Day 339

1PM:

I thought that the concept of the Uncarved Block

“According to Lao-tse [author of the oldest existing book of Tao-ism], the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance.  The more forcing, the more trouble. … Everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties.  When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable.  Only then did life become sour” (Hoff, 4).

“The essence of the principle of the Uncarved Block is that things [and people] in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed … ‘things in their natural state’” (10-11).

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun” (20).

“When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us … then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort.  Since the natural world follows that principle, it does not make mistakes.  Mistakes are made – or imagined – by man, the creature with the overloaded Brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard” (69-70).

…spoke to disruptions in sex, in emotion, in fatigue signals being the result of my disruptions in hunger.  By automating hunger, I disautomated the things of which the universe takes care.  I created difficulties and struggle and sourness and spoilage and overload and separation by messing with hunger.

It does not appear that that’s the case.  Based on our mistakes learnings, the disruptions in my hunger appear the same as the disruptions in sex, emotion, fatigue, gentleness.  The disruptions in all these appear to be because of difficulties and struggle and sourness and spoilage and overload and separation brought on by me messing with the “a lot / too much” principle.  They’ve been caused by me walking a very fine line between taking on a lot and taking on too much, probably on the latter side much more often than I’d like to admit.

My Uncarved Block is buried in black gook.  Our road of recovery, the path to reclaiming healthy, is about washing and scraping and chipping away that blackness surrounding my ME.

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Day 333

10AM:

In preparation for these often-mentioned, aforementioned next phase/lines, it’s time for reflection.

Before that though, since this reflection might lead to thoughts of MISTAKES, let’s go back…

If these are not mistakes for the sake of mistakes, stumbles and falters and collapses in themselves, we can gain strength and courage and respect and love from them.

Tao of Pooh on the true nature of wisdom: “In the final section of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse wrote, ‘The wise are not learned; the learned are not wise.’ … From the Taoist point of view, while the scholarly intellect may be useful for analyzing certain things, deeper and broader matters are beyond its limited reach” (24).  If we gain from our mistakes, in this way, they serve to make us wise.

Universal Post-It: “Remember, we all stumble; we have to fall before we fly.”

Keeping that in mind, it was not a mistake to try intuitive eating.  What I gained and learned from the experience:

  • I like drinking an enjoyable bottle of wine, even alone, but I’ve learned not to use it for nourishment and not to do it so often
  • I can trust what others cook for me
  • Soft counting isn’t bad and small differences don’t matter – my body takes care of it
  • Sitting down and reading does not really change appetite dramatically – body self-regulates through healing faster or slower, and therefore, rest allows the body to heal faster and burn more calories in the next workout
  • The fight the urge to eat systematically or by formula might be a created fight, but fighting the urge to “eat later” needs to happen (this is not a created fight, it is a necessary one)
    • Self-consciousness comes from the perception of portion counting, not through the act of it – and it is only after trying intuition that I have learned this
  • Suicidal and thoughts of self-harm increase when I’m stressed and hungry; portion counting becomes less of a source of fear and spinning and self-consciousness when I’m full and rested enough
  • We were thinking that numbing my hunger was responsible for numbing my sex drive, but the latter has not increased since trying intuitive eating – it doesn’t appear that I’m numbing everything else, and perhaps the true culprit is overstress

Now it’s time to reflect on what we’ve learned, what I’ve gained, what will allow us to make the next steps in recovery, in reclaiming healthy.

Day 290

7PM:

DO NOT LOOK AT THIS AGAIN!!!

Now that that is over with…

While it is true that my comments about Summer Reading are stuck in time, static and representative of the me in that moment, it is important to express how they impact me now.  Otherwise, and this would be a correction to yesterday, the commentary becomes meaningless, the writings become meaningless if I never comment.  And then I’m just one of those self-important douche-bags who start to bemoan the art (or make sound installations that make no noise…).

As such, I will reiterate – DO NOT LOOK AT THIS AGAIN, and in doing so, the words will always represent trueness and possibility.


So, the rest of the story is a dystopian mess, but Ursula K. LeGuin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” has a point here:

Joyous! How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas?
They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. … They were not less complex than us. The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy.

There is nobility in being strong, in not falling down.  However, there is nobility in peace, in quiet, in calm, in Tz’u.  There is no nobility, no honour in exhaustion, martyrdom that leaves you without power or capability to continue being a good person, being a Don.  There is no nobility in destruction and the dead tell no tales.  The dead get one celebration; the living celebrate every day they are grateful and appreciative.

