“This is a programme of action” these were the words my former sponsor repeated at me as if to burn them into my soul.
Our words inspire and relate, but it is only actions that create a result.
All my life actions are currently in a Trello. This is a tool to place actions into categories and keep track of things. I review this at the start of each day. And i think about the next best action; chase, complete, prioritise, reprioritise, JFDI.
Down the avenue of taking actions to complete a task I often finding myself asking “when is enough is enough”. We reach dead ends.
Last night I was watching 24 to complete a marathon. And there are two scenarios in which action and dead ends come to life.
The presidents in two scenarios faced two absolute actions and choosing between them was impossible. The reality is there is never an absoloute choice; the gift to overcoming something is creating options and solutions. And taking action. The best one and working your way down until you need more options.
So often I hear should, would, could, would like, it would be nice if… but the outcomes will never be achieved without action.
I started with all the boring actions, and all going well, soon I will be able to start the fun projects. Never forget that taking action needs physical, spiritual and material nourishment.
And all actions are an experiment we can’t truly know all possible outcomes or consequences.
And it is with that some of my problems are disappearing. Over the hill, cross every stream, til you find your dream.
And it with that I am reminded of what sometimes is a dead end in what I would call my activism has further options.
All I need is action, after all being activist requires action.
Recently I’ve been working around a lot of people a decade or so younger than me. It is a little refreshing.
In the midst of my 30s, by which means is not old I am reminded of the differences in conversation.
Around me, I talk relationships, fertility, family issues, illness, challenges, rising bills, work related stress, childcare, retirement plans, wills and so on. It’s very adult.
And I am reminded by a friend that by the time I am 40 I should be a conservative, wounded by the pessimism of the world and seeking nothing more than tax relief from the world around me.
Taking me back, to when I took exams, left school, chose a job, did side gigs, snuck out. The world was full of optimism.
As I overhear the conversations of who’s partying with who, how awful the hangover is, and how loves sting has bitten someone young. I remind myself of that great belief; that there is much ocean ahead.
And as I breathe in, suddenly choppy waters become an ocean full of opportunities to explore, with little responsibility to care for.
And I am reminded, no matter the weight of todays challenges, taking a leaf out of my younger colleagues. There is so much more ahead, so much more time. The worlds an oyster.
And then I settle down to the thought of becoming a radical socialist at 40!
Coming to a grinding halt, with nothing but yourself is an exhausting realisation that actually I am tired of the bombastic series of events going in around me.
I know when I’m emotionally exhausted when metaphorically; I’m on the floor, exhausted, feel nothing and am desperately reaching out for a coffee.
Emotional exhaustion to me means entering a state of complete ignorance. A shut down. A way of blocking everything out. A pair of dark tinted sunglasses to the world. Goodbye! Let me throw some shade.
Overcoming Emotional Exhaustion
When I enter such a state the first thing I need to do is reconnect to my core values. And remind myself of what I see as purpose, and take small actions to act on those values.
It’s to turn off social media, turn off the news, stop reading newspapers, drop anything negative or draining.
I reach for the ice cream, food and cooking. Small acts of self care and compassion bring back a routine to remind me that it’s okay to comfort eat.
It means popping to the bakery and getting a sandwich or cake I like.
It means ignoring what I perceive to be the demands of others, and walking away from anything stressing me out to provide temporary reprieve. Yes! That means taking a break and checking-out when I need to. And not giving a fuck about it.
In the long run, it means reducing, reframing and avoiding the emotional stressors. It means converting those feelings of anger and annoyance into an energy of passion.
It means finding the people that are responsive and compassionate, emotionally available and aware, to come back into my life.
It means only prioritising what is important, not to others, but to me.
And if the source of emotional burnout is a series of tragic events, it is allowing time to mourn, grieve, flow through the different emotions of that process. The Jewish tradition of shiva, gives seven days to mourn and process the loss of a loved one. I love the principles of physically, metaphorically and emotionally signifying grief. For any emotion we can follow the principles of physically and metaphorically recognising it’s meaning.
The source of emotional burnout is often deep emotions and they need to come out. Sometimes we need to move, change, go somewhere quiet, reflect, write, pray, visit somewhere or someone to find that release.
Bringing your rituals to life in a time of crisis can help reestablish emotional boundaries and release.
Body, Mind and Soul
Our bodies tend to recover much more quickly to trauma events, than the mind and soul. But there is often no bandage, therapy, pill to help us change these.
Throughout all time, humans have developed hundreds, thousands of rituals to express everything from joy to grief, justice to reward. We are systemically and socially programmed to respond to such ceremonies.
We already know that the best response to processing emotional trauma is in our rituals, in our beliefs, in something that is greater than our very physical nature.
We treat emotional trauma with the very thing that causes it. Our emotions. And whatever the price, we need to refill ourselves with our emotions when we fall into emotional burnout. However that suits us best.
Once upon a time I used to be obsessed with timestamps and the progression of an XML into data through physical and virtual time. I was obsessed with how this data was stamped, how long each process took.
Each timestamp was a bookmark between one process and the next.
