Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stupider, Less Important, and Far Uglier

We sure are a delusional folk.  Outside of the exceptionalism lathered into a foamy mess, the bionic fun-house mirror funk of greediness, and the self-justification route preferred by all (and not programmed into GPS, yet), we might imagine a more real reality.  In that more real reality there is a world where we are seen as other see us: stupider, less important, and far uglier.

Which is a good touchstone for today's lesson: don't act like you're smart, important, and pretty.  In all likelihood, you are not.

Don't despair!

Oh, there I go again, diving us all into a cesspool of depression.  That was not my intention.  In fact, my intention is to divorce the idea of intelligence and status and looks from decision-making.  Because those three things don't bring happiness, and concentrating on those things is purely distracting, in the most banal and superficially serious way.  Chasing after happy endings through the ghost of foggy mirrors!

Anyway, the point is that letting go of all that seems incredibly important in regards to looks and intelligence and status will actually free you to do what it is you might enjoy doing without worrying about how what you enjoy makes you unpopular, or whatever, uglier.  

Those things have no control over you if they have no control over you.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Stop Drinking Now = Learning a New Language

Listen, when you don't know something, it seems incredibly mysterious.  Think about traveling in a foreign country where you don't even know how to say "please", "hello", or "thank you."  It is incredibly frustrating.  Not only that but the language seems mind-bogglingly complex.  Right?

Yes.

And so, it seems like you might learn some of the language, and in the process, that somehow you will swallow the mind-boggling complexity, and subsume it as part of you, and then feel good about it.  I'm not knocking language learning at all, but the truth is that as you learn a language, hearing it seems less and less mysterious and more and more normal.  That makes sense if you consider that language is a form of communication.  And communication is functional (even if esoterically so at times, like with subtext and all).  And so, it isn't that the language is incredibly mysterious.  It is that your knowledge of that structure was zero, mostly.  And as you go from zero upward, well, intriguing, and challenging, and constantly there, but not quite as mysterious.

Sobriety is the same.  It is a wonder, a kind of language in itself.  It takes getting used to.  In conceptual terms only, it is special and mysterious and even hard to see the contours of it, how they might apply to you.  And like a language, it takes a lot of time to learn.  And like a language, you get better with more practice.  And time, therefore.  And patience.

And like a language, it allows you to communicate with other people, to understand a set of standards that were previously invisible.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Magic

I meant to write this "in the moment."

I was feeling slightly--albeit ever so slightly--magical.  There was a sense of promise.  A whiff of nostalgia mixed in with the possibility of change, the connection to something larger.  The awe-inspiring performance of total immersion in an activity.

Anyway, I don't often feel this way.  Lately I've been getting better, though, having more frequent "high consistent energy" type days.   I've been sleeping consistently too, that is, not waking up at night as much as I used to.  I've been eating less.  I have control over my hunger.  For the first time in a long long time.  A little bit of honest control.  Not to brutal ends, no.  To moderate ones.  I've been out of control, quite literally, for many years.

I like to aim toward poise.  I don't think it didactic or excessive or wrong.  I respect poise.  I respect restrained intelligence.  I respect people who firmly know when they don't know and aggressively pursue.  I want to be like that more often.  I don't think it is bad to aim toward betterment of self, to change oneself, and to blossom into something new.  Consistency is in some regards quite over-rated, when it, for instance, keeps people blinded, when they feel like they have to "keep it real" and stay emotionally immature, act out, or do other inane shit to basically signal their capacity to exhibit normal social behavior for a particular group.  I say show yourself as someone who is striving to be better.  There's nothing wrong with that.  That's not a reason to feel shame.  Anyone who wants to make you feel shame for that shouldn't be allowed "in" emotionally.  People should feel shame for abusing their wives, for manipulating a benefits system, or even for not pushing themselves.  They shouldn't feel it for true effort.

I'm convinced that sustained and true effort and magic are strongly related.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hope

Hope is a very delicate thing.  It is hard to quantify and easy to abuse and quite possibly dangerous to harbor.  It deludes us at times, and we are wont to use it as a tool for staying deluded.

And yet we need it.

Without it, I'm fairly sure that I would perish.

And yet it is hard to keep up, to hold out.

Allowing your hope to fill a previously empty structure, that is, shifting goals and moving on, but still maintaining hope, is a delicate dance.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Gaining Perspective (Easy To Be Locked In Without Realizing It)

I suppose the most pernicious thing about alcohol, exempting the physical and immediate behavioral nastiness of it, is really, like a good friend once said, its ability to lock you into a loop, to make it very hard, in other words, to take in new information, feedback about your work (or romantic life), and to make corrections.

Even without alcohol, making changes to oneself are often hard and oftener just not very likely.  We don't say we don't know or that we're sorry easily, but perhaps we should.

Instead, I constantly hear:

a) outraged people

b) people who know the best

c) people complaining about other people and how stupid they are (implicit message is not that clever guys)

Come away from any awkward conflict-type situation, and you, too (and me) will most likely try to justify your actions, and paint the other person's actions with thick nasty old paint.  Regardless of reality.

