Secret Writings of the Ash Ock

Aequam memento rebus in arduis servare mentem

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2016 Resolutions
Before I even talk about the new year, it is worth acknowledging that 2015 was a good "growth" year for me.

* I addressed some of the physical pain and restrictions on my legs that were blocking me from enjoying dance and other activities. I'm stronger and more fit than any time in the last 10 years, even accounting for the injury to my foot.
* I've become a better listener, and more conscious of my flaws. And better at being more open.
* I started to be more serious about making changes to my life, talking or writing about some of the things that bother me, and trying to correct them.
* I had good experiences, interesting travel opportunities, made new friends, and rekindled some lost friendships.
* I was able to work on my self-image...including a pretty cool photoshoot.

I”m still working out the “implementation details” for what I want to do in 2016 — ways to make them measurable and actionable — but for the next year, I have two semi contradictory goals:
* Really put hard work into the things that are holding me back.
* Learn to relax and learn to enjoy life as it is. I am at my worst when I am sad, angry, or frustrated, so I should stop doing things that make me sad, angry, or frustrated.

In the first category, I’m focusing on deeper “fundamentals”, because I think that addressing them makes everything more solvable.

* I want to get better at organizing things in my life and keeping track of things I’ve learned, so that I can tackle all of life’s projects more effectively.
* I want to continue to improve my physical health: eat better, exercise more consistently, get back to dancing, and dedicate regular time to stretching and flexibility.
* I want to keep improving my interpersonal skills. Be a better listener. Be more understanding and empathetic of others. Be clearer about my emotions, what I feel and what I want, but in a way that promotes better relationships. Find ways to succeed without being a bull in a china shop. Be a better friend. Make more friends.
* I want to give myself 15-30 minutes a day to just rest. Mindfulness meditation is part of it, but I’ve decided if I’m going to do that, I also need to have a way to record the thoughts that come up in the process, so that I can look for ways to close those “open loops”.
* I need to find at least one good project that inspires my creativity. It might be something artistic (like drawing), it might be creating some new fictional worlds, it might be a programming project to freshen up my skills. Hell, it might be more than one project so that I do all of these things. But I want to commit to at least one good project and to reserving some time to be creative.
* I want to do more thinking about my values and goals, and how they impact my life. I want to live those values more consciously.
* When I’m sore or hurt (physically or emotionally), I need to find constructive ways to address those things. I fall back onto bad habits when I’m feeling down.

That’s already a lot, and I’m probably going to have to break these up into smaller tasks and approach them slowly.

The second category is more fuzzy. The closest thing I have to a mission statement is “Find many ways to be happy and stay happy (…but not at the expense of others.)”

I feel that I am a considerate person, so the appended clause may not make a lot of sense. Let me unpack a little -- this came out of a conversation with a friend not too long ago. Her point to me was that I need to be more selfish, that I’ve occasionally let people take advantage of my good nature. I got pedantic and searched for a better word, because the encyclopedia definition for selfish doesn’t fit what I’m looking for:

“(of a person, action, or motive) lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.”

That’s not the person I want to be. The word I come back to is assertiveness (from How to be an Adult). Being clear about who I am and what I want. Taking responsibility for caring for myself and not letting others divert me from my core values or hurt me willfully. I don’t want to be selfish and uncaring about others, but I need to focus on taking care of myself first, and being willing to walk away or assert myself when someone isn’t respecting my boundaries.

A lot of what I’ve tried to do is to make my life more fulfilling: to be happier, to seek out relationships and friendships, to have joy in my life. I've tried to look for a lasting relationship, and thought I'd found some good opportunities, but I've not really been successful here. I intend to look again this year. I’m talking with the person who helped me with my wardrobe and photoshoot, and hopefully that will lead to more opportunities to meet local women that I might find interesting.

What I’m trying not to do (and unless I’m deluding myself I think I’m doing okay) is to be so focused on outcome. Meaning, that I should just enjoy the process of living and not have a checkbox that says “find a girlfriend” or “find a wife”. No, those aren't in my task management system. :) But I concede, that's been a thought in my head. I’ve tried too hard and put myself out too much, so I’ve ended up hurting myself. That needs to stop.

Ultimately, thinking about relationships is why I choose to use “assertiveness” and not “selfishness”. I’m not looking for pleasure at the expense of others — I’m not a player. But I am going to put more effort into my own happiness and keeping my own integrity. Finding ways to show who I am, but really expecting the other person to show me that they are worthy of being in my life.

Stepping back and addressing things more generally, I think there’s a powerful idea in having focused and measurable goals for skills and development, but being very open about future outcomes. Being willing to change a plan or goal if circumstances change. Not being a sail flapping in the wind when the winds change, but being willing to actually look and choose something that will make me happier.

For example, right now, I’m already working to save vacation days for a Europe trip during the summer. And maybe a different Europe trip in spring. I've got 3 weeks to allocate between the two. I probably need one week in spring just to survive my crazy job. At first glance, two weeks is not enough to see all the friends I want to see, do all the sightseeing I want to do, and dance at a week-long festival. So, I’m committing to saving the two weeks, but not necessarily committing to dance. And if other changes happen, either of these trips can become something different. I’m not holding on too tightly to specific plans or outcomes. I’m leaving things open, and I’ll change my mind when I need to, in order to get an outcome I'm really happy with.

Anyway, that’s a lot of words vomited out onto the page, and I know when I write all of these things down, it always sounds worse than it actually is. Clearly I'm always miserable, and thinking too much. Yeah yeah, I’m a perfectionist, and I haven’t found a way to change that. So I'm channeling it into fixing the things that wear at my happiness. :) But I’ve got a good job, good health, and I'm more than able to explore new possibilities, visit interesting places, meet cool people, and find more ways to being joy into my life. I'm at a good starting point. Instead of looking for a scientist's perfect answer, I'll look for the engineer's pragmatic answer: happy enough, without causing any disasters. :)


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