Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 293 and A Good Cry

I’m a cryer. I hear the swell of trumpet from the Star Trek theme song and I’ll start welling up. I’ll read a poignant passage in a cheesy airplane novel and my chest will tighten with emotion. My eyes will tear up when I tell a friend that I’m proud of them. I’ve found myself sniffling over a set of emotional text messages. I love a good cry.

I think I’m a cryer because I bottle up my emotions otherwise. I’ll share feelings in public but the real deep down core emotions are harder for me to express openly. The fear and hurt and sadness that make up the core of my emotional unconscious take some coaxing and a lot of psychological safety to get out into the open.

One of the reasons I find social media so much fun is it is a cesspool of emotions. Much of shitposting is just rage and anger expressed with a joke. And the shitposts that are sad are often told with a kind of vulnerability that I more commonly associate with 12 step meetings or group therapy. Internet culture has become an escape valve for emotions we didn’t know we even had.

The more I see the negatives that comes with keeping emotions bottled up the more I appreciate ways to let them out. If it is a good cry then I’ll take whatever brings it on. If you need something stronger than I highly recommend a light dose of Internet emotions. Just don’t let it overwhelm. Ease into the shallow end with an anonymous shitposting account first.

Categories
Aesthetics

Day 292 and Television

I overdid it a little today. I pushed to go for a evening walk and got overwhelmed by the appearance of some pain. It wasn’t so much the pain that bothered me, it was the anxiety that washed over me as I contemplated the pain. I struggle to juggle life with pain sometimes, less because the pain is bad but more because I let it get in my head. The surest path to letting the worry go has been television.

If I take half an hour to watch some TV and let every other thought go but the plot of some cartoon or sitcom I’ll be calm and eventually the pain will be controllable again. It’s fascinating how the mind body connection works sometimes. I wanted to let the anxiety over the pain spiral in my mind but the utterly predictable and calming plotting of a Tim Allen comedy grounded me. I can let my mind wander the simple pathways of a half an hour show and find myself more centered than after a mediation.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds television soothing. We wouldn’t call it zoning out to the boob tube if it didn’t do something to tamp down higher level thinking. But maybe derogatory commentary is missing the point. Maybe the dumbing down of America has some benefits. We are constantly overstimulated. In my case the stimulation can be spinal pain. Letting the high frequency worries come down to a more mellow intensity is a positive for me.

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Emotional Work

Day 291 and Self Control

Self control is a form of self abuse for me. Early in life I learned that I could control others by controlling my emotions. Instead of showing my feelings, I’d distort my emotions into whatever got me attention from adults. That’s pretty clever for a child, but is the road to misery once you’ve grown up.

Alas I’ve kept up the habit of self control. It might not look like it from social media or press narratives, but I self censor a lot. I’m often conscious of what others will like or dislike and I will edit my feelings if I feel it isn’t to my benefit. What can I say, I am still hurting from feeling like I wasn’t loved as a child by my father. Same old story that everyone has in their lives (well maybe for you it was your mother but same idea).

But it hurts to keep your emotions inside. Eventually it will turn into pain or sickness. Not that I’m saying all pain or illness is caused by emotions (that’s some bullshit) but the mind body connection is real. The point is it’s only hurting myself to exert so much control over my emotions.

I need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable with other people and how they feel about me. The control I have is largely a fantasy. It’s not that it’s not possible to change how others perceive you. Hell I’ve picked professions where that’s practically the main skill set. I love the perception game. Public relations, fashion, even venture capital are all games you win by building a good reputation.

Having a good reputation doesn’t mean turning off honesty. If anything reputations are built on being trustworthy. And that generally means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. So I’ve got to stop abusing myself by choking off emotions I don’t think others will like. Maybe it’s a gender thing. I learned pretty quickly no one likes an angry woman. But sometimes I get angry. Whatever excuse I’m using for hiding unpleasant emotions has got to go.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

290 and Self Care

I’ve feel like I should have an entire category on the blog dedicated to “maintenance” as I’ve got loads of posts on my struggles to balance the activities of staying alive with well, the rest of my life.

