Letting it kill me…

I’ve been relaxing and decompressing after all the stress of my move and it seems wasn’t doing so hot. I picked up the TV remote and let it start to kill me.

The more I tried to decompress the more tightly I’m wound up. I decided to try and lay low, to just settle into my new place for a couple of weeks without going out much, without getting amped up about making too many contacts. This decision came as I noticed setting up house was expensive, and I could in fact be flat broke. So my last two weeks have been a lot of netflix and a few cocktails, more cookies than I care to mention, and all of this basically because I was just waiting for my first round of bills to come in. If I survived in good shape then I can be a bit more liberal with my time, I can hand out flyers that say, “I’M HERE! COME PLAY WITH ME!” And now that I know I’m not completely and totally broke, I feel… no different.

This of course is not at all genuinely surprising. This is really a moment when after getting a little burnt out on the stress of moving house (and having a place that is completely and totally my own for the first time) I’ve given in to my resistance. I’m nervous and uncomfortable in social situations with new people, and now there is more staked on that than usual because I’ve moved to this city so that I could start at least one major professionally creative endeavor. I have not been CREATING since I’ve come here, but having had this realization its time to fix it. 

Perhaps in a subconscious victory over my resistance (thats called jiu-sistance*), I have been wasting my time in progressively better ways over the last week or so. Reading more about business practices and marketing and being a creative than about congressional gridlock and wizards defeating daemons, sounds like a step in the right direction, but really its still kind of a cop out. Yeah, I have a lot of learning to do, and reading about people who were me not that long ago is a path to that. However, What do these people write about? Mistakes.

Mistakes. Mistakes. Mistakes. Does preparation yield mistakes? No. Although being ill-prepared can make them all the more spectacular. Does reading about other’s experience yield mistakes? No. Only action yields mistakes, and mistakes lead to learning. So its time to get creating. Its time to start making mistakes. Its time to start learning. Its time to pick up something I love and let it start killing me.

If you need a creative pick me up today, go read this from James Rhodes:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2013/apr/26/james-rhodes-blog-find-what-you-love 

If you’ve seen it before go read it again. If you haven’t seen it before and you don’t think you need that pick me up today, YOU ARE PROBABLY WRONG, read it NOW!

*jiu-sistance is a thing I made up to make myself feel better about my cleverly harnessing the intent and thrust of my creativity into high-level resistance and procrastination. Use it as you like.

 

Fruits of my Distraction

Its been a few weeks since I got back to the job of writing this site. That time has been manic and busy and unfocused and blurred, but the good news is that I have something to show for it. Taking time away from writing (not so deliberately) and spending it with photography has been good for my brain. If I were to consult The War of Art I’m sure I would come back with my tail between my legs, for the truth is that I have gotten afraid of some writing I have started. Usually the things you resist hardest turn out to be your most important work. 

Still, today I set some writing out in my schedule alongside time to learn and do a bit of (far too complicated) bookkeeping. Then I promptly spent all of that time editing some recent sets of photos. Now there are lots of arguments for how and how not to figure out just what might be one’s calling for lack of a better term. In fact I have suggested here that one of the very best ways might be to look for what you can’t stop doing (provided you aren’t too absorbed to take a step back). The difficulty lies in the fact that I also know for certain that Steven Pressfield was correct when he wrote The War of Art, that the things you are best at avoiding are the most important. So here I am. Caught in the middle. Obsessively editing, looking back over, ranking, making new versions, and exporting images that I have spent my free days capturing. Its a great way to be, creating. I sit down and there is not, then by the time that I get up, there is.

So today I have these new shots to share. Also check out the new project gallery/homepage here at searching for bohemia, its sucked up a bit too much of my time lately and I hope you enjoy it.

Holding On: Turning Empty into Full

I’ve been working. A lot. It’s been exhilarating. It’s been edifying. It’s been a heck of a lot of fun. It’s been very tiring. 

