Sunday, August 5, 2012

Unfit: A Listing Out of Vices

Once again I arise to cast away all doubts about my supposedly being dead in a ditch -- in the off chance such a rumor has been spreading -- to do a bout of rambling, though I'll leave without any promises to keep up a regular schedule -- which may revive rumors of me being dead in a ditch (if the tabloids pay attention). Vicious circle.

Cue the Charlie Brown sigh. Oh, I have to admit that I'm deeply frustrated with myself and my life, and not just in my consistent failure to keep up a writing schedule here, but in almost all aspects of my life. Of especial shame is that, at this point, it seems like I might fail the majority of the goals I set for myself this year given my utmost difficulty with the primary one, pulling myself together emotionally and healing, which is sabotaging the others. Though, to look at the goals in terms of their relative value, if I do obtain the primary goal, then it would still be a worthwhile year, regardless. I've got to view it in terms of priorities, and the priority is mental health.

I ought to be ashamed of myself. In all areas of my life, when I compare them to far more ambitious periods, I am severely under-performing and failing grandly to obtain what I myself have deemed ideal for me, all just due to caving into stress.

In interest of gaining an actually valuable education, I devised a course of personal study for my own pure benefit, going so far as to select textbooks, take notes upon them, and assign myself homework, all without the prospect of gaining a degree; just pure mental benefit, to equip me for the world. With some sloppiness, I managed to keep it up for a year . . . studying on my own terms. But do to frequent and irrational interruption from the person I lived with, and the various problems I faced in that period, the regiment collapsed and hasn't been picked up since then. When is the last time I took honest to goodness notes on something? The topic of studying in perpetually on my mind in some portion of my mind, either the front or back, because I realize my goals aren't going to be accomplished without intellect, and intellect doesn't develop itself through passivity. It guilts me.

Upon discovering my culinary passion I used to cook and experiment in the kitchen quite frequently. I loved the beginning stages of that discovery. It was so exciting to pay attention to food so strongly for the first time in my life, and to make grocery shopping a soothing "chore." But a multitude of problems has made me sit on the curb with my head in my palm. I lived with bad and stressful people who gave me little alone time in the kitchen, particularly one person with psychological problems who tried to discourage me, or my previous alcoholic landlord who made me rush because being in the kitchen with her was so stressful. Additionally, I've spent over two years in bad restaurant jobs where I found myself locked to the bottom of the ladder due to my willingness to work my way up, while horrendous people were inexcusably put above my head. Now I opt for easy foods such as prepackaged sausages (despite charcutery being one of this year's goals), seldom cook otherwise, perform "the motions" in other cases, and try few things new.

People also remain more frustrating than ever, though I confess and know it entirely to be a product of my own held bitterness. Years ago I visualized myself being far more sociable and befriended at this point, and yet am as alone as ever. Emotionally I seem to be in denial of my loneliness, as I don't physically feel it, but think of people often. These past years, after all, have been spent escaping. No, not running away from problems, but walking away from ones that were unsolvable by any other means, such as my family who got verbally abusive or evasive when I tried to discuss problems with them, or my old drunken landlord whom I had to call the ambulance on*. Plus, the last job I just got out of was in an insanely stressful restaurant, where the employees are unjustly treated and mistreat each other, and I had to go through quite a bout of bullying there. I'd like to have been more sociable and outgoing at this point -- have my hat in the romance ring and all that -- but instead I find myself indulging in endless amounts of alone time during days off, and feeling like I'll be an isolated loner forever.

(*She was a type-1 diabetic who didn't watch her diet responsibly, so she had frequent low blood sugar episodes.)

These past years I feel like I've been a candle in a jar. Once hot and burning with passion for life, but slowly suffocating by using the oxygen in the atmosphere, due to so many futile experiences. In reflection, I'm in my ideal situation now -- living perfectly alone without irrational people to clutter up my environment, all the alone time in the world for kitchen and studying, and now a good job at a hotel at a fine dining restaurant where I like everyone, though I remained saturated in bitterness and resentment. And yes I admit and fully understand it's irrational! A product of my own failure to fully think things out and fully appreciate the values I have! Yet still, it's so hard to shake it and get rid of it.

