Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can starve from a lack of bread.

This week has been a lovely gift, when I put aside the mess that dumped on our stoop Thursday. I had a slow work week, giving me the time to pack our things and organize further.

I love organizing, as you all know. Outside of the whole, OCD thing, being organized gives me (and, I will forever argue, you as well) a sense of gratitude for what we have (our house is not overflowing with things), we can find everything, which impacts our timeliness, overall stress, and feelings of confidence. It provides me with a complete sense of preparedness, and I love the assurance I get from living simply (as an unofficial minimalist).

Physical orderliness gives me space to think and the combination of emotional and mental debris this week made my thought process uncomfortable. It felt like a giant, hurried gasp; open throat, rush of air, sinking heavy into my belly, coughing, slightly overwhelmed with the suddenness.

The feeling of this overwhelming process caused me to rush back to a self-perception I spoke about in my last post, that awesome, awkward moment of realizing I feel quiet, but realistically, I am… Not?

It came up again last night. I want to preface by saying that I had one of the best, most enjoyable, laugh-out-loud, safest-feeling evenings of my life. But I mentioned a few times, “I’m quiet” and my friend called me on it.

Aisha and I took the time to work through it at home, since the need to assert that I am quiet, continued growing inside of me away from the lights of the comedy stage. This is what we’ve broken it down to.

1.I am quiet. Unless I know you and feel safe around you. Then, you get to see me in all my dandy glory, because I don’t have a perma-filter and need to express myself enthusiastically at times. If you’re in my home, you will not see me as a quiet person. I get that now.
2.My sense of quiet comes from being nervous of fucking up. If you see all of me, and don’t like it, the moment will be ruined, and it will be my fault. *qualifier later
3.I worry I will overwhelm you if I take the ‘top off’ so I rarely divulge the entirety of my brain or personality. I also have a deep, intuitive recognition for people’s attention span when familiarizing themselves with someone new. (It’s short…)
4.People haven’t really been interested in what I’ve had to say, so I developed my natural ability to be a good listener, which is what I identify with positively, anyway.

Quick vulnerability check-in. I am saying this, feeling like I’m naked, strapped to a table, and you’re all looking at my bits.

Why the vulnerability? I hate false representation. I don’t think I can entirely convey the levels of distortion I’ve had to navigate, so I am not going to outline specifics, because they make me feel almost as dirty as bugs in the kitchen. I’ve figured out why, though. Thankfully. My emotions and brain processing have a negative or inverse correlation. The more emotion involved, the less I can think; the more my brain is involved, the less emotion present. Therefore, if I am hurt or confused by a misrepresentation, I can’t work through it. I’ve literally just figured this out.

This is a cool, brewing realization for me, so I want to share what I have started to do in these situations. I do some research. Admittedly, it’s the quick Boolean Google search that nets the quick results you’re looking for on a Sunday morning.

From my research, I am beginning to think my quiet, is a non-violent preparation tactic, like having an organized home. Like assessing your opponent, as they bop around you in the ring. Like looking over the exam calmly, before starting. Picture it, me in total safari mode- weird above-the-knee shorts, tall socks, and all my camp patches sewn onto my pack-

Like this guy…
Or… Probably this guy.

From what I’ve observed, most people may represent this mental preparation with a quick, deep breath, heavy exhale; a quick jump, or jiggle to shake themselves off, and say, “I’ve got this.” Or something to that effect. Mine? Usually looks more like that moment when the explorer stands straight amidst those spores, surveying the deep, dark, dank forest of concepts that are massing and trying to make them disappear into an apparition.

Terrible eh?

A few of my posts can give you and idea of how I process things (Battle Storms and if you really want to get into it… If its and ands). They also expose my continual preoccupation with how we develop our self-perceptions, since I am working through readjusting mine.

7 Ways was a great refresher on the common traps we fall into and why. Mine include the following:

  • Imposter syndrome: the amount of times I’ve come up as ‘NOT AS EXPECTED’ (to myself or others) makes me feel like I have something to worry about all the time.
    Funny aside here- working through gender stuff and sliding away from tougher images, realizing I am ending up a nothing-short-of-effeminate-masculine-nothing-like-it-oops-don’t-worry-still-soft-me is the perfect example of the, “Oops- Surprise!” I generally worry about. People are worried I may transition, and even if I do, I’d probably be more like what they’ve always been expecting than what I’ve produced. I hope I am conveying this properly because I am dying of laughter.
  • Minimize abilities: thankfully, my ego is growing, so I am doing this less often, but I would constantly underplay anything I am competent at.
  • Confirmation bias: this one is tricky. We intuitively search for ways that confirm what we think. Specifically, my biggest bias has been that I am loud, too much, awkward, and subconsciously, that I have never performed gender expectations properly. This adds up to a lot of self-talk couched in failure. As I said in Knowing What’s Right there is no blame here. I believe I sought out people who wanted me to be like this, despite knowing I’d fail. I know I hid most of how bad I was doing, from therapists even, so I got into a pattern of convincing myself I was okay as a loud, confident, overbearing person.
  • Denial: I’ve denied myself a lot over my life. Because I’m scared.

