I can relate to finding a way to live in relative peace and comfort with a certain personally-defined lifestyle/outlook. But in my opinion and experience these are relatively short-lived (the same way the externally defined lifestyle+belief system is not sustainable). I think that’s first and foremost because they don’t successfully address the most important unanswered existential questions and issues, which at a certain point makes the lifestyle/system feel arbitrary and forced, even if was initially, supposedly, to a large extent self-defined.
I just read an article on inc.com that advises entrepreneurs to assume there are solutions to their problems. To me that was a revelation and it got me thinking.
My theory is that we can easily categorize ourselves as pessimists or optimists by answering one question:
When you have a problem, do you assume there is a (good, doable) solution?
Really now. Be honest, with yourself, at least.
Of course pessimists assume there are no solutions and they are surprised and skeptical when solutions arise, often wondering if the solutions presented are really any good or if everything’s going to go to hell again momentarily.
Optimists, on the other hand, assume there are solutions and usually, instead of fretting over a problem, will naturally just start looking for the/a proper solution (whether or not you believe there is more than one solution connects to your belief in fate).
Often pessimists think they aren’t pessimistic but, in fact, realists. They think they see reality in the most objective way possible and that optimists walk around with pink-pigmented glasses. And since no one can prove one way or the other, both pessimists and optimists continue to exist. Each group continues on with their beliefs – pessimists thinking about how much the world sucks and optimists probably not thinking about this topic much at all.
Because my next theory is that optimists are much better doers. Pessimists are the philosophers because they’re too depressed to actually do anything.
Which one are you? Which one am I?
Today I left work at 3:00pm in order to be at my physiotherapy appointment at 4:00pm. I got on an empty bus, sat at the back, and called my sister in order to discuss our next evil plan.
As you can imagine, I was worked up and excited about the suffering we’re planning to inflict on a group of people this coming Thursday (spoiler!). That mixed with bad reception on her end and a bluetooth on my end had me talking in, let’s say, a vibrant voice.
Meanwhile a whole bunch of other passengers had boarded.
And then she hit. I frown as I write this because it made me so sad. A woman in the seat across from me started mumbling loudly to herself in Russian and somehow got across that it was about me she was being grumpy. I turned to her and said in Hebrew, “You just had to ask” and she said something mean and bitchy again about how uncouth I am for talking so loudly, “As if you’re at home.” Then I said, “Oh, you’re really nice” (in sarcasm, of course – it was the best I could come up with to at least attempt to instill some guilt in the lady’s soul) and then she said something mean and bitchy, part in Hebrew, part in Russian.
Blah blah blah, these things aren’t supposed to upset you. Stop wanting to tell me that. Stop thinking about how obviously it wasn’t personal and obviously she is just a bitter angry woman. It hurts and I was angry and I quickly began fantasizing revenge. Yes, right before Yom Kippur (because any other time of year would be more opportune?).
Specifically, I imagined jumping up, grabbing her goddam book of number games and shaking it to oblivion in the air, crushing it and then tearing out some of the pages. For some reason, only some. Maybe so she’d feel like she owes me.
My now-changed evil planning (first it was with my sister about Thursday, then it was all in my head about right then with the mean woman next to me) truly helped pass the time. How wondrous!
I arrived at my destination with 10 minutes to spare, walked by the pizza place and felt drawn towards it. I felt like I neeeeded that pizza after being made to feel so low.
And so I indeed ate that pizza.
It made me feel better knowing I still have control over when I eat one of the foods I avoid (cheese – not pizza per say). How lucky.
I went in for my appointment supposedly feeling a little better, still finding it hard to smile at my friendly physiotherapist. He asked me if I feel a difference in my back pain from doing the exercises and I said I don’t. He said, well let’s do some work on you then.
Suddenly I found myself lying stomach down on a massage table and he gave me a totally relaxing massage, loosening up my back muscles, particularly those that make me jump the most. He explained that this is in order to help the exercises work more easily.
Which made me realize.
Just like a body massage can help loosen things up, we also need soul massages to loosen up the crap there.
How exactly does one administer a soul massage, you might ask? Here are some ideas I came up with. I did #4 and #5 and felt much much better:
- Watch TV
- Go for a walk
- Make a list of things you’re lucky about in your life but only things you actually are able to feel lucky about at the moment you write them.
