Like Putting an Octopus to Bed

This is going to be a stream of consciousness and probably won’t wrap up properly, so buckle up.

I’ve gone ahead and started a blog that I had the best intentions of writing for every day. That hasn’t happened and for three reasons:

1 – I’ve been embroidering almost every day.

2 – I’ve been writing what might be a short story or might be a novel.

3 – I quit my job.

I’ve had some trouble with coming back to the blog since I wasn’t sure how to tie it all together. All three are things I want to write about and figure out my feelings, but they were all things that were important and information I didn’t feel like spacing out over many posts.

I’ve been reading this book called “Bird By Bird” written by a woman named Anne Lamott. It was gifted to me by a friend at work for our gift exchange at Christmas and it was one of the things that gave me the most confidence about leaving a job I hated: there was something else out there for me. I’m still not really sure what it is, and it probably isn’t writing (hardly anybody makes it as a writer, don’t you know?), but it was a symbol that someone else knew I could do other things and wanted to support me in that. Thank you, Jesse.

He also gave me a whoopee cushion and an air horn, to help me express when I’m feeling like shit and when I’m feeling LIT. I’ll let you decide which one is for what.

Funnily enough, Bird by Bird has also given me the perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling about my life right now.

There’s an image I’ve heard people in recovery use – that getting all of one’s addictions under control is a little like putting an octopus to bed. You get a bunch of the octopus’s arms tucked under the covers, but two arms are still flailing around. But you finally get those arms under the sheets, too, and are about to turn off the lights when another long sucking arm breaks free.

I’m not an addict, but I’m definitely in recovery. Recovering from being manipulated and mentally abused and exploited (I’m still unsure if this was all on purpose or completely unintentional), while also trying to figure out this whole writing thing and what it means and also putting a lot of time and effort into building my artistic skills. I’m working part-time at two new jobs and also trying to get my health back on track. I’m trying to see more friends and also keep my apartment clean, laundry under control and at least some eggs in the fridge.

I suppose a lot of this is what many people deal with in everyday life. But I swear, I’m so scarred by my experience leaving my job, it’s going to take me a long time to trust anybody professionally ever again. Maybe I never will and maybe you’re not actually supposed to trust people. We’ll find out.

This all sounds like I’m really overwhelmed, but I’ve mostly just done a lot of thinking. And I still have a lot of thinking to do. But it’s nice to reflect and come to terms with where I’m at in my life. I didn’t think I’d be here.

I’m happy that I’m not at that job anymore and I’m trying my best to not be bitter about how things ended and send them positive thoughts since it’s a tough business and everyone deserves a little positivity sent their way.

I’m happy that I have time to focus on things that are important to me and do things on my terms again. I’m a little lost but much more empowered.

I read somewhere recently that life’s purpose isn’t to be happy since there’s no equation for that and you’ll never know how you feel about the same thing on different days. It’s unpredictable. But what is predictable is that you can be useful. You can control how useful you are and how much effort you put in. Life’s purpose is to find purpose, and happiness is a by-product of usefulness.  

So I’m just going to be useful in some way. To be productive at whatever I’m doing, no matter how small, and I’ll continue tucking the octopus’s arms under the sheets not before throwing him a high five or two (or eight).

Intentionalism

I’m always on the search for a new person to inspire me. I’m somewhat a product of my generation in that I like when people who seem like they have some of their shit together tell me what to do.

Oh, you clawed your way out of debt and are a successful freelancer that’s not desperately selling your organs online? You must be woke, tell me your ways. And also explain what woke means. 

I stray from this in one way: I’m picky. I’m extremely picky.

I don’t just take YouTube or Instagram’s suggestions and run with them. Their algorithms are programmed to show us content similar to what we’re already consuming. This doesn’t work for me since I’m the Goldilocks of content consumers. It has to be just right. And chances are if you’re the person standing next to the person I like on the scale of style, values and content… I don’t like you. Well, it’s not that I don’t like you, it’s just that I won’t go out of my way to keep up with what you’re doing.

Just because I like Rich Roll, doesn’t mean I’m going to like stuff Tim Ferris does. I like hearing about Tim Ferris through the lens of Rich Roll, but I can’t seem to get on board with content from him. If you don’t know who these people are, start with Rich Roll. He’ll introduce you to everyone you need to know. 

To suit my taste, you need to have a clean aesthetic, a simple and authentic message, and unique content. This is more difficult to come by than it sounds.

I’ll cut to the chase a little more quickly. I’ve started to follow a YouTuber called Matt D’Avella. Instantly, I was drawn to the quality of his videos and the attention to detail he’s given every shot. It’s clearly the work of a true professional and he definitely cares about what he’s doing. I love him. Is it too soon in our relationship for me to just come out and say it? I love him. If I start writing his name with hearts in the back of my Moleskine planner, you can notify my boyfriend.

