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Kelly J. Cooper

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Small Paws [Jun. 20th, 2009|08:00 am]
Kelly J. Cooper
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This is one of those "did I miss it? am I an alien?" questions.

I'm guessing other people feel like this, but I don't want to assume, because it gets me in trouble. And then I have to recite the stupid "makes an ass of u and me" phrase, which I hate with the violent passion of angry ninjas battling killer bees.

I feel like I'm always going a million miles an hour and never have time to stop and think and evaluate how my life is going. So today (well, maybe yesterday now, I dunno, the days and nights are getting a little blurry) I stopped and I thought.

I asked myself, "How are things going?"

And, I got nuthin. No real answer. Sort of a "on what scale?" kind of mental response.

I mean, I'm not happy. There are a lot of things I wish I were doing that I'm not. A lot of changes I want to make, but I don't know where to start. I've done a lot of work, through personal reflection, therapy, and exercises like resolutions, mind maps, and lists of things I want to do or always wished I would do.

But it's all a big messy tangle, a jumble in my head. I can't really make sense of it, partly because there's no recognizable underlying structure.

I want to tease out the threads and review some of the fuzzy bits. I want to go over what's good for me and what's bad for me and then find ways to get around or distract myself from doing the bad stuff and reward/focus on the good stuff.

I want to figure out my own scale of good to bad and put stuff on it, so I can look at their values in relation to each other.

I want to plan out my future more, make a map or find a path toward where I want to be. Of course, I also need to figure out where I want to be, cuz I don't really know.

Anyway. There's not a standard way to do this, right? This is why there are thousands of self-help books out there? Because humans haven't really figured out good, universal ways to do this?

Yes? No? Maybe?
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: lillibet
2009-06-20 12:44 pm (UTC)
Right. People find their own paths toward their own goals in their own ways. There's no universal way to do this.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:34 am (UTC)
Thank you!
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2009-06-20 12:47 pm (UTC)
So, I was going to respond "Actually, understanding how the pieces of your life fit together, knowing what your values are, deciding what you achieve in the future and planning a route to get there... these are the kinds of things that everyone else does easily. It's a solved problem. The fact that you experience these things as a messy jumble is a unique property."

But I wasn't sure you'd appreciate the joke.

Of course this stuff is hard, and complicated, and jumbled up. Of course the structure is hard to see. It's your life we're talking about, not a toy problem in a philosophy class; if the edges were easy to see and the structure easy to understand, then you'd have reason to worry about the sheer circumscribedness of it. It's big and expansive and messy and has internal contradictions. It's a hundred-thousand-gallon vat of stone soup, filled with all the crazy-ass ingredients anyone thought to throw in there along with all the stuff you brought yourself and then left to bubble for decades, and it's never going to fit neatly on a chart. That's the glory of it.

That said, it sounds like you're asking the right questions to help you engage with it fully, which seems like a good thing.

I might add to that list "What's fun? What makes you smile, or laugh out loud? Do more of that."
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:36 am (UTC)
I get sarcasm! I do!

But I actually enjoyed the serious response more anyway.

My friends make me laugh. I clearly need more of that.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2009-06-21 03:49 am (UTC)
(nods) I don't doubt you get sarcasm; it was just hard to tell how vulnerable you were feeling, y'know?

Glad to make you laugh, though.

You deserve happiness.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:41 am (UTC)
There was a turning point for me, a number of years ago, when I decided that I was tired of being mean.

I wasn't pinching-babies mean, but more that my sense of humor was biting and my exasperation with willful ignorance and blatant stupidity encouraged me to swear loudly (at them or near them) with great enthusiasm.

But I couldn't do that and also be nice to strangers and smile at clerks and chitchat with the folks making my sammiches, etc.

So I picked nice. Turns out it's hard to be nice a lot of the time.

But stopping to smell flowers and talk baby-talk to puppies (well, all dogs, if I'm being honest with myself) and pet strange cats and lean down to read small graffiti and walk slow and talk to homeless people all help keep the nicer part of me more present and easier to access than the cranky part of me.

Thus, I agree with you. A lot.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2009-06-21 03:55 am (UTC)
“My mother used to tell me, ‘Elwood…in this world you must be oh so clever, or oh so kind.’ I’ve been clever. I recommend kind.” (Harvey)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 04:17 am (UTC)
Currently my absolute favorite quote in the world, actually.
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[User Picture]From: metagnat
2009-06-20 01:40 pm (UTC)
There's definitely no universal path. In fact, there are about as many as there are people.
-E

Edited at 2009-06-20 01:41 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:42 am (UTC)
That's both heartening and disheartening at the same time.
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[User Picture]From: metagnat
2009-06-21 12:58 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I know what you mean...

I don't think that means you can't learn anything from someone else's experience, though. I just think you'll apply it in your own way.

