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Emotional Work

Day 643 and Courage

My courage is uneven at the moment. I have a specific professional project that I am struggling to push myself on. I tell myself that it is something I want, but if the truism “having is evidence of wanting” is any indication, I am struggling to convince myself I really want it. Except I am fairly sure I do want it and I’m just scared.

I used to love it when people said no to me. I was the kind of “chip on my shoulder” young person that used a no to fuel myself. “I’ll show them” was somewhere between a mantra and a battle cry.

But now I find myself anxious to publicly go out and see just how many people will say no. I don’t know if I find it as motivating as I used to. I tell myself I don’t mind but perhaps some other unexamined element of reaction makes me afraid.

This could all be an elaborate ego protection ruse on my part. Maybe I still love the motivation that comes from no. Maybe I hate it. But I have not really done enough fucking around to find out yet to know one way or other.

My gut instinct is to simply declare in public my goals and a timeline to force myself into it. But then I’ve been working through my tendency to rely on willpower and force to motivate myself. Perhaps a big forcing function will simply send me back into my old coping mechanisms of addictive overwork.

I’ve always punished myself by doing things. If I am anxious I almost always find ways to kick a hornet’s nest to force an action rather than gentle build momentum.

Whatever I do I would prefer I do it with as much gentleness and respect for my inner child as possible. I am prone to abusing my inner child’s feelings by disregarding her fear or her desire to keep distance from the rest of the world. I deserve better than forcing misery onto my inner child.

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Emotional Work

Day 641 and Recovery

This might sound a little shocking but I sleep at least 9 hours a night. Sleep is one of the obsessions of the biohacker. If I’m lucky I might be able to get to ten. It’s always a sign of me doing poorly if I am not sleeping a TON.

It’s usually the first sign I am not adequately reserving time to bring down my central nervous system into rest and digest. I’ll stay up till 11pm and then it’s a hop skip and a jump to only sleeping seven hours.

The best combination of effort and exertion for me is only adding in specific necessary stressors during the day and give ample time to recovery. Much of my work requires focus and information processing and synthesis. And that isn’t improved by overwork and exhaustion.

Nevertheless I am still carting around a lot of lessons from my childhood about the value of hard work. More is better. More hours is best. And this is a fine and noble thing if you do work intelligently with your goals in mind. Simple exertion is sometimes the best option. But not always.

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Chronic Disease Emotional Work

Day 636 and Waves

Yesterday I was on top of a wave of positivity, so naturally this means today I was prepared for that wave to crash. The rhythms of both life, and my body, must accommodate the full range of highs and lows. After several intense days of work and activity I spent my day reading and absorbing news and financial reports in bed.

I am becoming modestly less indignant about having to monitor and meter my energy carefully. This is a new development in some ways as I’ve struggled quite publicly with mixed feelings about accounting for fatigue and pain in my workflows. I have in the past easily fallen into envy and jealousy when I see how much able bodied friends give little thought to their physical realities.

I have slowly let go of negativity around around around my body and come to embrace the rhythms of requiring rest. I’ve even come to see it as a strength as being forced into mitigating stress loads and cortisol spikes means I have more control over my sympathetic nervous system. Rather than give in to fight or flight, I am able now to able to choose how I respond.

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Emotional Work

Day 635 and Wide Horizons

I am absolutely wiped at the moment as I rode a wave of enthusiasm all day. I felt focused, energetic and free of self doubt. I felt like my life was open to possibility.

Perhaps it’s the regular reminders of personal responsibility I get in therapy. Perhaps it’s it’s the sense of accomplishment I got from completing my wilderness medical incident certification last week. The case of the Yips that I felt a few days ago is swiftly resolving.

The strength in my marriage with Alex has always been our commitment to working through our emotional journeys together. He was able to be reassuring my through slow climb back from the depths of my health challenges. He helped me turn it into a source of strength. Next year will be ten years together and Alex really got the “in sickness” portion of the vows a little earlier than anticipated.

This is the first time in both of our lives we’ve ever truly been stable. And that’s a strange thought. That our lives have been so chaotic for so long. We finally have money and a home we own and good health and it’s all at the same time. All of the instability of startups and limited resources and bad health are over. And only really in the last six or seven weeks has that been true. As we just finally bought our first home. We moved to Montana in August.

