ll take to pull it together.

That’s the plan. Let’s see if I can pull it off. But I’m not going to be a stickler about precise dates or number of words to write or topics to cover. I’m going to let my spirit be free in this experiment. Even that’s a stretch for me, the linear-thinking, logically-driven, ordered lawyer. But this isn’t about the lawyer in me. It’s about the creator in me who longs to be legitimately regarded as a writer. To achieve that, I need to write. And to write, I have to kill this block.

Wish me luck.

Busted…but Great

So I busted my posting streak. Unintentionally, but definitely busted. It’s been 2 weeks since my last post. Bummer.

But there are good reasons. Beyond just apathy or laziness.

First, I bought a house! So great and exciting. The house is beautiful, move-in ready, and a big upgrade from my current house. I got it at an amazing price and under great financing terms. That took a good bit of my time and energy, but it’s all very good.

Second, and closely related to the first, is that I bought new furniture and a custom closet system. Since I am not an avid shopper and not well practiced at it, those trips occupied more time and creativity than I expected. Surprisingly, however, I enjoyed the effort. I especially liked picking out the fixtures and options for my custom closet system. I’ve wanted to have a dressing room since I was a teenager. Now that I have the means and the space to do it, I’m indulging myself. I’m turning one bedroom into a full-room closet. So, so stoked about this! Not only will I have space for all my clothes, there’s dedicated storage for bow ties and boots!

Third, a new, substantive lawyering project at work has kept me engaged with my job. Having to use my brain for logic and persuasion and for puzzling out creative solutions to obstacles feels so good. But pouring that creativity into work seems to have curbed the urge to write here. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a bit of writers block. Or possibly just burn-out. In any event, I haven’t felt compelled as much to post anything deep and meaningful here. Still, it’s good to have more of a purpose at work again.

Finally, I have plans to go visit friends for a few days. Butch bro time mixed with a little nurturing and the promise of homemade mushroom soup…I’m really looking forward to the break. When I discussed my PTO request with my boss, he was so encouraging and said he was really glad I am taking some time just for me. That makes it easier to go without guilt.

So, lots of really good reasons why I didn’t post last week. And, strangely given how hard I’ve worked to keep it up, I am ok with the miss. Maybe I’ll reevaluate the purpose of this blog for next year. Maybe I’ve outgrown it. Or maybe I just need to be more calculating and deliberate about what I use it for. Or maybe nothing needs to change except my obsessive need to keep the streak. We’ll see. Until I make that decision I’m going to try to stay on a regular schedule, though.

However. I’m now looking at four days off of work and a new house to move to next month. So I’m gonna be a little busy with decluttering and packing and donating and what not. So I might see ya back here next week, or I might not. Either way, I hope y’all have a great holiday, if you’re observing, and a great rest of your week.

Lost and Stuck

A friend on Facebook posts daily Reasons Not To Quit under Miss Hanne’s Academy For Wayward Girls. These little nuggets of wisdom and inspiration have been a steady source of courage and comfort for me for some time. Today’s post “Reasons Not to Quit #1070: What one specific thing are you going to do today to make it a little easier for you not to quit? #reasonsnottoquit” incited a lot of thoughts and feelings that I’ve been wrestling with for weeks.

Boiled down to it’s constituent elements, the particular sludge stew that’s been plaguing my peace lately seems to be equal parts professional burn-out, imposter syndrome, workplace political BS, and lack of inspiration. Stirred together with chronic anxiety and social isolation, and that thick, bubbling, acrid paste of unrelenting discontent begins to set into a cognitive and emotional concrete that is extremely difficult to remove.

So, being prompted by both my own cussed stubbornness not to be a quitter and today’s Reason Not To Quit, I decided to examine the situation. And, because I’m a literal, linear thinker, I resorted to using lists to help with the analysis. I started by listing why I’m struggling, then listed what I’m good at, what I need, and what’s in my way. The final list is supposed to be what would make it better, but so far I have nothing jotted there.

Themes I’ve uncovered in the various lists reduce to: lost and stuck.

