291. The Most Dangerous Thing

An old friend of mine, MRN, once said to me that the most tragic thing about people was if they had reached a state of mind where they could not see that life – theirs or that of others – could be any different.

I’ll qualify this statement a little, but not much: As I went to bed last night I thought about what was really holding me back from realizing some of my goals, aside from annoying customers and annoying people in general.

The truth is that yes, there are annoying people and always will be, but once you get a good filter in place to avoid most of these then your greatest obstacle is probably … yourself.

Of course, I’m not a self-development Me First guru, so I’ll qualify this further and say that if you live in Bolivia and work in the mines of Potosí there are obstacles that are larger and more constraining than anything you could come up with yourself – the place you were born, the hierarchy, the structures – all those things that we don’t have to struggle with (too much) in the so called North. Like, pure survival.

I like to make that qualifier, not because it makes much sense in this situation and I have definitely repeated myself here. But I like to make it because of who I am. And I am someone who wants to see the whole world and try to contribute to the whole world, not just mine.

Obviously that idealism is still far from realized, and part of the blame lies with … myself. There it is again.

For last night I came to the conclusion that two of the greatest energy-drainers for me are:

  1. When I am berating myself for not having ‘achieved’ some always ill-defined ‘enough’ (cf. previous posts this week)
  2. When I am judging others and thinking ill of them, mostly in order to feel better myself. Like spending a lot of time thinking about Big Not Anymore Client Photographer or some former friends of mine, especially one TS, who have more than a bit – in my humble opinion – fucked up lifestyles, mindsets and worldviews and who have generally not made much for themselves in this world on a number of parameters.

That last part is also called ‘peeing in your pants to keep warm’.

For the truth is that in both cases I do myself a tremendous disservice. I distract myself from reaching my own goals. I berate myself – or others – for what I don’t want to see in my life or for what I miss seeing, instead of trying to actually create that!

It is, I have experienced, an age-old human weakness – for everyone. But that is cold comfort.

Last night, I really felt – after having sent a question out to the universe about it – that the answer to where I could improve next wasn’t so much in trying to filter out other people, especially customers. It was about filtering thoughts.

I thought, pun intended, that I was good at this. And in a way I am better than most. I did recover from anxiety and depression which was serious enough to hospitalize me 12 years ago. I did it by changing my thoughts.

And I have been very resistant to falling into that whole again – to serious depression and anxiety. Ever since.

Whenever these feelings have come, mostly due to some outward event or me handling stress poorly, I have been good at controlling and diminishing those feelings, sometimes deconstructing them entirely. Or spotting what was going on and changing my situation.

But it turns out, ha, that I am not perfect. These tendencies to spend too much time (isn’t all such time ‘too much’?) berating others or myself … they are dangerous.

Perhaps more dangerous than just coming to a feeling that nothing can be changed in your life anymore, nothing that is truly important anyway.

Or perhaps they are related, for I have felt at times – and that brought me close to depression – that I had indeed reached a point in my so called middle age (or mid life) where nothing really fundamental could be changed and my joy rapidly diminished as a result thereof.

It is hard to feel joyful and enthusiastic when you feel stuck on so many levels.

But what if a major reason I am stuck is that I – despite my experience – have allowed other insidious thoughts to reign for too long? Those thoughts that berate?

For truly, this morning as I ate breakfast at a nearby cafe, getting ready for work, I felt … lighter. More joyful, if only ever-so-slightly. In fact, I felt a little … younger.

Just like when I was actually … that young.

I felt things were possible.

I think that has a lot to do with my resolution to do away with that inner critic on autopilot.

Maybe I can’t ever do away with it entirely and that is okay. I don’t attempt to be Jesus or Buddha here.

But I can certainly – certainly – make it better than now. I can make things different.

And that is the definition of hope.