It’s time to let that addiction to self-improvement run wild

Today is a big day, yet, other than this post, it will receive no fanfare.  Today I'm going to break an addiction.  

I'm not going to say what the addiction "is to", because what I want to put down here should be equally useful for dealing with all of them, and I really want people to think about how many there are and how profoundly they impact us all, regardless of their object.

I have about one left.  Two, after I scrape the storage containers for bits.  Then I'll put all the associated things away, all my ritual gear, tucked away on the back of some shelf, like the tarot card decks wrapped in cloth that I haven't touched in years.  

I'm already having cravings, but it isn't because I've been cutting back:  Conversely, when I decide to quit a thing, I tend to binge until my supply of it is gone.  In the presence of scarcity, my psychological cravings spike, a response to the sudden real fear that I'm going to run out.  I've learned to let this happen, and to go ahead and binge at the end.  It makes me run out faster, and if it also makes me feel sick, then that's a good thing to hang onto, to remember over the next week or more while I'm UGHing my way through the withdrawal symptoms.

Do I sound familiar with this process?  I am, and if you're like the vast majority of grown-up people, so are you.  It's part of adulthood, to realize you've become addicted to something and that it's time now; you need to let it go.  I'm willing to guess that it may be one of the key defining aspects of an adult human life, even.  And for the people who like to diminish the value of the word "addiction" by snorting that "we're all addicted to oxygen! and water!", I would gently remind them that one day those things, too, will need to be let go; as will love, success, money, work, our children — eveything.  We are on a path of constant loss, and that's not a bad thing, just a sobering real thing that real, fully-formed people all need to face.  YES I know how hard it is to give up an addictive substance, and yes, one day I'll know that about oxygen too.  By then, I hope I'm truly an old hat at this, and the weapons of acceptance, awareness, and humility that I've been using all this time are sharp and imbued with all kinds of badass spells.

But I've done this before with this substance, too.  The last time was pretty recently, but then a common pattern of behaviors knocked me off the wagon, and I thought I'd be able to just quit again right away, but then things were so stressful here and I couldn't, and I found myself right back where I was six months ago.  It's only been about 2 months since that happened, so I'm hoping that some of the recent behavior changes are still ingrained a little, and will be easier to switch back to than if they hadn't existed at all.  But we'll see; either way, this is an important health issue and it needs my attention before it becomes a serious problem.  It will suck, but I owe my body this sacrifice.

Off to work.  When I get home there'll be one more waiting, and maybe one more after that (which I'll probably have immediately because it'll be the last one, and I'll want to rip off the bandaid and start the process already so badly it'll be making me nuts).  Then, for the rest of tonight and tomorrow and the next day and the next day, none.  I'll need to find other ways to relax, plain and simple.  Because it's time.


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test-driving taoism, online bullying edition

This week, I did a thing *in the manner that my kungfu / philosophy training would have me do it*, even though that was really backwards from how I normally would act, and how I fairly desperately wanted to act. It felt nifty, in that it felt like being deliberate and humble and aware and correct, which are peaceful and powerful feelings; but it also felt god-awful scrapey painful as hell, like stretching into splits.

Taoists are like Jedi (or rather, Jedi are like Taoists, since that's where this comes from): You NEVER attack. (Until you do, but that's a separate lesson, mwahaha.) You don't even defend, *except the bare minimum* that you must in order to honor and protect your Self. You respond to adversity with stillness, awareness, acceptance and faith — not in yourself or other people or a supernatural magic thing that could rescue you, but in *the Universe-thing generally knowing what it's doing*. You "offer up" your discomfort and fear, and commit to accepting and working with the present reality, instead of flailing against it or demanding that it conform to your expectations or desires. You act *only* when you can do so with complete calm, humility, gentleness and correctness. (And when you need to act, those things will be present for you, as will the strength you need, since you've conserved it by not fighting what you can't change.) Other than that, you seek solace in contemplation and in working on improving yourself.

It's HARD, yo. I got smacked with an unpleasantness this week that was not only icky in itself, but that targeted one of my weakest spots and set off a whole tsunami of emotional reaction; all of which happened at a time when the world of form was demanding a ton from me, that I show up for a ton of people and work and bring my best. The fallout from the attack on me was pervasive: I had the opportunity many times a day to react to it, to hate it, to feel it and to respond or "do something" about it — usually because people were bringing it up right and left, online and off; and when they weren't, my brain was. For a few days, how much that thing sucked seemed to occupy almost every waking moment. And I *burned* with the urge to say something, to defend myself, to make phone calls and have discussions and yell back or at *least* to talk about it, to write about it, to comfort myself by squeezing the wound.

