Month: October 2015

Always Be Honest With Yourself (And Others.)

“To thine own self be true…” – Shakespeare

“Being entirely honest with oneself is a good exercise.” -Freud

“If you want to be successful, you must respect one rule – Never lie to yourself.” – Coelho

This reoccurring theme throughout the ages is simple, but they don’t tell you have fucking difficult it actually is.  I say this with no bitterness as I’ve been focused on keeping myself honest for almost a decade now. Though I feel like I’ve shared a bit of that backstory with you already… for those of you just joining us, long story short, I was a lying, manipulative asshole from my teenage years all the way up past the quarter-century mark of my life.  I paid for it, learned from it and the one shining lesson above all else that I embraced was as stated above: Be honest with yourself first.

At first it was easy.  My lies exposed, my life had shattered and come crumbling down around me.  So many lies over so many years meant I didn’t even actually know who I was.  Through all the attempts to be whatever I thought people wanted me to be, I actually began to buy into my own bullshit.  And so, when said bullshit was cleared away, there was simply nothing.  A husk, an empty shell stripped bare, an empty barrel with any trace of identity laying somewhere in the bottom of it.  The easy part of this phase was that I had nothing to lose.

When you don’t care about anything, there is no reason to lie.

You always know where he's coming from.

You always know where he’s coming from.

So I went on for a while as a non-filtered, brutally honest asshole.  Abrasive, uncaring, broken.  I severed ties with people whom had similar habits in lying that I had.  In fairness I did try to educate them in the futility of that lifestyle, but like any drug it’s an ugly and destructive habit that is not so easily escaped.  But I absolutely could not stand to be around it any more, so I left.  After a while on my own I found those that respected and had the resilience for my abrasive honesty, but only some of them could actually handle it.  The others felt they needed to change me, to fix me.  The truth is I did need fixing, but not the way they thought.  In the end it backfired on them because everything I represented came straight from the source, and when you’re in touch with your core like that – a direct link – nothing gets skewed.

But although that sounds ideal, it was miserable.  Brutal, abrasive honesty with nothing to lose is lonely and broken and mostly incapable of operating in our society.  Eventually I began to value things and people in various ways.  Not (to this day) on an ideal level of love, but they became important nonetheless, and I was able to at least partially convey that to them (admittedly, some attempts went better than others.)  I began to develop a filter.  I still would not lie, and to this day I keep that tenant.  But I began to withhold things for the sake of others, and maybe (without realizing it) for the sake of myself.

Many say that withholding is the same as lying, but I can’t quite get behind that.  It’s situational, it depends on what you withhold from who, and why.  It’s a grey area.  Obviously if you are withholding relevant information from somebody that trusts you, then it is probably as destructive and deceptive as lying.  So yes, in that case it’s along the same lines.  This also includes “protecting” somebody from being hurt when they have every right to the information you have.

On the other hand, withholding information that falls into the lines of gossip about another, or exposes the secrets of somebody that trusts you is a virtuous thing.  You have the information perhaps because you were involved or because they confided in you, but their secret is not yours to tell, even if that means that you must also withhold something about yourself that you might not normally.

But like all grey areas, all of those rationalizations are a delicate balance… sometimes only a step away from falling back into the habits of lying and deceit for the sake of self.  This balance must be carefully maintained, and in every case it must start with you.

Situational... but clever.

Situational… but clever.

It is easy to say “I’m honest with myself, and I’ve proven it so I can relax.”  But that’s a trap, and one I believe I may be falling into.  Don’t get me wrong, I still abhor lying outwardly and choose to be (at times) uncomfortably forthcoming.  But inwardly I think it’s easy to become careless and I might very well be experiencing the results of that.

You see, the key to remember when endeavoring to be honest with yourself is to remember who you are.  But the complicated aspect of that, is that who you are changes. Often. Sometimes gradually, sometimes near-instantly (and with an abundance of cosmic energy if you’re especially cool.)  Being honest with yourself is a constant exercise in checking yourself against who you are, and in order to do that, you have to be ready to consistently accept some really unpleasant truths about yourself.  Then, once you’ve pinpointed where you’re weak and ugly, you have to be willing to accept and then be outwardly honest about those faults through both words and action.  This is the process of improving those things and therefore making yourself a more balanced, ultimately happier person.

On the same turn, you need to be really honest about what you like about yourself and what your strengths are.  You would think this would be easy, but insecurity has a way of diminishing these attributes to you.  It’s a defense mechanism that your mind puts in place when society starts teaching you that it’s bad to be different, or to like certain things depending on who you are, or any of the five billion other idiotic standards society tries to program into you from a young age.