- Write our your thoughts and feelings in a private place (not for publishing).
Life whacks us around. We (well, I, and probably you too) need soul massages at least once daily in order to fortify against the poo. Life is just too poo-ful to get through without a soulful combating strategy.
“What a wonderful world.”
Said Louise Armstrong.
Is he naïve.
“The #1 question to ask:
“Is the universe we live in friendly or hostile?
“Your answer determines your destiny.”
Said Albert Einstein.
Is he intuitive.
What is this world?
This horrible place.
Can we measure the good versus the evil?
How do we know if it’s good or bad?
“The answers are in you.”
“Your key to understanding
“Is your soul.”
How do I get my mind out of this horrible place?
I feel like I’m sinking.
I’m scared. I’m scared shitless.
Sleeping with the light on.
Fear for the evilness that I imagine I know.
I do believe it is there. The evilness of this world that I live in.
I fear to move.
I fear it’s all for nothing.
said King Solomon.
“Amen to that,”
My sadness written in Vancouver on March 7, 2007.
You know when you have an epiphany regarding one of the whacked out ways in which you interact with the world? Inevitably, what immediately follows is a deep sense of joy and release. “I’m free!” you think to yourself, simply because you just pinpointed another pattern of yours that causes you unnecessary pain.
When I experienced this elation today, I decided to share it with a friend, lest it get lost in the abyss called my brain. When I did, my friend asked me the question I realized I should be asking myself: “So what are you going to do with it?”
Hmmm. Good question.
- I am going to feel happy and grateful about it. Done.
- I am going to share it with a friend. Done.
- I am going to write a blog post about it…working on it people! No pressure.
Ok. And now?
I hadn’t thought beyond those initial actions and I think I know why. I was feeling so much lighter that, despite past experiences, I assumed the change had happened and I was ready to move on.
Yes, a change has happened; experiencing an understanding of self so clearly is a huge step forward. Yay me. But part of why it’s so important not to miss that step of internalizing the experience is because otherwise it will turn into yet another fleeting moment instead of the life-altering one it has the potential to be. Only if you take the epiphany and decide you want to work on self improving that aspect of yourself will you start down the road of long term change in attitudes, interactions and decisions.
I must confess: I imagine myself a miraculously changed person often.
Thinking my life is changed following an epiphany is like when I think I’ve changed my eating habits (yeah right, chomp chomp) by making decisions about them while fasting. Or when I think I’m now going to be nicer to my mother because one day I actually am nicer. On a day, by the way, that I happen to be in a particularly good mood (Hi mom!).
So yes, celebrate your epiphany. Just don’t forget that the next step is to ask, “What do I want to do with it?”
Wait! Did I just have another epiphany?
Eureka, readers. Eureka.
That’s it. I’ve entered my 35th year (that makes me 34).
And I need a change, I know it whenever I get this urge to chop my hair off (I’m not joking).
The good and bad news is that none of my problems are new. The things that are bothering me are issues I’ve been talking/writing/thinking about for years.
The advice from a rabbi in 2007
I’ve been going through some old diary entries. For the most part, they bore me. They are repetitive and a little whiny. (Thank God I didn’t publish that stuff!) But the good thing is that after all these years, I am now able to pinpoint (the?) two major issues in my life:
- I’m scared of my life, the future and failure.
- I’m almost never writing as much as I want to be.
One of these entries, in January 2007, wasn’t too boring because I wrote about the advice I got from a rabbi. This is approximately what he said:
Your bad feeling is self inflicted. You cut yourself no slack. You aren’t responsible for everything. Not everything in the world and not everything in yourself.
When you start being negative about yourself, say: “Sorry, I don’t have time for that right now. I’m busy.”
Contemplate things at the end of the day. Slowly, through giving yourself love, you will begin to really love yourself.
Most of what he said is true. I inflict pain on myself. I’m too hard on myself.
Besides reading old, embarrassing diary entries, I’ve also been doing embarrassing self-help research online about success, birthdays, why 30s are great, how to make a truckload of money from writing and how to totally change my mindset and become an entirely different person.
Well, I didn’t mean to research the last one. It just happened.
