17 Dec '17  — A cure for unwanted emotions
Have you ever tried to feel sad?
When I was eight, my mom went on a road trip with my aunt. It was one of the few times my mom wasn’t around. I was extremely sad.
Every five minutes, my eyes would well up with tears. The sadness was uncontrollable. I wanted it to stop. I could rationalize out why I was feeling this way, but at the same time it didn’t make sense why I was so sad. It wasn’t my choice.
As I got acquainted with the emotion, I thought, ‘what if I wished to feel sad?’ I’d been wishing so hard to not feel sad and none of my methods worked.
When the tears came, I forced myself to feel deep sorrow. ‘Try very hard to feel the saddest…’ I stopped choking up. I found a cure.
Recently, I’ve been in a state where I only notice things I don’t have. I don’t have a house, I don’t have money, I see so many people with houses and a ton of money. My perspective isn’t always this way, but recently it has been.
I’m caught up wanting what I don’t have. Like sadness, it’s a state of emotion. Uncontrollable.
Is it strange that my wants are only things I don’t have? My recent attention is on things others have, nice cars, a big yard. Wants seem to live in the realm of ‘not having.’ And these wants seem to live in an even narrower scope: it’s things that many also wish to have.
There are moments when I couldn’t possibly want anything but to be where I am. So it’s possible to want what you have in front of you at a given time. The nature of wanting does not exclude what you already have.
I feel as if I don’t have enough. Using the cure I found as a child, I started using the same technique: ‘Let’s try very hard to feel inadequate. Want for more of what you don’t have–see how the list grows!’ How inadequate can I get?
“I could do with a new chair, a heated pool, a room for fermenting things, a jet…” It seems so silly once I start aggregating all the things I’ve thought about wanting.
The only relevant thing to do is to notice what I already have.
15 Dec '17  — Like death and taxes, insomnia is a part of life
Last night, I was tossing and turning. ‘What happened? The first half of my sleep was going so well.’ My body felt hot so I took off my blanket, the one I had purchased recently to deal with with night temperatures. Five minutes later I was freezing. The heat seemed to emanate from within. I couldn’t cool myself properly without feeling cold.
However much I try, I can’t figure out how to get a good night’s sleep. There were moments I’ve tried to wear my body down during the day through exercise. That works for a few days and then I’m back to nights where I can’t fall asleep.
Last night I meditated for at least an hour. That usually helps me relax and get a good night’s sleep. But it didn’t work at all.
When I was younger, I forced myself to sleep at the same time everyday, hoping a habitual pattern will get my body trained to rest throughout the night.
I’ve spent so much energy, even changing my diet, to find a consistent way to get a good night’s rest.
None of my attempts have allowed me to learn what works or what doesn’t. And yet, I continue to feel there’s something I’m missing.
‘A better mattress? Maybe one of those all natural ones?’ ‘A firmer and thicker mattress?’ ‘Alignment with the stars???’ At this point, I will try anything.
But the one thing that’s the most difficult to try is to accept that there’s no guarantee that I’ll have a good night’s sleep.
14 Dec '17  — Holden Caulfield called today
“One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window.” - Catcher in the Rye
The last time I thought much about phonies was back in high school. But back then, I thought everyone was a phony.
Now, with all the harassment revealed in the news, I’m seeing that the most famous, most recognized people are phonies. And the people who are traditionally considered the phonies, the anonymous person who couldn’t achieve anything, the woman who said no and lost her job…are actually authentic, non phonies. The roles have been reversed.
Recognition has allowed people to have an aura surrounding them. They’ve inspired me based on the heights they’ve reach. But now I see these heights could have nothing to do with skill or work.
Random circumstances seem to determine which people are more prominent than others. A person’s hard work could potentially never be recognized while another’s very little work receives enormous applause. And with the demise of past leaders, new ones are given a chance. Opening occur randomly and without plan.
It’s a timeless lesson that public respect should be treated as an incidental result of work rather than the purpose. If it happens it happens, but it shouldn’t be the point. Despite how clear this lesson is, it’s hard to follow.
Success seems to be something worth going for as an end in itself. Perhaps that’s a primary limitation of being human: the desire for recognition.
12 Dec '17  — No benefit package can ever match
I can’t go twenty minutes without touching my husband. I’m extremely lucky that he works from home.
I didn’t think hugs and kisses could be that important. But whenever we’re away from each other for a few hours, I feel the difference.
When we’re with other people, we make less contact. I feel the difference.
