May 2017

3 Things To Do When You're Afraid To Ask For Help

Humans are interdependent creatures. Our behavior affects the environment we all share. Even in prison, solitary confinement is the most severe form of punishment.

Too much isolation leads to bad decision-making and bad citizenship. If you cut off your connection with others, it hurts everyone.

You need to emerge from your shell. The good news is that you can do it at your own comfortable pace. If you’re playing piano, you have to learn scales before you play jazz. If you want to create a bond with another person, you can start with a 30-second chat in an elevator.

If you’re afraid to share your emotional pain and ask for help, try a few of these tricks.

Read the rest here.

Anecdote for a Space Invader

Let me tell you about the last time I was in a situation not unlike this one. This is why I’m now carrying my wallet in my front pocket.

I was exploring one of our people’s great cities, a place called Atlanta. A few years earlier, Atlanta had hosted our Olympic Games, celebrating the best in athletic competition between our nations. By this time, this part of Atlanta, near Olympic Park, had gone dangerously to seed. That might give you an idea of how quickly we let some things pass.

I found a free parking space in front of a church. Happy to get something for nothing, I pulled in, got out, and took a jolly walk in the noonday light of our sun.

A man standing nearby saw me getting out and approached. I couldn’t tell his age – whatever it was, he looked rough for it. He asked me for a cigarette.

No. I quit smoking. That’s a nasty habit some of us have, but I kicked it, and I was proud of that.

The man then asked me for money.

I had about two bucks in my wallet, but I didn’t tell him about this. I told him I didn’t have any money.

He pulled out a small gun. He asked, “Now do you have any money?”

Here you go, sir. It’s not much, but it’s all I have. Pleasure doing business with you.

The problem was that this guy had seen me get out of my car. He knew I had an ATM card, which is something we carry that allows us to get more money out of a bank, where we store it for safe keeping. He suggested we go for a ride.

You know how you have complete control of this situation, and you can do whatever you want with me according to your whimsy? I’m not trying to be hostile – that’s just how things are between us right now. This is how things were between this guy from Atlanta and me. So I followed his directions.

I quickly realized that this guy didn’t know exactly where he wanted to go. He led me all around the more seedy areas of Atlanta, at one point making a full square with four turns around the same four blocks, with no result.

It was a painfully awkward situation for me, and I guess he felt it, too. He tried to make small talk. He asked me questions. Where was I from? What did I do? Did I have any family?

There wasn’t much trust between us, I’m afraid, and his anxiety was right on the surface. “You’re lying to me, man,” he said, over and over, in response to all my answers. He seemed convinced that I was either an undercover cop, trolling for sex, or both. He mentioned both of these assumptions in ways that made me even more uneasy.

We pulled into a drive-thru ATM. I told him I had $40 in my bank account, which was about half true – it was closer to $80. I withdrew that and gave it to him. He yelled at the bank teller that he thought she was beautiful.

I thought it was over, but the man had somewhere else he wanted to be then. So our adventure continued.

At this point, my mind was floating far away. I was thinking about ice cream, about warm summer days far away in North Carolina, swimming in a manmade lake near the place where I had lived until I was old enough to fend for myself.

He started asking the same series of getting-to-know-you questions he had asked before. As a token gesture of openness, I removed my sunglasses, as I’m doing now, for you.

“See,” he said, “now the truth is coming out, man.”

We explored Atlanta for another hour or so. I didn’t know what destination he had in mind and he didn’t seem to know where it was. But with his gun, he retained control of the situation.

After a time, it became clear that he was getting almost as frustrated as I was, and, as I mentioned, his emotions were a lot closer to the surface.

You ain’t done nothing for me, man,” he said at one point. I don’t recall the precise context, but when he said that, it pissed me off.

I think I’ve done a lot for you,” I said. “I think I’ve been helpful. I think I’ve been as kind as I can be, considering. Give me some fucking credit, man.” Feeling a lot more calm now, I waited for the bang and for everything to go blank.