Here are some of the interesting things I found out:
My creative source is not finite! by The Oatmeal
As is often the case, The Oatmeal “verbalizes” what I’ve been thinking all along. And so now I know that I’m not the only one who is always convinced that the next piece I write will be the last because I will never have another idea again. The Oatmeal wrote:
Wait. So, it isn’t true? Well, who knows. Maybe I really won’t ever have another idea, but either way, I should push myself to put out that supposedly last piece.
Read the whole comic.
Some motivational talks make me shrivel up inside. That doesn’t make me a bad person.
Often we think there is something wrong with us because of how we react to things when really it might just be faulty expectations about who we are.
I came across a post about the characteristics in highly successful people. It’s supposed to be motivational but it made me cringe. The writer lists all these traits that make an ordinary person extraordinary but the ideas are so lofty that it made me laugh just reading them. Like, that nervous kind of laugh.
The terms include:
- Definite aim, vision and purpose (ugh, kill me now)
- Expertise and excellence (waaaa!)
- Focused (squirrel!)
- Positive attitude and perseverance (“l’ll NEVER get it. NEVER!!!! I’m sorry Ludwig!”)
The amount I’d need to change in order to fit those descriptions, let alone the other 26 (!) mentioned in that piece is probably plain impossible. Maybe I could get a personality transplant but that’s probably expensive.
But I’m sick of believing that being an extroverted, go-getter, fast-working, multi-tasking, power house is the only way to succeed. I’ve been introduced to the book about introverts by Susan Cain which I’m itching to read and I’m going to work on seeing what environment I need in order to succeed. I being a slow, creative, thoughtful, detail-oriented person.
What Augustus did at the age of 34
Even though 34 is so young, we’re used to thinking that it’s already “older” and if it’s older, then maybe my chances of fulfilling my dreams have passed.
And so I looked up what others succeeded in doing in their 35th year. Here is one small success by Augustus:
After defeating Antony and Cleopatra’s forces in a naval battle, Augustus became the master of the Roman world.
Not quite as great as me but nobody’s perfect. I guess I could still try to do something with my life. :)
I’m not over the hill yet
And then I wondered what some really old people have succeeded in doing despite (or because of?) their serious advancement in years. This was with the purpose of inspiring me to go and do what I want.
One cool woman skydived for her 90th birthday. There is no video of it but here is a woman who did it at the age of 74:
And it all comes down to pushing! (Once you know what you want to be pushing yourself to do.)
Out of everything I’ve read or seen over the last few days, there was one piece that really stuck out for me more than the others. It truly inspired me.
Maneesh Sethi wrote so honestly about how he actually sometimes pays someone to sit next to him and slap him whenever he goes on Facebook. A professional slapper. Or he promises a friend lots of money if he doesn’t finish an article when he says he will.
What a breath of fresh air. I could have used either of those tactics the whole way through school. I often need a good slap to get myself going and focused (sorry motivational writer). I often know what I want to be working on but my unproductive inner voice makes me into a bum.
Sometimes you don’t have to psychoanalize that voice, sometimes you’ve just got to give it a good smack and do your work. Because doing your work in itself is what will help get some sense into your brain.
I love honesty and real-ness. Thank you, thank you Maneesh.
Just just just just just
Really none of this is a big deal. I just need to accept who I am and push myself to succeed in whatever I lay out for myself.
This is the song I “wrote” to express my exasperation at the way people always seem to use the word “just” for the hugest of tasks!
My one-week experiment
OK, easier said than done. But I really think that to a large extent, the heavy feeling in the mornings is due to the fact that I often have an idea of what I should be doing and my fears, etc., stop me.
My current theory is that if I push myself to do more of what I want to be doing, then that feeling will improve.
And so, in honour of my birthday and my life, I’m running an experiment.
For the next week I’d like to force myself to do stuff when I know what I want to be doing (which is often the case).
I know it’s possible it won’t make me feel better but at least I’m testing the theory. And if it does make a difference, amazing! And if it doesn’t, at least I’ve disproved that theory and can move on to the next.
Meanwhile, happy birthday to all. I hope that my new year is great for all of you, my dear readers. :)
My grandmother has a new idea. She wants me to wear a t-shirt when I go on dates that says:
I know how to bake bread and apple pie. I’m an amazing balabaste. With me you surly will never know hunger.
It’s a gimmick, for sure, but it just might work. As long as it’s a flattering t-shirt.
