I've been avoiding life on and off, well, much of my life. It's clearly my favorite strategy in response to the painful and difficult things we all face from time to time. What makes it really nasty is when I notice I'm doing it, feel guiilty about that ("I should be making the most out of life!"), and then try to avoid thinking about that by running away all the faster. That way madness lies!
Of course I can't escape myself. Every time I finally look up, there I am again, with all the same painful and difficult things to face, in fact often they're worse shape because they've been ignored for a while. Then I have the opportunity to take them on, or turn around and try running away again. If I don't run away, I often throw a lot of my energy at the outward tasks and projects I've let go: "I've been selfish and now it's time for me to attend to others."
Well, not this time.
Putting together a few things — some I've run across recently and some I've had bouncing around for a while — my first project is now officially me, for at least the next year. Here are the three things
1. Conversations with two close friends recently — Tom, who, in shifting his world-changing work to include advising others on how they should live their personal lives (he's generally been more exclusively focused on large-scale change), sees that to have integrity in advising others he must follow his own advice about attending to himself in healthier ways. With Jonas, I was just imagining out loud the other day what would happen if I focused primarily on myself. (Horrors! I identify myself in large part with my drive to help us all attend to the very big picture.)
2. An article (via Daring Fireball) about how you only have one top idea on your mind at a time, one thing that you'll be thinking about when you're not consciously thinking about anything. As a result that's the thing that you'll find yourself coming up with brilliant solutions for, so make sure it's what you want it to be. I woke up this morning thinking about the game I've been playing to avoid life, that was the final straw that got me up to decide and write all this.
3. "I may not be much, but I'm all I think about." —Dave Miller
(quote from a friend through the Nonviolent Communication network.)
The problem is not (as much spiritual advice goes) that things go bad when I'm selfish, and well when I focus on others. How can anyone avoid focusing on themself? The whole phenomenon of a self is a locus of awareness — I am aware of what I am aware of, everything I experience or do is experienced or done by me! It's a question of how I focus on me. When I do that in a healthy way, it's not only good for me, I just naturally also end up attending to others in much better ways. Of course the reverse is also true — when I focus on others in a healthy way, I naturally also end up attending to myself. So I'm not taking sides in a big philosophical sense in the focus-on-self vs. focus-on-others debate. I think that's a pointless question, obviously the answer is both. I'm just making a choice of where to start with my attention for now.
Concretely, a few small and large steps:
1. I wrote Dave's quote at the top of one side of the giant whiteboard in my room :-). Now that I think of it, I'd already cleared that side of it of various todos and reminders so that I could use it to focus on me, so clearly this decision has been emerging gradually.
2. I'm shifting back from lower-casing i to the more traditional capital I in my writing.
3. I'm reaching out today to some good friends who earlier agreed to be in a support group for me to get that started again.
(Hehe, phone just rang as I was finishing this — a work call with someone I've been trying to have a conversation with for a few days. And I told him i was busy with something important and would call him back when I'm done. Yay me! In fact I think I'll go take care of a couple of other brief but critical things for myself before calling back...)