Being Like A Squirrel

We often find that we keep ourselves busy just to avoid thinking.

It’s one of those wierd coping methods we all have and fill our lives with work, activity and Netflix to keep sane when we try to run away from our own thoughts. Is it cowardice that keeps us from looking where we don’t want to look? For me, I can’t sit on the bus without music or risk the creeping invasion of overthinking and hollow gut feelings of a strange dread. It makes those moments before sleep the most terrifying parts of the day. Those moments where there’s nothing else to think about other than exactly what we’ve been trying to avoid.

Then perhaps, is this why we find that some people have such a hard time on holiday? A panicked pause between stuff – a silence of the mind leaving nothing but the echoes of exactly what we don’t want to hear.

“You’re going to be alone.”

“You’ve failed.”

“They hate you, you know.”

“What was that earlier? Did you notice that?”

“Have you checked yourself for lumps?”

So what can we do to combat this? When the panic strikes it seems entirely hopeless to escape the thoughts and patterns until we find something to distract us from them. Here, I think of a song I heard recently that I forget the name of, the core concept was: be like a squirrel.

A squirrel gathers nuts and acorns for winter, one at a time. They don’t attempt to tackle the enormity of the task all in one go, this tiny animal takes things as they are, one piece at a time.

You’re going to be alone – we call a friend or look for a social outlet.

You’ve failed – you’ve not attempted.

They hate you – you haven’t asked.

And so on…

Of course, easier said than done but we approach these problems and each of our worries and troubles like a squirrel, acting with one acorn at a time. It’s the core of stoicism: progress everyday. As long as we can make progress in some way everyday, then we are achieving. Even if that means spending an entire day in bed, trapped by lathargy, we are making progress by taking that time for ourselves in some way. Even a relapse, we think of them as backsteps but in fact we are falling forward, with each new thing to trip over, a new lesson and thus: progress.

Recently, I lost someone. Not literally, but it was a rather definitive break up for the sake of prioritising healthy choices and recovery over relationships. Which is fine of course, a reasonable and logical choice. Yet for us both, I think, when we both felt such a pull towards each other, it makes for a difficult ending. But like the Jedi philosophy (psuedo-Taoism), says, nothing is ever really gone just transmuted. A feeling of loss, transmuted is a lesson in ressiliance and a smile of gratitude for the experience in waiting. So how do we transmute?

The answer is another question with a more satisfying answer: how does the squirrel meet it’s problems? One nut at a time.

There’s a joke in that, I’m obviously far too mature and serious to make (wink).


Strange Dreaming

My dreams have been strange for the past week or so, perhaps down to the heat. They’ve been the kind of dreams that could realistically happen and often involve a text conversation with someone or a phone call of sorts. In these conversations I say all I want and need to say, all the truths of my soul laid bare and depending on the day it either goes well or badly. When it goes well it fades quickly like a fleeting thought or unimportant musing. Yet when it goes badly, I wake with a deep sense of dread. Each time I’ve quickly checked my phone to see if what happened was real or not to find no such conversations or evidence that it ever happened. By the third day I should have really understood what was happening yet it affected my mood nonetheless.

Today in this muggy heat, I felt very pensive and reflective following a bad reaction to a fictitious conversation in a dream. In which, I made a few confessions, made a few demands, made a few mysteries see the light and they were replied with an apathic emoji. For the rest of this day, I have been stern with my contemporaries and cutting with what I consider to be fuckery. Rudeness instead of washing over me like pointless hot air has been swatted with a fly-swatter, smearing stains all over the white walls of my mind. Now, I’m sat here, with further example of how the impressions of the immaterial have left gross markings on me.

Yet perhaps there is another message here, to not be callous with my time and be open and honest with what needs to be said and done before such feelings and emotions become controlling and consuming like a plague. It’s incredible to me that despite my own knowledge of what I need to do for this, I hesitate and question and allow for false narratives and anxieties to cloud my judgement into silence. Alternatively, as seen today, it goes in the other direction turning the calm waters into an efficient yet brutal frenzy of barracudas.

Once again, more proof in my mind of the necessity of balance between the forces of yin and yang. In that equality we find peace and serenity of the self like a waking constant meditation. Realistically that’s what stoicism is: a reflexive meditative state of constant being. It enables us to walk in line with our true nature that is, one with The Whole which is to say The Tao.

Dreams like these have double meaning: to both understand what we need to do and not fear the what-ifs within what we need to do. Our brains are wired to keep us safe not keep us from achieving our true way in life which is no fault of its own, its a biological imperative. Yet our perceptions of safety will differ from actual safety. From the primitive examples of fitting in with a tribe to the final fear which is death and the point after death. Yet, for my dreams at least, the fears are social not physical.

Ironic, in a world where everything is to be understood not feared, where we do not even fear the gods anymore or the mysteries of the universe that what we do end up fearing is each other. Or worse: the meaningless noise created in the throats of each other or pixels on a screen.

