I’m suddenly getting emails about new people following the blog. Maybe someone’s linked to it somewhere. I’ve not published for ages, nor pushed it elsewhere, so I’ve no idea. Please do tell me in the comments – I’m curious. Anyway, it got me to thinking that I ought to write something.
Be warned in advance though, this is something of a departure from my usual style…
The thing is, this absence hasn’t been accidental. No writer’s block or even just bone-idle laziness this time. On the contrary, I have stacks upon stacks of musings I’d like to write, about Recovery, about Faith, about Biocentrism and the potential implications on the discovery nature of science, on Taoism, based on my knowledge from the first few chapters of The Tao of Pooh. I resist the urge to learn more, in deference to what I know.
I’d like to write about Cognitive Analytic Therapy tools, First Past The Post democracy, original sin, the importance of prayer, about Universal Credit, sanctions, and the Victorian workhouse, about the damaging effects of Patriarchy on men and why it’s in our own self interest to be feminists too, the appreciation of overcast and drizzly weather, the gender of God, the pendulum nature of my psychological development, about celibacy, the aspiration to be ‘normal’ instead of ‘the best’, about the stars, quantum mechanics, and the nature of time, about free market capitalism, about constant micro acts of meditation, on being outside, applied Tai Chi principles, the zen-like state of riding a motorbike well, the beauty of silence, pet rats, the bizarre evolution of the domesticated dog alongside humans, and much, much more.
But I’ve also come to understand that many of these things are gifts that have been given to me. They’re mine. They’re small glittering jewels for me to treasure and cherish, and to be grateful for, not to flash around ostentatiously. Perhaps I’ll be called to draw on them and share them at some point, but if so then I’ll be guided to do so at that moment in time. For now, they’ve just been given to me, and I should simply be thankful for that.
In my present capacity as benefits-scrounging doley scum, I volunteer a an adviser at a foodbank, and when I give someone a box of food then it’s in the understanding that they will use it to feed themselves, not share it out among their friends. If their friends are in need then we’ll happily help them too, but they need to come in and talk with us themselves. However laudable their motives for sharing may be, it’s contrary to the unwritten contract we have agreed upon. If they come straight back the next day asking for more because of it then I’d probably be quite cross with them, and would certainly be less likely to give them more supplies – or at least not without a stern word not to do so again. The same applies to the gifts I’ve been granted by God. If he wants me to share, he’ll point me in that direction. It’s not for me to assume the responsibility of stewardship.
Most of all I’d like to write about the interwoven nature of many of these things. The harmony between Taoism, the AA Recovery suggestions , and the teachings of Christ is particularly astounding.
Maybe I will at some point, when I can trust myself to do so responsibly and with moderation. I’d like to think so, but moderation was never something the active alcoholic in me quite understood now, was it?
My world is full of wonder and beauty now. It’s an amazing place to be. To start with I worried it was a temporary thing, the well-known ‘pink fluffy cloud’ effect. And indeed, when I’ve tried to explain the feeling to others then they’ve sometimes nodded sagely and said that they too felt like that in the past. I admit that ‘s irritated me, as their current turmoils clearly illustrate that they don’t know what I mean at all.
I’ve experienced that pink fluffy cloud myself, and this isn’t it. This is different. It is a different way of being. I get up differently, I wash and dress differently, eat differently, spend differently. Most crucially, I interact with other people differently. I react differently. I look at the world around me differently, hear the sounds around me differently, feel the wind on my skin differently. I think differently – quite literally, where a lot of the Cognitive Analytic Therapy overlap comes in.
More than one person has said that I’m a different person now. This is pleasing to hear because, truth be told, I didn’t much like the old one. This is doubtless a pretty large part of the reason I drank. I wasn’t a bad person, a horrible person, a dishonest or morally reprehensible person. I just thought I was a bit of a twat, and when others didn’t it bewildered me. I was reasonably popular with people around me, but I’d reflect on conversations, big or small, and feel slightly embarrassed and wished I wasn’t so much of a dick.
Still untold amounts of work to do, and always will be. My sleeping patterns being very erratic and undisciplined is one striking current example. I’m smoking again instead of just vaping too. I’m aware of these though, and I’m gently coaxing them towards where I want them to be. Just like a small child or a pet dog, my inner self responds better to encouragement and coaching that stern words and punishment. And old behaviours constantly find sly ways to reassert themselves, demanding constant vigilance. My ego will never disappear. Nor perhaps, should it – I don’t know yet. But mine needs to be kept on a very short leash at least.