So what’s the point?  Why put so much effort into checking yourself when you could just act naturally and let that be who you are?  Well, as I’ve been finding out through a number of difficult situations lately, if you don’t pay attention to who you are and what you’re about right now. You fall into the trap of personal rationalization.  Instead of rationalizing your thoughts or actions outwardly, you do it inwardly and in regards to who you actually are.  So you create this ideal image of who you are in your mind without the gut check.  Instead of paying attention to how you feel about a particular situation or action you take, you create a persona and begin to check yourself against that as if it’s who you are.  This is the lie, and one that many people intentionally fall into.

fine,honest,hurt,life,quotes,sad-cda72d0c8b592856321a43478cf8d32f_hBut the problem with believing your own persona, is that who you really are deep down doesn’t go away.  If you’re really, really lucky it might adapt itself to your persona, but the vast majority of the time, it will instead sabotage it. If you don’t face it, the person you really are will sabotage you.  Have you seen when seemingly powerful people have massive breakdowns?  What about celebrities that have it all and then abruptly crack or even die?  This list of causes is endless: Drugs, depression, anxiety, alcoholism, or general crazed, reckless behavior but it all comes down to the fact that those suffering in those cases were lying to themselves.  About who they were, where they were weak, how they felt or what they needed help with.  Celebrities are extreme cases because they live in extreme circumstances, but none of us (not even me) are immune.

So, for your sake, take some time to get to know you.  Explore how you feel about things, people and the world completely separate of what anyone else thinks is best for you.  Once you’ve done that, make sure you keep doing that as you change and grow and feel differently about things.  Don’t lose touch with who you are and absolutely do not fall into the trap of rationalizing who you are – to yourself first – and then to anyone else.  There is no rationalizing who and what you are at your core, you simply are. Though it takes some balance to know what to allow to the surface for others to see, you must accept yourself within raw and unfiltered.  When you have a foundation of honesty such as that, it is both liberating and empowering.  You know who you are, and nobody can take that from you.

Advertisements

Kaska-Ta and the Farm

Note: The tales of Kaska-Ta can be described as a semi-fictional, metaphorical auto-biography.  It builds off of previous “Kaska-Ta” entries and will likely resurface from time to time when I wish to present situations without specific details. (It’s my blog, deal with it.) The settings/terms/names/periods are changed but the story facts are essentially true.

Indecision has been the death of many men over many years.  Even for those as strong and stubborn as Kaska-Ta, we are all as little as two steps from oblivion on any given day.  To think yourself otherwise is usually the beginning of the end for you. Thoughts like this echoed in Kaska-Ta’s head as he realized his own end lay before him… as the last glimmer of hope escaped him and he descended quite literally into darkness…

Weeks Earlier:

After speaking with the shepherd, Kaska-Ta went ahead to his farm to get a feel for the surroundings.  He was welcomed here and regained some of his strength among new friends and a few of his old tribe-mates who had indeed come from the east.  “It would be easy…” he thought “to remain here.  It feels like home used to.”  But something weighed on his mind, something felt wrong.

The shepherd had made many promises: shelter, friends and (perhaps most importantly) an abundance of supplies.  As had been mentioned, the rains had already begun to fall in a light drizzle and early the following morning Kaska-Ta travelled west to the edge of the high ground to survey the land beyond.  From this point it was easy to tell the shepherd was right: the canyon beyond was deep and irregular and would be a difficult trip under the best circumstances.  With the rains, even before the flood it would be a treacherous path, and one with no visible end in sight.  What occurred to him in that moment though, was that there was no path.  No road, no indication of recent travel.  Certainly it could be done (though judging from the canyons with a great deal of hardship) How then, had some of the villagers come from the west?

“Be careful.” The voice chimed in. “Your questions and decisions might affect more than just you.”

They ate together at lunch and Kaska-Ta asked the villagers and tribe members to speak of the western village.  With little pause, they answered and spoke of a great city beyond the village that supported and traded with it.  Many riches passed through the area and great opportunity existed for all who settled there.

“Why then… would you make the trip here?  Just to help the shepherd?” Kaska-Ta asked himself.  But he was careful and asked instead if the village was affected by the flooding.  This drew a slightly larger pause but they recovered quickly enough and assured him the village lay beyond the reach of the flooding.  The rest of lunch was small talk, Kaska-Ta already had his suspicions and it would do him no good to press the issue now.

