Twitter, taking the fight offline and the death of self awareness.

There is a line that I sometimes don’t know which side to sit on. One on side I decide to close my mind, eyes and Twitter feed off voices that I think are bringing division to the world. Even just people who believe wholeheartedly that theirs is the correct stance.

Sometimes these people are evil, racist and led by fear. Sometimes they are genuinely good people but who are missing a significant part of the puzzle or just can’t see it. Or don’t want to.

Then I remember that the people I view in this way, definitely have the same opinion of me. Continue reading

How believing you’re a terrible writer will make you a great writer. (Or at least less terrible)

Who decides to be a writer? It’s not fun. It’s not always fulfilling. I think there are very rare occasions where I have enjoyed writing. I’ve liked things I’ve written and I’ve been proud of them. But rarely, do I actually enjoy it.

It’s fucking hard. It’s boring. Most of the time all it provokes are feelings of self hatred. It feels like a punishment.

But we carry on, somehow. It sure as hell isn’t anything to do with me. I’m not able to do this on my own strength. Most of the time, I want to throw the computer in the sea. Like go up to a large cliff and just toss this shit over the edge.

But I don’t. Mostly because that would be mental but largely because when I do need to write again, I’ll regret it.

The shitty first draft, as Anne Lamott names it, is exactly that. I’ve never sat down and just had the words magically flow out like in some romantic version of what we think it is supposed to like. Notice, also how I didn’t state this, as “some romantic version of what it means to be a writer.”

Writing that just makes me cringe. Ugh. How pretentious to call yourself a writer!

This is where our Shadow kicks in. The part of you that you don’t want to know exists but you do know.

Your Shadow may look different that mine, but ultimately it’s that part of us, that cringes when we think of ourselves as writers. What I do, is imagine what people are thinking if I introduced myself to them as a writer.

On the outside, they just nod politely but inside they’re like, “What a wanker” or “Dickhead”.

I can’t disagree with them because if someone else were to call themselves a writer, I would think exactly the same. Except of course, I’m projecting. I’m actually just calling myself a wanker. You, wanker!

The reason I feel embarrassed of calling myself a writer, is not because it’s embarrassing to be a writer, but because people will inevitably think that I’m not a very good writer. That’s what I’m anxious  about. If it wasn’t writing, it would be plumbing or making coffee or anything else that people do that other people are probably better at than they are.

So what to do with the pesky Shadow? Because it seems that the more I beat it up verbally in my mind, the more it remains ambivalent. Which makes it even more of a nuisance. I beat it up over and over but it just keeps coming back for more. Not in a resilient, “just try me pal” sort of way. Just, an emotionless can’t be broken sort of way.

Eventually, by sheer exhaustion, we’re left to confront it and ask” Ok, now what?! Eh? You win? Is that what you want to hear?”

As it turns out, it’s not. Because that would suggest some sort of emotion is at play.

So in the end, due to some sort of twisted creative Stockholm syndrome, we end up having to make friends with it. That’s where the realisations hits you, your Shadow is exactly that, your shadow.

It’s you. It always was you. It’s the parts of you that feels like a massive prick for wanting to be a writer in the first place.

It’s the embarrassment you feel when someone compliments something you wrote, because you’re trying to protect yourself. Even though you want everyone to think you’re fucking brilliant. You start to realise why you can never win.

So you look the Shadow in the face and you just accept it for what it is. You just accept that you may look like a wanker to some people. You accept that what you’re about to write is going to be horrendously terrible. You accept that you don’t have a lot of natural talent for this and it is going to be  a slog. You accept that some people think you are evil personified. You accept all the negative things you think about yourself when you think about being a writer.

You don’t necessarily feel a fuzzy wuzzy warm feeling towards you Shadow, but it’s your shadow and darn it, it’s not going anywhere.

So you stick by each other, in an love hate hate hate love relationship because what this does is free both of you.

