I have noticed that sometimes I have unmet needs for myself. There are multiple parts to it. It is a mix of:
- trusting that I am not going to force myself to do something that I don’t like
- trusting that I trust myself
- trusting that I am going to focus my time and energies in a way that will make my future selves happy
The last one seems really demanding. How can I not make mistakes? It seems requiring me to minimize regrets.
Is all this pondering even required? Things are most likely going to be fun and fine, regardless of the specific decisions I take today. Sure, they are going to be different, but probably fun and fine in most scenarios. So why do I sometimes struggle with the little decisions of how to direct my current time and effort? I have a feeling that behind this there are some rationales that make sense only in the context of me interacting with myself and don’t have much to do with the real world of my future selves. Sometimes we struggle about what to do in the real world but really what is happening underneath is that we are having a little fight with ourselves.
So what are my fights? What are my struggles?
Here’s one. Sometimes in the past I have pushed or forced myself to do things I did not enjoy that much. As I write this sentence I ask myself if that is even true? Sometimes I believe the exact opposite. That I haven’t pushed or forced myself to do things I didn’t enjoy enough to appreciate and experience the possibilities of what I could do about them.
I think is this is an open conflict that now I see with fresher eyes. I hold an “emotional learning“, probably inherited by my interaction with my parents, of not sticking with things enough, of exploring too widely and too broadly. My parents sometimes criticized me for that but I think in retrospect their criticism was shallow. It was more than fair that during my youth I wanted to experiment and try different things. A course of action that would have helped me grow and flourish would have been to encourage me to explore widely and reflect on what I liked and didn’t like. Encourage me to find something that I was both talented at and that I enjoyed, that came naturally to me. Upon finding that, practicing more would have come next. Explore the pleasures of dedication and expertise. Experiment with the variants that only the expert hand can follow. What I experience instead was a shallow exposure to many things, without reflecting on what I liked and didn’t like. On top of this, my parents mentioned quite a few times that I kept dropping things. There wasn’t much discussion of enjoyment, talent, and what value practice could have had. Mostly, attempts to expose and disappointments when I quit. I don’t hold a grudge towards my parents for this. Kids that grow in the way that I described are lucky. It takes some elements of exploration and wisdom on the side of the parents to develop this practical knowledge of guiding a lifeform to grow. I was lucky in many other ways. I was blessed with love and largely unconditional support. It is unreasonable to think that we could or should have been lucky in all respects, so I accept how I grow up and am grateful for it.
Now, going back to my conflict. I think for a long time I have held onto this idea that the problem what that I was quitting too often, that the problem was my persistence. Thus, I developed strong persistence and resistance muscles. I wanted to demonstrate to myself that I could solve and fix this. I started and finished a degree towards which I didn’t have any particular interests or talent, and I did so with honors. I looked for and kept jobs I didn’t love. I kept, and still feel to some extent now, the requirement of demonstrating to myself that I am not a quitter. That I persist and achieve.
Now that need, that requirement to demonstrate perseverance, is at odds with a different need. This other desire is the need of developing something that I do spontaneously and with talent. My little odd obsession, as Visa calls it. Or what Malcolm calls what we cannot not do. I explicitly chose the word developing instead of finding because I think this also requires dedication and perseverance but applied in a very different context and setting.
In the first context, we are ignoring the land, the conditions, and the feelings. We are powering through and building whatever we are supposed to do before the deadline. There is no connection with others or with nature. We are executing. Getting things done. Achieving. Checking boxes. We are purely demonstrating capabilities.
In the second context, we are nurturing a small seed of interest. We are slowly growing a plan into a robust tree. We are making nurturing choices appropriate for the setting and the circumstances. We are trying to make the surroundings more beutiful. We are welcoming people to take care of it alongside us.
I have rarely engaged in the second context. I don’t know how to. My parents didn’t offer me that and instead told me that the problem was that I didn’t know how to build houses no matter what. I tried building houses no matter what and didn’t really work: I didn’t care. Now I want to offer myself this nurturing context. I want to be both the player and the game curator. I want to nurture and cherish the conditions for myself and others to blossom. And when I do that, I will need no effort to blossom. I need to trust that I can do this. I can do my best to nurture the conditions, and let the rest take care of itself. That’s the need I have been feeling.