The Happiness Manifesto Blog

How I Beat the Living Hell Out of Suffering and Made It My Bitch

Archive for the tag “be”

The Vision Quest

I have come to understand that my current state of existence is me experiencing a vision quest of sorts.  I have grown increasingly isolated:  one undertakes vision quests alone.  I have become increasingly detached from things of this world.  I am seeking my raison d’être.  I keep tearing aspects of self down, then building anew, then tearing down, then building anew, and every time the tearing down goes deeper and the building up goes higher.  I don’t need to be under a drug’s influence to feel the euphoric highs when I have an epiphany, and the crushing lows when I am unearthing old wounds and limiting beliefs, swimming in the mire of wretchedness: that’s just been my life, as of late.  I have the distinct sense that when I finally emerge, I will be better equipped to serve the world.

And it’s hard as hell.

I better be a fucking amazing Druid after this.  And I better have my home.  This tree-hugger needs to put down roots next to some tree friends.  You hear me, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?  Fuck you.  I kill you.  I kill you two times.

Yes, I am threatening the well-being of psychological concepts.  Because that’s how I roll.

To the nemeton!

 

NaPoWriMo IV

A rumbling purr that seems

To reverberate in his stomach

As I press my ear to his fur

His bright green eyes half-closed

He leans his head forward, and we touch

A gentle bonk, bonk

Better than any hug

His paws softly kneading

Claws in and out

He rolls over to reveal

A fluffy white belly

With one paw twitching as he sleeps

And one fang protruding from his mouth

A contented grin on his face

When he awakes, he will chase his toys

And meow for food

But not before

He gives me a slow blink

And we touch, a gentle bonk, bonk

Heads or souls, the effect is the same.

 

 

…This poem is about one of my cats, Yuan.

My man :)

My man

NaPoWriMo II

The sweet, green smell of wet

Daffodils blooming amid rotting leaves

Raindrops speckling my glasses

Distant birds voicing their cabin fever from amid the trees

The hurried scamper from building to car

Covering their head with a newspaper

I stroll luxuriously

Allowing the damp life force of spring to seep into my soul.

 

…This was written after my walk in the rain today.  ^_^

Inside Out

So, probably at least partially due to the sacral chakra sledgehammering, I have been taking a long, hard look at some self/body image issues.  Yes, I’ve had them.  Most of us probably have, to some extent.  But as “sledgehammering” implies, I haven’t been dealing with a sigh-in-the-mirror type of reaction – I’ve been calling it “there was a f**k-up in the soul-depositing factory on the day I was made.”  So… pretty hardcore discrepancies between what I feel like on the inside and what I look like on the outside.  And I knew these feelings were resurfacing and running me through the mud for a reason.  Cue the major insight music!

You see, despite these major discrepancies, I have not gone the route of body modification.  Of any kind.  There have been no surgeries.  I have no tattoos.  The only piercings I have are one in each earlobe.  I’ve never even dyed my hair… and except for hunting-and-pecking for split ends, it hasn’t been cut since I was nine years old.  The extent of my makeup inventory is a stick of eyeliner… that I don’t even wear most days.  I neither lie in a tanning bed nor paint myself a chemical shade of orange (I’m so pale I practically glow in the dark).  Basically… I am au naturel.  What you see is the way I was made.  It’s not what is on the inside, but it is the way I was made.

It is weird, despite the disparity between my “inside” and my “outside,” that I never tried to make the outside match more.  Certainly many, if not most folks do, to some extent or another.  But it has always seemed – and this was part of the insight tonight, why it bothered me so much when I thought about doing it – to me, at least, a violation of self.