You know,” he said, after a moment, “you’re right, man.”

After a bit more chit-chat — he advised me to carry my wallet in my front pocket, not my back, from now on, so it would be less easy to steal — we arrived at the place he wanted to be. He got out and gave me his parting words: “God bless you, man.”

I’m amazed that he let me keep the car.
How To Kill Yourself

My roommate’s white bath towel was soaked in red blood. I’d just tried to kill myself.

I was a freshman in college. I was alone in the suite I shared with three other guys. And I was tired.

Luckily, I was too tired to do the job as I had intended. I had just enough energy to stop the bleeding and clean up most of the mess before the rest of the group returned.

I never told my roommate what had happened. He noticed his towel was missing, and I pretended not to know what had happened to it. It irritated him for awhile and then he forgot about it and got on with his life.

Letting Go

I clung to a set of beliefs about myself, the world, and my place in it that had become painful to maintain. I was stuck in a grey iron rat maze, dragging ideas that prevented me from floating away into freedom.

I didn’t want to drag those beliefs anymore. I didn’t want to live the life that they prescribed. And I didn’t know how to sort them out, work through them, and get beyond them. I tried to kill myself because it seemed like the easiest way to be free.

It was a terrible failure of imagination. I was so tired that I had lost the energy to daydream. I didn’t have the strength to release my grip and drop the bag of heavy and obsolete ideas. I didn’t know how to let go. I would have preferred to snuff out my entire existence than to rethink my beliefs. Fortunately, I ended up with a little more time.

I sometimes imagine what things would be like had I succeeded in my attempt. Most of my friends at the time would have been irritated for awhile and then forgotten and gotten on with their lives. My wife, and all of the people in my life now, never would have met me. My family would have been devastated and likely would have never recovered. I would have taken the pain from the person I was then and inflicted it on them, and they would have been stuck with that person forever.

Now, I let go of those daydreams. I return to this moment and show up for it. Because that’s all that matters, and that’s all I can reasonably expect of myself.

The person I was then had enough room and time to fade away on his own. That pain has now dissolved into history. No one has to deal with it now.

The Acceptance Gap

It is easy to get stuck in the valley between realizing something is true and accepting it as true in this moment. I spend a lot of my time in the acceptance gap.

If I realize something is true about myself and I don’t like it, I can put myself at liberty to set about changing it. This may take some time and some doing, but it won’t take forever and it can be done.

But I’m not free to change anything until I accept it. If I realize some negative thing is true and then I deny it and run away from it, that thing will follow me and manifest itself wherever I go.

If I start a meditation practice and realize it’s difficult, but I cling to the belief that it ought to be easy, I may hurry along to yoga, or drugs, or an all-blueberry diet, or some new form of practice or exploration. But, at some point, my familiar difficulties will arise again. I will find myself with another opportunity to accept them, to know, to feel, and to accept that this practice is difficult. Then, I will have the power to move into the difficulty, to sit with it, to understand it for what it is, to transcend and include it, and to move on to the next thing, giving the pain of that moment time and space to dissolve.

How to Kill Yourself

If you are actively considering suicide right now, get help. Help is available for you.

If you are contemplating the impulse to kill yourself, appreciate that it comes from the seed of a positive intention. It is possible that you don’t want to kill yourself physically, or to end the existence of your form. You may sense that you aren’t finished yet and there’s more to be done. It is possible that you are ready to release old ideas and an old idea of self that no longer serves you.

This is a difficult thing. It’s remarkable that you have the courage to acknowledge it, in a spirit of honesty, in its full complexity and horror. There’s honor and nobility in this strength. You deserve the safety to take on this challenge with your full faculties and fortitude.

Seek safety.

When you are safe, you won’t need to run away from this idea, this impulse. Move steadily and deliberately toward it. Move into it. Sit with it. See it as it is. Know it as your call to accept what is, and, from there, to seek the highest forms of freedom and peace with the universe.