All of the activities that go into keeping a human alive and functional are so damn time consuming. How does anyone ever get anything done when so much of life is dedicated to keeping our meat sacks from spiraling out? I’m pretty sure these are the things that actually make up life and I’m supposed to treasure this time in my body. But until I become as enlightened as the Buddha, I feel like this whole embodiment thing is just getting in the way of what I should be doing. My therapist likes to call this “human doing” instead of “human being” and I don’t love the joke.

I had a terrific day of doing things this Sunday. I woke up at 7am and didn’t finish all of the various routines and self care activities till 1pm. I went for an hour long walk (which is pleasurable since sunshine and mountain air but also low impact cardiovascular activity) I lifted weights (alright fine, I love squats). I meditated (mindfulness doesn’t count when you quantify it). I showered, shaved & washed my hair. I did the grocery shopping and meal planning for the week. I did three loads of laundry. I made lunch. I cleaned up. I juggled supplements (I’ve got a spreadsheet to track them all with 8am, 10am & 11am slots) which are completely separate from my medications (I have 7am and noon spots for those). And only then at 1pm did I finally get a chance to settle into work. There was so much work just to get to work.

And while I know all of those things that keep me balanced and healthy are the stuff of life, I also resent their necessity. I have elaborate fantasies about what other people get done with their time. Other people don’t need to exercise, meditate, take vitamins, or watch their nutrition right? Well alright I said it was a fantasy. If you also spent your Sunday doing chores and self care it would make me feel better to know that.

Categories
Chronic Disease Preparedness

Day 286 and Appointments

I’ve been going to a bunch of appointments in the past week or so. And I’ve got a bunch more lined up in the coming weeks. My calendar is a mess of obligations; optometrist, dentist, gynecologist, and the hair salon for starters. I feel like I’m drowning in appointments.

I made the mistake of not capitalizing on the last dip in case numbers in the late spring and early summer and missed the pandemic window before delta. I didn’t want to make that mistake again so I’ve been hustling to have the appointments that I’ve been putting off for the last 19 months. Check my eyes, check my teeth, check my fiddly bits. And yes cut my hair. God is my hair long.

There is so much maintenance work that has been piling up that I wonder how I’ve made it through the entire pandemic putting all of these life chores off. Has everyone been putting off their appointments? Was it just me? Or is it just people who are still trying to limit their exposure to infection?

I grant I’ve got a very different risk profile than the average American but I feel like it’s probably not unusual to put off stuff you are supposed to do but can probably live life without. But should you? So far no one has found anything wrong but maybe it’s just luck that I could go for two years without someone checking my tits or my teeth.

I didn’t put off any of my truly crucial health appointments over the pandemic but I am sure other people did. The eye doctor is something I tell myself I can put off for two years but maybe that’s a rationalization. Did others do that with annual physicals? With breast exams? What else have we been putting off in our appointments. It feels like I put off my entire life. And now I’m scrambling to fit it all in before something else has happens.

Categories
Chronicle

Day 285 and Screw It

I don’t feel very focused at the moment. I don’t have any topics that are calling out to me. I don’t even have any emotions that I want to explore. I mostly just want to be finished with the day and the only thing standing in between me and an early bedtime is writing something for the day.

Filling space up with word salads makes me feel like a kid with an essay assignment. “Give me two pages on Franco-American relations in the wake of American revolutionary war” and suddenly you are double spacing and trying to make a point about…actually I’ve got nothing. I can’t even make a joke about fake essays with fake topics. That’s how much I don’t want to write tonight.

So I guess I’ll let myself off the hook. Not every day will be one with insights or emotions that are worth sharing. My mind can’t hold anything and I think I’ll leave it here.