And I’m trying to timestamp the moment when I decided that everything became purposeless. That hope died. That dreams were placed in the shredder. When there was nothing left to inspire, colour or bring life to life. In the hope that this might pinpoint why I felt that way.
And funnily enough, like that once upon a time. It wasn’t an event, it was a series of events one running from each to another.
All that tells me that denial is a river straight through the soul; ending in cataclysmic collapse and acceptance. For a long time I had been in denial; denial that I wasn’t really enjoying myself and denial that I couldn’t chose to change.
For several days I have been sitting in front of a sign requesting that I stand up. There is no up. There is no standing, sprinting, running, panic. There’s no waving my arms in the air.
I just don’t care. In the summer sun I slowly laid down, removed the twigs from beneath my back and let my eyes fall shut. They gently closed, as the branches above me rustled, flickering the warmth of the sun across my face. I felt my body fall through the floor as I fell limpless and asleep.
This was bliss from the noise. This was bliss from every sign. This was bliss from the hustle of every person in the city. For every feeling. From emotional crowding and; emotional constipation. From the ache of my toes to the top of my neck. From every notification, email and nag.
I thought no matter what; there is always under this tree. I was resigned. I am resigned. I will be resigned. There is not a single desire in me to energise, to feel desire, to want or need.
Because well and truly under that tree. What I was really experiencing was my true nature. Nothing matters. Everything is noise.
One of those timestamps I have wanted to understand for a long time was my medical past. I’ve been browsing through my newly arriving medical records. They are broken, incomplete and spread all over the place, like my memory.
And if I am to read them as the only history it would make a very one sided history of… GP notification, GP to do something. From event to event. Drama to drama. Place to place. All I sense is my pain. All the notes refer to is dehydration, blood tests and refer to GP.
Any perspective or insight, offers no validity to the experience of the experience of becoming those timestamps.
The sum of that output: nothing. Exhaustion. A self reflection, a reminder that this is my own ego seeking importance and attention. And a reminder I am nothing, no one, invisible, silence. The penultimate state of releasing ego.
Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people
Whenever I am away, travelling or wherever I am. I always visit a cathedral. I will always light a candle. I will always remember Christingle with its dolly mixture on cocktail sticks in a satsuma, it’s tin foil and candle on the loose.
In that moment I will remember all those that are now not with me, for those who are suffering or those who are struggling. Through that simple act of bringing light into darkness, and watch as others do. It feels a little magical. I don’t have to believe anything will happen. But the ritual is important nonetheless.
And it is within these vast buildings, built as tall, wide, decoratively and expressively as possible; is the sense of worship – definition “to like”; bought to life.
More often than not, these buildings would have been built by labourers who had no other choice. Lived in squalor. The architects would have wanted to push the boundaries, finding no other place than religion to commission their finest work.
And it is with that I arrive back at Marx. Today we worship many things, and spread our likes across many places. Canary Wharf tube station is described as the cathedral of the underground. The Shard is the tallest and most expensive building in London, hosting the most refined brands in office space. Wembley Stadium roars as people jeer out “Sweet Caroline” to every victory. To me when I watched the crowds roar, this was a new cathedral, a new place of worship at the Lionesses who did, what the mens team could not.
Our concept of worship, is no longer bound to singular buildings, creeds, religions, places to live as it once was.
And it is with that I wonder what people really worship today. What is our relief? What is my relief? When is the moment that I can let go of “the sentiment of the heartless world”?
Collectively we pour our worship into sport, into heroes, into gods, into national heroes, into the NHS, doctors and nurses.
But we really struggle to be kind, to like, to worship one another. Days can pass unnoticed. The everyday merging into some form of grey sky.
My favourite antithesis to worship is the daily mail comments section, gossip magazines, chat shows, Twitter, PM Question Time, any conservative leader looking for election, the Johnny Depp libel trials.
It can be soulless. Soulless to the invisible structures that we can’t see, can’t change, won’t change or refuse to accept exist. Ignorance is the first sign of acceptance.
Our boss, that companies policy, that process, that bloody driver, that bloody cyclist, Evri/Hermes, someone not understanding us, won’t this person just get out of my way! (And thats just what’s in my head).
We are slaves to the rhythm of the everyday life. All the things we can’t change, but really could.
I have always thought it weird that people will only let out their joy, their worship, their attention to limited events/moments. And it can really be a struggle to find a smile, a laugh within the everyday.
Everyone I know has said: the atmosphere was incredible then, the place was buzzing, all the cheering, the energy of the crowd….
It makes a huge difference. I accept that I’m a moody cow sometimes, but small shifts in energy, small changes in conversation, a light touch here, a giggle, a stare; shifts the energy of any relationship, any conversation, any interaction.
Yesterday I realised that some of my well intentioned thank yous, have a lovely day and well wishes ended with a Chloe O’Brien moment (TV Series: 24).
I think those moments are my sarcasm and passive aggressiveness.
