And I’m Here

I’m looking to simplify life; for, at thirty-one, I find life complex beyond need. 

In my quest to simplify life, what I am really after are my goals. 

I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older my priorities have changed. While writing has always been a thread of my life, from childhood to present, I didn’t always know I wanted to be a writer; sure, I was a consumate reader from an early age, having spent many school lunch hours in the library or on the steps, where I read everything that captured my fancy (Mostly stories involving sailing or the sea.), and yes, I was fortunate to have had teachers who encouraged me to write, which led me to join the Navy at 17 as a journalist, but I didn’t really know I was a writer until around age twenty-eight (Four years into this blog), when my stories began to germinate and develop within me. Up until that point, I had only wanted to be a writer – but at that point, I knew, I was a writer – and I was meant to be a writer. 

The next few years I would navigate a big breakup, take a year off (Which I spent in large solitude, my afternoons volunteering at the library, my evenings on the shore before sunset, my nights reading.), and finally, I would fall back into love, into life. 

And then, seven months ago, at age thirty one, I moved to the mountains, where I planned to write and support myself doing freelance web work.

My desk made its way into my study with the feet removed, and one-hundred square feet of bookcase was constructed, my books neatly arranged on the shelves.  

Only, I did not write. 

My days were spent working on web projects for small, unreliable clients, and, having had Sarah quit her job when we moved here, I struggled to support us, despite the decreased expenses of life in a small mountain town. 

As anyone who has struggled financially knows, it is neither pleasant nor tolerable; although, it is endurable – meaning, it can be survived. Only, I am not much for simply enduring life, merely  surviving. 

That said, I wanted more; I wanted to eat my cake and have it too; I didn’t want to feel small, invisible, obscure: I wanted to regain the financial success I had at twenty-four. 

So I built a new business, a user-experience consultancy. 

It failed. Months down the drain. 

I tried again; thinking my hypothesis flawed, I revamped my business to focus on niche markets I felt I knew; however, my additional months efforts were in vain, and I failed again. 

Not a very fun feeling. But endurable. 

What could I do? 

I carried on, stoically, resiliently, wanting to love all that was fated for me – not wanting to struggle against life. Not wanting to suffer. Not wanting to let another seven months pass without making progress as a serious fiction writer – a novelist – or at least a novella-ist

At this point, we kind of catch up to now. 

I have a good relationship. I am loved. I am healthy. I’ve got a great fucking haircut. But yeah, none of that is really everything. Everything is the books. 

I’ve admittedly never possessed the patience for delayed gratification; however, wanting to make a life as a serious novelist, one has to commit to a long road. 

Also, having failed at building myself a business with which I could support the ideas I had about the life I wanted for myself (Entrepreneur / writer with a house in the Palisades.), I have been forced to re-imagine the path for myself as a writer. Now, I’ve rebuilt my personal consulting site, and I am willing to take the long way round – meaning, I’m willing to take the journey to get there. 

What this all means is that I have my work cut out for me, and until I am a proper working writer, I will be working and writing – however long that may take. 

It’s not necessarily the dream I had of having another successful business, which would allow me to write in relative comfort, but it’s the dream I have of being a writer that I am committing to – comforts and securities be damned. 

That’s not to say I won’t have security: I’ll sure as hell have a lot more than I’ve had in the course of attempting to build two unsuccessful businesses. lol. 

In making this shift, I am giving up great for good. 

To eventually be great.

That is what I want. 

I want to focus on simple goals: x consulting hours a week, x pages a day, x workouts a week. 

I recognize the aforementioned goals may seem rather drab – as if I am attempting to quantify happiness in boxes that I’ll check off. But it’s all very simple to me. 

I want to write. I want the security to write. I want to be healthy. I want to have a social life where I am valued by people I admire. 

I just want to do good, feel good. Be good. And I don’t mind living a simple, quiet, and disciplined life in order to get there. 

I just wish this hadn’t all taken me so long to figure out. But it did. And I’m here. 

Spelunking

I’ve come to see that a big part of maturity – if not the core of it – comes down to our ability to perceive reality without bias, without denial, and without escape. 

To be well-adjusted to life is to be at peace with it, for better or for worse, because, fact is, you will always experience unpleasant feelings: they are a part of life. 

I have quite recently come to see that there’s just never going to be that day when I become Buddha; although, I have definitely tried (Psycadellics, meditation, Stoicism, CBT).

The point is, life is life: we have to accept it. 

