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

CONCLUSIONS about HOW MY LIFE IS MEANINGFUL

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

EPILOGUE

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!

PART 7: BEING ME
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.

ABOUT ARTISAN WORK

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.

ABOUT NATURAL MATERIALS

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.

ABOUT QUICK RESULTS

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.

ABOUT FASCINATIONS

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.)

ABOUT INTERESTING VIEWS

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.

ABOUT CUDDLING THE CAT

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.

ABOUT WATCHING URBAN PEOPLE

What can I say…
ABOUT SPENDING TIME IN BED

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.

ABOUT BEING IN NATURE

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.

ABOUT BEING ALMOST DEAD

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!

 

ABOUT FUN

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.

 

CONCLUSIONS
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 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?)
(no.)
(- there you are then. Now enough with the philosophies, go get some results!)

We compare things.

All.
The.
Time.

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…

CONCLUSION:

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 1: Existing

So I tried to reason myself to the meaning of (my) life. Because I’m tired of feeling useless and worthless. Here we go.

this thinking will consists of 5 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

PART 1:
Is there meaning to be found in being in existence?

I exist.
(let’s just assume this, okay? I really don’t have the patience for abstract squabbles about the definition of “I” or the merits of observation vs. truth or about the shortcomings of language. SNORE!)

Animals exist. Plants exist. Molecules exist. Mountains exist. I can look at their existence and extrapolate things I notice about the meaning of their existences onto mine.


pic by Sherrie Smith

When I look at the world, at life, as a whole I find that all and everything is of equal value.
I cannot value a human more than a bug on any other bias than that I am a human myself. (this makes that I dó value a human more than a bug but if I just step besides myself for a moment there’s no logical foundation to do so.)

When I look at life I see things just happening. Molecules collide, bacteria die, animals try and pass the day in a undisturbed slumber. There doesn’t seem to be a plan or a big goal in their lives. Nor intention. Nor malice. Things just happen. And if something else or someone else gets caught up in it then that is by chance.

Sex drives, young emerge.
Enzymes fiddle, critical mass is reached.

When looking through the eyes of scientists there’s a lot to be marveled over in this world. Physicists, Chemists, Biologists, Zooölogists. They give wonderful insight in the world around us. There is so much delicacy in systems and workings in the world around us. Robustness too! Amazing co-existences. Awesome adaptations. There’s a lot to be wondered!

pic by ilker

But a set of standards to value life is not to be found when examining existence.
Science gives knowledge and insights and a chance to build a wild house of cards in your mind. But it doesn’t say when a life is meaningful.

CONCLUSION:
Any value or worth of (my) life can only be determined based on (me) being a human.


pic by Thad Zajdowicz