Coasting, is what I am now. Coasting idly. I don't feel proud of myself at all, and frequently feel guilt over the fact that I managed to keep stoking the flames of ambition in much more stressful times, with glass ceilings in my career and absolute bombardment by stressful persons, and now am having so much trouble summoning that heat back, here where I've finally gotten what I've wanted for years. Hmph.

Mentally I've felt engaged in a nasty game of tug-of-war with myself. At times, I'm blasting with rage and jog around my room to let off the energy, supplement with energetic music. (Though, I don't have "hate music" persay.) At other times I feel sapped and not particularly offended at my circumstances, but at the same time totally unmotivated to pick myself up, and idle through the day in routine motions.

Bah. I miss those days when harsh studying was a keystone to my daily fulfillment, and I actually wanted to go to work. Now times are far too much spent just purely visualizing ideals in my head, often to ease up the anxiety, and hardly lift a finger in realizing what I see in my head. Bah. Bah, bah, bah.

. . . But enough complaining. In truth, I vent openly here just to make public some things on my mind that I would like to talk about, but have no one else to conduct the conversation with. I'm still a huge fan of rubberducking, the practice of spoken introspection with an inanimate object, but the objects never talk back, of course, and I perceive no other willing listeners in my life. So I suppose I'll lean on you, briefly, for this one article. I find it literally hard to fathom having an active social life, since it's virtually a foreign concept to me; the familiar is bullies, hostility, and abandonment.

But . . . enough complaining. Note that the word hopeless did not appear in any paragraph as of yet, because I'm still together enough to realize there's remedies to all of this, that as soon as tomorrow I could begin pursuing happiness again, and the ideal can be within reach step by step. Just due to the loneliness did I wish to say the frustrated things above, and know perfectly well there are solutions within reach. I'd just like for people to know about my frustrations sometimes, that's all.

Anyhow, I feel kind of silly now having gone so far as to tout a detailed analysis of all that I've learned about mental health this year as per it being my primary new year's resolution, when clearly I'm still struggling. Ha, but I don't think there's anything wrong with my chosen methodology -- journal writing, rubberducking, all that -- it's just that I don't apply them rigorously and consistently enough.

At root, I think my primary problem is concentration. It's odd to think that such a basic mental function would be so essential to good health, but I think it has far more importance than anyone gives it credit for. Look at it this way: One term I've seen continually around mental health reading is ANTs, which stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts, meaning negative thoughts that your subconscious automatically generates as par habit. If you nurtured the worst of thinking habits, then ANTs are painfully effortless and extremely difficult to combat, as you really have to will yourself to not to have them when you're in a particularly difficult situation where you can't resort to your best remedies. At the perceptual level, this is what most any emotional problem is: A bad thinking habit that generates ANTs. Since ANTs are near effortless, you don't need to concentrate to make it happen, just letting it happen will make it happen.

To deconstruct those bad habits, obviously, they need to be overwritten with good habits. And because at the time those particular good habits don't exist, that means concentration is needed for them to become established. You need to train yourself in better thoughts more and more so that the better habits become easier and easier, while the ANTs fade away.

The biggest lesson I've learned is that, for the most part, if I allow my mind to do thinking unaided by stimuluses, such as books, then I can all too easily go to dangerous places. The whole activity involves going the path of least resistance, and the path of least resistance happens to be the thought patterns that give me so much misery. In fact, despite having maintained the hobby for several years, I've even given up my morning walk by and large, because I've realized that the morning habit allowed my mind to indulge in terrible thinking with rigid consistency. I love walking and find it relaxing . . . but it has to be a tightly controlled activity for my own good, lest negative thoughts become the routine . . . and tone of my consciousness.

In contrast I've also noticed that the more often I mentally exert myself -- such as by focusing on non-fiction books, writing, or other such things -- my mind is cool and calm. It feels like a well-trained dog that stays on the sidewalk instead of chasing after the wildlife, and if I have been rigorous at the start of the day then I'll have almost no further problem the rest of the day. Done repeatedly, my life feels pretty good.

The key to getting back on track and staying on track, then, must be the purposeful exertion of my mind. Idleness can serve as good rest during periods of exhaustion, and then I may allow myself a contemplative trek through my favorite nature park, but as of now I need to severely restrict my "mental free time" to almost nothing, and tried my absolute best to at almost all times to be concentrating on something, so that these new routines intensively practiced will being to overthrow the previous ones, and a new, more positive order is established.

