Foolish Thinking

Foolish Thinking
Since my last update, I’ve been heavily preoccupied in regaining control of my thinking, and dissecting the recent weeks to figure out why I broke this time, and in turn, better guard myself against it in the future.
As I detailed to in my last entry, I’m shadowed by a strong feeling of self-resentment – with all the self-analysis that I do, I have a constant awareness of myself, but clarity does not inherently translate into motivation and self-control. Instead, I’m mired in a frustrating mental limbo where part of me is screaming what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do to fix things, and the other part of me shrugging it off as a pointless waste of effort. The world seems to be slowly going to hell, and even if it isn’t, am I really worth trying to salvage?
And when when I ask myself what would motivate me, I couldn’t come up with an answer for myself. Living life as it is now, without the close ties to friends & family (or at least the illusion thereof), that only leaves myself as my sole source of motivation. Most everything I do is by myself, for myself, and while it’s objectively proper and logical for any self-sufficient person, for me – someone who covets the tribal sense of community and has lost it time and time again – it feels more like a sentencing to a lifetime of lonely internal isolation. What’s the point in “making something” of myself if I’m the only one who’ll benefit?
This is self-sabotaging foolish thinking that I’m laughably addicted to. Digging back further through the archives, I came across some of the more helpful entries I’ve composed: advice on resisting the inner critic, the transient nature of the “self, and more than a few proclamations of self-mastery. Yet, when push comes to shove, I’m all too eager to let all those ideals fall out the window in favor of the familiar comfort of futility and helplessness. It’s the last remaining piece of that past self that I cling on to, no matter how much I press myself to finally let it go.
But I’ve grown definitively weary of stagnating. I’m tired of writing about struggles in the present tense from a challenged perspective instead of from one of authoritative victory. This blog is supposed to be the record of a transformative story, and it’s time to move it in a new direction. No more falling victim to my own mental traps.

The Same Old Struggle

This morning, I wrote in my handwritten journal for the first time since early February. After putting together a rudimentary system for digitizing and archiving my pen & paper entries in synch with my digital DayOne entries, I told myself that I’d start to physically write more to improve my penmanship and to train my writing focus – you can’t tab out to a web browser and get lost when the only thing in front of you are analog writing tools. For my entry, I opted for my overdue personal “snapshot” that I try to write for myself every month.
As I identified the things I’ve been struggling with and committed them to the page, the narrative started to feel very familiar: something(s) happened in my personal life that exhausted my mental stamina and sent me running with open arms into old habits that set me back and cost me the progress I’ve made with my physical training. Circumstantial loops triggering behavioral loops in that leave me wavering in a static weight & fitness range, which gets harder and harder to maintain as the undeniable affects of aging start to take their toll (lately, I’ve had persisting sensitivity in my joints).
In addition to those behavior loops, I also have old thought loops that I have to actively stave off. Despite all the running I do, the other choices and efforts I make are not resulting in progress that would give me something I feel worth taking the time to write about. The resulting frustration from that trapped static feeling threatens to crack open the door and let in all those old unhelpful perceptions: a mental space of helpless nihilistic futility and general disinterest in life.
California is drying out. The planet is overheating and growing overpopulated. Pollution runs rampant. Nations are actively at war, international tensions high, terrorism still a highly active threat. The economy continues to struggle. In spite of all the great things modern technology has to offer us, the world just seems to be swan diving to hell. What’s the point in holding onto any of the dreams and goals I’ve ever had for myself?
Much as I’ve put wrestled with those issues for the past three years and put them and the flawed mindset that resulted behind me, being such an expansive part of my recent personal history they still follow in my shadow, detracting my focus and tempting me to walk along that path once more.
As I’ve done time and time before in pulling myself out of this rut, I steel my resolve by reaffirming my commitment to the pursuit of self-actualization. It is okay to harbor those thoughts and that weakness, so long as I don’t let it stop me. Things may seem to only be getting harder and still drifting away and out of reach, but that only leaves me with the option of pushing harder and faster.

