It’s been forever since I wrote anything. I have lacked energy, motivation, insight, and probably time to do so. But honestly, I have the time, I just burn it doing unproductive crap like working or yard work. Or phone-scrolling like a laboratory crack-monkey. The motivation has been there, sometimes, but I’m not feeling too inspired lately. Then I read something, I think it was Carl Jung’s quote… (hey, Geoff, an easy way to confirm that is go to on the internet and see if this is true…)
“Life really does begin at forty. Up until then, you are just doing research.”
I have plenty of work to do, but man, Jung was a pretty deep dude.
His insight into the duality of human existence, of overcoming our greatest fears or darkest corners by admitting them and confronting them, led me to a lot of introspection in my 20’s. In my late-20’s, I had what was probably close to what they call a “quarter-life crisis.” Did a lot of therapy at that time, a lot of looking way back to my childhood to understand why I was in a cycle of friendships and relationships that stagnated. The only constant in those scenarios was Me, so however it played out, I had the same role every time. It was a great step forward to gain understanding of my own behavioral drives.
“His retreat into himself is not a final renunciation of the world, but a search for quietude, where alone it is possible for him to make his contribution to the life of the community.”
Fast-forward to 2019. Recently spent a fair amount of time with some people who, frankly, are carrying a lot of old shit around. And not just carrying it, but leaning it onto other people, unconsciously, because that’s what they have to offer. I don’t think it’s malicious, their leaning. There’s no reflection of whether or not it’s beneficial to carry it, and thus, no wondering if it helps to blurt out their “take” on a situation. Because some of the stuff I saw and heard was straight-up bullshit, bigoted, short-sighted, and/or stupid.
“I have always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way.”
When I was 10 or 11, I had a great interest in biology and how animals were created and grew. I wondered how 2 kids from the same parents could look vastly different. I loved animals. I told my mom I thought it would be cool to be a veterinarian some day. She asked me…
“Do you think if someone brought you a sick animal that you could put it to sleep?”
So in this conversation about something not happening, in theory, for 20 years, I have to handle the hardest part of the work before I ever start? Whatever place of reality that came from, it wasn’t encouraging. I’m not a veterinarian. I didn’t share much with my mom about my hopes after that. Subconsciously I didn’t see trust there.
“We are not what happened to us, we are what we wish to become.”
Recently we’ve been working a lot on the Growth Mindset with our kids, and the teams I coach. It’s more about understanding that putting in effort leads to success, mistakes are OK but quitting is not, and taking time daily to reflect on what went well, and what we can change. This doesn’t mean we eschew dwelling in reality so that we never feel bad or think we screwed up, cranking Disney soundtracks and polishing our participation trophies. It means we focus on what’s working, praise the effort that went it a good outcome, and admit that we can get better.
So when I’m around negativity, which for some people is a default selection in their menu – to find fault everywhere and constantly express how people around them would be happier if they’d just listen to advice – I quickly tire of that cycle. I see a person who is insecure and needs validation. I see a person who is hurt and can’t or won’t heal. I see someone who needs to be listened to, but can’t ask for help. There’s a part of all of us that is flawed, imperfect, mottled, cracked, or dark. It’s a part we’re not all happy with, and most of us would never allow the world to see it. But it’s part of being Human. I’m a wreck sometimes, the way my brain processes the smallest issues while accepting horrible events.
“The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.”
There are times when these people would steer conversations towards things they knew a lot about. Which is fine. But not everyone knows a lot about, let’s say, the compression ratios of indirect injection in diesel engines (it ranges from 18:1 to 24:1, but you go lower and you’re gonna bonk it out). And it’s not a lively discussion when one person has to talk about that for a long time after being told what’s-what about tariffs with China and how that impacts American spending from across the dinner table. And then they point out “Geoff’s tuned out, he doesn’t know shit about diesel engines.” True on both accounts.
There were a few times when, having pointed out, quietly, that what I was hearing from these people – complaints about how other people did their job, how other people spent their money, how other people lived their lives (even though it had zero outward impact) – was just dead-weight negatives, I was told to “not make a thing of it.” I wasn’t making a thing of it, but I’m not going to NOT put up a boundary on my good time. Life is far too short. Don’t crap in a punchbowl and call me impolite for drinking from my flask. Don’t crap in a punchbowl, period.
“Let the light of your madness shine, and it will suddenly dawn on you. Madness is not to be despised and not to be feared, but instead you should give it life.”
Instead of carrying it all around, everywhere we go, I think it’s far more beneficial to admit we carry some ugly luggage. Start there. We lie to ourselves, tell ourselves things are fine while our ears are bleeding, refuse to admit we have to make a change, etc. And the luggage gets heavier. It takes more strength to put it down and open it up than it does to keep carrying it. Nobody can see it, usually. So it just looks like somebody struggling to get through the day; the baggage is invisible, but the weight of it is evident.
And the closer we are to letting go of that stuff, the more some people get uncomfortable. They don’t understand that dragging it around isn’t part of Life, it’s part of Stagnation and Death. I hope I can keep choosing introspection and reflection over wallowing.
“Every step closer to my soul excites the scornful laughter of my devils, those cowardly ear-whisperers and poison-mixers.”