Now let me clarify.  I take no issue with other people engaging in body modification.  I’ve seen plenty of piercings and ink that I thought looked great on the person who had them, and many folks who got a boost of happiness and/or self-confidence with their newly-dyed tresses.  If it makes you happy, go for it.  More power to you.  I am not at all saying that it bothers me to see *others* change their outside to better match their inside.  And certainly for the more serious changes – transitioning surgery for transgendered folks kind of serious – if that gives you peace with yourself for the first time in your life, by all means – be happy.  Please do.  But when I considered various changes that would better reflect my inside on my outside, on a personal basis, I always had this rather viseral reaction of revulsion.  Like, made-me-shudder-to-think-about-it disgust.  And I never knew why that was.  I have spent many nights in abject misery, wallowing in the it’s-not-fair bog of self-loathing, and yet I just couldn’t do it.  I just have always felt that somehow, the modification would bother me more than the original misalignment.

It finally came to me that that wretched feeling was a feeling of violation.  The violation of self.  I couldn’t modify my outside because I felt that would be violating it – violating me, somehow.  That seemed like a rather arbitrary assessment, in the that’s-not-very-rational sense, until the latter part of the insight came: because seeking inner peace by aligning my outside to my inside was going about it wrong.  Happiness, inner peace, and calm don’t come from external forces – at least not if you want them to stick.  You may get a shopping high when you buy some new gadget or gizmo, but that high doesn’t last forever.  You can’t force happiness by shoving it through your pores with acquired goods.  Would finally owning my own home (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably know I’m a little obsessed with that idea) make me happy?  Absolutely.  Would it solve all my problems in the world so that I had no more reasons to be sad?  Decidedly not.  A new house wouldn’t be a replacement for a new friend, or fulfilling my higher calling, or any number of not-stuff things that rank much higher on the happiness scale.  My body matching my mind (if that was even possible) might make me smile when I looked in the mirror or give me more confidence when dealing with others, but I would never be truly free of the limitations of the physical self if I aimed to modify it instead of my inner self.  It would be like chasing my own tail (no, I do not have a tail – but you dog people and cat people know what I’m talking about).  Why waste energy chasing after something that is already a part of me?

I am what I am.  My inside is what it is.  My soul and my mind will be what they are no matter what my body looks like.  Maybe people won’t relate to me the way I would like, because they are going on my outward appearance rather than my inward reality… but that happens anyway, and frankly, those aren’t the relationships we should be worrying about.  I don’t want shallow relationships with people who look only at my cover and not the inner chapters of self.  The person who takes the time to read those chapters is going to know me, whether my cover reflects that or not.  My inner self is incorruptible.  Fixating on the exterior is tilting at windmills.

The foreman at the soul-depositing factory is off the hook.

Working On Forgiveness

We’ve all heard some variation of the idea that holding a grudge is hurting ourselves rather than the person we’re angry at, right?  We understand, logically, that getting ourselves worked up does not make the offender feel bad (especially since most of the time they’re unaware that we’re worked up, or why), and having an internal dialogue full of “GRRR!” and “RAWR!” not only does nothing to solve the problem, but doesn’t even make us feel better – usually it just serves to inflate our anger.  So those of us that are on this path and trying to better ourselves are usually working on forgiving those that have hurt us, and letting go of grudges.  Sounds like a great idea!

But there’s a key point: we’re working on it.  Now I don’t mean to say that if you haven’t achieved total forgiveness of everyone who has wronged you, you’re doing it wrong.  On the contrary.  I think we’re working too hard.  Let me explain.

If you’re working on something, you’re thinking about it, right?  Whether that thing is a project, dinner, or A Book, you have to be actively thinking about it in order to work on it.  So… in working on forgiveness, we’re… dwelling on the thing that hurt us.

And that is just about exactly what we don’t want to do.

Law of attraction time!  What you think about is what you attract, right?  So why the hell are we thinking so hard about things that have hurt us, in an effort to let those things go?  That’s not letting them go, that’s letting them take up residence in our minds.

But Wren!  I hear you say.  We need to process the hurt in order to let it go!

