I am a freelance author, writer, critic, artist, and entrepreneur living in the Heart of the Texas Hill Country.
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I was sitting on my couch last night listening to the rain, and reading; something that I read distracted me from what I had been reading, although I did continue for several paragraphs before I realized that I hadn’t actually retained a word of anything that I read after losing myself in thought. I started thinking about my life, and more specifically how I live my life and the day-to-day routines or anti-routines that are the makeup of my waking hours. A great deal of my time is spent working on communiteabooks.com, on my website. If you’re wondering what that actually looks like it is: ordering books to build my inventory, uploading books to the website, looking for new ways and new platforms to market, as well as maintaining, and building on my current marketing and social media marketing strategies, coming up with new creative design ideas for the website and implementing them, reading and studying up on SEO (Search Engine Optimization) practices, learning to write code--not very well, or at all really--in order to create the best possible website that I can—I am currently working on figuring out a way to alphabetize my inventory by author instead of the first letter of the product title, because that is a bit of an issue for browsing, and overall customer experience on the website, I’m kind of losing my mind trying to figure it out—writing blogs, and taking, packaging, and shipping orders (I may have overlooked a few things).
I’ve been feeling anxious lately because...well I thought it has been because I have not yet seen the same return for the work that I have done on the website, as well as a growing anxiety that includes, but is not limited to the idea that I am not meeting certain expectations that some people might have of me, or that I have of myself—in my family and social life. I have kind of thrown myself into this project, well, this career head first, and entirely. The only consistent social experiences I follow through with during any given week are my workout schedule—which in, and of itself is a solo activity, I just happen to be surrounded by people while working out—and our Monday night Trivia game at Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., and I haven’t been enjoying that as much as I once did. It’s not the game, or Cibolo, or the people really it’s just that the intrigue is fading a bit. Also, for the last few years I’ve been thinking about the things that interest me, and I may have covered this briefly in a previous blog, but I’m having a difficult time thinking of anything that I actually enjoy doing, like given the scenario: “what would you like to spend one evening every week doing?” I think about bouldering, camping, hiking, biking, reading, making music, painting, photography, writing, I can think of a dozen or more things that I have enjoyed at different points throughout my life but I’m not currently doing any of them, for example: I have a nice cycling bike, when I lived in New York and Santa Fe I would commute by bike (and train), but it was a significant part of my life, my bike currently has two flat tires, and changing the tires on one of these bikes is not exactly as straightforward as changing a tire on a Huffy, still I could do it—I just don’t.
“This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
So, last night I realized that I have been sabotaging my own happiness. Not to an extreme or anything—partly because I don’t really do anything to either extreme of any spectrum—but, sabotaging it nonetheless. Here’s another example: I spend a lot of time uploading books to the website. When I first built the site I spent three months (at least) eight to ten hours a day doing nothing but uploading book after book after book after book. When I upload books I type in the title, the author, a synopsis, add a picture, write some SEO, figure out an accurate representation of the condition of the book, decide whether it’s new, used, remainder, rare or collectible, and the genre, and determine a fair (or better than fair) market value price and I save the finished product to the site. I do this for every book. At the time I also watched all of The Office, Parks & Rec, Numb3rs, and something else, I can’t remember. I took a break from uploading books to the website and started developing Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Buzzfeed sites, and working on technical stuff and marketing for the website. I recently came back to uploading books, and I’m only doing maybe twenty a day, unless it’s Tuesday because I’m uploading my own books as well as the New Releases of the week (new books are released on Tuesday’s). Anyway, I realized that I actually really enjoy uploading books! I love going through each book, figuring out the condition, researching the price, discovering again if it’s signed, just everything about why I love books in general I get to do every day. I also love building the website! I love developing new design techniques, figuring out SEO, and all that crap—I’m not much for technology but the design aspect of it and coming up with new ways to direct people to my site, it’s so much fun. What I don’t actively like, granted, is that I do all of this on a computer, which I’m reminded of constantly when the damn thing doesn’t want to load something, or the internet randomly stops working, or if I move from one tab to another and when I return the first tab has to reload again often causing thirty seconds of anxiety riddled silent belligerence. Nevertheless, I am really enjoying the creativity and the experience. And, I never noticed how much I enjoy until now. Instead, I worried only about the tens of thousands of people that will one day visit Communitea books someday...
I related a number of things in my life currently to this sabotage of happiness, and it clearly affects me in a number of ways, all of which are easily recognizable but unconscious nonetheless: attitudes, behaviors, choices, thought processes, actions and more what I do and do not do. it's present in almost everything that I thought about, in some way. Do you know that feeling when you are putting so much thought and effort and intention into an idea or a dream or a goal and you’re applying yourself actively in the process in as many positive ways that you possibly can, but that goal always still is just out of reach?