Reminding myself that these traps help explain my repeated fall into the palm of ‘my’ social quagmire, also remind me that self-perception is a dual creation. The perceptions of others, or meta-perceptions, continue to guide us our whole life as we run with whatever we are given to work with.

This article was the first place, where in black and white, it is acknowledged that emotions must be set aside or managed to have a clear gauge of perceptions versus reality. How are you at calming your emotions? Can you think and feel at the same level at the same time? My friend and I recently had a cool chat about neutral vs the known optimist and pessimist. I think most people should strive to be more neutral. My optimism disappoints me a lot, pessimism is heavy, so… Neutral seems like a win!

Part of the problem with my optimism, is it can cloud my ability to discern between thoughts and emotion, perceptions and the real me. Ready for it? Here is that *qualifier from before and a big thought.

I optimistically believe that if I have a 1-60% ‘starter’ pack for displaying myself to you, then if it doesn’t seem to be going well, I can quickly reign in any impending awkwardness. The reality is though, I approach you with 10-20%. Which means that… I realize if that 10% seems like too much, I will shut myself away.

My machete and I have a lot of work to do. Mainly learning that I need to walk away from you if my 10% is overwhelming, because I’ve barely begun to show you what I’ve got. On a good day, this song gets me places

I like this quote:

We are constantly thinking about what image to give others, about how they’re going to view us. What we don’t know is that many times people don’t see us how we think they do or how we would like them to.

This is a great reminder for everyone. I’ve stopped thinking about what image to give others but have not stopped being overly concerned with whether my image affects them. I like this though, because to me, it means even the people who are intentionally trying to falsely represent themselves, aren’t succeeding, somewhere. When you act with the intent to deceive you may win. You may. Which is what I was frustrated about in my last post; bad guys DO GET AHEAD. But not forever.

Let’s get back to this business of quiet. Because this is what I’m thinking. I think the reason I need to say I am quiet, is so that you’ll never assume I have more to offer. You won’t want to take, you won’t want to judge, you won’t surprise me with how much you were withholding until you’ve found out what I’ve got.

Sometimes, if we’re with manipulative or aggressive people that tend to make us submissive, we can end up giving off an image that doesn’t at all correspond with who we really are”

Have you watched this video? I re-found it on the Seeker and it had the same impact on me this time, as it did the first time. The manipulative or aggressive force doesn’t need to be someone. It can be ourselves. Our ingrained thoughts that go beyond consciousness. It isn’t even judgement, it’s more of an apathy, a contrived reality.

My perception: I need to be tougher, less vulnerable, or empathetic. I need to be an island.
My reality: I am soft, very soft. I am gentle. I hate confrontation, violence, arguing. I dislike injustice and bullies. I am someone who cries, freely and laughs loudly. I sing. I dance. I love to make others smile, to be the squish they want to sink into. I am soft. My lesson: I can be both.

Optimistically, I want to say I will one day beam with this softness. From finding a trans-masculine space, maturity, confidence, love, and acceptance. Having a partner as tough but gentle as Abomerino helps immensely. I feel entirely, completely safe with her – no matter how messy things seem to get.

Here is an ending story to leave you with a smile.

We went to Yuk Yuks last night and Aisha, sitting in the front and looking as lovely as ever, was immediately called upon for her name. She gave it, he asked what she did for work, and hilarious miscommunication over her employment (translation vs. transcription) ensued. The comic nailed it with a ‘Shit, I’ve pissed off China.” Then… Something unexpected (for me) happened. The next chick was called out- Crystal, was her name- and the entire room simultaneously equated her name with… A stripper. I laughed, caught up with the unworried joy of gentle, social, ribbing and BAM! Crystal calls out, “Well… HER name is Aisha” in that weird, mean girl, sing song thing.