We climbed through the aftermath of the Great Recession together, made our first angel investments together, raised venture capital together, and now finally thanks to the pandemic we’ve been able to secure a place to live and a wide horizon to plan how to use our resources and time. I am responsible for talking this blessing and letting it provide the foundation for our long term goals. Millennials might just accelerate in middle age just yet! I know it feels like I am.

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Emotional Work

Day 634 and Responsibility

The best part of committing to therapy and emotional work is taking responsibility for your feelings. This is also the worst part of doing any kind of emotional growth. I suppose this is how you know therapy is a worthwhile use of your time.

Emotional work has a bit of the “wherever you go, there you are” tension of acceptance. I’ve also come to appreciate the truism that having is evidence of wanting. We are always living exactly the lives we want. Attachment and delusions and self limiting beliefs are all part of the way we protect our ego.

I’ve got a lot of my identity wrapped up in my coping mechanisms. I’m sure this is quite relatable to many people. If you are willing to be a vulnerable you start to see just how many habits and behaviors are built to protect yourself.

For me I have found comfort in overworking. If I crash and fail I protect my ego by saying little stories like I’m fragile or have high standards or whatever else seems acceptable. When of course, I could have simply made different choices to accommodate my physical state or the expectations I had for quality.

But accepting that I am ultimately responsible for my strengths and weaknesses in equal remains elusive. Personal enlightenment is a minute by minute experience. Ego destruction isn’t easy.

I try to remind myself that any traumas I may have experienced that enabled the development of these coping mechanisms are in the past. I am now the parent to my inner child. And no one is responsible for her happiness but me.

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Emotional Work Uncategorized

Day 623 and Pausing

I am feeling a bit anxious about back to work season. I’ve traditionally had a terrible relationship with work. I’m a workaholic and struggle to pace myself effectively. I particularly love riding on the zeitgeist of a season like the fall as “everyone” is back at the grind and I like to ride the energy of the moment.

But I also need more frequent and shorter pauses than the American work week or season has ever allowed. I’ve always been afraid to take them because I fear being seen as lazy. “Only the morally weak rest” is a truism of English and Germanic lineage well prior to the Reformation. Though that’s kind of an aristocracy needs the serfs working thing.

But Protestant Work Ethic aside, I’m not really cut out for hustle culture. Being disabled, even modestly with something my spondylitis, is like the double whammy of being weak and lazy. I need to maintain a different schedule because I cannot overcome the foibles of my own body? That’s an affront! I’ve got a lot of self talk that basically goes like this

You soft feminine pathetic weak bitch get your ass back to work.

Me to myself. Sadly.

Does someone have internalized issues with feminine cycles? Oh yes she does! I guess it’s not just being lazy but it’s being female and a waste of productive worker all in one body. Super fun! And yet here I am a libertarian and I work in finance. Square that circle my friends.

Capitalism has enjoyed patriarchal structuring because it allows us to categorize the inconveniences of bodies that are harder to regulate. Women in the workforce was a pain in the ass until we figured out chemical birth control I’ve got to assume.

But all these legacies of who is worthy and who is strong and who is valued are kind of bullshit constructs. I can take what serves me. I don’t need to get all up in my head about having a less productive body because who even set the damn standard right?

So I am reminded I can pause without crashing. I choose to pause at my own leisure. I can choose to self nurture so I operate from my own point of maximum strength. I have to chose to pause. A pause is not is weakness.

A pause is like the ocean cresting before the wave breaks. And I can choose to ride that momentum. This is all a part of my own work on not just surviving the current moment but thriving with optimism. It’s peace from strength. While I recognize and even ride the chaos outside, I do not feel chaotic inside.

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Emotional Work Preparedness

Day 613 and Timing

It’s hard to look straight on at your desires. Why is it that some of your life arises from your priorities and focus, but others are just chances and circumstances?

The hardest part about looking face first at being responsible for yourself is that you are both in total control and not in any control. We want to live with willpower. We want to be people of purpose. And yet life is happy to show us how much it’s all just dumb fucking luck.

Because we are what we make time for in our lives. And if we don’t make honest time for ourselves how the fuck will we ever know what we actually want. If you let life idle past you that’s fine. Because that is the path of fulfillment all along. And in letting ourselves just be maybe we find entirely new reservoirs of resources.

