Facing Reality for the First Time

A struggle all of us faced at one time or another

For years, I stagnated, slipping into basic survival mode and leaving everything unessential behind. That happened to me between 13 and 23.

It was a really difficult time in the progression of my Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative disease of muscles rendering them weak or altogether ineffective. Breathing issues start around the time people like me spend most of their days in a chair, which happened at 12 for me.

After 15, I ran into the trouble of slowly losing weight by eating insufficient calories for my activity level. Then I began my years long struggle with breathing enough air. I could’ve have gotten help if I had more foresight and perspective than I did.

I withdrew from the outside world and imagined up a richer inner one. There were times I felt alone, times I didn’t know the use of anything beyond learning, and times I just went through the motions. That sounds a lot like depression from the sounds of that, but that wasn’t something I was willing to admit for years after.

Then I had mediation. It was something I’d been kicking around in my head, a leftover from the country of my birth and a melting pot for religious/spiritual development, by which I mean India in way too many words.

Then when I got out of school it was nothing more than watching TV and living in my parents house (where I still live btw), mediation became my refuge and escape. My life wasn’t great and depression still ruled over me.

My life turned around with a tube in my throat and a machine to breath for me. Those first two years were harrowing to say the least. Every other month, I was in the hospital with scary complications.

I faced the image of my own mortality a few times and got sick of simply surviving from one day to the next, marking time. I picked up writing and escaped my doldrums for purpose and meaning at 23.

At a certain point in my mediation journey, I hit a roadblock. It’d been ten years of mediation at that point. There wasn’t enough head space to throw into mediation to get me further than I’d already gone. It was time to clear some room. I turned my focus inward to what I could do without.

Fear of failure turned out to be the one thing motivating me for the majority of my life. I was running from failure any way I could.

  1. Doing well in school and trying to purify the tainted soul I believed myself to have (the reason I’d picked up mediation).
  2. The reason I never let anybody in to see the real me behind my defenses. I was always hiding.
  3. The reason I hated writing, which I now love. There was no correct answer, so I could stuck deciding what I should do.
  4. The reason I was usually the adult even in the first grade. A kid so well behaved that you wondered how their parents did it. That was me.
  5. The reason I couldn’t possibly be depressed. That would mean I’d failed psychologically.
  6. And the thing that gave my life meaning. Not failing was the only thing that mattered, the reason I did basically everything.

Clearing that away left a massive hole in my psyche that was scary for months after until it was filed back in. Without mediation, I never would’ve gotten into that mess or passed through without a major calamity. Wouldn’t recommend this to even my worst enemy. But in that brief emptiness, I wrote something beyond my current ability as a writer.

Then there was codependence. I had this belief that I’d be abandoned if I didn’t prove my worth on a constant basis by remembering more, being clever, or proving my intelligence. Figuring that out nearly broke me. I fought back my rejection averse thought process in a kind, watchful way that mediation allowed me.

Codependence is a messy, confusing topic, but I realized something that makes it a whole lot easier. Codependence is an attempt to control the world around us out of fear — fear of rejection, fear of inadequate self-worth, and fear of being unlovable.

  1. Blaming exigent circumstances without considering your contribution when something goes awry.
  2. Being laid back and counting that as points to be paid back down the line. Keeping score.
  3. Taking responsibility where someone else is already responsible, like apologizing on someone’s behalf.
  4. Demand love or get jealous of the affection other people get, especially when I’m feeling low.
  5. Show hollow displays of affection for an audience, and showing my true colors in private.

Letting go of codependence put me on the course for a clash with reality.

Cdependence is really a fear driven need to control the world around us, especially the people in it. Letting go of control requires accepting the world as it is.

The clash between how we believe the world to be and reality is where I’m at.

Reconciling those two requires constantly updating the model in my head with evidence from the outside world.

Sometimes people will let me down and dealing with that anger or sadness is on me.

That’s a quintessential stage of growing up that I’ve never let go enough to experience.