Going the Wrong Way

Last weekend, I resolved to actively get back on task with the fitness efforts, to undo the damage I did over the winter and resume making actual progress. The very next day, I had a stumble while I was a mile and half into my run and gave myself a moderate ankle sprain – enough to where the pain resulting from the application of even the slightest pressure causing me to have to take the day after off from work.
Through the rest of the week, I’ve been getting around with a funny gait. It’s healed quickly enough to where I’m able to walk normally, but even now I’m still feeling random spasms that tell me that trying to get back to running so soon would be a poor judgement call. Being effectively benched for the week and not being able to practice my better exercise habits, my nutriotional ones have followed in suit.
In other words, I’ve been indulging heavily in food, and have undoubtedly added even more pounds that I’m going to have to make up for. The turn of the new year did very little for me by way of inspiring that sense of change and a fresh start. However, the passing of another birthday has more than made up for it. Even with a bum ankle, there’s no shortage of alternative action I could have taken to keep myself aligned with the long-term goals. It’s very easy to rationalize inaction, and that’s something that I should be much more efficient at managing by this point in life. Especially since I know where I ultimately end up, in this very place I find myself now: feeling like I’ve failed, and angry at myself for having afforded myself weak excuses.

The Final 20th

Yesterday morning, I woke up another year older. Twenty nine years now that I’ve been living the story of my life. Another year put behind me, and only one left before time expires on the third-decade deadline I’ve set for so many personal goals. I implemented a social media blackout to cut around a lot of the birthday noise, had a quiet day at the office, then went out to a small intimate low-fuss dinner with my friends. As much as I enjoyed last year’s fun-themed outing to Dave & Buster’s, this year’s surprise arrangements were far better aligned with my present preferences; I’m not yet at a point where I’ll allow myself to feel worth celebrating, still too much work to be done. 

This morning, I woke up calm, rested, and ready. Long have I contemplated and written about the need to take action. Today, armed with unshakable confidence and determination, begin those aggressive first steps.

Shedding the Winter

In the time since my last post, I’ve been keeping myself busy mostly with work, personal studies, and getting back in form with my running. Between all the big meals over the holidays and the running days missed because of the cold and my insufficient willpower, my times, stamina, and even the drive to get my route done has noticably suffered. That same night I made my last update, I had a friend comment on my run, asking when I’d be posting photos:
https://twitter.com/thechexican/status/556886119569448964
I’ve been meaning to do just that, in addition to the measurement tables I used to post in my old “Measurement Monday” updates. Thing is, I know that there hasn’t been any overall progress since the last time I updated them – I’ve been staganating and fluctuating in the same weight & BMI range. In preparation to get back to doing those updates, I’ve been clocking in more time with the pull-up bar and body weight exercises in addition to my running route. In a couple weeks time, I’ll be back to my pre-winter state and ready to push further, adding regular resistance training into the mix as well as a complete dietary overhaul.
On the writing front, things haven’t been moving along as fast as I’d like due to some extentuating circumstances in the personal life that go beyond the scope of this update. Still, I’m preserving the momentum, and look forward to the results I’m going to start seeing in all areas of life in the coming months.

Point of Demarcation

Having revisited my past entries right after the start of the new year in preparation to resume actively writing, the events and changes over the past three years are fresh in my mind. Comparing the place I was at then to where I am now, I finally sincerely feel I’ve reached a pivotal milestone on my personal development path: the turning point where I’m feel closer to the destination of that idealized self I’ve been pursuing than I am to the trainwreck I was when I first started down this road.

Back at the start of said inward journey, I decided it would be a one-year effort and that I couldn’t afford to invest the full three years of the legend of Musashi I modeled it after. But that single year wasn’t enough time, and eventually became those very three I planned on bypassing. The road to recovery has been as arduous as it has long. As self-involved and melodramatic as I sound even to myself on the matter, breaking down and discarding and entire history and identity, a life, and building someone better out of the remnants is no mean feat, but what I ultimately needed to make my peace and move on.

Now when I read the things that I wrote then and recall the mindset and the what it felt like to be myself at that time, it feels like I’m looking through the lens of someone else’s life. And as I wrote at the start of the new year, the road ahead is still long – but I’m at least now moving fast in the right direction.

