Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 8: Being Perfect

In this last post I will match the life that will make me feel happy with the reality of my daily life. In other words, I’ll try and fit a square thing in a round hole.

Square Peg in a Round Hole_0565

Let me list some of the practicalities that make the shape of the hole in which I am trying to fit. Not abiding to them will be a recipe for disaster and disappointment soon or later on.

  1. My eyesight is worsening. I’ve been having double vision for over a year now. It is not getting better. There’s a history of eye trouble in the family ánd I carry a few genes that will facilitate said trouble.
  2. I have a chronic fatigue illness. It is not healing any time soon. The last few months I got one hour up-time twice a day. Before that I got three times. I probably will get back to that. Perhaps even get up to four hours. But it will be slowly and it will never be 8 hours up and working.
  3. I need daily alternating of work and relaxing. Relaxing time is for relaxing. No judging life during relaxing. No goals and no hurries during relaxing. Enjoy a hobby, knitting is mine.
  4. The alternating needs to be done consciously. Otherwise I’ll just skip on or the other. Go lie on the couch. Go sit at your table and work.
  5. Maintaining the body takes time and effort. I tend to forget this. I fail to allot time for it during the day (because it eats into my uptime). I forget to go pee…
  6. The days need to be quiet. Too many things on my to do list will make me feel jumpy. I will feel inadequate and will skip spending time on ‘useless’ things that are important such as social interaction, hobbies and lying in my bed.
  7. This next item is painful to admit…..but I am not well in the company of my spouse. Somehow part of me gets preoccupied in his presence, even if he just sits there, programming. My energy gets divided, siphoned away. I can’t concentrate (I guess I feel guilty when I do so)
  8. I also keep expecting that us living together should be like two of me living together, with both of us having my eye for detail and my drive for perfection. Of course this is not the case, the man can’t even read my thoughts! (which I still find annoying). Thusly, the house we live in is not the way I’d like it to be. And I blame him. Now please understand, I knów this attitude is rubbish. But this is still how it works for me, after years of trying to alter me. The result is that I am not happy in my house and not happy in the couple.
  9. Words are not my friends. I keep getting frustrated when words are not effective enough to express my thoughts. I blame myself for not communicating in a way that my conversation partner/reader/listener understands. It doesn’t help that my points of view often are in the realm where words are too crude anyway. Still I blame me.
  10. My fascinations are fluid. They change. They have a “best by … date”. I need to grasp the current one and work through it before it looses its viability. Also: there needs to be some sort of end result. Something I can show and share with friends.
  11. My days are unpredictable. When my mind is off, or my body, or the weather, or my inspiration, my day schedule needs to be able to cope with that. Without everything crumbling down. Also, I can no longer live with rigid time tables and must-do lists at which I fail at every time something unexpected happens.

So how do I fit a meaningful life into these restrictions?

pic by Rubenshito

  1. EYESIGHT don’t chose one occupation or skill on which I’ll be dependent for the rest of my life. So no miniature jewelry making or artisan work. Photography is fine as is blockprinting. Learn to knit without looking.
  2. FATIGUE better have some things I can do lying down. The thinking, the drawing, the knitting, it can all be done lyig down. And: for now don’t chose long or labourous production processes for the visible results. So no screen printing, wood carving, performance art or welding. Computer drawing/writing is ok. Painting too.
  3. RELAXING is a conscious decision. Enjoy your downtime. Think of fun things to do when resting and only do those when relaxing. Enjoyable movies, interesting knitting, an hour of surfing. Spend money on your hobbies, use quality yarn.
  4. ALTERNATING devise a basic daily routine. Get up and work then break for lunch and resting.
  5. MIND THE BODY insert daily routines to take care of the body. Routines that take minimal effort. How does one remember to pee? Use alerts. Friendly alerts.
  6. QUIET MIND only put two things per day on the to do list. The rest is bonus. Of course things need to be done to keep life (and the house) running smoothly. However, I can spend less time and effort on them. Just plan smartly, prioritize (when you’re not tired!), lessen any expectations about the perfect household, social relations etc. and delegate. Have someone clean your house, have plenty of storage spaces, install electronic birthdaywishes or reminders, wear the same clothes in different colours. Allot set amount of times to a chore and then do it 60%. Well enough is good enough.
  7. BEING TOGETHER. Got nothing for this one….. Practise? Copy how he does it? He doesn’t lose part of himself in my presence. I have no solution for this one. Yet.
  8. LIVING TOGETHER. Trying to change my husband didn’t work. Trying to change my expectations didn’t work either. The solution is to go towards another, third option: invent a new way of living together that facilitates both his way of living and mine. See the house in a new way and try to invent new ways of living in it. Having an intellectual goal of my own and a separate room to work on it will help. (a previous solution of mine didn’t work: me living my way in the house and having him stay there too. The house is too big for one person to run. And I still got annoyed that he didn’t read my mind).
  9. LANGUAGE. communicate in another media altogether? I lack even more skills in those…  A solution might be to not care so much about being understood completely. Allow room for alternate interpretations of my message and the novel thoughts they may provoke, in both the listener and in me. Adapting this attitude does require some sadness over not being well understood. Basically it tells you you are alone in this life… But if you allow for the sadness you will notice that in other ways people will assure you you are not alone. You’re thoughts are just not that well understood as they are in your head. But you áre known and you áre not alone in this world.
  10. ROTATING FASCINATIONS. Right now I seem to want to block print large sheets of paper, using the printing press. Enjoying an adventure through colours, types of ink and paint, paper and shapes. I could call it wall paper. Sellable artisan wall paper. But I also want to explore lines and illustration and make a little magazine. And I’m learning to sew Haute Couture style. And I’m making a Faraday’s cage. I need to grasp all these fascinations before they grow stale or wither! The solution is to have one job per day. AND have a tangible result to work towards. Even use this as a deadline, to get going every day.
  11. FLEXIBILITY My routines need to be robust but they need not be a harness. There are four things essential in my day: there MUST be food, there MUST be clothes, there MUST be one hour rest on the couch around midday. Also I MUST go pee. Well… that’s not too many musts. That leaves plenty of room to accommodate for unexpected inspirations. All other things can be pushed away or postponed. For example, I can get through the day without brushing teeth (because of my diet). I can live with messy hair. I can walk outside without scaring the neighbours. As long as these four “MUSTs” are met there’s nothing threatening me and I can feel free to drop all other to-do’s and want-to’s and ought-to’s. This is a conscious decision, an attitude I can adopt. A mental attitude.

