That glass with water in it to a 50% capacity mark

There is almost always an opportunity to be unhappy. Life can be brilliantly beautiful and yet an individual can still choose to find how horrible things are or will become. I’m not talking about depression, but rather the poor cognitive habit that people can develop that turns them into pessimists.

Often, pessimists might claim they are not pessimists but realists. They understand the risks that may come in a particular situation and want to be cautious. They might feel that optimism is for the young, naive, and delusional. However, being realistic is an interesting claim to make, because optimism and pessimism aren’t about the facts but the interpretation and desire behind those facts.

If we were being realistic, the glass that’s either half full or half empty exists in a context. Maybe you filled it up to the top and have drunk half of it. If you want more of the drink, you’d be more inclined to call it half empty. If you wanted less of it, you’d be more inclined to call it half full.

There’s also social convention at play; how many people legitimately refer to a cup as half full? The statement may or may not actually reflect the optimism/pessimism of the individual who says it.

In order to be ‘realistic’, one has to acknowledge both the opportunities and risks with a course of action. A pessimist might miss the opportunity, an optimist might miss the risks. It’s rarely a boon to be on the extreme either way in the long run.

In some ways, the question of glass-half-full or half-empty is a question of trust. It’s an indication of how a person feels the world around them is worthy of their trust. Do they want to blindly trust others or shut themselves off? Like most things, the answer is somewhere in the middle.

However, my focus is on pessimism because people are rarely consistently too optimistic. It’s good to be careful, but fear can go overboard very easily. Gratitude is the best way to help temper our habits of becoming too shut down. Of course, things can go wrong. At least one thing always will, life is unpredictable. The truth of the matter is that we need to be careful in watching why we’re being careful.

Are assuming the worst because you are afraid? Are you assuming the worst because you’ve been hurt before? For those who claim to be realistic, are you actually taking probability into account, or are you making an interpretation separate from the stats?

 

the shift

I’ve been moving slowly but surely, and my mind is slugging down to the absolute minimum rate necessary for survival. Before this semester started, I was aiming for great things, extra miles, the beyond-part of above and beyond. At this point, I’m celebrating if I can get by.

And that’s a shift. A significant one.

I can’t pretend like I’m put together, I don’t have the energy anymore. But the more time goes on, the more I’m disillusioned with the whole idea of “put together” in the first place. If my body is a machine, it’s still running. I’m still breathing, eating, walking around. Consider language! The complexity of it, how even amazing animals like dolphins are significantly limited in their communication. And yet we have that, most of us without effort. Most of us are ‘put together’ in most ways already.

For the rest of our existence, life is variable.

You can try to make plans, but they are fundamental guesses you throw at an unknown that might bend in unexpected ways. We put in the effort anyway, and we should, but why is it a mark against us when the universe doesn’t conform to our tiny, limited view?

The race of life isn’t so much a race as a bucket full of marbles being dumped with a lattice of shoots catching them on their way down.

Do the best you can, but comfort yourself with that same thought: you are doing the best you can. And if you aren’t, re-evaluate yourself. There might be something else going on, and that’s to be expected.

Life is hard, but we keep going anyways, embracing the absurdity and reveling in existence for its own sake.

the thickets in the thick of it

Here’s a short poem about hope

 

I’ve been going the wild side on the thicket near the edge of town

when I go to the grocery store up the ways, and the lights go down

quickly when you walk with the speed of a lazy cat, intrigued by three

noises tickling the tacky tackle of sharp chirping chickweed near me:

Past, future, present fumbling all at my feet, and still just walking longer

and longer as the pitch raises its void into the sky, as a fear-monger

to scaredy-cat hearts like mine.

 

I’m no linen-shirt tipping up my hat to pool my hands in my finds

I’m no gold-laden lad lying in fabulously good turns of binds

I have a thickness resting in my chest that’s mine to fight

to stumble over with the clumsiness of my own feet at night

Maybe I’ll fall down a black hole and keep falling forever

but that will make a story and folks will think me clever

Maybe there’s even no one, no one at all besides me

but just to breathe is a power that confounds the sea,

let relativity blur the line,

and bask in the knowing unknowing that unfolds quietly around us

when you don’t want to do anything

When it comes to procrastination and burnout, we have a tendency to assume it’s because of laziness and/or improper self-care. Actually, even placing procrastination alongside burnout seems to be an attempt to tackle things too distinct from each other. Procrastination is almost synonymous with laziness, while burnout is often paired with workaholics and cynical doctors.

However, strange as it may seem, they both share a perfectionistic root. The New York Times recently came out with a fantastic article on procrastination. Read it, you won’t regret it.

While reading it, I kept listing all of the people I wanted to send it to. I.e, all of my procrastinator friends. Generally, I try to avoid sweeping statements on gender because I feel like the differences are largely exaggerated, and cross-cultural psychological experiences are hard to pin down; however, the heaviest procrastinators I personally know tend to be male.

As the science indicates, we procrastinate because we feel poorly about ourselves and we prioritize the short term over the long term as a means of survival, but it just makes the long term miserable. In a world that highly censors male emotions and communication about their feelings, my personal hypothesis is that men tend to use procrastination as an outlet for the negative emotions they are pressured to not exhibit.

On the other end of the spectrum it seems, you have burnout. I think we all realize that burnout happens across the board, but certainly, certain careers have a much higher rate of burnout. We think of people like doctors, lawyers, and clinical psychologists who have to work insane emotionally-draining hours with people who are always struggling in some fashion.

So, what causes burnout?