Another year has gone by and I’m still single. Often, at this time of year, I think about my singlehood, I feel pretty badly about it, and I hope that in the coming year I’ll meet my beloved.
But this year is different. So much has happened this year and I have so much going on even as I write this, that I hardly have time to focus just on that. There are many matters that are much more pressing.
I see that I am most definitely dealing with issues that are forcing me to grow in very interesting ways, and I am thankful for this. Although I am most definitely sad that I am still alone, I think that I am living a full life.
Even in the dating arena I can’t have many regrets. I am a very proactive dater and as I become more refined over the years – I am like good wine – I understand more about what is important for me and what is not. As a result, this year I dated quite a few guys who were on the right track. As other singles can attest, this is a huge accomplishment.
I have heard the idea that if there is a goal that is very important to you, then you should put a certain amount of time towards it on a daily basis – maybe half an hour a day. Well, I can definitely say that I put at least that amount of time towards this goal. The fact I’m still alone continues to bother me, but I know I’m doing what I can to remedy that and all the meanwhile, I’m involved in a many other good things too.
While I cannot feel too badly about my relationship status, I am feeling very frustrated by my writing. Writing is so important to me but something has created a huge block in me over the last year or so and it isn’t letting up. Yes, I wrote some of my most “successful” pieces this year but I know there is so much more where that came from and I yearn to be getting many more pieces out on a regular bases.
But I have been very down on myself about my writing – my style, my vocabulary… It’s been poisonous the thoughts I’ve been feeding myself.
As a young girl, writing was never considered my thing. On the contrary – my mother always called my spelling creative because it was so far removed from proper spelling. I have come to love writing but am aware of my shortcomings. My lack of vocabulary, my sometimes preachy tone… One of my biggest challenges is the fact that I don’t write about extremely personal things, especially if they involve others, which removes the option of writing about a huge amount of stuff about which I have a ton to say.
It’s been difficult and upsetting. I walk around wishing I could write more but it’s not happening.
And so I know what I want to work on in the new year. Well, besides all the other things. I want to work on seeing the perfection in mediocrity. So often I stop myself from creating something or doing something because I am scared it will be insignificant. So often I do get myself to do things but the actions are accompanied by a great amount of fear because I am scared I’m going to do them imperfectly and possibly cause harm.
Basically I’m scared to act. I push myself and I do a lot of things that are very scary but I know I’d have a real blast if I decided to do my best – the key being “do” – and hope for the best. And whatever comes, let it come.
It means having faith in my ability to deal with whatever comes… But of course I can do that.
I want to publish posts that aren’t great and be OK with it. I want to then move on to the next post without dwelling on the success of the last one.
I want to hone the skills I know I have and discover the ones I don’t yet know about. And this will happen if I let go of the need for perfection.
I have a belief that unless you are one of the greatest – musicians, artists, writers, actors – you aren’t making a significant change in the world. I want to contemplate what it is that leads me to have this black and white belief and work on throwing it away.
My perfectionism has, to a large extent, frozen me in place. The modern world trains you to believe that perfect is something that exists. For example, I just bought a new computer bag and keep thinking that maybe I should have held out for something better. For something more perfect.
What a waste of energy.
Perfectionism is a freezer. It doesn’t allow me to act because I know the chances of me being perfect are so slim that it’s a lost cause before I even start.
And I want to stop this destructive way of thinking.
I just saw an old woman, being taken on a stretcher out of her building to an ambulance. She seemed lucid; she was looking around. If she is in fact lucid, she could have been thinking many things. But I imagine she was thinking, “How did I get here? I’m not old.”
And she grew up in a time when time went more slowly. Today, time is zipping by quicker than we can grasp. That day is going to come sooner than we realize and we won’t feel old but we’ll be old and that’ll be a simple fact. And maybe we’ll be able to remember facts from our lives and maybe not.
All those things are out of our control. What is in our control is to look at our lives today, see what we have control over, and take action there.
Someone recently taught me that you need to look at a situation and figure out until what point you can have an effect and from what point it is not your responsibility because you simply lack control – even if you lie to yourself that you have it.
I hope to work on all these things this year.
To put it in one short sentence:
והעיקר לא לפחד כלל – the main thing is to not be scared one bit.
