Having a thought explosion right now. Instead of shying away from it (as I wrote about before), I’m going to ramble on and see where it leads.
In no particular order
I really want my friend Mike to move to New York. After some thought, I realize that it’s ironic for me to hope that he takes on an “adventurous” move, when my selfish motivations are rooted in nostalgia for the place I have left. A genius friend once told me “people are places.” So when I say place, I think I really mean the group of people and things we did together. A geographic place is just a location.
I catch myself constantly trying to optimize my life. I recognize this is a cultural tendency (mostly American), but it’s hard to get my head out of it! Optimal=best, and optimizing is making better, right? I wrote before about feeling distracted, and noticing that my habits often have to do with escaping or occluding my own thoughts. I resolved to measure how often I do this mostly out of curiosity, but also in a hope to stop doing it as much. There’s nothing wrong with improving something, especially yourself, but now I’m wondering what’s behind that desire to improve? My background of Eastern Philosophy is poking at me from another direction, reminding me to “just be.” The core of Buddhist philosophy and some other eastern thinking is basically: we’re covering up the world around us with each thought, and we will continue to encounter unhappiness as long as we form expectations of how a thing (or yourself) should really be; to escape this, the best strategy is to calm yourself before acting or judging, and attempt to see a thing as it really is. I hinted at this in my rambling about emotions and taking a note of “I’m feeling emotion X” without claiming it as good or bad, just acknowledging the thought or feeling has value in itself. To cut this part short, maybe I shouldn’t stress so much optimizing myself or my life and spend a little more time observing it. You can see amazing things if you begin to learn how to observe.
Tangent example on the above:
With the help from some outside observations, I have a conflicting behavioral pattern where I tend to become very quiet and withdrawn in the face of conflict or difficulty expressing myself. Very recently at work for example, there are multiple people on my project that tend to talk over each other and as a group we re-visit the same topics ad nauseam. I only just realized today that it’s for this exact reason that I’ve felt very withdrawn from our meetings; physically I’ll sit or stand further away, and vocally I’m participating a lot less than I normally would. This is not a judgement against any of the individuals I’m working with – important to note – but merely an observation on my typical behavior within the right conditions. Now, I said that I’ve only realized this (many days into the project), so I am usually oblivious to this kind of self-awareness, but I feel so good knowing that about myself and hope to be better on top of recognizing some pre-conditioned behaviors while they arise. Lots of practice to be done there.
Another piece on my mind: dwelling and collecting.
That’s pretty vague, yes, but I think it’s the most basic way to break apart a couple of things I’m trying to resolve with myself.
Where and how do I want to live? Right now I can’t see myself leaving New York City any time soon because that’s also connected to my livelihood – mainly work – but I also have a lot of personal connections for once in my life. I had some close friends throughout college, of course, but college by its very nature is temporary, so I consider that location to be a phase in life, and keep my dearest friendships alive no matter where we end up. Then after college I moved to Barcelona where I found it very hard to build up a social circle (too long to get into now). New York is really the second place I’ve decided to “settle” as an adult, and the first that has been a success.
There are a few other cities, and even rural locations that I can imagine myself in, which I plan to revisit within a few years. For now, I’m also wondering about a more focused dilemma. How do I want to live? I like the apartment that my girlfriend and I have currently, but renting isn’t permanent. I wonder if I want something permanent. When I think about owning a house (or apartment), the actual reason is to have the freedom to install the appliances that I want, do some custom things with technology, and all these kinds of things I can’t really invest into a place if I have to return it in original condition at some point. So, I want more control, more liberty, more ownership. On the other hand, I’ve observed my personality to be quite nomadic, and as I just mentioned, I can picture myself in other cities or even a cute cabin on a mountain with a view (as long as there’s internet)! Buying property feels terribly permanent.
Tangent: Why am I so bad with committing to something? If you had to ask me to summarize my main belief about life it would be: Nothing is permanent. There are some aspects of life that I see expanding indefinitely into my future (my relationship with my girlfriend for example), but there are so many that will always have question marks hanging above them (job, dwelling, possessions, etc.). I don’t know how to resolve that.
This is a much more brief issue, but I think it ties in to the question of where and how I want to live. Most of why I want more ownership or control of where I live is the freedom to choose what I “collect.” Meaning: what kind of light fixtures do I want; what kind of intelligent wireless locks, thermostats, and other smart things I might want? A lot of what’s driving my thinking behind Dwelling relates to all the Things I want in my life. Taking a step back on that… do I really need these things? Why do I feel like I need them? Quick answer: they are cool. Longer answer: discussion about materialism vs crafting your own space and making a home more of a sanctuary than a dwelling.
I haven’t listened to this podcast in a year (fixing that), but it was the best dose of mental health/exercise during a long commute. If you’re interested in a more distilled approach to some Buddhist philosophy (and you like podcasts) this is a great place to start: AudioDharma.