That means that the probable root practice that's serving my troubles are my mornings. I waste an awful lot of them, by waking up, surfing the internet, eating a bar of chocolate, and generally stalling until just before noon or even later before I actually get my day started. Since I'm still currently a dishwasher, that spell trouble, since almost my whole job entails mental free time. I've mastered washing dishes, so until I move on my current position isn't mentally challenging, which means my mind can do whatever I choose it to do, which in that situation, free of books and whatnot to focus on, means usually idling towards the negative and being miserable. My day's are composed consequently of waking, mentally idling, getting a few things done in panic of deadlines before work, and then going to work to mentally drift.

If I had trained my mind in concentration better in the morning before my shifts I'd been a lot better off even if my work was still mental free time, and I know this from experience. Even at start, mornings spent well enough on mental exertion and focus do leave the mind trained enough to hold itself in good measure for the rest of the night, if not the whole night. The way I spend my morning has a lasting impact on the rest of the day. Currently, I wake to mentally idle on the negative as "relaxation," so surprise surprise I'm doing the same at work. Shocking.

All of my other specific methodologies would hold if I were to just hone this basic skill, so a drastic restructuring a routines needs to be completed. It's as simple as that. Regardless of how exhausting or demanding future efforts may demand, the simplicity in pursuing good health leaves me no excuse for not undertaking it, lest I want to live a miserable wreck like some people I've known, whose life cycle went: Birth, suffering, perish. I'm not going to reveal such a person's relation to me, but to see such a life with so much self-inflicted hell, continued all the way up until death, is dark motivation for me to live life to the fullest unless such a horrendous punishment were to befall me.

So, to make for a good morning, I think probably the best thing I could possibly do for myself is write first thing in the morning, just right after waking or getting the computer warmed up. I love my handwritten introspection journal -- it works mental miracles when used right -- and if I quashed the bad habit of scribbling an entry down before rushing to work, or not writing an entry at all, then my mind would be much more settled, as to write for true benefit then it must be done with the fullest concentration possible, with no fidgeting if possible. That last is remarkably hard: Sometimes the urge to look up and let the mind wander is nearly irrepressible, so to write an entry start to finish without pausing or fidgeting would be quite a feat -- a feat of concentration.   

That would be my warm-up activity, to get the old concentration motor -- stupid analogy I know -- ready to go. All activities afterwards should be bent on tackling my to-do lists in some way, whether it be plowing through random items, reading a book, taking notes upon something, or whatever, I just cannot allow myself to have mental free time during. The mind needs to be engaged at nearly all times, and it's no easier than when writing something, reading something, listening to something, or what have you: It's all training. All this ruminating over a chocolate bar or taking a walk around the block has got to stop, as those are the dangerous times that have led to such a mental erosion as this, stuck in my bad memories while my body continues aging into the future. I prod myself sometimes by noting that someday I'll be old and there's no getting out of it; will I be proud then?

Perhaps I might throw regular blogging into the mix as part of the writing requirement -- no promises however -- but for now it is almost an absolute that the sooner I begin writing after waking the better, and that it's for the best to have a mentally exhausting day prior to any working shift, so that the mind will have had a few hours of training in better habits before work, so that during I will be fine and whole, even though it's almost all mental free time.

Hopefully this would make for the final blow against all the internal problems I face. All my other methodology is fine and effective; it's just that I need to be able to concentrate on them when I need to. Then, a better self is possible.

Tomorrow upon waking I ought to take some time to get reintouch (coined) with my ideals, as it's been all to easy to lose sight of exactly it is that I would admire of myself in life. Losing those visages, how could I hope to embody them? It'd be like painting without any set picture in mind: You'd end up with either a blank or smeared canvas . . . most likely an atrociously ugly smeared canvas, representative of an inner state left to chance.

So do I not want to be intelligent? Muscular? Handsome? Well-spoken and concise in communication? Assertive? Frugal and financially afloat? A good cook? A positive impact on the culture? Or a deteriorated nobody, keep alive only by stale accomplishments, unloved, fat from sweets, bad skin, a meek voice, devastated by debt, staying a cooking amateur by opting for easy food, and a part of the horrible trends destroying the world?

Quoting Joe Dispenza: All you have to do is make up your mind.

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