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Entries in personal development (50)


21st Century Facebookless Man

It's been a year. One productive, fruitful and prosperous year since I deactivated my Facebook account. I told everyone once I'd done it I wouldn't relapse once; and thankfully haven't. I kept my solemn vow never to use it ever again.

Have I missed out on anything? No. What have I gained? Quite a bit.

Once it was gone, I didn’t miss it. I broke the habit of checking it and fussing over every minute detail rather swiftly. Once the apps were removed and bookmarks purged, there was no yearning to open them up. The only times I wished I’d had it were to enter “Like this page” competitions where a prize was otherwise unobtainable in the marketplace (like signed moon rocks by a dead rock star, or something.) Even then, it’s not as ubiquitous nor an essential a tool as people would like to think.

Only a handful of times over the past year have people told me to “Check my Facebook” for a link or some other piece of trivia they insisted I just had to see. At no instance was it ever a requisite for keeping on top of events or other issues that I deemed important. In fact, it just made me work harder and smarter about what events I would attend and with whom. It increases the efficacy of your “social memory” – your ability to recall details about your friends beyond the superficial, past what they simply “like.” Labelling something usually libels it as Neil Postman would say; I’m sure people simply dismiss me as “Metal Tom” and pay no more mind to my “largeness” that contains multitudes. (I’m guilty of the same with other acquaintances, I’m sure.)

I’ve sent links to friends about Bukowski, new astronomical discoveries and octo-necked guitars via email or text message (or even called them and met up with them! Quelle horreur!) because I’ve actually remembered conversations in which they’ve mentioned such interests. Schopenhauer said to train the mind you must build its power of unaided recall; with no basis with which to “reference” what your friends like trains it well.

I tended to focus more on my enjoyment of events – I wasn’t one of those arseholes at gigs clicking photos of the band instead of actually watching the fucking band play. For example, I went to see Goatwhore and Impiety a couple of weeks ago. To my dismay, the room was awash with deep electric blue light glowing from smartphones. They were posting up-to-the-minute dispatches to Facebook about events transpiring before them, despite never actually experiencing the present fully.

Getting rid of Facebook in my experience strengthened my commitment to personal development. One aspect of this journey which requires much patience and effort is my tendency to seek approval from others and attach myself to a desired outcome. Killing Facebook (and the occasional Twitter moratorium) greatly aids the attainment of such a goal. You begin to enjoy activities and work for oneself, instead of grovelling for “likes” or pats on the head. Likewise, you tend not to conceal failures, either. It really does lend meaning to the aphorism “a good deed is its own reward.” An inward honesty is also projected outward. It builds trust and rapport with people. Likewise, you can start to feel when things are amiss; your internal “bullshit detection” apparatus activates and heightens with each day.

Bullshit detection also applies to self-reflexion and self-perception. Burying feelings and emotions almost never have any upsides. Letting them out and focusing on the root causes without bullshitting yourself maintains a mental wellbeing and working toward Dr. Ellis’ USA – Unconditional Self-Acceptance. Likewise, you tend not to settle for second best, especially in terms of relationships. Your boundaries are much more defined and active instead of passively “hiding” (read: avoiding) someone you find undesirable. A very dear friend of mine had to be cauterized out of my life as his friendship was simply too toxic and untrustworthy to hold on to. I felt much sadness and anger as a result, but it had to be done. It simply followed from the self-belief that I deserve better treatment. 

The value I place on interpersonal communication is higher. As my birthday rolled around last year, I received a handful of well-wished from friends and family. They received no electronic pats on the back for it; they did it out of kindness and genuine affection. Lengthy emails and Skype chats with friends from overseas seems to dismiss those lengthy distances in the way a few photos pushed out on a news feed every so often never could.

Over the last year it’s as if I’ve discovered killing Facebook was like my “gateway anti-drug” to personal development and lasting, strong friendships. People hum and haw at getting rid of it, as if they’ll be swallowed up into a social abyss; but nothing could be further from the truth. Your excuses are simply that. If it isn’t fun anymore then why persist? Besides, who doesn’t want liberation?


Thoughts on R U OK? Day

I remember when I got help. It was this time in 2009. I returned home from the United States without any money to my name, no job, no prospects and seemingly, no future. The script I’d written myself had run out of pages. I simply had no compulsion to write anything more.

The usual cliché is that depression is that of the “black dog;” – to me, a black dog conjures an image of "man’s best friend" colored a dark shade. The black dog, at least to me, has no snarl and has no bite – it is not a Cerberus that stalks your waking hours. To me, depression lies at the core of one’s very soul. It felt as if there was a wounded being inside of me, screaming and writhing in agony, scratching at my eyes to escape. But it knew as well as me that once it had claimed its freedom, the harsh light of day would cause it to expire.

Thus lies in the paradox of this illness – it’s not a disease of the brain; it’s a syndrome of the mind. Once someone feels so inured with depression, the world turns gray. Once embedded within every thought and every inference, depression is your way of life. You remain convinced that this is the only way; you cannot remember how it was before or even if there was a before. Even your memories are tinctured with sadness and loss. Bright moments are dulled; duller moments are simply charred away and taste like ash in your mouth.

You can lie for hours on the couch and let images and sounds flash by. But you take nothing in. Agony rings hollow. You can surround yourself with loved ones and feel that their concern is merely cloying and insincere. Their touches feel like sharp, icy scratches across your skin. A negation swirls around inside and people feel at unease – it’s almost as if they can sense your void of life energy and shy from it lest it snatches their own from under them.

