Helping stuff die: lessons from a shitty day
You can learn something every day. Or at least I can.
Today started as a shitty day. I learned something useful. If it hadn’t been this shitty a day, I probably wouldn’t have learned what I learned — so mad grats for this shitty day.
I’ll tell you what I learned.
Then I’ll tell you how I learned it.
Maybe there’s a lesson in that as well.
What I learned
Something has to die for something new to live. I’m speaking psychologically, mostly, though it’s probably true otherwise.
When I make a mistake, the part of me that made the mistake has to die. That sounds harsh, but it’s not. If it doesn’t die, it will keep making the same mistake. Who the hell would want to live that way? Death would be a blessing.
Why can’t it learn? It can’t. The only way to learn is to let stuff die and then be reborn.
Not my rules.
Among my many bad habits: I try to keep things alive that would be better off dead. I’m speaking psychologically again. I also don’t throw things out. That’s a different manifestation of the same bad habit.
That’s what I was doing today. Something needed to die, and instead of letting it die, I tried to keep it alive.
I finally let it die. It took a while. The thing that needed to die kept struggling. But finally, it died.
I could have made its dying easier, but I didn’t know then what I know now.
Now I know better.
I have habits that I keep trying to change. That’s wrong. I need to let them die.
I need to help them die.
How I learned it
I woke up without an alarm at about 5:15 am. I hit the shower, got dressed, walked across the street to do my writing. I spent the first 5 or 20 minutes wandering through the store. Finally, I went to Starbucks, got my latte and settled down to write. It was 6:11 a.m. when I finally started writing.
That right there is the story of a bunch of habits there that need to die.
I started writing. Two paragraphs in, I was writing shit like: “A part of me is very tired of living. Tired of the pain of failure. I want to be free of the pain of suffering.”
Well, not shit like that. That shit. That’s literally what I wrote. Or that something inhabiting my body and pretending to be me wrote on my behalf.
A couple of pages of writing that kind of crap and I was done. Or whatever was writing it was done. It trudged back to Dana and Daniel’s place. It got into bed, curled up and slept for a couple of hours. When it woke up, Daniel had dropped a link to this article about Jordan Peterson’s ten-step writing process. There will be more to say about that.
But for now, it led, by a circuitous route, to what I ended up learning.
I read it. Or something did. And got something out of it. Or something did. One of Peterson’s bits of advice was to take note. Notes were taken. In writing. There were a couple of videos embedded in the article. They were watched. Staying awake was painful. Back to bed.
And so it went for a while. It got up, trudged over to Safeway to get some Chobani for Bobbi. It came back and whined to her about the pain of existence. Then I invented Meditation by Proxy (MBP.) I did it because the invention of MBP was a creative act, and whatever was in my body was into death, dying, and whining, and not creating.
And then I put it back to bed and let it die.
I woke up and found Bobbi curled up beside me. I learned that my MBP had worked. Yay! That made me feel good. I got up. I wanted to get a new notebook because I wanted to take notes. And I knew I’d write better in a new notebook. One that wasn’t full of shit.
I headed over to Target to get one. Sometime around then I realized that I felt pretty good. Then I realized that I felt more than pretty good.
Instead of just getting a notebook with ruled lines, treated myself to a $10.00 sketchbook with beautiful paper. It felt like it would be nice to write in. (Later I learned that it was.) I also bought a $3.00 ruled notebook, just in case. In the checkout, I dropped a mini-camera that I had clipped to my belt and hadn’t been using, and some nice lady chased me out of the store and gave it to me.
An omen? A sign? Perhaps.
I was alive and realized that I had not been alive for a while. How long? Hours? Days? Weeks? It was hard to tell. Maybe I was alive for the first time.
I went back to D&D’s and pulled out my sketchbook and started writing. It was lovely to write in. I wrote two full pages in tiny script.
Peterson talks about death and resurrection in one of the videos. I could see that something had been trying to die. I’d been keeping it from dying. It was horrible.
Things need to die. Perhaps they do quietly, while I’m asleep. But today something was in the process of dying while I was awake.
I need to recognize this when it happens.
And I need to help things die that need to die.
And when I get home, I need to throw out a lot of the crap that I’ve been accumulating.
That’s what I learned from a shitty day.