0.1 | Lies
You have a life. I have one too.
You live it, you accept that things happen.
You disallow other things. You choose one thing over another. Sometimes it's a choice, a gut feeling. Sometimes an excruciating discovery of priorities.
Why is something coveted, and something else, an entitlement?
A word so casually tossed around, like it means something. Like it isn't something we pipe dreamed into existence.
"Find your values, let them guide you, don't let others get in the way of them."
I read it, I feel better. It's the answer to existentialism. Mental masturbation.
But do I trust myself to do that? To know? To value?
I'm frustrated, I recall. I don't even know what I want anymore.
I hear a voice, my conscience. What does it say? Are those my values?
"Go. Don't go there, don't do that. You shouldn't have said that. You should have said that. You should have stood up for yourself. Do the thing. Stop wasting your time. You're wasting your life. Say something. Reach out to them. What do you really have to lose? Just say no. Do that instead. Stop."
Despondent reorientation, ridden with guilt, bereft of satisfaction.
That's not what I want.
Actions betray my ideals
My family, my friends, my health, my internal calm, my flow, love, music, freedom, curiosity – all my supposed values.
I want to be free. But I cower from my dreams.
I want to feel alive. I run away from discomfort.
I want love. I ignore it.
The phone rings. I let it.
I try to learn it. I'm not enough this time.
I sit still. I can't.
My active values, opaque to me, executing my life. Me, a marionette of my own existence.
I find the shortcuts. The lies. The dopamine chimera.
Sugar over movement. Action over intention. Scrolling over play. Desire over love.
My deeper, hidden self, is manifested at night, in the darkness of solace.
I can't sleep.
Lies to myself
Actions are the manifestations of the inner self.
The discord of trauma, false beliefs, coping mechanisms, cultural pressures, all murk the internal world. They cause us to construct ideas of who we are, who others are, and what the world is, that is not in agreement with reality.
The Buddhists say that "life itself is suffering". Not a visceral suffering, like a stab or a wound. Instead it's a suffering garnered from the reconciliation of the version of the world we have in our minds with the version that exists in reality.
I thought I was addressing the important aspects of my life, my values. I was lying to myself. My actions betrayed my false ideals.
I thought emotional disconnection was resilience, to withdraw rather than to resolve. This was a lie. My body kept the score.
I thought the life I was living – by my own accounts a comfortable and privileged life that I had worked hard to attain – was gratifying to me. It wasn't. That too was a lie.
I found ways to distract myself from this horror of responsibility. Of the agency that in my life, my decisions are all ones that I must not only orienteer but fully accept the resulting tradeoffs.
Emotional state changes offer alluring distractions from these choices. Obsession with work. Alcohol, weed, caffeine, sugar, sex, relentless action. Anything to distract from the internal hollow despair.
But those distractions prolong the emptiness, they mask it for the briefest of moments. Reality, eventually, always must be contended with. Life itself is suffering.
"What's your addiction? Is it money? Is it girls? Is it weed?
I've been afflicted by not one, not two, but all three."
Values demarcate the boundaries of choice. But having them doesn't change the choice of action. Action is a constant personal decision. A honest persistent analysis of one's true intentions.
I can change my values, or change my actions. I don't get another option.
What I ignore persists. The demons get stronger, the consequences of a decision more unbearable. Empty wallowing is alluring, but it's the trap of despair, a desperate attempt to give up the only faculty I really have, agency.
I have to face myself.
Distance from ∞
We judge. A lot. On anything, on anyone.
It's a mirror really. A reflection of our own ideals, our choices, our lies, our insecurities, reflected on the shiny canvas of another's actions.
We don't really truly understand most people's intentions. Their values.
They probably don't either. We mirror. They hurt.
We continually harangue them. We berate, we rip apart relationships. We impose our view of the world. Does it work? No. We do it anyways.
We judge ourselves. Everyday.
We compare our abyss with theirs. They've seen more, been more, done more, felt more. They are closer to the ideal, farther from the abyss, a disguised despair and fear that we ourselves aren't capable of filling the void.
Every ideal. Our judge.
What we want to be, but are always short of becoming.
The distance from infinity is always infinity. Unobtainable.
I obsess with the distance. How far I am from where I want to be. How long I have to go.
Months seem like an eternity. I should have been there by now.
Any progress is unbearably slow. Will I ever finish? Will I ever get there?
I constantly worry about where I need to be, rather than where I am – the next step I can actually take. It's the ultimate distraction, a retreat into my own head.
I don't want to notice where I am. I don't want gratitude for my work so far, for the gifts others have given me. That presence requires me to accept that I am where I am, and I am who I am, forever imperfect, forever striving, forever degrees removed from the ideals I haven't even properly set for myself.
It's the waking up from a dream.
The weary despondency that even an imperfect life, with its flaws, mistakes, and learnings, is still a beautiful one, and the only one I can live.
"Beauty is the harvest of presence."
– David Whyte (Beauty, Consolations)
I watch. I notice. I reorient. I wince. The unknown.
The abyss beckons.
I can't wait anymore. No more lies. No more distractions.
I want to be alive. I chose to be alive.
I take the first step. I'm not "there". "There" is a mirage anyways, a siren hoping to distract my presence. It's worked before. Maybe not this time.
Every weighted step, a reorientation of myself. A self that is always changing, but maybe now, I can choose to bear witness to the change.
"But it's just a step", I think.
"It's the only one that matters."