And in the “weirdest finds” category (kind of like the one workable item in an otherwise crap-tastic antique shop), we have Tracy Hickman’s Wayne of Gotham:

“Gotham balances on the edge of an abyss, and I alone feel the weight of holding it precariously there.  What kind of a life is that?”

“An important life,” Alfred urged.  “A necessary life.  A life given so that others might live theirs.”

I’m the guardian.  Who guards the guardian? (220)

Doesn’t Wayne’s life suck as a result?  He is stuck being for the world, not of it, and as such, loses pieces of his care, of his potential, of his power of Tz’u.  If you care about the concept of people more than people themselves, losing sight of people, then disconnection is imminent, cynicism is resolved to and a life of lovelessness is guaranteed.

While not as good as his first novel (The Imperfectionists), Tom Rachman’s The Rise and Fall of Great Powers does include some truisms that we would be stupid to neglect:

According to the world, capitalism had won [the Cold War], but Humphrey called it a tie at best.  He couldn’t see capitalism lasting.  What was the point of any system, he asked, if it only encouraged the worst in humanity, elevating self-interest to a virtue? (61)

In the same vein as Batman, it is not a life of Tz’u, a life of love — fuck that, it is not a LIFE to neglect care and ignore Intentional Acts of Niceness in the way or system in which you live (that’s why veganism suits me fine).

Family meant nothing more than did random names in a telephone directory.  The relations that counted were those of choice, which made friendship the supreme bond, one that either party could sever, and all the more valuable for its precariousness. (73)

It is not a LIFE to take the quality of bonds for granted and not be intentional or aware of that precariousness, thereby taking the people for granted.

Her only unease was a hovering sense of responsibility – that she ought to be looking after someone.  But there was no one anymore, just herself, which seemed so frivolous. (371)

It is not a LIFE to live without people-purpose, to live without love.

She resolved to blunt her flintier side, not to assume that she understood people entirely, and to accept that to be surprised or disappointed or even betrayed was not a catastrophe.  It could be a revelation to learn that you were wrong (372).

It is not a LIFE to lose the humanity in you, in the way you live, by trying to predict perfectly, to control wholly, to try to out-think the universe, to allow your head to dictate your nature (a la Tao of Pooh).  Give the universe its due, it has been around much longer than you.

At the beginning of this literary trek, the world lost a legend, Maya Angelou.  No books of her’s were read, but her words are loudest:

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Intentional Acts of Niceness = focus on the people, not the act; focus on what is meaningful to them, on how it will make them feel; love people the way that you can, but as much in the way that they will receive it.

“You may not control all of the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Gratitude and Appreciation = “what’s one good thing about your day?” — looking at the best of the world, as opposed to the worst; there will be shit thrown at you, but you can decide to cry or make mudpies – I will make mudpies!

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Writing has helped me immensely.  Putting a stopper in myself, keeping it inside, also keeps the blackness in, keeps its torment and its toxicity and its absolute power over emotion.  Writing this down, connecting with other writers, communicating with my wife, talking to my support system (when I could), these things released pieces of the blackness that held onto my silence.  I try to ensure that my students have the same ability to share, the same ability to release pieces of their blackness with a safe space, an ever-present ear and a kind word.

“One isn’t necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest.”

It is interesting how the wisest words often are shared by the wisest ones.  While different and generationally distant, Taoism, Winnie the Pooh (Benjamin Hoff) and Maya Angelou all believe in Tz’u.  They all believe that care, kindness, truth, generosity, honesty and goodness, that these things all start with being courageous, with being able to manifest the first step, and then the second step, and then the third.  By doing courageously – which sometimes means doing without knowing the outcome, which probably means falling down and getting back up, and which definitely means being frightened and not having that stop you – that potential for care becomes limitless, infinite.

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”

Love conquers all.

Day 264

10AM:

When I smile at you on the bus or hand back the rest of a gift card or help you with your bags, it is an IAN.  It is an Intentional Act of Niceness.  It is because the world would be better with more love and niceness and care in it.