Knowing that everybody isn’t always truthful doesn’t make it any easier when it happiness to you. That feeling would make a great YA novel right?



Seeing Eight Grade helped me realize what I’m going through now, finding the person I have always been and being that person. It’s about an eight grade girl facing the reality that she isn’t fixed as she is now. Things change for the better and sometimes worse. Change is what life is.

GK

Defeating Codependence and Finding Lost Truth in the Process

Strategies for success.

A couple of months ago now, I published a post about realizing I’m codependent and starting to turn that thought process around. For those intervening months, I’ve analyzed the way I think, feel, and act through the lens of codependence. And identified those parts associated with codependency. Then turned my mind to change.

This ought to take years of therapy, but meditation ought to do the same job¹.

Meditation is the development of concentration and un-attatchment. I’m a novice having mediated with systems I’ve developed taking into account the information I had at the time. Keeping that up for years helped me.

Un-attatchment is based on the philosophy that attachment to an idea of self is the cause of all suffering².

Concentration allows the ability to cut deep into the mind³ to identify the causes behind cruelty and in a deeper sense why we think, act, and feel the way we do. Making sense of it all requires an understanding of how people operate, or how you personally operate. Medium is a great resource for that.

That was a long tangent. These are my lessons learned in fighting codependence.

Manipulation is bad.

I don’t think anyone disagrees with that. Manipulation isn’t easy to see. What constitutes manipulation? I have a video for you I watched on Youtube.


Manipulation is acting in such a way to get a particular response. The goal must always be control over other people.

Some examples would be nice⁴.

Being friendly in order to make friends. Being friendly should just feel nice.

Offering to do something like paying for dinner and keeping score if the gesture is ever returned. You shouldn’t pay in hopes they’ll do in kind. Paying should just feel nice.

Some of you are reading that wondering why people do things expecting something in return.

Don’t please anybody unless you’re happy doing so.

Most people with codependency were denied the things they needed as children⁵, including my need for validation. I wrongly believe how people responded to me was my responsibility.

That person was nice, because I gave them something expensive.

He was horrible, because I didn’t share my food with him.

The possibility that how someone acts is beyond my control was terrifying. It brought back my fears of abandonment and rejection.

Remember that I’m not responsible for how other people think, act, or feel. How I act shouldn’t harm anyone else or make me feel like I’m owed something. Otherwise, it’s not my mistake.

When you feel bad, check your boundaries.

People feel bad when their needs aren’t met⁶. People are wired for fairness⁷.

If I’m not assertive of my own needs to get someone to like me, I get mad when it feels like they don’t treat me with the same deference. Don’t get into situations like that.

What are acceptable boundaries⁸?

Setting boundaries has always been difficult for me. It’s terrifying. That’s all.

What if is set unrealistic boundaries and nobody can met them? That’s a lie I’ve told myself for years.

I was afraid of rejection.

No one has agency over how you handle your stuff. They can make suggestions, and you should consider them. If a decision means they reject you, you don’t need someone like that in your life.

No one can tell you how to be. That’s your responsibility. If that causes someone to reject you, so be it. Any time you put on a mask, it’s a struggle to keep it intact. Sooner or later, the mask will slip, showing your true colors.

Get your needs met.

Boundaries are different for different people, but there are some universal things.

Don’t do something that makes you uncomfortable.

Don’t do something that jeopardizes your well being — physical, mental, and otherwise.

Don’t take blame for how other people feel.

Set boundaries.

Make I statements⁹. Doing such and such makes me uncomfortable. I can’t be here. It’s triggering for me.

Exculpate other people. It’s nothing you’ve done. (This helps most at the beginning.)

Be honest.

Don’t coerce, trust⁷.

Be nice because it feels good. Expect others are nice for the same reason.