He has this short video about minimalism (he was actually the guy who did that documentary on Netflix about Minimalism, though I only found this exciting news out from simply watching his videos – I loved this documentary), where Joshua Fields Milburn of the Minimalists (see link) says about minimalism, 

For me, the ism is less important. You can call it minimalism, I think it’s the perfect word. I also think it’s the most imperfect word because sometimes it scares off people. Sometimes it scares people enough to actually make some changes which is great, but if it’s too austere of a word, then you can say essentialism, you can say intentionalism, you can say living-within-your-means-ism. Whatever ism you want to use, but it really has to do with living a more meaningful life.

*cue a montage of stuff blowing up as a metaphor for my brain*

I truthfully stopped listening after intentionalism. It hit me like a rock hitting water and cornstarch. It made a huge impact once it hit, but once I sat with it, it sunk right in.

Everyone talks about mindfulness, they talk about minimalism. I’ve only encountered intention as part of a yoga class – an intention is a thought or a feeling you set for the class as a dedication of sorts. Sure, at the root, I guess mindfulness and intentionalism are both kind of synonyms of each other when it comes down to it – but intentionalism is different because of the feeling it gives you when you think about doing something with intention instead of mindfully.

Mindfulness is peaceful, it’s taking note of what’s happening and not being affected by the sea of actions happening around you. It’s the pebble at the bottom of the river that lets the water rush over it without trying to stop it.

Intentionalism is action. Intentionalism is the deliberate lack of action. It’s choice and thought and action, inaction, stoicism, mindfulness, minimalism, zero waste, budgeting etc. etc. etc., all rolled into one. It’s motivational, it’s empowering and it’s easy to manipulate into something unique – into a term that works for you.

Mindfulness feels like a slow walk in the park, enjoying every flower, the smell of the breeze and acknowledging the present moment.

Intentionalism is choosing that present moment. It feels like marching down the street, feeling the journey rush over you, seeing the crack in the pavement and stepping over it, and taking control over which flowers you want to see today, or if you’d rather sit in a coffee shop and write a blog post. 

Both are valuable and you can’t (read: shouldn’t) live without either. But there is a certain level of control and choice we all have that gets left behind when people talk about enjoying life and being present for the journey.

So this is the mission. Keep moving forward, or slow down to a pace that feels right for you. Heck, screech to a stop if that’s what you need. Just do it intentionally.

“No.” is a complete sentence.

I fully expected that having time off would call for a reevaluation of where I am in my life, where I’d like to be and how I’m really feeling about it.

I had a difficult time going from work mode to vacation mode.

I’m not the type of person who can just hand over responsibility and be unphased by the possibility of everything falling apart while I’m gone. I kept thinking, “If something goes wrong, it’s my fault. It was my job to set it up properly before I left.”.

This is the one disease I’ve gained by working for a small business. Growth in a small business means someone is in charge of implementing systems that will help the whole thing work smoothly. I’m one of those people in my workplace.

My need to prove myself, the things I tell myself about how I’m a quitter (that this has made me a failure in the past), and my loyalty to people I respect (wanting to make sure they’re comfortable and everyone is taken care of) have made for the perfect storm for self-deprecation and guilt if I’m not pulling 3x my weight and working an insane amount of hours.

At the other end of that, I end up thinking, “This is not efficient, it shouldn’t take me 50 hours a week to do this. This must mean I’m not doing a good job.”.

For the past few months, I’ve struggled. A lot. And I can’t seem to stop talking about it or thinking about it or writing about it, or worrying what people think and stressing that I don’t have anything to fall back on if I fail at this job.

Towards the end of this week, something clicked. And, unexpectedly, two random people have changed my life.

One is Jane Fonda. The other is Thomas Edison.

I was watching the Netflix documentary called Feminists: What Were They Thinking?, and Jane Fonda was talking about the opening titles she had to pose nude in for the Sci-Fi movie BarbarellaShe notes that she hated being naked but she trusted the director’s vision. In the end, she said, she just didn’t know how to say no. And here’s where my heart dropped. She said (and I paraphrase),

“It wasn’t up until ten years ago that I learned “No.” is a complete sentence.

No.

No explanation, no beating around the bush (so to speak). Just. No. If Jane Fonda can say it, I can say it.

As I’ve said, I have a hard time with failure. This has been the theme of my thoughts during and after sessions with a therapist. And I don’t know what brought it on. It’s not like I was heavily pushed to succeed as a child. No one punished me if I didn’t do well in school or in sports. I’m just naturally hard on myself when I can’t do something better than others or feel like I’m moving forward when I’m trying my best.

Here’s where Edison comes in.

Thomas Edison tried somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand times before creating the light bulb.

Along the way, he realized he was experimenting and not failing. It’s the same motion, but a different outlook.

Aha! I’m experimenting.

Being part of a small business has given me the platform to experiment without being 100% responsible for the outcome. Because I’m not. I’m part of a team who is supposed to support me and work with me.

Is it time to move forward and conduct new experiments? I’m not sure.

But, can I continue to strip myself of my energy and sanity for another person’s project?

No.

 

 

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash