Relapse, Stuckness, or an old dog can learn new tricks!

24 Nov

Abu Dhabi Blog 11-18-2014

Playlist: The Showdown—Carry On Wayward Son (Killer Cover), Michael Franti & Spearhead—I Know I’m Not Alone, Foo Fighters—All My Life, The Rolling Stones–Angie, Rage Against the Machine—Fistful of Steel, Avenged Sevenfold—Hail to the King, Led Zeppelin-Black Dog, Emery—The Party Song, Tool–H, Mos Def–Zimzallabim, The Smashing Pumpkins–Rocket, The Skies We Built–Girls with Accents, Swervedriver—Rave Down, Jeff Buckley—Hallelujah, Quicksand–Unfulfilled, Fugazi–Waiting Room, KXM—Rescue Me, Jane’s Addiction–Stop, Urge Overkill—Sister Havana, Styx—Renegade, Nayked Raygun—Surf Combat, Kool & the Gang—Morning Star, Trey Anastasio—Alive Again, By Line—Happy, Mother Love Bone—Stargazer, Pantera—This Love, The Steepwater Band—Dirty Ol’ Blues, The Jimi Hendrix Experience—Wait Until Tomorrow, Los Lonely Boys—Oye Mamacita, Foo Fighters—Walk, Eric Clapton—Five Long Years, Cage the Elephant—Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, Middle Class Rut—Aunt Betty, System of a Down–Radio/Video, Bonnie Somerville—Winding Road

Don’t want to be an actor pretending on the stage
Don’t want to be a writer with my thoughts out on the page
Don’t want to be a painter ’cause everyone comes to look
Don’t want to be anything where my life’s an open book…

Don’t want to be a farmer working in the sun
Don’t want to be an outlaw always on the run
Don’t want to be a climber reaching for the top
Don’t want to be anything where I don’t know when to stop

WASTE by Trey Anastasio, recorded by Phish

Hey…I mean, Hello. Yes, it has been a while. Ya know…I have notes, poems, ideas, random thoughts. All things I planned to write about for this blog, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I have avoided it. I have become fearful of a monster I created. (Monster is a bit over-stating it, I realize.)

Monster Squid at the Fish Market in Negombo, Sri Lanka

Monster Squid at the Fish Market in Negombo, Sri Lanka

You see, I really do enjoy this…this, um…hmmm, what is this? Simply, it’s blogging, but what is it really? That, I believe, is where I got stuck. (In a strange twist, I had a day where I was just draped in melancholy. Don’t know why. Emo music, longing for bangs to hang over one eye, dog-eared volume of Sylvia Plath in my back pocket kinda thing. I was driving and I almost started to cry…no idea why. I just knew it was time to purge…so, I ended up here…Hi!)

“Stuckness.” The first time I came upon this idea was when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. Of course, I had been stuck before, but I was a 20 something, pseudo-macho know-it-all, I didn’t realize it could be an actual condition. Pirsig taught me all I needed to know about “stuckness”, but I didn’t use that information to avoid being stuck. In fact, there have been many times throughout my life where I have been stuck, and I thought I had no resource to get unstuck. You know what? I did. I just didn’t step back, and look at my problem. I maintained the blind objectivity of an expert who has no actual expertise. I’m gonna blame that on ego…but we’ll get back to that…maybe.

View from a tuktuk in Sri Lanka. tons of traffic and horns, but nothing stops moving, very fluid.

View from a tuktuk in Sri Lanka. tons of traffic and horns, but nothing stops moving, very fluid.

I have been really stuck, lately. Stuck. (Strange word, huh? Say it…say it out loud, painfully slowly…not easy. The t and ck make it tough. I lost my breath trying it. Did you?). Anyway, Pirsig writes about the mechanic’s relationship with the motorcycle. Most of what can be maintained on a motorcycle is objective. Anyone who can maintain objectivity can read a manual and maintain a motorcycle. However, once something outside the realm of traditional repair, such as a stripped screw, occurs, then objectivity can’t solve the problem. You need innovation, creativity, and to clear your mind of the path you were previously on. Meaning, you cannot charge ahead with the maintenance in the same manner, because you will always arrive at that same “stuck” point, or screw, as it is.

I don't know what this person was getting at, but I don't care. It struck me. It is on the concrete perimeter of the island. Kinda cool.

I don’t know what this person was getting at, but I don’t care. It struck me. It is on the concrete perimeter of the island. Kinda cool.

