A good obsession
I can’t stop pacing. Sometimes I pace as a form of thinking something through, and sometimes I pace as a form of avoidance, and sometimes it’s just a matter of any stim in a storm.
A relatively socially acceptable stim. People don’t like it when you have to get on the floor. People don’t like it when you get on the floor to calm yourself. Not if you remain still and especially not if you roll back and forth.
Unless you’re in a yoga class and then it’s fine. Even better if you’re teaching the class.
Not that there are people around anymore to be upset about things, and not that yoga classes exist alongside me in the same universe anymore. But still, I remember.
These are the things I think about
These are the things I think about while pacing in tight circles, or figure eights.
The people that aren’t around anymore, the things that used to exist for me and now do not, and cannot, and probably never will again, and how there isn’t anyone I can talk to about missing them, except Meirav.
Before I lived in a tiny house, I thought perhaps downsizing to somewhere very small would help me pace less, but if anything I pace more.
Meirav and I were talking while I was pacing, Meirav is my therapist from the mid-90s, which is somehow nearly thirty years ago, Meirav and I talk in my head.
I was upset about perceiving myself to be deeply misunderstood, which is an ongoing situation for me, the thing I am most often upset about, and maybe a neurodivergent thing to be upset about, because being misunderstood is kind of our whole deal.
Give me something better please
It was around New Years (the one on January 1st, not the one I celebrate on February 2nd), and everyone was sending New Year wishes, as they do, which is sweet. Adore new year wishes, will take them all year round.
And for some reason, nearly everyone in my life seemed to want to specifically wish me GENTLENESS, as in: a gentle new year, a year of soft gentle things, sending you gentleness, hope this year treats you gently, etc.
And I get it, in a way. I’ve been through a lot in the last few years, and the people who know me know this.
I’m sure they want less terrifying, tumultuous experiences for me, they want me to experience the opposite of everything going wrong. Which is a beautiful wish, it’s loving and kind.
And for them, the opposite of everything going wrong is apparently gentleness, so that’s what they wish for me, and I appreciate the warmth and love behind their wishes, and also I don’t want it.
A gentle year can fuck all the way off. Give me something better.
Fuck a gentle new year, where is some good, fun, non-gentleness
“You have clarity,” said Meirav, who is primed to see the positive, though fortunately not in an annoying way.
“You can see the loving intention behind the wish of gentleness, and at the same time you reject the framing of this wish, because it isn’t relevant to what you need right now, it is not, as you’d say, your yes.”
That is correct. I categorically reject gentleness. I want whatever the fuck is good-but-not-gentle. I want sensory intensity, of the kind that is pleasurable.
Give me wildness, aliveness, gasp-worthy delights.
Turn up the sensory experience
The past few years have brought so many forms of dulled senses.
When the agonizing loneliness of isolation made it impossible to feel anything other than numb. Then my concussion erased basic information like where the grocery store might be (anywhere? can’t remember!), or what did I used to be like and care about…?
Then when Covid erased taste and smell, and took away my ability to move like a bobcat. Or when sudden unexpected heartbreak sent me into grief-shock, and I found myself unable to sleep, spending my nights repeating to myself but I don’t understand, make it make sense.
But I don’t understand, make it make sense.
And it never once made sense.
Covid-life and concussion-life have been so spacey and bewildering. I can see how everyone would want life to go gentle on me for a change, but for me the opposite of blurry and blurred is sharp and defined.
The opposite of numb is tantalizing.
I want tantalizing.
No gentleness here
Fuck gentleness. I want excitement, passion, intense deliciousness, obscene amounts of pleasure.
In the morning I crush chiltepin peppers, sometimes with the flat part of my knife, sometimes with my fist, and slice ginger to add to my morning potion, to add a slow burn of desert heat.
Yes please to too much, and then more of that. Turn it up.
Don’t be gentle, be fully alive with me. Be real with me. Thrill me. Surprise me. Adore me.
Who and what am I wishing towards?
Okay, I am talking to 2023, and also to myself, and also to someone wholly imagined, who may or may not exist, an incoming self or a version of myself I haven’t met yet, and also to the next special interest which is still a mystery.
I want passion and intense deliciousness that both engages and enrages.
And I want to obsess over something entirely and deliciously frivolous, devote myself to it, hurl myself into obsession, deep-dive all the way into the most specific special interest and devour it, let it devour me.
So okay, we’ve clarified something. Not gentle. But sweet. I want an obnoxiously hot affair and a really good hobby or three, in that order or not. 2023, are you listening?
I wrote the above thoughts on not-gentleness in February, when I was finding my way into my own new-new year, and six months have passed, somehow, and I am considerably less blurry and foggy now.
Still not all the way to clear, just: significantly less fog.
From deep within the cabin fever, the heat waves of summer here in southwestern New Mexico, I am craving sensation, but maybe also somewhat less opposed to gentleness than I was in January.
My senses are heightened. I open the doors for a deep breath of air. I love the scent of the fields after the rains.