Yeah, yeah, okay.  At a certain point, you do.  As I’ve said, I do not advocate plastering on a fake smile and pretending that nothing is wrong when your insides are doing their finest impersonation of paper in a cross-cut shredder.  But eventually, you’ll have all the insights you’re going to have on the subject, and dwelling on it further is just rubbing salt in the wound.  Or lemon juice.  Or anti-bacterial gel.  Because holy hell does that stuff sting when you’ve got a cut on your hand, no?

Nor does this apply necessarily to hurts in order.  Sometimes the most recent hurts are the easiest to let go; sometimes the old ones are.  Sometimes you can say, yeah, that was a long time ago, and it can’t hurt me anymore.  Goodbye!  And sometimes those are the ones that thirty years later will whack you upside the head so hard cartoon birds will be singing in your ears from the sudden shock.  I’m not saying there are hard-and-fast rules, here.  But we shouldn’t be defining ourselves by our hurts; we shouldn’t be labeling ourselves a victim; we shouldn’t play over and over again past tragedies on repeat in our minds.  Nor, for that matter, should we wish to make ourselves martyrs.  I think God’s got enough of those, don’t you?  He is not asking you to suffer needlessly for some Greater Good.  What greater purpose could be served by you living a life of fear and anguish?

So… if you discover some old, heretofore unexplored specimen that reveals some insight into Why You Are The Way You Are, great.  Self-realization is a fabulous thing.  But then I don’t want you to make it Your Project to study the hell out of it like a scholar with the Dead Sea Scrolls – see what it had to teach you, appreciate it, and keep the lesson, not the hurt (and by “lesson,” I don’t mean keep the lesson that your mom calling you fat when you were ten means that you have to obsess over your weight now and for the rest of your life – I mean, keep the lesson that sometimes things we didn’t realize the origins of (obsession with weight) have a very discoverable source, and don’t define us.  We can let them go, because our mother’s judgement all those years ago was hers, not ours).  Let the hurt evaporate like morning dew under the bright sun.

And don’t, for the love of God, go around patting yourself on the back about What A Big Person You Are for no longer being angry at whoever the perpetrator of that past hurt was; that’s making yourself a martyr.  Don’t believe me?  You’re thinking of yourself as saintly for enduring cruelty at the hands of the unenlightened from your place of Spiritual Greatness – isn’t that, essentially, martyrdom?

OK, you say, I got it.  I’ll just let go all those times someone hurt me, and not think on it anymore.  I’m done!

But wait, there’s more!

I was thinking on this very subject the other day in response to a friend on some message boards online, and her comments made me have a realization of my own: there is no finish line to forgiveness.

Yup.  It’s unlikely that you’re going to forgive someone for something, and then cross them off your list, like a to-do for inner peace.  Maybe you forgive your mom for calling you fat when you were ten.  You let go the notions you carried all these years about weight.  You think you’re done forgiving Mom.  You cross her off your list.  But then – shock! – a year later, you remember some other comment of hers that altered your world, and you find her square in your “working on” area again.

I do not then want you going through your mental catalog of Mom Comments, searching for any and all instances of How She Messed You Up, so you can thoroughly and completely forgive her, and be done with it.  You’re not going to find them all!  And then you’ve spent all that time (and perhaps therapy) rehashing every not-so-nice comment she ever made, essentially re-flogging yourself, in pursuit of some “finish line” that doesn’t exist.

We’re humans.  We’re messy.  We don’t stay within the lines.

I have a person (who shall remain nameless) that I’ve got a catalog of instances like the Mom Comments in my example above, who I’ve been “working on” forgiving.  I felt like I was “making progress,” and was going through the catalog, page by page, banishing those “lessons” from my psyche that no longer served me.  It’s great that I let those things go.  But was I serving myself by examining things that didn’t need to be examined?  Do you enjoy unnecessary, invasive medical examinations?  Didn’t think so.

It wasn’t until I gained the perspective of that person as just a human – a weak human, sure, but a human – instead of some large, looming monster lurking in my closet at night, waiting to pounce – that a much larger shift began to take place.  I turned on the proverbial light, and saw that this person was just a shadow, not a monster.