Today millions of people ran around very, very busy. They were at work early in the morning and then after a productive workday, they came home to their children and cooked and cleaned with barely a moment’s rest. Or they went out with friends or on dates.
Because they did stuff. Truly.
Me? I didn’t feel 100% and it was my day off and so I decided that I really don’t feel like doing anything. I knew it would be hard but I decided that once in a while it’s OK not to do anything.
In my doing nothing, here is what I did:
- Cleaned the toilet
- Read articles online
- Read my book
- Took a shower
- Neatened up my apartment a little
- Worked for one hour
- Brainstormed for my writing (mind-maps, etc.)
- Did some research for a friend
- Wrote some emails
- Did long distance bikur cholim
- Talked on the phone
Once it wasn’t so hot out, I went out to the bench in front of my building with my mind-map notebook, a pen, my book and my cell phone and I sat there alternating between these items as I pleased, also taking many breaks to watch the people going by. A neighbour came over to talk to me and we ended up schmoozing for a while.
Needless to say, this was one of the loveliest days ever.
I know what you’re thinking (maybe). How is it that I did so much and yet I’m considering it a day when I did nothing? But as far as I was concerned, if nothing I did was on my “should” to-do list, it was as if I did nothing.
Throughout the day I actually kept wondering how I was getting away with such a lazy day.
The reason I have all that guilt is because I am living by a set of rules made up by who-knows-who. They are about being super-duper productive and super-duper busy. You have to feel like you don’t have time for the small things and you have to feel like time is zipping by – or else you’re a lazy bum.
But why do most of us subscribe to those rules without giving them a second thought? Just because someone in the western world has told us to try to get a million big and important things done every day, doesn’t mean they are right. What about all those people in the rest of the world who just hang out at home in the evenings? What about those people who don’t have an extremely ambitious to-do list?
It’s not that I believe we should waste our lives away. Our lives are precious. But the question is, what does it mean to do something? For example, I know that many people think that daydreaming is doing nothing. But if any of the things you do in your life necessitate brain work, daydreaming is probably an important part of your work. Sometimes you’ve just got to think. I know that with my work and my writing and also with personal things in my life, I just need to be given the head space to think. I often need to be alone for this and stare into space or do “lite” activities like reading or cooking and stop periodically to make notes regarding the issue at hand.
But I barely give myself the chance to just do whatever I want because I’m scared I can’t be trusted with that. It’s as if I believe that my true self is an irresponsible child and I need to be my own parent, since I, the child, can’t be trusted to make decisions for myself.
Why the fear? Especially considering the fact that I see that almost all of my lazy activities (for example thinking, reading, cooking) lead to productive activities (for example a blog post).
And that is actually what happened today. Among other things, because I let myself just do whatever I felt like doing, I ended up brainstorming on this idea of “doing nothing” and ended up with this blog post as a result.
If I were a shtetl-dweller
I always wonder, if I lived in a small shtetl in Poland – which is where I really should be living right now…
…would I have the stress I’m dealing with today?
There is so much talk about the wonders of globilization. We can go anywhere, be in touch with anyone, and we have access to everyone’s creations and they have access to ours!
Sounds really scary, if you ask me.
Global village my ass!
I know all the lovely talk about how wonderful it is to be living in such a “small” global village… But, um, where is this “small” of which you speak? It’s a freakin’ mega-city out there, with a web connecting each and everyone one of us to each other.
Now the shtetl – that was a small world. You maybe knew a couple hundred people and you were probably the only butcher, baker or candle-stick maker for a good five kilometers (and who ever travelled that far).
Now, with everyone being bombarded with everyone’s creations, we are not only competing against our next door neighbours anymore. Now we are competing against everyone.
I find the sheer size of it all quite overwhelming.
Global village psychosis
As a writer, every time I think of something I want to write, I wonder if someone else has already written it and if so, did they write it better than I would (I know it’s a simplified question – too bad). In the past, that wouldn’t matter because my town dwellers wouldn’t have read what the writer on the other side of the world had written. But today they have access to the other writer’s work and if it is better, why would they want to read mine?
Then when people actually do read my writing and tell me it meant something to them, the positive feedback and the numbers fall short because there is always bigger and better. My (loyal, pleasant and quite lovely) readership just can’t compare to the possibilities out there. (Dear reader, I do appreciate you. I write more about that below! Just need to finish making my point.)
