Bad Daze

As previously stated, I’m on the hunt to find out why “bad days” exist in my life. I noticed another “bad day” yesterday and I’ll be discussing my findings here.

I did happen to watch another “negative” movie prior to this bad day. Did it influence my mood or did a pre-existing mood influence me to watch the movie? Either way, if I’m watching “negative” movies, then I can guess there’s potential for a “bad day”.

I should note that my “bad days” aren’t actually that bad on an absolute scale. In one sense, I don’t really have “bad days”. But relatively, I do. For example, my Internet connection went down yesterday. It rarely goes down, so that’s one of those external events that are beyond my immediate control. But guess what? It was only out for 30 minutes and I could use my iPhone’s cellular connection in the meantime. Therefore, I’m wondering if my “bad days” are just hysterical overreactions to the day’s events?

In other words, a “bad day” is just my mind having a temper tantrum. My mind wants something in the world, isn’t getting it, and therefore freaks out. And expectedly, I can’t calm it down by reasoning with it during the middle of an episode.

How does one effectively deal with temper tantrums? Well, that’s Toddler 101 stuff. A few years ago when I spent a lot of time with an actual toddler, I remember distractions worked wonders to snap him out of a tantrum. If I could get his attention off the tantrum and keep him occupied, the situation stabilized (this didn’t always work though). I also remember a validation technique in which his mom would say things like:

“I see that you’re upset. You’re really mad. You’re mad because you want to play with the remote-control but I wouldn’t let you. You really wanted to play with that remote-control didn’t you? But the remote-control could break and we wouldn’t be able to watch the TV. But I know you really wanted to play with the remote-control. I’m sorry you can’t play with the remote-control, would you like to play with your race-car instead?”

I know my mind has been frustrated lately, so it follows that my mind would have frustration-based tantrums. That also explains why reasoning doesn’t work once I’m in the middle of a “bad day”. So perhaps distractions, like a new activity, could work. And perhaps “journaling” in which I acknowledge my mind’s distress could help too.

I definitely feel different today, so it seems as though the latest episode has passed.

Mouth of Man

There’s a guiding voice in my mind. I hear it and oftentimes transcribe the words and publish them here. But today, I’m merely the man. I must admit that I don’t particularly enjoy being an embodied being. It’s an experience that leads to a lot of frustration.

For instance, I know what it’s like to be a loser, having lost so many times. I know what it’s like to feel powerless, even hopeless. I know sadness, despair, and wanting to give up. I know worry and fear. I know pain and the wish to escape it. I know isolation and loneliness. I know lack and unfulfilled craving. I would prefer for those aspects of this experience to end. I’d prefer something new. I want to try winning instead of losing.

Instead of being fueled by frustration, I’d rather creative inspiration be my guide. Instead of a constant stream of criticism flowing through my thoughts, I’d rather be overcome with appreciation. I want no more dread, just gleeful anticipation instead. I want to know what it’s like to live within a state of satisfaction. Do you hear that, guiding voice from beyond? It’s me the man, the simple creature stuck in this predicament.

No offense, but despite all this “guidance”, I’m still struggling to an embarrassing degree. I say, let’s just accept that I need too much assistance at this point. Let’s flip that switch over to “easy” and go from there? I’m too old and not invested enough to care anymore. The time for strain and struggle is over. How ’bout coasting to the end, just living an easy and enjoyable existence? That sounds like some sweet relief to me.

Frustrating Circumstances

I’m constantly frustrated. Like, that’s literally my primary character trait. Sleep? Can’t do it. Eat and expel food simply and easily? Nope. Carve a path through life? Yikes, no. Get something I want. Ha. Eventually get something I want? Okay, but it’ll just open up new pathways of frustration. Play a game or engage in a hobby? Okay, but again, it’ll just be another source of frustration.

Imagine a car-racing game in which the car bolts off the starting-line and crashes into everything. It swerves and skids and spins 180 degrees – it has a terrible time getting to the finish line, if it makes it at all. But why not simply slow-down to a manageable speed? Because, you’d lose by not qualifying for the minimum time allotted for the race. So there’s an in-between space that must be mastered: not too fast and not too slow.

I’m stuck alternating between those two extremes, losing either way – hence my perpetual state of frustration. In games, I can sometimes manage to make this back-and-forth work. Practicing at the fastest and the slowest can sometimes get me to a middle-ground that’s workable. Why can’t I just start at medium? I don’t know. It’s either all-in or barely-in, and then I can potentially maintain an “average” for a limited time.