When you’ve got someone that has made such an impact on your life such that they are a huge, powerful creature in your head – it’s a bit of a different animal to forgive.  It’s unlikely you’re dealing with one issue, which you can forgive and forget.  You’re likely dealing with patterns and behaviors – theirs and yours.  But when you realize they’re just a messed up human, and can see all those individual instances of pain add up to a pattern of behavior because they’re messed up too, suddenly they don’t loom so large.  They shrink in your psyche.  They become… spirit.

Because we’re all spirits!  We’re all spirits having an in-body experience.  Sometimes we mess up in this grand experiment called life, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that a person’s spirit, their essence, is “evil”.  I don’t care what they’ve done.  They could be the most evil SOB ever to grace the planet – something made them that way.  Maybe it was ignorance, their own hurt, delusions, or some combination thereof.  I don’t think when they die, they’ll still be the same.  I don’t think, in spirit, racists will be racists, or there will be religious intolerance.  Because when we’re all spirit, there is no race – and I seriously doubt there is a Protestant/Catholic, Jewish/Palestinian line in the sand in the afterlife.  Do you?

When you look at the people that hurt you as just little spirits, same as you, they are no longer big scary monsters out to get you.  They are just humans who messed up.  Maybe you don’t think they are just awesome now, but what they did no longer looms so large.  Thinking of them does not produce the same anger or hurt that it once did.  You are no longer punishing yourself for once being hurt.

And that, my friend, is pretty darn good work.

The Best of All Possible Worlds

For those of you familiar with The Law of Attraction, you know what I’m talking about when I say sometimes it feels “forced.”  I feel a little Candide in me, repeating over and over again that I Live In The Best Of All Possible Worlds, until I truly believe it.  Kind of like when you’re in a foul mood, and if you force yourself to smile, even if you don’t feel it at first, the physical act triggers the emotional feelings that normally accompany a smile (science!).  Some days, when it’s feeling forced, I can get over myself and just keep at it, confident that it does indeed work (it does).  Other days, I’ve got my grump on and I feel like I’m allowed to be grumpy today, godd***it!

When I’m having one of those “Get off my lawn!” days, once I have reveled in my pissed-offedness like a rebellious teenager and can see the path I’m headed down, I try to step outside of myself and look.  First, examine the little things that are teeing me off.  If I was in a good mood, would that really piss me off or be laughed off?  If the latter is the answer, then I have to look for the real reason for the grump.  I try to think of the possible logical reasons why I’m grumpy.  Is my blood sugar low?  Am I sleep deprived?  After so many years of dealing with those issues, I darn well know they can tank a mood faster than you can blink.  Sometimes the solution is as simple as eating a balanced meal.

But sometimes, it’s more deep-seated than that – especially for those of us who very purposefully are examining ourselves, our presumptions, our sense of self, our beliefs, etc., on a mission, as it were, to grow and better ourselves and by extension, the world around us; releasing thought patterns and learned behaviors that no longer serve us (and shedding physical manifestations of that baggage, to boot).  Sometimes, we unearth an old wound that we weren’t even aware of before – not consciously, anyway – and much like any wound, it festers unnoticed until pain elicits us to examine it.

Sometimes, that stubborn insistence of our right to be angry is the pain radiating from that wound we didn’t know was there.

It’s amazing how often I’ve discovered one of those old wounds, and upon examining it, gotten some message from the Universe relating to that very topic, seemingly out of the blue.  In my last post (linked above), I wrote about what I was feeling in the moment before I had had the “aha!” insight.  Shortly thereafter, while in tears to be perfectly honest, I got a message relating to that very thing that was so clear and blatant it couldn’t have been any more obvious if God had whacked me over the head with a baseball bat.  So there I was, having a low point, and I still got the positive response.  However, I was at the low point because I was “detoxing,” as it were.  For any of you who have done or have looked into doing a cleanse or otherwise detoxing, you’ve heard that as your body releases the old, stored toxins, sometimes it can cause what is known as a “health crisis” – that is, you feel sick from the icky things working their way through your system, but will be better off in the end as they will no longer be inside you to harm you in the future.  It’s kind of like that, which is why I figure the law of attraction didn’t attract negative things from my low mood.  I wasn’t letting the old pattern repeat itself – I was cleansing it from my system altogether.

