Controlling Emotions

It’s always been easy to not take complete ownership of how I react to situations. And you know what makes it easy? That I can relegate it to astrology. I’m a Cancer; actually, more of a hybrid of a Cancer and a Leo. My birthday is July 22 and it’s the last day of the Cancer calendar so, technically a Cancerian, but have many attributes and characteristics of a Leo.

My family has always called me moody and I blame it on the Moon. I say I’m like the tide; ebbing. I don’t ignore the fact that sometimes I’m out of line or that I could have handled things differently. I’m actually working on it and giving credit to one of my mentors guiding me and pointing me towards Stoicism. It’s so amazing, you guys. I really recommend reading into it. I didn’t have a perception of Stoicism before, but philosophy has always interested me and this has been a wonderful experience.

So what have I been doing? I’m still a huge work in progress, but I’ve learned to do better reflection of the self. I’m learning to accept this as they are, to accept that I don’t have control over the actions of others. And going through this process I’ve been working on challenging myself to take control over the things I do have influence on. And this applies to all aspects of my life – personal, professional, and recreational.

In my reflections I have come to understand that my reactions have an impact. That I am creating a perception of myself to other individuals. And with these perceptions I can either be casted off or be welcomed. Stoic philosophers are of the idea that we are not to banish emotion from life but to banish the negative ones. They are also of the belief that our ultimate goal is to reach tranquility and constantly work for it while acknowledging and recognizing the forces that work against attaining that goal. For me, I have to work on controlling these reactionary emotions and practice negative visualization to better prepare for situations in the future. Has this been working for me? Sometimes. There are times I’m in the middle of my negative emotion and reacting – sometimes and most of the time – unjustly, but I let pride get in the way and keep trudging forward fully knowing I’m headed in the wrong direction. Other times I react and stop myself. I take a deep breath and let it all play out, staying silent and truly think of my words, my body language, and my thoughts. At this point, I go back and reflect. I literally sit down and do a play by play to pin point where I lost it, where I stopped myself, and how I could make a similar experience different in the future.

In all, practicing Stoicism has been rewarding.

– M

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Fork in the Road

fork-in-the-road2I’m standing at the tip of the road trying to figure out which path to take. Both roads have a certain predictability to them but I would say an equal amount of uncertainty as well. I keep saying I will do a pros and cons list but I haven’t because I’m afraid. I’m not even sure what I’m afraid of, but it’s been the reason I have delayed this exercise. Because the probability of me actually doing this is very unlikely I will just write it out here in a very informal manner.

Situation: I submitted my application to go back home without being certain I was ready to actually move back to LA. I have a second interview this evening and the likelihood of me getting the job offer is HIGH!

Self: Why would you do that if you were not 100% sure that you were ready to make the decision to move back?

Me: Well, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to move back when the chance presented itself. I thought that the process would be longer and I didn’t think I would be so hesitant. Maybe I should tank this second interview and then … end to worry! But what about when I’m actually ready (the way life works no opportunity will be available). *shakes fists to the heavens*

Who/what has weight/impact on my decision? My boyfriend and our long distance relationship. My mom. The fact that I care about what I’m doing where I actually am. That I still feel I haven’t done everything – or close to half the things – I thought I’d do while away from my home city and family. That being where I am feels right. But I miss being around my family; I feel I’m missing out on them.

What if I go:

What if I stay:

What does this mean?

Fears:

To be continued …

The Dichotomy of Control

I’m in a better emotional state than I was from my last post: An Analysis of My Recent Situation  written a couple of months ago. I feel very proud of myself for allowing the insight of two special individuals concerning my confirmed metamorphosis. Noticing my struggle one of my life mentors (that sounds about right. That’s what I’ll call my two go-to people), referred me to William B. Irvine’s A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy which is based on a branch of Hellenistic Philosophy particularly Stoicism as taught by Epictetus. Whew! That was a mouthful.