In the words of Albert Camus:

“At 30 a man should know himself like the palm of his hand, know the exact number of his defects and qualities, know how far he can go, foretell his failures – be what he is. And, above all, accept these things.”

And having acquired something akin to this, I can attest that acceptance is an integral part of wellbeing and inner-peace; however, acceptance is not everything. 

Many of us, myself included, have long had an unhealthy relationship with negative feelings – so much so that we often seek caustic escapes in an attempt to avert ourselves from our unpleasant feelings, which often leads to a kind of vicious cycle wherein we create more problems for ourselves rather than simply facing our original adversities head-on. 

I can’t remember who said this, but I recall a quote to the effect of:

‘One thing about humans is that they love to feel good and they hate to feel bad.’ 

I think it was Steinbeck. Anyhow, this is true: we don’t like to feel bad; in-fact, I would say that many of us are addicted to our feelings, always seeking to feel great, at the expense of good. 

All this said, today I wholly believe in welcoming negative feelings. 

Part of this comes from the idea of Positive Disintigration, and the other part of it just comes from my experience in learning to be courageous, in learning to face my feelings – to face life.

Facing negative feelings is the very mechanism by which I have grown. 

Any negative feelings I experience come from some part of me: be it my ego, my soul, my anima, or my intuition. None of these are invalid; they are ultimately all just different aspects of me, and, in my experience, it does not serve me to ignore them. 

I mean, aren’t we supposed to listen to our inner voices?

I think in theory we all relate to this idea as a valid practice; however, in real life, I think many of us are only wanting to actively listen to the happy, satisfied inner voice. 

So it is, we live in our own shadows, standing in the way of our light; after-all, listening to our negative feelings would require facing some unpleasant, and maybe even scary feelings. 

But this is the way; as Joseph Campbell said, “The treasure you seek is in the cave you fear to enter.”

After-all, isn’t our very reluctance to experience and examine our negative feelings born out of fear? 

It’s fear that causes us to turn away from life. And in doing so, we shun our own development.

As Marcus Aurelius taught me:

“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Without facing our negative feelings, we do not advance. 

But I think part of the problem, and the reason why people cower and flee from negative feelings is that they don’t fundamentally know how to address them. They don’t know how to face their feelings – regardless of how capable they feel in facing their problems. In short, we need our feelings in order to face our problems. We are often just too scared. Too afraid to accept that we are uncomfortable and upset. Also, once we accept the negative, we become responsible for it, and that can be equally frightening. 

In a sense, however, facing our negative feelings is not actually that mystifying or scary. 

Our thoughts really fall into two binary categories: rational and irrational.  

Unfortunately, few people examine whether their thoughts are rational at all. 

For me, the ability to cipher rationality from thoughts comes largely from the Stoic perspective of asking whether something is in my control or not. 

My reeling over the daily shit our government is taking on the people of America, for instance, is not rational; for I have no control over that. 

On the flip side, my negative feelings about not getting to bed earlier or hitting my work goals, are rational, for those things are under my control. 

But not all negative feelings are resolved or even realized as simply as that. 

For the most part I think we just tend to feel slightly nervous and unsettled in general, never quite diving in and inviting our inner-voice to be the bearer of bad news. 

Once we do that, once we listen to the negative inner thoughts behind our  feelings, we suddenly uncover the ugly truths that have long been staring us in the face.

And when we do that, when we acknowledge the elephants in the room squat before us, we actually have a couple options that we can use to effectively face them. 

But in order to face them, we have to break them down into what they are: 

ABCs. 

  • A= Activating Event / Adversity 
  • B = Belief (About the event)
  • C= Consequence 

Note: Learn more depth about the above ABCs, here

Most people only see the C, the consequence, i.e., we focus exclusively on the negative feeling. 

For instance, I feel like shit because I don’t have more financial security. 

That’s the C (Consequence). The A (Adversity) is not having the money to do more of what I want. The B is my belief: that I will be more comfortable with more money.

Essentially, in this case, there are two options within the ABC framework for me – since I can’t change the consequence directly. 

Either I change the A, i.e., earn more money, or, I change the B: my belief that I will be more comfortable with more money. 

For me, the belief that I will feel more at peace with greater financial security is fairly unchangeable; paraphrasing Drake here: I know money doesn’t buy happiness but I’m happiest when I can buy what I want to, get high when I want to.

In short, since I can’t change the belief (That I will be more content with more success), I can either suffer the consequences of that belief passively, or I can change the activating event, removing the burden from me entirely. 

That example was a tad of a rant, but the alternative to not facing it, of not understanding what I have to change in order to experience greater inner-peace, is simply to suffer. 