-E
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-06-20 04:50 pm (UTC)
You betcha it is hard. I have yet to figure out the "where do I want to be" part. I work with an image of flowing along with the river of the universe, trying to get through the rapids, not hit any large rocks and every once and a while resting in a calm pool. Things like 5 year plans have NEVER worked for me. One of the difficult parts is trying to figure out if a particularly difficult time is a bit of whitewater or am I swimming upstream? Sometimes it takes a while to figure that part out; and I cannot even discuss it without resorting to the use of metaphors. I do agree with Redcolumbine, sometimes the small things turn out to be the most important. I do feel that it is vital to keep working at it, you have to find what works for you.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:43 am (UTC)
I don't think metaphors are a bad thing.

I'm not sure there IS a language for discussing these types of things without either sounding like a poser or requiring an advanced degree in Psychology.

Five year plans haven't worked for me either.
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[User Picture]From: earthlien
2009-06-20 09:01 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure the answers to the first two questions are "no" and "quite the opposite."

I assert you're simply able to articulate the existence problems 50-90% of earth humans feel, and a large fraction of that group would be unable to articulate the problem. But humans could surprise me.

I would like to see the following graph:

  • x axis: time (past 100k years)
  • y axis: % of earth population who experiences your mental scenario every month
  • z axis: culture/locality of the earthers who feel it

Any non-earthers out there who possess this observation data, please follow up...

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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:44 am (UTC)
Hmm. I bet you there would be big spikes in the first world countries, concentrated around the cities.
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[User Picture]From: rmd
2009-06-20 09:05 pm (UTC)
yeah. almost nobody knows. there are some folks i know who seem to have things planned out. they're going to do thus and so, and they are finding the path to do it and then laying out what happens next. there's not a lot of them. the rest of us seem to just sort of wander through -- sometimes there's a critical juncture and you get to choose this way or that way, but a lot of the time the decisions happen without me noticing i'm making them.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:46 am (UTC)
Do you want to have more of an idea of where you've been and what you're doing? Or are things pretty much fine for you in the wandering place?

Because I often feel like everyone's wandering, with various degrees of discontent/happiness, and I'm one of the few people fighting with how the fuck to unfold the map.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2009-06-21 03:58 am (UTC)
Can't speak for Regis, natch, but I do.
I've just failed at it so consistently for so long that I'm scared to try.
And, hey, the weather's pleasant and the scenery is nice and wandering isn't so bad.
And then I notice that I just kinda lose decades with nothing to show for them.
(shrug)
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[User Picture]From: rmd
2009-06-21 04:03 am (UTC)
yeah. sometimes i'll think about stuff and think "shit, wait, that was 12 years ago. what the fuck happened to those 12 years?"
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 04:23 am (UTC)
I think that what you're describing is totally cool so long as you're OK with it.

My problem, more or less, is that I'm mostly doing that, but I'm not really content with it.

Although, when I look back, I can see a few places where I had a sequence of events going in the right direction before I got knocked off the tracks (mostly with regard to my career: the detours included losing a mentor in one case, getting reorganized in another, then having the company where I worked declare bankruptcy in a third path).

I think what I'd like is to be better able to recognize opportunities and obstacles in the present tense and seize or avoid them, as relevant.
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2009-06-21 12:54 pm (UTC)
(nods) That sounds like a good goal.

And yeah, like you were saying, that depends on knowing what you want, knowing what your values are... being enmeshed in a gradient field. Which is a good thing, and I wish you all success with it.
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[User Picture]From: rmd
2009-06-21 04:02 am (UTC)
it varies. sometimes i feel like i'm sort of drifting along but i like the direction i'm drifting. sometimes i feel like i want to change my direction and i can feel like maybe i'm nudging the trim tab on the rudder (to borrow bucky fuller's metaphor) and believe i'll see results eventually. and sometimes i feel absolutely trapped by the parts of my life i am unahppy with.
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 04:27 am (UTC)
Huh. Makes total sense.

Do the parts of your life where you nudge the trim tab map to a specific space?

For instance, in replying to Dave above, I realized that I did some good stuff in directing my career in a smart direction for a while. But I got derailed by circumstances.

And I've tried to work on my social skills in a kind of directed way, but that seems to have an almost spasmodic pattern to it.

But I haven't done a lot with my emotional life or my physical in-this-house life. And I've done very little with my desires in terms of doing things I love or working on things where I want to achieve success in some sort of organized fashion.
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[User Picture]From: gem225
2009-06-21 03:41 am (UTC)
There's no standard way to do this. Everyone has to find her own way. It sucks, but I believe that it's worth it (haven't gotten there myself either).

*hugs* I miss you. Thank you for the postcard. :-)
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[User Picture]From: kjc
2009-06-21 03:48 am (UTC)
Hey, miss you too! I'll be in the Picnic on Sunday if you're feeling like coming into town.

There's finding your own way and then there's following the paths of others, but having your own experiences.

I'm not sure if I'm actually expressing myself well or just pooping out metaphors, though.
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