Hey, this is workable!

pic by ItsMe1985


I get a sense of meaningfulness when my life revolves around exploring a fascination. Explore, play, create. I like to connect with people, using some sort of representation of that explored fascination.

I get a sense of meaningfulness when my life revolves around experiencing good emotions. I like to share these emotional experiences with people. This means going out and experiencing them together. I like that.

Relaxing and sharing relaxing time with friends are also very meaningful past times. No measurable result needs to come from this. Preferably not, actually!

Because of health and character I need certain things in my day. Upon inspection these are not too demanding, if I plan them smartly and if I lessen expectations on all the other things my busy perfectionist brain thinks up. Focusing on the priorities and that they are met should be enough to make me proud of how I live my daily life. Focusing is a conscious decision. A new habit to form. Extremely doable.

I still loose energy when in company of my husband. Has been like this for 15 years. I have no solution. Yet.

I do not need to worry about which fascination to explore, I can do 5 jobs in 5 days. There will always emerge new fascinations, I do not need to worry if one passes me by or when progress is too slow.

Funny how morals, salary, fame or what “they” think of me plays no part in the actual meaning of (my) life. I’ve shed the previous notions of how to rank a human life completely, for me it is enough to go by that inner compass, the one without words. Because in the core I am a decent person, someone with a tendency to do the right thing. I no longer need to worry about that, I can just go about my business and live the life that makes me happy.

brilliant picture by John Nyberg


This is the last part, part 8, in a series in which I think myself towards a meaningful life. So I do not feel worthless anymore. Which I did, often and always, as hinted at for a bit in this post.

Coming back to that original post, “A Useless Life”, my feelings were influenced not only by other people’s ideas but also by my tendency to observe and judge myself all the time. This habit is now gone. (yes, I can shed habits that quickly. It correlates with the intensity of the epiphany how wrong or damaging the habit is. I’d call it “a duh! consequence”)

Also I did not distinguish clearly between relaxing time (laying on the couch being “useless”) and production time (which can also be spend on the couch, drawing or writing or thinking). And I was rebelling against how much time I need to lay down, because it feels like loosing to this disease. This is a battle I have twice or three times each year. (ok, three times at least each year, accompanied by a rage because usually I caused it myself by doing too much). It’s always difficult to surrender. To give up, to clear the calendar. To take the disappointments.

It doesn’t reflect on the meaningfulness though. It only requests I shift gears and  rearrange the pace of my days. An additional problem is that in those episodes I cannot think very clear, cannot make those decisions very consciously. I guess I could write down my strategies on a couple of post-its so I have a manual for when the next episode hits…

Looking back at that post about being useless there were three things convincing me. I could logically argue why and how I was useless. I felt useless. I knew it to be true.

While looking into this in the 8 parts you find on this blog I can now conclude that the premisses of my logic was flawed. As was the habit of judging and the standards I used for ranking.  The feeling of uselessness came from focussing on wrong things. Replacing the logic and the premisses and the habits automatically shifted my focus and lead to other feelings. (I don’t think you can change the way you feel about something without a change of view point. You can’t redirect emotions by will.)

The knowing it to be true comes from the feeling and the logic and an insecurity thing or two I picked up in childhood. I don’t know how to fix that last part. Therapy? A healing ritual? Or just living the good life until a new conviction of worthiness takes hold? I’m betting on the last one.

pic by Alicia Solario

Here are the other posts in this series:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfect or just admitting I can’t count


Reasoning towards a meaningful life part 7: Being Me.

This is part 7 in my 5 part thinking exercise to declutter my brain and get a proper framework for determining when/how/if I lead a meaningful life.

In previous parts I have determined that proper standards for meaningfulness can only come from accepting I am human. This comes with the human traits of having a brain that loves to be engaged, learn and play. With having a heart that loves to be swept of its feet. With having eyes that love to feast on things and having hands that love to touch. And with being a social animal that needs other humans to be happy.

I’ve also determined that at the moment I’m cramping my style by using too rigid values, premisses and habits which I’ve picked up from my upbringing and social groups I participate(d) in.

While writing this part, #7, I reached one conclusion I want to share with you upfront: my inner moral compass is good. Basically I am a decent person, with good morals. I cannot properly wrap this compass into words, I cannot articulate the premisses or values it uses. But I can trust it to make decisions without trying to justify them or couple them to values or premisses I’ve picked up along the way.

This gives me freedom. It also feels a bit daredevelish, since I’ve seldom made choices without words and constructions and logical foundation. Ha, this whole blog is evidence of that! But hey, I am going to use that freedom to determine what it means to be me and try to connect it to how that will make me lead a meaningful life. Off with the blinders!