Silencing the Self-Critical Mind

One of my main to-do list at the office today was to verify that the freelance photo editor/photographer that we’ve contracted online to process the backlog of remodeling jobsite photos had received the latest batch I’d prepared. Since he is located on the other side of the world in Europe, our correspondence has become equally conversational and business oriented as a workaround to the lack of shared in-person working hours that traditionally build a working rapport.
When I received his reply at mid-morning, he admitted that he’d gotten curious and done some investigative Googling, found this blog, and had read a few entries. By the time I reached the end of the message, I counted four separate compliments on my writing ability. Immediately, that inner critic started spouting off in my head how and the many reasons why I was undeserving of any compliment in that regard.
When your mind starts to deny the validation of a sincere compliment, be humble. When you deny yourself a compliment from someone, the hidden implication is that you don’t believe others know what they’re talking about. That modified perspective allows you to call out that inner critic for the arrogant asshole he is, and in turn removes the power from any of the thoughts in your mind he provokes. If you take the compliment, you did something well enough to earn it. If you privately don’t, you’re arrogant and a terrible person to yourself. It’s a lot easier to make the better choice when the problem is properly identified, structured, and presented to yourself.
That said, much as I’ve learned how to shut that part of my psyche up, I’ve also learned that it’s important to be able to pull out the truth in what that inner critic is saying.
As I was processing my email later this evening, I realized that I’ve been receiving a surprising number of new subscriber notifications. Now, because of the time I spent working in the SEO industry and learning how it works, I’m automatically suspicious of any kind of follow notification. However, clicking through a few different blogs and reviewing their content, I concluded that nearly all of them are run and updated by real people. Followers don’t necessarily equate to active readers, but they do indicate a potential audience. One to which I’m definitely not bringing my best to.
Subsequently, those self-criticisms from minutes earlier became the focused motivation for improvement they’re meant to be: write more, read more, and do better enough at both to the point where my inner critic has no reason to even start talking.

Hesitations

Over the past week since my last entry, I’ve been putting constant thought towards my next update, but haven’t been able to firmly nail down what to address. I try to focus myself by asking the question “what is it I’m trying to communicate?” Immediately, I’m flooded with so many different ideas itching to be transposed from thought to text, but as I start mapping one out mentally, I trace dependencies on other past events/people/places that I’d need to also write about in order to provide full and proper context and get overwhelmed by all that needs to be written. It feels like I need to author an autobiography of my life so far for everything I have to say to make sense, but it also feels ridiculous to put time and energy in diving deep into the past when my present and the subsequent future demand are so demanding of my attention.

I tell myself that I’d already have it done after all these years if I’d spent even a fraction of the time I’ve put into that repeated deliberation towards writing, and that it probably wouldn’t end up taking nearly as long as I imagine it would if I made a concentrated effort. Once I get those doubts pushed out of the way, I leave myself confronted by my final and greatest hesitation: the burdens and responsibilities of disclosing truths.
Little over a decade ago, when the beginnings of my inward spiral were freshly transpired, I took to the internet and wrote about them. Since the internet was screen-name driven and largely anonymous at that time, I was safe behind the cover of whatever LiveJournal username I had in use at the time. So I wrote about myself, my family, and what had happened then, overflowing with unbridled rage and hatred. I removed them from the web sometime in the early 2000’s, and since then have not allowed myself to write about them until I’d achieved the capacity to revisit those memories without being affected by them; emotional bias has a tendency to skew the truth, and likely being the only documented perspective on the events of my past, I’ve been very hesistant to believe myself capable of creating a record that accurately reflects reality.
Even if I now feel myself capable of doing so, my life hasn’t always been the isolated existence I’ve forced on myself in the recent years. Even if I were to avoid using names and stuck to relative references to people, public records and online social networks make it very easy to pinpoint a person’s identity. I’ve made my peace with airing my personal past public knowledge, but the inherent nature of also making parts of other peoples’ past as well in the process isn’t lost on me. And it makes the thought of playing the part of historian feel like a very arrogant prospect.
But at this point, it’s just something that has to be done – my alternative is to throw in the towel and sweep everything under the rug by purging all of my internet records, which even then wouldn’t guarantee anonymity and something I refuse to ever do again. So over the past few days, I’ve been firing up Scrivener in small stints, getting familiarized with the application and cobbling together the story of the past 28 years. My expectation is the more I get through it, the more I’ll be able to work out those reservations I have through refinement.