Guys, I saw Crystal’s metaphorical fucking gloves hit the stage. I had no clue what was happening. My thoughts, in order: 1. Is that an insult? 2. Did she just literally divert attention from herself, which she had wanted, back to Aisha by trying to insult… Her name? 3. WHAT THE FUCK- SHE INSULTED AISHA.

Obviously, Aisha would have done whatever it took had things gotten real, but the comic quickly diffused the situation. Our friends, the room, and Aisha were howling so I was able to get back in on it. Tentatively.

At thirty-six years of age, I’d never experience that oh-shit-girl’s-about-to-get-real in person before. And my love was on the other side.

We had to work through it this morning lol. It was so uncomfortable for me, because I’m just a gentle giant. I am Ferdinand. And I’m starting to realize I no longer need to pretend I’m tough.

“Be like water, which is fluid & soft & yielding, as in time, water will overcome rock which is rigid & hard. Therefore, what is soft is strong.”

All that glitters, is not gold.

I had one of those days yesterday; actually, I had one of those weeks this week where most things seemed a lil’intense. By intense I mean, not only did Friday appear and we had one box of duder’s school snacks left (no big deal), we literally have no kid-appointed-food-in-the-house. Still, no big deal but whoa – not my style.

There was also a lot of high-hopes at the beginning of the week, rallying to get on top of all that stuff, and then… a bump big enough to take over Monday night and Tuesday and leave stain marks on Wednesday and Thursday. One of those things that even though you don’t want to give it attention, the number of places it affects leaves you constantly bumping into it when you think you’re in a safe zone thinking about, I don’t know, when you’re going to clean the shower next week. I will say that having just watched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, it is easier to put weeks like these into perspective.

I don’t want to talk about all that stuff though, I want to talk about a cool moment last night where I found myself to be… Bored. Yup, the vacant brain, task-list pretty complete, no book to read and no games of interest, boredom that rarely settles over me. I will say, I’ve rarely experienced boredom like other people seem to have. I enjoy my own company immensely, and can usually think of something that I need, or want, to get done. Last night though was a mix of, “I don’t want to do what’s left” and “There is no evening activity I feel like doing right now” which usually means I’m asleep by nine. Exciting, I know.

So, what’s the big deal with boredom? Well, I found it refreshing. It was nice to turn my brain on autopilot and just sit. Aisha and I have had a few interesting conversations lately about the phrase ‘adulting’, which, thankfully, not many people in our life use. It’s one I don’t have space for, namely because I am finally in a life stage where I feel successful. Where being anal, and on top of things, and paying your bills and having life insurance are cool, so, I am by proxy ‘cause, I’ve got it lined up! But at the same time, the undercurrent of what ‘adulting’ means to people who resist the obligations of being thirty-plus started churning. How by having embraced ‘adulting’ I am doing ok. For instance, I needed some personal time the other day, having had a raising-a-boy-as-a-strong-minded-adult moment, so I decided to clean the shower before I showered, while I was in the shower. I got to ‘play around’ before getting down to business. This was a big moment of blending a duty with a need because my showers are usually the most functional eight minutes you’d maybe ever witness (not, an invitation 😉). I have just recognized the things that need to be done and imagine that my moving through my day (actually just doing chores) I’m actually doing amazing trick shots on a skateboard, swooping down to grab that piece of laundry then springing up with an awesome kickflip to pay the electricity bill two days early. But, as you can imagine, this means that I do not have a lot of idle time.

On to my point. I was inspired to start thinking about boredom when a friend posted the New York Times opinion piece, “Let Kids Get Bored Again”. I can attest to having parents that were into us learning about idle time. I was alone a lot, which is not to say I was bored. I’m blessed with an epic imagination so with the toys I had, my time was well spent. I look at kids today, especially after a week of watching my two favorite kids interacting and getting to know each other and wonder if they even actually know boredom. I don’t think boredom exists in the same sense, but something else does. Like, boredom for me was day five of August, before we went to Nova Scotia, with no TV and no friends around. I’d be sitting under a tree in the backyard listless. No camp, no friends, but I wasn’t sad or lacking. I was just… day five of self-entertaining day play while my parents were busy. That was boredom lol. I like how Pamela Paul fosters an excitement for boredom, for being told to ‘go out and play’ or torturing your sibling in the backseat of a long drive. I was telling duderonomy on our drive to Stratford that when we would go to Florida our ‘entertainment gift’ was a box of clementine’s we could challenge ourselves to peel in one go. We would play eye-spy or I’m thinking of an animal, sleep, read or do word-searches. We’d sing and listen to music. I think my lil’guy would be fine with that, but he does like the reassurance of his electronics.

