Categories
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.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 603 and Summer Vacation

It feels like I’ve always disliked summer. I suspect people like it because of it’s association with vacations. But I find neither summer nor vacations to be that appealing individually or in conjunction. What is there to like about heat, ozone pollution, and fire season? And then you want me to add travel and disruptions to my routine? I’m skeptical.

This is probably more a reflection of how much I’ve come to hate the intense heat associated with climate change in the west. Heat domes that keep the temperature over 40 C for weeks and their associated forest fires are the stuff of nightmares. But I don’t recall looking really forward to summer breaks as a kid except for the ones that were spent at an ashram. I enjoyed all of the meditation and yoga. But otherwise summer was just a weird time when I was mostly alone.

So it’s a bit of a surprise to feel like I’m having a summer vacation and I like it. I promised myself I’d take off all of August so we could really settle into our new homestead in Montana. I didn’t expect it to feel particularly relaxing as we have a chore list a mile long. It was meant as a different kind of working summer.

But I feel like I’m having the best summer vacation of my life. The weather is lovely and cool at the moment. The food is spectacular. All cherries and steaks. I’m spending a lot of time outdoors just by walking around the neighborhood. I’ve got time to workout. We installed a full lifting cage in the barn. I’m getting plenty of sleep. My Whoop is entirely green except when I push because I want too. My time is entirely spent on personal projects. Maybe this is what people have been raving about?

Categories
Aesthetics Travel

Day 600 and High Season

A lot of folks seem to be coming through Montana over the next two weeks. Maybe it’s the nature of high season that people flock to Montana at the end of the summer?

But it’s been quite fun to have all kinds of friends, mutuals and acquaintances reach out to make plans. Visibility on Twitter has played a large role in this, as anyone passing through Montana might be inclined to grab a meal or a drink if they scroll their local mutuals. I like to think I am top of mind because I am a good hang but it’s probably because I’m just quite visible.

All these tourists has got a bit of a “center of the universe” feel to it. It’s like a mountain summer town version of Manhattan during fashion week. Or Los Angeles during the Oscars. I’ve got to say it feels like I’m Monaco and it’s F1 racing season. Every city of note has an event that brings all of the jet set to their hometown.

I’m usually mixed on doing too much social activity but I’ve been feeling like socializing more. I’ve even been eating out with much more frequency. And what’s amazing about it is that in the past I didn’t want to do more than a couple events a month. But this end of summer in Montana thing has me looking forward to more deck cocktails, eating cold cherries on the marble kitchen slab, going to pubs and ale houses, and maybe even a few steak houses too.

Categories
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.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 586 and Omnia Vanitas

I’m going to publish a little utility article for my online friends about a minimum viable skincare routine. I framed it initially as a “perfect skin” basics document. I’m going to do a bit more work on it which is why it’s not already up as a blog post. But you can look forward to budget buys and budget uses of your time as well as a lesson on how to improve to the point of diminishing returns. Pareto Principle for being well groomed

I think most people, especially men, are embarrassed that appearances matter. If you think of vanity at all, you tend to assign it a negative valence. And it’s almost always depicted as a feminine sin. Bitches and Narcissists be staring at mirrors amirite? I’m far too serious a person to take how I look seriously we preen to our egos.

But as it turns out vanity’s original meaning was something closer to the fruitlessness of human effort in the material world than shitty self absorption. If you’ve ever seen a vanitas style painting depicting fleeting beauty and the surety of impending decay and death, well you get closer to the original meaning expressed in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities, all is futile” is as useful a Biblical lesson as it is an aesthetic lesson. Everything is futile but God.

One of the more challenging aspects of faith is the certain knowledge of death. Longevity science and the perpetual obsession with the fountain of youth aside, we are going to die. All we can do to build a life in our time on earth will be taken from us. And so why should we focus on the small things like beauty? Especially our own beauty. If it is at worst a feminine sin, and at best, a pointless exercise as all human efforts are fruitless, then why bother at all?

I suppose you might as well argue why do any of us do anything at all. Why live? Why have faith? Why build? Why build community. Or at a smaller scale. Why care for your health? Why eat well or exercise? And obviously why moisturize? Omnia Vanitas!

I am here to assure you moisturizing has the same impetus as all human’s grand desires. It is the same reason we build temples. And have children. And go to the doctor. And use Botox. We are human because it pleases us, it pleases those around us, and maybe it even pleases the Lord.