All of it will come in time, as long as I maintain the basics. It all starts with that morning routine of Daily Reflections, prayer, and meditation. That sets me up right to be with the world. I don’t need to worry about any shortcomings or beat myself up. Progress, not perfection. Growth. Enjoying the journey, not seeking a destination.
The results aren’t just internal, spiritual. My skin is much better. I’ve lost several stone in just a few months. Job applications and interviews have taken on an incredible new energy and are eliciting very positive responses, if not the magic words I’m after yet. I’m expecting a call about the latest one tomorrow, and admit I’m very hopeful. If not though, that’s simply part of the plan for me, and something else will lie in store. My bank account is less strained, although obviously still on a knife-edge whilst on benefits. My aching back and shoulders are improved, I believe my posture has as well. One really inexplicable one is that the dry, painful cracked skin on the soles of my feet and toes have all cleared up, without applying Vaseline or moisturiser. It’s all very tangible, not just spiritual.
I spoke to my sponsor about the idea that invaded my mind for a while, that there was an impending cliff I was going to crash over, and that I’d find myself broken on the rocks below again. He felt like that too initially, but it still hasn’t happened for him. It’s been fifteen years or so.
Importantly, if this feeling wanes a little at any point – which it occasionally does – I know exactly what to do. I pray and, for want of a better word, I meditate. Meditation for me doesn’t involve candles, whale music or even breathing exercises. It may just be spending a few minutes staring at a leaf without allowing myself to think of anything.
Combined with prayer, tiny revelations about myself then often pop into my head from nowhere. Realisations about the role my ego is playing, my tendancy to read other people’s minds, or the lies I’m telling myself. Little stock flashcards I can use in my own mind to improve myself. Appreciations of the people around me, or God’s beauty in the world.
Or not. If they don’t I still feel much calmer and more at peace for these moments. I do this dozens of times every day, if only briefly. And it always bears fruit. In hindsight, it always has – I just never made use of it much before because I felt I didn’t deserve it. I know that’s not how it works now.
Of course I don’t deserve it, and I never will. None of us do. It’s freely given, not earned. Often I realise that I’ve started to struggle with life or other people because I’ve been trying to take charge too much. I’ve started to plan for things that depend upon something not yet knowable. I’ve started showing off too much, often in displaying my own Recovery and spiritual progress – something that makes me cautious about this blog to be honest. It almost always comes down to my ego trying to regain command in some way or another, and that does nothing but cause conflict and generate anxieties within me. Let Go, Let God, as the card reads.
I’ve also come to realise two important things.
Firstly, that I really don’t know much about anything. The only thing I know much at all about is what’s inside my head, and even then I’m sure plenty of people would have insights that I’m blind to. That’s quite enough to be learning about at the moment. One day, when I’m more right with my own head, and more right with God, there may be space to look at some of those other things in more detail. But not yet. My delusions of grandeur sometimes lead me to various dreams – even though I know they’re only fantasies – of huge success in one sphere or another, whether it be an idea for an app or preaching in Syria. Now that I’m actually listening to other people properly it’s useful to be reminded of the depth of my ignorance in absolutely everything. Perhaps my interests are unusually wide-ranging, but my knowledge and understanding is also incredibly superficial. I’m also spectacularly unsuited to some things. I mentioned preaching for instance – I initially thought this might be where my calling lay. But in that kind of role my ego would run riot and I’d likely cause utter havoc in people’s lives. I suspect my calling lies elsewhere, but exactly where and what is something that will be revealed to me when I need to know it.
Secondly, that I’m neither a particularly nice, kind or good person. I’m just rather adept at presenting myself to the world as such. Indeed, if it’s only my effect on the outside world that counts, then maybe I’m all of these things to some extent. Some have tried to tell me so. They have no idea what’s going on in my head though, and that is often especially unpleasant, egotistical, and sincerely distasteful. I’ve been told that everyone’s like that. Whether or not it’s true, I really don’t care. It’s not about them, or you. It’s about me. This is my Recovery, my Faith, my journey, my progress. It’s an entirely self-centred thing, and that’s okay. These are things that I dislike about myself, and which God has the power to allow me to address. Not because I wish to be a saint, or a guru, or an example to others. Simply because when I manage to change the way I think, I’m happier. I like being happier.
It’s been suggested that I over analyse these things. I can understand that sentiment as in the past that was certainly something I experienced. It was physically sickening. I could get obsessive about it, trapped in recursive thought loops and accompanied by feelings of self-loathing and frustration. But now, that’s not the case at all. I can be aware of these traits, and aware that I’m probably not unique in them. I’m grateful that I’ve been granted the opportunity to identify them, and to do something about them. I’m grateful that I don’t have to simply accept them, and resign myself to being so essentially flawed. I know that I can’t do anything about them myself though. I’ve tried in the past and the result was not just ‘nil’, it was horribly negative as I’ve just outlined.