Today I got another such message, from a friend’s Facebook post of all things, that wasn’t even directed at me, but it spoke to something I have been sparring with in my head for a while.  It was just such a perfectly relevant message, and put in just such a way that though I had “known” it before, it hadn’t truly “registered” – it pretty much floored me for a moment.  Sometimes you can “know” something, but not truly “comprehend” or “take it in.”  That was what this message was for me.  I can already feel the ripples making their way through my psyche, as the initial concept is accepted, and a domino effect of altering thought patterns occurs.

So though there are times when it may feel “forced,” keep at the positive thoughts.  When you hit a low, examine why, and be open to whatever reason may come.  If you’re spiritually detoxing, let the negativity be released.  You may have a health crisis of the spirit, but you will feel so much lighter and brighter in the end.

And don’t discount any source of insight as being “too trivial” – sometimes a Facebook post, a text message, or a tweet may be just the thing that gets the gears turning.

Multiple Universes

It’s funny what we focus on from day-to-day.  The things that take up residence in our conscious and label themselves as “important” or even just “noteworthy,” let alone “urgent” – are they really so large?

A year from now, are you going to remember that time you were late paying a bill?  Ten years from now, are you going to remember how much you wanted that shiny new electronic toy, or how excited you were about a new movie?  Are you even going to remember the movie?  Will you still own the toy, presuming you bought it in the first place?

Are you going to remember the argument you had with your significant other over something insignificant – dirty laundry or forgotten errands or God knows what?

Why is it that we let these petty things take up so much residence in our minds?  Why do we give them so much energy?

I would much rather be contemplating the meaning of life than finances.  The Otherworld than politics.  The potential of multiple universes than carpet cleaner.  But I find myself, like anyone else, pondering pet stain products and banging my head over some pol’s latest foot-in-mouth disease, wondering how THAT guy or gal could possibly represent anybody.  Really, where do they find these people?

It’s when I have these moments of clarity, when I can see that I’ve been hunched over the desk of Little Thoughts for too long, and I sit up and take a long stretch and rub the fog from my eyes, that I can see the vast expanse of possibility.  The potential of Multiple Universes.  The potential of Me.  I take a deep breath, and I am breathing in Everything.  I want to weep at the trillions of stars that the city lights of my encapsulated mind blind me to most days.  I want to have this view all the time.

And then something calls me back, I get distracted, and before I know it, I’m hunched over the desk again, plugging away at one tiny cog in a massive machine that is Life.

But every once in a while… when you get up from your desk, climb up to the rooftop, and just admire the view… those are the moments that are worth it.

Those are the moments when I look around, and I want to grab everyone else at their desk and turn off all the lights so they can see the stars, too.

Those are the moments when part of me is overjoyed at the whole works, the whole system, this wondrous, unimaginable thing we couldn’t describe in words if we tried – and part of me wonders if I’m not all alone in it, floating in a tiny rowboat amid the stars, the only one who will ever see it from this vantage point.  Or perhaps others may, but we’ll never be in the same harbor at the same time and be able to discuss the rapture of the multiverse.

They say that no two beings are ever in the same time and space together.  You and I could be standing two feet apart, and we won’t be in the same time and space.  Time and space are divisible into such tiny slivers, that even our own bodies are not in the same place at the same time.  My fingers that are typing this and my brain that is sending the signals to do so are in two different places, at two different times.  My pinky finger is in a different space and time than my ring finger.  Every fiber of my being, though connected, is literally in a different moment of time than the fiber next to it.  And I wonder if we will ever feel whole.