Are we really just supposed to live our lives taking pills for our feelings? Or are we meant to listen to them, to evolve and grow by facing them bravely, nobly. 

When it comes to our negative feelings, many of which may have haunted us for years, I believe we’ve all got some spelunking to do. 

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers to the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.”

– Shakespeare, Macbeth

Thirty-One and Change: Reflections on Experience 

This is my third and final attempt to write this entry. The previous two night’s efforts yielded a dozen or so paragraphs but nothing palpable, from the heart.

Unfortunately, I am tired and slightly stoned atm; however, this might actually work in my favor, given that it ensures I will be (Relatively) brief. And I recognize I am not generally so; although, this is largely because my prose is more the result of a process than a purpose – but I digress. Back to the matter at hand.

Twice I have worn myself out attempting to write this entry; and it would seem simple: I want to write about some of the things I have come to realize this year; however, it is not simple: it is complex.

To share my realizations – what amounts to my bedrock values and priorities at thirty-one – is to draw from what I have learned, often by living in a way that is entirely contradictory to what I am now prescribing for myself; however, this is growth – meaning: I am not losing any part of myself; in my heart, I am still the boy I was at eleven; only, now, I am a happy, peaceful, and constructive adult, which is nothing to scoff at – as any adult learns.

That said, here are the things that are sticking for me at thirty-one:

Proportion > Balance

Balance is frequently espoused as part of a happy, healthy life, which makes sense given that extremes and excesses are destructive forces for many, if not all who fail to practice moderation in their lifestyles. Unfortunately, however, my idea of balance never moderated my behavior; my idea of balance was: “Everything in moderation, including moderation itself.” Not exactly a wise prescription for living; although, most certainly a forgiving one. Only, I don’t want to stem the tide of cognitive dissonance with beliefs that directly negate my personal responsibility. As an adult, it is my responsibility to make sure that everything I do is authentically attuned to what may be called my “higher-self”, which is to say: the me that I aspire to be – the me I am committed to being. So, instead of trying to live a prescription for a balanced life, today I am more concerned with living proportionately to my needs, based on what works for me.

Balance may work for others; although, I do not pretend to know what it best for another; my principal concern is only what it best for me, based on the individualized needs of my soul. And I need proportion.

This [proportion] applies to many aspects of my life; I simply require the things that work for me in direct proportion to the degree in which they serve me. For some things, this means total abstinence, for others, it’s open season.

In short, attempting to practice balance is not a specific enough prescription for me, whereas viewing things from the perspective of proportion allows me to consciously choose only that which is suited for me. 

Cannibis, Entheogens > Alcohol

I used to think alcohol helped me, somehow made me better, more able to be myself. Talk about shit thinking; I couldn’t have been more wrong: alcohol is antithetical to who I am, to what I value – and most certainly is only a detriment to my higher-self and soul. Put simply, it doesn’t serve me one single iota. Cannibis however, and certain entheogens (Ritually used in a healthy, safe environment), have helped me. In-fact, I cleanse the doors of perception not infrequently; however, it should be said here, that this is something that works for me – again, proportion.

For those curious to learn more about psychadellics, I recommend following MAPS

Introversion > Misanthropy 

I once proudly proclaimed myself a misanthrope (Nine months ago, lol). Today, largely thanks to Sociometer Theory and Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Both of which have helped me understand man’s function as a social animal.), I actually care what other people think (As, I never before did), and my self-esteem is a million miles better for it. In short, humans need human love, acceptance, and even approval.

Experience > Wisdom 

It might be said that wisdom without experience is only advice.

It is only when we have the requisite experience and learning that we can understand the depth of even the most banal cliches.

I can’t think of how many times the most oft-uttered (And heretofore seemingly meaningless) adages, have suddenly made perfect sense to me in light of personal experience. Things like, “Be careful what you wish for” now strike me as profound and invaluable, whereas before they meant little if anything.

In short, wisdom is cheap, experience is priceless. 

On the same note, it’s amazing reading something I have read for years, and being struck in the heart by passages that before went in one ear and out the other (Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations comes to mind).

As the Tao says:

When the student is ready, the teacher appears.

Mature Responsibilities > Base Animal Drives

I think what separates humans from animals isn’t the lack of base, animalistic drives, but, rather, our ability to transcend and rise above them.

For much of my life I have followed the dictates of my base impulses, and it has come at the expense of my resposibilities.

I am reminded of the saying, “The mind is a terrible master but an excellent servant.”