Is this the middle-path that the Buddha spoke of? I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve been perpetually frustrated and I don’t like it. At some point it’d be nice to achieve a state of mastery in which things just work. Instead it’s: “Oh no, another problem, another obstacle, another reason this can’t be done.” Frankly, I’m sick of it. If there was a reward for all this effort, great. But I’m simply trying to get through each day, performing the most rudimentary tasks.

Okay, let’s calm down and think for a second. If I’m supplied with an endless quantity of frustration, maybe that’s a good thing? Frustration is invigorating. For example, if a task goes smoothly, it’s over and done with – quickly forgotten. “Oh I won? Cool, what’s next?” Whereas a frustrating task keeps me coming back and burns itself into memory. “Gah! I’ll get you this time! Ha! Victory never felt so sweet!!”. You see? Without frustration, you wouldn’t care.

Take that car-racing game as an example. Imagine you’re able to easily drive through the first few courses. Why bother with the rest? You know the outcome, the game’s too easy. But as soon as you swerve off and smack the first tree… the challenge begins! There it is: the thrill of the hunt! Can you improve?! Can you make it past this race-course!?? Oh no!! There’s a conundrum, a puzzle to be solved – a question without a known answer! And you’re off, energized by the investigation.

So dear Richard, you’re simply being an ungrateful complainer. The game sparks your interest and you curse it. And if each day passed without challenge, you’d also curse it! Think about what happens if you win the car-racing game? You receive a virtual trophy. The point being: rewards are insignificant – just superficial symbols that cannot satisfy. They are finish-lines painted at arbitrary points for the purpose of providing something to race towards – giving you something to do. It’s the pursuit that matters. And the very thing that powers pursuit is: frustration.

Therefore, you have unlimited access to the greatest and most powerful resource ever created: frustration. Ipso facto, you’re very rich and powerful. Congratulations, you’ve done it!

Self-care Routine

I practice self-care through the process of mental-awareness combined with mental-discipline. In a sense, I allow myself to have a good day. This is not related to external circumstances, it is solely in regards to how I’m feeling. I watch my thoughts through the practice of awareness and when something inappropriate is detected, I steer them away through the practice of discipline.

Again, my physical situation isn’t important, I’m only concerned about my attitude: is it positive or negative. For example, if I look up to the sky and see an astroid hurtling towards me, I’d notice a disturbance in my feelings. As soon as I’m aware of this agitation, I’d drop those thoughts and adopt other thoughts that improve my mood. “Oh how beautiful that burning rock is! And to think it should all end like this, in a magnificent world-ending event! This must be what I came here to see! Amazing!”

But honestly, I’m rarely if ever exposed to disturbing external events. Most of what disturbs me is self-inflicted. In a sense, I’m constantly hitting myself with a stick. A stick that takes many forms:

“Hm, why do you look like that, what’s wrong with your face. Why aren’t you good at anything? You know, there’s a term for unfit creatures like you, it’s called extinction. Imagine your life if you weren’t so unpleasant to be around, people might like you – or maybe not. Why’d you do it that way!? That’s dumb! You’re going where!? Do you know how dangerous the world is!? You must be a special type of moron to have a complete lack of regard for personal safety! Uh-oh, is that an ache? It can only mean a severe disease followed closely by death.”

It’s surprising how much of my life is just me bullying myself. Therefore, the most significant step I can take to improve my life is to stop hitting myself.

Typical Saturday

My current dream right now? Hm, moving into my forever-home. I want to feel at-ease, like I can finally sleep and be well-rested. I want to head into my office/workshop, surrounded by many tools and gadgets, forever tinkering, collecting, organizing, and upgrading. Throughout the day I’ll be hanging-out with my small family, chatting, eating familiar breakfasts, and delighting in delicious dinners. I’ll also watch shows, videos, and movies – simply absorbing life’s entertaining aspects at a comfortable intensity. And that’s it, not a tall order by any means.

Within my thoughts, there was always a prevalence of lack and impermanence. I don’t have “x” and even if I do, it won’t last long. “That’s too hard to get, I’ll never have it, it’s outta my reach.” Along with: “Things break, they degrade over time, nothing lasts forever.” A mythology of meagerness pervaded my mind. And as it did, my life proceeded thusly. I sought scarcity and found it around every turn.

Was life unpleasant because of its inherent nature? Or was life unpleasant due to my own perspective of paucity? I cannot deny my negative mindset, it’s there. But was it developed as a response to a malevolent world? Or did my mind unjustly paint this place as a squalid slum unfit for occupancy? It seems quite reasonable that I might have to accept blame.