Think about it like this. No matter what I write, no matter how amazing I think it is or how amazing the vast majority of people think it is, someone will think it’s the worst thing ever to be inflicted on the human race.

That’s just a categorically true fact. The specific things about what you create that they hate, may vary. They may think you are wrong, or that it is just poorly written or that you have to be stopped by any means necessary, but it’s going to be true every time and you need to accept it.

Then there is another scenario. One that shows us probably the most valuable part of your Shadow; sometimes what you create is going to be terrible. Like terrible in a way that, you’ll actually invent a new way of being awful. You know those people who love things like the Room? You know the phenomenon where things are so bad they’re actually good?

Yeah, even this is on a different level. People will be embarrassed for you. So bad that you really ought to just delete it completely. Tommy Wisseu will even deny knowing you. Yeah, that’s how bad it is.

But it’s ok because you’ve accepted that it’s going to be like this sometimes.

We write because we have this deep beautiful burning itch inside us (metaphorically speaking, otherwise please seek medical advice) that can only be satisfied when we write.

But let’s also be clear. We write because we want our ego stroked. We want to be thought of as a great thinker and articulator. Yeah, yeah I was born to write and I didn’t choose to write, writing chose me, yada yada.

But in the end, I just want to be loved. That’s why I write.

But I’m not going to find it there. I’m only going to find it, when I fully and unconditionally accept that thing I just wrote which even Tommy Wiseau would have been embarrassed by. That’s our shadow. When I fully accept the very worst thing I have created then we’re free.

We’re free to create because we write knowing that it’s ok if it’s terrible. If we accept that, there is nothing left to be anxious about. The acceptance means that there is no pressure on us. Imagine every time you sit down to write you accept that it may be awful.

Now this may seem depressing and detrimental to our goal of creating.

But the part of you that I just described; the part where writing is just something that you need to do, can finally breathe.

It can create what it needs to today. The Shadow is the part of us that keeps our ego in check because our ego is always going to want to take over. Our ego isn’t evil necessarily but it can quickly hijack the work we want to accomplish.

So when we accept the worst of ourselves, no one else can use it against us. If I know my writing is sometimes shit, then it’s not news someone else telling me that it is.

It may not change the world, but now you’re free from the pressure of it needing to change to world.

Then and only then, will it actually have the possibility of doing so.

Rather Be Sad.

I’ve never been one to be completely comfortable with my emotions but recently I have been forced to feel them. When I walked into my 6 year old niece’s room a few nights ago, as she experienced probably her first deep feeling of pain and sadness, I immediately broke down. We were leaving to go home to Detroit the following morning after our surprise two week trip home to Ireland. And for the first time in her short life, the distance between the best Uncle and Aunt in the world (her words not mine, but who am I to argue?) had finally ambushed her. 

The hints had been there for a few days.

The “I’m going to miss you” comments become more frequent. The “I wish you could be here forever” moments start to take over. “Soak it all in” was uttered by Brittany more and more.

We had come to the end of a truly wonderful trip home for Christmas in which we surprised my Mum. Two years since our last trip home had been full with Skyping and sending videos and audio messages but like Mayuri told us, you can only talk on Skype and that is boring. Boring it may be, but knowing that if we were alive 50 years earlier, the separateness would have been more intensely felt.

The advantages of being alive in this moment means we get to watch my niece grow up despite living thousands of watery miles between us. We aren’t that distant Uncle and Aunt that she has only heard of in stories or anecdotes. We can speak and see each other, at any moment. This then allows us, when we do have the opportunity to physically see each other on a trip to not have to spend time getting to know strangers but to immediately enjoy the ability to hug and enjoy the closeness that is only possible when physically in the same place.

There is great joy and excitement in this. These are the “good” emotions we get to experience when we are finally able to see each other. 

Though with the ease that we can see each other and the relative inexpensiveness and quickness of travel across the Atlantic ocean these days, comes some “negative” consequences. 