Life is super annoying. People don’t understand one another. People have little time to even try. And don’t get me started on intolerance for conflict. Or the ability to accept and process cognitive dissonance. Or even that there may be more than one truth! But I’ve been there, I still have the same struggles. People pleaser hello!
Opiate of the masses
Marx blamed religion for acting as an opiate and drug for the masses. One has to ask; who is really creating the society that needs an opiate or drug? The bourgeoisie don’t control our everyday. Their influence tends to be the headlines of the everyday. Not all the little things that happen in every passing moment.
Everyone can strive to at least attempt kindness in the everyday. And reduce that need for relief. I try to bring that energy. When your belief isn’t always staring back at you, it’s hard not to be a mirror. And that’s when people begin to loose their religion.
And for me, and others, life becomes no more than a cynical ploy to make us consume, use, read, purchase and advertise more.
So take a good look at my face, You’ll see my smile looks out of place, If you look closer, it’s easy to trace, The tracks of my tears
Recently I have been on the receiving end of news and events that will change other peoples lives forever. And this is the devastating type of news.
And from my distance, as an observer looking on. I realise that the tears, fears, sorrow, pain, compassion are not completely my own. The tears that I feel, are not fully mine. I do not own them. And these responses are my compassion and love latching on to news and changes that I cannot even begin to imagine.
When I step out of my own emotional state; I do not know, will not know, cannot know what it is really like to experience someone else’s life, as it shifts and changes.
And my first thought always goes to Buddha; attachment is the source of all pain.
The small tangled strings that connect us all together. Our family, loved ones, friends, acquaintances, people we know.
The opposite end of benevolent love is a massive hole of never ending grief. The elephant that is always in the room. The sign that our emotional state for attachment is so great and big like the oceans and seas, the stars and the universe. That I, you, we will never truly recover from loss or the threat of loss.
It is a reality that we will all face. It is the most powerful state of emotion.
Part and parcel of growing up, of shedding innocence, of becoming aged and wiser. Is the process of loss and grief. At some point I reached a tipping point. Where all the love for the people around me was tipped on it’s head.
Grief is the price we pay for love. At some point people started to disappear from my life. Encountering grief and loss for the first time, from the perspective of others is a transformative emotional process.
How deep, long, wide, tall a relationship is, is measured in tears, sorrow, pain at the end of it. In that uncomfortable feeling in the throat. In the collapse of the body. In denial that something, someone one, some feeling is gone.
Part of growing up is helping others manage this process of love. It is bringing to life all the best of a person. All the brilliant memories. The best edit. Their impact.
There isn’t a lot of training for this. We don’t grow up knowing how to deal with the grief of others, what it will be like, what it is actually like or how that process is different for different for relationships, reasons, attachments, emotional strings.
There is never a right way to process. There is not a single way to live through the grief.
All I have seen when someone looses someone is the devastating emptiness that it leaves behind. A witness to the floor being swept under someone’s feet as they fall into the never ending out of grief.
The wild drinking. The tears. The inability to look at photos, memories, coffin, hearse. Sometimes the ability to accept what once was was, means total avoidance to the world or reality, is the chosen path for a person experiencing grief.
The wild, animalistic cries of grief in front of the church. The raw powerful emotion shaking the air.
No grief is the same. And no love is ever the same.
Throughout the process of grief, everybody hurts and there is no choice but to hold on. And feel that process as a process of the greatest love you hold. The highest form of self.
Everyday I’m spinning plates, providing attention and care to each one to keep them moving. The trouble is I can’t always be sure who is helping the plate spinner spin.
Balance, or as I prefer to put it, constantly rebalancing and finding new balance is a fine art. And day to day it can feel like I am facing a new antithesis to my thesis.
When I’m the midst of rebalancing, changing, moving, it’s hard to find that anchor that keeps one thing still and provides the stillness of the eye in the middle of the storm.
Who can I count on?
Space and time! In the middle of everything is space and time. Allocating, prioritising it, giving it, receiving it, allowing myself to have it.
When there’s a lot of plates spinning, not all of them need spinning. Most can be left unattended. In the midst of all the noise there is very little I need to do, even less than I am accountable for, and even smaller what people will actually remember me for in the future.
At the start of January I gave myself a flavour of everything I wanted to do, everything that needed to change and everything on my worry and bother list.
It was long and I felt lost.
And then I made this simple decision; I don’t need to change anything, instead I’ll let it unravel. I’ll let the path unfold in front of me and let go of my own perception and emotions attached to each turn, step, diversion as I came across it.
So what is balance?
I found myself preaching about balance and how I needed to find it and assumed it was a zen state of everything harmoniously working simultaneously.
90% of the time that never happens in life.
So I redefined it; balance is attending only to what is needed there and then in the moment, and an acknowledgement of future actions required to get to an end state or goal.
Balance then, isn’t about spinning the plates, but about picking which ones need to be spun now. And working out the sequence to keep the plates spinning. That way I’m not spinning them all at once.
And just like that
I realised what was a tall order, didn’t need to be done all at once. In fact, for all my anxiety and worry, things will probably work out just fine. A to B is not a straight linear path. Despite what I like to think.