career · despair · perspective · recovery · self-destruction · self-esteem · self-worth

Vision Quest

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I was talking with an acquaintance the other day about what
I know to be true. I know that, up or down, since I left my home at the age of
23 I have always had a safe place to live. Everything else in my life — job,
money, friendships, romance — can be in upheaval, but no matter what continent,
coast or city I find myself in, I manage to find a safe and comfortable place to
live.
My acquaintance said, for him, he knows that all he
needs is a rucksack and he’s fine.
We’re at different places and have different needs for sure.
But it causes me to think about my assumptions about my
life. I have this assumption, this belief and history to back it up, that I
will always be taken care of on the home front.
I also have assumptions and belief and history to back
it up that even though I don’t know how, financially, I always do land of my
feet. But that usually it takes a long while, and the outcome of that is not
always what I want to be doing, but I am eventually safe there, too, even if a little battle-weary.
I also have other beliefs and history backing up my
assumptions: I don’t know how to live a balanced life. I don’t know how to
have a relationship. Or how to earn enough to support myself in a field I love.
I have beliefs about myself that keep me stuck. And what
I then have is entitlement.
Someone should tell me what I should do, because I don’t
know how.
I’ve been looking back at some of the writing work I’ve
been doing lately, finally moving on past the section on amending
relationships in my life, and in my prior writings and inventory work, I read that entitlement around jobs comes up virulently.
And only a few days ago was I able to see that for me,
entitlement is an outcome of hopelessness. I can’t, I don’t know how, I’ll fuck
it up – you do it for me. You make it work.
Another thing I noticed in my writing was how some of
my despairing fears have dissipated since I began that inventory work over 6
months ago. Some of the same haranguing thoughts about my own ability to speak
up for myself, to follow my dreams, to do things I don’t know how to do have
been challenged since the time I’ve written them.
Since the beginning of 2014, when I decided I was going to
make a go of this acting thing, I’ve been in 4 plays. That doubles the number
I’ve been in since 2006. I made a decision and followed it up with action. I
didn’t really know what I was doing. I took a few classes at Berkeley Rep that
I didn’t find altogether transforming; I found a proper headshot photographer;
I replied to audition calls.
I have been stalling on putting myself out there for my
essay tutoring work, because I don’t know how to do it.
And this leads to a feeling of, If it’s supposed to happen,
then it will. It’ll just happen.
A friend calls it “going rag-doll on G-d.” Okay, you want
“surrender,” you want me to let go of my plans because my ideas are limited by
my fears? Sure – here, you have it. You
drag me along into the life I want to have.
The point is, there’s a difference between surrendering and
giving up.
This blog is a little all over the place today, but so’s my
brain.
Basically, I have some beliefs about my life, like my home,
that make me feel secure. I have other beliefs about my life, like my earnings,
that make me feel uncertain and hopeless.
There’s really no reason for the difference, except I
continue to reinforce them both. I am blind to the changes that occur in and
around me when it comes to perpetuating my negative beliefs.
But looking back at my work from 6 months ago, acknowledging
the success of following a dream, I really have to acknowledge that I don’t have to do things the same way, right? I
really
do have to let myself see
that I’m not as helpless as some part of me wants to believe, right? I do have
to accept that I’m not as broken as I want to believe, right?
And, so this is the work, now. To pull back from the chatter
which causes me to stagnate and become paralyzed against action. The work is to
see that positive beliefs exist within me, and to let those fuel my action
toward my next place.
I am not stuck. I am not helpless. I am not depressed,
deficient, or despairing. I am only short-sighted. 
And for that, I can get better glasses.

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adversity · anger · challenges · gratitude · growth · life · perseverance · perspective

Aesop was a Scientist.

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Chances are, like me, you’ve heard a hundred versions Aesop’s fable, “The Oak and the Reed,” wherein we’re taught to bend like a reed in a storm, instead of remaining stalwart
as an oak which will be blown over.
The moral is to remain flexible in the face of
challenge or adversity, instead of becoming rigid and unmoving. To move with
the times, to let things shift around you without trying to control them or how
they’re affecting you. To be at ease with how things are, because when the
storm does pass, if you’ve remained reed-like, you’ll stand up into the
sunlight again.
Yes, we’ve all heard this, and again if you’re like
me, you vacillate between these flora’s coping mechanisms, flexible to rigid and
back again. Sometimes within the same hour.
However, one story I didn’t know was one I heard on
the little audio book I’m listening to now: The
Biodome Moral.
(Unfortunately, this has nothing to do with the Pauly Shore
movie, but it’s valuable nonetheless.)
Scientists in the 80s, the book reports, created a perfect
replica of Earth and Earth’s atmosphere within a dome. They then sent 8
scientists into the dome to live there for 2 years. Among their findings was
what happened to the trees.
Inside the dome, there was no wind and no storms. The
scientists assumed that without the challenges of storms to damage the trees,
they would grow taller and stronger and faster than those outside the dome.
Indeed, the trees grew faster and taller. But not stronger.
The trees were weak, and easily uprooted. The scientists
discovered that the trees needed the challenge of the storms, of withstanding the storms, in order to become strong and healthy.
By eliminating all adversity from their lives, they became big and tall, sure,
but they also became hollow and weak.
Remind us of any other species?
I am not an advocate for adversity. I bristle vehemently when told that adversity is “a blessing,” as I’m
occasionally told about my cancer.
Which, by the way – never tell someone that. If they want to say that to you, great; listen, nod, be compassionate.
But never be the one to tell them that it makes them stronger, never tell them
that there will be a gift from it, or that it is itself a gift. All these
things may be true, but fuck you, healthy person, for telling me to look
on
the bright side
of leaking out my ass for a
month. Even though you mean it authentically, lovingly, and truthfully.
I happen to know
these things are true. I write here that they are; that having had that
adversity has impelled and propelled me to engage in my life and in activities
that I’d procrastinated on; necessitated my creating new relationships and boundaries that
I’d been too scared to create before. Having had and survived cancer has
irrevocably changed the rest of my life and given miles of perspective to every
other storm I may encounter.
But if you haven’t noticed, sometimes we get tired of
encountering storms, and I’d really prefer for you to not steal my lemons to
make your own lemonade. — And I still wouldn’t call it a blessing. An opportunity, I’d concede. But I’m sure no one ever said: Bless me, father, with life-threatening illness. 
… I guess I still have some letters of complaint to write to the Universe’s customer service department.
So,
The absence of storms makes us weaker. But, the
preponderance of storms makes us exhausted.
To continue in fable-speak then, I suppose it’s appropriate
to quote Goldilocks on the merits of balance and the middle way. To endeavor to
create, withstand, be free from and grow from challenges that are not too big, not too small, but “Just
Right.”