As my outlook softened over the years, I’ve noticed improvements in my physical surroundings. Therefore, one might assume I need to keep improving my perspective in order to see an even better world. I suppose that speaks to the dreamlike nature of reality: circumstances generally flow the way you think they should. And if my life is in anyway unsatisfactory, it’s because I believe it should be – I believe in a lackluster world.

But how does one change their mindset if they’re busy believing in the worst while at the same time experiencing the fruit of their incessant pessimism? It takes a leap of faith to deny one’s current situation as an objective fact – it also takes repentance in the acceptance of blame for its creation. Is the world truly unpleasant, or does the mind make it so? And if an unruly mind makes it so, the solution boils down to the application of mental discipline.

Focus the mind on the greatest aspects of every moment and appreciation of goodness becomes the dominant path in which thoughts flow. Finding greatness in the small builds until greatness pervades all aspects of existence. Soon enough, life becomes an abundant source of awe and amusement to be appreciated.

Packing Purpose

If you know where you’re going, it makes packing much easier. With packing, you can’t always bring everything you own. And even if you can, you still have to prioritize accessibility of items – some things get buried on the bottom while others are kept near the top. What’s the weather like? Hot, cold, rainy? What activities will I do? Which accessories should I keep at hand? How long will I be without the stuff I leave behind?

A couple years ago for example, I emptied out a storage unit that contained stuff I left behind ten years prior. More than half of that stuff was irrelevant and got thrown out. I’m at a similar spot now. I have to leave but I don’t know where I’m going. I have to pack but I don’t know what to bring. Will the rest go into storage again? Another decade entombed until my return? I’m obviously not pleased by this prospect.

If I had my druthers, I’d simply buy a nice home in a pleasant location and settle there. I’m able to make more suitable choices for myself than the powers that be. Yet for whatever reason, something wants me riled up. But honestly, I don’t like this world enough to bear any inconvenience. It’s a relationship in which my needs are reluctantly addressed. Me: “Can I get an ice-cream cone?” The world: “We have popsicles at home.” Me: “oh.”

So dear world, you disappoint me once again. If I could end this relationship, I would. But I know any authority so petty and cruel would not allow such a circumstance – thus your prisoner I remain. Whatever. I have nothing better to do apparently. One would assume that a good host would make their guest’s stay a pleasant one. Yet, it is an absolute chore to attain any sense of enjoyment from this place. Good day to you.

Mental Wrestling Federation

The mind. It’s like you walk into a giant exhibition center filled with a hundred professional wrestling rings. In each ring a wrestler waits, often goading you to enter his domain. “Come on you pipsqueak! Show me what you got!” Oftentimes you take the bait and enter the ring. Ding! He lifts you up, suplexing your helpless body into the mat. You’ve had it. One! Two! Threee! It’s all over!

You’ve got a few options for dealing with this situation.

One: if the guy looks like an absolute maniac, DON’T get into the ring. It seems super exciting when you’re on the outside and he’s provoking you with his taunts. But you don’t stand a chance, you’ll get pummeled.

Two: Slide out under the bottom rope and run back to the crowd. Once you feel the intensity of being in the ring, just forfeit the match. You weren’t going to win anyway. It’s a valid option and it’s within your ability to simply dump-out any time.

Three: Pick a chump. Don’t get ahead of yourself, pick a guy that looks reasonable. There’s no championship on the line, you’re simply browsing through the expo-center – might as well enjoy yourself. There’s challenging yourself and then there’s being foolish. Don’t be a masochist, thinking you can beat any guy in the room.

Four: Play along, don’t take things so seriously. You got dinged and bumped around? So what. An insult cut a little deep? Your knee hurts? Well that’s the game, you get knocked about a bit. If you can roll with the punches and get into the act, then that’s an option too.

Thoughts are like wrestlers attempting to tie you up in leg-locks or half-nelsons, they want to flaunt their stuff and smash you into the mat. If you can’t take the intensity, don’t engage. If you want some fun, wrestle someone a bit more manageable. If you want even more fun, get into the spirit of things and get in there.

Futile Resistance

You’ve seen it: a character is placed into what he believes to be a prison. He proceeds to struggle, fight, lash out, not listen, attempt escape, complain, and exhaust himself with all these futile efforts. Eventually, he gives up his belligerent ways and starts to harmonize with his situation. He goes from miserable to okay. He might be attending a new school or joining a new family – whatever it is, it’s new and different and he’s ready for battle.