So today is “R U OK?” day, where we are encouraged to ask our friends and loved ones if they are feeling well of mind. Perhaps some of them will confuse process with content and provide a lengthy, immaterial list of gripes that has nothing to do with their own state of mind. To me, when I was lying prone and waiting for an ending, I didn’t want someone to ask me if I was okay. What I felt I needed is for someone to say I was okay – as a worthwhile person. The question, R U OK? should be met with the most precious answer that springs direct from the well of the mind and body – “yes, I am.” It should be felt with the wholeness of your being and expressed with the spark of life renewed. The hard task is this – once you feel you are not, one must labor, struggle and build a feeling that yes – you are. In time, you’ll realize we all are and we all can be.

Together, we can write pages anew in the books of our lives.


The Winding Road to Shangri-La

In the first time in over a year since the beginning of my recovery, I've finally slammed into a wall. Dusting myself off and nursing my bruises I've only just managed to start the arduous and tedious walk around the wall. Why not just climb over? And what would that even entail?

During my twenty-four years on this earth, I've learned a lot of so-called facts that have turned out to be bullshit. Partially or totally so. My brain has been told time and again that the outside world is thus and immutable. Life is not what our thoughts make it? Now such a notion strikes me as ridiculous.

If the bright spark of settling into the exciting idea that things can be better for myself shone brightly and abundantly for the first year, I would consider this a dark and barren transition phase. Step after begrudging step I walk as ashes fall from the sky. Though not a complete halt, it feels like I'm in retreat from my feelings and desires as the world around me speeds toward changes I'm unable to control. My loved ones' times are fading and far from thrashing against it, I must accept, mourn and move on. I want to see abundance but all I am left with is the sting of scarcity. I want to reach out and cherish all the people in my life, but I still feel they are on the other side of the wall, waiting for me to catch up. They will not wait forever and will eventually move forward on their own path. Without any judgment or reservation, I will too.

Despite it all, the small victory becomes apparent: in knowing one step can follow another, the future is there for our taking. Companions will leave; new lovers and friends will emerge. Then we all depart, towards our final, unavoidable destination. If I can tolerate and learn from the grey and sorrowful, this time of desolation and emptiness, it will lead me to somewhere greater. Every man must carry his scars, his ashes. It is what gives him strength in these times of need.

So now I walk with ashes in hand, toward the other side.


The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World

As a child, I kept to myself and I kept everything to myself. For everything I did, there was a lie to cover it up. So accustomed to lying, it rapidly displaced truth. It just became easier that way.

So around this time last year, I resolved thusly: to tell the truth. When I started and continued, I felt relief. I no longer felt a fraud, I no longer felt trapped by my own "bullshit." I was a free man, free from the mental gymnastics required to keep all my lies afloat and free of the guilt of deceiving loved ones and others.

So what happens when I keep things to myself again, I wondered? The past few weeks I've felt flat and frustrated until I explored my feelings within - the causes of which are numerous - and I admitted to myself: I felt angry. Then once the truth was exposed, the anger faded into a feeling of positivity, a feeling of power. Old habits die hard, especially in phases of transition and upheaval.

In this phase of the dating moratorium when I have felt most alone, I have felt an intense want to express my love - sensually and platonically - without an outlet. It's the loving part that feels wounded most of all during the whole integration process of taking one's loneliness and re-framing it as a positive and rewarding solitude.

Throughout childhood and adolescence I found it easier to "not miss anyone" due to a fear of abandonment - but now I am feeling the lack and the sorrow that comes with the foreign concept of "missing" people. I would be lying to say that I do not. A couple of weeks ago, it's possible I could have returned a contrary answer. But now I allow myself to and emerge on the other side as a stronger man.

Thus, the past couple of months have been fueled by a tendency to bullshit myself, yielding varied results. Scarcely a year has passed since the beginning of my personal journey towards manhood and I've learned so much. But twenty-three years of bullshitting oneself is not simply unlearned in less than one. But the challenge is to sustain myself through the bullshit and emerge on the side of truth - and I wouldn't trade it for anything in this world.


With Crystal Clarity

"Every moment waited is a moment wasted and each moment wasted degrades your clarity of purpose."
- David Deida

Though the road has been fraught with obstacles and "bumps," the past month has been one of intense pain and likewise, great self-discovery. Yesterday I was contemplating my life goals and as such, wrote them down. In a nutshell, I wrote three: To be happy as a paid writer, to try my hand at professional filmmaking and to be a world traveler and eventually citizen. Suddenly, in the act of acknowledging my own self-purpose, all petty and immediate concerns washed away. 

As a man, I feel stronger with a mission in mind and achievements to be made. Setbacks are only that - they may add time and frustration to your journey but eventually they are overcome. To be honest, if your computer dies, a girl you like rejects you or a boss chews you out for arriving late for work and you rank those amongst your worst problems then you haven't really got any real problems and are more than likely "awfulizing."

In the current medium-term, it is to finish my Master's and throughout it save enough money to move out of my parents' house once and for all.

I encourage all men to list their life goals, regardless of age and not to dwell on whether they have accomplished them or not. You don't have to do it right, you just have to do it.

(cross posted at It's A Dude Thing)