Or if we will ever fully understand what overwhelmingly beautiful and powerful creatures we are.  Whether you think we make or are made, or both – we are.  And each one of us is a conglomeration of multiple times in space all working together to create a larger being that is us.  And we consciously direct that symphony of time that is our bodies to work together for a unified purpose.

We manipulate space and time, all the time.  And we don’t even know we can do it.  We just do it, instinctively.

Magnificent beings, aren’t we?

A Time For Every Purpose

Modern life is filled with a whole lot of tossing aside of natural rhythms and forcibly conforming to some arbitrary man-made order.  If we don’t mold easily to whatever contrived system is deemed “normal,” we’re freaks, we’re lazy, we’re procrastinators, or we’re just plain weird.  If your energy, your muse, or your motivation doesn’t come in eight-hour bursts five days a week, then something is just wrong with you.  I’ve already discussed my struggles with the fact that I do not have a 24-hour circadian rhythm and how that has affected my sleeping and waking life.  But I’m not just talking about sleep.  My energy and my inspiration comes in waves, and it does this with everything.  I’ll have a spate of painting inspiration, or writing inspiration, or knitting inspiration, or cleaning inspiration.  For a while, be that a few days or a few weeks, I will be painting like a being possessed, or writing at a pace that if sustained would get something the length of War and Peace turned out in a couple of months.  But do I sustain this frenetic knit-a-thon until I’ve made a cozy large enough to hug the cash register building (attention non-Denverites: look at a picture of our skyline.  We have a skyscraper shaped like an old-school cash register)?  No.  The wave of knitting mania peters out before it goes that far.  And then I won’t knit for possibly months until I feel compelled to pick up a pair of needles again.

Sometimes I wish I could control when these bursts of focused energy hit, but that’s the thing.  I can’t.  No one can.  I can’t say, “Writing muse, activate!” like I’m a Wonder Twin.  When it’s there, it’s there.  When it’s not, it’s not.  That’s how the muse works.  And it’s not just creative endeavors, either.  I mentioned cleaning, for one.  Sometimes I go on a cleaning/purging/organizing binge that would make Mr. Monk proud.  Other times the mere sight of the dirty dishes piling up in my kitchen sink fills me with dread.

Here is where I estimate about 50% of my reading audience is going to attempt to diagnose me with bipolar disorder.  And though I will admit that idea has been floated to me by a doctor at one point, I really don’t think it is the case.  Because usually the “swing” isn’t a swing at all, but a shift.  One day I might be a cleaning fool.  Then the next day I might be click-clacking away at the keyboard.  It’s not that I’m “high” or “low” – it’s that my focus has changed.  And you can put away the ADD diagnosis as well.  When I’m inspired, I have the focus of a laser.  For HOURS.  Or days.  Or weeks.  You get the idea.

Which brings me to the larger point: why do we seek to label things that don’t fit the “normal” mold as disorders?  I’m not saying actual disorders don’t exist, but why is it a problem if all I can think about is writing for a week, or if I have twenty things I am flitting about in one day?  If I’m functional, I hardly think that’s a disorder.

Aha, therein lies the rub: define “functional.”  You might say, if I’m so absorbed in what I’m doing that I skip a meal or a shower then slow down, turbo, that’s just craziness!  But would you think so if you were reading about some great artist and how they created their masterpiece?  I’m guessing you’d just label that “artistic genius” (unfortunately, telling my mother that I was an artistic genius growing up because Leonardo DaVinci was supposedly a slob didn’t get me out of cleaning my room, but ya know, worth a shot).  And how many gamers do you know that get whatever new game they love and will not be seen or heard from for the next two or three days until they’ve beaten the thing?  Are they disordered or just passionate about that game?  Since it’s an actual thing for significant others to call themselves “<enter name of game here> widows,” as in, “Are you free this weekend?” “Yeah, I’ll be a Skyrim widow for the next few days, so I’m free!” …I’m thinking that’s not so abnormal.  So why do we treat it as such?