But then there are characters like Annie. She resists her predicament and actually ends up in a better place with Daddy Warbucks. She didn’t have to accept a hard-knock life and eke-out little bits of happiness wherever she could. She didn’t have to alter her perspective and ignore the muck and mire until she found joy within. No, she was plucked from her predicament and placed in a loving palace filled with earthly delights.

“Face it kid, you’re an orphan, your parents aren’t coming back to get you.” But Annie wouldn’t accept this. She had an enduring optimism in what would come and an unwavering faith in her parents’ love. She left to find them. With the intent of finding her home, she found it – it just wasn’t quite what she expected.

I relate to the feeling of imprisonment and straining against my situation and resisting assimilation. It’s been several decades and I still haven’t harmonized with my surroundings. I spend so much time and effort trying to embrace earthly existence, just trying to get through each day with a decent attitude. I’m no where near the point of actually living life, I’m still trying to accept the basic premise.

“Maybe far away… or maybe real nearby….” Nowadays I spend my days in the prison wood-shop. I make little things as a way to pass the time. Earth feels like a waiting room, with the TV tuned to something I don’t prefer. Waiting for what? I have no idea. I might be doing something wrong, but I don’t know what else to do except sit quietly and wait. I don’t expect anything at the end of the wait, simply the receptionist telling me that they’re closing – and out I go.

Cake Life

If you add nasty ingredients, you’re going to make a nasty cake – right? Frustration, bitterness, suspicion, disgust, jealousy, fear, rage, pessimism – these types of ingredients would make for a nasty life. A great life requires great ingredients. When mixing up a cake, you don’t throw whatever’s in the pantry into the cake – right? Some oregano, strawberry jelly, and a can of beans? No, you only include the required ingredients for deliciousness, such as flour and sugar.

Ingredients to life are added through focus. For example, if I arrive at a surprise party, I can focus on the fact that my family tricked me and betrayed my trust as they jumped out of the darkness to scare me. How dare they! Or, I can focus on the effort and thoughtfulness that must’ve went into planning the party and maintaining the element of surprise. Wow, what a great family!

Life’s ingredients are added every moment of the day. A pleasant experience is created when we focus on aspects of life that amuse and delight. Whereas a thrilling high-intensity experience is crafted by focusing on aspects that evoke fright. The recipes are pretty simple: for something sweet, find the fun – for something bitter, focus on the most unpleasant facets you can find.

Life is whatever you focus on. Focus on struggle and strain and all the failures you’ve had? Life is hard and you’re a loser! Focus on the great things you’ve done and all you’ll eventually accomplish? The world is full of opportunities and you’re its champion! Your focus determines the world you experience. Focus on filth, then everything’ll be dirty. Focus on ducks, you’re going to see a lot of ducks. So why not focus on the things you enjoy most. (One caveat: don’t focus on the LACK of things you want. Proper focus should always evoke pleasant feelings.)

Trees versus Thoughts

From one perspective, I’m simply sitting here gazing out the window at the tree-line in the distance, the rising sun’s rays adding gold to the green against the light-blue sky. But from another perspective, my mind rages as waves against a rocky coast, smashing thoughts into focus. And not high-quality thoughts filled with nourishment and delight, but dank and disagreeable ones unworthy of attention.

Why do toxic thoughts incessantly pollute my experience of existence? The only answer I’ve surmised is that it’s due to a lack of mental discipline. In other words, I allow it to happen like a negligent caretaker. My mind is a puppy needing to poop: without guidance, he poops where he pleases, leaving undesirable piles to step in. But with diligent observation and some encouragement, those poops can be properly directed.

Apparently though, I’m a VERY lazy caretaker. I’d rather trudge through the muck than spend any effort avoiding its accumulation. Or, perhaps mischievous forces are injecting obstacles onto my path. Either I’m to blame for my own misery, or I’m a hapless victim struggling against a wicked foe. Experience tells me that victimhood is a sorry state to cultivate, so that means I must settle for being indolent and irresponsible.

So here I am, perpetually pushing a rock uphill. But in my case, it’s the perpetual application of mental discipline. Simple realization has never been enough, I must actively adjust my focus away from the unsatisfying and toward the fulfilling. I must keep myself from constantly criticizing and steer towards appreciation. I so often let go of the wheel, allowing my mind to wander into the gritty gunk that leads to unpleasantness. Oh well, brush it off and go again.