Finally, every time I come across something interesting to read or watch, I find myself too overwhelmed with information to be able to concentrate on one piece at a time. I want to read it or watch it and then think about it and possibly discuss it, but instead I need to get through it as quickly as possible and quickly move on to the other information out there which apparently equally needs my attention. I find it close to impossible to focus on just one thing for an “extended” period of time because there is almost always a feeling that there is something else I should be doing because there is so much out there to do.
Greed instead of gratitude
Because the whole world is supposedly at our fingertips, many of us global mega-city dwellers become greedy. We lose the ability to feel true gratitude for what we have while we look out at the big world, drooling, hoping we’ll be able to get a nice chunk of the treasure for ourselves. So many of us have so much already – I know I do – but the belief that we could have more makes what we have seem like not enough.
Ironically (and very sadly), that belief can be absolutely debilitating.
As for me personally, I just see that globilization doesn’t really fit my personality. I think that naturally I am a slow and focused person. I feel the need to think slowly and in depth. The depth I yearn for only comes with the correct speed (aka slow) but I don’t feel like I have time for that speed because the world is just too big and I’ll never get to it if I’m slow. I don’t want to BS and I don’t want to pretend I’m something I’m not, but I find that I push myself to rush and I usually brush off the feeling that I’m missing something and move onto the next thought or action, just so I can keep up with the world.
Shtetl-dwelling is the solution
I think that the only solution is for us to pretend we actually do still live in shtetls. This isn’t totally incorrect; my shtetl is my family and friends. It is the people with whom I work and it’s my wonderful readers.
The beauty is that when I think of my closest circles as most important in my life, disregarding how damn huge the world actually is, then I can honestly love my readers unhesitatingly. I can also write all the stuff I want to write and feel good about getting my ideas out there.
And, imagine… I could come across a video and happily watch it, even if it’s something crazy like a whole 14 minutes long.
Yup, as hard as it is to imagine, us shtetl-dwellers have time for 14-minute YouTube videos.
P.S. Please share this post so I can become rich and famous. Thanks.
See, that’s the crazy thing about life’s experiences. You save someone’s life. You protect your nation in a war. You discover America. And then you poop.
No matter what, you always continue to be human: Still doing the mundane, human things that the rest of us do.
Except Pharaoh of course. He never pooped.
I’m serious, by the way. Last night, on my way home from work, I saved the life of a man. AKA, I saved an entire world (read the Mishna and you’ll see I’m not kidding).
Since you’re dying to hear the tale, let me tell it:
I was standing at a Jerusalem intersection. A guy was standing next to me. He was on his phone and looked impatient to cross. And so I watched. Because I’m always waiting for that moment of catastrophe. I mean self-glory. I mean…
Forget it. It sounds bad either way.
Anyway, he started crossing before the light was green and I saw one last car pushing through the yellow/red light on the other end.
And as I saw the car heading toward this dude on his pelephone who has probably survived wars in the IDF, I yelled, “Tizaher!”
Of course he immediately turned to me and said, “Li’eize ulpan at halacht? Ze Hi’zaher! Yesh lach pashut mazal she’ani bichlal adayin bachayim im ha’ivrit hanora’it shelach.”
Loosely translated as: “My God. What is with your Hebrew? Did you not know that ‘Tizaher‘ means ‘You will watch out’? You ain’t no prophet – as you can see, I didn’t watch out – and you ain’t no linguist either.”
Anyway, I’m lying. Twice. What he really said, with a smirk on his face, was: “Didn’t that dude cross on red?” and I said: “It wasn’t red yet.” And then I said: “But either way I really don’t feel like seeing someone die tonight.”
And that is just the point.
We live in a culture that lacks excitement and intrigue so much that we can take one semi-saving-of-a-man’s-life experience and change it into an all-time blog hit. (Just watch.)
Which is why you should all move to Israel. If you haven’t yet, of course.
You should make aliya and join the IDF where you will have authentically exciting and life-threatening experiences. And then, when please God you come out in one piece, you probably won’t feel compelled to blow the half experience of saving a dude’s life out of proportion.
Aliya’s new motto: “Aliya – the antithesis of Facebook. Today.”
Either that or you can just try crossing the street in Israel. Either will do.