So, carefree and without justification I’ll now name some things that make me deliriously happy:

  • Artisan work. I love smart hands and what they produce. Where I to do my life over I would have skipped University and would have learned a trade.
  • Natural materials. Wood, paper, porcelain, glass, trees, wool, silk. The joy my hands feel.
  • Quick results. I’m good at peaking in the moment. Making something in one afternoon. I give it all and I get results. This makes me happy.
  • Exploring a fascination. I need some sort of intellectual component in my work. This can be an all intellectual endeavour such as writing a popular science article. Or the artist’s fascinations of getting colours just right and together.
  • Having interesting points of view on most things in life, original views. I can make people look anew to things. I love to make myself look anew to things. I am most happy when I shed my blinders and find a whole new way of looking at things.
  • cuddling with the cat.
  • sitting at an airport or city cafe and watching people
  • sleeping or being in my bed
  • laying in a golden wheatfield in August with birds playing overhead. Kayaking along the edges of a fjord, looking at plants and animals, talking to the mountains. Roaming through the forests of Norway, becoming a wood spirit. (this last one actually can make me insane, I fear)
  • humour. I enjoy seeing the fun of things.


I’d love to be a artisan. To know a trade. To have magical hand. I could seriously contemplate learning a trade at my age and start a new life.

The only trouble is, I wouldn’t know what to chose. What niche to call my own… what would the subject and skill be that even today -while I’m still chronicly fatigued- I’d gladly wake up for in the middle of the night, pack the cat and some lunch and go out to do?

some things come to mind immediately.

  • running reindeer in the north
  • designing and making little carroussels that can be run by one person sitting in a lazy chair using two bike pedals. A small thing perfect for a street corner, allowing three children at a time to ride. Handcarved horses from wood. Glorious paint jobs. Stained glass in steel at the top.
  • making and selling artisan chocolats on farmer markets in Norway
  • printing wallpaper by hand from woodblocks in bright colours (I’d have such an interesting palette! not the duplo colours either)

These are dreams springing from the heart! No justification, no practical sense. These are all careers I have seriously contemplated at one point in my life, even researched. Even today I would wake up for them gladly. Should I contemplate starting one of them again? There áre some practical issues to resolve…

No, no, no. This post is not for the practical, the editor, the planner. This post is for the dreamer, the playful person, the optimist. She tells me I delight in skill.


Celebrating the sense of the fingertops. The smell of cut wood, oak wood.

I have a feel and a love for natural materials. These will be a part of my meaningful life for sure.


This gives a nice idea how I am to plan my time. It will be a good idea to dedicate a day or part of a day to one project at  a time. I will get things done. I know I will get in the right mind set to get the job done. This is a time management style that fits me.

Results are important to me, apparently. I need some sort of closure to the exploration of a fascination. A tangible goal to work towards to.


They will come and they will continue to come for the rest of my life. I have no fear of ever running out. I do have a bit of a problem of choosing which fascination to explore here and now. Allotting time and effort. I have already determined on this blog that I can do it all, if I work one fascination for each day of the week. I’m not sure this strategy works permanently but it’s a good starting point.

Exploring my fascination-du-jour is important, it is what makes me happy.

There are some fascinations that I keep coming back to:

  • Colours and shapes. Visual art, paintings, colour blocks.
  • Spatial design. City spaces, architecture, landscape design, sculpture.
  • Lines, silhouettes, shapes and countershapes, black and white.
  • Scientific workings. (body, digestion, cell functions, enzyme conversions, bacteria etc.)


I have them. I like it. Other people like it too. It comes natural to me, I don’t have to work for it.

I have specific memories about times when I found a new way of looking at things. Like that time at architect university when I first learned to look at spaces instead of masses. Or a few years later when I first laid in a park, in the sun, without a thought in my mind. Or when a mushroom experience showed me my sight is restricted by my brain and habits. Or when I lost colour sensation due to hormonal imbalance. Or as a child when I first noticed the skin changes on my hands, when the ‘grid’ showed first. Or seeing letters in scribbles for the first time.

Is this normal, to have a memory bank of these experiences? It’s like a photo album I keep. I don’t remember birthdays or school events, I remember the times when I gained a new way of looking at things.

Finding a new way of looking at something also gives me the giggles. It’s really fun.


I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that this holds a spiritual aspect for me. I learn from my cat how to live. What a good pace is to live through the day. What good activities are (“don’t run around all the time, rest and relax in the sun for a while too!”). The importance of stretching for the health of the body.


What can I say…

It’s when I recuperate. I should not feel guilty or useless when I spend time in bed. It is good for me. I should be proud.


I have not much to say about this. There was a time when I needed to visit patches of forest at least every week because I would be totally overwhelmed otherwise. This was when I was working in an office, making a career. Living in a city made of concrete. In this country, the Netherlands, that is so filled with concrete.

Then there was the time I roamed the Norwegian forest near Bergen and almost went insane. I’m still not sure whether it was the path to insanity or to artist’s grandeur. Or both. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve walked that path to the end, for the sake of art. But it would cost. At least my connection to the people I love and people in general.

For now I hold the view that what happened in Norway was an example of beginning perversion, where a good thing gets carried too far and damages a person. But it will be one of those things I’ll keep wondering about right until the day I die. Perhaps one of the regrets.


As you know, at the moment I have this cold. No biggy, no worries. It is almost gone now.

But there’s also something else going on in my health, a current running underneath that has been bugging me for months now. The doctor agreed and yesterday I had an echo of the belly. An echography of both upper part and lower part. We suspect it’s gall stones. We hope it is! Because other things might be more problematic.

“Other things” might be some sort of intestine illness (sigh…). Or a growth (yikes!). Or something I wrecked with that unusual diet I eat or the medicines I take (oh no, I made a mistake!).