Categories
Emotional Work Travel

Day 576 and A New Chapter

I don’t live in Colorado anymore. I’m not really sure I felt like I lived there at all right now. I feel as if the last two years were just a Covid blip attempting to do the impossible; to go home.

By home I mean I left Manhattan for Colorado. Back to the city where I was raised. Boulder was a city where most of my childhood and firsts happened. My first dog. My first period. Where I met my first love. And where then I had my first heartbreak. Where I had so many silly little personal accomplishments that make up a childhood. All of those life milestones happened in Colorado.

When the world turned inside out during Covid, I wanted some sense of safety and certainty and recognition. You can’t really go home though. Being back felt like an interlude. Like a break where I was vacationing from real life. Convalescent after one too many curveballs. Which is a surreal way to feel about a town that raised you. But it just never quite stuck.

I’m driving through Montana as I write this. My mother and her husband are helping Alex and I move up to Bozeman. I’ve got about a hundred miles till we hit town. We are driving alongside the Yellowstone River on I-90. And I suddenly feel like I am home.

Categories
Community Preparedness

Day 572 and Internet Barn Raising

About twenty four hours ago the first “crisis” of the move to Montana appeared on the horizon. The very expensive, and corporate, moving company we’d hired called to cancel on our move to Montana. Three days before the move date. Which we cannot change as new tenants are moving into our soon to be former townhouse.

At first they claimed it was a lack of trucks and then it was a lack of labor. It was some series of issues you hear more and more of during these crumbling times. It was messy and chaotic. I’m not entirely sure on the full timeline or set of excuses as my husband Alex is “king” of the move as he’s the operational talent in the family. I’m just here to follow his edicts. The details are not completely crucial to the wider lesson.

We put out the bat signal that we were in trouble. We tweeted and put questions out in Discord. What do we do? What our options? Our extended community sprang into action. People called with truck rentals suggestions. People sent over recommendations for labor and talent. People called in favors to locate what we needed on both ends. And the truly incredible part is that people physically showed up. Like get on an airplane level. And more than one of them offered to physically come out.

I don’t want to put any identities on blast as not everyone is quite as social on social media as I am. But our internet community is all very much active and close in our lives. And it just showed. In ways that I don’t know I fully appreciated until we were in the lurch.

A dear fellow traveler friend who has been an “internet friend” for sometime, but because of the pandemic hasn’t been able to IRL with us, offered to get on an airplane and help us drive up the truck. We bought them a ticket. Locked it in. Let’s finally do the bonding. The perfect synchronicity of social capital and actual capital solving a problem money alone couldn’t fix. Because there are some things money can’t buy and you almost always learn what in a crisis.

Members of our preparedness community (some of whom will soon be our actual physical neighbors in Montana) stepped in as well. They also offered to fly down and help on our Colorado front end. A truly astonishing gesture of friendship and community. Alex coordinated on our end to meet them on arrival. A veritable barnstorming of new neighbors is set to welcome us. And we aren’t even their actual physical neighbors yet. The trust and humility one must have to welcome people in like this.

My heart must have grown a size in one day. It was a balm for any kind of civilization cynicism I might have harbored. Our people showed up. I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about it. I will say that our special interest in resilience and connection has been key in this whole beautiful experience.

Our people are those who feel the concerns of modernity and atomization, but who rather than blame our technical tools like social medics for decay simply leverage them to bring us all back to our humanity. If America is in for harder times, I’ve never been more optimistic about the people that will survive them together with me.

Categories
Chronic Disease Community

Day 571 and Isolation

The move to Montana is mere days away. Alex has started to feel a sense of loss. He’s been able to build a nice community here in Boulder in just two years thanks to his deeply weird (joking) habit of having hobbies. I on the other hand, have never felt more isolated from my hometown. I cannot wait to leave.

Some of this feeling of alienation is simply transient. It is my natural dislike of summer coming to a head because of the physical toll extreme heat takes on my spinal inflammation. I can’t be outside much during these new extended heatwaves, which defeats the purpose of living in Colorado almost entirely. Who wants to live somewhere you can’t go outside for 3-4 months of the year. Let it snow!

But some of it is that I can’t have physical hobbies that are too energetically expensive like like Alex enjoys. I spend my summer weekends alone in bed reading and shitposting, while Alex has a fairly vibrant in person social life year round. My lower key physical hobbies like gardening also aren’t particularly social even though they could be if folks wanted to join me.

