First day of the new year.
To start (to give you a bait), I’ll borrow an excerpt from one of my favourite books of all time, The two kinds of decay by Sarah Magnuso. (It’s a beautiful book and I think everyone should read it. I’m pretty sure that if the only thing you get from reading this blog post is getting The two kinds of decay, you will gain a lot. But I still hope you’ll like some of my writing too. It however has no ambition to compete with the aforementioned book.)
A nine-year period began and ended. I measure time by the movement of this planet. As any sane person would. I tend to forget that my measurement of time is designed to distract me from what’s really happening. I tend to forget I’m walking on the surface of a soft mass on fire on the inside, a surface warmed and lit by an explosion taking place ninety-three million miles away. An explosion that started at some point and will end at some point. I tend to forget that I rose out of this explosion and—despite my feeling I am unique from it—will someday fall back into it.
Why nine years?
Why do I need to read sixty minutes in the morning, and swim twenty laps in the afternoon, and write a thousand words at night, in order to feel that a twenty-four-hour period has been well used?
What are all these numbers for? What do they measure? What do I think I’m clarifying by the act of measuring? What does measuring make clearer?
At the beginning there’s conception, gestation, the growth of the brain in the womb. There’s the crowning, the first breath, the naming.
At the end, unless you are vaporized in an explosion, the heart stops and the blood still moves in the veins, then the blood stops and the tissues still live, then the tissues die slowly, and at some point the last neuron in the brain dies. How long this takes depends on too many variables to measure.
My Jewish grandmother lived to be eighty-five. She thought she’d been born on December 10th, but when we found her birth certificate, it seemed she’d been born at home on the 8th or the 9th. There was snow in Boston, and the 10th was the first day anyone could get out to report the birth.
I have two letters she wrote to me at summer camp in the 1980s. One is dated Tuesday 6/29, and the other, July 4—Happy Independence Day.
What times aren’t open to debate? What times are clear?
Wars end at particular times. They end when the document has been signed. They end at the first moment the document can be described as signed. But it isn’t so much that a war ends in a single moment as much as people decide to agree the war has ended in a single moment. And so the measurement becomes unassailable. Not accurate. Just unassailable.
Nothing happens in a moment. Nothing happens quickly. If you think something’s happened quickly, you’re looking at only a part of it.
Firing a rifle shot seems to happen quickly, but what about the movement of the trigger finger? What about the decision to fire the rifle? What about all your careful target practice? What about everything in your life that happened before you decide to fire that rifle?
How can you separate the incidental from what was necessary to your decision to pull the trigger?
Nothing happens in an instant. Nothing starts happening and nothing finishes happening. History doesn’t begin anywhere. And it doesn’t end.
Why is it important to me to know the beginning and end of this particular decay I think I’m writing about—which is just part of my own whole decay?
And couldn’t the decay be called by many other names—for instance, my life?
I decided to have a better 2017 than 2016. On the last day of the year I caught myself thinking how unimportant the new year day is as it is just our society’s construct to give us some kind of mark, a point in time, a point of reference for all our different measurements. Especially time. We’re dependent on our ability to measure the time.
But then, as I was falling for my mind’s favorite bait to trigger a cycle of negative thoughts in my head I pulled the brake. Like if suddenly a short window in which I was able to react in a better way appeared and I had just enough mental power to use it.
This text is its result. As I said, it has no ambitions to be anything else then just a simple expression of what I felt today.
Window of opportunity
Somehow I decided, after having a pretty shitty start of the day, and a year, to use what is left of the day (I started writing this at 14:25) to create a better reality. Just to see how capable I am of that change.
I had big plans yesterday. I finished last year on about 905 kilometers of walking and I wanted to start this year by at least 7 km walk, as early as possible (I was thinking leaving the house at 7, 8 am latest. Dreams we dream.) You probably already guessed that didn’t happen. I started very slow and tired. I slept something like 6 hours and although I wanted to sleep more, I couldn’t. I had to spend morning with Anneke and it required a lot of energy to keep her entertained. On top of it, I spent majority of the time being with her cursing the shitty weather outside, being disappointed how tired I am and how unlikely it is that I will complete my first walk of the year early in the morning leaving me rest of the day for some relax and creative activities.
