Day 1 – Goals and Values

I’ve really been digging ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) lately.  I’m mostly consuming it through the work of Dr. Russ Harris and his book “The Happiness Trap.”

One of the lessons that makes sense to me is that Values > Goals. Writing here every morning is a goal – but what value (or values) does that goal serve? And is that (are they) one of my values?

Persistence is a value – that’s something important to me and something that this goal can serve.  But any goal could be said to serve that value – it’s a given. If you don’t need some kind of persistence, it’s probably a pretty weak goal.

Gratitude is said to assist in mental health.  Improving and maintaining my mental health is a value. So maintaining a regular gratitude practice would be a good goal to strive for. Making it more specific, reflecting on one thing that I’m grateful for each day. Even more specific, writing it down helps to clarify it.

So, writing down something that I’m grateful for each day serves the value of maintaining and improving my mental health.

So why a blog? Why do this publicly? What’s the value there?

Acceptance by others.

It’s difficult for me to share this, but I want other human beings to accept me. It feels weak to admit that, but it’s true. Rationally, I know that there’s nothing wrong with that desire – it’s perfectly natural, probably the result of millions of years of evolution. If our ancestors weren’t accepted by others and were banished by the tribe, they were as good as dead. So the desire is hardwired into my brain.

But does this blog really provide that? Maybe in some small ways, and maybe I’m minimizing how much it really does. But it sure doesn’t hurt it, as far as I can see.

Maybe “Relationship” is a better word for that value. I’ve already got acceptance – no one has thrown me out in the cold lately. But does writing this stuff publicly assist in building and maintaining relationships with other human beings? It could.

Another value that comes to mind is Contribution. I want to give something useful to others. Is writing about this publicly adding anything useful to the universe? Is there even a possibility that it is?

Of course there’s a possibility, even if I can’t see it now. Even if it’s just inspirational enough to kick start someone else’s gratitude practice.

So there are four values (Persistence, Mental Health, Relationships, and Contribution) that the goal of writing here every day for 365 days serves.

I think I’ll continue. And today I’m grateful that no matter how many times I fall, as long as I’m still breathing I can get back up and move forward.

 

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Day 58 – The Results of Hope

Today I’m grateful that hope isn’t a useless idea.

If you read yesterday’s entry, I had a rough day on Friday.  But yesterday I was able to find some hope.

And it turned out to be a fantastic day.

After studying the Stoics, I had decided that I agreed with Seneca (I think it was Seneca) that hope isn’t a good thing, because it indicates that you aren’t accepting your current situation as it is and loving it.

That follows logically, if you look at it in a vacuum.  If the goal is Amor Fati, then we aren’t practicing it if we need to have hope.

But guess what.  The key word in there is practice.  We aren’t going to undo years of conditioning in a week (or 58 days).  And the thing that can put us back on track?

Hope.

It did for me yesterday.  It helped me to remember that even though I’m in the middle of a depressive episode, shit always always always changes.  To be hopeless, to believe that when things are bad they will always be bad and we might as well pack it in, is silly.  That’s not just not accepting reality – it’s denying it.

So today I’m grateful that I’ve learned (once again) that it’s OK to hope.  No, I’m grateful to know that it’s necessary to hope when we need to.

 

Day 39 – Gratitude for Support

Today I give thanks for the struggle that I have with accepting support from people.

I’m specifically talking about support in creative endeavors, and specifically thinking about my wife and her sister, and even more specifically thinking about their support for this little project of mine.

I’m learning to simply say “Thank You” when my wife tells me how much she loves a day’s entry.  Getting those two words out can be difficult, because my self doubt is triggered hard when she compliments my work.  “She’s blinded to my idiocy because of love,” I think.  “This whole project really is a dumb idea, why can’t she see that?” comes next.  Followed by a sprinkling of “She’s a damn PhD candidate… can’t she see what a shitty writer I am?”

And yesterday, my sister-in-law said that she was impressed that I’m sticking to my goal of doing this everyday.  “Yeah, but the big quit is coming,” say the thoughts.

It’s a struggle, but this blog is about be grateful for the struggle.  So I’m grateful.

Thank you, Tracy and Tammy, for all of your support.

Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?

 

Day 31 – Up At 3am

This morning I’m thankful that I’m up at 3am for no reason at all.

I’ve actually started to enjoy getting up early.  It gives me time to write, to meditate, to read – to do all of those things that I never seem to make time for once the day gets into full swing.