In that acceptance, find the strength to let go, to release the bag. You’ll find that you don’t need wings or a parachute. You need only space, time, and maybe a glass of water. Sometimes a glass of water helps, especially when you’re in a position to appreciate it.

How To Be Less Terrible

No one is perfect. And no one is irredeemable. Not even you.

Granted, you’re pretty far gone. You’re close to the line. But even you can improve. Maybe. Slightly.

Slow and incremental improvement is the most we can ask for, and we’re talking about small-ass increments. This may be beyond your capabilities, but you may as well give it a swing. At least it will keep you busy and distract you from doing any more damage.

Before you change for the better, you must accept that this is where you are. This is who you are. And it’s not good.

Buckle up, friend, because you are about to confront yourself, in all your miserable glory.

It’s about to get real. However, it won’t be real fun. Because it won’t be fun.

Here are four steps to help you get started on your journey toward being a slightly less terrible person.

Take a Fearless Personal Inventory and Realize That You Are Terrible

Up to this point, introspection has not been your friend. You have no idea how terribly you come off in the eyes of others. You drink, you hide, and you put on an act, all in a silly quest to insulate yourself in layers of nonsense. Your absence of self-awareness has been keeping you from breaking down in tears as you soil your pants on the subway.

Now it is time to take a good, hard look at yourself. It is time to realize that all the things you like about yourself are cruel and hilarious lies, and all the things you were suspicious might be problems for you are much more odious than you could have anticipated, worse than you had the capacity to realize.

This is going to make you sick. Physically ill. So take a few days off work, forget about those long-suffering souls you consider your friends — they will appreciate not having to think about you for a few days — and put a nice, large bucket next to your bed.

When you’ve done all this, breathe. Breathe slowly, into your belly. Let go of your ego. Observe your thoughts as if they are bubbles rising through the water. And take a good, hard look at yourself, deep inside. Ask yourself,“What went wrong?”

Stay Quiet

Leave the rest of us out of this.

This inquiry may go on for quite some time. Years, even. It may take you a long time to tally up all the things about you that suck, and it will likely take you even longer to be honest with yourself and accept how awful your behavior, character, and ketosis stench have been.

As you work through this process, shut up. Seriously. Shut up. Don’t open your mouth again, for any reason, until further notice.

In the beginning of this inquiry, as you begin to get real about your many flaws, you may be impressed with yourself. Realize that this will not impress others, as this is basic stuff they all got hashed out many, many years ago, probably in high school. No one wants to hear about your pedestrian journey of personal growth — it took you an unconscionably long time to start getting your life sorted, but that’s depressing, not interesting.

Above all else, please, please spare us your worthless and ridiculous advice. If you think you’ve gained any wisdom, you have truly learned nothing.

Keep Moving

There’s no point in apologizing for all the many heinous things you’ve done. It’s too late to undo the damage, and no one will accept your apology. Just hearing from you again will further wound and enrage.

Your regret is your own problem, not anyone else’s. To expect forgiveness, or even to want it, reminds us that you are still a selfish creep, deep down.

The best you can do for yourself and for others is to walk away from the smoldering wreckage, never reach out again to the people you have wronged, alienated, and skeeved out, and try not to repeat your mistakes. You probably will. But try not to.

Begin Again

We are all newbies now. As soon as we get the hang of something, the rules change. Currents shift. Software updates. Everyone else grows up while you retain the emotional maturity of a nine-year-old in stained sweatpants.

Adopt a beginner’s mind. Surrender your ego. Surrender your silly dreams of personal progress. The most you can ask for is an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a new social circle you haven’t yet burned with your selfish, thoughtless, imbecilic clownery.

Give it all up. Let all your dreams die screaming. For your new self to be born, your old self must die. And that’s what your old self deserves.

As your sad and ridiculous self-image is crushed under reality’s cruel heel, the world blooms with the vengeful joy of schadenfreude.

It’s going to hurt. It’s supposed to. Suck it up. Start over from absolute zero.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

Someone else will gladly do it for you.