Today is November 21st, which is 18 days before my birthday. Am I asking for birthday presents? No, not yet. We’ll leave that for a later entry. What I’d like to talk about today is something more personal or at least centered in a personal context.
Definitions and Discomfort
Is it months or years that I’m looking at, here? I seem to be slow at this sort of transformation. I grapple with the same issues time and again. My progress curve–well, it isn’t a curve at all, now that I think about it. But I want to appreciate the insights I’ve gained about life, even if it takes me a long time to get around to putting them into action. I was busy. Busy with what? I don’t remember. I saw a thing. It was shiny. I needed to chase it. But I got distracted by some other thing, which was also shiny, and…you get the point.
If we’re defined by our actions, I’m rather afraid that the central tenet of my life will be “What’s That Over There?” It’s probably a great deal more charitable than “This Is Too Hard. Let’s Do Something Else Until It Also Becomes Difficult or I Get Bored.” People often tell me I’m too hard on myself. I think I’m not hard enough, or perhaps that my castigation isn’t of the proper, transformative sort. So, let’s hold onto that idea bundle, because we’ll come back to it in a bit–Difficulty. Effective Critique. Action. Change.
The Gravity Well of Birth
I’m not going to succumb to that frequently flawed personal analysis based on a Greco-Roman system of astrology. But I will admit that, while we must perceive time as linear for our own sanity, I see that this isn’t necessarily the case. One could argue that, given non-linear time, significant points in our lives act kind of like really big objects in space-time. They drag everything nearby into gravity wells of varying depths. Birth, death–these things are significant. They loom large for all of us, irrespective of belief or culture. I think traumatic events or accomplishments we actually recognize as important (whether anyone else does or not) are also pretty substantial.
And, if non-linear time is a thing, that means it’s impacting us. These gravity-well-class events exist all the time–at least the two absolutes of birth and death should, with the other significant events existing as potentials until our living them collapses them into being. While it would make perfect sense for death and birth to cancel out each other or for one to exert a greater impact on us the farther along we traveled in our perceptibly linear lives, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Why that might be in my metaphor, I don’t know, but it is. Death isn’t a negative in this sense any more than birth is a positive, simply a big and important event, always there, always bending our personal space-time, but not detracting from other big things. However, perhaps I should leave my little imagining a bit fuzzy at this moment. On to the point I was thinking of making.
For as long as I can remember, this period leading up to my birthday has been marked by a different energy. When I was younger, I assumed it was excitement about birthday cake and presents or about turning 10 instead of being only 9. But it persists, and as I’ve grown older, I’ve marked the steadiness of this phenomenon. I feel a deep surge of readiness, almost a push, which grows stronger as my birthday approaches. This time is also marked by a strange, golden optimism–more clear-eyed than my usual, let’s-ignore-problems-and-do-something-we-enjoy sort of optimism.
Where Type II Fun Comes Into the Picture
So, what happens to this optimism, this energy? It seems to get buried sometime in the first few months of the year. I lose track of it, getting caught up in the momentary stresses and task lists. I set aside the big ideas and desires that this energy births in exchange for other people’s goals and ideas of what and who I ought to be at this point in my life. That’s something I’d like to avoid. Think of it as point “oh, hey. I should do that.” on my not-a-curve progress curve.
The first time I ever read about the Fun Scale, I was flipping through an outdoor magazine. I don’t climb and it’s been years since I had need of camping gear, but I like to look at the stuff and read the stories in these types of catalogues. Type 1 and 1.5 fun are pretty much enjoyable all the time. Type 2 fun sucks while you’re doing it and is fun/valuable in retrospect. Type 3 fun isn’t fun and usually involves narrowly avoiding a horrible death.
Necessarily, the author of this article related this scale to climbing, because that’s what he was all about. But I think it can easily be applied to other pursuits and passions, tailored to an individual life. In the coming year, I’d like to devote myself to pursuing as much Type 2 fun as possible. While that might be climbing, it’s not actually very likely to be. Rather, this is a statement of purpose, a note to self that I intend to pursue Personal Risk and engage in activities that nominally suck, especially considering my innate avoidance of anything that is “too hard” or requires focus and pursuit for too protracted a period.
For me, as far as I can determine from my present position in late November of 2017, Type 2 fun will consist of working on my novel, drafting and editing pieces to submit for publication–free or paid, and time spent on my writing. I have to make it a public objective, and not just because I’m lazy. The thing about those possible gravity wells that collapse into being as soon as we live them is that they can be positive or negative.
When we get stuck in a negative gravity well experience, how do we move forward from it? If at all, it strikes me that forward motion would be slow and painful. Most people call this baggage without really understanding what that entails, but if you have it, you’re not carting it about with you. You are often stuck in whatever moment or mindset it represents. You are inside the baggage.
I got depressed or more depressed or differently so. Whatever. I was really depressed. For a long time. I almost starved because I couldn’t motivate myself to do work in order to feed myself. And while a part of me was sounding alarms and jumping up and down, an even bigger part of me didn’t care. I’ve been stuck in that moment, that space of time, and it’s a deep, deep hole with no bottom and no exit, just the way I came in. Over the past three years, I’ve been clawing my way upwards, falling back, and starting all over again. So, yes, I’ve covered the same ground, done the same realizing, several times now.
It’s my hope that I can use this endless light, this contained uncontainability, that fills me until I feel as if I might explode in order to tear free of the crushing darkness of this place, this moment. It will take work, a lot of it. I will have to put in effort when I’d much rather be lazy, procrastinate, or perhaps most deadly, focus on earning a few dollars by picking up a content job. Will my Type 2 fun pay? Often, probably not, at least not in dollars. What it represents is much more important than money. (A tiny part of my impoverished self is having a hissy fit right now. Dollars mean groceries.) But it represents an investment. In order to escape my black hole, I have to get out of the mindset I inhabit here–that of painful poverty, of insufficiency, of heart-destroying self-doubt and crippling procrastination.
I will probably need some sort of accountability check, but I haven’t figured out what that should look like. It’s part of this pattern, the new beginning, the fresh optimism, the big idea. I need to follow through with it, something I am famously bad at doing. But I want to. I need to use this year to establish some sort of permanent self-rescue pattern. Escape from this place, this eternal moment is essential. If I don’t, it’s going to kill what’s left of me. I feel that, lurking as a potential somewhere beyond my field of vision. But once I do escape, I have to be prepared to encounter other heavy moments, so I’m not trapped again.