Not everything has been going my way either, I’m having to adjust midstream. I’m pushing too hard at the rocks to notice the hard places, now I’m deciding to get flexible and sneak through the hard places. A wiser man than I once told me: 

“You’re not exhausted. Just wait ’til you get older, and you’ll be just holding on.”

I had an idea of what this meant, but did not grok it and I’m not much older now. But, today, when the lack of sleep is a disappointment and not a point of pride, but mostly its an afterthought. When you have in front of you more than you are confident you can do, but you are certain it must be done because it lives in your guts and your blood, you have a chance to hold on. Your worth, and your work are no longer tied to how good you look doing it, instead you can only keep going. It is the way a musician talks of songwriting as if it is no more remarkable than collecting the recycling. A dogged, workaday quality that understands humbly that is your self not your image or your comfort that makes your work worthwhile. In this state you are prepared to hold on, to do, to make, to act, to write, to create. You may not be without judgement, but with judgement (at least for the time being) overcome. And you will not be without fear, but with fear overcome. 

For me this means taking on projects, and projects with deadlines (even some imagined ones). And freeing myself to explore and learn while I work with and for other people. Anyone who ever had a career has understood that learning means screwing up. Just because you can’t offer a guarantee doesn’t mean that you aren’t right for the job, take a risk. Don’t be afraid to risk other people’s money if they want your work. For those of us with little experience as freelancers and artists and creatives it can be especially hard to remember, they hired YOU not your CV. The worst that could happen is that you learn and have to work harder to establish your reputation in the future (sounds like fun). 

Am I doing the best work I ever have? I don’t think so. But the important distinction is that when you are prepared to hold on you no longer wish you were doing better, instead you just keep working. 

Why You Need a Goal-friend

I’m working diligently to set out and begin the execution of my plans for the year. In truth this has meant a couple of genuine new year’s resolutions. My favorite new aphorism “keep to your organization, because otherwise you no longer are” is an effort to curb my bad habit of switching organizational and note taking tools. I’ve even made a fitness resolution in the form of several fitness goals. And taken time for making two kinds of maps of my goals, and one visual-enhanced list to hang on the wall so I will see them everyday. However the Most important thing I’ve done is get myself a goal-friend.

I was talking to an old friend who was feeling a little lost just at the time I was feeling a frustrated if well directed, and it occurred to me that we could help each other out. We were talking about life-coaching and other unspecific “consultants.” It seems from the outside like a situation where you pay someone to nag you about your goals. And I thought “Well, I can do that!” Now I don’t claim to be qualified or even well versed in methods for defining what will make anyone else happier or more fulfilled, but I can definitely provide the social pressure that is sometimes required to follow through on private goals. And that is all too often the difference between success and failure. When someone else depends on my work, I am far more inclined to get it done in a timely manner.

So out of that conversation with my wandering friend, we defined goal-friending. A simple concept and system for reporting goals and projects and then maintaining regular check-ins to keep each other honest. First we both plotted out maps of our goals for the year, and shared them. Now we have begun writing daily emails listing simply what we have done in pursuit of those goals during each day. The expectation that at the end of the day someone will see what I have accomplished or at least attempted, begun, or planned is greatly curbing my tendency to avoid accomplishing things, and giving into my resistance.

Lots of people who work in a vacuum as freelancers, or hoping to change fields, or striking out on their own with a new business will benefit from this dynamic. But for the many people who work in offices and other work-groups, this kind of feedback and socially-engineered motivation is built in. Often though, its personal projects that require the biggest infusion of energy to get started. So I suggest you give this a try. Tap someone else who is making a change or learning something new in their spare time, and everyday, or a few days per week, shoot an email off stating what you’ve done to further your goals. Then once a week or once a month make time for a phone call or meeting to get more in depth. I think that the phone call/ video chat/ coffee date/ working lunch provides the deepest motivation. Often it is in vain attempts at time-shifting that we cross from great intention into insidious procrastination. These face-to-face moments cannot be time-shifted like emails or journals and provide much greater need for accountability.

