living in anxious moments

living in anxious moments

I’m finally able to commit myself to being in a room full of people I don’t know. An insufferable element still remains about it, but I’m able to push through the tension of eyes peering down upon me. My mind forms the questions of others: Who is this? Do they know someone here? This is clearly a public event typically only attended by friends and family of the performers.

Sometimes I say the right thing, sometimes I don’t say anything at all. I find it better at times to blend in with nothing, allowing the harmony to remain among those who have gathered together with some common knowledge of each other. I can make an occasional acquaintance here and there, but I don’t allow the pressure to motivate me in any particular direction. 

We live in an age where we can capture a still frame of casualness by getting lost in our phones. I’m not against this tactic, but I try to control it to a healthy extent. I want to live in anxious moments like these because you can only grow by allowing yourself the willpower to stand tall in disfavorable moments. 

by ty miller

middle ground

middle ground

Of the many people I’ve met in my life, two types of people tend to hug the fringes of life’s spectrum.

  1. The person who sees life as responsibility. You get up everyday, go to work, save up for retirement, start a family, provide for them, come home, and then find happiness in small pockets. You die thinking “I did my best to take care of business while maintaining integrity and abiding by my ethical or moral code”. 
  2. The existential who seeks happiness with a sense of carelessness. Someone who completely buys into the core principles of postmodernist thinking. Life will only cause you pain, knock you down, then curb stomp you for the hell of it. So why bother getting up? Live pleasurably and bask in the cynicism and irony that is our existence.

This isn’t necessarily a critique of how these types of people see life. It does seem though that the middle ground they want to stay clear of is tied to a sense of safety in certain identity. 

Number 1 is your classic idea of a conformist. Society has been built a certain way, and we are obliged to fit into the puzzle to keep the machine functioning smoothly. We are a product of a past success. Keep the status quo. 

Number 2 thinks they are the rebels, because in the traditional sense they are. Where society began to form an identity and began to conform to it, this group decided to reject the idea that the past defined them. Furthermore, they saw the pointlessness of putting in everything to conform when more than likely losers would come out the other end. 

This isn’t a sociological history lesson. This is a lesson about fear of accepting anything other than what their trauma has put in place for them. Their flexibility has been hardened. Do you happen to find yourself starting to lean into one of these groups? I definitely have at times. 

I dare you to challenge the belief in the following statements in the minds of these groups:

Number 1 : Life is work.

Number 2 : Life is pain. 

Here’s a simple practice of language that could help someone be brave enough to wander into the middle ground and out of the shadows of the polar fringes:

Life is work, but…

Life is pain, but…

When you allow an exception to the rule, especially when it comes to life, all it takes is a simple acknowledgement that it can exist. We’re all scared of something, but life is best spent in the middle ground in sunshine, even if you do get sunburnt from time to time. 

by ty miller

 

chopping wood

chopping wood

You’ve heard of discipline training – the first picture that comes to mind with chopping wood is some sort of mental exercise ‘wax on wax off’ Mr. Miyagi simulation, right? I don’t want to dispel the fact that becoming disciplined in something will spill over into other areas of your life that needs similar fine tuning, but it also represents something much more powerful: defining the driving acts that fill the void of expectations. 

I’ve struggled with this immensely over the past months. I want to slave away at my passions, but I have difficulty continuing without greater impact or reception from others. The fires I desire never come to fruition the way I anticipate, so should I keep chopping wood? Why bother pushing your already fragile mental fortitude just to keep missing the mark? 

Here’s an easy solution. When you think you’re ready to stop chopping wood to start a fire, keep chopping. Don’t concern yourself with the fire. It’s not yours to start. You know that people will be able to start a fire using your wood, but only concern yourself with making more and more wood available for potential fires. When you sit and wait for people to start the fire, you’ve gone astray. Doing isn’t defined by results, it just is. If your act is only validated by if or how others receive it, then can you honestly say this is something that drives you? 

I don’t mean this abstractly. Literally keep doing. If you’re a musician, keep getting out there to play shows or open mics. If you’re an athlete, keep training everyday. If you’re a writer, write constantly. If you want to cook, cook for everyone all the time. DO DON’T WAIT FOR A RESPONSE . 

Imagine a world where you’re received exactly as your expectations dreamt it. Then what? Do you stop doing? Are you dead? I doubt it. Your drive lives on it because it is you. The fire keeps others warm, but chopping wood keeps you strong and alive. 

by ty miller

trust your gut

trust your gut

Do you have trouble trusting your own feelings? Do you find yourself inclined to only make decisions with third-party approval to look back anyway to wonder if you missed something? At the beginning of the summer, I began a journey of self-reflection. I wanted to learn how to be better at being myself while trying to let go of egotistical tendencies and other identity issues. 

I began dating someone around this time. I liked her a lot. She was weird, talented, and beautiful, but she had underlying issues that I could never get a full read on. She seemed like she turned to certain things to give herself identity, but I knew from one-on-one moments that she was a kind, considerate, and overall a genuine human being despite having a mixed opinion of herself. 

I quickly found juggling my own journey and trying to pursue a new relationship to be difficult and anxiety inducing. I can’t help but make relationships my entire world. I stress constantly over details out of my control, and I’ve never quite come to accept the fact that it’s a leap of faith. This situation felt too delicate to learn and balance casually on the fly. 

Whether they want it or not, I tend to prioritize those I care deeply about above my own values. Putting myself on this journey was a game changer, and I decided to not let myself tightrope between listening to my own internal values and fighting old habits. So I ended it.

Nearly three months have passed, but not a day passes without feeling some sense of selfishness, guilt, regret, or all three at once. The idea of her moving on and finding happiness while I spend time alone reflecting makes my time seem like a waste. I try to remind myself that I deserve this positive change even though growth takes time.

Trusting your decisions and your gut values is one thing. The ability to put it above other people’s feelings is the hardest thing for me. This is my most important lesson. Understanding that loving, understanding, and being present for others is an amazing trait to blessed with; but also knowing that you owe yourself the exact same treatment. 

Finding validation from others is a painful game that never quite gives you what you seek. Even in looking for their approval, I never once felt insincere about wanting to put others before me. Still I know I have to selfishly take care of myself right now, but muscle memory is hard to break and it gets lonely. I want to be proud of my decision and understand that letting go of this sought out approval is the first step in learning how to treat myself as I’ve treated others. 

by ty miller