Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Growing Pains

Last night my oldest daughter complained that her ankle was hurting despite not doing anything to injure it. I began explaining about growing pains when mid lecture, a thought materialized: the struggles we go through in life are growing pains. Now we can't avoid physical growing pains but when they are circumstantial emotional/psychological, we feel like we can find a solution or at least take a pain killer for it. Most folks assume that because their physical body has grown past a certain age, they are adults but that's erroneous. While it is a fact that your brain changes a few times during your life and supposedly locks in around 30, you can still be a mental child until you die.

Growing sucks. It's work; it hurts at times and usually, the pain doesn't feel like it's connected to anything happening. Kids don't realize they have grown unless they make marks on the doorway to compare against. Whenever I get discouraged, I look at where I have come from and as a friend quoted the other day "I'm not where I was so I will not always be where I am". 

I think life is a process of trying to attain maturity. Not maturity in the "I'm old and have no fun" sense but more of a clear vision of yourself and the universe. When you know who you are and live it, it is empowering. You know that no matter what happens in life you will be fine. That is because you understand what you do and do not have control over and set your expectations accordingly. 

Being you isn't an occupation, it's an idea that shapes your world. I realized that I've been trying to figure out how to make money with the talents I feel are expressions of my personality however, that is a backwards way of thinking. This is what keeps people from self discovery because they say "when I save up enough money" or "get the kids out of the house" etc as if suddenly the stars will align. Sure there are things that could make it easier but do you want to wait that long chomping at the bit? Many times people fritter away their entire lives waiting for that opportune moment to start actually living only to have it elude them.

I don't write on this page with the hope to make money and now, I'm throwing away the notion that anything I am should have to make money. Usually it's a natural result of being your best self but not always and that's due to a world you can't control possibly misunderstanding you. I will continue to pursue what fascinates me and that will shape my life in certain ways. Values are not goals. A goal is an achievement, a value is a lifestyle. I enjoy watching TV shows and movies, but not more than I value time with my partner, children and myself. I value writing and conducting my own scientific experiments more than spending money at the bar. There are others but just those two values determine much of how I will live my life in the time outside of work. Sure, if I had a ton of money and ample time, I would love to go to the movies and out to eat all the time, but those are just accessories to what the core idea and values of who I am. 

The key to growing is knowing what weights to carry and having endurance. Typically you think "the bigger the muscle the stronger it is" but that's not necessarily true with human hearts. If you have an enlarged heart it means that it's developed more muscle mass which shrinks the ventricles and actually reduces the pumping capacity. Psychologically many people, myself included, are the hardest working lazy people you'll meet. We just want to get the difficult task or circumstance over with as quickly as possible so we throw ourselves at it like a Tasmanian devil. I am usually told by people I work with to "chill out. You work too hard". Instead of just carrying a couple bags of groceries from the car, I'll grab every single one and struggle some because I don't want to make two trips. The problem is that this is the equivalent of lifting lots of weight and low reps to get bulging biceps. Instead of building cardiovascular endurance, I've built strength and get tired quickly both physical and mentally. 

The stuff in life that hurts us, stresses us, angers us are just growing pains. Many times things seem to get harder the more you grow and mature but really it's just adding a little more weight once you have built up endurance where you could do those reps into infinity. Each obstacle that has been thrown at me inciting a freak out has turned out to be something I can handle (though it's hard work). All that is required is to "just keep swimming". Life isn't a race, its a tiny portion of an endless journey. What are your values? Find a way to alter your life to make it so.  Otherwise it's not a value, it's just an idea you are too lazy or apathetic to grab and make your own. 

*an important note: part of growing requires learning what weight is your responsibility to carry. So many of our problems are cause because we carry weight that isn't ours or shirk weight that is.*

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Control Issues

Deep down, I think everyone wants to feel in control - to feel powerful. We live in a world that is out of balance leaving us struggling  as we try to overcome the entropy. I saw a quote the other day "some women find nudity empowering, others find modesty empowering. It's not our job to tell them which is right for them." Most of us have traumatic experiences to some degree of severity in our childhoods that we carry with us: indelible reminders of our lack of control.
Very few of us take the best possible path towards finding peace in the chaos but the important thing is to keep moving and learning from the mistakes and the wins. Some choose drugs to dull the anguish or give themselves a chemical feeling of wellness and power. Others blank it out with alcohol. Some use sex as a drug and a tool to manipulate others to achieve dominance. If you boil it all down though, I believe it's just people trying to cope with feeling insignificant and vulnerable in the world.

Anger comes from two things (as far as I can tell): when you feel like something isn't going your way, or when you see injustice (which is sort of a subset of the first category). I was angry with someone recently and my girlfriend pointed out that I did a great job in the discussion till one point when suddenly, I sounded like a child. After pondering my thoughts for a few minutes, I realized that I had felt like this person was trying to say they had control of my life. I've been able to calm down about it because I've realized that everyone has control. As I've quoted before, Jack Sparrow says it best "there's only two things that matter, what a man can do, and what a man can't do." In essence he is saying "everyone can do what they want but there are consequences. Consider the consequences before you act." 

Unfortunately, I didn't think about all the consequences of my actions when I was younger because I didn't think I had any other options. We like to complain and whine about how we are so exploited by big corporations, the government etc, but the truth is to a large extent, we don't want to deal with the consequences of changing our bit of reality or possibly we don't see the options. It's probably inconvenient, possibly dangerous and maybe even illegal but if you want change, you have to change first. (For the record, when I say illegal, I'm not taking about shooting up police stations, but things like smoking pot or living off the grid in states where it's against the law). 