In the last two weeks I’ve done as much meaningful research, learning, planning of my upcoming endeavors as I did all last year… that may not be accurate. But with my goals freshly mapped and clearly prioritized I’m able make more effective use of my time. And now that I have a goal-friend on the other end of my status reports… I’m actually doing it.

Reading Writing and Running

I fantasize about a small cabin on a hill above some New England bluff. Its an imaginary place where I live for a few years with a like minded young woman. Yes, in part this is a fantasy about loving, warming, companionship, fantastic sex, and long lung-stretching, mind-expanding, heart-filling morning runs in beautiful places. The house has just 2 rooms, and rustic ramshackle siding but reliable electricity and hot water. It sits in a town where the sprawl of modern life has yet to penetrate, but where the local economy has built its own measure of convenience. And although the world goes on as usual, my companion and I quietly live out a kind of private utopia. We work simple jobs just half the week to support our habits of running, reading great books, and writing for ourselves and for everyone else who wants more.

We dedicate a chapter of our lives to a simple companionship and the cultivation of my newly designed Three R’s of personal development. Its a concept that operates much the same as the classic Three R’s many of us remember from elementary school, “Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic.” Of course if you ever learned the first two the last is hard to justify. And for many of us, especially those living a simple, quiet life in a shack above some small atlantic bay, arithmetic beyond addition and subtraction to balance a meager budget, has little utility.

So in this imaginary seaside shanty, the experiment of Reading, Writing and Running begins. The deep and distant humanity of our nature can be awakened in the primal simplicity of running for joy, for health, and for basic transportation. And then to write and deepen the understanding of this connection to the future, and to the distant past. Finally reading, primed by the regular practice of running and writing, we may dive into the classic literature, the new masterpieces of universal humanity and be moved not by the words but by the, wondrous nature of the base and fragile people who wrote them.

Short of cult leading, I expect to build my tribe one day on the merits of this system of learning, expression, and self actualization. The shack by the sea is the symbol that I’ve endowed to help me understand this hypothetical world, but the picturesque locale is not the fantasy. My yearning in this is most truly to be at the avant-garde of some new-millennium beat movement. When I read (or personally speculate) about my generation being one culturally lost in the torrent of commercial art, I feel it had ought to be my duty to stop that slide. I have no pretensions about being able to stand up, powerful and strong in the face of hollywood commercialisms’ fire hose and get anything but knocked clean off my feet and swept swiftly into the current. However, there is plenty of space today to stand just left of the line, not to level a playing field or to conquer a portion thereof, but to build an entirely new one. If that meant living in flop houses and smoking weed for the beat generation, I hope it could be reading writing and running in mine. Life needs little of its modern complications, I will happily live without restaurants and movie theaters, cable TV subscriptions or video games, corporate pop music made to sell soft drinks. All I ask is for a quiet place where I can share my life with someone sweet and concerned, and an opportunity to share the musings, learnings and stories of our lives with the world.

But in the world outside our private utopia, this might become a movement. Then I will have further obligations, which I will eschew. Because unlike many shaman before me, I know this message will not weather the inequity of being peddled. One cannot run angry, and one cannot peddle the careful, consistent, and ever deepening commitment to self betterment without causing it to crumble into dust. But I and the other practitioners of Reading Writing and Running will know that it is the way’s very fragility that gives it its power.

Abuse and Relief

Its been a long couple of weeks, and most of that time I have devoted to the work I consider unimportant to me. For the sake of making money I have two part time jobs in retail environments. Far be it from me to belittle the work that retail people do, I have seen it first hand and done it myself for a few years. The experience of working in retail is atrocious, and to that point I think EVERYONE should do it or some other service-oriented job dealing with the public at large. A huge amount of often tedious work constantly interrupted by people who believe they are the most deeply wronged, ferociously inconvenienced and fantastically important of all. Retail is not without its bright spots but these are the exception to the rule. And for those who find this rewarding, fun, interesting, and they wish to do more of it, I say, “More power to ’em.” But for me I cannot wait to get out in part because I simply don’t like it, but mostly because the other projects I’m developing are far more important, and deserve more of my time.
I’m sure many people have been in my shoes, but I know I do an exceptional amount of beating myself up about it. Hence the title of this post, when I’m “at work” I am often being abused by the public, when I leave home (where much of my real work gets done) to “go to work” I abuse myself for the waste of my valuable energy. Since deciding back in March to move at the beginning of next year I have been reporting to work for someone else 6 days a week, and the relief does not come easily. One day per week spent relaxing means that I will have wasted my once weekly opportunity to get some serious work done. This is no way to accomplish anything. But for now, until I have my tribe, my collaborators, my virtuous circle of inspiration near and accessible I will have to just deal with this frustration, and work harder until all my moving costs are covered and I’m ready to settle into dirt-bagging for my real purpose.