On the other side of the coin, I’ve learned that, for my physical and mental health (mostly the mental), I need to get enough sleep.  It’s not something that I can skimp on.

There’s a difference between getting up because one wants to get stuff done, and being up because one can’t fall back to sleep after laying in bed for an hour (plus).

It’s all good, though.  I’m grateful that I can get this extra early start to the day.  I’m grateful that I’ll have plenty of time today for a nap.  I’m grateful that I’ve I’ve learned that shit doesn’t have to go as planned for life to turn out to be fantastic.

 

Day 23 – Anxiety

Today I am thankful for the anxiety I’m having.

I’m thankful for it because it’s telling me something – it’s telling me that I’m not accepting (and therefore not being grateful for) something that is going on in my world.

It’s mainly centered around the prescription problems (challenges!) that I wrote about yesterday.  Today is the day that I’ll be able to really work on that, and I’m not looking forward to it.  I try to remind myself that it’s just another experience, and it’s an experience that will make me stronger for the next, similar experience that comes along down the line.

I’m also grateful that I’ve learned that it isn’t as easy as “OK, so just stop being anxious.  You know what’s going on, so take care of it!”  Maybe that’s true for you normies out there.  But I have 47 years of experience telling me that I need to be very, very careful here.  I can let something this small, something that *will* work itself out in the end, take me out of the game in an instant.

But I’m not going to do that this time.  There’s anxiety, but I don’t have to let that dictate my actions.  The emotions don’t have to go anywhere for me to do what needs to be done.

I’m thankful that I know that now.

 

Day 22 – Health Insurance

This morning I’m thankful for how screwy my health insurance company and pharmacy have been since changing prescription plans.

First my wife has to go through a week of them not being able to fill her prescriptions because they can’t get it straight, and now I’m in the middle of “we see that you’re covered but the computer won’t allow us to take the plan” hell.

So what’s there to be grateful for here?  What’s there to love about this situation?

I do know that the doctors/hospitals side of the plan works, because I’ve already had a doctor bill them with no problem.  So if I do get hit by a bus, I’ll be a-ok.  That’s something to be grateful for.

I’m grateful that my wife’s side of the plan is working fine.  Her medical issues are much more serious than mine, and if she didn’t have a working prescription plan we’d really be up shit’s creek (shits creek?  Is the creek owned by shit?   Or is that the name of the creek?)

While the US has one of the most insane health care systems in the world, at least we have one.  That’s something to be grateful for.  Even being worst in the developed world means that you are a part of the developed world.

Probably most of all, this is another opportunity to further develop acceptance, let go of worry and anger, and really work on loving the situation as it is.  And it’s not a “do or die” situation (yet) when it comes to my health, and it probably won’t come to that.  It’ll work itself out, as long as I keep on accepting what I don’t have control over while taking action on those things that I can take action on.

 

Day 11 – Lethargy

Today I’m thankful for the lethargy that I allow to come over me sometimes.

I’m learning to be grateful for all of my feelings and emotions.  Instead of judging them and allowing them to control my thoughts and actions, I want to know the information that a particular feeling is trying to convey and how I can act on it.  When I’m feeling lethargic like I was last night and this morning, what’s going on?  Is it straight up physical?  Do I need more rest or sleep?  Is it psychological?  A defense mechanism that keeps me from doing something that part of me thinks will be too painful?  Something else?

Thinking that the feeling or emotion itself is “bad” is like taking a look at the gas gauge in your car, seeing it’s on empty, and getting pissed off at the gauge itself.  Some other useless options are: start blaming yourself for not getting gas, blame Big Gas Gauge for ripping off the little guy, convince yourself that you didn’t want to go anywhere anyway, decide that you are too spiritual a person to drive a car… you get the idea.

All the gauge is doing is indicating a problem – it’s up to you to fix it.

If the gas gauge is broken (our perception is skewed) then we’ll need to get *that* fixed.  Attitude adjustment time!

If we can’t fix the gas gauge ourselves, we may need to get help from someone who knows gas gauges and how to fix them.  Mental illness comes to mind here – brains can break just like gas gauges, and trying to fix a broken brain while not knowing what you are doing can be anywhere from a waste of time to even more damaging.

The worst thing you can do?  Stick a smiley face sticker over the gauge and say to yourself “I’ve got plenty of gas!” while doing nothing to solve the problem.

So let’s start paying attention to our gauges and taking some action on the information they give us.