Categories
Aesthetics Emotional Work

Day 284 and My Birthday

I’ve not enjoyed celebrating my birthday the past few years. There hasn’t felt like a lot of joy to go around which hinders my appetite for celebrating. I was struggling with my health and then the planet was struggling with a pandemic, and frankly I was just too sad to see my way into being happy about a birthday.

Not that I’ve traditionally been a big believer in birthdays. Some people love them and I find that lovely. I think it’s nice to celebrate another turn around the sun but it’s not generally been the mile marker for my own life. I’ve looked to other markers like the new year or the start of a new project. This post is title day 284 because on New Years Day I committed to write on essay every single day. But I don’t entirely write off birthdays. I do have little rituals that I enjoy for my birthday, and I was relieved that they felt joyful again this year.

I like to call my mother at precisely 7:14am California time as that was when I was born. I have always felt like my birthday was as much about her as it was about me. She brought me into this world, so taking a beat for the exact moment of my birth with my mother has felt like the most important ritual.

We were texting before the clock turned as we are on mountain time now. But at 8:14 MTN, I turned the text into a call and we got to enjoy the moment together.

It’s been hard to find the right ways to spend time with people as the various worries of the pandemic added rules and concerns to interactions. But today we just celebrated. I had lunch with my mother and my husband. We got an enormous sushi lunch. And then a surprise chocolate cake. And while this was all decadent it was also normal. It was normal to have a fancy meal and cake on your birthday with your family. I’d like to have more normal because that means more joy. And that’s my wish on my birthday. That we all have more normal joys.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 283 and Presencing

Nick Couldry uses the term ‘presencing’ in his book Media, Society, World to talk about how we go into digital or media spaces to manage our presence over time. It’s a way we cultivate a sense of wider purpose through a public presence. And because of the way suffering and trauma marginalize people, this act of making yourself more visible is even more important.

I was browsing Anne Helen Peterson’s newsletter Culture Study when the above quote hit me over the head. The interview was on the topic of ambiguous grief with a media studies professor Samira Rajabi. While the writing is almost uncomfortably academic it resonated with me immediately. I have been engaging in presenceing for the entire course of my illness. I just never had a name for why I felt like a public presence mattered to me.

While it sounds unbelievable, I never considered that I might be using social media as a way to give myself visibility in the face of the trauma of an extended and chronic illness. I’ve always been a heavy user of social media so I didn’t find it unusual that I spent significantly more time on Twitter and blogging as I went through the diagnosis and recovery process.

I had been used to being visible in my previous life. I was regularly in media for my startups and I had cultivated some amount of public presence on and off since I was in college. But I didn’t really become a Twitter personality that cultivated a presence and interactions and a voice until I got sick. Without knowing it was presencing myself.

In American culture in particular, there is a strong preference for triumphant stories. So we can conceive of suffering if it can be managed and overcome, but rarely do we know what to do with a story of chronic pain and suffering and how relentlessly it reminds a person that they no longer fit into the so-called “normal” world. To me, it becomes even more important for those people to be seen.

I really wanted my story to fit into a narrative when I first got diagnosed. I had all kinds of ambitions of overcoming and healing that were quickly dashed on the reality of my life. I was never going to be normal again. And I hated that. I still find myself overcome with grief at the prospect that there is no triumphant return.

But I want people to see that grief. And see that it’s alright. That life went on. I didn’t lose myself. Even in pain and illness, or perhaps because of it, I’ve gained ground in finding myself. The pain and degradation of illness is ugly and shitty but also powerfully transformative.

I have not given up just because the narrative isn’t clear and the story has no simple arc. Any impression we have that stories have structure is imposed in hindsight. We love our post-hoc rationalization. We love our pattern recognition. But the through line is never clear in the moment. And that’s why presence matters. We all need the visibility of the truth even if it doesn’t fit neatly into the story our culture has given us.