Not long ago I wrote about Motivational Love Letters, the little spots of writing that build up your confidence and provide positive affirmation for your dearest pursuits. These have become extremely important for providing myself the much needed relief from my grind and drab view of the world that closes in on me. But these too might give way to the pressure of a terrible question they beg me to ask myself, “If I’m so great, why am I still here?” There are no easy answers here, but there might be a few good ones. They will as always depend on just who you are as an individual, but for me this question has given me the opportunity to look at the yin to the Love Letter’s yang. I’m referring of course to the easy to write, hard to listen to, even harder to admit making use of, “Light a Fire Under your Lazy Ass, Tough-Love Letters.” Though its probably best to make use of these very sparingly I have found that lately with so many other things sapping my energy, these have been instrumental in helping me to hang on. While the world whips me around on its frothy sea of spite and joy and begrudging admiration, I am desperately gripping the edge of my life raft and hoping the change that falls from my pockets will be put to good use. And so it is that the cycle of abuse and relief continues. Praise, motivate, hurt, motivate, scar, heal, abuse, relieve.

In these last couple of weeks I have also decided it would be a good idea to return more seriously to my running practice. After all, who couldn’t do with a little extra meditation and blood-energizing exercise? Especially when in the throws of a struggle to maintain one’s own identity, subjugating the real work of your life to the false idols of money and expediency. But again, running has been teaching. There is such wisdom in the runner’s high. Its as if in lieu of inventing a time machine, or workable unifying theory, universally applicable philosophy or useful religions, truly virtuous savages gave us their wisdom in our genes, in our sweat, in our blood and literally in our hearts. There is a moment when you hit your runner’s high, and you know you’re back. I have not been running much lately and just yesterday had the fantastically invigorating experience of feeling more prepared to run faster and harder just as the effort necessitated i work harder to keep up. This cycle did not wear me down but instead built up my faith, my excitement, my speed, my freedom. Simply put, there are times when the harder you’re breathing, the faster you can run. Its like Pat Robertson always told you, the more you give away the more you’ll have to give. Except that I don’t want your money for my congregation/ TV Station. Just remember that your emotional life and your imaginary world, and at least your perception of your physical energy are as boundless as time and your will to explore.

Even on the trail, and along the beach the cycle continues. Abusing your feet, wearing down your legs, working your lungs, the air relieves it all, and your smile will rebuild your strength. Take that moment and remind yourself to go out and spend your time in the ways that you are the virtuous vagabond, the dirt-bagging hobo king. Light your fires in the dustbowl-refugee jungles of your day, and give away your fear and self loathing, your frustration and your joy will bring you home. Tell your stories, and scar and heal, shock and comfort, abuse and relieve.

Dreaming

Did you ever wake from a very frightening dream only to be sorely disappointed that the rest of your world was right where you left it the night before?
Last night I was washed out to sea. I floated on a sheet of old siding and was borne out to open ocean. For a great long time there was the changing topography of the water, and then the current granted me a gift. In the neighboring valleys of the sea there were others just like me. And if we were lucky beyond hope we might find ourselves desperately stranded, broken, without our lives or families but at least in uncertain company.

