Who has ever been taught how to be kind? Who taught you what kindness looks like? Who taught you what it feels like? Who have we been taught to be kind to? How have we been taught to be kind—by explanation or by example? What were you taught about why we should be kind? Were you taught anything about kindness at all, or were you simply told to be kind without knowing what it meant? How do you teach kindness now?
Mondays are Mondays. There’s really no use in complaining about them or wishing they were other days located further along the week. Each cycle must begin somewhere and every week must have its Monday. It’s only a start, nothing more.
This particular Monday started off well. The week’s workload is light and I’m in a bit more control of my time. The evenings are going to take a little more out of me but my hope is with a few more hours of time and a little more space in my mind I’ll not only get through the tasks and to-dos, but have a little of myself left over for writing.
It’s been months since I touched my paper journal or my logbook. It’s been weeks since I’ve had a handle on a lot of habits I meant to keep up, but not writing by hand or documenting my days has felt like the biggest failure. I’m working on making time first thing in the morning, and perhaps doing different kinds of updates on different days depending on time constraints.
Perhaps half entries some days and updating only the next day on busier days filling up pages for the past days and filling in future weeks or months when I have a little more time? Perhaps nothing will get me back to the page, or to meditating, or to reading, or to taking courses, or jogging, or any of the other habits that have formed and faded over the years. Perhaps failure is the only habit that has endured…
That isn’t true. I have changed quite a bit over the years and only grown healthier, more mindful, more learned and disciplined with age. I’ve already missed so many days it’s hard to want to go back. It’s hard to swallow your pride, to forgive yourself, and begin again from the start. Denial of your faults is everlasting bliss, and procrastination means never feeling disappointment.
Purgatory may not be heaven, but it’s preferable to risking hell.
Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialisation, which mankind has practiced from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.
The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.”
— E. F. Schumacher, “Buddhist Economics“
It’s been a while since the house has felt quiet enough for me to sit and write. It’s been even longer since I was calm enough to gather my thoughts. This last week was hard on me with classes to teach every day and some new crisis waiting when I was done.
I can see light at the end of the tunnel though as I take a short break from training and I start recognizing which problems belong to me and which ones don’t.
This weekend I’m taking it easy and reminding myself, and everyone else if I need to, that there is so little time left after work and sleep, meals and chores, that I must be selfish and keep some of it aside for myself. I must be mindful of what my time is meant for and guard it stubbornly against those who ask too much and push too hard.
I’m learning to set boundaries, which isn’t all that hard and practicing communicating those boundaries which is far from easy.
I don’t shy from confrontation normally, but I’m slow to initiate it not out of fear but out of doubt. I never know if my perspective is the right one and I have trouble believing my needs are reasonable. My heart tells me I expect too much and my mind agrees and asks me to understand and endure a little more, a little more, a little more…
But I’m running out of energy, both physically and emotionally, and finding it harder and harder to relax and rejuvenate. The harder life gets, the more I need back to feel motivated and enthusiastic. I think I just need more to look forward to. I need more to happen.
Of course, that part is actually the part that is in my control and that makes it an absolutely terrifying problem to solve, but doing nothing is no longer an option. Through mindfulness, self-love, and action-based optimism, I think I can get there. I can get somewhere. I can make more of my life my own.
Blogging isn’t just a way to organize your research—it’s a way to do research for a book or essay or story or speech you don’t even know you want to write yet. It’s a way to discover what your future books and essays and stories and speeches will be about.”
— Cory Doctorow, “The Memex Method“
There was a time when I couldn’t stand to be alone with my own thoughts for more than a few hours at a time. There was a time when silence and solitude were to be avoided at all costs, lest I be forced to contend with the pain of my existence. There was a time when I absolutely hated myself.
Things are different now. I enjoy the solitude. I’m intrigued by my existence and it’s easier and easier to love myself, especially when I am by myself.
What faults I have (or will admit to having) I only consider faults when I am in close proximity—either physically or emotionally—to other humans. I only think less of myself now when my personality starts to rub against theirs because no matter what I do, it always seems to rub the wrong way.
When I am alone, my mind, to me, moves in such beautiful ways. When I am with others suddenly it is too grounded, too predictable, too boring, too dreary.
There was a time I wished I could see myself the way other people saw me, but now I wish other people could see me the way I see me. I wish other people understood the way I see the world. I wish other people appreciated the way I see the world.
I wish people knew there are other ways to be happy, to be hopeful, to express optimism. My happiness is grounded. My hope is action based. My optimism is tempered by realism.
I suppose I find the real world more exciting than daydreams and fantasies. I think problem solving and problem facing are how you really move forward. Words mean little to me and grand plans that don’t take into account catastrophe or crisis and contain no contingency plans are little more than empty talk and a waste of time. There are better uses of energy and more fulfilling ways to chase euphoria.
The week is moving along fast now. The memory of yesterday is a blur, and this makes me feel as if it were a blur when I lived it, though I know that is probably not true. Sometimes our memory of a time feels is different from how a time felt when we lived it and the less we pay attention, the less we find to hold on to, the less mindful we are, the greater and greater the difference.
Today will feel different tomorrow than it does today.
Or, I hope so anyway. It been a long day of steep highs and lows, good news and bad news, celebrations and a hard future to plan for, and all of which I found overwhelming. I coped the best I could. I talked myself down from panic and let myself feel my joys fully. I faced my failures and allowed myself my successes.
I made it through it all today and sitting here at the kitchen table, enjoying a belly full of Pad Thai and a cool breeze that I like to think blew down straight from the peak of Mount Evans, through the city and in through my open windows with the sole purpose of cooling and calming me, I’m looking back and doing the math. I’m adding up the good and the bad, those successes and failures, the worries and joys, and it seems it’s all coming out even in the end.
A lot may have changed since I woke up this morning, but nearly all of it was horizontal. All in all, I’ve come back to the same me I was at daybreak.
The hardest part has been nearing it alone. My wife is off house sitting and though she isn’t far away and we still text and call throughout the day the same as we always do, not having her physically present leaves me feeling isolated and lonely.
Without her here I don’t know where to put my emotions, except on the page I suppose, but the page can only give back what is given. It can’t change anything. Yes, I can get the emotions out but with nothing to replace them with, they just keep growing back. This is only a prolonging, not a cure.
Luckily, in addition to words, there are chores, and pets, and podcasts, all of which are very good distractions, and by the time it starts getting dark outside and I’m crawling into bed, I hope to be too tired to let the day’s events run for long inside my head.
If only it were possible to simply state these feelings without insisting on them, without making an argument or a dogma out of them!”
— Zadie Smith, Intimations: Six Essays