A character in Jurassic World said "you can't be truly happy until you realize that you aren't in control". It's a paradox. While realizing and accepting your lack of control, you gain a feeling of power. What happens is you adjust your expectations and instead of trying to control the vast world around you, you focus on controlling your reactions and choices which is a battle you can win. The only way to help bring more balance to the world is for each of us to do find peace in ourselves, accepting the consequences or fruit of our actions. We won't be able to have leaders who are level headed, good, honest people if they are corrupted by need. It's pretty hard to buy someone who doesn't have a desire to be "somebody" or "live the life". Not saying it's bad to be rich or famous but if that is your goal in life, you are probably in for a lot of unhappiness. Trying to bend the world to your whims in an effort to feel valuable in society is about as effective as trying to bail a leaking submarine. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Living Your Truth

My girlfriend bought the box set of the TV series Felicity and asked if I would watch it with her. This morning as we hit the second episode, it struck a nerve. The scene was where Felicity tells her mother that she had enjoyed eating a burger by herself on a Tuesday. Every Tuesday Felicity and her mother would have lunch and while she wasn't trying to say she had hated all those lunches, she was trying to tell her parents that it felt good to be growing up. This of course didn't translate to her mother who instantly felt rejected because the truth was the lunches were more for her than her daughter. Many parents have kids to fill a need in their hearts which is a terrible reason to have a child. However, most people don't realize that and are just trying to do the best they know how. The scene about Tuesday lunch was my childhood x 1000 partially because it was inescapable being in proximity to my mother 24/7 but also because she felt rejected by a lot - particularly me.

I was angry sitting there watching this play out on the screen. I wanted to keep being angry because it felt like it justified my struggle against being a fucked up human. I've known I had a lot of stuff to deal with but at the same time I've constantly doubted myself thinking I am just sensitive and blew it out of proportion. On top of everything else, I was harped on for being angry as a child as if there was something wrong with me. 

Anger is not something I find pleasant to sit in for long anymore so I resorted to my drug - thinking. I thought about my parents and how they were doing the best they knew how, or possibly they knew better but this was the best they dared to do. When you say "they did the best they knew how" it's a half truth. We are all confronted at various times with better ways to live. The problem is that we discount them out of pride which comes out of fear. And there in lies the problem with much humanity: we see truth and know it's there but we are too afraid to live it. 

That's probably why so many people hate themselves; they can't block out that image of who they know they are but they are too afraid to take steps toward it. I was criticized, disciplined etc for just being me. I've always been curious, asked a million questions, and tried to be optimistic but for a long time I became too scared to be myself. There are always options out there but most people don't dare to do better because what if they are wrong? What if it makes life more difficult? While I'm not gay, I think I can relate to the feeling of being something people don't like or approve of. It's not like I had a coming out of the closet experience but more like I've just been slowly peeling off the clay they tried to use to make me into their image. It's not all gone but the relief of not being suffocated by a facade is immense as I expect it is when someone comes out. 

We don't need to be more honest with ourselves, we need to have bigger hearts with more courage. If you believe your life could be more you and that doesn't involve taking advantage of someone else, then get a breath of fresh air and live the honesty that you feel looking in the mirror. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Particular Perspective

Let's say for the sake of argument that everyone's consciousness is a single atom. No two atoms can share the same space; if they are forced to, the results are explosive. Your atom / personality / consciousness cannot ever be the exact same as someone else's because you will always have a different perspective or vantage point in space and time. 

We are highly evolved, intricate robots each with a different set of variables constantly being programmed through the sensory information taken in. Our reality is shaped by what we are taught as children and while that can change over time, our perception constantly shapes how we view the world and move through it. Individuality isn't because some god decided to make you a certain way. You are just a statistical possibility that has power over the choices it makes. That doesn't mean you are any less special, in fact I find it kind of cool to think of of myself as an equation that is constantly being changed. 

Life is simply a series of events providing opportunities where we make choices. Each choice is adding a different variable to the equation that is your life opening up a completely new set of possibilities. It's kind of like a choose your own adventure book. Just like the book though, there are endings that you don't have control over despite the pages you flipped to. We only have control over the choices we make but the outcome is rarely determined by one individual. Trying to control your entire life is about as ludicrous as trying to drink the ocean. 

This isn't to say that we should give up on trying to understand each other, quite the contrary. While we cannot share the exact same eyes as someone else, we can step back and remember that "we are all the same, but we're different. But in the sense that we're all different, we're the same." That little quote, while a bit of nonsense is the truth. If we could quit trying to make people just like us and listen to others perspectives, we might get along a whole lot better.

You might say "their perspective is wrong" but it's what they have seen from their vantage point. It doesn't mean you have to accept what they believe but understand that you don't understand their life because you haven't lived it. People get hung up on "the truth", constantly trying to hem it in with a formula or religious revelation. Here's the thing, no matter where you are looking at something from, you cannot be certain it is the proper angle. The only thing that is so ubiquitous, infinite and pure that it can be viewed the same no matter where you reside in space is love. 

Love is a force that transcends time or distance. It's qualities are undeniable: love is patient, love is kind, love is not proud, etc. Romance and sex have been trivialized because to have real love requires selflessness that still has boundaries. Which seems confusing because if you are selfless, doesn't that mean you have no boundaries? It's really only one boundary - don't ever let someone try to make you something you're not. You aren't someone's excuse for their problems or the source of another's happiness. Selflessness is the quality that holds the autonomy of another higher than its own desires. Where do things like murder, rape and theft come from? The perpetrator putting what they want above the consent of the victim. 

So for the sake of argument, step back from your one little atom and visualize a sea of atoms that you are bobbing about in. We're all the same deep down, we just have very different variables that have influenced our lives. There is one plane we could all meet on though with a common perspective. Spanning language and cultural barriers, love needs no explanation, only acceptance.