Resources:

  1. Britton, Willoughby.”Meditation and Depression.” Abstract. University Libraries, University of Arizona, hdl.handle.net/10150/195235. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018
  2. “Four Noble Truths.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 9 Aug 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Noble_Truths#Dukkha_and_its_ending. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018
  3. “What Does It Mean To Be Enlightened?” Bodhi Monastery. 2008, bodhimonastery.org/what-does-it-mean-to-be-enlightened.htm. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018.
  4. Gage, Kris. “Dating a good guy after a toxic relationship.” Medium. Medium Corp,20 Jan 2017, medium.com/@krisgage/dating-a-good-guy-after-a-toxic-relationship-3ce67ac9b9de. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018.
  5. Seltzer, Leon F., Ph.D. “From Parent-Pleasing to People-Pleasing (Part 1 of 3).” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 22 Jul 2008, http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/200807/parent-pleasing-people-pleasing-part-1-3. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018.
  6. Gage, Kris. “How To Know What You Want.” Medium. Medium Corp,13 Jul 2018, medium.com/@krisgage/how-to-know-what-you-want-656b3a660e04. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018.
  7. Wright, Robert. “Why Can’t We All Just Get Along? The Uncertain Biological Basis of Morality.” The Atlantic. The Atlantic Monthly Group, Nov 2013 Issue, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/11/why-we-fightand-can-we-stop/309525. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018
  8. Gage, Kris. “How Much To Give And Take In Relationships.” Medium. Medium Corp,16 Jul 2018, medium.com/@krisgage/how-much-to-give-and-take-in-relationships-ccbdf31e2f4e. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018.
  9. Wilding, Melody. “ Techniques to Disarm, Cope With and Become More Confident Confronting Passive Aggressive People.” Better Humans. Medium Corp,21 Feb 2018, betterhumans.coach.me/techniques-to-disarm-cope-with-and-become-more-confident-confronting-passive-aggressive-people-9f7bcd5ffcb6. Accessed on 16 Aug 2018.
  10. h

GK

Defeating Anxiety: How to Write Awesome Content without Fear

Getting past the anxiety of writing.

Writing awakens your insecurities.

It’s logical.

Writing is a solitary activity. Other people aren’t going to constantly validate or demean your writing. People need that to stay in the game.

Without feedback your insecurities have free rein.

It’s like how you imagine seeing shapes or colors with your eyes closed. There’s nothing there, but something appears. That apparition is from the lack of sensory perception. There’s nothing to see except interference.

Getting feedback from another person or even yourself helps.

Reading over what you’ve written opens your eyes to what’s really there.

In a vacuum of perception, your fears, anxieties and insecurities take over.

Battling Anxiety

1. Before sitting down to write.

Follow your routine.

2. In the process of writing.

Read something you’ve written before that you know is good. Truth scares away anxiety.

3. After you’re done writing.

Ask someone you trust to read it and give you feedback. Don’t be blind to your successes or your improvement.

Perfection doesn’t exist.

Striving for perfection leaves you stranded.

Too scared to try or too scared to move on to something else that could work better.

The goal here is improvement.

Improving is growth. That’s all you want.

Unattainable goals like perfection sap away your motivation.

No matter how hard I try, my goal doesn’t get closer, so why should I even try.

Something achievable keeps you coming back each day.

Coming back day after day and putting in the work separates a great writer from a writer lost in the crowd.

GK

Don’t be a Slave to the Writing Process

Figure out your writing process. Don’t follow one blindly.

There are methods or a “process” that a writer uses.

You’ll be questioned about process if you ever get anything published in any meaningful way. But process can’t be transplanted from writer to writer. It’s something you have to discover for yourself.

Ray Bradbury wrote about his process.¹

  1. Make lists of what he’s thinking, short one to two word phrases.
  2. Find something that has a story behind it and write a lyric poem.
  3. Keep going as lyric poem turns into prose.

Following that process doesn’t work for me.

  1. I can’t write poetry.
  2. I can’t keep lists, because I barely have enough time to write as is.

My method is wildly different.