“But there is one who has all power – that one is God. May you find him now.”
So I can simply hand them over now. And as long as I do so, they improve, bit by bit. Until my ego starts revving up again, at which point I’m quickly reminded that I’m not in charge, and I can say sorry and take a step back again. No one said this was going to be easy, and nor should it be. There is no end state, no destination. There is no finish line.
I don’t tend to feel happy very often these days, but neither do I feel sad. I’m sure if you stuck me on the back of a powerboat then I’d whoop with excitement with the best of them, and if anything I feel emotions like disappointment more purely than I ever did before, but it’s all in proportion now.
Other people’s behaviors still initially irritate me sometimes, or their reactions to me do. But as long as I’m alright with myself and with God then to be honest I don’t really care what they think. If my side of the street is clean, then their behaviour is none of my business. It’s nothing to do with me, it’s for them and their beliefs to sort out, or not. It’s on them, not me. And conversely, because of that I think more compassionately and generously of them. I don’t need to feel defensive, I merely feel sincere sympathy for how they experience the world, and appreciate their good qualities more keenly. And they always have many. I can think of them with love and nothing more.
No more the endless exhausting rollercoaster of euphoric highs and crashing lows. Instead I have a sense of calm, of control, a peace of mind. A peace that I only ever experienced before whilst doing something like scuba diving, which physically took me out of myself. I’d not swap that for all the joyful dancing in the world. Laughter may be the best medicine, but prevention is better than cure.
When it comes to writing or talking about those things that interest me, once I turn the tap on, once the dam is breached, the words just flow from me with unrelenting force. Many of those subjects are so interdependent, so synergistic, that I can’t even easily restrict myself to just one topic. How could I write about Recovery without my Faith? How could I write about The Dokkodo without referencing the similarities with AA? And so on. This can be a tad problematic when talking to people. They may go away thinking I’m a bit of a mental. Which I am. I even have a letter from a psychiatrist to prove it, so there’s that.
But when it comes to writing them down in a blog, or twitter, on a web forum then this problem fades into irrelevancy anyway. It is irrelevant now because, as with other aspects of my behaviour, I’ve tried to reflect and in so doing I examined my motivation for wanting to write these pieces in the first place.
I’ve always liked to think that I write because I enjoy sharing things with the world and hope that some of it may be of some small use to others.
Let’s face it though, that’s a convenient, socially acceptable lie I like to tell myself and the people around me. It’s virtue-signalling of the highest order, and it’s bollocks. What I actually want is for people to comment on the depth of my writing, my literary style. I want them to breathlessly say that they have been deeply affected by my words and it’s brought about a change in their lives.
I’m not even exaggerating. It’s not something the previous me would ever have admitted to anyone, I would have presented my work with a self-effacing modesty and perhaps some tentatively hopeful aspirations. But deep down such adulation is what I’ve really been yearning for. Why else keep such a keen eye on, and experienced such feelings of disappointment at, the number of people following this blog? And more than that actually – perhaps I’d be greeted by an email from the Guardian and it’ll be the launch pad to a new career as a respected journalist? Without, you know, putting in any of the effort that actual journalists have to. Perhaps I’ll be recruited as a government adviser in order to craft national policy decisions. Perhaps I’ll be urged to run for parliament and win by a landslide with my unique brand of total honesty and transparency. Lots of amazing things will happen to me with this blog as the starting point. Books will written about me in the future, people will study my philosophies, and talk of me in the same tones as Gandhi, St Francis of Assisi, and Harry Kane.
Because I’m special.
You think I’m overplaying this for comic effect? Believe me, I’m not. Welcome to the fucked up world that exists inside my head. My only saving grace has been that at least I’ve been aware of how ridiculous I am.
That’s not a particularly attractive truth about myself, and not something I want to encourage. It’s just a wee a bit arrogant and delusional, no? Vain. So even if beyond all rational expectation some of the above came to pass, it would allow my ego a massive gluttonous feast, which would then swell to a gargantuan size and I would become a completely insufferable git. My steroid injected ego would gambol with wild abandon across the green lawns of my mind, defecating everywhere it went.