Mayo Clinic isn’t as exciting a read as the NYT, at least not in the same way (if you count diagnosing yourself with fourth stage melanoma because of dizziness when you stand up after a long period of time as ‘exciting’ and not ‘paranoid hypochrondiac delusions late at night’), but it’s reliable enough for basic information. They suggest burnout is likely caused by a lack of control of one’s work, unclear expectations, poor workplace dynamics, extremes of activity (either super monotonous or super chaotic), lack of social support, and work/life imbalance.

But on the more individual scale, there are emotional factors that lead people to burn out more readily. In short, if you try to do too much and the world doesn’t try to accommodate you or fix your schedule. The eager overachiever tries to make the world a better place but then they realize change is much slower and not as wide-governing as they want it to be.

Humans get deeply frustrated. We try to put in effort, and we try to trust that our effort matters. When it seems to not, it fundamentally exacerbates our existence into something miserable.

The reason I grouped procrastination and burnout together was that both have similar solutions: take care of yourself.

Forgive yourself. Let yourself rest. Let yourself relax. Sometimes we find ourselves doing things we don’t want to do, and recovering from it takes us more time than it does for the things we love. We do what we can to create a life where we find meaning and passion, but that’s not always possible.

You are human.

uh, wait a minute, I forget…

Humans like to forget things. Drugs have been a part of our culture almost since the beginning of our species, partly because it takes away the past self to a certain extent. Every culture in every time has had some sort of entertainment to distract people. Our brains themselves are masters of creating and transforming the memories we’ve already made into whatever suits our desires. We can’t forget everything, but we can do a surprisingly good job of blocking out past events in the right circumstances.

The reason we like to forget things is that we reach a level where we become too much for ourselves. The life is hard. The more you look into something, the more complex it gets. It becomes difficult to deal with the truth of situations because the truth can seem to be unreachable. In the light of this multi-headed beast, we tend to settle for wherever we ended up when we got tired and stopped. Along the way, our minds tend to get caught up in a cycle that slowly gets us tangled up somewhere dark and alone. So we try to forget since dwelling on that psychological state is upsetting.

Our minds will always get caught up. We’re vulnerable and fragile creatures when it comes to overthinking. We are kites perpetually getting caught in trees. However, there is a difference in dealing with our problems and ignoring them. Of course, we should forget things, but only once we’ve dealt with them. Dealing with our problems isn’t fun. It’s exhausting, which is why we need things like entertainment. But we can easily overuse it to the point we miss out on our actual ‘living’ part of life. It’s a strange balance, and it requires constant readjusting, to know when you need to relax and when you need to charge at solving your problems. Either way, we will continue to forget. Our choice is in what we choose to remember.

another on why you should rest

There are numerous ways of being tired. There’s the tired in your bones, when you’re so weary and ready to be done. There’s the tired where you feel your eyes dropping, and sense this pool of sleep you could collapse into. There’s the tired where your body tingles with warmth from exertion and lying down is true bliss. They sometimes combine with each other in fun new ways, and rarely, we experience all three, full force at once.

But at some level, feeling tired can be guilt-inducing. Sure, you’ve done something to get you to that state of exhaustion, but those levels of tired don’t exactly make it easy to keep going. That’s because you shouldn’t. If you feel tired, it’s for a reason. Sometimes it means changing your sleeping habits to get more, other times it means finding help mentally, and sometimes you just wake up at the wrong part of your sleep cycle.

America tends to praise workaholics. Working until you burn out is a sort ot prize, it seems good to accomplish many things. But at some point, we have to look at if what we’re doing is forcing our bodies through the motions, or living our lives and enjoying every moment of it. Even if we love what we do, everyone needs a break from it. Life is meant to be diversified. If you’re working 24/7, you’re depriving yourself of rest and hurting yourself.

Everyone’s limit is different. Everyone’s limit can change gradually over time. But no one is immune to exhaustion, because everyone needs to rest.

A/C is life

The most ironic part of summertime is that if you’re indoors, you spend most of your time freezing cold. Subsequently, just the matter of staying at a decent temperature requires a constant readjustment of layers. While some might be able to avoid the battle of the thermostat and sweater, for most, there is no choice if you want to be able to make a living. But even in our times of alternating shivering and sweating, we can find some item that reminds us of how we can see the world.

That item, or perhaps system in this case, is air conditioning. More specifically, life is like air conditioning. Whether we want the cold, coming in from working in the hot sun, or we want it to rise to some decent temperature as we wriggle away under the blast, the a/c is constant. We can’t schmooze the a/c into being kinder to us. Assuming we can’t touch any temperature controls and we aren’t allowed to fix the system manually, the a/c is going to do what it wants, and so does life. The only real thing we can do is try and be prepared.

We can be prepared for life in a few ways (I call them “1, 2… and so on but they aren’t ranked. The numbers are just for organizational clarity). Number one, we can be financially responsible. Whether we like to admit it or not, how much money we have drastically affects our mobility and ability to deal with emergencies and unfortunate situations. Seeking to be our best in something so boring can make a massive difference in an event down the road.

Number two is relationships. We need people, and we need relationships we can depend on. Being alone is miserable, and it’s not how we’re built. Relationships work best where there is open communication and respect. It’s work, but fulfilling and necessary against the cold.

Number three and last major way we can deal with what life throws at us, is a healthy combination of cautiousness and action. If we do not act, we will stagnate and close in on ourselves. If we are not cautious, we may jump into a minefield. Consider the dangers that different behaviors bring to us. If it’s not worth it, don’t be an idiot: but if it is, take the risk. Be smart about the choices you make.

Life can be cold and unforgiving. We can’t yell it into being fair. What we can do is be prepared, and come with layers! By being financially responsible, socially respectful, and pragmatic, we have mobility in whatever life throws at us.