Yesterday was Monday right? I could swear yesterday was Monday.
On Monday, I mentioned launching a “daily check-in” in this space, and yet, I realized that I set no goals; I only offered examples of what I intended to write using two previous, originally more private, let’s call them “accountability reports.”
Was I already giving myself an out?
Since yesterday was not in fact Monday, I recognize that my every day streak stopped at one. Or is it even a streak without at least a single consecutive pair? So, it stopped at zero. It didn’t start. Or it began, but it was aborted. So many different ways to say the same thing.
These days, I exert a great deal of energy and focus attempting to show myself some grace; some compassion.
To clarify, “these days” actually means “since yesterday.” And to clarify further, I mean Thursday-yesterday, and not the Monday-yesterday I mentioned at the start.
Yesterday, during a conversation with my therapist, I expressed—not for the first time—my misanthropic frustration that results from a repetitive pattern: I reach an “A-HA!” or even “Uh-huh” moment (see last post), and yet the semi-conscious action hamster in my skull reacts non-constructively. It looks over at the Headquarters control center, yawns, and then closes its eyes to continue; or, if it’s spent too much time chatting with Anger, it sticks out its tongue, goes on strike, and pickets without moving its wheel.
Of course, I only speak to my own experience, but the most challenging part of any mental and emotional self-care or -improvement—and therefore, the entire psychodynamic therapeutic process—is bridging the gaps between intellectual comprehension and emotional acceptance enabling myself to diminish my blocks and fears, which of course are often—if not always—the same thing.
Even as I recognized its validity, my therapist’s response was not particularly satisfying: Compassion.
Compassion towards myself is the only escape route. Compassion not only for “Present Aaron” and my current realities and challenges, but also for the little boy, adolescent, and young, less-young, and not-so-young men that star in the various chapters of my life.
Definitely far more of an “Uh huh” than the alternative, but still seemingly impossible; how can I show myself compassion when I keep messing-up everything.
Of course, there’s the rub, right? Am I flubbing life? No. (It was rhetorical, but also, still no. Not completely.) But my belief system, and the unholy polyamorous marriage of Fear, Disgust, and Sadness refuse to provide an opening to consciously frame reality otherwise.
I can’t express how much I love Inside Out, and how valuable a movie it can be. But where does compassion fit-in? I suppose it’s an element of Joy, but in this regard, especially as a counterpoint to Disgust, that doesn’t seem strong enough. Of course, that’s the point of the film: Joy is all we have to fight Fear, Disgust, and Anger, and if we can teach her to acknowledge and embrace Sadness rather than fix or ignore her, I suppose that in itself is fulfills the necessities of “compassion.”
Creating my own context, within which I wonder why my life’s journey to date has diverged so much from the path I planned, and answering that question with, “You kept fucking up!” Not only does me no good, but also enhances the damage. Instead, I can’t forget nor dismiss my history, but I must learn from it rather than dwell in it.
AND to some degree, I don’t want to look forward too much either, right? That may be an even larger challenge to me, because I’m a planner. I make and have lots of plans. And they’re good ones too. I can show you one day ... as soon as I start them.
I can’t ignore what’s ahead or live life completely unplanned—especially as a nearly 50-year-old man with two kids under eight—but I also recognize how the constant looking ahead enables my procrastination. It’s also an escape from the present, which in itself seems completely insane since the present is the only period any of us can actually experience. (At least, for now ... in today’s present.)
During my UCLA days, I wrote a one-act play that focused on this debate-as-old-as-my-time: past vs present vs future. I’ve always considered living primarily in one’s now as the optimum way to be, but the past and future are so much more comfortable, no? And they take so much less work.
The play wasn’t very good. I don’t say that to be self-deprecating. It was true. I had barely written anything that wasn’t a class essay at that time, and though I knew that, I still couldn’t actually hear the constructive criticism from the rest of the class without seeing that as validation of how crappy it was rather than an effort to help improve it. I wish I had even a small bit of the awareness and emotional intelligence at 20 that I believe I do now, because if so, I’m confident that I would have been more compassionate to myself then; and that, in turn, would make it significantly easier now.
Compassion is hard. I know I’m not alone acknowledging how much easier it feels to show compassion to another; or to objectively explain and offer a “fix” for someone else’s issues when I can hardly address my own, even when they’re so similar. I visualize the dichotomy between intellect and feeling as the Grand Canyon filled completely with Dark Matter: Can’t see it; can’t feel it; can’t explain it; but it’s doing something, and in this case, it doesn’t seem helpful.
I have spent a great deal of time on Clubhouse this week in a remarkable room that has brought together Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs of all backgrounds and nationalities, from around the world, talking with each other in an effort to humanize and understand each other. I have mostly listened, though I have also contributed to the dialogue three or four times over the past several days.
Naturally, the conversation is never easy and often quite bumpy. If automated trigger-warnings existed, nobody in the room would hear anybody else speaking; they’d be constant.
But I have witnessed people on what we all call “both sides” (of this multi-sided, infinitely complicated issue) come together in our shared humanity, and I have witnessed outlooks and beliefs evolve and change. No, not from everyone; but the room offers compelling (and certainly not new) evidence that the only way to move forward in any debate, disagreement, argument, conflict, or war is by humanizing the other and sincerely attempting to empathize with another’s experience no matter how foreign from one’s own. To listen, to hear, to absorb, and then to respond instead of react ... or maybe not even that.
Frankly, that Clubhouse room, at any moment containing anywhere between 600 and 1,300 active and passive participants and totaling over 100,000 users passing through since it began well-over 100 hours ago may be the closest I have ever come to witnessing an actual “miracle”.
I explain all this because that’s my check-in, one that has evolved itself as I tapped at my keyboard. (My original intent included no discussion of Inside Out, for example.) That’s where I am as of the afternoon (EDT) Friday, May 21, 2021. That’s where I’ve been since Monday
All of that has occupied my mind; not exclusively of course, but a large-enough plurality to use as my “excuse” for not achieving my previously-set writing goals for the week, one of which was to check-in here, if not every day, at least regularly, and more than just twice a week.
So with that spontaneously sprouting from my mind, in this present moment, I rekindle Monday’s intention, whether Monday was in fact yesterday or four days ago: I’ll be back tomorrow.
If I’m not, I won’t be too hard on myself.
Or actually, a better rewrite: Fulfilling my goals today and checking-in tomorrow will constitute a big win.
Missing those accomplishments? Well, that’s OK too, for I will have chipped away and taken at least one step, no matter how small. The next day, I can work to do better.
Besides, I clicked “publish” on this post, so I can already count that “small step” complete! ✅