In recent years I have been unconsciously, and most recently consciously working on myself in regards to increasing my quality of life. I’ve been removing myself of material pleasures and separating from the feelings of insatiability due to constant desires of things that I’m either not ready for or that are not in my control. I probably wouldn’t have worded that in that specific way before reading this book, but I’m happy that I am able to point to something tangible in a sense.

Before I dive into my reflection on the Dichotomy of Control chapter and the techniques to becoming invincible I will, in my best terms, describe Epictetus. Epictetus is a Roman Stoic Philosopher from like over a thousand years ago. His philosophy was this: analyze the why of life. He was an early Cynic or had Cynic principles/lifestyle before being described as a Stoic. He had two requirements for his students: 1 – wanting to benefit from philosophy (meaning he didn’t want no half-assed efforts from them because this was a lifestyle to be taken seriously) and 2 – understanding what a commitment to philosophy entails (meaning the student had to be aware that philosophy was not a joke, that he/she needed to take this seriously in order to make life worth living and to find purpose). His ideal pupil is someone who will be satisfied if he can live untrammeled and untroubled. I had to look up untrammeled; it means not deprived by freedom of action or expression; seeks to be tranquil and free from turmoil. His belief was that students of his should be leaving his school feeling bad about themselves because treatment likely to cure a patient is also likely to cause discomfort. Here it is again: treatment likely to cure a patient is also likely to cause discomfort. He taught dialectical lessons (e.g. examining yourself) and the art of living, what your cosmic scheme role is, and to live out the functions of being a human.

Here is what the dichotomy of control is: it is to ask ourselves if we concern ourselves with things external to us or things internal? A Stoic reflects and looks for the benefit and harm that comes from within himself. A Stoic gives up the rewards the external world has to offer in order to gain tranquility, freedom, and calm. Part of working to become a Stoic is to change our desires – to not be frustrated by what we cannot attain in order to decrease anxiety about whether or not we will get what we want. Some things are up to us and some are not up to us. For Epictetus it’s foolish to spend time thinking on things that are not up to us because they’re not up to us and worrying about them is futile.

So, what IS up to us? According to Epictetus opinions, impulses, desires, aversions, and our goals are up to us. What is NOT up to us? Possessions and reputation. Internal versus external controls. Internal goals affect our external performance. Our goals have an impact on our emotional state. Internalizing goals leads to preserving our tranquility. We have control of our values and having such control we choose the genuine value of things and be indifferent to things that lack value.

How does this all apply to me and what I’m going through? Oh, it applies perfectly- in my personal life as much as it does in my work life. All of this goes back to what is in my circle of influence. What are the things over which I have complete or some control? I have control over how well and efficient I do my job by doing the proper research, applying the knowledge I’ve gained so far, and to always have and ask questions. I have control over my career goals and the focus I place on achieving those goals. I don’t have control over the perceptions people around me have, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I worked hard and did my best.  I have complete control of my character and how I carry myself. Knowing that much leads me to tranquility and a life free of anxiety, anger, and sadness. So, what about my personal life? I don’t have control over whether people will love me the way I want them to, specifically my s/o. I do have control over treating him well, and loving him the best way that I can. I also have the control over ending something I no longer want. I don’t have control over his feelings or actions, but knowing that I did my best for him and by him that should lead me to tranquility. I have control in maintaining relationships by paying attention to them and continuing to appreciate them by using the Negative Visualization technique of a Stoic. I have some control of my financial situation. I can save and manage my spending, but I don’t have complete control because there is the unexpected rainy day. I have control over the things I place value in and that has shifted from the material to intangible experiences. I want to be at peace and not have to stress over what I don’t have. Remember this post? I Have A New Favorite Quote  One of my quotes is: Happiness is Wanting What You Have Not Having What You Want. Wow! I’ve been a Stoic without even knowing it.