In the end, I was able, for a good chunk of it, to remain fairly still. I had some emotional outbursts at home (thanks fam, you were awesome ♥) and fell back on some bad habits and kvetched a little to some friends, but overall, I did nothing. I didn't answer the attacker, or any of the haters who rose up around them. I meditated extra. I didn't publish any big screeds about how I'd been wronged, or start any arguments — heck, I mostly managed to abstain from even friendly discussions, or a least let them die short. I just let it be there, as much as I could, as though it were a revolting color paint in a hotel room, gross but not really fixable and going to be over eventually. I burned the event on my own sacrificial altar, Doing Nothing as a sign of my faith in The Everything and my willingness to participate in Life, even when it hurts.

The kerfuffle seems to have died down now, though I'm sure there'll be ripple effects. I didn't get more-attacked-worse-by-more-people, which certainly *could* have happened if I stepped into the fray too much or the wrong way, so that's good. I didn't come out smelling like roses either, and I certainly don't feel like I was defended or explained or exonerated like I wish I had been — but in the end, a few people who probably don't matter anyway having a less-good opinion about me (based on a minor thing taken without context) is probably not a terrible outcome. It seems likely that I dodged much worse, by not engaging much with it; and certainly I had to think about it less than I would have if I'd had a million more conversations about it. So I guess I should call the experiment a success. …If I don't sound too joyful about that, well, at the moment I'm still reeling from how hard it was/is to do, and I do feel a slight eyebrow-cock at the idea of acting like this in response to adversity always. Anger kept me alive a lot in my early years, and anger with nowhere to go is…icky. Maybe it gets easier with practice (Practice), though. Lord knows I'm barely a student of this stuff, so all the experiment was ever going to prove was that I need to keep walking the Path to learn more. …But those of you with Paths know that it feels worth it.

Posted in better thinking, kungfu yay, worship | Leave a comment

A sweet little fiction

So one time this culture discovered that a readily-available plant had a really tasty component, and they began harvesting, and then cultivating and later, processing and refining and making all kinds of analogs and variations on the tasty stuff. Everyone loved it, and it sold like gangbusters, and the refineries and plantations and products proliferated; money everywhere. Soon the white powder was in everything. Every household had a bag of it, but that was just for extra, since even things in which the taste of it wasn't desired usually contained at least a little. Many people just ate it by the spoonful anyway, or carried it with them in easily-gnoshable packaging — besides being tasty, it was energizing, especially in the heavily-refined and concentrated forms. If you speculated about how many people *needed* it to get through a regular day…but that was silly; nobody speculated. Everyone ate it. All the children. *Especially* the children.

Who knew how early on the side-effects started, the rates of diseases that were once rare spiking, the birth-defects, the overdoses and organ failures. When nobody's watching, a lot can happen, and nobody questioned the world's favorite food, especially not after a couple generations of inculcation. Only the furthest-flung and least-communicative cultures rarely or never ate it, and their comparative longevity and health was chalked up to a million other factors.

But generations take their toll, numbers can swerve sharply when pressures are applied to linked and dynamic systems, and by the time the culture sees it, their invisible group addiction to the machine-refined white powder from a harmless plant, will they be able to avoid dying out?

Posted in 'pocalypse, consumer warfare, drugs, ethics, psychology, science!, writing | 2 Comments

Things I am sorely tempted to post on Linkedin

For more than a decade, I've been asked regularly for tech-job advice, as someone who started young and worked their way up self-taught from basement mechanic to manager, fighting the women-in-tech battle the whole way.

Today I tried writing down my situation the way I would if I were coming to myself for advice the way so many others have, and I read it and asked myself what I'd tell a friend who sent me that message. And the answer I would give them was, "You're fucked."

I'm still so angry about the whole thing, about all the work I put in and all the crazy shit I did "for my resume" basically being completely worthless now (if not a detriment — ask me how many low-level would-pay-the-bills-at-least jobs I've not gotten because they don't want someone with management experience, or who might leave for a better job), that I can't quite tell if I'm actually being shoved out of tech by circumstance, or so sick of it after all the bad luck and obstacles and consistent lack of support from any employer ever that I'd actually just rather sling burgers (or words) for less than half the money than even try dealing with it again. …I know it seems like it should be easy to tell the difference between the two, but it's not. I ask myself constantly, "Am I really trying as hard as I can here? Or am I sabotaging myself because on some level I'm just so fucking done that I physically can't push past it?"