Maybe I’m addicted to the contact. But there’s an enormous amount of comfort that comes with being able to touch and kiss someone you love, anytime you want.
It’s totally underrated. It’s never listed as a perk on employment postings for remote work. Actually, it’s a huge perk taken away when people have to go to the office.
12 Dec '17  — I can't unwash the new standard I've picked up abroad
When I first lived in London, I was shocked how long laundry took. The apartment I stayed in had a washing machine with settings that all required two and a half hours. In the US, laundry takes no more than 30 minutes.
I thought it was just that washing machine. But then I spent a week at a friend’s house. She had an ultra modern machine. But why was it also taking 2.5 hours per wash?
When I arrived to Berlin, all washing machines worked on the same schedule as the ones in the UK. Why can’t the machines wash in 30 minutes like they do in the US?
Now I’m in the US. After 30 minutes, I happily take out my wash. But I noticed, the clothes aren’t as clean. There’s no drawn out soak time for oils and residue to come out. The clothes don’t smell fresh. The two extra hours was the time it takes to soak.
I can’t stand how unclean the clothes are. They’re clean enough in appearance after 30 minutes, but there’s still a bit of smell. I don’t feel comfortable wearing them.
My standards changed and I can’t go back. So I’m soaking my clothes now for two hours.
11 Dec '17  — Giving up something I thought I should be.
I found out I’m not a writer. I’ve also given up the pursuit to be.
I write everyday but I realized I have no interest in being a wordsmith. Admitting this, I no longer have to finagle the English language–such a relief!
Reading The Old Man and the Sea last week helped me understand. Hemingway is enjoyable, I like how he’s able to make boring topics, like fishing, interesting enough to read. However, I was unimpressed by the story.
After reading A Farewell to Arms, I was also disappointed. It just seemed like a guy’s fantasy. A romance with a nurse.
A writer seems to be defined by how they execute words and not by how powerful her or his ideas are. I know it’s bold to claim this, especially after The Old Man and the Sea won a Nobel Prize in literature, but there are so many better stories. So many of them aren’t written as well but they’ve impacted me more.
The Hemingway story with the most impact is A Moveable Feast. Nothing happens. He walks around, writes, his wife pops in a couple times with his child and he visits Shakespeare and Co. The book is more like a journal that describes day to day.
Why is good writing more important than a good story? People assume a good writer is one who has a good story. That is not true. Many people who can’t write, who can’t communicate well, have plenty of great stories.
I’m inspired by great stories and not by great writing.
10 Dec '17  — Un-Nike: Just...don't do it.
I want to do less with my life.
While I was moving out of my old apartment, I realized I owned so many things I only used once or twice. I found a calligraphy set that I’d used a few times, leg weights I used twice, exercise balls I’ve used no more than 5 times. In the kitchen I had a large dehydrator. Only used that twice.
Despite using the items so infrequently, they got in the way all the time. The shelves were packed with different papers and inks I purchased for calligraphy. I had to see the giant dehydrator every time I stepped into the kitchen.
Last week, I was thinking that maybe I should get into extreme knitting. It looks fun. Then I realized that I’d end up with two large knitting needles taking up space.
I’m not old enough to say I’ve experienced everything. But I’ve experienced enough to know what I enjoy. If I haven’t come across the hobby or activity–perhaps it’s not the time. Something like surfing is an activity I imagine getting into under the right circumstance. I’m not fit nor do I live on the beach. If I’m not enjoying the things other activities have to offer…I’m not missing out. There’s already plenty to enjoy.
08 Dec '17  — Are women really the ones more driven by emotion?
“overwhelmingly, murders tend to be committed by men: the current proportion in the US is 90%.” - The Guardian
Are women better at covering up murders? Or do they have better control over temper? Either way, there’s proof that females tend to be better at certain things in this world. But that’s hardly talked about.
Instead, we’re measured on ‘more important’ matters, like how much money we don’t make and how less we advance in our careers. Those topics are much more ‘worthy’ of discussing.
Why isn’t there a movement to get men on par with women in such life or death circumstances?
08 Dec '17  — Wait...I'm already here?!
Processing life one cup at a time
I was talking to my dad and I realized my parents were doing their best in terms of handling my brother. Perhaps the best outcome is what they have in front of them, a son who lives at home, does nothing but play video games and treats everyone like shit.
Why did I assume my parents weren’t doing their best? Because my brother isn’t in a good situation? I have preconceived notions of what ‘doing their best’ looks like.
