How Am I Not Myself?

My second favourite movie is I heart Huckabees (First is Memento). It bills itself as an existential comedy, which you know, fits my genre. It explores some of the absurdities with life, meaning and nihilism. One great line in it is when Lily Thomas’s character asks

“What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?”

I heart Huckabees

And the answer Judd Law’s character gives helped me with a big struggle I had with my mental health.

For many years I worried greatly about how my behaviour changed when taking my meds. I wasn’t as pessimistic, I didn’t ruminate as much, I didn’t spend as much time thinking about how the world is fucked. I struggled with it because there’s an easy trope to fall into and it’s of the tortured genius. It’s easy to point to great thinkers in the past who were tormented.

There’s also a bunch of folks online who think taking meds and “fighting” their mental health struggles makes them sheep. It’s easy to think this. Just think of Brave New World, 1984, and most dystopian books. The thinking is that if you move your focus away from everything that’s broken, if you don’t stay focused on the wrongs on the world, on the flaws of humanity, you can’t solve the problem.

It’s a very appealing theory. It means that all that suffering you’re doing, is not in vain. You’re not wrong to feel this way. It justifies the pain, both the past pain and the present pain. It means all that time I suffered wasn’t my fault for not changing myself, it’s everyone else who is too weak to sit with the darkness.

I’m not even sure who, but I think it was an aunt who, when I was 17-18, gave me a quote from George Bernard Shaw.

“Life isn’t about finding yourself, it’s about creating yourself”.

George Bernard Shaw

When Judd law is asked “What do you think would happen if you didn’t tell the stories? Are you being yourself?” he answers

“How am I not myself?”

I Heart Huckabees

Both existential detectives then keep repeating and pondering “How am I not myself?”

And once it sinks in, once you realize the absurdity of saying or even asking if you’re not yourself you in a sense free yourself from all expectations.
You cannot be anything but yourself. That doesn’t mean you’ll always be pleased with yourself. That you can’t improve yourself. Just that there is no need to worry if you’re yourself. Because you can’t be anyone but yourself.

(And yes, this means that, even given the good intentions, I’m not a huge fan of the “not myself” mental health campaign which implies that you can or should be someone different.)

Meta Blogging Thoughts, Memory and Song Lyrics

One thing I struggle with these blog posts is that I have a tendency to ramble on. The post on memory really could of gone in multiple direction. What got me thinking on the topic is actually that I couldn’t find the song with the lyrics I had in my head which were “And I wonder if you think of me too”

I’m figured out that the beat I had in my mind was from:

I think the part I was humming was “I don’t know if you feel the same as I do”. Really there are many parts in the song that are very close and it would easily fit in with the rest of the song.

Regardless, while writing the post on memory I was like… no one gives a shit about me humming the wrong lyrics. I should write something (put on monocle) erudite (a word for smart you’d in academia).

So then I was like, I can link it to the hypocrisy post. Or wait! I can link it about how we create our past selves and we fabricate a past that will justify our actions and somehow slide in that everyone needs to watch Memento. Seriously though, if you haven’t seen it, it’s my favourite movie of all time.

I think part of the problem causing this is that I somehow feel an obligation to have good content here. But I’m not exactly sure why…. For my 30 followers? For the 12 people who read the posts? It’s not like I’m trying to become an influencer or build my mailing list or something. It’s just legit random thoughts…. And yet…

Hypocrisy is the worst sin

Hypocrisy has been on my mind recently. Both in how it impacts my perception of others and how I try to recognize it more in myself.

When I think of fall from graces (mostly in politics) it’s not actually the action that person did. It’s how that action clashes with how they’ve presented themselves. The “locker room” talk from Donald Trump is a good example. It would of sunk many candidates, but it didn’t clash with what he said. In that respect, he wasn’t a hypocrite.

I think about this often. I worry that I’m a hypocrite in many respects. For example, I worry that I’m a hypocrite on climate change. I don’t do as much as many folks. I’m not saying I’m just going out there burning oil or anything. Oh wait, yes, I literally am. We use home heating oil to heat our house. Out where we live it’s almost the only option. We have plans to change to an electric heat pump, but that’s likely to be in 2021. So until then, we’re burning oil.

I also fly to the south every year. Yes, it’s for my health, and taking the train, or bus, down to Mexico isn’t really feasible, but still, the carbon cost is high. All that to say, there are many things that would make me a green hypocrite.

Another instance I’ve been noticing is in terms of others who either share some of my flaws or share some of my past flaws (in action or in thought).