I’m considering taking a wilderness first responder course. I’ve got other priorities for the fall but I also made a commitment to a resilient rural life. Somewhere in my own desires I may find that what I want can and does align with the rest of my life. That by opening up to something new I also see who I am more clearly. I believe they call it getting perspective.

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Emotional Work Preparedness

Day 597 and Responsibility

I’ve noticed a deepening of my sense of personal responsibility for my own experience of daily life since we moved into our home in Montana. It’s the first home my husband and I have ever owned our own house. And we jumped into the deep end with a rural farmhouse.

The freedom to do whatever we like to our own property has been intoxicating. Even small changes are deeply satisfying. Or perhaps it is because they are small that they are such an effective demonstrations of how it is possible to derive a sense of satisfaction by taking responsibility for absolutely everything.

Let me give an example. I always apply moisturizer after washing up so my hand tends to slip on rounded knobs. That used to be a thing I’d just tolerate as a small inconvenience. But now that we can do absolutely whatever we like to the house we decided to just replace all the door knobs with door handles. Just said fuck it this little annoyance simply doesn’t have to be something we tolerate. We can take responsibility.

Is this giving us a false sense of control over our lives? Maybe! Being human is still mostly a chaotic experience. But we don’t have to tolerate any of the little bits of chaos over which we now have total control. Did I have control before? Also yes.

I could have stopped applying moisturizer and accepted needing dry hands to turn a doorknob. There are obviously always ways to take responsibility for any situation. But it sure feels great to take responsibility for living the way you prefer. Which in my case is with soft hands.

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Emotional Work

Day 589 and Mental Health

Trigger warning: discussing depression and oblique references to suicidal depression. If you are in crisis please call 988.

I had a scare this morning. Someone I love is going through some stuff. I didn’t know if they were safe for a short period and I found myself frightened by the prospect of losing them.

When I learned they were safe I was relieved but also angry because how dare they scare all of us like that? I scrambled to cope with my own feelings and a desire to engage in codependent behaviors. I called my therapist and pulled myself together.

While I don’t suffer from depression it’s not an entirely foreign concept to me. It has felt closer over the pandemic as I’ve seen others struggle. I have family members and friends who live with varying degrees of chronic depression and I have witnessed first hand how much strength it takes live with it. I have chronic pain and I don’t think it is even in the same ballpark of debilitating as depression.

I’m not any kind of expert and my advice is mostly me talking into the wind so please only take what serves you. But what I’ve learned is that people genuinely do care about mental health if you want to seek a connection. We want to help. We want to help those that want to help themselves. Your people do love you and you may have more of them than you realize.

Sometimes it feels impossible to ask for help. Maybe you cannot ask friends or family because of any number of reasons. But that doesn’t mean you are alone or no one is here to help. There are hotlines. There are 12 step meetings. There are apps and services. As one internet friendly to another you are not alone. If you need mental health care please take whatever step feels feasible even if it’s just a text message into the either. You can do it.

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Emotional Work

Day 585 and Rip Off the Trauma Bandaid

I hope I can capture even a fragment of my emotions as I am on the other side of several hours of post-moving therapy. And I am drained but also armed with more wisdom than when I started the effort.

Moving is obviously a traumatic experience for most people. Anyone who moved as a child has some memories of how the change revealed new aspects of who they are and what makes them feel safe. Parents worry about it a lot about moving and for good reason. I know my mother certainly did and she did her best to protect me.

But we know that life is chaotic. Any type of change is already in a dance with accelerating entropy. Expect your unfinished shit to get drawn into the accretion belt surrounding the event horizon of your fears. Black holes are scary because we know they will kill us unless we commit enough energy to the fight to escape.

Sometimes some parts of us don’t make it. They become lost to the nothing. The dark impenetrable inversion point where we are forced to face the powers of destruction within us. Of course, it’s natural to sacrifice some part of yourself to banish the demon we know to be who we are.

It’s actually shocking to realize that inside of you might be some kind of personal Kali ready to rend the apocalypse at your weak side. But then you try not to think of it too much right? You’d rather ignore your demons right. Don’t feed the wolf right? Feed the good they say.

I am here to tell you that the shadow exist even if it scares you. It’s pulling you in just like that black whole. You can fight it your whole life. And maybe you win. Maybe you have that kind of fuel.

But if you ignore that shadow you will be pulled in it no matter what. Wouldn’t you rather run the calculation on how to achieve escape velocity? It’s going to be expensive. But it’s better to know the costs of living.