I've begun to correlate the concept to developing an open-mind. You know? Like, how do you do that, really, how do you train your brain to be open-minded? A lot of people out there think they know, they just simply accept all progressive ideas and tendencies as truth in the extreme form, and unabashedly argue the merits until they’re blue in the face. However, I don’t believe that the unconscious demanding of compassion is actually acceptance or understanding, your just think that you might want it to be—"fake it till you make it". I was watching some stand-up special on Netflix the other day and the comedian was telling a story about something that I cannot repeat in a blog aimed to market for a small business, but it challenged the way I thought about something. A lifestyle that I didn’t have an issue with before, and I still don’t, and yet the way I consciously thought about the idea—that I have been a proponent of anyway for as long as I can remember—provided a new perspective, and a new understanding. Basically, I don’t think you can develop an open-mind until you really stretch an idea in favor or against as far as you’re able, you know, until you have reached the furthest point of your own level of acceptance that you are personally capable, and then to stretch your mind further until the idea itself is stripped of meaning entirely. It’s like actively thinking about the universe expanding, allowing your mind to stretch itself into a space that you were previously unaware of.
I have put so much intention into developing something for such a long time that I never really stopped to let it expand, or to see what it was capable of expanding into. I was just going through the motions, and so monotonously that I was no longer aware even that I was enjoying myself.
And then, of course, I started thinking about how long I’ve been doing this to myself, and the obvious answer is sense my last serious relationship ended while living in Santa Fe, and that’s true in the sense only regarding how intensely I have been sabotaging my own happiness but, in reality, I have been doing some form of this for years, and ultimately it goes as far back as when I decided to drop out of college. Coming to that realization was interesting because I do believe that our society has learned to ignore the efforts and creative developments of the individual in exchange for a system of machine-like functionality.
“It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, which prevent us from living freely and nobly.” ~ Bertrand Russell
I left university in response, largely, to the very concept. I didn’t want to be another cog in a machine, I didn’t want to think with narrow-minded un-intention, and therefore blindly falling into that possibility made me nervous. However, simultaneously I could not ignore the fact that I was, nevertheless, a part of this system. I couldn’t just will myself out of it. And I didn’t have enough guidance or understanding of that system to maneuver in or around it, at the time. Unfortunately I spent the next five years systematically destroying everything that would have allowed me to create exactly what I would eventually need to create. I essentially lived somewhere between the systems of man and of nature, like a little mouse scurrying about looking for food. I believe that I began to sacrifice my happiness, but I cannot be sure exactly what I was sacrificing it for. Somewhere through my short string of very memorably bad relationships I sacrificed sacrificing my happiness for the more adult like, and responsible action of sabotaging my happiness.
Are you familiar with Time Release Therapy? The idea is that you consciously, and unconsciously let go of certain behaviors or emotions, such as depression or anxiety, by going back to before when they took root in your psyche and you allow yourself to feel what you felt, and then to “come back to the present,” with those negative behaviors or emotions having never existed—that’s somewhat of an oversimplification but the idea is getting across. I had a conversation not too long ago with someone who referred to Confirmation Bias as pseudo intellectualism, I think he even went on to list several other negative adjectives, and I have not yet been able to get that out of my head. I have, of course, come across people with ideas like that before, especially living in Texas but for some reason this one conversation affected me a great deal. If he thinks Confirmation Bias is pseudo intellectualism he would have a field day with Time Release Therapy. What do people actively do then to work through their issues, you know? I mean we live in a society where we are taught--whether directly, or indirectly--that we have to actively do something in order to change or fix it, but we’re also taught what it means, and looks like to actively do something, and it correlates with disregarding what many would consider pseudo intellectualism. Affirmations, for example. The act of affirming is actively doing something, but I was thinking last night as I was reciting some affirmations, “what the f&$k am I doing?” And, thinking about where the belief that an affirmation would not work came from, like why did my doubt of affirmations even cross my mind? So I started affirming to affirm.
“Affirmations do make a difference.” ~ Me
…and then I started laughing, because I realized that “It’s OK for me to happy...
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Communicating with each other—how we develop and maintain relationships—envelopes so much more of our day-to-day lives than most of us really realize. In general the intention of communication is to convey a thought using verbal and nonverbal techniques the meaning of which describes your idea in a way that you can only assume I will understand, and you maintain the assumption that I have both heard and understood your intention—what you intended to express—from the cache of information that I keep based on my own experiences without having been misled or misunderstood in order to develop the same understanding of the thought that you intended to convey.