Why do we make exceptions (see above gaming example) for some things, but that is absolutely out of the question for other things?  Why can’t you call out of your day job when you need a mental health day without faking a cough?  Why isn’t it enough to just say, my focus just really isn’t there today, and I wouldn’t be very productive if I tried to force it anyway?  Because it’s seen as immature to admit to the fact that you can’t turn your focus and passion on and off like a switch?  I would think it would be more mature to know your “limitations,” though I hesitate to call them such.  I don’t see these things as limitations; I see them as natural cycles.

Think about it historically: people living closer to the land had natural cycles built into their lives that us modern city-dwellers don’t even acknowledge today.  There was planting season; there was growing season; there was harvesting season; there was the cold season when you retreated indoors.  Your focus was on different activities, in different quantities, at different times of the year.  And those activities were influenced by things like the weather, and how much sunlight you had, and how many people were working together to accomplish a goal.  Yet we’re expected to still maintain a year-round five days a week, 52 weeks a year, eight hour burst of focus on the same exact thing for our entire adult lives.  Sounds rather arbitrary, doesn’t it?

So why is it “irresponsible” to not fit that unnatural mold?  It sounds more like being in tune with the real world to me.  But we’ve become so conditioned, in a very short period of time, when you think about it, that this is just the way things are, and how they’ve always been.  But in reality the industrial revolution, and with it, the scheduling of people’s lives around factory schedules instead of the natural world, is a relatively recent development.

I say down with a man-made contrivance, and up with listening to your body, your spirit, and your natural rhythms.  I find I accomplish a lot more of value this way, as opposed to a pile of busywork and an ethic of butts-in-seats.  Do what is worthwhile.  Time is relative.

Let It Be

For the past couple of months, I have been largely in what a friend of mine calls “cave time,” that is, time when you turn inward and live in your inner world rather than participating so much in the outer world, or as some might say, “the real world.”

I’ve had a lot of good insights into myself, my path, and life in general during this time, as well as a lot of “What on Earth have I done all day??” moments.  That was part of the lesson I learned during this time.

We often feel in our go-go-go, work-work-work, now-now-now society that “just being” is just a polite way of saying “lazy,” and of course, being “lazy” is “bad.”  We’ve got that masochistic work ethic drilled into us so much that the idea of “rest” is foreign and to be sneered at.  I’ve had this theme become rather ubiquitous in my life as of late.  Someone I follow on Google+ – or was it Facebook? – commented one day how it was brought to their attention when they had shared an update that they were taking a “lazy Sunday” and just resting and relaxing.  One of their friends had commented “Don’t make a habit out of it.”  Why not make a habit out of it?  They wondered.  Isn’t that the idea behind the weekend?  The sabbath?

Remember that notion?  One day a week where it was religiously mandated to relax and live in your inner world and commune with a higher power.  Why is that now “bad”?

I was browsing Kindle books a little while ago and found this gem I had never heard of before: “The Right To Be Lazy” by Paul Lafargue (Karl Marx’s son).  I’m not done with it yet, but in it he talks about how historically “work” was something to be scorned by free people, and how being free from work spawned a lot of great philosophies and discoveries, such as in ancient Greece.  Back then, the work was foisted onto slaves, but now we have machines that can do much of this work for us (and keep in mind, this book was written around the turn of the 20th century, so this holds even more true today than it did then).  So why didn’t automation become a way for people to work less and have more free time and still have enough to get by?  Why did our society develop the way it did, with “workaholics” and overtime galore, or even if you didn’t want to live that way, feeling pressured to perform thusly or risk losing your income?  Why did automation become a “threat” to our livelihood rather than a blessing?  Why didn’t EVERYONE benefit from these technologies, instead of just stockholders and CEOs?  And why do CEOs continue to work so much, despite being filthy rich?  If you won millions of dollars in the lottery, wouldn’t you quit your job and do what you wanted (say, travel around the world or volunteer or hobbies or whatever it is you like to do)?  These guys win the paycheck lottery every year but they keep working 80 hour weeks, instead of quitting after a while and living a comfortable life.  Instead of passing the torch for someone else to win the paycheck lottery, they feel driven to “keep busy”.  People, when talking about retirement, often say that they “wouldn’t know what to do with themselves.”  Why is that?

