Keyboard Confessional 01

I have to write this before I lose my nerve. I’ll give myself a word count quota of, say, 300 words, and then I must publish what I write. This can serve as a lifeline to society, which, for me, is tenuous. I don’t want to over-think it, over-edit it. That’s what I’m prone to do. Over-do everything. I just need to write this morning. Write 300 words.

I suspect I have manic depression. Oops, see there, I edited that sentence. I initially wrote, ” I suspect I’m manic depressive”, but changed it because you see, I am not manic depressive. No, I only have manic depression. It’s one of those personal development mind-tricks I picked up over the years. So I believe I may have manic depression, which is called bipolar disorder these days. “Manic depression” sounds more romantic, though. Look at that, I’m at 150 words already. This isn’t so hard. I’m so clever to use my own self-consciousness as the subject of this entry. Or is it “post”, or “blog”, or “blog post”? A few more words to go. I can just keep rambling and I’ll meet my quota.

Back to manic depression. Yes, I suspect I have that. At least I know I’m in some kind of depression right now. I’m climbing out of one. I called it “being in a rut” for a while, but it’s depression. Anyway, when I think of “rut”, I think of sex. I dreamt about a hot chick last night, who turned out to be a transsexual. Latent homosexual tendencies? Or symptom of mania? I have strange, vivid dreams when I’m manic. Writing makes me manic. Creating does it, too. So does thinking. Living, basically. I went through a manic episode last year. Technically it’s called “hypo-manic”. Whatever, it led to depression. And look, I met my quota.

The Dragon

My ego is a stubborn and bloated thing, a dragon that lounges on its hoard. At some point in my life I created the dragon, and at first it was good. It kept me safe in a scary world. I relied on the dragon more and more, as my world expanded and there were more things to fear. I drew power from it, and my own power dwindled. The more I relied on my ego, the more it demanded payment and sacrifice. It was hungry and voracious. There didn’t seem to be a limit to its appetite. I realized that my ego’s fondest wish is to look out onto the world and declare that “this is all mine” and “this is all me”, for that is its ultimate purpose, to perpetuate itself.

Sometimes my ego invents fears, manipulates my emotions, positive or negative it’s all the same, as long as it can survive. It whispers judgments and praises into my ear. The praises are the most manipulative. It understands my needs, my fears, which makes sense since I created it. I keep it alive by caring, by paying attention to my ego. I cultivate it even as I realize it’s a pain in the ass. One day I opened my eyes and there it was, my cruel and majestic ego, splayed out obscenely atop my consciousness, knowing there was no way in hell I was going to be rid of it. Even now, writing this, my ego smiles and chuckles because it knows that I can never escape my incessant fears and needs.

I can’t defeat my ego. I can’t make it go away. Its scaly hide stretches across the horizon. Every direction I turn I feel its presence. I can’t unmake something I’ve made. I can only make something else. This new thing will be neither good nor bad. It will just be. It will not need to win. It will not need to be better than. It will not need to be right. It will just be. It will not need my protection from the dragon, just my attention. My ego will be curious, and afraid. It will throw a fit. It will cajole and coerce me to unmake this new thing. But what is made, cannot be unmade. Every word I write feeds and nurtures my ego. Every thought I have sustains it in some way. But there is a new presence, my real self, my higher self, that shines brightly. Despite the attacks of the dragon, this higher self shines. It tells me to share this, and I listen.

Saturday Thoughts

Here’s an informative video about happiness. Something I took away is that too much choice can be a bad thing. It can lead to perfectionism, procrastination, and paralysis. I’m dealing with perfectionism by working on self-esteem issues. That seems to be a big part of it. I used to think perfectionism was a gift of some sort, but it’s really a curse. I want to give myself the gift of imperfection. Procrastination has been a symptom of that perfectionism curse. Self-management skills have helped me make progress with procrastination. To avoid paralysis, I work on taking action, even small ones. Another thing I learned this week was to focus on action, and not reaction. Don’t worry so much about how other people are going to react. Just do your thing.

Monday Morning

I look at these posts as “off the cuff”. They’re first drafts, and works-in-progress. Several years ago I read the Artist’s Way and went on that journey. I began writing in journals, and still doing it. I’m on my seventh one. I get up each morning and write in my journal. Everyone’s life is worth writing about. I practice being the observer. For example, my inner observer tells me there’s an inner judge that’s giving me a grade on what I’m writing right now. This judge passes its decision on everything I do. I am quick to appease the judge. I think and re-think, hoping things will be good enough. It’s a pain in the ass. Back to my original point, I started writing in journals every day, and now I’m writing blog posts. It seems like a natural progression. Now I’m doing both. My observer notices that I keep editing the things I’m writing. I have an imaginary audience (jury) and a judge watching me. It’s interesting and humorous, when seen in the light of day. My judge tells me to watch my grammar, and my use of cliches. The spell check tells me cliches is misspelled, and maybe it is, but dammit I’m using it anyway.

This post is called Monday Morning because these kinds of mornings is like oatmeal. It’s like slogging through oatmeal. Maybe I should say quicksand. I find that the less depressed I become, the more humorous I’m able to be. One of my big goals when I started on the self-help journey was to have peace of mind. It sounded good. Inner peace is part of being happy. That sounded good, too. That has become my journey. To be happy. This is a random thought, but for some reason I keep thinking about this movie, the remake of Beverly Hillbillies, and Leah Thompson is in it. She plays a French chick who pronounces “happiness” with a silent “h”, so it sounds like a-ppiness, which sounds like a-penis. Anyway, that’s the joke, and a lame one, but I keep thinking about it every time I say “I’m looking for happiness”!