That night Kaska-Ta found the shepherd with his flock near the eastern boarder of the farm.  The sheep could graze here but the land was already showing signs of the barren desert from which Kaska-Ta had emerged a few days before.  The sheep’s wool glistened in the soft rain under the shepherd’s lantern.  “Good evening shepherd.” Kaska-Ta greeted.  “Same to you traveler!  Glad to have you among the family.” the shepherd replied.  “What brings you out for a visit?  You should still be resting after the desert…”

A shadow darker than the twilight grew over Kaska-Ta’s face.  “I’ve come for the truth.  I know there is no village to west… at least, not that any here know of.  Why do they lie?  And what is really to the west?”

“Death.” The shepherd replied.  “For you, death lies in every direction but here.  Just as it did for for those who came before you.”

Kaska-Ta was quickly moving from irritated to angry. “Enough riddles, enough cryptic prophesy.  You know I know, so come out with it.”

“Or what?” The shepherd mused.  He was right of course, violence would serve nothing in this case.  But the shepherd continued “Those that are here have been here.  One or two arrive every third cycle or so.  Rugged adventurers like you who have survived the desert and one even reformed from the badlands.  They work the farm and live in peace here.  I asked them to lie about what I promised you before… to keep you here.  I need more than workers, I need leaders and protectors.”  The shepherd paused and spread his arms toward the farmland. “This farm will be a community and you have a place here, building it!  We can be a beacon of light in this desolate land and save all those who wander this way from what will otherwise be death. Or worse!” he gestured to toward the south where the badlands lay.

“You mean we can trick them and trap them, as you intended to do to me?” Kaska-Ta was calm and cold, he already knew what he had to do.

The shepherd was now eyeing Kaska-Ta with a gaze both condescending and full of pity.  “Think what you will of me friend, but you would have died out there.  Any of them would have.  I did what I had to do to save them, and said what I had to say to save you.  That’s the truth of it.”  The shepherd looked up at the night sky.  “Now the rains have come and you can spend them sulking in your quarters if you like, or you can help me build something great for us and those to come.  Either way, I saved you, so I think you’ll find some way to forgive me.”

Kaska-Ta grinned but there was fire in his eyes.  “I forgive you… perhaps you did save me.”  

The shepherd’s face brightened immediately “Good! Good!  I knew you were the rational and…”

“And I’m leaving.”  Kaska-Ta interrupted. “At first light.”

“What!?” The shepherd’s composure quickly disintegrated. “What!? Where!?  The rains have come!  There’s nowhere to go!  I understand you’re angry but don’t be a fool!!”

“I’ll find my path and it will be true.”  Kaska-Ta resolved this, he realized, as much for himself as to the shepherd.

“The hells with you and your path!” The shepherd cried.  You’re insane!  Within a moon the floods will set, and another moon after that nothing will be seen but water… water and your stubborn, floating corpse!”

“He’s not lying about that…” the voice chimed in, but Kaska-Ta was already turning back for the farm.  “Thank you shepherd, I forgive you in return for the supplies you grant me… perhaps I’ll see you again.”

The shepherd said nothing, he simply stared at Kaska-Ta as he made his way back to the farm.

Later as Kaska-Ta filled his water sack and packed what supplies allowed to him, many of the tribe members expressed their regret and a couple asked him to stay despite the lies.  Logically it made sense, Kaska-Ta could make a life here.  But something deeper knew that it was not his path… not like this.  Had everything been as said, he might’ve stayed and found a reason to settle here, but as it was it was wrong going into it and three cycles thinking of that might well drive him mad.

The rain was slightly more tangible than it had been the previous day as the first light crept over the horizon.  It felt better than the relentless sun and the ground was slightly softer through Kaska-Ta’s boots.  (He was grateful he had kept them through the desert, they were heavy, but protective and waterproof.)  The rains would undoubtedly soak him over time, but with his feet dry and his long coat preserving his body heat, he would last a while.

“Where will you go now?” The ever-vigilant voice chimed in, as if it didn’t already know.  Kaska-Ta was well aware the banter of the voice was for his sake as opposed to actual curiosity.

“South.” he replied.  “Time is short, and at least there I already know they will lie to me.  I’ll use them as I need to and see the path that lies beyond.”

I don’t think I have to tell you that may not go as planned.”

“Did you have a better idea?” Kaska-Ta smiled to himself, waited through the expected silence, and continued. “It never does. But I have to keep moving and if I stay here, I’ll die for sure.”