Of course all kind of scenarios ran through my mind. Especially the kind where they discover something lumpy and nasty and they have to tell me, wringing their hands, that I only have three months left to live.

disclaimer: these kind of dying-fantasies seem very human to me and I’m not apologizing for them. Not even for the part where I seriously spend time thinking about how I would break this news to my (online) friends and how I would handle my own death on internet without faking it. I’m only human, thinking up horror scenarios is what we do.

disclaimer to the disclaimer: shall we share a howling belly laugh when I dó get lumpy-news in a couple of days? 

disclaimer to the disclaimer to the disclaimer: you know I am trying to jinx possible lumpiness by writing about it of course. I am such a human!

The reason I’m openly showing you my morbid thoughts is because amidst this vanity indulgence there was half an hour where I actually had myself seriously considering what to do with the rest of my life if I only had three months left to live. That’s now until February.

What would I do?

Two things emerged quite forcefully:

  1. I would work. I would work every day. I would explore one fascination and would bring it to an end result. I have not chosen which fascination, that depends on the moment this actually happens I guess. It is still a fantasy at this point.
  2. I would involve my friends in getting to terms with me being around for a limited amount of time in my own way. I would have nothing (or very few) of the lamenting and the woes and the doe eyes. Instead I would show them a way of bringing the life of a friend to conclusion. My way. Probably a bit different from how ‘normal people’ do. I would talk openly about it. I would insist on hard core yoking. And I would continue to sweat the small stuff with them because that’s what daily life is, moaning when you get rained on or when people cold calling or hurting your toe. Also, I would have a party or two, at least one where they get to plunder my wool stash.

This is a novel way for me to find truths within myself. No thinking, no words. Just a strong incentive and up they bubble! Very interesting.
I won’t question these two things that came up. I will just take them and accept them. Should I get “lumpy news” from the doctor I’ll approach my friends in the manner I’ve described.
And the first thing… it tells me I am ready to work. Yay!



I try and find fun in things. All things. This too comes naturally to me, it comes at no effort. Sometimes it takes a bit of effort, when I get miffed at a posting on the knitting forum. But this always comes down at trying to see things from another perspective, which is always an interesting exercise to me.

When I feel good I see fun everywhere. It seems I emphasize it automatically. It enhances my happiness.

I particularly enjoy thinking up stories. They always have a funny aspect to them. Like the drawings of Quentin Blake.


I can trust my inner compass when I make choices and decisions. No need for justifications or logical explanations.

When doing something that makes me happy my life is meaningful.

Skills involving my hands and natural materials are key in making me happy.

Exploring a fascination is essential. A tangible result of this exploration too. My fascinations run for about 3 months at a time. Or 2 weeks. I like to emerge myself in the subject for that time.

My fascinations revolves around colours, shapes, spatial design and experiences, science. Lots of them involve play. Playful investigation. Trying out new tangents without being hung up on the outcome or the route.

Spending time in my bed is important.

I am ready to take on a fascination and run with it for the next few weeks. I am ready to wórk!

I can take the fun-loving habit of mine and use it as a driving force. I am getting feedback from people that they enjoy that part of me manifesting itself in the world.

This is part 7 in a series in which I think myself towards a meaningful life. So I don’t feel worthless anymore.

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 7: Being Me

Two more stops remain in my thinking exercise to shut up the feelings of unworthiness for once and for all. Today I meant to think about being me and what would truly give me a feel of worth, now that I have identified the white noise coming from other people’s values, my habits and faulty assumptions.

Unfortunately I’m having a cold and have trouble thinking clearly. A nice attempt to self sabotage. Also, I mislaid the used envelope on which I scribbled the keywords. Sabotage attempt nr 2.

So I’ll just write down some of the things that belong in this part. Later on I’ll try to make it into a coherent thought.

part 7: BEING ME

About what makes me feel worthy. Do not think about what is practical or what my daily limitations are, those are for part 8. Now I look at what makes me sing, what makes me happy (intellectually and otherwise)


I like an intellectual adventure. Thinking my way through something. It’s that sublimation thing I talked about.








I didn’t use an old envelope, I used my green owls notebook! I even showed you a picture of it!  Duh.

I remember where I left that!


right, here we go:

  • working on a fascination makes me feel good. Useful. Worthy.
  • I need a visible endresult to feel good. The work needs to be concluded (not just be abandonded) and it needs to be visible. Perhaps aknowledged by others too.
  • a new fascination will always pop up
  • when there’s a bit of time between concluding of one fascination and the beginning of another I can easily start to feel worthless

What? That’s all I wrote? I thought so much more! There’s other things I want to say here. About what kind of fascinations, what kind of results. About being with friends. Even a brilliant piece about pretending I only have 3 months to live (as you do when  you get a cold) and what nugget it brought up. But I’m too muddled right now to remember coherently!

I’m going to leave this here, as a starting point to build upon.

it had to do with blockprinting…working in my loft… producing a calender… I don’t remember! Aaaagh!

 pic by Powerpay

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 6: having a heart

Having a heart is typical human. Compassion, love, delight, joy are important things. Emotions are important things. They probably should have a say when evaluating the worth of the life one leads.

 pic by Benis Arapovic

It is our heart that allows us to get ecstatic. I lack the right word in English for what I want to describe here, the Dutch word is “vervoering”. It is when you get swept off your feet. Experience something greater than yourself. It’s a good thing, an totally enjoyable thing. It has nothing of the sharpness that can come with the English word “ecstasy”.