I’m guilty of that myself, I’ve spoken about it at length yet to defend my own failings, I can say that I am a product of condition and biology. Yet to question that further, am I not more than preprograming? While destiny has a prepared route for us all – whether you believe in a tangible destiny or providence brought on by a web of cause and effect – are we not still free thinking beings? Or perhaps we are truly all living in a simulation as a Daily Mail headline claimed to be the thoughts of Prof. Brian Cox just last week. I didn’t investigate further but consider the possibility for a moment. If it truly is all a simulation from our heartbeats to our deepest love for another – why are we so scared of it all?


Quick Post Quote: 6

Today I watched as a spectator a live performance of a destructive insecurity. An acquaintance of mine decided to create an argument, invent feeling to validate their own place within the social group. A test of the waters, if you will. It felt entirely irritating and quite sad but I could recognize that deep insecurity as an aspect of myself. This acquaintance demanded an apology for a weird fictitious slight to be able ensure the structural integrity of the friendships they have, to see how far they could push before the roof would collapse in. Who else can say they’ve not done this? We all have, as children when we push the limits of our parents love with cries for more and more attention.

Yet it is in our nature to evolve, isn’t it? We should be seeking validation from within to confirm our own standing in this world, yet that’s easier said than done. Somewhere along the way, our brains evolved to keep us safe by running simulations of possibility to risk assess our lives. Sometimes, these simulations spill into our actions and before we know it we have our performance. A live production of shit to see if our audience is still there or if they left in the interval, distracted by a better show.

“So if you have a true perception of how things lie, abandon any concern for reputation, be satisfied if you can just live the rest of your life, whatever remains, in the way your nature wishes. You must consider, then, what those wishes are, and then let nothing else distract you. You know from experience that in all your wanderings you have nowhere found the good life – not in logic, not in wealth, not in glory, not in indulgence: nowhere. Where then is it to be found? In doing what man’s nature requires. And how is he to do this? By having principles to govern his impulses and actions. What are these principles? Those are good and evil – the belief that nothing is good for a human being which does not make him just, self-controlled, brave, and free: and nothing evil which does not make him the opposite of these.” – Meditations 8.1

Need clarity on a circumstance? Seek it out. Abandon the performance because the show shouldn’t go on so step from the stage. Get a closer look at your audience you will see an ocean of faces: your face.


The Anxious Mind

I have an anxious mind.

This may sound strange coming from someone who claims to be a stoic but it’s a reality I face, it’s something I manage. It’s a restlessness of what if’s and maybe’s in a simmering soup of existential dread, occasionally bubbling over if I allow it to. My life is a gif on a loop of me sat watching a stew bubble in on a camping stove while the winds rage around me. In this scene, my face is expressionless, my posture relaxed but my eyes are always on the pan. The lid is made of a material comprising of philosophy and medication and meditation.

Occasionally it will whistle and hiss phrases and buzzwords such as: “the reason they don’t reply is because they’re sick of you”, “don’t even bother, you’re ideas are stupid”, “they’re looking at you”, “you look fat today“.

In reflection do you know what all of those phrases and buzzwords are? Hot air making noise. Just hot air. Like a fart and like my father says, we should never trust a fart because the moment we do: it will be shit. Lovely imagery to remember, but that’s all it is.

The answers these common buzzwords and phrases are as follows: no it’s because they’re busy, people have lives; you’re ideas are not stupid, if you don’t bother that is stupid; they’re not looking at you and if they are, say hello; you’re not fat but let’s be honest you could do with getting into shape – you’re quite skinny.

“Erase the impressions on your mind by constantly saying to yourself: ‘It is in my power now to keep this soul of mine free from any vice or passion, or any other disturbance at all: but seeing all things for what they are, I can treat them on their merits.’ Remember this power which nature gives you.” – Meditations 8.29

Marcus Aurelius is right, it is in our power to keep the mind free from this disturbance. If we need a little medication, meditation or a qualified professional to help us keep it free of such disturbance, there is no shame in that. The anxious mind, by it’s very nature is volatile and doesn’t trust itself until we are able to take it from the heat of our own overactive thoughts.

The anxious mind needs a friend. The anxious mind, paradoxically, doesn’t treat friends well. The anxious mind treats friends with suspicion and disdain. It questions why they are there and questions why they are not there. Both questions are meaningless. Both questions do nothing other than foster worry and resentment against a strawman argument.

“Grapes unripe, ripened, raisined: all changes, not into non-existence, but into not-yet existence.” – Meditations 11.35

Maybe one day those words will ring true: the people may be looking at you because you have mustard on your shirt. Your idea may be stupid because living life like Sporticus from LazyTown in a blimp is not a good idea and you should not bother with that – refer to The Hindenburg Disaster. And the truth may become because of a cloying habit of you needing to check the validity of a relationship because of the anxious mind, they will become sick of it and say that they do not have time to nurture the kind of support you need. Yet, with support and the right tools, who cares if they do? What will you care? You’ll be in your blimp eating apples, and fighting Robbie Rotten, and saving small puppet children from a life of sloth and gluttony.

The anxious mind is a hostile one but only if you leave it unattended. One day, it will simmer down but maybe it won’t. It’s hot air all the same.