  1. Meditate daily.
  2. Come up with ideas when inspiration strikes or meditation leads me there.
  3. Run through everything I plan to write again in a meditative state.
  4. Sit down and type very slowly. That’s as fast as I can type.

That process isn’t going to work if your lived experience is different than mine.

Writing is an individualized act.

The product is generally recognized, but there are umpteenth ways to arrive there.

You’ll have varying success with everything you try.

It speaks to how difficult writing is.

You need to discover the process that best suits you.

It’ll be a mixed bag of the processes out there that no other writer uses to the letter.

Things like this are best figured out when you try things, everything you can find within reason until something gets you writing to the best of your ability.

It’ll be something close to who you are deep inside your soul.

Maybe you’re from the meditation camp or the poetry camp.

Whatever works is your process.

Resources

  1. Bradbury, Ray. Zen in The Art of Writing (p. 11-12). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

GK

Vulnerability for a Genuine Connection with your Reader

The advantage of letting people in through writing.

Connection is a scarce resource.

New ways of connecting like social media, the Twitters and Facebooks of the world simulate connection without delivering.

It’s time to return to what worked in the past, writing.

The opportunity for deep connection is slipping away. Reading is the only way to get that back.

Connecting with your reader is the purpose of publishing writing.

Connection is the purpose of a human life.

It’s the innate spark that has driven everything good we’ve ever done. Writing, scientific discovery, and cooperation are manifestations of that desire.

Being alone is one of the most painful things we can experience.

As writers, we’re in a unique position to fill that need of connection.

Being vulnerable is how you make that happen.

Connection requires the strength to be vulnerable — letting people into your life with the possibility of getting hurt.

That’s one of the things a writer must overcome to connect with readers.

The process goes something like this.

The people reading your work feel close to you.

Readers open their heart and soul to you, because you have already done the same.

Then your message gets across to be interrogated and verified.

If the message pans out, the reader interrogates their life with it.

We’re wired to seek out connection.

Being vulnerable is how you get there.

GK

Repackage your Truth to Write Something Great

The reason to “write what you know”

Write what you’ve lived.

Passion and motivation accrue when your writing something you believe to be. Your lived experience is a powerful tool that gives you insight where few others have it. Because each life is different and everyone is slightly different, we come at things from different perspectives.

People read to find insight about human nature.

That’s why fiction and memoirs sell as well as they do.

Share what you know better than anybody else.

People want truth, and truth comes from life. The life you’ve lived means something no matter how you’ve repackaged it.

Fiction shows a truth about life by changing the situation.

Making the facts stand out like they never could in real life. Sometimes real life can do that too.

You can’t choose your life

You sure can choose characters, a setting, and a plot that shows your truth.

Writing on Medium (where this originally appeared)

Personal stories of facing adversity do really well. That’s the focus of Medium at this point. Fiction is hidden in some back corner.

People come here for stories about people changing

Being true to yourself does really great here, because the community is supportive in a way few places are across the web. Medium is growing a lot still. That has to mean something. Sharing stories of life, of your truth bring people to you. That’s the story Medium tells us.

That’s a formula many prolific writers on Medium employ.

They write personal stories and other types of posts like poetry, fiction, thought pieces, and interviews. Like Meg, Abby Norman, and E Price — the examples I remember off the top of my head.

Put your truth out there and people will come.

GK

Slaughterhouse-Five and The Handmaid’s Tale: Things to Like

Reading can show our lives reflected in a myriad of ways.

I have this allergy to classics.

Most books written before the 1950’s that is. I find sleep creeping up on me like an unfulfilled need. That’s after having a full seven hours sleep and not feeling tired at all. Something about them is dull enough to put me to sleep, and it’s just me. Unlike some, a book before 1950 takes me to sleep quicker than anything else.

Slaughterhouse-Five

I whizzed through the first chapter or two. Those chapters were Vonnegut trying to remember what happened in the war and preparing to write. There was this great exchange that setup the themes to come.