And so the rains came, and Kaska-Ta descended south into what he expected would be darkness.  Darkness he found, but it was nothing like he had hoped.

The Grey Area – Year 1 Retrospective

It’s been a year now since I posted my first blog here and it’s been rocky to say the least. The pledge to write regularly is a commitment and if you intend to keep readers it’s one you should endeavor to keep. However, as with the best of us, life gets in the way. To be honest this year has been one of the most difficult I’ve had in many years both personally and professionally. Despite that, I’ve done my best to continue contributing, and though there have been some major gaps, I am, at least, happy with the content if not the consistency.

When I originally began posting here, I had reached a major milestone in my professional life. Joking that I had become a “certifiable yuppie” I’d recently started a job that put me firmly in the “middle-class”. I purchased a newer model Prius and carried the latest iPhone, wore button-ups daily and often interacted with those that would be considered Orlando’s executive elite. At that point I had enough disposable income to pay all my bills without thinking or worrying about it, eat out often, buy small things that caught my eye on a whim and set a bit aside for whatever other goals I had.

1399075_10152747352232264_4465423200138621089_o

Before

So I wanted to write. I wanted to share with you how I see things and what I experienced on this tier of existence. As I mentioned and built into the website, I tend a bit toward the hedonist, especially as far as people and food go, and I expected that my lifestyle at that level would lead to some interesting stories. It did, and some of what I wrote about was well responded to. One of the first things I learned is that you’re all a bunch of dirty perverts (and that’s awesome.) Anytime I wrote about sex, my viewers spiked, especially when I was a little edgy about it. Women were also a popular topic and I got a lot of comments (both public and private) regarding my feminist views that I really consider to be a no-brainer.

After I got my stride I decided to mix things up a bit, I told a personal historical story using a semi-fantasy setting to keep things relatively anonymous. I enjoyed this and decided to continue it using the same medium to parallel my life as it happens now. Obviously in many cases I will simply write about things as they are, but I find this medium interesting because it gives me freedom to present the dilemmas in my head without bogging you down with needless explanations or being forced to keep certain details out (names, places.)   I’ve been feeling the itch to write some fiction lately, and will probably introduce a parallel blog in which I will write fictional short stories that may add up to a larger one. But first, I need to be sure I’m consistent here, and I’m sure you know that’s already been an issue.

Speaking of consistency, my biggest hit to that was around March of this year when my life took a major and unexpected turn. Within a matter of weeks, my routine as I knew it was thrown into to chaos, and from there a long, slow descent began that I have only recently began to rise from. As I scrambled to reestablish some kind of routine, I spent over a month away from my blog trying to figure out what my next step was. At first, the freedom I gained was indeed liberating, but as the cost of said freedom began to show itself I realized that reality was coming at me full speed. Even with that realization though, I had no idea exactly how far I would fall.

2015-08-11 07.17.14

After

This descent produced a few notable and lasting positives: New people, stronger connections with some existing friends and new perspectives on old experiences.. Ramadan was an entirely new experience due to my now flexible schedule, and my discovering Uber to stay afloat has provided me with a number of new connections and some fantastic stories (along with a very useful tool for extra income.) The depth of my support structure among my friends here in Orlando was/is severely tested and though some areas were far weaker than expected, others (some expected and some not…) have come through (and frankly saved my ass.)

To be honest, thus far (and omitting above positives), 2015 has been more or less shit. But the struggle has forced me to look at a lot of things, including my path, ask new questions and find new answers. It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention and that’s certainly been the case for me. As for what’s next, I’ve got a couple of posts in my head already, but as 2015 sails into it’s last quarter there’s a decent chance my course will be set and much of that will be worth talking about. If it doesn’t something else will have to give and it may not be pretty. Though I believe the worst is past, I’m not out of the storm yet and if I don’t find my way out, or come across better shelter I run the risk of ending up somewhere considerably darker. But those are stories to come, and some of which will be told through the journey of Kaska-Ta.

In the meantime though, I want to again say think you. While writing this past year I’ve seen some ridiculous traffic come through my site, had my posts shared and debated and gotten some really great comments and feedback from people that otherwise wouldn’t know anything about me. To me, that alone makes the time I spend writing worth it. In the beginning I said I wanted to make you think and every time you like, share and respond, I know that whether you agree or not, I did. So… thank you for reading, writing, responding and thinking! Hopefully this year was just the beginning.

Best Regards,

-Jordan in the Grey Area