A Point of True

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the subjective truth.

Tag: Depression

What are you made of?

It’s Wednesday. You’ve finished two days at your job. Conversations, work and the general humdrum rhythm of everyday life keep you occupied. Occasionally in moments of involuntary isolation, on a commute, in the washroom or within the first few minutes of reaching home, a thought crosses your mind.

Concrete landscape

Beyond building blocks and space

‘What am I doing with my life?’

 What you are doing at this point is reviewing the quality of your narrative, wondering if this would really make for a great story. If you have ever used a search engine, you know that the answer you want is almost entirely dependent on the question you ask. That, dear reader, is the point of this piece.

There must be more to this.

 What do I mean by ‘more’? How much ‘more’ and of what? What is ‘this’ anyway?

Our constant search for meaning can be frustrating, but it is what has kept this species moving along, this inherent drive to discover, create and exceed. To sate this need, we use relationships, science, religion work and anything else that might ease our need for understanding. We swap behaviours (“my resolution is…”), appearances (“a complete makeover sounds great!”), and schools of thought (“I used to be an atheist, but now I’m agnostic”).

Preoccupation and to some extent philosophical enquiry, however, are just ways to navigate the mire. And before you can traverse a journey, it may be important to ask what you’re working with. Perhaps the more pertinent question to ask is ‘what am I made of?’

 Flesh and bones or heart and soul, what exactly am I made of?

 Our sentience, power of agency and imagination differentiate us from other beings. You are not a self-fulfilling prophecy or a narrative seeking to reach a fruitful end. You are a person. A unique entity, made unique by conditioning, practice, memories, and imagination. Your senses are constantly at work analyzing your physical environment and your social context to create a picture of the world as you see it, your ‘reality’. Yes, physical limitations can change the way you explore aspects of your life, as can financial, social and emotional constraints, but that only adds to the uniqueness.

‘Nothing is impossible’, they said.

The social web has reduced fifteen minutes of fame to a microsecond spent on a small screen flying beneath an unsuspecting thumb, a phenomenon that hasn’t just warped our perception of success but magnified our capacity for comparison. This also instills in us some interesting conundrums. A moderately accurate understanding of ability is combined with a burning need to transcend our context.

If you’re still with me, pay close attention. Validation does not determine your relevance. Ambition does. A desire to understand yourself does. The intrinsic curiosity for life does. Know that not having an answer still means that you asked the question. Meaning isn’t linear, it’s the process of discovery. Being constantly connected has meant that our minds are in overdrive, having us fret over falling behind in a race we never signed up for, that we aren’t even running. There’s no need to run. Think about where you are just now, sat at home unwinding, traveling to meet a friend or taking a break at work. Take a moment and remember the last joke you told or heard or the last story that made you think. And now, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, ‘what am I made of?’

Leave an answer in the comments. I’d love to have a chat.

Fighting with inspiration

Insights. Audience insights. Stereotypes backed by retrofitted research.

“Heck, I don’t want to be a number, I’m a person.”

Man in jacket stargazing; looking for inspiration

Inspiration. Is it out there?

Guess what? You’re both. And when you combine the infinite (perceived) complexity and emotional spectrum of being a person with the drudgery of being a number, like capitalism seeks to do with resources (sometimes known as people), you end up with a very different beast. Enter the creative foot soldier. This is the ‘intrapreneur’ who thinks innovatively, raising the bar each day, engaging people ‘internal’ and ‘external’ alike, all with a smile.

Bosses, workloads, unemployment, marriage, singledom, weight, the future, the past, what you want to eat for dinner and not having any dinner to eat, each of these is an equally valid, prevalent, and qualified stressor. If any of these bother you, read on. If they don’t, please send me a recent photograph of you so I can build an altar to worship at.

Now that we’ve set context, let’s get to the point. Drudgery is a non-negotiable. It’s as intrinsic to the human condition as death and taxes. This can be quite difficult to tackle, especially for sentient beings with a cerebral cortex capable of fueling a rather fertile imagination.

‘Sometimes, I want to just give up, but I can’t. And that’s just difficult.’

Is there really a way out of the rat race? Will we ever find our purpose? Too frustrated with your current situation and too scared to try anything else – the Stockholm syndrome that binds you to your monotony. It can seem like the grass on the other side is just disappointment waiting to be trod on. Go online and you stumble upon thousands of stories of those who ‘made it’. Endless and seemingly scientific pontification about grit and luck peddling a story built in hindsight to a crowd hungry for meaning.

‘How will I ever get through this? Is this all there is?’

 I have an answer or at least I think I do. Inspiration. The problem, in my view, is in trying to stay ‘motivated’. Motivation, you see, is a stimulus, a precursor to an action, maybe a catalyst if ability and willingness are assumed. It can easily be suppressed by exhaustion, ridicule masquerading as jest (a rather common show of ‘affection’ in modern ‘friendships’) and a sudden change of plans or goals. Inspiration, however, is a process, one that creates an environment. It is a state of mind that with enough practice you can will yourself into, something a sportsperson might call ‘being in the zone’. This is a space where sentences seemingly string themselves together, people react favorably, your life starts to seem more productive and you start to seem, well, the limitations of language strike again, happy.