When I Write About Myself

I loaded up the last entry I wrote to give it a secondary review before switching it from “draft” to “published” status, and that inner-critical voice immediately got to work. The situation being my own mind attacking itself, I was just as much criticising everything I write as I was that single entry.
If you’re supposedly not that person anymore, why can’t you just drop it and leave it alone for good?
You read like a badly written petulant & pretentious closet-narcissist.
Is this finally going to go anywhere, or are we circling back to pointless babble. Again.
Self-acceptance: I’m constantly an asshole to myself, but that’s how I move myself forward; doubt is how areas for improvement are recognized. My inner monologue is not a positive self-affirming voice – and that’s okay. The potential pitfall to this approach, the one I not too long ago was deep into, is letting the drill sergeant take control and actually break you. Moreso if you’re the self-aware introspective type; knowingly completely how flawed your thinking is, and being powerless to break away from it.
So I tell myself to stop being a dick, but that I have good points. After so much time already invested (and even wasted) on “looking back”, it does make more sense to focus on the present & future instead of putting it back towards things already past. Considering all the greater adversities that other people are facing and conquering every passing day, this tireless determination to tell the story of my own makes me feel that I must either be really in love with myself or addicted to dwelling in my past misery.
So I tell myself to stop being a dick again; I should know better than anyone to accuse myself of being in love with myself having spent day after day for years feeling the polar opposite of that sentiment. And sure, my story may not be anything worthy of a Hollywood prestige biopic, but it’s still my own. Flawed, fucked up, and unproud of it as I may feel about it a lot of the time, it’s what I have to tell, much as I wish it were a different story entirely. Most people spend their 20’s in self discovery and adventures in life, big and small. Mine have been consumed by a decade-long war against myself.
It may be counterintuitive to progress to keep focus on that huge part of my life I’ve written off, but the way the world is, keeping it to myself and burying it in the past does my little good, but putting it out there, in whatever pieces it comes in, may do someone else some good. May just be pointless hopeful idealism, but “dare to dream”, as they say. That, and I’ve already started – even though it’s a decision my present self would probably make differently, I can’t leave business unfinished.

The Long Road Behind, The Long Road Ahead

The New Year is freshly begun, and that universal milestone has come announced by a new set of goals and challenges. I spent the entirety of 2014 berating myself for not producing more writing output due to that annoying predisposition to debate whether what I’m thinking is even worth taking the time to capture, more so in then having to search for the words to commit them through. Getting overwhelmed by my own thinking and eagerly submitting to my inner-critic have been both obstacle and convenient excuse to getting the work done and the story told. Over the remaining days of the previous year, I started pushing myself to journal more (digitally and on paper) to get retrained with the ability to process and organize thoughts when they’re staring at you straight in the face; preparation for getting back to writing sessions that end with the push of a “publish” button.
Reading back through the archives to refresh my memory on what exactly I’d posted in past entries, I was pleasantly surprised at how not abysmally awful the thoughts I’d captured in text were put together. Though it is embedded throughout repetitive self-critical ruminative loops, there is a pretty accurate record of the journey and the progress I’ve made with myself as a whole. I broke myself down and pulled the pieces apart, severed all of my attachments, committed myself to self-betterment and the quest for knowledge and personal mastery – in effect, I’ve taken a very roundabout way to get to my personal knockoff variant of East Asian philosophy.
Long and arduous as that process has been, it was the easy part. Wiping the slate clean and turning myself into the nothing I felt like was like a very long downhill run – hell on the knees, but ultimately doable, you just have to maintain balance and not trip. But now I’ve reached a seminal turning point along this journey, where the time for reflection and recovery has expired; the challenge has shifted from “not being” and “becoming” towards action. It’s a personal admission and declaration I made a few times last year, but I was still missing the drive to power it with, too comfortable with being that hurt and helpless nobody and too scared of being incapable of becoming anybody else to fully commit to pushing myself further.
But it didn’t stop me from trying — and in my private attempts and subsequent failures to enact change throughout the past year, I found myself met with self-acceptance, patience, and compassion than the usual criticism, resentment, and loathing. After so much time rewiring my thought processes, I finally started lending belief towards the ideals I’ve been telling myself I ascribe to and the person I’ve made my goal to become. So begins 2015, with myself no longer focusing on how far I’ve fallen and why I hate myself, but with the clarity of mind to how it happened, and more importantly, what came from it all.