It was about this time that I woke, alone, in my darkened bedroom, under a somewhat deflated down comforter and shivering like it were a cold ridge-line morning in a leaking tent. I knew it could not be later than 1 am, but the decision to rise from bed to get another blanket was never more difficult. My only desire was to shut my eyes and turn again, back to the unreality of my dreaming sea where perhaps I could justify my shivering cold with the wet and exhaustion. And with that beautiful destiny in mind I steeled guts to amble down the hall and collect from the closet an underused 35 degree sleeping bag. hurriedly and still shivering I tucked my feet into the bottom leaving it unzipped and laying on top of me before throwing the comforter over as well. But I continued to shudder, harder, almost convulsions. Seizing an extra pillow I hugged it to my chest and feverishly pulled the edge of the sleeping bag around me, I need more insulation. All this for getting to bed a bit too long after the heat turned off for the night. but then, as I began to turn a corner in the real world, my mind rolled over my right shoulder and back into the water.

The sky is grey but the water no longer rushes and heaves my fellows and I have landed a few together here is a place unfamiliar, but similar in its brokenness to the one I slid from. The hills are steep and the buildings are short their doors, their windows, and some of their walls. On the beachfront I am wary of my fellow castaways, but there is nothing to know, there is nothing say and nothing to fear. With new eyes we explore a destroyed neighborhood seeing the great boon of all this easy material and pre-made shelter not the despair of its great loss.

On the second floor of a house, the street-facing wall removed, the center hall and bedroom now a great open-air balcony, I spy two others. I and my three fellows approach the house, we offer our assistance. No names are exchanged because what could they mean in a place like this? We can trade only kindnesses. And soon we sit, provisioned and warmed by a fire. As the sun runs out we clarify our new national project, in the morning we will look to find, help, and cheer who we can. Sitting closely by the young woman who had been on the second floor of this house, a laugh rings out from us both and I suddenly recognize her. We had met before but I never could see her in this way, we talk of the future and not of the past, not of loss but of our find.

By a fire with sweet closeness, and dear warming in her eyes I have another date with a woman I always hoped to see in the yellow light of nostalgic love. Our small new future in the light of this fire and new family. Terror, wariness, shivering against hope is all toothless connecting of past to present as the stars make themselves known and a new world is born. A utopia is born from hell.

Then the alarm rings and I am adrift and dry in a bed ill equipped for the world so well appointed. I cannot bear the loss.

Whirlwind in a Watery Mind

After a long stretch of days spent working for someone else, I am disoriented today by an unfamiliar degree of self direction. Its time to break out the pencils and pens. Its time to make the doughnuts. Then just in time to put my feet on the ground, to find my stroke, it will be another stretch of days dedicated to the pursuit of a dollar in a big corporate paycheck.
I heard today that some migratory birds can use a cyclone or a tropical storm, like a slingshot to accelerate to far beyond their typical speed, entering the storm at 7 miles per hour and exiting at 99 miles per hour. There is a whirling, uncertain, unbalanced pressure in my mind, and my resistance says this is frightening, that it may be best to read, to play a game, to turn it off. Or at least to plan, create a strategy, define a new workflow that will improve my lifestyle and productivity. But one thing is sure, flying into the storm means more muffled underwater-ears and swimming vision, more disorienting spinning of the winds.

But this is wrong.

My vision only blurs because I am trying to fly across this wind. This is a time to muster one’s hope, one’s courage and more trust than I know myself to possess and turn into the storm. At one hundred miles an hour I should find the far side of the clouds in no time at all.

Internet-less Hills of Rural Massachusetts

It was almost a week without electricity here on Long Island, and I was very fortunate. My neighborhood has no electricity anytime the wind blows more than thirty miles per hour, and every time I’m glad we have natural gas furnace and stove. But this time, since getting the electricity restored and connected to the Internet I’ve gotten a much better idea of how lucky my area of Long Island was in this storm.

