A roundup off some kind is due today, and I am in the business of reflection. I’ve put together a list of ideas— strategies for 2023, and I am sharing them with you because I’m sure you’ll find them helpful.
In some particular order:
*I’m going to do what I need to do, and I don’t care how mad I look
I’m going to do what I need to do, regardless of the audience, regardless of their intolerance. This concerns the doing of things that need essays— by that, I mean the things that get you misunderstood and undermined, things only mildly offensive: and only to the built in sentiments of the recipient. I have a colleague at work who routinely asks me if I’d like a lift home in the evenings. There was a moment in time where I would get in the car for his benefit: he’s a good person and wants to feel like one. But more recently, my life has started to feel more like my own; I prefer the bus, so now I get the bus. And I’ve decided to do this easily misconstruable thing, to live with its implications: that I hate the guy and people at large, because I’d rather sit with myself and take the long way home. I’ve found ways of explaining this to the much-effected colleague, who doesn’t understand, not because he doesn’t want to, but because he is incapable. But instead of being offended by his misreading of me, or being controlled by this need to make myself acceptable in this way: by doing what makes sense to others, I’m letting it be. It’s a very alien feeling, this lack of will to change anything—who I am and what I know to be good to me, not viewing myself as a sacrificial lamb for the coddling of other people’s wills. But I think it suits me.
*Be intentional about your frames
When I had a shouting match with my manager last week, I went home that day, sat on the edge of my bed and did say,
“How are you going to sleep tonight?”
I’d allowed a meagre work situation to take me out of my work character— a man-shaped outline made barely full with composure, nonchalance and mediocrity. Instead, I’d been loud, and exposed unsavoury emotions. How embarrassing. I started burrowing into my anxiety and regret. But something made me snap out of it. I think it was me deeping the imminent lassitude of having to nail myself to the cross, yet again, for some lacklustre social interaction. Instead though, my brain went to work, grasping for alternative, convincing frames for the situation. Here’s what I came up with:
‘You shouted at your manager, who was shouting at you, and while the circumstances are irrelevant, your ability to behave like a 3D human being over a frustration is not.’
Suddenly, this shameful moment widened the scope of my cause: my transition from android to human; the idea that I am real with a right to present myself as such. Me being publicly argumentative, publicly annoyed— it brought the fight home. I wound up being proud of myself, I chose to be. I clearly didn’t know we had a choice in the way we decide to perceive things— that which is inherently negative. I, in the past, have trusted my mental so much, that I never once questioned what it was putting on my dinner plate. But much like a headline, we can choose the look and the tone of the information we’re presented with. Here lies passivity, RIP.
*Doing something because it is hard is better than doing something hard because you find it easy
Fairly obvious, fairly. For a long time though, I thought the undertaking of a difficult task could, should only be done under the guise of it’s perceived ease. In English, that means that people do hard things because they believe they are the ones that can, where others may fall. I thought self belief was the only thing that renders you capable of strenuous activities, because it adjusts your perception of them: hard for others, easy for me. But upon reflection— over this year, and every hard thing I’ve ever been a part of, I’ve realised that I hardly believed any of it could be done; yet, all of it was, without the mounting of self-confidence on every wall. This isn’t to say that I never once believed in myself, it is to say that I was, have always been motivated by an illogical, inner delusion: not ‘I can do’, rather ‘I must do.’ When I went about changing my inner world as instructed by faith, when I started posting here once a week instead of once a month if that, when I started writing the book, when I started my YouTube channel despite still being partially disgusted with myself, I wasn’t following my own instructions, and I didn’t believe in the possibility of any of it, yet here we are. The implication of doing difficult things exclusively by way of self-belief is that you believe yourself to know the full extent of your potential. However, doing as your told, and not as you feel have implications immeasurable. It’s sort of like when someone gives you money in a card vs a gift you could never of picked for yourself, yet you find it perfect in all of its ways.
*Don’t cry over spilt milk
I want to start this off by saying the clichés are all true, remember that. Inevitably, this is one of those things that people just say, and when it’s time to really lean on it, its power has long been muted. This one has given me a lot of peace since I’ve given it back some potency— by using it, accepting its trueness in moments of shame and anguish unliveable— made liveable, because whatever it is, ‘it’s already done’, so how about we ‘move on’ from said thing. The thing cannot be changed. This pairs well with ‘we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it’, which is my new way of dealing with the fallout of whatever traumatic event, minimising the fallout’s likelihood from a 10 to the 3 I can live with. As a dramatic, a control freak, an over-planner, a perfectionist, a person who is susceptible to anxiety of the killing kind, with a self-esteem still on the mend— reaching for this overcooked cliché has forced me to rest. I see myself differently, I’ve never been one for acceptance, but I do so now, freely, because I’m too… old? —to roll around with a thing that can’t be changed. I like myself too much.
*It’s okay to respond positively in the face of failure, and you should
Being kind to yourself is less about smooching on bad behaviour, and more about enabling yourself to get on. After a multitude of failures— inconsistencies, self-sabotage etc, it dawned on me that after the berating, after some hibernation in the guilt-hole, I just have to continue on; I still have to do it, whatever it is I’ve rendered myself incapable of after whichever mistake I’ve made; I even forgive myself on occasion. So, why prolong the inevitable, why not pardon myself here and now, and not a week-month later? It is not some sick joke that we are forgiven, and our good bits— the days we’ve succeeded, our willingness to chug along in spite of our shortcomings, that’s what goes on display. I could stand under every kind of light there is, and I can believe it now that God would still think really well of me. I suspect he feels that way and fights to let us know, because condemnation cannot steer us long term, not like benevolence, I suspect. I’ve seen it myself, my recovery times have been reduced by half. Yes, it feels like a trap, but a heinous person ‘who can’t do or be anything right’ would not have made it this far. And does it run out of road here?— the quest to be more like God? Think not.
*Part of the trick is to believe you have as much right to be here as everyone else
No need for expansion.
image cred: Maksim Kayetkin, Pass, 2012, Oil on canvas