The experience of being “in vervoering” can be prompted by a love experience, by your child, by your partner, by sex, by dancing, by religion, by a group experience. But also by a quiet, harmonious experience like as seeing a little child comforting its brother who has just bumped his head.

 pic by Jenben24

To be able to be swept off ones feet might be one of the most important things in a human life.

I also suspect that biologically it connects with the delight of sublime experiences I described in the previous part: having a brain.

Experiencing being swept of your feet cannot be judged with the brain. Or with moral values. It is outside the realm of things I use to conclude I’m useless in life.

Experiencing this heart-thing or trying to relive the experience can easily evolve into perversion. Just like striving for sublimation to excite the brain can evolve in all kinds of addictions and mass delusions about what makes life valuable. Perverted excitement of the heart results in being overwhelmed by the emotions so much that you completely lose yourself and get truly rattled by that experience. It will make you feel desperate. Adrift.

Tempering the experience and being careful to never getting to the stage of excitement is no good either. You cage yourself. You hold back. You do not experience life to the fullest.

Getting swept of your feet is one experience that is powerfully clear in its message: “I am alive!”

No argument then. Experiencing the heart is one of the things that makes life worth living.


Being “in vervoering”, being swept of your feet, is something everybody needs to experience in life, at least once. It is one of the things that makes life worthy.

pic by Fernando Audibert

This is part 6 in a series in which I think myself towards a meaningful life. So I don’t feel worthless anymore.

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 5: having a brain

To summarize the previous posts: feeling of worth can only come when I judge myself based on me being human and having human values. The human values are fluid and not clear cut. When judging myself I have to take make room for the validity of emotional standards and my unhealthy habit of comparing and judging all the time (on false premisses).

Now I want to look at that typical human asset, the brain, and how having one can give meaning to ones life.

 pic by ArtM

Having intellect is typical human.

No wait, I mean this the other way around since I do not assume other creatures to be void of intellect: “leading a meaningful life as a human involves the brain.”

Our intellect allows us to appreciate the finer things in life. The more complex things. The various connections a subject has to other subjects. To be more clear, I’m thinking here of the intellectual pleasure we can derive from art, literature, opera, fine bone china, architecture, urban coffee culture, fashion, mathematics, cinema, chess, politics, teenage fashion et cetera. All the things that are more than just things.

pic by Martin Walls

This indulging of the intellectual pleasure, this high flying of the mind, can go o extremes and become ugly and sickening. For example urban culture and office politics can easily migrate to rat race and adrenal pushing. Caffeïne addiction. Judging an extrovert lifestyle superior to an introvert one.

Leading an up beat life is exhillerating and fun but it is not good when it goes too extreme. This lifestyle is nonetheless glorified and presented as normal in adverts, sporting events, media circusses and American tv-series such as US Scandal (which I love to watch. But it’s too adrenal, the people are too witty and life goes too fast.)

There’s nothing wrong with high speed entertainment. There’s nothing wrong with an extrovert lifestyle.

There’s something wrong when we get addicted to it, when we take it to extremes and when there’s a group delusion that this kind of lifestyle is very worthy and to be desired.

 pic by Mark Normand

Returning to the joys of having a brain.

Things that delight the brain (or make us delight in having a brain) al seem to be more than the thing presented. Architecture is more than a building. Chess is more than a game.

This is called sublimation. And I think that enjoying something sublime is a biological thing. Certainly not logical. Even though it starts and ends with the brain and the brain alone.

 pic by Macin Smolinski

Animals know sublimation too. Sea gull chicks tap the red spot on the bill of their parents to make them regurgitate food. When presented with a lollipop stick with a red dot on them, they’ll tap on it. If presented with a stick with a bigger red dot on it, they tap it harder. When presented with a stick with the biggest red dot on it they’ve ever seen and unthinkable for any seagull they blow their little minds, will ignore their parents and will tap that big red dot. They experience sublimation. (see footnote)

Humans can do the same. I suspect big round breasts do something like that for men, even if they are bigger than breasts they’ve ever seen and are unthinkable for any human.

A more harmonious sublimal pleasure can be derived from the fields of culture I gave some examples of. I think it is important for a human being to have this in her life. I think it will make life meaningful. = CONCLUSION

Having said so I realize this pleasure is private, intern, solo. Let me think about that some more.

This is part 5 in a series in which I think myself towards a meaningful life. So I don’t feel worthless anymore.

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

 pic by Serkan Ozcan


The seagull experiment was done by Nobel Prize winning biologist Nico Tinbergen. He didn’t use bare lollipop sticks but sticks with the shape of a sea gull head glued to it. He used different coloured dots on different parts of the silhouette. The interpretation of the experiments and research needs a bit more nuancing than I’ve presented it above.

I still suspect animals are capable of sublimation. I know the human animal is.

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 4: Values

This is part 4 in a 5 part exercise to reason myself out of leading a worthless life.

In this part I’ll look at the values and morals we bring to the table when comparing and judging the world and ourselves. In a simple view I’d say our values are the things we base our views and judgements on. The measuring tape we apply. I want to know if these values make sense. I have a feeling they are not very consciously installed.

pic by Michaela Kobyakov

Most values on which we base our opinions (of ourselves) are influenced by:

  • group ideas
  • habits
  • examples
  • the way you were raised

pic by Marcus Österberg


Psychologists and Social Scientists have written plenty enough books about how our personal morals are shaped and influenced by the group in which we exist. Being it a circle of family, a circle of friends, a religion circle or people you identify with over the internet or television shows.

Excesses are peer pressure, collective blind spots, censure, masse hysteria and people who do not pick up on values: the psychopaths. But we’ll leave the excesses for the scientists, I want to think about the normal, soft-spoken values all of us got and keep getting from the groups of people we interact with.