This lasted until approximately 14.25, when I woke up from a short nap. Anneke was still sleeping and while I was checking Facebook looking at other people’s posts about the new year and saw everyone’s hopes for a better year than ridiculously rubbish 2016, I somehow (have no idea how) wandered off the negative path my mind kindly and perfectly marked for me in the morning into the you-know-what-let’s-try-this area.
I am not an optimist.
I’m not a a pessimist either, but I am very sceptical and I am full of doubt. (Yay adulthood!) But there were some pretty strong moments in 2016 (some parts of it might have actually been pretty cool) and I did some good work from August till the end of the year. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol since August and also did a lot of walking and lost 10 kilograms of weight. Something I didn’t think was possible. Not because it’s something hard, but because I couldn’t find a motivation. I actually still struggle to pinpoint a single factor that triggered the whole thing, but that doesn’t matter. Later on I summarised it into a quote:
“It can’t happen until it can happen.”
What I mean by that is, that sometimes things need time and some other factors, mainly your ability to review reality and your perception of it and as I mentioned previously, maybe there will be some sort of window in time in which you can make a huge difference to your life. And you either make it, or you miss that moment and have to wait for another opportunity.
An ancient zen master Dōgen said that there are 6,400,099,980 moments in a day, and apparently, you can change your way of thinking in any of them. I can agree that this is technically true, but from my own experience the “windows” in which you truly can change your life don’t occur that often. Basically not every moment of the day is equal. Not every moment of the day carries the same opportunity. So what matters is your ability to be able to recognise the right moments
I could have decided to have a better day immediately after I realised my thoughts are negative. I could have stopped thinking that way there and then. But I didn’t. I’m not entirely sure why I couldn’t, but I simply couldn’t. I can compare it to the moment an archer releases the string. He simply waits for the right moment. I think you kind of feel that window in which the opportunity to do something with your reality exists. Although that moment can be any moment of the day, your mind must be prepared to release the string and that isn’t every moment of the day. Sometimes you just miss it. That’s life.
So here I am, I have written this and I’ll leave my house shortly. Haven’t checked the weather and I have no idea what pictures I’ll make, but I decided to make at least three photos today. I really want to have a creative year and I am now ready to accept it’s me who has to make it so.
I am trying to not expect much from today. All I really want now is a little test of how good I am at this moment at refocusing on my own daily target. I am well aware of my inability to keep focus on my target for very long. But I think I have developed some tools to help me to improve here.
Some say that being happy is a matter of choice, decision, but I think I am moving away from the desire to be happy (all the time) and I am trying to pursue the awareness instead of happiness. Ability to feel, recognise, be aware of seem to be of more value. It’s the interaction with the world that makes us privileged. No one processes the reality (including its variations) exactly the same. And since no one can truly understand you because of that, why not trying to understand yourself first of all? Why not try to be fascinated by your own existence?
(This feels like a great place to insert a cheezy quote, here you go >>>)
¬We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?¬
~ Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder
PS: What did I try to say?
One of my biggest problems with writing is that I doubt I have something to say. Because there is so much information around us that to add more to that seems pointless. But then, as it occurred to me today as I was battling the negativity, every writer writes mainly for and about him/herself. It’s not important who else can connect with what me, or anyone else for that matter have written. What is important is that I spoke from my center and I said what I felt was the truth. I think that between the two evils of speaking too much, or of not great value and burying my own voice in doubt and deciding not to express myself because I would believe I have nothing to say to anyone, the later one is much greater. Being yourself might make you enemies, might make people look at you strangely, but ultimately, that is their problem. As much as your mind tries to tell you otherwise. Of course you cannot disattach from that, but eventually if you keep using your voice long enough, you’ll become what you came here to be. And that’s all that matters. Because only you can be you.
Now, this shouldn’t be a motivational post at all, although after I read it in its entirety it reads like one.
Take whatever you want from what I have written, but please use your own personal experiences and feelings to build it into your own story. I wish we all would make some great steps towards our own greatness this year and I would like to start making more and more meaningful connections this year. I want to use my voice. Speak, write, create.
My favourite motivational writer Ally Hamilton ends every single post with “Sending you love”. I mean, every single post, it’s like part of her signature. I don’t think I can come up with anything better, or simpler, or more beautiful. I think that short sentence has it all. I won’t use it as she does, it’s her own, but this time my friends, I’m sending you love.
Have a wonderful year.
(Ally, if you read this, I hope you’re OK with me borrowing your words this one time. Thank you. As always. Namaste. )