Have you ever read a Jane Austen novel?  Monied people didn’t work.  If you watch Downton Abbey, the family is rather scandalized when they discover that the next in line to inherit the Earldom is a LAWYER who WORKS (gasp!).  Back then, if you had the means, you didn’t work.  But many people who have what I would consider to be plenty to live on insist on working, even though they don’t need to.  It’s shameful if you don’t have a job, even if you don’t really need the money.

Why do we define ourselves by our livelihoods?  When people ask me “What do you do?” I have often said, “I write, though that’s not how I pay the bills, if that’s what you mean.”  Why do I feel the need to make that distinction?  Because I have never defined myself by my job.  The job was just a way for me to pay the rent.  What I WAS was an artist (painter, sculptor) and a writer.  I WASN’T a secretary, or a medical assistant, or a cashier.  That was what I did by necessity; writing, painting, sculpting, etc. is what I did for love.

So, just being.  One of the things I’ve discovered since losing my “regular job” back in June was the nature of the sleep issues I’ve had all my life.  I always chalked them up to being “a night owl,” but even when I worked nights I still wasn’t sleeping enough, or sleeping through five (yes, five) alarm clocks, or any variation of “not being able to maintain a decent sleep schedule” in between.  And yes, I read just about every article on sleep and tried just about every remedy besides drugs, and nothing helped.  What I’ve discovered is that apparently, my circadian rhythm is not set to 24 hours.  Once I finally let myself sleep when I was tired, instead of when I “should” sleep, and stay awake when I was awake, instead of trying to force myself to sleep, it became clear that I just don’t cycle every 24 hours.  For instance, for the past few days, the cycle has been: awake for 26 hours, sleep for 10 hours, awake for 26 hours, sleep for 12 hours.  That’s about three days but for me it was two.  No WONDER I was either an insomniac or comatose.  I’ve beat myself up over my sleep habits – or lack thereof – my whole life.  I’ve been deemed “lazy” and “irresponsible” because of it, even when the majority of the time, trying to squeeze myself into a “normal” schedule meant that I averaged about five hours of sleep a night (or less).  Accepting that I’m just not wired like most people, and not beating myself up over it or trying to force it into submission has been a boon to both my waking and sleeping hours (not to mention my mood).  I feel great, and for once in my life, rested.  One of the many reasons why I’ve been trying desperately to find my niche and earn a living writing/freelancing – I’d get to keep my sleep schedule the way it naturally is.

It took me months to get to the place where I am now, of neither trying to force myself into the “normal” mold, nor feeling guilty about it.  I still struggle with it some days, especially during the winter months when the day is so short and THAT’S when my body decided it was bedtime.  But the difference it has made in how I feel usually means I can override that guilty feeling with, “Don’t mess this up!”  Or maybe “You’re allowed” or “You’re worth it.”  Because you know what?  We’re all worth getting a good night’s rest.  Or staying up when we’re not tired.  Either or.  It’s not a sin.

And that’s been the overriding lesson learned these past couple of months of “cave time.”  I’m allowed to turn inward when I feel the need.  I’m allowed to let my body dictate when it’s tired or awake.  I’m allowed to work like a busy bee or take a day off.  I’m even allowed to have a bad mood some days, and not feel guilty for it.  It’s called being human.  We’re not perfect, and we’re not all the same.  And I don’t have to internalize society’s dictates on what I “should” be or do.  I needn’t feel guilty because I don’t fit the “average” mold.  For years I beat myself up and hated that I didn’t fit that mold.  Today I’m finally glad I’m different.

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