Group values we internalize are about social behaviour, decency, bodily presentation, whether leadership is desired, whether personal sacrifices are desired, should we be obedient, which things we should be outraged about, which things in life are desirable and many more.

pic by Scasha

Of course a group has a different goal than an individual. Perhaps its values should be examined and judged before embracing them as our own?

Ah, but since values are such a muddled bunch, it is hard to distinguish were your own moral values centre around and which one are based on the group you’ve been hanging out with.
Perhaps this is not a problem after all. We are group animals after all. Perhaps we can rely on group values to be of some good for individuals too.

pic by Danagouws

One thing to do help us distinguishing some between group values and personal morals is comparing different groups. When you travel to another country it is very easy to pick up on the difference in “value flavour”.
For example: the Dutch are very much about efficiency. We will try to optimalise any production process. We’re also a trading country for centuries and we’re quite practical when it comes to marrying morals with profit. Outbursts, flamboyance and patriotism is not in our blood.
Norway, on the other hand, values family time highly. Women are equal to men and this shows in society. They love to spend time outdoors. There are
Norsk people get tired quickly when dealing with Dutch people trying to set up business in Norway. They are so pushy! They take no time to live, to obey the subtle pleasantries of human interaction. The Dutch get frustrated with the Norwegians, everything is so slow and fluid! No solid information is given, no initiaries.
A good example how departure from different values makes for different “flavour”.

pic by Arancia

Another example is how as a culture the USA views and values workers in retail and food industry. They are servers. They are servants. They are there to serve you. You can talk down to them. You are the costumer.
In the Netherlands, and also in France, it is different. People working in shops and cafe’s are the hosts of that venue. You are a guest. As a guest you are expected to be polite. You greet the server upon entering. You thank them when they hand you something. Even though you bring money you are dependent on the server and it’s a joint collaboration to get you the product/experience you desire. You are not better than the person helping you.

Traveling and talking to people from other countries and other social groups is good way to examine the values one takes from their own country and their own groups. Do I want to be a down to earth, efficient Dutch woman? Do I want to embrace the love for tv shows about singing? Do I want to join in the conviction society is crumbling down and we are no longer safe in our own homes?

Groups can have some specific and quirky ideas about life and what makes a valuable life.


We are also creatures of habit. We’re lazy beings, mostly. Once your values are established and you use them to judge yourselves and others, it’s far easier to keep reusing them than it is to re-evaluate them once in a while.

I’ve got a life to live, I’m busy as it is, get away from me!
pic by Piotr Bizior

Re-evalution of ones morals and values feels like another chore to jot down on the old to-do list…

hmm. A new habit can be installed though. Without examining the values in dept. So that’s half the chore then. Doable. Especially when it’s wrapped in another new habit that is installed, such as judging less.


pic by Marinela Prodan

We pick up plenty values from other people. Being it aunts who like to dress up or famous people.
In my society examples are presented through the media a lot. I have to keep in mind media filter and colour every story to serve their own media goals.
I also have to keep in mind that any other person I look at in order to learn from, I’m looking from the outside. From the outside, exemplary people often look coherent. Consistent.
I have no clue about their inner torrents and multiplicity. I should remind myself that these people too have rich inner lives and are not as clear cut internally as they appear on the outside. I should not expect myself to be.

Famous people and media also help to shift values and morals. We all know examples of media stories where suddenly it is ok to say something about other people, to voice (or even have) an opinion that was unthinkable 20 years ago.
An opinion about Muslims. Homosexuals. Women providing home lives. Evolutionists. Surgeons. Cyclists. Squirrels.
We should not take those opinions and run with them. We should not get caught up in the crazy of today. We should not be quick to adapt our values based on the news.

This is a strong well of values from which you have taken many. It’s a good idea to shed some of them. To dilute all of them.
As a child it was probably easier to handle life by seeing things in black and white. As an adult you know the world isn’t like that. It’s a complex world. There are no clear cut truths. This is nothing to be worried about, complexity is not more difficult to handle than simplicity.
It’s just more nuanced. And a great source of beauty.

Values are taken from many sources outside of us. Groups, other individuals and child hood habits. It’s a good idea to be more mellow, to ease up. Both on the values and on the sources you took them from.

pic by Belovodchenko Anton

This is part 4 in a 5 part thinking exercise. Here are the other parts:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

Reasoning towards a meaningfull life, part 3C: better bases for my judging

Clearly I’m not very good at judging, as you’ve read in my previous post. Really, from what I summed up there I shouldn’t be left in charge of the bathtub never mind assessing the value of the life I lead!

 pic by Fleur Suijten


Here now follow a few things I jotted down.

BETTER HABITS to install:

  • only compare and judge things worth of doing so. All other things: appreciate their existence, their intricity, without comparing or ranking them or subjecting them to standards you or they have no business with. In short: quick call before I start comparing. This new habit will probably give more quiet in the head and new views on and thoughts about the things not being compared.
  • use the free time I get from not comparing all the time to relax, to destress, to smell the roses. To play, to hang around, to just be.

 pic by Jeff Hire

BETTER SKILLS to develop:

  • the skill of not-judging. Not comparing. See the other things.
  • the skill of comparing and judging based on non-cerebral values. Not everything has to be useful, rational, logical.
  • Learn to choose based on emotions. Feel the freedom and richness that will come from that.

 pic by João Gouveia

BETTER UPBRINGING to internalize:

  • aw, just forget about it all. I’m old enough to construct a set of values of my own.
  • recognize I have an emotional bias towards receiving worded or monetary praise.I’ll need to practice actively to try and change this. The same I did with not feeling basically safe.

pic by Jane Monteith

BETTER PREMISSES to work with:

I’ll get myself a whole new set. The one I’m using is…. not very good.