The thing that for a while I wanted to make people listen to me. To listen to my ideas and make them change. Pretty much I was forcing my ways onto people and then I was angry and frustrated because no one was buying into it. Then I re-focused on just “doing me”. Putting my ideas into action for me. The results started to speak for themselves. I had questions on how am I able to manage my time so well? How is it that I know the exact status of every action? How is it that I can reply with the right references and resources in a timely manner? How is it that I’m able to live so far away from my familiar friends and family and explore new things and places without needing to be with those familiar to me? How have I not lost myself by living on my own so far away? All of these things come naturally when the focus is re-centered to things that you can control. It’s not easy, it’s something that takes time, but I’m glad that unconsciously the new me was going through that process. Maybe it was the books I was reading. Maybe it was my Main Mommy, Christina P. Maybe it’s the universe aligning itself for me. Maybe it was my awareness of self. I just wonder and hope that those struggling to find tranquility find it soon. I’m still working on it and still reading The Guide to the Good Life and looking forward to the other techniques.

Below are some episodes from one of my favorite Podcasts: That’s Deep Bro with Christina Pazsitzky. Listening to her has been an awesome experience so far and she never fails to make me laugh on each of her episodes. The below relate to the above and the philosophy of what it all means to be Me (i.e. You).

  • Episode 43 What do you really, really, really want?
  • Episode 36 Find Yourself Then Get Over Yourself
  • Episode 29 Expect the Unexpected and Whenever Possible Be The Unexpected
  • Episode 27 The Illusion of Control
  • Episode 20 Compassion, Anger, and Control with Dhaya Lakshminarayanan

 

 

When You Create Your Own Problems

Maybe I should title this post “When I’m Told I Create My Own Problems”. In a twisted way this is a solid thing to hear during an episode of mild hysteria. But, on the other hand, it’s also the shittiest thing to be told. This goes back to the whole thing of talking to someone just for the simple fact of knowing (sometimes wrongfully expecting) that the other person is there for you. Most of the time during these venting sessions I’m not looking for a solution, or for a diagnosis. I’m just looking for a bit of validation, a little sympathy, or maybe just the opportunity to say the crazy shit that runs through my head out loud.

I didn’t get that today so I’m writing it out as I enjoy a cigarette. Yeah, a fucken cigarette. I’m not proud but it’s been relaxing me this last month and a half. I said today that I am not in a good place and it’s the truest statement I’ve made about myself in a while. These last couple of months I have not been eating well- no food in my fridge, not eating at all, eating fast food, smoking, and not working out. That is the perfect combination for someone to not be in a good place mentally. I put on a pretty good act for people not to notice. The last time I went through something similar was about six years ago. That was straight up depression.

Going through depression sucks fucken balls. I knew I was in it and as much as I told myself that I could get up and do things I couldn’t. It’s a mental fatigue I would not wish on my worst enemies. I fear that’s what’s happening to me again. I wish I knew what was bringing this on so that I can do something about it. Is it my relationship and my SO? Is it that I feel horrible for being OK with not being physically active and eating healthily? Is it that I am ashamed of how much I am OK with not talking to my family? Could it possibly be the stresses of my job but dealing with them all because I really love it? Is it my financial situation? Everyone and everything annoys me and has been for some time. All of the above?

Well, like I said, I put on a pretty good act.

Five Years From Now

Have you ever asked yourself that question? I have and it’s a question my boyfriend and I have gotten into an argument over. The first time it was just an awkward silence after he raised his voice due to getting frustrated at the question. The second time he walked out on the conversation and I ended up getting an anxiety attack. The latter was shortly before I made my move out of state due to my decision to make a career move.

Five years ago I would not have guessed or predicted for myself that I would be living out of my home state, but I am. I would not have thought I wold be in the position to have to make such a decision either. Things happen, people change and adapt, and others, like me – even though afraid of change – are always looking for something different.

It’s almost a year now and I can’t believe I have survived. I say survived because before I made the move I experienced anxiety and was put on mild medication to relieve the symptoms. I was afraid of the changes and I was even more panicked over trusting myself to make it work. Depending on my mood I say that it has been a very fast year or very snail paced one. Regardless, I’ve made it. I can’t say that it has been easy or financially steady, but I am proud of myself.