Add alcohol to that mix, and all of a sudden, you might as well not be curious about anything, because you know everything, and all of your intuition is 100% accurate all the time.  Not only that, but fuck people who disagree, right?

Am I right or wrong here?

So anyway, understanding that a) the world is vastly more complex than we can hope to understand and b) lots of things cannot therefore be assigned causal arrows, particularly our own actions, and that c) alcohol diminishes our already quite small capacity to fully comprehend (a) and (b), well, the only thing left to do is drop out alcohol and work hard to correct previously blocked feedback.  And even then it will be quite difficult.  Because we alcoholics, once sober, will want very badly to find meaning, even or especially easy meaning, the kind we are used to.  But meaning finding isn't easy.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

4 Years Sober Redux

I have been sober over 4 years.  I am very proud of that fact.  I don't mean to denigrate it or take it lightly.  In fact, I see it in almost religious seriousness.

My life has changed immeasurably since I got sober.  For one, I make about three times the money I made when I was drinking.  I know this sounds perhaps superficial, but I assure you, especially with a family, it is not.  Having a solid middle class life is nothing to laugh at or to take lightly, not when the alternative is clear and available, or worse, a deeper, darker alternative, with nothing to look forward to at all.

Speaking of.  Looking forward to things is very important.  I'm not sure I can underestimate that.  It is important to keep in mind current reality, to not get lost in fantasy, but it is likewise healthy and vital and essential to have a respectful notion of future growth, the capacity to realize certain sought after goals, emotional maturity, and to have the capacity to change one's goals according to feedback, to self-correct.  Alcohol stops those things--excuse me: consistent chronic alcohol abuse stops those things, mostly the capacity to self-correct.  It shortens one's perspective into a very narrow slit and doesn't let go.

However, the scientist in me would be remiss if he didn't point out that I may have undergone many of these changes even if I were drinking.  I am, after all, at an age where such changes happen regardless.

Still, although it is not perfect, I know that I have a certain emotional levity--the ability, to actually view myself, to hold simultaneously self-doubt and self-assertion, and to use my insecurity to my advantage, attributes that are difficult to acquire without hardship and the constant onslaught that we should just affirm our deepest intuitions and fuck everyone who disagrees.

There is, indeed, some hubris in the assertion that we can know, and I would prefer to hold the assumption that we cannot know, that we must constantly strive to know, and that this struggle should inform us at a basic and constitutional level.

Which is why I won't just say that not drinking did the trick, end of sentence, end of paragraph.  I will instead say that it is something I should have corrected a long time ago, and I finally did, and I'm far from perfect in this respect, but I'm very very glad I did, and I wouldn't have gotten to the point where I could even write/say what I just did if I didn't stop drinking.  I was definitely locked in the cycle I see in many many people, which is outrage, affirmation of righteous intuition, very little homework being done, and more assertions than anything else.

Truth, if it exists, is very difficult to access.  I think this is self-evident, and applies to all fields of study, including human interaction, and, because of that, I'm quite hesitant to ascribe reasons to events that are far too complicated to begin to comprehend, including my own cessation of drinking.  Still, I'm quite glad that I did it, and I will continue "not" doing it, forever more, regardless of how much I might imagine I could, given a hypothetical non-consequential world where I can indeed control myself.  One truth that I know is that I cannot control myself with regard to alcohol.  For that one, I don't need more evidence.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

4 Years - Obligated To Mark This Moment

I feel like I should at least mention that it has been 4 years since I last had a drink and decided that hey, I'm going to seriously ruin my life if I keep drinking.

The incontrovertible truth was that I was taking yet another sick day off of work.  This just shouldn't be the case.

Anyway, I'm sober.

Here's what sobriety doesn't equal:

meaningfulness

satisfaction

lack of boredom

perfect embodiment of ideals

So don't figure that it will deliver those goods, that is, if you decide you might try it out for a spin.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Why NYC Sucks.

It doesn't intrinsically just suck, but here are a few of the most apparent reasons for me.

Nobody feels that it is a home.  It is a transient city.  For those that feel it IS a home, their misplaced sense of place is actually founded on rootlessness, on a  fundamental "spareness" of being, which is best exemplified with this fact: you can make and remake yourself in NYC as often as you desire.  For people who don't like themselves (me me me or at least, me 5 years ago!), this is great.  (Paren: I like NYC less now and like myself much more: Paren).

Because it is a masturbation machine.  Because nobody thinks NYC is a home, nobody wants to take care of it like a home.  People want to use it for their needs and then get out, or get back, or whatever.  Needs may be and often are narcissistic (it is the center, it is the biggest, it is the loudest and so are we, its denizens).  I'm being harsh, but hey, it is true.

