It’s all I’ve got

I can think of at least three ways to react to any situation:

Denial: ‘Denying the consequence’ sounds like alternative terminology for a formal fallacy, with reason.  Some of the ‘science’ behind Freud’s theories may demonstrate his delusion, however the value of denial as a coping mechanism is evident in day to day life.  Without the ability to ‘deny’ or direct our attention away from stressors such as the fact of our mortality, living a productive life would be incredibly difficult.

While denial is indeed a way of coping, it is rarely a constructive one when used to ‘address’ problems. The intent – conscious or not – is to avoid anxiety. It is the root of procrastination. It may provide short term gain, though how can we learn from something we deny?

Adopting the role of the ‘victim’: An alternative, or perhaps postscript to denial is adopting the role of the victim. This method of coping is encapsulated in the description of the situation: ‘That’s just my luck’. ‘They were out to get me’.  ‘They had picked someone else before I even had a chance’. ‘That’d be right’.

The situation is explored in stages of outrage and self-pity. By believing things just ‘happen’ to us, how can we take a proactive approach to either understanding and resolving the issue, or learning from it to avoid similar scenarios in future? By adopting the role of the victim, we effectively rob ourselves of the power to take positive, constructive steps and of the opportunity to actively engage in seeking the life we want to live. We wait for something good to happen to us rather than seeking out fun, excitement, new experiences.

Embracing the power to choose: By identifying a set of circumstances and holding ourselves accountable for the steps we take, we can embrace our power to make a choice. These choices are not always ‘good’ ones. Ill-conceived decisions can cause disruption, concern and grief; however when reflected on, the consequences can present an excellent opportunity to learn about humanity.

Being accountable can be difficult. The choice itself can bring the temptation of denial. But denial brings with it the role of the victim, and I for one would much prefer to take a well-calculated risk and fail than live a life inside an intellectual prison of my own design. Liberate the mind. Life should not be something that ‘happens’ to us. Ideally, life is an opportunity to learn as much as we can about happiness and its many forms through our successes and failures.

It takes a lot of courage to assert control over our own lives.  To stand ready to make a choice. To consider how to react. To seek or create a moment of clarity, of reflection. To forge our own path, complete with peaks, holes and other clichés.

For me, self-empowerment has afforded me more enlightenment than I could have hoped for.

An open letter to the neglected

This semester has been a particularly tedious one. During the intervals of insomnia, I have pondered topics including the value of social interaction, the importance of relationships, and how our perceptions influence our actions (or inaction).

I will start with a confession: Over the last month, I have made little to no effort to engage socially.

My study schedule has been demanding. Is this enough to justify my inaction? In a best case scenario, higher marks equate to higher earnings and increased social status. With full respect to those who pursue such goals, I must be honest and say that I cannot value material worth and status over a healthy mind. Friendship is a key part of that. Even for an introvert.

Formalised education is only one part of the picture for me. Yes, a certificate from an institution offers certain benefits, however I am loathe to hold one measure of one type of intelligence over all others. While I consider my further education a privilege and apply myself (often obsessively), I cannot say with honesty that this alone is the reason for my non-social behaviour.

So why then have I been so lax? Am I annoyed at or bored with the people I call my friends? Do I really value the interpersonal relationships in which I usually participate? How can I justify behaviour which conflicts with my values? I can’t.

I am not annoyed or bored. I do value the friendships (the real ones – not those in the ‘Facebook friends’ category) I am fortunate enough to be involved in. There’s just been so much to do, in so little time.

Are we as time poor as we would like to believe? Or does it come back to status? Being busy and important is such an ingrained dilemma. Ask someone how their weekend was – “Oh it was busy!”. Ask someone else how they are – “Oh I’ve been just so busy!”. Are we really that busy, or are we just talking ourselves up? Are we just making excuses to others and to ourselves to make peace with the possibility that we may be perpetual procrastinators?

I have a theory that if we really want to do something, we’ll find time. It’s a theory that has forced me to question my motivations (or lack thereof). Am I really so genuinely busy that I won’t find 10 minutes to check my email, 30 to get ready for work and over an hour of interspersed day dreaming? Nope.

We have been sold the ‘time poor’ mentality by clever marketing hacks and self-help writers clinging to quasi-psychological concepts. Yes, anxiety is real. Anxiety about running out of time is real. Is it the epidemic it is publicised as? No. Would Facebook, Twitter, etc be so economically viable and prolific if we weren’t feeling so time poor? “Facebook is crap, but I use it to keep in touch with friends, and I’m so busy – Facebook makes it easy”. Is that really code for: I can’t be bothered, so I’m going to publish a few self-promoting status updates per week so that a conglomerate of acquaintances can feed off the scraps of my ideal life? The perception of being time poor gives us so much creative license to justify an array of (ironically) unproductive behaviour. No time to clean – Too busy! Would love to stop and chat, but I shan’t – Too busy! Would stop and smell the roses if I hadn’t carelessly run them down with the lawn mower because I was so busy I had to move at lightening speed. Will the world end if we just take a moment and slow down?

I guess I’m disenchanted with cyber-socialisation. An email, instant messenger chat, text message, status update and/or tweet doesn’t really cut it for me when it comes to real friendship. There’s so much room for over analysis and so little contact that it just doesn’t feel worth it. I even hate using the phone to call people – I’ve no good reason to explain this reluctance. Maybe it’s introversion, maybe it’s because a phone wasn’t installed at home until I was a little older than most. So am I going to resume letter writing and wait for weeks with baited breath until I see a hand written envelope arrive in return? Maybe. For fun.

In the spirit of hypocrisy…

Dear Void of Nothingness,

I have missed you dearly, and apologise for the lack of attention I have afforded you.

Please accept my sincerest apologies.

Let’s be friends?

Agnes J. Stone