Questions for myself

I recently started getting James Clear’s newsletter. In it, he asks a question for the reader to ponder. This week’s was:

“How can I create an environment that will naturally bring about my desired change?”

This is an important question and one that, for me, brings other questions. Most importantly, what is my desired change right now?

My current answer to that is probably: I want to write, study, and read more.

If I take a look around, my environment is already dang well set up for bringing about that desired change. I’ve got an office separate from the rest of the house (huzzah finished attics) and multiple options for where I want to work. Inside, outside, the entirety of my environment is set up for doing good work.

So, why then do I struggle to write, read, and study the way I envision?

Some of it is disorganization. The things I want to work on are in a bit of chaos, spread out over various notebooks and file structures. That aspect is slowly being brought under control as I consolidate digital notes into Obsidian. Physical notebooks are a little harder to rein in. They have an organic flow to them that doesn’t digitize as easily as I’d like. Even so, this is all an active work in progress.

Some of my struggle is related to my the way my mind works, how my brain is wired. Work days leave me mentally tired, usually too fatigued to do much more than eat dinner and watch something. I’m also currently working on this aspect as I look at ways to carve more creative time out of my week. Leaving my phone far from my bed has started improving this considerably.

Some of my challenge is life itself. This aspect doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room. There is laundry to do, meals to cook and eat, and the seemingly endless task of sorting and reorganizing my various collections of stuff. This last continues to be a source of stress, both in finding time to do the sorting and in deciding what things I can truly let go of, regret-free.

All in all, this whole question of creating an environment that will naturally bring about change is a difficult one. I can see where I’ve set some things up to help facilitate change, but I honestly don’t know how “naturally” that will ever occur for me. Maybe accepting that the changes I want will not happen naturally is part of the work I need to do. Accepting that I’ll have to work for the changes I want in my life is okay. As is accepting that they will not happen as quickly as I’d like.

I’ll just keep showing up and working to manifest them and maybe one day I’ll turn around and the path behind me will look natural after all.

Don’t forget to breathe

“When you were little, you were so carefree. But these last few years, more and more, it’s almost like I can feel you holding your breath… You get to exhale now, Simon. You get to be more you than you have been in… in a very long time. You deserve everything you want.” – Emily in “Love, Simon”

This morning when I woke up everything felt tight, strained. I’m 43 and that means that things have indeed started to hurt more in odd places, but this was more than that. I felt clenched.

I turned to a guided meditation on my phone. It helped a little, enough to get the ball rolling in making me see where the clenching was coming from, or so I thought. I was looking at how stressed I’ve been lately for various reasons.

I can feel the burnout creeping in around the edges, enough that it might start effecting my work. I can taste it on my tongue and feel it in the way I interact with the word. I knew when I signed off for the day I needed to unplug for a day or so, at least from writing code and wrapping my mind in those logical thoughts, useful as they might be.

I lit some incense, took a deep breath, and started to unclench. Then the noisy neighbors came home and wrecked the mood I had so tentatively started to foster. Fine then, I’ll just watch a movie, right?

I had heard about “Love, Simon” from a friend and they were pretty passionate about it. All I knew going in was that it was a teenager’s coming out story and I was guaranteed a happy ending, which is so welcome right now.

I liked the characters, enjoyed the soundtrack, and was very much appreciating the whole thing. And then I got blindsided by that bit of dialogue above. In the moment I didn’t understand why, but I started crying. Okay, sobbing is more like it.

The words are what the mom, Emily, says to her newly outed (by another student, not by choice) gay son. A little while later, the dad says some similar kinds of things. I could not stop crying. It’s been a half hour since the movie ended and I’m still crying.

In my spiritual tradition (as much as what you can what I do a tradition) we call this kind of experience a “heart opening”. Something comes along and just breaks you wide open and the feelings are overwhelming and intense and beautiful, if a bit painful as well.

I realized how much I needed to hear those words. In that moment I realized how much I, too, have been holding my breath. Unlike Simon, though, it hasn’t been four years. it’s been more like thirty-four.

I’m queer, this isn’t news to most and definitely not news to me, but my parents don’t know. I don’t have a partner. They’re conservative. I know they would still love me if I told them, but they wouldn’t get it, I don’t think, just how like they don’t get that I’m on the autism spectrum, though I have at least tried to explain that.

They don’t know about my spiritual path or lots of other small, personal, fragile things about me, either. Being exposed to them for the better part of the day yesterday left me feeling both tired and wired. Nothing was wrong, we had a nice time, actually, but I felt that gap between us, that secret. I was holding my breath all day.

This movie hasn’t made me suddenly want to tell them. I’m not planning all of a sudden on coming out. It has made me, however, realize that I hold my breath a lot. I have all this tension just balled up in a tight coil inside me. It’s not just my queerness, my spirituality, my personal beliefs. Not just being afraid of the world we’re living in and how it all feels so wrong.

It’s about how I’m approaching things, too. I’m not finding enough joy, or making my own. I’m not taking care of my health, spiritual, physical, mental or otherwise. I’m clenched all the time, with fear and nameless (and named) anxieties. I’m not resting enough.

I’m not breathing enough.

I don’t know what the next step is from here. I’m open and raw right now and that’s okay, it’s good. I vaguely was aware that there was a barrier up around me and it’s wrecked now and that’s good, too.

As Robert Fripp once wrote, “It is necessary to know the next step, but not the step after that.” My own “next step” was to sit down and write these words, to get it down on the page and find the connections.

There’s more digging to do, as well. I’ve got unreconciled feelings of something that might be regret, but it’s waiting for now. I also know that the world will do it’s best to come creeping back in, the good and the bad and that the intensity of these feelings will fade and it’s very possible I may even forget that this evening even happened. I like to hope not, though and to also hope that I can start building from here.

Is it strange to say that I wish any of you reading this a similar experience? It’s not fun, it’s not one of those “nice” feeling things. There is a chance though that it can be very healing and will do more good than harm when you recognize it for what it is. You may even feel like yourself again, though a slightly different version, when you come out the other side.

It’s not too difficult to start. You can begin by taking a nice, slow breath…