Inspiration (noun) – the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative
Motivation (noun) – A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a certain way

The best part about inspiration is that it isn’t an end goal as much as it is a conduit to constant improvement. The order of greatness or inspiration isn’t a chicken-and-egg problem. An inspired mind does great things. Greatness doesn’t bring inspiration, but is accentuated by inspiration.

So how does any of this work? Simple. It is focus and repetition that make up the mastery of any practice, and inspiration is no different.

I’m not expecting you to waltz from depression into creative mania. Start small and start easy. You are not defined by what has happened to you but by what you’ll do with it. Look to begin your day with being thankful for what you have. If you don’t think you have much, thank yourself for your sanity. Thank yourself for the fact that you can read what’s been written here and derive meaning from a set of symbols on a screen. It’s not an ability you should take lightly.

Let the emptiness and pointlessness of what you’re feeling hit you like a truck, life’s best experienced that way. When you’re going to sleep and the noise within pushes you to open your eyes, don’t. For another five minutes, let it overwhelm you, feel every inch of your body and soul ache with the random chaos you’ve grown weary of. And then, use that base to build something. Wake up knowing that you will isolate your state of mind, your inspired state of mind, from your circumstances, because you really can’t control the latter.

The qualities you need to realise your vision for a successful life – attention, inspiration, strength and endurance – are finite. These also grow through practice, the benefits compounding over each of day of effort, a wall built brick by brick. Lay a brick down.

To you who wanted to say something in that meeting today but didn’t

To you who actually quite likes your job, but won’t say so for fear of standing out

To you who doesn’t like starting sentences with ‘here’s my idea’ or ‘I’m good at’

To you who wakes up wondering ‘really? Is this it?’

Keep fighting. Stay inspired.

It really is the truest statement of anarchy against an increasingly dystopian world narrative.

The unbearable virtue of cleaning

The uncluttered comes to a head

The uncluttered comes to a head

The mind has a funny way of racing at the quietest of times. It’s almost some sort of thermodynamic balance between the internal and the external. It is in these moments that I’ve told myself to focus on a hobby, something that you do for the sake of doing something and perhaps, in some cases, even to the point of mastery.

Food is one area I’d found solace in – both cooking and eating. Creating food can be quite a rewarding experience, especially for the pedantic. For years, the solace of creating an elaborate meal helped immerse the mind. The absence of a kitchen in my current digs has put paid to that option.

There we are then. Under the sheets wanting to make more of ‘quality leisure’, especially now having read about the benefits of focused recreation. ‘It rehabilitates the mind’ (excellent!), ‘invigorates the soul’ (serious?), and ‘supercharges creativity’ (where do I sign up?).

The desire to do everything and the motivation to do nothing can, however, throw up a fair few obstacles. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll associate with the glorious daydreams of success and the catatonic stupor even the thought of getting yourself some water could induce. And then, looking around, you come to a point. Not quite a halt, but not quite a path you associate with continuity or discovery.

That’s when it happened. ‘Why don’t you clean?’ (this is internal dialogue, please be rest assured that there are more poignant moments, it’s in my best interest to believe that). But cleaning? Surely there’s a better alternative. Cleaning is ephemeral, repetitive, time-consuming and requires focus to do well, hardly the sort of vision for your afternoon that drives the mind to sensorial overload. ‘Isn’t that exactly what you need?’ (see, I told you we could be poignant).

I stick on a podcast (This American Life, great soundtrack for catatonic stupor) and begin to clean. First, the bin bags that reveal the oddness of every object you’ve interacted with during the week, a repository of the residue your life is leaving behind. Bin bags all done, I move to the dreaded Level 2 – clothes. ‘Should I fold this like the laundry does or just go with the sideways fold?’ Mildly disturbed that this discourse is even taking place, I proceed to just take a call and grab life by the proverbial danglers. One folding style for the shirts and the casual, more home-baked approach for the bottoms. Eclectic!

Halfway through I start to feel more productive. It helps that the room looks a lot less cluttered and, over time, I’ve realized that this always has a knock-on effect on the mind. I was speaking to a friend a couple of weeks ago. This was the kind of friend who would categorize Sisyphean conundrums as ‘chat’. Discussing the monotony that comes with adult life in the capitalist world, he proceeded to reference the Gita. “Sometimes you just do things for the virtue of doing them. Not everything will have an end.”

That’s what cleaning means to me. Simple, transitory, immersive and rewarding. Our minds are still in the process of being understood – biochemical, intuitive, emotional and rational in equal measure. There’s little we can do but do something.  Do something for the virtue of doing it, the unbearable virtue of conscious monotony. Something for the virtue of having life in your veins and a soul thriving on the possibility of an intriguing construct.

So, get out from under the sheets, go fold a shirt, straighten out some books, and do it without an end in sight.

I’d say more, but those clothes aren’t going to sort themselves.

P.S. For those of you who can’t contain your curiosity, I chose to go with the laundry-style fold. 

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