NYC is all about signalling that you live in NYC.  There is no such thing left as "original" here.  It is a roving consuming animal, all of us, and it.  "New" neighborhoods are consumed as fast as you can say fuck me.  Why?  Because if there was a scrap of originality there, on the horizon,, everyone who wants so desperately to project themselves as original will go there and consume the shit out of that originality.  And by those terms, they will fully pollute whatever was there, and whatever is left will be blathered off into a waste basket.  The whole city is based on this dynamic and there is no starting point for originality anywhere, to be clear--it isn't as if the real originality actually is consumed and gone.  The so-called real originality was gone 40 years ago and what's left was a shard of an echo, frozen into a lyric.

Car alarms and noise and buses and general just disgust.  Pissing people.  Pissed off people.  Commuting on the misery of infrastructure that exists thusly, filled with all those people.

Me.  I make NYC suck.  You.

Deep breath.

Personally, I probably feel the need to move on every 3-5 years, and the fact that I've been here over 7 years now makes me feel totally worthless somewhere.  I've used up the hope here a long time ago, and now the shell of shame is all that keeps me somewhat sane.  Yes, shame keeps me from coming undone.  Because I can see my own growth in the outlines of puke on the sidewalk, I can sort of come to terms with my past, here, and only here.

There are plenty of crazy redeeming things about NYC, none of which are the point of this blog post and none of which actually undo the bad things. I am certainly not claiming that NYC is worse or better than any other city.  I am just generally sick of it and need some fresh air.




I'm Looking For Home.

It's not a hard thing to fathom.  I want to feel like I'm at home.  Relaxed, and engaged, and comfortable, and surrounded by the things that I love and that make me want to submerge myself deeper.

Lately I've felt exactly the opposite--that everything is alien.  The strangeness that has pervaded almost everything is hard to pinpoint, both in a way that is totally accurate and a way that tries to unveil its origin.

Why should I, after all, feel so tremendously off?  Everywhere?  Even at home?  Is there a reason that would allow me some sort of excoriation to jab at and turn over?  I'm serious!  I really could deal with reasons here, instead of the opaque ambiguity of feeling lost.

I admit that my current job does not help the situation.  I'm basically staring at lots of computer code all day long.  It makes me feel unhinged, even though it is, at a basic level, incredibly logical, incredibly mathematical.

Oddly enough I've finally sort of gotten a hold on the tremendous back pain that has plagued me for many many years.

Too many tangents here.

I have  sense of pervading hopelessness, but it is not so acute that I will be silly and act out like a teenager.  It is instead the way it is spread so thin, how it just sort of layers over everything, that makes it so damn cloying.

I'm also sick of NYC.  I'll say that btw.  I should have a different post on that.  I will endeavor to post about that now, actually.  Two posts in one day.  It is a testament to my strange sadness that I must write.

Monday, June 16, 2014

What To Do When Sober?

I admit that it isn't easy to figure out what the best regarding activities when you get sober.

What are you supposed to do, after all, especially when so many of your nights/days/weekends have been dominated by seeking out drinks--whether, or especially, drinking is not the main subject, it always sits in the backdrop.

I remember drinking on the way to going out drinking, so I would be good and stoned drunk before I arrived.  This was all about anxiety alleviation, this need to be charged prior to the main event, which was in itself, drinking.

So much energy and waste went into being "okay" to be drunk.

And so, what do you/  When not drunk?  When sober?  When not going to get drunk?

It is hard. I'll admit it.  Even after the clarity of the first few months or the first few YEARS.  It is still hard to know what to do.  Very few things offer the same kind of immediate reward of seeming deep relaxation and relative immediate release.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Not Being Scared of Failure.

That might sound like a fancy way to talk about some mostly soft and emotional concept, but it's not.  Here's the book.  McArdle is especially cogent and tight in her writing.  Forgetting about all of the technical background to her eloquent chapters, there is this: we live in a culture where we're quite afraid to fail, which makes us less likely to try new things, and those of us who have succeeded, obsessed with keeping our status--that is, trying to do things perfectly the first time.

McArdle says it is important to engage, that progress and success happens in increments, small increments, and that nobody has pure success without lots an lots of iterations first.  It is a really important less for anyone who has thought of themselves as imperfect, and thought of this imperfection as pure failure.  It is okay not to be perfect.  It is okay to try.  It is okay to play a little and experiment with things to figure them out.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Packaging Your Message 2

But the larger reason that it matters that we take care to communicate with empathy and thoroughness (see yesterday's post), is that we could be wrong.  Our assumptions that a) what we're saying is coherent, b) that it is logically represented, and c) that we have stated it lucidly, are self-serving and hard to check, especially when we are emotionally engaged with the material.

This is probably worth a larger post on its own, but I'd argue that our capacity to understand that we could be wrong in any given situation should be used much more widely than it is.    Why assume that you make sense?  Isn't that the lazy way out?  If you're the rare person that doesn't have to make sense when talking with someone else (and who could this be?  even billionaires, or especially billionaires, have communications that demand precision), then don't worry about it.

But I guess my "test" or way around this problem is this: assume you are wrong, and then communicate from that starting point.  Seek less comfort.