June 5, 2021

Long Month

Long Month

Wow - that month sure seemed to take forever. What? It's been two months, and change? No way...

Yeah. I missed my monthly check-in post for May. But hear me out.

We left California around mid-April. We spent a solid 6 weeks living with the in-laws. My last post talked about some of the challenges I faced so I won't rehash any of that. It was good to hit the road, spend the night in Santa Cruz, then come home to Portland.

Coming home is also when it's time to face all the decisions that were made in the previous month and refocus on personal priorities. To may pleasant surprise, I had only put on a couple of pounds. It made me feel good about the conscious trade offs I made while acknowledging that the preparation had offset the worst of it.

I had my annual physical and good news there, as well. My blood pressure is down to a good range and my lab work all came back great. For the year that we all just went through and my new lifestyle, this was amazing.

For the record, I am down 23 pounds since the first of the year. Body Fat, Muscle Mass, and BMI  are all going in the right directions. My target weight/date has been pushed out by 6 weeks but I'm happy with the progress I have made.

There was something else, though, that was getting in the way of an update. I just wasn't feeling it for some reason. Instead of having it bug me every day, I let myself defer it to June, and let it rest. There were some things chewing up my brain cycles and they weren't ready to surface yet.

I am still processing what I've thought about but I have been able to name it and started addressing it.  Basically, I did a whole shit-ton (medical term) of therapy to address my Complex PTSD. It was fantastic. It helped me create new neural pathways and begin to think about things and react to things in a healthy way. IT was liberating. I have the space now to tackle issues beyond self-preservation and survival. Obviously, my work on my physical health has benefitted from this. I did feel. however, that there was some purpose work to be done. It's like, ok the car is fixed and it will take us where we want to go - so where do we want to go?

I am fortunate to know people who care about "big things" - societal welfare, the carceral system, economic opportunities and equity, justice, and more. This past year has done a lot to surface many of these issues to a larger audience and there is a ton of work to do.

I was looking through my Notes app to see thoughts I had jotted down in the past few months. I cam across the stream of consciousness note below. Don't read too much into words like guro or hedonist - they have a shorthand meaning to me and don't neccesarily align with the commonly understood meanings:

Who am I? Guru or brain hacker. Activist or hedonist. I think who I am is someone who is curious, who is forward thinking, and is concerned with living the best possible life I can for the as long as I am able. From there, other goals are possible but without being happy and healthy, nothing else can be accomplished.

I don't want to proselytize or evangelize. I am willing to share my story with those who want it. I am not a guru or a hedonist. I am a magician but I use the con man's gambits.

This still rings true for me, internally.  The line about "proselytizing or evangelizing" hit me in relation to some of the work I see some of my peers doing. They are fighting big fights with big odds. I am glad they are - someone needs to. But I realize that someone is not me. I can do more good in other ways.

As I was pondering this, I was reading about the roots of Cognitive Behaviorial Therapy (CBT), one of the modalities that has helped me. I had no idea it was rooted in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism. This had led me to a deeper study of Stoicism, its modern applications, and its overlap with my Model Agnosticism / Discordian bent. I found that many of the key tenets are things that I had already found were working for me. Having a new "origin story" for them was exciting as it opened up other areas for exploration.

For one, Stoicism is not just a philosophy, but a set of "rituals" designed to keep you aligned. Nothing as cool as burnt offerings or live sacrifices, I'm afraid. Simple things like reviewing your day before you turn in, setting yourself up for success when attempting now or difficult things, focusing on things within your control, and the like.

Secondly, and most interestingly for me, it also offers up a set of virtues. This was aligning with that whole "where do we want to go?" question. I think over the next few blog posts I will go in depth on each of them and I am integrating it into my persona, but in summary, they are:

  • Prudence or Practical Wisdom
    • "acting and responding to things “in accord with value”
    • "knowing the nature of the good and bad"
    • "the ability to communicate the truth appropriately to other people, honestly but tactfully"
  • Justice / Morality
    • "composed mainly of the subordinate virtues of kindness and fairness. Although it may not be apparent from the word “justice” this is a much broader concept of social virtue, which encompasses the numerous references to kindness, benevolence, or goodwill toward others"
  • Temperance / Moderation
    • "entails knowledge of “what is to be chosen, avoided, and neither” in the domain of “impulses”, i.e., it guides our intentions to act on certain desires"
  • Fortitude / Courage
    • "courage, although the Stoics also extend it to include endurance of pain and discomfort"

These are obviously somewhat nebulous terms, and their meanings have evolved over the millenia.

Anyways... that's a lot for one update. Suffice it to say, this body of knowledge has given me a lot to consume, understand, and think about. And that's good enough for now.

(Oh yeah - we had a party. First of the post-pandemic era. It was tons of fun. I rocked it sober and had no desire to be otherwise. )