It is because I know what it feels like to not have that.  My regular place of work, the thing that has the ability (when my support system cannot or doesn’t compensate) to take away my gentle, is lacking in IANs.  Benjamin Hoff explains, through the all-seeing eyes of Eeyore:

“‘Not conversing,’ said Eeyone.  ‘Not first one and then the other.  You said “Hallo” and Flashed Past.  I saw your tail in the distance as I was meditating my reply.  I had thought of saying “What?” – but, of course, it was then too late.’  ‘Well, I was in a hurry.’  ‘No Give and Take,’ Eeyore went on.  ‘No Exchange of Thought: “Hallo – What” – I mean, it gets you nowhere, particularly if the other person’s tail is only just in sight for the second half of the conversation'” (96).

Making others feel loved, or even worth it, that takes care, attention, niceness — intention.  I am on the bus (because I want to leave a car to make my parents and brother’s lives easier) going to my grandparents to help them prepare their house for sale, doing the things that they would otherwise be alone to do because I love them.  No — I’m doing it so that I attend to that love, intentionally doing what many other members of the family can’t find time to do (but who will send you an email on your birthday or RECEIVE a birthday phone message from you, without response).  I’m doing it because Intentional Acts of Niceness attend to love, foster it and make it grow.  IANs are my mission!

Day 263

8AM:

We will make mistakes.  We will stumble, we will falter, we will collapse.  But we’re still on the road, we’re still on the path, we’re still in recovery.  Looking back on the last nearly eight months, there have been lists and plans and lines to set the recovery on the me path, on the us path.  Some of these have worked and worked masterfully.  Some of these have worked for a time, for that version of me, but no longer, not for the more colourful, soulful me.  And others have practically not worked, even if theoretically they “should.”

We cannot hold these against ourselves, let them be the burdensome, cumbersome prevention.  By that, I mean we cannot let them prevent us from moving forward, let the blackness take hold of them and use it as ammunition for spiral thinking and self-hate and mind-fucking attacks.  I have not been eating breakfast for the week I’ve been back.  I eat twice and act as if eating two times a day means a smaller margin for error, less of a chance for me to eat too much.  But because I’m oblivious to my hunger cues at Meal 2 (as I wrote a couple of days ago, traditionally hungry is not what I’m being aware of), there is actually a larger guessing game when preparing this meal, more of a chance for me to eat disproportionately, to eat out of my nature.  As such, it is a bad habit, one that the blackness has taken a hold of, feeding off my insecurity and using it against me, turning it into a bitter flaw and causing me to make daily mistakes.  These mistakes may not have served to propel us forward on the path of recovery, but they have the ability to give to the wisdom that makes recovery that much more powerful.  The strength of recovery, the respect for what works and what doesn’t, the love and courage that drive us forward – these are intertwined with the wisdom acquired along the path.

In Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff writes the following about the true nature of wisdom: “In the final section of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse wrote, ‘The wise are not learned; the learned are not wise.’ … From the Taoist point of view, while the scholarly intellect may be useful for analyzing certain things, deeper and broader matters are beyond its limited reach” (24).

If these are not mistakes for the sake of mistakes, stumbles and falters and collapses in themselves, we can gain strength and courage and respect and love from them.  Being respectful of one day at a time only came from looking too far ahead.  The closeness of failing together ends not with error, but with loving embraces.  Bitter loss serves as an emboldening, one that strengthens the courageous ferocity in the true versions of ourselves.

A post-it note once told me an important life lesson: “remember, we all stumble; you have to fall before you fly.”  I will eat breakfast tomorrow, knowing the problems it causes later in the day with hunger cues, drinking and respecting my true nature.  If we gain from our mistakes, in this way, they serve to make us wise.

Day 261

4PM:

I am still trying to break through the facade of nobility around being exhausted.  It is a flaw in me right now.  Busy is fine, that is the imperfection version of this, but exhausted leads to blackness.  I spent three of the last four days “off” doing chores – inside the house, errands outside the house, things I’ve wanted to get done for the 30/29 working month of July (and no, that does not mean bonus marks).  Yesterday afternoon I sat, thinking I could do so without the demons running through my skull, shaming me, yelling at me, telling me I will put on weight for doing something that my body needs.  I was so very wrong.  I collapsed; I didn’t rest.  I collapsed both mentally and physically and I’m not better for it, because my head, my soul took a beating.  It was a struggle to rest, but does it have to be this way?  What if I had taken the four days and spread the chores among them?  Or what if I prioritized resting above snaking the toilet or cleaning the floors, either of which could have waited a week?