Sometimes you break up, and you realize all the things about your ex that made you friends to begin with. And sometimes you break up, and you realize that your ex was never really good for you *at all*; you just felt like you needed them, so you ignored it. Believe me, growing up in a shit town with "escort" being the most common job the other girls had in high school, having computers skillz seemed like a magic save. But no job I've ever had has given me any technical training, and the only promotions I've ever gotten were to shove me, the lone woman on the team, into more managerial and therefore less valuable positions, and every single company I've worked for that didn't go out of business let me go the second they could save money doing so, even if I'd worked my butt off for them for years.

It made me good money a few times, for a little while, but it's never been fulfilling, and it's been rare that it was even marginally okay or morally not-grotesque. I've not been the only woman on a team I was on once, a decade ago. (A high point was last year when the boss stood up at an all-dev meeting and apologized to me for my being the only woman there. I had to thank him, profusely, for being the only boss I'd ever had acknowledge it.)

This whole thing is somewhat like getting a divorce, the kind where you're not really sure if you're better off now or not. Tech broke up with me, but the moment it left I noticed how much nicer it was to not have it around. Maybe, if I can replace the key things about it (like, you know, paying rent), I'll eventually be glad it's gone. For now though, I'm still just so stung over the time wasted, the effort that feels like it was for nothing, and the sheer fail of the entire career I cared about so much for actually-literally-twenty-years, that it's hard to see anything past "Yeah, you're fucked".

Posted in technical-ity, the root of all wealth | 2 Comments

Happiness is an empty space

That's it — it just hit me, walking home.  What happiness is, and why it's so hard for almost everyone to find it, but almost indestructible in the people who do find it.

Happiness is not a thing — nor a feeling.  It is a lack of things and feelings.  It is space, where usually there's other things, things that cause pain and suffering.

There IS no "happiness", basically; happiness is a No-Thing.  But we still know it and recognize it and chase after it…we just typically never find it, because we think we're looking for "some thing or things that can get me [that feeling]".  But "that feeling" isn't a feeling, really.  It's the lack of other feelings.  

And the Other Feelings, the things that exist where happiness would go and prevent us from having it, are all related to one thing.  They all stem from one place, one circumstance, one person:  Me.

But — and this is crucial — not the real me.  

Happiness is the feeling of space for the real me to exist.  It happens when I've managed, however briefly, to shut up or shut down the false me (or mes; I'm sure there's more than one).

True happiness, the kind that can't ever be really taken away, the kind you see on Buddha-faces:  That comes from having killed the false-me, once and for all.

I'm not inventing this — it's clear in a million texts throughout history.  I'm realizing it.

Ironically, to respond to lack of happiness — especially deep, total, or hopeless lack of happiness — with the urge to commit suicide is not, in fact, stupid or illogical.  It's actually the system giving exactly the right answer…just not in a way we can correctly understand it.  Killing the real me (or disincorporating it; whatever) is a tragic mistake based on a kind-of-right idea:  What's making you unhappy is "you" — is the thing you're thinking of right now as you — so kill it, burn it, ignore it, forget about it, strip everything you can see of it away and let there be room for the REAL you to breathe, exist, and express itself.

And wham, unkillable happiness.

OK, more pondering and then next up:  How to kill your not-self.  I'm sure others have written about that too, so I'll do some digging and see if I can add anything useful.


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I’ll stim with you

I saw myself in the subway today.  Twenty-five or so and Asian and wearing lipstick, but otherwise, me.

She was stimming like crazy.

People seemed to both avoid and ignore her, giving her twice the personal space of anyone else, but also never really watching or noticing her.  I watched her intently, at first in surprise — because I've never seen what I must have looked like, before I did all that work to get my stimming (the various outward expressions of my hyperweird brain) under control; it was fascinating — and then I watched carefully, the way you keep half an eye on someone carrying a huge stack of boxes, in case one falls and you can jump in and help.

She looked fine, mind you — at least to me.  She was pacing on the balls of her feet, flexing and bouncing against the ground as she paced, never really stepping the same way twice.  She walked past the wall repeatedly, knocking on it with different knuckles each pass; all the while her eyes darted to different things, and she kept up a constant half-silent conversation with herself, muttering and whispering.  If she'd been wearing headphones, it would have only looked like she was super into the music — which is one reason you'll rarely see me out without headphones; they're great cover.  But those are all things that I do, still, regularly when I'm alone, and that at various points in my life I've been unable to avoid doing no matter who was around.  They don't mean that I'm doing badly (though more of them does usually mean I'm stressed — but all change is stressful, even good things).  She wasn't giving any signs of doing actually-badly, and yes, I'm quite comfortable in my ability to tell the difference.