I’ve got no idea yet how the new set will look. I first have to work through the whole series of this thought process I think, all 5 steps (or 8) of it. I’m also under the weather so no energy to think clearly about a new set.


 pic by Jello Fishy

Reasoning towards a meaningfull life part 3B: personal analyses of my judging

I examined the four bullet points I mentioned in my previous post. In order to find out how sound my judgements actually are, especially since they are influenced by:

  • my habits in comparing and judging
  • my upbringing in which I learned to compare and judge
  • my skills in comparing and ranking
  • the premisses I use when judging

Here now follows what is true for me.
And for nobody else.

So just read it as a little insight into me or as an example how you can approach these points yourself. Please note that when I talk about my upbringing, you have to keep in mind that what I write does NOT reflect upon my parents. It only reflects upon me. It shows what I picked up growing up, not what my parents were presenting me to pick up.

MY HABITS when I compare, rank or judge

  1. I always compare and judge. Always. If I breathe, I rank. It would be great to spend some time not comparing, not judging. This would probably bring some rest. It’s what meditation and mindfulness is about. Lots of people love it.
  2. I make lots of lists. To remember things. But above all to plan things. To plan the future. I seldom succeed in doing all the things I planned. Lists are usually mocking me, taunting me. I feel inadequacy when trying to shoe horn a list into reality. This is not right. I am using lists wrong. They are not a tool for judging, just for planning and flaky memory.
  3. I’m always making plans for the future. For the next half hour, for tomorrow, for next month. Do I live in the present much? Enjoying the things I have in the here and now? Am I content much?


MY UPBRINGING concerning judging

  1. I was trained to learn and compare from a very young age. It yielded praise, whenever I showed that I was sharp, analyzing, observant.
  2. I also was thoroughly trained to judge and I picked up the framework for this from others, not myself.
  3. Praise was clearly articulated when results were visible. Such as with school grades or that time I decorated the bathroom and was rewarded with a piece of jewellery for my effort to make the house nice. I don’t remember hearing praise for having played well with friends or for comforting a sibling.
  4. Specific things remained unsaid, things as me being lovable, good or pretty just the way I am. These things probably go without saying in a loving home. I, having a slightly ASS personality, do not pick up on things unsaid. Therefor I may now lack a basic conviction that I am good, worthy, pretty or safe just the way I am.
  5. I remember what was said. Some things stuck, such as lovingly being called “darling troll” by my father or “little fatty” by a school pal. It made me judge myself and my body harshly. (The school pal is now a psychologist specialized in helping women with Anorexia, btw.)  Another thing that was said and that stuck was my dad proclaiming that this was hís house since hé paid the mortgage. I instantly felt unsafe because it was my house too since I’d lived there all my life and it was home. That that emotional attachment didn’t count was startling.
  6. There were clear judgements cast against me that unfortunately were not explained, leaving me without a clue and without a solution for the problem at hand. One was: “C’est le ton qui fait la musique!”. It seems I had a terrible intonation that can make your blood boil. I still have no idea how I did that. The other was: “You’re NOT his mother!” whenever I tried to solve a social problem my brother was having, in my own childish way. Probably used that tone that boils blood…
  7. Ambition was ingrained in all of us. Sky high ambition. It’s a family thing on my fathers side, all my cousins have it too. You have to aim for the highest. Always.
  8. Superiority was ingrained too. We are smarter then everybody else. I never picked up any tools or clues how to handle dealing with being better than everybody else though. Feeling superior sure did block looking outside of the home for clues or examples for leading a worthy life.
  9. Visibility, fame even, is a necessity if you are to be of any value. Invisibility = mediocracy = deplorable (=worthless)

Again let me stress: this is what I picked up from my upbringing, it’s not what my parents envisioned or presented. They’ll certainly won’t recognize our home life in this. Neither will my brother. Let’s therefor stipulate that I was a weird character to raise and I probably didn’t fit well with the characters of my parents. Or the world in general.


SKILLS I use when judging

  1. I’m extremely skilled in noticing things. Details, consequences, the big picture, you name it and I’ve probably noticed it already. And thought about it. From numerous perspectives. And designed a t-shirt about it. This is a nice skill to have when you have to sit around a lot and wait. I have a lively mental interior with lots of interesting thoughts and am seldom bored. It’s not so handy for other reasons: I am so skilled that I often don’t even notice that I am comparing, ranking, judging. Always comparing. This may be  preventing an other approach to surface.
  2. I have a somewhat blind spot for emotions and emotional values. I’ve learned to reduce the blind spot in therapy but I still have a bias towards cerebral points of view. This makes me weak in recognizing and using heartfelt comparisons, rankings and judgements. Which are valuable in and of themselves. There’s treasure for me to be found there. Happiness.
  3. I have trouble choosing. I’m great in decision making. But choosing? Nope. When the alternatives are not comparable and when it comes down to “what do you prefer?” I grind to a halt.