Looking back, I always thought my parents could have done more. They could have adjusted the way they treat him, they could have give him more responsibilities early on… I had so many suggestions on how my brother could be inspired to live a different lifestyle. After living in the house, being with both my parents and my brother, I’ve realized, it’s my brother’s choice to live the way he does.
No matter what my parents give him or takeaway, he’s still the same. He has no desire to improve his life, so he remains miserable. He holds the key to any changes to his life.
But why was I so quick to assume my parents weren’t doing their best? Why did I doubt their efforts?
I really do have a Hollywood version of what an effective person looks like. Instigating change drastically, like MLK. But that’s not normal. It’s an extraordinary excerpt.
What’s underrepresented are the people who do all they can and still, they cannot effect any change. It may not look like success but it is success because–what if it is the best outcome possible?
Ideally, it is not the best outcome that can be imagined. But what if in the universe of outcomes that could potentially happen, the one that’s actualized is the best?
MLK’s success is the best outcome possible in the set of possibilities the civil rights movement faced. And yet, at this version of ‘best’, people are still treated unequally decades later. Despite how dramatic and inspirational his moment was, there was a limit to what reality had in store.
So my brother, sitting at home, being disrespectful–perhaps it is better than any option out there. There are plenty of horrible options, like getting into a life of crime or suicide from depression (which he is clearly going through). So perhaps this is the best.
I’m not setting the bar low. As he has no options, crime does become an option. And I don’t have anything against people committing crime. It’s just them trying to get by. Doing their best based on the set of opportunities presented to them.
Somehow, processing these thoughts got me to realize: I’ve been doing my best all along. The life I live is the best life I could have.
I’m always thinking, ‘Oh I could have done x and y better’ or ‘oh if only I hadn’t chosen to do that.’ No matter how misguided I’ve been in the past, I’ve always done my best. Even when I was extremely impatient, I could only act according to the influence I’m going through. I can’t know better than what I know at a particular time.
What a relief. To know that I’m living the best life possible. I’ve gotten here. Already.
07 Dec '17  — Are desires a symptom of inadequacy?
When I go through my diaries, I find myself wanting the same things over and over again.
“I want to learn Spanish.” “Perhaps I should pick up German.”
Years, even decades go by. Wanting to learn a language is something I constantly desire. I spend a chunk of my life wishing for it.
I’ve also had the desire to learn computer programming. The first language I attempted to learn was C++ in high school. Then, ten years later, I spent some time on Python. Last year, I tried Elm for a few weeks and now, I’m following a book on Haskell.
These desires show up over and over. One that goes back to my earliest memories is the desire to make my own clothing. When I was in junior high, I would do a little sewing. If I started from scratch, cutting out a huge pattern, I’d lose interest in the middle of sewing. Then I’d give up for a while, but the desire comes back. Last week, I thought, perhaps I can make a nightgown.
Why are these desires popping up over and over? Is it a sign? Should I be pursuing these interests?
I used to believe so.
But each time, I start on the path of learning a language or making clothing, I find myself disinterested. I give up and quickly abandon the ‘passion’.
‘Maybe it’s a challenge. Maybe happiness beyond my wildest dreams await me…if I could only endure…”
I actually want it all to be over. I prefer to be fluent in languages than to learn a language.
That’s okay. I just prefer to be someone who already knows a language than to be someone who is learning a language.
At least I’m finally clear with what I want.
The reason these desires reappear is because I haven’t done them. I’d rather think about them than do them. These ‘passions’ remain as thoughts.
I don’t think about cooking the same way because I cook everyday. I actually want to cook more than I want to be someone who knows how to cook.
These ‘passions’ tell me about me. What does it mean to be a person fluent in several languages? “I’d appear so cultured. Wouldn’t that be awesome?’ It’s obvious I want status.
What does it mean to be a person who programs? “I could make the computer do so many things, like analyze data that’s out there or my own info. I could register my mood and have it predict how I’d feel in the future. I’d know so much more about myself and the world.” It’s clear I don’t believe I know enough about the world.
And a person who makes her own clothing? “I’d be so creative, and I’d look so stylish, coming up with designs no one has seen before that look amazing, using the most comfortable fabrics.” I obviously don’t feel that I’m a creative person.
My ‘passions’ are indicators of what I feel I lack, like symptoms that show up with illness. Desire is fueled by a sense of inadequacy. Pursuing these passions is irrelevant.