Sensation sensation sensation
I made chile crisp this weekend, and a coffee cardamom syrup. Envelop me, sensation.
And maybe I feel differently about gentleness now, more willing to welcome it, certainly I won’t fight its gifts.
As long as it comes with enticement and…hmmm, something about appreciation. I want to be appreciated and to appreciate, I want these sparks of aliveness.
Maybe the gentleness is about sanctuary. Maybe sanctuary is the place I go within myself to come alive again.
A pilgrimage to nowhere, or possibly to the center
The thing that helps most when I can’t stop pacing is applauding myself for pacing.
Imagining how many miles I’ve walked, like medieval nuns who walked circles in their cells imagining they were on a holy pilgrimage? That’s a thing, right? Good job, you’re more than halfway to the wished-for place, good job, good job.
Good job, getting that out of your system, I tell myself. Good job, keeping it moving.
Once I have stopped trying to get myself to stop, I am able to settle, alight somewhere.
Applause for pacing! And then I can land.
Something about rebelliousness, something about legitimacy
I won’t stop when told to or coaxed.
However, I will stop when praised for not stopping. Praise my resilience, my determination, my foolhardy commitment, my furiously rebellious walking fuck-you nature, and I calm right down.
Obviously, no one else is ever around, so I am the one telling myself to stop, finding out it doesn’t work, eventually resorting to praise.
You’re doing so great, I’m proud of you. Pace as long as you need to.
Appreciate my longing for enhanced sensation, and I will eventually come around to gentleness too.
A good obsession
A question I ask more often than you’d think is WWNCD (What Would Neal Caffrey Do), and the answer nearly always makes me feel better.
Neal Caffrey is a con artist, a character on the show White Collar, who remains, despite always conning someone, extremely genuine in his passion for whatever he is currently passionate about.
“I respect a good obsession” is one of my all-time favorite Neal Caffrey quotes, and there are many.
Also worthy of appreciating: the response, from his bff: “And I get to cross a name off my enemies list!”
Obsession, a good one
Obsession (a good obsession), and casual revenge, which is another form of obsessing.
Neal obsesses over good wine, art, suits, how people learn to sort male and female chickens, whatever is in front of him, or whatever is out of sight.
He is agile, fast, smiles easily, passionate about being passionate, and trusts his intuition.
We were both born in March of 1977, the same month that the Fleetwood Mac album Dreams came out, and I once compiled a long list of other things we have in common, but all I remember is Dreams…
WWNCD. Probably what I would do too if I remembered to slow down and ascertain what I want.
I talk to Neal in the same way that I talk to Meirav, although Meirav and I speak Hebrew and she is more grounded and more attuned to how I do things. Sometimes Neal’s advice requires some shimmying around until I can make it work with my own moral or existential compass.
Neal immediately understands why I am allergic to having unsolicited gentleness thrust upon me in wish form.
“Well-wishing is mostly useless,” he says firmly. “People are good at the intention part of it and bad at the content part of it.”
Ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife (a spoon is a weapon too!)
I wait for him to finish his thought.
“They don’t always know what to wish for you, they aren’t always going to make the right guess, but you can wish your own wishes for yourself. You can also take what they give you and transform it into what you need. Think of it as a MacGuyver situation; you need a weapon but someone hands you a stapler instead. You’re creative, you’ll make it work. React in the moment. Get creative with gentleness.”
Get creative with gentleness.
“When is gentle good?”, she asks. “When is it the thing you love and crave?”
I think about Bryan, my chiropractor who can gently bear-hug me back into alignment, who has never once caused me the tiniest amount of pain, but has hauled me back out from pain, he has retrieved me from the pain, with warm touch, patience, and uproarious laughter.
No need to exit the comfort zone when you can expand the comfort zone
This makes me think about my deeply held belief that we do not have to dive into our pain to heal, we can play at the edges, that we do not have to force ourselves out of comfort zones, we can gradually expand what feels comfortable.
So I do like gentle, as it turns out, I like it as an approach. Maybe not as a theme for my year, but maybe like how I had to turn Clarity into Loving-Clarity, maybe Gentleness needs to be tempered with something less gentle and more exciting. Like a good obsession…
My friends want me to be cradled in clouds, and I want to fight my way out of the clouds. They mean well.
Gentle isn’t the same as bland, Meirav points out. You’re reacting to it like it’s unseasoned.
No, of course not, I say. That’s not the point. The point is that gentleness can come after the pleasure. But first I need some joy.
(And obviously sometimes gentle & pleasure & joy can co-exist, we know this too.)
A crash pad but not that
Of course the people who love me and care about me are wishing for me to have a crash pad, they’ve watched me tumble through the last couple years, hurtling down the stairs of circumstances.
It is completely reasonable and understandable that they’re like, dear god, that poor sweet baby needs to be swaddled in soft blankets. I get it.
And it’s not that I don’t want softness.
It’s that I want LUSH, PLUSH & SLUTTY, to use the phrase I borrowed from Jade and refuse to let go of, my north star!