I consider myself to be independent and self-reliant. I see my boyfriend as such as well. However, we have varying definitions (so it seems) of living comfortably or of success. I want to say he’s a minimalist but I don’t know if he’d agree with that. We’re not complete opposites, but I do feel that he challenges me in my way of thinking and my way of seeing things. His opinions either reinforce my own or they allow me to expand and question. Can I say the same of him? I’m not sure; he seems to be pretty set.

Admitting to how much of a consumer I am shames me. It shouldn’t but it does. I have debt. I’ve cleared it and then allowed it to creep up on me over and over. I wish I was more logical in my spending and it’s something I’m working on. I use the “it’s American of me to be in such a position” excuse. or reasoning, to cut myself some slack – but that’s lazy. I need to practice saying no or perhaps say “maybe”.

Saying “maybe” is what my bf does best. He doesn’t like to commit because “something else might come up”. Oh that bugs me. I, on the other hand, say “yes” too freely and often don’t come through. Most of the time it’s my laziness and when it comes to the both of us it is me failing to convince him to join me. I should adopt the “maybe” strategy.

I love this guy. I see myself with him and I want the rest of my life with him. So, what does the above have to do with five years from now? I’ll tell you…

Five years from now I want to be back in California close to my family living with him and talking about expanding our family. If it’s not in California I want to be where I am and have him move in with me. And if it’s not either then I want to be on my own living my life – accepting that despite all the love I have for him, not being on the same page in terms of goals is something that I can’t change and will not compromise. I don’t want to resent anyone I love for not doing what I want them to knowing that they don’t want to and them not being 100% with it. I also don’t want to blame him for something I could have done without him.

That scares me. Am I self-centered? It is me just knowing what my priorities are and working for them? Is he being too careless with me and my plans? He can change his mind and I can change mine. Nothing is definite in this life except death. I just don’t like the “what if’s” in life when I feel I can control the positive what ifs. For example, I was unhappy in my last job, I was living at home again sharing a room with my 18 year old sister at the time. I was paying a monthly fee to have all my things in a storage unit and I hated it. It wasn’t fun.

Living at home and having less expenses. although a good thing, was driving me up the wall insane. I know that if I wouldn’t have taken this position I would most likely still be in the same place wondering what could have been if I’d taken the job. I controlled that what if and in turn made myself happier. Yes, there were sacrifices, like having to be in a long distance relationship, but it’s not half bad when we both have mutual respect and maintain communicative. For the most part it’s doable. Sometimes it sucks, but … as the worst saying in the world goes: it is what it is.

One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novak – Book Review

One More Thing Cover.jpg

I had this book on my radar for quite some time. Enough time that I thought I had it on pre-sale. I didn’t. On my last Barnes and Noble haul I purchased it and I couldn’t have done anything more rightly at that moment.

I wish I had the book with me so that I would be able to be more precise but since I finished it at the BF’s house that’s where it stayed. I did just finish it a few hours ago, so I’m hoping my memory of it is still on point.

To start off I thoroughly enjoyed the first chapter, or story (the book IS titled One More Thing Stories and More Stories). The story’s perspective was what reallyl got me. After reading it I experienced that, “Hu. Wow! I can’t believe I never saw it that way. It’s so simple and I never saw it differently.” Maybe I had already been given this vantage point but since I feel so enlightened about it I perhaps have not.

We’ve all heard the saying “Slow and steady wins the race” and I believe we all know where it hails from, right? B.J. Novak has changed that lifelong notion that the tortoise is the one to learn from the most. Most people I know that refer to this tale of life lesson have charged the hare with conceit and self-destruction, and have given so much credit to the tortoise. So much so that in this story the tortoise has now made a living on conferences and appearances speaking on how slow and steady gets the job done. The hare, poor hare, has lived long enough in this perceived failure and attempted to restart his life but to no avail. I’m turning this long story turned short story into a long story. I’ll speed it up. The hare requests a rematch. The tortoise declines. The hare trains and begins to convince others that a rematch would be the best thing to do. After much pressure from those around him, the tortoise agrees. The hare wins setting new records and is celebrated. The closing to that story went something like this: slow and steady wins the race. Until hard work and talent take its place.

