Tasting the Acorn


May 17, 2015

Something's not right; something is always not right. No matter what I do I can never shake the feeling that something's not right. If it's not money it's my weight, and if my weight is acceptable it's something else. There's never enough time; there's never enough money; there's never enough love; there's just never enough. What's strange is the more I go after resolving the feeling that there's never enough, the more I know there never will be.

The problem, as Neo so eloquently put it, is choice.

Everything we do is a choice. We choose how to spend our money. We choose what we eat. We choose when and how to exercise. We make choices every minute of every day, and rarely think about them for more than a second.

When I lie in bed at night taking stock of my day I'll make promises to myself that I know I'll never keep. I'll get up early, eat a healthy breakfast, walk briskly to the train station, read something intelligent on the journey, then walk briskly to the office. I'll have a healthy lunch, and go outside for the full lunch hour to enjoy it. I'll do all these things because tomorrow morning is the start of the rest of my life, and I owe it to myself to do better and to be better.

And then I wake up. I'm late. I'm still tired. I eat whatever I can find, shower as quickly as I can and leave the flat to find the quickest way to get to the office that will take the least effort on my part. Lunch comes and goes, with barely an acknowledgement of last night's promises. And it comes full circle when I'm back in bed, taking stock of my day, making lots of promises to myself that I know I'll never keep.

So why do I do it? Why can't I stick to my better intentions when the decisive moment arises?

I like to pretend that it's because I simply don't remember my goals "in the moment," but that's, for the most part, complete and total crap. I remember. I even remind myself more often than I'd care to admit, and yet I still end up making the "wrong" choices. Short-sighted choices that keep me firmly seated in my current discordant patterns.

That's not to say I haven't succeeded before. There have been several periods of my life where I've been able to hold on to an intention through sufficient decisions to actually make a difference. I've lost weight, I've paid off a lot of debt, I've even saved a significant amount of money in the past, so what was different at those times?

When I lost weight it's fair to say that I had a constant reminder. I was spending most of my time with someone who had encouraged me to believe it was possible, and we were spending so much time together I didn't want to disappoint them. As daft as it sounds to me now I succeeded because I had created an oversight persona around someone I knew and had projected the judgements I would have placed on myself on to them. It wasn't real but it worked because I didn't feel able to stray from my own rules because I knew they would know, and I really didn't like that idea at all!

When I paid off a lot of debt there was a similar situation. I had just been made redundant from a job that included accommodation as a benefit, so I had to move. At the time it seemed like the obvious place to go was back with my parents until I got back on my feet. A side-effect of being made redundant was that I had to take a close look at my finances, and the picture was pretty bleak. I was in a lot of debt; I hadn't been very sensible with my money since graduating from university, and I'd largely been shielded from the reality of my situation by having a monthly salary that covered all the minimums.

So, I resolved to pay it off as quickly as possible. I found a job fairly quickly and proceeded to live like a hermit for the next four years. I hardly spent any money during that time that wasn't directly connected to my basic survival needs (relatively speaking). There was rent (yes, my parents charged me rent, and I still don't understand why this would surprise anyone), food (mostly included in the rent), the occasional item of clothing, and hardly anything else. How did I manage this? Because there was little I could do without my parents knowing, and while they may not actually have said anything had I handled it differently, I personally couldn't bear the thought of them judging me based on how I was spending money I didn't technically have.

I'm sure you've noticed there's a theme emerging here: I need to believe that something external to myself is judging my choices. Which leads me to question why I need something external to do that when I'm perfectly capable of applying the same judgement to myself.

I do it almost every night!

There are many things I want for myself. I want to be financially stable. I want to be happy more often than not. I want to feel valued, wanted, loved. I want to believe that I can achieve anything I set my mind to, and I want to do so without having to constantly convince myself.

I know (but don't necessarily believe) that I can have all these things. I know they shouldn't be difficult to attain. I know there's a relatively small part of me that maintains a significant doubt within. I also know that I appear to be incapable of actually doing any of this.

The problem, as Neo so eloquently put it, is choice.

In that moment I think short-term and lose sight of my goals. Tomorrow seems so far away that it barely registers as a thing, in the moment. So how do I maintain my awareness of where I want to be tomorrow while still living for today?