“You were just babies then!” she said.

“What?” I said.

“You were just babies in the war — like the ones upstairs!”

I nodded that this was true…

“But you’re not going to write it that way, are you.” This wasn’t a question. It was an accusation…

So then I understood. It was war that made her so angry.¹

Then the story started. Throughout I was confused about what was going on. The non-linearity threw me off.

Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time.

Billy has gone to sleep a senile widower and awakened on his wedding day. He has walked through a door in 1955 and come out another one in 1941. He has gone back through that door to find himself in 1963. He has seen his birth and death many times, he says, and pays random visits to all the events in between.²

I ended up grouping the events of the story into parallel stories.

One was the war. The other was after the war. And the third was being abducted by non-linear aliens. That reminded me of Arrival. The movie is two parallel stories that each follows a linear progression. It’s much easier to follow than the leaping Vonnegut did. That makes me believe I didn’t get everything out of reading Slaughterhouse 5. A whole bunch of symbolism was lost on me.

I kept trying to find a rationale reason for this time hopping.

Maybe he’s in the POW camp imaging his possible future. The more likely scenario is he’s an old man looking back on his life. That distracted me from looking at other more important things. The skipping around was a way to give the reader moments away from the conditions suffered in the POW camp.

A few comical moments made me laugh in the beginning.

But lost their humor. Now, I suspect that was intentional. The dark humor came when some thing dies, and Billy thinks So it goes. It speaks to the universality of death, whether it be fleas, cows, or people.

The Handmaid’s Tale.

It’s about an alternate divergence of history in the 1970’s.

Society regresses to an ancient state. Woman became a possession of men again has it hadn’t been in a while. The pressure on the society was great enough to allow it to happen. The story looked almost prophetic seeing the way history progressed from 2001 onward. The adoption of the Patriot Act in a time of intense pressure from the outside.

Some things in the book made me angry.

Like the way anything could be used to further a decrepit political ideology. The subjugation of a weaker group by the numerous and privileged. The impeachablity of the dominant sex and blaming the subordinate sex. The society described in The Handmaid’s Tale annoyed me, like the backwardness espoused by ethnocentric people. The subjugation of woman by other women was disheartening. Though that is actually a fact a lot of the time. Like the installation of a puppet government by a foreign government. The foreign power chooses a native figurehead and puts them in a position of power over their countrymen. The use of a select portion of the Jewish people by the Nazi’s to police the ghettos set up in Nazi Germany. And the symbolic position of people that had no real power.

The Handmaid’s Tale is about surrogacy without modern medicine.

That basically means state sponsored rape of woman with successful pregnancies and multiple marriages. The fact it’s government sponsored and enforced leads to normalization of rape. Reading through those scenes made me confused, because the Handmaid telling the story was so distant all the time. During the trauma that makes sense, but after it’s confusing. I don’t think society as a whole was ready to have an honest discussion about rape when this book was published.

A few passages resonated with my lived experience.

I’ll list those and explain their significance.

In reduced circumstances you have to believe all kinds of things. I believe in thought transference now, vibrations in the ether, that sort of junk. I never used to.³

I see this happening in my life.

Living with a limiting condition like Muscular Dystrophy is another version of reduced circumstances. That probably had some impact on my belief in meditation. And how ready I am to believe things based on very little evidence. I need that illusion of having control more control than I do with meditation and karma, so the situations I find myself in aren’t quite as helpless as they really are. Control is what we want in life, but the only way to get that is controlling what you can and letting the rest go. Holding control over everything means you have a little control over a lot of things. When all we really need is great/er control of the few things that matter, like our view of the world, and the way we move through it.

In reduced circumstances the desire to live attaches itself to strange objects. I would like a pet: a bird, say, or a cat. A familiar. Anything at all familiar. A rat would do, in a pinch, but there’s no chance of that.⁴

I hang on to things I’ve made.