Because the joy of physically being with loved ones who live thousands of miles away, must inevitably come to an end, sooner or later. The hours of building Lego and forts together, of teaching her how to do the Floss, of seeing her own unique humour and fun come out in unexpected ways, always ends.

The realisation towards the end of our trip, that I won’t be able to just randomly hug my Niece at any moment, begins to dawn on me.

Just appreciating the moment is hard, precisely because I know that these moments are limited.

But as it turns out, these “negative” emotions are important. Necessary, even.

Because without them, there can be no joy. Joy only exists because of the sadness.

We like to see these as opposites; two sides battling for superiority over the other. Only one can end up on top, but this doesn’t work.

Because the sadness and grief of being separated only exist because we’ve experienced so much joy. If we didn’t experience this deep joy and fun of being with the ones we love most, there would be no sadness to leave them.

The sadness of leaving each other, can only exist if we enjoy building amazing memories.

The ability to build these fantastic memories can only exist if we understand, leaving is going to hurt like hell.

As Brittany and I return to our normal lives in Detroit and we prepare as best as we can to foster, I suspect that we will have more opportunities to practice this. Maybe our trip home will turn out not just to be a surprise for my Mum, but for us also. A pre cursor to a lesson we will soon learn.

Because as we foster, we know that the child that we welcome and love and provide security and peace for even just a short while, may not be around forever. 

We know on at least some level, that there may be intense grief and mourning as a child we have loved is reconciled with their family. This is how it should be. But it will still hurt deeply.

But it will only hurt deeply if we experience the deep joy of fostering, that I imagine and hope we will feel. The laughter and fun and structure we hopefully provide to someone who has maybe never experienced this in their life will determine the grief we experience when they go home.

So we have a choice to hold back and not give our full love to someone. To protect ourselves from the pain that may come by not being present in the joy of each moment with our foster child anymore.

Or we can give everything, pursue the joy completely and recklessly and know that the more we do, the deeper and anguish full the pain we’ll experience, if they leave us.

I don’t say all this to show how wonderful or amazingly selfless we are as humans but to let you know that I really wish this wasn’t true. I wish the more joy we feel, didn’t mean that the pain will also increase.

I want to not really care, honestly.

But as I think about our trip back home and the fun and fullness we had with family and friends, I wouldn’t swap that for anything. Is it worth having these wonderful, beautiful yet rare experiences to witness in my niece’s inconsolable crying eyes the unbearable sadness her young mind can’t completely comprehend?

It is. It sucks that it is. But it is.

So I’d rather be incredibly sad. Because I know if I am, then Joy can’t be that far away.

 

 

Why Christians don’t need to be afraid of meditation (and other hell damning practices).

vapor+cover

The Liturgists – Vapor – A Meditation

When I first started thinking about meditation, like many Christians brought up in a Western, fairly traditional church, my immediate thought was of some type of weird new age tool that required me to position my already inflexible limbs in unnatural ways on the floor and try my best to not fall asleep.

Or, I would reference David in the Bible and how he would meditate on G*d’s word, which added boredom to the mix of uncomfortableness and drowsiness.

But mention the word to many Christians and they will stiffen up and warn their friends about you and how you’re heading straight to hell. Continue reading

Not all ______.

Sometimes there is an extremely wrong thing to say in a situation. For example, you probably shouldn’t say “When are you expecting?” to someone unless you were absolutely there when they peed on a stick.

You should also never say, “maybe Trump has some good points” to anyone at any time, any where because lying makes baby Jesus cry.

Similarly you shouldn’t ever respond in discussions around “Me Too” with phrases, “yeah, but not all men” or when you hear someone lament the road that Evangelical Christians have taken with their support of Trump, there is no need to quip that, “not all Christians are into egomaniacal, narcissistic, lying leaders”.

Most likely the people that you are responding to already know that it is not the entirety of the group in question who are like this or that. The only purpose in stating “not all ______” is to make ourselves feel better.
Continue reading