Categories
Internet Culture Startups

Day 282 and Stop & Go

I wasn’t born until after stagflation so I can’t tell you what America or Britain felt like in the 70’s but the chattering classes seem to enjoy bringing up the comparison. But there does seem to be a bit of “stop & go” energy in the air. Everyone is raring to go but the energy cannot quite flow freely as we smack into obstacle after obstacle. Demand is pent up but the reality of supply is uglier.

Obviously this perspective of excitement and demand is colored by working in startups where the bias is always towards the excitement of building new things. Crypto is burning with the fire of millions of zealots, all of whom are confident we are building the infrastructure for a better future. Everyone feels like it’s worth investing and higher prices are a good sign. There is more go than stop here.

Of course, I am one of those zealots. I’ve got the optimism of someone who saw how fast previous waves of web1 and web2 changed my entire world. Wealth and creativity was unleashed twice over for the elder millennials who were lucky enough to witness the dot com boom as children and the social media era as their first jobs.

There were massive crashes and financial implosions too. Stop more than go. More of us got hurt than got wealthy. But we saw the possibility even as failure engulfed most of us. So we believe we might be the lucky ones this time. That we might be the ones to win the game. “Red light, green light” seems fun if you can make up ground when everyone is running. Just don’t get hurt too bad.

I feel this energy in my own body. I am excited to push into everything. My portfolio companies are all riding high. There is no way I can do it all in any given day. So when the go energy pushes me sometimes I find myself leaning into stop and simply taking a nap in the middle of the day. It makes me a little jittery to feel the push-me-pull-me of demand grind up against the limited supply of energy and focus. I’d like to feel fully unleashed but I know somehow there are moments where it’s best to stop before I go.

Categories
Media

Day 281 and Villains

This is a post that will have spoilers about the end of the second season of Ted Lasso. Do not read any further if you have not seen it. I’ll put an extra paragraph to keep it from your eyes and we can meet again tomorrow.

SPOILERS BELOW

The first season of Ted Lasso may be one of the most perfect seasons of television ever made. It’s like being inside the best session of therapy you’ve ever had. The kind where you have a breakthrough so profound that the hurt and agony of your worst childhood trauma suddenly feels not only bearable but also the reason to fully love yourself. It’s just that good on the emotional truth scale. The warmth and safety and growth is beautiful.

But season two leans into tropes and villainy where it used to rely on nuance and kindness. Rather than feeling the pride and hope of emotional truth that has been hard gotten (the truth will set you free but first it will piss you off), we are given the obvious end of Nate betraying Ted and Rebecca by going to coach for Rupert’s new team West Ham.

Nate makes a massive accusation that Ted abandoned Nate emotionally but we are given roughly thirty seconds to wrack our brains for these betrayals before it is revealed that Nate has chosen to abandon Ted. How do we feel about this? Wouldn’t we normally explore how both people contributed to the feeling? But nope it’s send Nate right into insecure narcissistic reactivity rather than mine for the potential nuance.

We could have been given a story where we see Nate and Ted equally participating in the traumas they each carry and how it affects their relationship. Ted with his fear of abandonment brought on by his father’s suicide very well may play out that pattern of abandonment on Nate. But that’s left largely unexplored. Perhaps it could have shown us how Nate intuitively sees that because of Ted’s unresolved pain with his father, Ted in fact isn’t fully there for Nate in his new role as a surrogate father figure coach.

The struggles of a young man coping with a new position and unexpected authority granted by father figure like Ted juxtaposed against Nate’s own issue with his father who doesn’t show him respect would have been an empathetic story in the hands of this show.

There was so much fertile ground for how each character could trigger emotions in the other and for how they could own and resolve these feelings. But instead it’s straight to villain don’t pass to don’t collect 200 dollars. By the end I wasn’t even sad about the loss. I’d resigned myself to the conclusion. But they could have done so much better by everyone. Even if Nate must experience his darker impulses we would have been wiling to see the full journey of how he arrived there and the pain other’s traumas has inadvertently wrecked on Nate.

I guess I’m not sad. I’m just disappointed. And that’s how you know it really mattered to me.