My judge tells me this post is lame. It tells me I’ve just used the word lame. It tells me I should have called this post “The Judge”. As if! I’m going to wrap this up. Enjoy your dose of rambly goodness!

The Shadow Self

The shadow is something Carl Jung described as the dark, repressed parts of ourselves. Our unconscious motives, drives, and fears that manifest themselves in the external world despite our efforts to suppress them. As we become more self-aware, we see that certain emotions “clump” together. Positive vs. negative, values vs. fears. I began to have a sense that on my journey I had a shadow following me, my shadow self, which I desperately wanted to be free of, and secretly feared. I realized that this fear was making the shadow stronger. When I turned to face my shadow, I saw that it contained all my negative emotions, my fears, shame and guilt, the regrets and anger. It was a powerful, seething kind of shadow. Faced with raw, naked fear it’s natural to want to run from it.

I studied the defense mechanisms I’d created in order to deal with the shadow. Addictions, habits, beliefs. They seemed worn out, useless in some cases. I wondered why I still continued to use them. I have a habit of wanting to re-invent myself every so often, but it never seems to work, or maybe it doesn’t work in the way I think it should. But I usually learn something along the way. One of the things I became aware of was this shadow that dogged my steps no matter where I went, or what I did. I wondered why my efforts to change for the “better” wasn’t working, and realized that I was running from my fears. It seemed that the more I tried to run away, the more powerful the shadow became.

In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron talks about synchronicity, which is something like random coincidences in life that shows you how things are interrelated; luck, fate, etc. (I’m really paraphrasing here). This is another Carl Jung topic. I don’t necessarily believe this (it’s fun to think about, though), but the creative part of my brain can’t help but see patterns in life’s events. It can’t help but create meaning and narrative, so in a roundabout way I come across the same topics, problems, and solutions, and create a reason for them to exist. I’ll move on before I begin to ramble too much. Back to the shadow, my lengthy preamble was meant to show how elusive the shadow can be. It’s taken me a while to wrap my mind around it. But the question remains, how do we face the shadow parts of ourselves? In a Taoist turn of events, I learned of the higher self, which is a reflection of the shadow self. For every negative aspect contained within the shadow, there is a positive equivalent within the light. I saw that there was a system in place, and my job was to balance that system. I sensed that there was a purpose to doing this, and the result would be harmony.

I’ve opened up a can of worms. There’s a lot to be written about, a lot of thoughts to process. I still cling to obsolete defense mechanisms. I continue to fight fear with fear, anger with anger. It’s gotten better. One of the promises of self-awareness is that we can be honest with ourselves. I realize some of this can come across as self-indulgent or pedantic (this is a blog after all), so take it for what it is, one person’s thoughts on life. I believe that everyone should carry a healthy dose of skepticism, and inoculate yourself frequently. With that said, skepticism isn’t the same as cynicism, but that’s another topic.

Anything Is Possible

Barack Obama has been elected president of the United States! Change is possible. People can actually come together and make a difference. I feel hopeful and optimistic about this country. The euphoria will wear off, and the coldness of reality will set in once more, but never underestimate the power of hope, optimism, and change. At a time in my life when personal change has become so important, it’s inspiring to see America take this historic step forward.

The Mountain

We all have a personal mountain to climb. We may not be sure where or what this mountain is at first, but it’s there. Our first glimpses of the mountain may be of a darkened silhouette, shrouded in mist. We know it’s there, and we know our path leads to the mountain, because it’s our mountain. We may not have been told that we needed to climb the mountain. We could spend years skirting around the foothills. But we can’t escape its presence. Something in our gut tells us we need to climb the mountain, that our path lies there. Then there comes a time in our lives when we acknowledge the mountain’s presence. We see it for the first time on a clear day, and as foreboding as it looks at first glance, it’s also beautiful and meaningful. And for a while we’re content to skirt the foothills looking at the mountain, knowing it’s our purpose to climb, but not feeling ready for it. We realize it takes courage to climb the mountain. We begin to feel the desire to do it, but maybe we lack the courage. We look for a way to build our courage, borrow it from other places, but in the end it gets us no closer to climbing the mountain than before. We can climb hills, walk down roads, circle back and forth, but we haven’t climbed the mountain.

At some point, we decide that whatever courage we possess is enough to go towards the mountain. Maybe we’ll climb. We stand at the foot of the mountain, staring in awe at its immensity. This is our mountain to climb. We stay here for a while. If we decide to climb (it’s not a given), we soon become excited by the thought of making progress. This is what we’re meant to do. Every step feels like a real step towards meaning. And that’s enough at first. If we continue, we find that the journey isn’t that different than before, and doubts begin to creep in. How do we know we’re supposed to continue climbing? How do we know if this is even the right mountain to climb? What we fear most is not that we don’t know, it’s that we do know. So we continue to climb the mountain, and it doesn’t feel like much, but we know we’re going up, and that’s enough to keep us going.

As we make our journey, we learn some important lessons. We learn that progress is an upward spiral path. It’s not about getting to a certain point, but circling the same area over and over, each time at a different point of view. We learn that we meet other travelers during our journey, but in the end it’s our mountain to climb, our journey to take. They have their own journey to make. We learn that our uniqueness comes from the mountain, that our journey is truly ours and ours alone. We can watch someone else climb their mountain, but we can’t climb our own in the exact same way. When we accept that it’s our mountain to climb, we will have peace of mind. Eventually we’ll see that we’ve been traveling for a long time. We can never go back to circling the foothills again. Every step feels like progress. Every step has meaning. We find ourselves higher than we could have imagined. We got there with our own two feet, and with our hands that gripped the rocks and pulled us forward even as we stumbled. We’ll look back and see that we’ve come a long way, and kept moving forward, one step at a time, and that it was our mountain.