Again, it seems like it should be pretty straightforward, but I've been at this for a while now. Roughly speaking I've been at it for thirty-odd years, mostly as a mindless automaton without much thought of any kind, and for the most recent four or five years with a bit more deliberate intention. It'e been better recently, but not in all areas.

Minute-to-minute I feel much better. I feel in control. I rarely feel like I'm simply bouncing from negative feeling to negative feeling, and I feel good most of the time. Except very recently.

Since I had my accident at the end of February I've felt pretty lost. It's a lack of direction that took me several months to resolve, and I'd hesitate to call it fully resolved even now.

My finances are a mess, and my health is not much better. I have a general lack of motivation and, worse than that, I feel like I've lost control of everything. I've recently placed myself on a railway track because I don't feel like I can steer myself for a while, but even that hasn't really helped.

I feel lost.

It's been several days since I wrote the above, and nothing has really changed, but for some reason I feel more focused. I'm sitting on a train at Reading station that's about to leave for Waterloo, and I may be a little bit drunk. I've not been drunk for a very long time. I've not even been vaguely tipsy for a very long time. For some reason it's given me a sense of clarity, or it's equally possible that this is purely the drunken part of me looking at my life through rose-coloured, foggy, and somewhat blurry, glasses.

This is the first time I've socialised with the company with which I now find myself associated. It's the first time for a long time that I've seen many of them inebriated. It's been enlightening. However, I think the most important thing is that I feel like I've connected with them for the first time since I joined the company.

I've never had a problem getting on with people; it's just something I've been able to do. I'm pretty shy in general, but when I'm put together with people I somehow know how to get involved with the chatter. When I drink I have a tendency to be a little too honest, but by and large that's never caused me much of a problem. Today was no exception.

I know many of the people who work here from my previous involvement, but there are also a lot of new faces. Those with whom I'm already familiar and those who are already familiar with me have made it easy for me to fall back in to my sociable persona, both in the office, and as I found out today, outside the office.

I got a lot of positive validation today. I appreciate the way they all see me -- as someone with a brain who can get stuff done -- despite my hesitance to buy in to their confidence. I'm being told about it a lot so in many ways I think I should just be able to believe it and carry on, but I still have my own personal demons that don't seem to want to get on board.

Not that I think it's important that they are on board. I've had similar validation in the past and have found that in spite of my demons I've been able to make a positive difference to those companies and workplaces, but it would be nice to get rid of the constant questions that plague my mind.

For some reason I'm convinced that they're all lying, but not intentionally. Essentially I believe that I've done a good job of faking it and I'm yet to be found out. I live in fear of the time that I expect to eventually arrive, when they realise how much of a fraud I am and kick me to the kerb as fast as possible.

This is called imposter syndrome, and is apparently quite common. That doesn't make me feel any better about it.

I don't really know where my constant questioning of my own abilities comes from, but it's a strong force within me. The only way it affects me, day to day, is when I'm offering up an opinion. My language will be littered with caveats like "I may be wrong," and "as far as I'm aware." I don't think I've ever said anything without such a caveat, at least not in a business context.

Actually, that's probably wrong. I remember the caveated words more because I tend to focus on what I see as my flaws, which is likely true of most people. Point in fact: there was no need for me to say "which is probably true of everyone," but it was an automatic caveat, probably designed to minimise what I was saying. "Everyone does this, so it's not such a bad thing for me to also be doing."

Which brings me on to something I call "comparative living." This is where we measure our lives against others rather than taking ourselves as we are. I don't seem able to get away from this in anything but retrospect.

I've read from various sources that the only person with whom it's valuable to compare ourselves is our past selves. This makes sense to me on so many levels. Life is the pursuit of personal improvement, and we alone determine what constitutes an improvement. With that in mind it's completely pointless to compare ourselves to others when our primary goal should be to improve on the current version of ourselves.

I think it's ok to use others as pointers to "good" and "bad" behaviour, but it's not productive to say I didn't do x but she did, therefore she's a better person than I am. It helps nobody, except possibly giving her an ego boost. And ultimately that's what we're looking for. If I can say that I'm "better" than someone else that feeds my ego, but if all I can say is that I'm better than the me that existed yesterday it doesn't feel quite so powerful. It's also nowhere near as satisfying.

I wrote the above streams of consciousness over about a month around the middle last year (2014). For some reason I never got around to publishing it. I have now.

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