SO, what the heck is Lee talking about? I’ve been stuck. The blog became a thing. An object. A task. It had a form to it that I felt objective about. I made it that way…in what can be the worst neighborhood in the world…my head. I thought I could just charge ahead and the words would just come; but I had backed off my first person involvement. I was writing as a reader, not as a feel-er. I was writing as “Lee the blogger” (which seems strange to me), rather than Lee, the me. I was editing for the audience before I even got a word on the page. I felt I had to provide a similar path every time. I wasn’t taking the necessary risk of creating something original (a debatable word, I know). Yet again, I know that we change every single minute of every single day, that the me right now is different than the me just then.

This signifies change here in the Dhabi. During the “fall” and “winter” months, camping is perfect. That's Snoopy Island. That bright spot, the Sun rising again. See? Change.

This signifies change here in the Dhabi. During the “fall” and “winter” months, camping is perfect. That’s Snoopy Island. That bright spot, the Sun rising again. See? Change.

Still, I persisted in trying to reproduce substance that came from a former me. All of my talking of being here now, and I’m not being authentic. That’s how I got stuck. I relapsed, I lost my awareness, I went into that autopilot that just says, “the screw isn’t budging, put some locking pliers on that mothe-uh-screwdriver and muscle it!” Then, I stripped the screw…and I’m glad. It has forced me to step back and examine how I got stuck. Does that make sense? Hopefully, it will.

Sitting down to write became harder and harder, because it was less flow and more form. (If you’re into flow, check out Mikhaly Czikszentmihalyi—I had to google for spelling…good stuff, though…especially for teachers). I thought I had lost control over it. What I realized is I was trying too hard to control it. This is a reoccurring pattern in my life. The need to control. I like to know how a thing is going to turn out. Well, not “like”, more like insist. I’ve been trying to let that go, I really have, though I’ve noticed a bit of a relapse in my growth lately.

This is me chairing a School Leadership Team meeting. Yes, they have SLTs, SIPs, PDPs, PD, IB, OHI, SpEd, everything we have. The only thing they don't have is a mascot. So, I dubbed us The Unicorns: Legend is made here!

This is me chairing a School Leadership Team meeting. Yes, they have SLTs, SIPs, PDPs, PD, IB, OHI, SpEd, everything we have. The only thing they don’t have is a mascot. So, I dubbed us The Unicorns: Legend is made here!

Douglas, our mascot. He reads...a lot!

Douglas, our mascot. He reads…a lot!

So, I attribute part of my stuckness to work. Once again, I let it take over. I lost perspective and became a bit too obsessive about it. Here’s the nutshell: at work there have been some pretty large strategic deficits and some policies that were just plain ignored. Well, now that it’s my second year and I know who to talk to about what, my plan was just to fix everything…NOW! Ummm, bad idea. Here’s a system that’s been running for years in this particular manner, by the same people everyday, and my dumbass ego in his second year is going to push for major changes…and push for them immediately. Guess who got the most upset and frustrated? One guess, go ahead…yes, yours truly.

This is my friend Aslam and his son from Sri Lanka. He invited me to dinner for the Eid feast. He lives in small house with 7 other people. The whole house is 4 rooms. The food was amazing!

This is my friend Aslam and his son from Sri Lanka. He invited me to dinner for the Eid feast. He lives in small house with 7 other people. The whole house is 4 rooms. The food was amazing!

This is their kitchen cupboard...and we argue about which wood finish to choose from...hmmm?

This is their kitchen cupboard…and we argue about which wood finish to choose from…hmmm?

The meal, more curry than you can shake coriander at..."Mistah Lee, why you face so wet?"

The meal, more curry than you can shake coriander at…”Mistah Lee, why you face so wet?”

Strangely, I felt some sort of satisfaction out of the pain and stress I was feeling. There was an actual adrenaline rush, as if my ego was saying, “Yes, this pain, this is what work should feel like…give me more, Lee, push harder.” Well, thank the universe (and a little Ekhart Tolle), that I learned about the “pain-body” that can exist in all of us. That part of us that thrives on stress or pain and pushes forward for fleeting intellectual, yet irrational, stimulation. That is the pain-body. Your, or rather, my, ego feeds it so I push harder. For what? It is an endless pursuit. More is a dangerous thing to want. More has no limit. More is a bottomless pit, a fall that never stops.