I seem to have a very hard time having compassion for people who act or think just like my 25 year old self acted or thought. Not to mention people who, like my current self, are disorganized, not always on time, get distracted by shiny things, take on too much, are too hard on themselves etc etc.

I think that last one is particularly painful because of how much it exposes my current hypocrisy. I don’t have a fix for this. Yes, I’m trying to be more aware of it, catch it sooner and faster and “redress” as quickly as possible, but I think I’m far from where I could be.

All I can do is to try to make the feedback look of action to realization to change in behaviour faster every time.

Nondualism

I’ve always liked the idea of nondualism, I do sometimes struggle with it. I forget, I “other”, I assume bad intent, I lack compassion, etc.

Lucas wrote about it here: https://lucascherkewski.com/study/franklin-other-us/ which was a good reminder.

I find the problem is when I’m in the moment I often forget it. I might get back to it a bit later. Realize I lost it and then be compassionate in the past tense. I’m hoping it’s like all exercise, the more I practice it, the better it’ll be.

Remember the Past to Appreciate the Present

I really loved the Mass Effect video game, the whole trilogy in fact is amazing. One thing I still remember clearly is finishing Mass Effect and having this song come on during the credits:

From the start of the guitar to when the lyrics kick in, the song always spoke to me. While I was perhaps slightly better than in the past in 2008, it was still a pretty big mess. The feeling of longing, nostalgia and what I’ll call hopeful despair that I took from the song really made an impact on me at the time.

I identified with the lyrics, I had always up to that point struggled with being able to be a “full” person on my own. That I shouldn’t need anyone else that I used as a crutch. My happiness, my wisdom, my actions, they shouldn’t rely on there being someone else there with me (in particular as a romantic partner).

And I need you to recover
Because I can’t make it on my own

M4 Lyrics

A few books got me to accept the impossibility of that task. That humans were not built to be that way (by this I mean, being alone, not that the traditional concept of relationship is for everyone).

Once in a while the song comes up in one of my playlists. And it reminds me, in an almost nostalgic way, of the times when I really didn’t have my shit together.

Sometimes it’s good to remember the past to appreciate the present.

“What chance has made yours, is not really yours”

While this quote is again from Seneca, (Or Lucilius I guess?) I think it falls inline with the misattribution bias. Something that I think successful people often fall in the trap of. I am successful clearly because I am better, and not because of some random lucky breaks I go (especially including inherited wealth).

While not the same, I find them similar enough and the comic does a good job of explaining it.

Website traffic

So as much as I say that I’m writing for myself, it’s always interesting to see the traffic patterns. I can see why people become obsessed with Facebook’s algorithm and making it happy since it is what drives so much sporadic traffic. It’s kinda like the rats and birds that become superstitious, you just start to think that certain things will cause traffic.

All that to say, that no one seems to care about Seneca, but sadly for you, I don’t have anything more interesting at the moment (that’s probably a lie, but my thoughts on those topics are a bit scattered right now).

I think it’s also bit apropos that the topic of that post was on accepting and embracing helping one person and not many. Facebook and Twitter have conspired to make sure I really appreciate that point.

Think Globally, Act Locally

I’ve been thinking about this duality for a while, many years in fact. But for some reason, it showed up in multiple ways today.

I have a tendency to be a big picture person, I see it, and I want to get us there. The problem is that along that road there are a lot of small victories that need to be had. It’s often demoralizing if you know where you should be, and know how far ahead it still is.

Oddly enough, today’s letter of Seneca I read (#7) had these choice quotes:

“One man means as much to me as a multitude, and a multitude only as much as one man.”

Democritus

“I am content with few, content with one, content with none at all.”

“I write this not for the many, but for you; each of us is enough of an audience for the other.”

Epicurus

My take away for today is that while there are many big picture items I will strive towards, it’s only by taking small steps, by helping one person, improving one tool, that I’ll be able to achieve them.

If you see suffering, don’t feel sorry

I’ve straight up copy pasted that title from Maria here. I really enjoyed the blog post. I recommend reading all of it, but the tl;dr is this:

If you see someone go through a hard time, don’t feel sorry for them. It deprives them of agency. If you say you’re sorry, you’re saying they’re unable to deal with what is happening.

People are much wiser and stronger than we think. They have the power to use whatever challenge they’re facing as a tool for growth. The best you can do is to be their cheerleader. Say, I know it is hard, but I know you can make it.