Internally it would anyway, even if I managed to modify how I presented it to the world. I’d probably achieve such presentation masterfully, because I became rather adept at doing that. I would be self-effacing – carefully calculated in such a way as to make as many people as possible comment on my unusual modesty. I am, in that way, an expert manipulator. This is both a survival trait for an active alcoholic and, I believe, often part of the common underlying condition that leads to self-medication in the first place. It’s how we function in the world, without being completely ostracised. It’s how we avoid getting sectioned, or having everyone think we’re total blenders. It’s how we learn to first control our pubescent arrogance.
The other possibilities for reaction to my work are no more appealing. At the extreme end I’d face criticism which I would outwardly thank people for, but in reality make me think the other person a complete moron for not reading me correctly, and cultivate a simmering well of anger and resentment for days on end. I’d mull things over constantly, repeatedly, rehearsing replies I could post, or arch blog posts I could make in response, perhaps using my much loved phrase “I can explain it to you, but I can’t understand it for you.” It would crowd my mind, driving out all feelings of calm, of centreredness, of peace, of genuine prayer.
Maybe ‘most’ people feel like this to some degree. Perhaps they’re normal reactions. Probably they’re at least understandable. They’re doubtless feelings I will always experience. But frankly, I don’t really give a paragliding crap. All that’s relevant is that they’re not things about myself that I wish to nurture, to give shelter and succour to. They’re not Tao. They’re not calm. They’re not centred. They’re not part of who God wants me to be. The answer to that much derided question “What Would Jesus Do?” is – not this. I don’t know what he’d do in the 21st Century, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t start a blog or engage in heated debate on social media.
For those reasons I’ve to a large part disengaged from Twitter, and even from the forum I frequented for over a decade. The latter was particularly painful as it was brought to a head quite jarringly. What was in reality an attempt on my part at absurdist humour, itself a demonstration of how clever I am, was interpreted as racism. The actual reply was a comic misinterpretation of someone else’s post, and could have been about netball players as much as ethnicity as far as I was concerned. I’m white and male, so it goes without saying that to some degree I’m both racist and sexist – growing up in an a culture dominated by white males makes this an unavoidable truth. But with that said, I’m about as far from both as can be expected. This isn’t just egoistic self-perception either – I’ve done some Harvard implicit bias tests, and I encourage anyone reading this to do a few too. But what I posted was read on face value and led to confused accusations that I’d suddenly and unexpectedly turned into a loathsome bigot, and I was hurt.
To be clear, this isn’t on facebook or anything similar. It’s a relatively small community and one I’ve been part of for a long time, but a place where I post completely anonymously under a pseudonym. I’ve never met anyone on there face to face. No one has a clue who I am in meatspace, or even any personally identifiable information like my home town. But the perception that those people now had about my adopted moniker struck me to the very core. Why? Why was I so wrapped up in what they thought about that name on their screen? I even had to resist an incredibly strong urge to post one final explanation, and a dramatic “goodbye – for now…”
Wouldn’t my energy be better spent on paying more attention to those I came into real contact with? I think it would.
What’s more, even away from the screen these mediums start to warp my reality. Every experience develops a little icon in the top right of my brain reading “Share” and I’m already thinking of clever ways I could present it to the wider world. Phrases I could use, funny ways I could draw interest with a title or introduction, pictures I could use as humorous illustration and the captions to go underneath. According to the media (so probably bollocks) this is how many of the ‘younger generation’ experience their world, but I’m almost forty dammit. I’ve always been quite proud of being one of the earliest real natives of the web. Now I think it may not always be such a good thing after all. Pros and cons, as with all things, but I’d never really stopped to consider the disadvantages so much before.
But for now, I’m posting this. Partly out of courtesy to my new followers, but most likely just in partial submission to those aforementioned vain urges. I do quite enjoy writing too, so perhaps I ought to recognise that. Although if so, here’s nothing to stop me simply saving it to my desktop, so perhaps that’s just another lie…
If I’m going to continue to do this, I need to watch my motivations carefully.
I may or may not publish more on this blog, I honestly don’t know right now. but if not, you’ll know why.
I was going to write something about Tai Chi, but this brief introductory paragraph seems to have run on a bit hasn’t it? As is my way. Maybe another time eh.
I’ll probably try to revert back to a bit more of a lighthearted style as well. I’m resisting the call to too much re-reading and editing, but I suspect this one verges on unreadable. Had to just be stated simply and plainly this time though. Given the content, writing with such intent whilst wearing a jester’s hat and making wisecracks would have been a bit… perverse.
Feel free to post in the comments to tell me how special and unique my insights are, how much you enjoy my writing, and how you wish I was picked up by a national newspaper.