 I sat across from where she was standing on the train — I used to not be able to sit down on transit, either — and I held a book in front of my face, something I usually do even if I'm not reading, because again, it's great cover.  My headphones were also on, playing what most people would probably consider extremely loud, aggressive music, because in addition to making good cover for your odd or excessive movements, it turns out that headphones can provide enough aural stimulation to distract some parts of the brain that would otherwise be flapping your hands or tapping your feet or talking out loud without realizing it.

Part of me wanted, of course, to grab her and give her future-you hints like that:  Have you considered stupidly loud music?  Do you carry things in your pockets to play with?  (Here, have a few of mine!  I have *tons*.)  Have you learned to flip quarters or roll baoding balls while you walk yet?  –But of course, that would be rude, even if I honestly think that when I was twenty-five, I'd have fallen to my knees in gratitude if someone had grabbed me and said the same.  The struggle to not stim in ways that earn social punishment was not infrequently, at that age, too intense for me to go outside at all.

But there's a difference:  It wasn't, for her.  People on the subway in Boston ignore you, and while there are downsides to that, the upsides are amazing for the mentally-atypical (be they ill or just differently-wired).  She was clearly similarly neuroatypical to me — maybe Asperger's, as those similarities come up a lot — but she was relaxed about it; she ignored everyone and they ignored her.  Stimming on the train around here is no big deal, as long as it isn't super loud or getting anything sticky on the seats.  This is not true in public in the Midwest, where people generally pay a lot more attention and are a lot more flinchy about behavior that strikes them as "wrong" or violates herd-rules.  In fact, while I put a lot of work into smoothing out and controlling my stimming for a long time, it wasn't until I moved to Boston that it suddenly got a lot easier.  Why?  Simple: my stress-levels were lower.  People weren't staring, glowering distrustfully, or slipping away to go talk to that cop and point back in my direction — regular occurrences in Michigan — and so, while I might have still been doing some of my dumb stuff, I wasn't hyper-focused on OH GOD STOP ROCKING and therefore making it worse.  

On the downside (not just of Boston but everywhere), the people so politely ignoring her / us on the subway weren't doing so because they "got it", or knew that doing so was polite — that's just how they roll around here.  If she'd been acting mentally ill in a way that needed attention, I don't suspect they'd have done any better than the folks in the Midwest would have.  We still live in a world, a whole culture and multiple societies, where mental illness is invisible at best, and punished at worst.  She and I are lucky to be ignored when we're doing well, but if we're not, the only meaningful help we can ever expect is from each other.

I wonder if there's a mental health equivalent of an "I'll Go With You" button.  I'd like to have one, to out myself at least to other people like me as someone who you can grab if you need eyes, a voice, or help getting to an exit.  I don't for a second forget how lucky I am to be as crazy functional(-looking) as I am now, and have been able to be for most of this decade of my life; and I deal regularly with plenty of people who aren't so lucky.  I wish I could do more to help.

(It's funny, we understand "mental illness" so poorly in this country that simple things about it — like how you are equally lucky for your mental and physical health, and likely to experience loss of both at some point — aren't even common knowledge yet.)

I'm watching my ragged fingers as I type this, fingers with nails permanently shortened by decades of biting; but fingers mostly in good shape now, no blood or injuries like I carried permanently before.  I'm so lucky — and yes, have worked hard — but really, mostly, lucky; all the hard work has paid off, and that's on luck more than me.  

And the urge to help keeps bobbing back to the surface, even though I don't know what to do with it.  I wish I could have told her, in some way that wasn't outing her to people who didn't understand, that I was there, that I get it, and if she'd have needed me, I would have dropped my shit and helped her.

Posted in better thinking, ethics, psychology | 1 Comment

Truth Hurts (as it catches up)

This will give you a headache, but it’s a headache worth getting I think:

…The scariest opinion I have heard about this well-done little video is “I think that’s probably accurate, but I don’t want to watch it because I’d rather put off having to think about that world for as long as I can”.

That’s a pretty terrifying summation of the modern view of the technological future, innit? ::shiver::

Posted in better thinking, technical-ity, the root of all wealth | 2 Comments