Reasons I’m struggling include the feeling that I’m bereft of professional creativity and that I’ve lost the plot and the purpose I’m supposed to fulfill. Yet the top three things I know I need to be happy in my work are intellectual challenge, to contribute meaningfully to something valuable, and clarity of purpose. And things I know I’m really good at include issue spotting, problem solving, and diplomacy. And what’s in my way are things that obscure those levers: fear and insecurity, workplace politics, personal and systemic inertia, lack of imagination/creativity/inspiration.

I don’t think the obvious intersections among these things are accidental. When I am challenged and contributing to a well-defined goal that I believe in, I excel at identifying and strategizing solutions to obstacles and at leading and persuading others to achieve those solutions and the ultimate goal. But when there is no clear goal or its shape and boundaries are obscured by a fog of emotional, organizational and political flack, productivity and engagement tend to grind to a halt and ingenuity fades. When those tools are blunted and the stress is high, the doubts begin to flood in and I get swept into a current of fear, uncertainty, doubt and dread (FUDD) that blinds and hobbles an otherwise sharp and incisive brain.

It’s all well and good to know this, to recognize a cause for this rut. It’s a whole ‘nuther thing to know what to do about it. Hence the empty list of “what would make it better”.

I don’t have answers, only more questions. And I’m tired enough that my ability to bootstrap my own path out of the morass is pretty low. I’m feeling very lost and discouraged, uncharacteristically lacking in tools to fix my own problems.

And that admission in print has my heart pounding and my brain screaming for me to delete it, not let anyone see how useless I’ve become. But I’m going to leave it there and risk the derision and embarrassment that will likely result, because it may be the one thing I can do today to break the cycle of anxiety and let me see a crack in the solidified sludge coating my brain.

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?

Some things

I’ve said a few times over the last several weeks, both on here and in conversation with various friends, that there are some awesome cool things going on in my life lately. I’m grateful to be experiencing it all. Life isn’t perfect and there are good days and bad. But I’m thankful that I average a goodly percentage more good than bad. It’s a privilege and a blessing to experience joy in a world gone haywire. And because it’s a blessing bestowed when sharing your joy, I am gonna relate a few of the awesome things going on right now.

1. Although I said in my post at the beginning of the year that I wasn’t keeping a report card of my progress this year, I did post a few goals that I wanted to advance this year. One of those was to pluck up the courage to ask someone I find attractive out on an IRL date before the end of the year. I am happy and proud to say that I have accomplished this goal and more. She asked me out first, but I have since asked her and we’ve actually been out several times and are looking forward to more. So, if you happen to notice a certain lightness in my step and an enigmatic grin on my face at odd times, you have your explanation. 😎

2. Connection is an incredible, life-giving ‘magic’ that defies my ability to define. But it is undeniable, joyous and freeing when it happens. Finding common ground in habit and experience and philosophy and passions brings such a wonderful feeling of belonging and validation. Being seen and affirmed and encouraged in your identity is one of the most beautiful things one human can do for another.

3. OMG, another one of my absolute favorite lesfic authors followed my blog!! Excuse me while I fan-girl for a hot minute.

4. Gifts aren’t everything, not even the main thing. But when it’s something the giver heard you describe as an aspiration, not as a request for anything, just something that would be a joy in your life, and they gift you that, that’s a great thing. It means they see and hear you, not just with their eyes and ears, but with their mind, their energy. Those are moments and gifts to cherish, no matter how small they may seem.

5. Finally getting my shot at playing D&D! And not just any old game, an online game of a bunch of cool queer people from a bunch of different places around the world. I know nothing and am pantsing it with minimal research, but the group knows I’m a noob and graciously welcomed me anyway. So excited! Been trying to get a chance to learn and play since I was 12. Can’t wait for the fun to begin!

6. Bonus: Recently I’ve had occasion to note how good it feels to be happy for, and to rejoice with, friends for whom great things are happening. The speed at which warmth and happiness can spread when good things go right for good people is astonishing. A promising job interview here, a realized transition there, a new home for that one over there, the start of a professional practice for that friend on the other side, and the giddy elation of a new relationship for still another over yonder. What a bounty of goodness surrounds us, even when there is darkness in the world.

My friends, I hope this new month and new season is full of joy and positivity for you all. May the fun little things and the inspiring big things lift your spirit. Enjoy the turn of the season and the colors and smells and unique hallmarks of the season in your corner of the world. Keep warm and dry and happy.