Even with all the luck I feel graced me this week, it mixed with the inconvenience of not having easy access to information and a certain variety of frustration. But mostly the time I was able to spend reading and not feeling the pull of two survival jobs on my time was tremendous. It allowed my to access a degree of clarity of focus on the most important things I have to do which I have not experienced very often. I wrote recently about Fear, and my experience this week seemed to belie the way I thought I understood my fear. There is a sense when you are disrupted by your fear or resistance that it is a largely internal process. While I believe that to be true, my life in the last week was by virtue of its distance from the usual social forces and distractions was in some way insulated from resistance as well. I have not written or read as much or as we’ll as I did this week in quite some time. There were few weeks of my college career when I did as much reading and writing as I did this week. And that feels right to me. Sitting with the ticking clock of my laptop battery and no incoming messages or needless, obsessive, meandering research to deter me, my resistance stood no chance against a quiet house and a cup of tea. It was remarkable to feel my frustration disappear in because I had sat down to do something I often so frustrating. Time was not running against me, for I had no place else to be, and yet I had to do it right then otherwise what would I do? It was urgently but without haste that I set about my work. And in that state I did not need to control, to decide or to plan what I was to write. I could let it become, and follow where it wished to go. Perhaps this is why people like to move to the Internet-less hills of rural Massachusetts.

I am a man who adores technology and the many tools and devices that might make my life more enjoyable or more manageable. I love the Internet, and instant correspondence and close-to-free publishing of anyone’s thoughts for anyone else to read. But it’s hard not to notice as I return to that world unscathed by the storm, I am not stronger today for having learned a great lesson of perseverance, like so many will doubtlessly need to do in recovering. Instead I am stronger today for having stood in the quiet of the now which seems so inaccessible when the world is at your fingertips. Perhaps I’ll need a wooden writing shed one day, so I can bring the virtues of the Internet-less hills of rural Massachusetts a little closer to home.

Battening the Hatches

I am today, like so many in this part of the world, simply ecstatic to have seen the weather channel’s report that the president will be “monitoring the storm” from the White House. Thank goodness that the commander in chief will be WATCHING! After all, if the president is watching, he’ll redirect hurricane Sandy if things get out of hand. But most importantly I should not forget the historic, remarkable, astonishing, unusual, and altogether mind-defying nature of this particular “storm of the century.” The weather channel is right, I did take in the patio furniture yesterday to make more time to watch advertising today.
The ludicrous sensationalism of television reporting (even from something as mundane as the weather channel) of infotainment has struck a nerve for me today. I hear a lot of credible-sounding people touting Hurricane Sandy as the weather-event of their careers. This is worrisome. Yes, damage and dangerous roads, people who may not have hot or running water, or electricity in the coming days will face real challenges, but that is merely unfortunate. A deeper, sociological worry is being brought home to me. Broadcasters would rather spend their time, their money, their breath on hyping the ‘unusual’ behavior of a storm than talking about what people had ought to expect. And why is this? Because that is what most of us will most often choose to listen to. The most incredible thing is that any meteorologist, and certainly any climatologist worth his or her salt will tell you that this will not be the storm of the century, nor will its behavior be considered unusual for many more seasons. As far as career-making weather events, unless a particular broadcaster is planning to retire before next hurricane season he or she is yanking your chain. Bigger, heavier, nastier, wetter storms will be the rule in years to come, not the exception. But don’t worry, just ride this one out in your little blue box made of ticky-tacky with your eyes glued to broadcast media, and everything will be ok. Buy your placebo at the gas pump, there is no getting off the island if things turn bad.

The best news man ever to hit a screen encouraged us all to lean out the windows and shout, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore!” Today, I’m mad as hell, but I’m going to batten down the hatches. And here, indoors and dry and warm for now I’m going remember reflection, I’m going to remember closeness, and purpose, and I will shut out the wind, the rain and remember the value in that by shutting out the story. Anyone who has ever had to sleep out in a storm knows that comfort does not come from knowing what is outside, but from trusting the dry warmth you can find. So I will take some time to think of the utopias that we all hope will not have to form in hell, and know that when things are at their worst, people tend to act for their collective interest. I just hope that when they ran to the big-box stores to buy their BPA-filled containers of water and all the bread and milk they could lay their hands on, people from my neighborhood remembered how to talk about their plans and wish each other well instead of staring up at the satellite picture.