Do you get bored? Are you ok with the word bored, or is there a different one you prefer to use? I looked into it a little, because I feel that boredom – as a concept, needed to be flushed out for me. I found the article, “There Are Five Types of Boredom: Which Are You Feeling?” which was cool because I like when people separate within one concept. I think the five types fully capture what I would consider the good and bad of boredom, but at the base of it, the worry is it can be a non-productive, uncomfortable space.

As adults, we are not really talking about the light, idle, directionless feeling kids should feel. Ultimately, I think adult-boredom is static, but I like how this article makes me reconsider whether that is negative through their differentiation: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic. Most adults who ‘catch a moment’ would be in the category of ‘indifferent’ boredom. Calibrating, searching and reactant all seem to have potential to stir motivation or change, with reactant seeming almost volatile and obsessive. Apathetic boredom seems to be what many may confuse for depression, and the one that flags my brain.

The problem is, most people don’t really do the work in moments like these to consider what type of bored they are and whether they should follow along with the recommended course of action. I would also argue that you can be 90% fine but bored with the room you spend most of your time in, and that can cause a type of restlessness. So, when we talk about boredom, whether as adults or in reference to kids, what matters?

There are (sticking with condensed reference materials here) Six Scientific Benefits of Being Bored that occur when people use their boredom to motivate. When Wikipedia gets involved, you can see why I worry about the other unspoken side of boredom – motivation.

“Boredom can act as an emotion, a drive, state of mind and numerous other constructs which may be both state (environmental) and trait (internal) based in nature. Everyone experiences boredom differently…Boredom interferes with many of our behavioral, cognitive and physiological constructs, often to the detriment of the individual. In the context of motivation, boredom may have an even larger effect. Being motivated requires a number of processes not limited to attention, well-being, satisfaction and reward. Individuals who are more prone to boredom find it harder to focus and attend to stimuli in their environments…Although boredom is mostly seen as negative, recent evidence supports its necessity in our daily lives, particularly for goal setting.

Wikipedia

Motivation is a huge interest of mine. Namely because it is literally behind everything we do in our lives. Are you a go-getter, do you make altruistic choices? Are you interested in doing well in school, or at work? Do you plough through everything for that moment that you can experience the thing that truly brings you happiness? I don’t think motivation is something that can be taught, but it can be fostered. I think teaching someone to be motivated is insanely hard. How do you introduce a concept that relies entirely on the individual that is a constant ‘job’ to a kid? Or an adult for that matter – “if you stopped buying a ten-dollar game every pay-cheque, you’d have x-number of dollars saved” – because now is so much better, no matter how old you are. Motivation is like the balance of everything so boredom can be enjoyed. But the rewards are always far off.  

Motivation is best identified as the unbelievable stories of anyone who has directed a crazy life change and a) went back to school and did some crazy philanthropic project b) lost a ton of weight and is now the spokes person for ‘x’ or whatever story you know. Motivation, when harnessed is an incredible power. Unfortunately, I seem to be a motivated adult who has no where to put it. When I was solo, I committed to Muay Thai and reading, nutrition, and a super intense physical workout regime. So, it was funny after being in a state of “how the hell do families find anything to do in Niagara” for the past year that I found this piece (on reddit and I wanted you to read, so I hope this is legal):

So, for my brain with all these considerations I guess the natural place I arrive at is this: do kids need to go back to boredom, or do we need to up our motivation game?

As an adult, I have moved, relocated and changed my environment often, to downplay the actual amount. What keeps me motivated falls on a, small to fear-inducing, scale that I am trying to figure out how to impart to my lil’fam cautiously and calmly, but the fact that some motivators literally have imaginary monsters chasing me as a consequence, doesn’t make it easy to kid myself that it would help duder with HIS overactive imagination.

But how do I teach duder motivation, when YouTube and all kids-entertainment-systems teach how to engage, win, compete, move from activity to activity, and not be bored. Can an almost-eight-year-old hear beyond the “not right now” to figure that he is the coolest thing he’ll ever know? I think not, but I don’t know how to- nor do I want to- fabricate a motivational ‘ah ha’ moment. For anyone!

I suppose the question is, does being bored mean we make space for motivation? At what age does Nancy Colier’s assertion, “It’s not only ok to let your child be bored, it’s paramount that you do so” (Psychology Today) change? How do you accept boredom as an adult?

“…I also believe that introversion is my greatest strength. I have such a strong inner life that I’m never bored and only occasionally lonely. No matter what mayhem is happening around me, I know I can always turn inward.”  

― Susan Cain