PREMISSES; the values I base my judgement on without even realizing it

  1. Visibility is important.
  2. Acknowledgements from others equals worthiness.
  3. Money is a currency for acknowledgement.
  4. Purity of heart is the only option.
  5. We are duty bound to have good intentions AND procure good outcomes as a result of them. Just good intentions are not going to cut it.
  6. Avoidable faults are a blemish on my character. Blame should be assigned. Even if the consequences could not have been foreseen. They’re still my fault because I’m convinced I could have foreseen them. If only I had tried a little harder. Were a little smarter.
  7. The outcome, the eventual result, of an action reflects on the quality of the judgement AND of the judger. Even though one has little to do with the other. A result is as much influenced by time, life, luck and the weather as it is by the judgement that prompted the action. Still this is a premise I use…



I am one shackled lady…


This is not good. This page is riddled with constraints and kill joys and flawed, deeply flawed starting points.




pics by Stephen Tainton

Reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 3: Judging

So: feeling valuable in/at life can only be based on human perspectives.
These perspectives are not primarily logical or clear headed. This doesn’t make them invalid. Au contraire.

Now I’m wondering:

How does the mere act of judging influence the judgements I cast on myself?

As humans we are taught to judge all the time. We compare compare compare. We attach values at all the components involved. We do it in a split second too. It seems we can hardly use our eyes without comparing and attaching values.

(perhaps seeing IS the act of comparing? without comparing we cannot see?)
(- when a tree snow falls in the forest and there’s nothing left to see, am I then blind?)
(- there you are then. Now enough with the philosophies, go get some results!)

We compare things.


And then we rank them. We rank options. People. Accomplishments. Fruit. Days.

It seems we cannot go a minute without comparing and ranking things.
It may very well be that this knack for judging is impairing the appreciation of the meaningfulness of our own life.

Our comparing and consequentally judging of apples things is influenced by:

  • our habits in comparing and judging
  • our upbringing
  • our skills in comparing and judging
  • our premisses

But all of these are subjective…

And therefor possibly flawed. Probably flawed!

All of these aspects can (need) be examined and tuned or changed before any good judging of the meaningfulness of ones life can commence.

This exercise would weed out the unarticulated notion that I am worthless. If my life is indeed meaningless then I will at least be able to put into words why I think this to be true.

But without examining the way I judge it will never be more than a strong feeling that I am useless. Just a snap shot decision that I am. Possibly just out of habit and faulty premisses imposed upon me as a child.

I should examine these four points. How they operate for me personally.

Right here, on this blog, and right now, after only one cup of morning tea, I am not prepared to do this. But I may make myself a second cup and grab my notebook to do some thinking off line…


Before passing judgement it’s a good idea to have a closer look at ones habit, values, skills and premisses used in judging. They are probably not very sound ones.

This is part 3 in a 5 part thinking exercise:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

pic credits: apples by Tibor Fazakas, taking a bit by Gary Scott

reasoning towards a meaningful life, part 2: Being Human

Feeling worthless for a long time now I’ve set up a reasoning to find my way to a meaningfull life. This is part 2, is there meaning to be found in BEING HUMAN?

pic by Gözde Otman

I’m a human. (Oh go on, let’s just assume so. Squabble squabble SNORE!)

Implications of being human are, amongst others, that I have a body, that I know other humans, that I have intellect, that I have feelings, that I’ve learned to make decisions, that I have language. All these things have consequences for how I value life and how I value my own life. I’ll look at some of them in detail in future parts (5: intellect; 6: feelings)

For now I want to focus on how being a human influences asserting value to something.

A human has a brain. This gives him the chance to predict the future, especially the consequences of his own actions while still in the stage of contemplating which action to take. His predictions colour the value he attaches to his array of possible actions. It may easily cripple his decision making, having him linger in indecisiveness.
This ability to think ahead also gives him an inkling of how his day is going to go, his week, his year. This yields expectations. Expectations are compared to the actual day/week/year. This is a danger zone, full of judgements and disappointment.

pic by Elvis Santana

A human has feelings. Feelings are a formidable force in life. They may give value and meaning to a life in a way that cannot be grasped by the brain.
Feelings give a human a connection to those that are affected by his actions and by his life/existence. This also makes the feedback he gets from those around him pretty powerful.
We should all be skilled in experiencing feelings, in not being afraid of them. Not feeling prompted to act upon them either. Just feel them. I suspect they attach value to a life…

A human is a group animal. This gives all kinds of intertwined messages and feelings on which we try to base standards with which we measure ourselves and others (more explored in part 4).
Apart from this, being a group animal gives us another non-rational set of standards to appoint meaning to our lives. We need interaction with other humans, we are biologically programmed that way. Each to her own degree (hello introverts, you are doing fine).
This means that having a good time with friends (or peers) has something to do with worth. I don’t have a clear idea how but that’s because I’m trying to understand all this with my brain. This is not a brain thing, this is biological thing. A valuable thing, making life meaningful.

A human is an eye-animal. This too is a biological thing. We lóve beauty. A nice pattern. Colours. Horizons, rainbows, patterned animals.

pic by Miguel Ugalde

I don’t know (yet) what this means for leading a valuable life. I just know it would be something a scientist researching us would notice.

A human is a playful animal. This too is in our bones. What does this mean for leading a meaningful life? I don’t know yet… It may just give a tool with which to handle living more easily.

There are other traits that go with human being. I’m sure they too have implications for how we value (our own) life. But these are the ones that came to mind instantly.

When determining how to value ones own life it is important to acknowledge our biological characteristics. Some of them invite to attach meaning without relying on intellectual values. For example: feeling good in the company of others or when enjoying a view or playing is good for you. Time spend with friends is time well spend. It is a valuable way of spending time in your life, even if it does not yield visible results.

Also: because you are human your system of standards is muddled. And illogical.

pic by Chris Greene, from Norway

This is part 2 in a 5 part exercise to reason myself out of leading a worthless life:

1. being in existence
2. being human
3. being judgemental
4. having values
5. having a brain
6. having a heart
7. being me
8. being perfectionist or just admitting you can’t count

the post where I admit how utterly worthless I know I am is this one