I want sensory comfort of a different kind, and I want to choose it, I don’t want it bestowed on me.
It’s as if everyone decided that the best cure for what ails me is a nice nap and a cup of tea when I ALREADY KNOW THE CURE I NEED which is to finally get have some fun.
Fun! I want a good obsession!
I want to have the silliest crush, to feel lighthearted and fizzy, to luxuriate in contemplating various playful creative pursuits, things other than staying alive (aka, am I going to, and if so, how), and the other boring questions that make everyone want gentleness for me.
I don’t want to need gentleness. I want to be joyfully alive.
I told Meirav about a memory, dozing off on my ex’s chest, his warm voice reverberating, his fingers in my hair, listening to him talk to someone I didn’t know, and suddenly realizing he was describing something incredibly violent and threatening. Not towards me, just a situation. His other life when he wasn’t with me.
And one day he vanished without a trace, leaving me to many long nights of I don’t understand, make it make sense.
Meirav says, You got the experience of physical gentleness combined with emotionally not-gentle…
I think about that for a minute.
It was like that dream I used to have of sailing across the ocean in a cardboard box, cozy in my nest of blankets, not getting wet, a safe experience of an unsafe experience.
The opposite of emergency, do I know what that’s like
Meirav: In the dream, you got to experience softness and structure in an emergency. What if you got to experience them outside of an emergency? Do you know what to do with a love that doesn’t harm you?
Me, in English: Okay let’s not go overboard.
Meirav laughs at my seafaring pun but also gives me the look.
Me: It suits me, the box. Let’s stay in the cozy box please.
Head-therapy is cozy, pacing is cozy, what else.
Back to pacing
I was pacing and thinking about how all my wishes for this year have a through-line of time, something about the passage of time, a slow motion montage, for example…
- growing out my hair
- being UNRECOGNIZABLE to myself and to the world but in a good way..
- allowing this chrysalis year of hermit time out in the wilds to shift something
- how can my tiny home on a trailer become livable, functional & comfortable? aka less like fancy camping
- covid-conscious friends or adventure partners to hike with or cook for, or both
- a plan and support to create a structure for retreat space and visitors
- block off view of neighbors so I never see them & can forget they exist
- plant trees…
Music in the distance
All of these wishes feel like [movie music], I don’t know how to explain it better than that, they exist at some time in the future that is hazy and hard to imagine, I feel it there but can’t bring it into focus.
It’s like a jazz bar down the street that our protagonist has not entered yet…
Does that make sense? What do you do when your wish is still just barely on the horizon?
Not sure what the question is but what might it be…
Let’s ask. Maybe it’s about what I’m missing. What happens during the slow motion montage?
What happens during the slow motion montage?
How do I distract myself or obsess over something else while this is happening?
Or how do I get obsessed with these projects when either there’s nothing to be done yet or in the moment, or a million steps to be done and I don’t know where to start.
For example, hair growth is simply a matter of give it time.
Take your vitamins, don’t look in the mirror too often, give it time.
While making the tiny house livable or doing something with the barn seems like so many steps and perceived obstacles that I get overwhelmed and can’t start. Ahahaha, steps like pacing.
And pacing like the speed of movement, not just the act of moving.
I need an obsession and I don’t know what it is (but is that true)
An all-consuming distracting obsession! Yes please.
And it needs to involve steps (steps! pacing!) or practical things I can do. It can’t just be “wait for things to get better”, because that is not working.
Or maybe I’m experiencing [opposite wish effect] where I want to be obsessed and am not, so everything feels either boring or impossible, or both. But maybe that’s also a distortion of cabin fever and loneliness.
Solvitur ambulando is a favourite Latin phrase which I believe we’ve talked about. “It is solved through walking”.
What if pacing is the path and not the problem. What if I can wander my way into my next obsession, stim my way into feeling something?
Do I need to know what I’m training for, can I be in the slow motion montage and not know it yet?
Ritual, rest, repeat. Wish the wishes, keep it moving. Stay joyfully alive, and when it doesn’t feel joyful, I’m still here and we are calling it a win.
Add compassion and stir. Add sensation, feel and wait.
Wishing into the second half of the year
Can I take the fairy godparent blessings of Gentleness-Adjacent, and let them blend with my wishes for Tantalizing Anticipation and Joyfully Alive?
And can I trust that the good obsessions will reveal themselves in good time?
What other well-wishes can we rewrite to make them more enticing?
What else is drawn from the well of wishing?
I can’t wait to find out.
What are your wish-obsessions? Come play with me, I love company
You are welcome to brainstorm obsessions, seed any seeds, play with any of these concepts in any way you like. Come play in the comments!
Share anything sparked for you while reading, or add any wishes into the pot, the healing the power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.
Update: I am preparing new bonus materials for the month of July about time and how I prepare for and relate to the different quarters, more about this to come, but anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary (see below) will get these by email by the end of the month…
If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Working on some stuff to offer this coming year, but between traumatic brain injury recovery & Long Covid, slow going.
I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.
And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️