If, for whatever reason, I don’t understand the concept that you have tried to express in the way that you have tried to express it you might assume that the fault is mine, and I will likely assume the same; and that’s only if we both realize that the thought was unsuccessfully expressed. A circumstance that Psychologist Cordelia Fine has coined as Vain Brain in her book, A Mind of Its Own, where Fine also points out that, “when asked, we will modestly and reluctantly confess that we are more honest or better at something, and we rarely consider ourselves at fault…”—this is also known as a Self-Serving Bias (an idea that some might consider pseudo intellectual bullshit—psychology is not counterintuitive to religion). And, also assuming that our moods, triggers, and stigmas have not indirectly influenced your intention, as well as how well you might have expressed yourself nonverbally.
Aristotle in his work The Rhetoric suggests that talk is about persuasion, about influencing people. Most of us simply express ourselves in some manner of small talk much of which is supported only by the means of whomever we are communicating with decides—whether consciously or unconsciously--to interpret, and accept as our intention, and we continue throughout our lives as if very little has happened, or with the assumption that we were understood exactly as we intended. However, more often than not, we weren’t. Osmo A. Wiio, a Finnish professor of communication, humorously suggests:
How many times can most of us recall while engaged in conversation a happenstance where we’ve finished speaking, and the other starts talking about something that is so outlandishly bizarre, at least in regards to a response, that we accept that they could not have possibly understood what we might have been trying to express? It has happened so often in certain friendship circles of mine that my friends and I have coined a term for it: Organic Conversation. It’s kind of like playing Telephone and trying to make sense of how it is that we went from Orangutan from Jungle Book to Orange Peel Lemonade; though we all know that there was, at least, one person in the group that intentionally manipulated the direction, otherwise the game of Telephone is a lot like the redundancy of playing tic-tac-toe.
I have read about-, studied, and taken courses on Communication because, along with understanding our emotions, I cannot fathom a more important, and more necessary tool to have than being a good communicator. Our society, well the nature of our humanity is to change; we change, or grow, or develop, or evolve, or learn, or transition, however you are willing to recognize it without being triggered. Throughout the course of a single lifetime—my lifetime for example—I cannot express to you how many times my surroundings have changed, the people around me have changed, my careers have changed, my perspectives, and my beliefs they have all changed, and it’s true for most of you, even if, say: you were born, grew up, lived and plan to die in your ‘hometown,’ everything else that you knew, with the one exception, has changed. In fact the only thing in any one of our lives that will never change is that we will always be surrounded by people, the specific people will likely change, but nevertheless there will always be people; we will always be interacting with someone in some regards, and, for that reason alone, the ability to communicate effectively is profoundly important. Still, many of us maintain the Self-Sealing Belief about our role when trying to communicate with someone: when something is going well we take credit for it, and often unconsciously develop the idea that because we facilitated or communicated something well in the past or situationally that we have a talent for it, while if something does not go well we fault the situation, blame someone else, or claim that it may not really be worth out time.
The National Communication Associate did a study titled, “How Americans Communicate.” In which 62% of us claimed that we feel comfortable communicating in general, while 87% of us felt that we were comfortable communicators in our personal relationships, and with our significant others. However, only 42% of Americans felt that we were effective communicators. 42% felt that we said what we meant to say, in the way that we meant to say it, and yet we’re not positive that our intention is getting across. We feel less effective than comfortable. 53% said that a lack of communication was the most frequent cause of a breakup, while 29% said money was the most frequent cause (I mentioned money only because it’s a considerable factor for many of us in our lives). One of the problems is that most of us are not conscious communicators, and we do not often allow for the time to understand what gets in the way of communicating to one another.
When it comes to communicating with one another simple may not always be better, and it’s important, I think, to allow ourselves to address conflict—in the best way possible—without brushing it off as drama as a large number of people are beginning to suggest. It’s important to learn to be more conscious when we are speaking with one another about how we are talking to each other, in order to avoid hardwired reactions, and Self-Sealing Beliefs that will inevitably make things worse—especially if you effort to ignore them.
Since I started writing this blog I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the direction that I would like the blog to take and, I think, because there are so many things that interest me I have accepted the fact that the blog is just going to be more broadly approached then some, and I have to live with that. Though, it has also occurred to me that Relationships and Communication have had a major, and lasting impact on me throughout the course of my life, most of which I’ll explain in some detail throughout a series of blogs that I have decided to attempt regarding Communication. I will be indirectly joined by Professor Dalton Kehoe of York University via his The Great Courses Lecture on Effective Communication Skills, I have watched this course a couple of times now and it remains fascinating to me that regardless of how important I do find academia there is an obvious disconnect between practicality and academia, and the way that people live, and interact, and communicate does not always parallel with the science of it, at least not comfortably, like solving a math proof. I think the way that some professor teach something as practical as communication makes it come off as more of a science—an idea—than an active part of our day-to-day lives, and I hope that these blogs challenges and creates that assumption.