I mean, you always hear of the person who sat around and waited and finally got the victory. You root for him because well, something WAS accomplished; technically. And you always hear of the undisciplined athlete who should have been at the top and he becomes a clichĂ© because he didn’t. But he becomes the clichĂ© because he didn’t attempt to persevere. That’s what the hare did, that’s what the story wants to convey- that there is a second chance out there after your fuck-up- if you want it badly enough. (At least that’s what I took from it.)

This book is filled with observational commentary of today’s society. There’s a story on how the calendar was invented, which is quite funny because the person who created it is going about his day and journal writing as anyone in today’s world would. The Elvis story is another favorite. Novak has challenged what I think of writers of my generation to be (I think I’m in the same generation, but he’s published so
). For the Elvis one he spins the narrative in such a way that Elvis himself had something to do with all of the Elvis’ in Las Vegas; that he, Elvis, is living and reliving the best Elvis he’s ever been and has always wanted to be.

There’s a story, a script actually, on the Roast of Nelson Mandela. Seriously? I love how there are no boundaries for Novak.

One story connects with another in an unexpected way, which gave me joy because since they were narrated in different styles I wouldn’t think there would be a connection to any previous one.

There are a few one page, simple, deep and insightful stories and there are funny, longer, light hearted ones.

This one story is about a man who purchased a sex robot and returned it because the robot fell in love with him. This guy became the butt of every late night comedians joke and a headline on news sites. The criticism in this one is how society has decided to focus on the fact that he returned a sex robot rather than the fact that a robot could fall in love. Continuing to push the boundary, he questions the motives behind the constant attack of the choices private individuals make by asking what if he had requested for the robot to fall in love with him but didn’t. Would the weight of judgement be the same?

My favorite are the ones about love.

I wouldn’t doubt that this book will end up being a classroom reading assignment. I hope it doesn’t (there’s a story about that, actually). There is so much to pick and reflect on that it can speak to generations now and in the future. I want to buy a bunch of copies and pass them out to young readers because I feel there is much to learn from this book. A lot of critical analysis has gone into every story. If I were to ever think of writing something such as Novak has, I would pass out. His work and writing skills seem to be effortless, but nonetheless impacting.

Stepping Up

Good morning!

Today I’ve decided to exercise my brain. Yea, it’s been a while since I sat in front of the keyboard feeling entitled enough to put my thoughts into writing and share them with you. Perhaps this post is the beginning of creating some sort of accountability, which I have attempted in the past, to something I want to start doing.

Mona, what do you want to start doing? N

I want to start writing. Yup. Just to write. I don’t believe I have ever said the following to anyone, but I’ve always envisioned writing a book. The possibility of that happening? Highly unlikely. Well, that’s a start.

A book about what?

I don’t know. A book about me? You know, ’cause I’m a millennial and I believe I should because I can. No, really I don’t know what I would write it about. One of the first books I read as a pre-teen/teen was a first person fictional account of a girl in middle school. The details? I don’t have them. But, I remember beginning to narrate my life. Sometimes I would walk and think of the introduction to the book, to different chapters, to particular situations. I can’t be the only one.

So what now, Mona?

I’ll just start writing here. Writing about me and my thoughts and shit that happens to me, around me… I have no structure and I don’t have any real knowledge of what it takes to write a book, but what I do know is that the best books are those that are written from the heart. I will hold no barred – I’ll put in writing what comes, how it comes and that’ll be that.

  1. Happy writing.

Yup. I wrote the above. Now I just have to come up with a system to make notes throughout my day so that I won’t forget my thoughts. I do always have my phone with me- maybe I’ll record ideas, or write down words that’ll refresh my memory. I should have a consistent time of day to write – I should have a place to write. So much!