I am spending today helping friends move, exhausted.  I will spend much of next week helping my grandparents prepare their basement for moving, exhausted.  There is an opportunity afterwards: five days.  Five days that I could use to prioritize rest.

As we have seen, I cannot fully rest without being at least a little busy, it is not good for me personally, for the now version of me.  Right now, I can no longer sit and veg in front of the TV for a day, watching movie after movie or reading book after book (maybe someday, if this is my nature, my trueness).  Forcing myself to be someone I am not, even if that is just the version of me (in the present stage of recovery), that is giving the blackness strength.  I have already written about the Tao of Pooh‘s caution of fighting against one’s nature.  Benjamin Hoff also writes about this in reference to people trying (or being forced to try) to be someone they are not:

  • “Let’s start with the first part: ‘A fly can’t bird, but a bird can fly.’  Very simple. … And yet, you’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.  We will let a selection from the writings of Chuang-tse illustrate: Hui-tse said to Chuang-tse, ‘I have a large tree which no carpenter can cut into lumber.  Its branches and trunk are crooked and tough, covered with bumps and depressions.  No builder would turn his head to look at it.  Your teachings are the same – useless, without value. … [Chuang-tse replied,] a huge yak is not easily caught or overcome.  It stands like a stone, or a cloud in the sky.  But for all its strength, it cannot catch a mouse.  You complain that your tree is not valuable, as lumber.  But you could make use of the shade it provides, rest under its sheltering branches, and stroll beneath it, admiring its character and appearance. … It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.’  In other words, everything has its own place and function” (39-40).
  • “‘A fish can’t whistle and neither can I.’ … There’s nothing wrong with not being able to whistle, especially if you’re a fish.  But there can be lots of things wrong with blindly trying to do what you aren’t designed for.  Fish don’t live in trees, and birds don’t spend too much time underwater if they can help it.  Unfortunately, some people – who always seem to think they’re smarter than fish and birds, somehow – aren’t so wise, and end up causing big trouble for themselves and others” (43).
  • “That doesn’t mean that we need to stop changing and improving.  It just means that we need to recognize What’s There” (43).

I like being busy and being useful, but I cannot do either of those things if I am lying to my Mom and friends about how exhausted I am, grinning and bearing it.  There is no nobility in letting people down, and just because I’ve been able to do it up to this point, I have also seen that doing so strips pieces of my soul away, causes me to regress into the blackness.  Perhaps experimentation is needed…

What if I used these five days to break through the nobility of exhaustion?  What if I did prioritize resting on the “to do” list?  The old way isn’t working, so we must find a new one.  This is a bad habit, one which we must recover from to survive the oncoming: two jobs in September, working weekends and weekdays and the days in between; starting my Masters at the same time; going back to a frosty work environment.

This is our time to find a new way, perhaps a way that works best for the me version of me.  So during this experiment, I limit myself to two things per day out of an active (running, biking, working out), an outdoor chore (groceries), a house chore (mowing the lawn, vacuuming, laundry).  The rest of the day must prioritize rest and see if this drives me nuts.  Five days, that’s all.  I was able to stop portion counting (ok, still eating flawed and I am having a hard time being back at home and listening to my nature, but to stop counting was a giant step).  I and my support system (I will need them to “pick up the slack,” to be kind and patient with my discomfort and to be loving) are strong enough to do this.  We are wise enough to know that this is doable, one day at a time.  The blackness shouldn’t be too bad, should it…?

Day 260

3PM:

In keeping with the last few days’ posts about reclaiming my beautiful imperfections, breaking bad habits (ok, so yesterday and the day before and the day before and today up until now are BAD examples), I will look up for the rest of today.  I will enjoy like Pooh Bear enjoys living in the now: “‘Owl, you’re just confusing things,’ I said.  ‘This is the day after Tuesday, and it’s not Thirds – I mean, Thursday.’  ‘Then what is it?’ asked Owl.  ‘It’s Today!‘ squeaked Piglet.  ‘My favorite day,’ said Pooh” (27-28).

Pooh recognizes that the best day is the one you are in.  I will try to live one of those days today and relax.

And I will do so by both literally and metaphorically respecting the simple phrase on the outside of the Mennonite Church yesterday.  One that I have found wisdom in before, their weekly message to the drivers going by, the parishioners going in and all those who need the IAN:

BE STILL