Today, I am happy to be master of the castle, lord of the manor. I no longer feel conscripted by my animalistic desires to abandon my responsibilities. Instead, I am focusing on my higher animal desires, which, unlike the lower, do not rob me of my dignity and gravitas.

Dignity > Pride

I spent much of my twenties defending my pride and abandoning my dignity. It hurts just to think about. Thankfully, however, life has humbled me. Where I once defended my pride at all costs, today I defend my dignity, which is a much more honorable source of pride than my ego ever was.

In a word, dignity, like class, is how you treat people and how you respond to the way others treat you: it is saving the world from yourself; it is the very basis of social and personal morality. 

Habits > Impulse, Whim, Folly

As mentioned, I am no stranger to my base animal desires; however, what’s more, I also know what it is to live subject to every passing whim, impulse, and folly.

I used to think this was freedom: living according to my nature  – regardless what presented itself to me as pleasing – consequences be damned.

How foolish and young I was; this was not freedom, it was ignorance. To live according to impulse is to lay victim to habits, which require self-discipline and control – the very enemies of the puer.

Today, I love the ritual of habits. As I lay here writing this, Sarah reads beside me, the dogs lay about, a fire burns in the hearth, and “Awaken, My Love!” plays cooly, melodically, in the background – a typical evening for us.

In short, I am no longer plagued by restlessness and I love the peace and security my habits bring me – Friday wake and bake included. Whatever fun I had to get here was worth it (Mostly), but I thank my lucky stars my twenties are over, and with them the impulse, whim, and folly that for so long kept me from being able to live a calm, stable life, which is by no means to say an unexciting one. 

Security > Freedom 

When most first-world white people think of freedom, they tend to envision something like the 4-Hour Workweek or perhaps being able to travel or live remotely, as many Facebook ads promise. Only, that’s not freedom (Sounds more like retirement to me); my concept of freedom looks very much like the life I am now taking up: consulting from home and daily writing fiction. Fuck getting rich if I am not writing. That is not my dream of freedom; my freedom today comes from the security I maintain, which affords me the ability to do what I love: pursue my career as a major writer.

In short, I would have no freedom without the security afforded me by the very things I once thought diametrically opposed to freedom: hard work and discipline. 

Freedom is following your dreams. Without security, this is not possible. 

For my writers out there:

“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word to paper.”

– E.B White

Actions > Dreams 

Following the spirit of the above, I am today interested in actions over dreams.

In a word, action is what brings dreams to life; without action dreams are only fantasies. And life is too short to spend fantasizing. Besides, real life beats masturbating any day. 

Temporality > Mortality 

I have long felt myself a Stoic – fuck, I had to be, lol *laughs at life’s major tragedies. 

Part of what has allowed me to laugh at my misfortunes (And a big part of my philosophy) was the concept of my mortality – memento mori.

Unfortunately, however, while focusing and meditating on death put things in perspective for me, it also gave me a devil may care attitude, as if saying to myself: “Don’t worry, you’re totally GOING TO DIE,” hence, why stress over this or that. In a sense it gave me the peace of a nihilist. And we all know nihilists DGAF.

Only, I want to give a fuck. After all, I can use any number of philosophies and maxims to strip myself of personal responsibility, but the fact remains: I am responsible for myself while I am here – temporarily. So, while I am here, let me live well (In accordance with reason and nature), and let me follow my dreams.

For not only will I one day die, but I will also one day be old and the ships will have sailed. 

Let me remember that I am here temporarily; let me make hay while the sun shines. 

Health > Pleasure 

Health isn’t everything, it is the only thing. Without health we have nothing; in-fact, health is my top priority in life – as it should be.

Honesty > Fear

I’m closing with this becuase without honesty – personal honesty – I would have arrived at none of these understandings.

Whatever fears, whatever vanities and insecurities might prevent me from examining my life, all are mere trivialities when compared to the benefits of living life honestly, with both feet planted on the ground.

Without personal honesty we are forever condemned to our prejudices and illusions.

In order to grow, we have to confront our fears, which simply requires being honest with ourselves. That is true bravery.

Postscript

I pride myself on living with a light-heart, and this entry was by no means heavy-hearted; however, I have definitely written many things here that were much more fun, joyous even; although, this was certainly not one of them. 

This was a serious, mature declaration of truths, many of which I had failed to consider or realize up until this point. That said, in my effort to attain proportion in my endeavors, I most certainly seek lightness, laughter, but those things require that I adhere to the above principles – for without them, I would be rudderless. 

– LB