Contemplations

I wrote this a couple days ago, after a particularly rough bout of ambush emotions. I’ve let it sit and after some sleep and a re-read, I have decided it’s not entirely cringe-worthy and over-emotional, so I’m publishing it. But be warned: it isn’t the most logical or inspired thing I’ve ever posted.

— oOo —

There are times when I regard my brain as a foreign entity, as if it weren’t really a part of me, as if “me” is separate and distinct from my brain. I guess that’s the essence of the mind/brain debate. Does consciousness exist apart from cognition? Does the biological organ of the brain exist separately from the consciousness? Is consciousness the soul? These are unknowable facts, in my estimation. But what I do know as fact, as lived experience, is that my brain occasionally begins to work in ways that I do not recognize nor understand, leaving me feeling as if it exists separately from who I understand myself to be.

That’s often frustrating and sometimes scary. I cringe putting that admission in writing because I’m conscious of the fact that many will think me crazy, deranged, defective for thinking my brain and my self are severable in any way. But that’s the best way I know how to describe the experience of recognizing a thought pattern playing out in my brain and simultaneously feeling as if I’m separate, observing that pattern progress from outside of it because I feel no connection to that thought’s genesis and feel powerless to terminate it.

Lately, I’ve been actively thinking about a bunch of different concepts that intersect in my life in ways both predictable and surprising. There’s no way for me to encapsulate all of these thoughts in a blog post and no one, even me, would want to slog through it if I could. But a few of the connections and intersecting concepts are intriguing and might benefit from a public airing just to get them out of my head for a minute.

None of this is neat or tidy. None of it is resolved…maybe not even resolvable. It’s all a part of the messy, complicated, sometimes painful process of personal growth. My answers, to the extent any are forthcoming, are likely to be different from your answers on the same concepts and intersections. So, treat this as the thought experiment that it is and try not to get too caught up in problem-solving; rather, enjoy the journey of mere contemplation.

Three of the big concepts that have visited my cranial foreign office recently:

1.Apathy. Specifically, I have wrestled with how damaging apathy or indifference can be to interpersonal relationships, comparing (perhaps unfairly) the type and quality of that damage to that suffered from active abuse or intentional conduct of another ilk. Contrasting these impacts might be reasonable in some circumstances, but not in others. A big hurdle to taming this intellectual puzzle are the complicating factors, such as the nature of the relationship being examined, the relative power among the people in that relationship, any dimensions of privilege and marginalization that the participants occupy, and the personal characteristics of the people relevant to this relationship dynamic. That’s a ton of variables to control for in calculating the outcome of an analysis of the level of impact a participant experiences from the apathy or indifference of the other participants in the relevant relationship.

2.Authenticity. What role does validation of outside observers play in a person’s ability to live authentically in any given identity or presentation? If no one else within my inner circle of relationships (friends, family, colleagues, community) validates the identity or aspect of identity that I embody, am I likely to succeed in living that truth? Is this more complex than mere peer pressure? Is It more layered and nuanced than simply getting a nod or pat on the back as assurance that we’re “doing it right“? Does the community at large within the relevant demographic being evaluated as authentic feel the impact of an individual member’s failure to authentically embody that identity as a result of not being validated in that identity? What about if lack of authenticity is a result of something else?

3.Effort. This one is even more nebulous and hard to describe. My thoughts have been full of questions about effort, trying to quantify “enough” and “too much”, trying to ascribe qualitative value to types of effort, and trying to illuminate the points at which type and quantity and quality collide. This is all in relation to the questions on apathy and authenticity.

The ultimate culmination of all this thinking and puzzling and challenging and ideating isn’t clear. Is my brain trying to work out some therapeutic dosage of effort that promotes healthy authenticity and combats apathy, like some kind of emotional-political wonder drug? Or is this foreign entity trying to define the discrete boundaries of the emotional geographies of each of these concepts, charting the points at which borders combine? Or perhaps this is all just a lot of mental distraction to keep me from moving beyond the constraints and conditioned responses that my upbringing instilled?

I have no certain answers. But one thing that is certain is that my brain is not idle.

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