Part of the issue is that we have a rented townhouse n Boulder that is too small to allow for any socializing. You can’t really come visit us. There is no open space for welcoming friends, neighbors or family members. While people have come to visit us in Colorado, virtually none of them have set foot inside the house. Some of that was Covid but it was mostly not having any space for anyone to sit and relax for extended periods. And because we knew it was transient we never bothered to fix it.

And when you can’t guarantee your physical health, it mostly looked like people coming to visit Alex and me staying home. I couldn’t afford to use my energy budget outside the home a lot during Covid. I assume folks think I hate them, when in reality I just can’t guarantee I’ll be well enough to be out and about for three hours.

It’s much easier for me to commit to socializing if I am home in a safe place where I can lay down or access my medications. I’d like to play host as it’s just easier to accommodate my own limitations. It feels selfish but I think most people wouldn’t mind working around a minor disability like spinal pain.

I hope that people will take this as an open invitation to come visit us in Montana. We will be investing heavily in our guest rooms and eventually a full guest house in the barn. We want people to come up to take advantage of our access to a more remote and laid back form of living. You can go shoot with Alex or you can kick back on the porch and stare at the mountains with me. It’s up to you. But we’d both love to see you.

Categories
Community

Day 562 and Expensive Hobbies

My mother has a theory that the nicest people on earth have expensive hobbies. This doesn’t mean that they are necessarily rich, in fact quite the opposite. Nor does she mean that it’s expensive from strictly financial perspective. She means that resource intensive hobbies, ones that take significant investments of time, energy and social capital, make for kind communities.

The more “expensive” it is commit to a hobby, the more likely you will meet folks who will be welcoming if you approach them humbly. People that put a large investment into a hobby are often allocating a significant chunk of their limited disposal income into the thing they love. It signals a commitment that is easily understood by others within the group.

She originally developed this thesis via exposure to boat people. Her family has a number of blue collar folks who live on the water. But she further developed it with exposure in the mountain west to horse people and others who ranch or breed livestock. Horse people are particularly welcoming folk.

There are endless varieties of hobbies in this category but in particular anything that has a challenging and steep learning curve lends itself to the “nice folks” theory. If it took you significant resources to become adept, you will remember your early days of struggle in the hobby. That memory turns out to be crucial. You will want to help others because you will recognize their struggle from your own past.

This desire to help others isn’t universal. You will look for those that want to help themselves. But if you see someone struggling mightily, and humbly, in an “expensive hobby” that you share it’s human nature to pitch in. God helps those that help themselves. And so do other humans. And in place is it more obvious that you want and need the help than when just starting out on a challenging endeavor.

Categories
Internet Culture

Day 561 and Community Building

The big move to Montana is only a few weeks away. I was expecting to be in a frenzy of preparation but I’ve been stuck in bed with a symptom flare so I’ve basically done nothing but ask for Twitter advice. Thankfully my community online is generous and available with their insights.

I’ve been lucky to participate in (and build, communities in spaces as varied as fashion, local politics, and disaster preparedness. My husband is also a community builder professionally. We both have a knack for finding our people and becoming a part of of all types of communities both in real life and online.

We are both excited and a bit nervous to move to a new town. Bozeman is a small town but not so small that it’s clear where we should start when we arrive. We’ve been told it’s a bit skeptical of outsiders. We’ve definitely received the advice to change our license plates immediately. It’s a bit intimidating to be honest.

There is a lot of amazing advice from my Twitter friends on becoming a member of a new community in real life. I would definitely check out the thread if you are feeling isolated or like you could be better connected to people around you. It’s helped me feel like I actually might be equipped to integrate into Bozeman smoothly.

I’m already putting the advice into the big Notion project management document that Alex has put together for our move. We don’t have too many close neighbors (just two on our road) but I am looking forward to introducing myself to them. I’m still debating what activities and organizations I will prioritize when we get there.

I am most interested in gardening, local agriculture and community preparedness efforts but I have enjoyed town politics in my past life. I served as an appointee on Manhattan Community Board 1 and loved it. There isn’t a lot of glamour in permits or licenses but it’s crucial work. So perhaps I can find a way to serve local businesses in a similar way.

Whatever happens, I cannot wait to invite people over to our home. It’s always the one on one connecting that weaves you into the fabric of a community and there is no better way to do that than being welcoming. So I will probably start by showing up, smiling and listening to my new neighbors.