Especially with abilities I no longer possess like drawing, writing with a pencil, or walking. And the projects I devote my limited time to like the stories I’ve written. When people lose a little of the autonomy that those around them have, they cling to the limited things that they have control over.

It’s impossible to say a thing exactly the way it was, because what you say can never be exact, you always have to leave something out, there are too many parts, sides, crosscurrents, nuances; too many gestures, which could mean this or that, too many shapes which can never be fully described, too many flavors, in the air or on the tongue, half-colors, too many.⁵

I include too much detail.

This is something I encountered in the beginning of my writing journey. My stories were too muddled with extraneous description making it completely uninteresting to read. Some blog posts I’ve written were like that a year ago. Choosing specific details, the right details separates first-hand experiences from imagined situations. But choosing that is a mental process so replicable. That’s what using senses in your writing is all about. Choosing the right details to put into writing the transport you there, and make something more real than fiction ought to be.

You can only be jealous of someone who has something you think you ought to have yourself.⁶

We want things we believe we deserve.

When things don’t happen how we like, we fixate on those qualities we hoped to attain but failed at. Then we see it everywhere around where it wasn’t noticed before. Jealousy happens when we want things we can’t have. Other people that have those things become the focus of our jealousy. That reminded me of the rampant jealousy I feel, because there’s so much I can’t do that I ought to be able to do. You can be jealous of anyone if they have something you believe you’re entitled to. The costs of those things are lost, just the object is remembered. Like writing everyday requires giving up other things like reading articles, social media, checking e-mails, listening to music, or responsibilities. People just remember the accomplishment of making progress. The cost is payable, and the benefit is attainable.

The arrival of the tray, carried up the stairs as if for an invalid. An invalid, one who has been invalidated.⁷

People can be invalidated by taking away their autonomy.

But an invalid suffered from an injury or disease. That was a powerful reminder of the fact that people can only take away what you allow them to. I have always been impaired by Muscular Dystrophy. My struggle has been making people see beyond my physical appearance to the stuff inside. I’m like everyone else on the inside. The only thing wrong with me is the external — my muscles are weak. Fighting for what I am, the person inside to be seen has been with me my whole life. What other people think about my ability doesn’t change the facts.

God is love, they once said, but we reversed that, and love, like heaven, was always just around the corner. The more difficult it was to love the particular man beside us, the more we believed in Love, abstract and total.⁸

Love is a concept that we need to believe in.

It’s a security blanket that we will find this magic person that makes us feel loved the way our parents loved us. It’s like hope. It’s like God. It’s like dreams. Those concepts are what we need to keep living life. They are the promises that keep us going. Without them there is no life — there is on death — there is no meaning. Things that are necessary don’t fade away. They endure. They become justified no matter the circumstances. They grow to meet challenges. They are immune to the wear of time. They don’t fade away. There is no recourse in life but to believe, to have faith that they are always right and pure. Then to see things just right so that the illusion never blinks out of existence, because they are necessary for life.

I’m a refugee from the past, and like other refugees I go over the customs and habits of being I’ve left or been forced to leave behind me, and it all seems just as quaint, from here, and I am just as obsessive about it… I become too maudlin, lose myself. Weep.⁹

Things might change but there is always something left of the old.

Change isn’t to wash clean a chalkboard and write something new. Change is painting over an old masterpiece and leaving bits of the old in place to marry with the new. Things don’t vanish. They are reinvented, tweaked, and damaged, but they never disappear from existence no matter how we cling or try to forget. Things never leave the world. They are remade over and over. Transformation isn’t transient. It’s the constant state of life. Even death isn’t stagnation. It’s a redistribution.

That’s all I have on these two great books.


Hope you enjoyed reading. Please clap if you did.

References

  1. Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five (pp. 18–19). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
  2. Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five (p. 29). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.
  3. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 105). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  4. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 111). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  5. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 134). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  6. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 161). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  7. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 224). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  8. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (pp. 225–226). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.
  9. Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale (p. 227). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Kindle Edition.

GK