136

I'm trying to learn to relax like these dudes. Seen on a canal tour in Sri Lanka. We got a little too close and I got nervous. The boat driver (this was not a “captain” kind of boat) told me, “No worry, you no taste good!” Thanks, buddy. Was I relieved or insulted?

I’m trying to learn to relax like these dudes. Seen on a canal tour in Sri Lanka. We got a little too close and I got nervous. The boat driver (this was not a “captain” kind of boat) told me, “No worry, you no taste good!” Thanks, buddy. Was I relieved or insulted?

I feel very fortunate, though. Rather than get angry or really frustrated (well, I did get purty darn frustrated), I have some tools to slow me down. I am learning to assess myself. Why do I feel this way? Why am I grinding my teeth again? Why am I losing sleep again? Why the headaches? Why are people, again, looking at me and drawing smiley faces at me, or making furrowed brow looks? Why?

055

Sunset. Indian Ocean

Sunset. Indian Ocean

You see, in a former state I would pass all that off as just part of life. Stress, anxiety, sleeplessness, telling people to smile when you don’t, a crease so deep between your eyes it looks like your forehead is trying to eat your uni-brow (You know who you are. I’m not the only one.)

Decrease the crease!

Decrease the crease!

I don’t really make those faces in all parts of my life. I make them in my work life. Which is a silly thing to say, life is life. When you separate your lives, you’re being someone, not just being.

I just like this picture. It's my buddy Khaled, who interprets for me doing our typical PD Interpreter dance once again.

I just like this picture. It’s my buddy Khaled, who interprets for me doing our typical PD Interpreter dance once again.

 

I can’t place my finger on it, but I get very intense around my work. I love what I do. Yet, I question that word all the time. I believe loving what you do is important, but are you loving it so much that you start substituting it for you? Do I get consumed with work? Yes. Do I get emotional about work? Yes (Everyone that knows me has seen that.) Am I allowing my work to interfere with my ability to be happy? Or, am I loving it to avoid loving something else?…Maybe, just maybe, I am.

The difference for me, is I’m questioning it now. Formerly, I thought work, or something you love, was supposed to create that ultimate elation and that grinding, yearning, tiresome, dissatisfaction. Strange, huh? (I also believed that great art came from great pain…only. I don’t believe that now…topic for a different day.)

This feels artistic...no pain. Bait fishing boats, Sri Lanka

This feels artistic…no pain. Bait fishing boats, Sri Lanka

Here I am, 20 years into my career, 30+ years into work life, and I’m still looking for balance. I often feel that if I’m not happy in my work day, then I’m not happy. Now, I KNOW that’s not true, yet I allow it. I relapsed into the idea that if I do well at work, then I am doing well as a person. I am accomplishing and succeeding to feel good about me. Rather, I should feel good about me in order to accomplish and succeed. Easily said, commonly taught, not so easy to do…especially, if your habit is the former.

So, I have to get back the the present moment. Tolle says something that I must keep in mind, “The ego could be defined simply in this way: a dysfunctional relationship with the present moment.” A to the men, ya know? I have a habit of letting the possibility, and the beauty, of the moment slip by because I’m too preoccupied with unproductive feelings like frustration and anger. Useless, man, useless.

Fog rolling through the Dhabi. Beautiful, huh?

Fog rolling through the Dhabi. Beautiful, huh?

What’s it all mean? I still struggle. I struggle to achieve something that I can have at any moment: happiness. Which is silly. Happiness is merely a choice. There is nothing or no one in your head that MAKES you feel a certain way. It is your head, your heart, your life. (Really, I’m talking to me.) So, I’m going to keep practicing my attention to the moment, and give myself the understanding that some habits are really hard to break.

Fog pouring through the building next door. It was a balmy 77. Our students wore knit hats and down jackets...those that showed up, of course. The others took a fog day...yes, the whole day.

Fog pouring through the building next door. It was a balmy 77. Our students wore knit hats and down jackets…those that showed up, of course. The others took a fog day…yes, the whole day.

I think what we need to consider about happiness is that it is not fleeting. Really, it’s not an emotion, happiness is a state. There are other emotions that can interrupt or temporarily cloud happiness, but only because we allow it. So, that’s what I’m working on. Allow the clouds into my happiness, but hold on to happiness as a state. It’s my decision, it’s my choice.

In the meantime, I think I just finished the blog I was dreading. Cool! I will take this moment to feel you all in my heart. I feel how I miss you, and how I love you. I am grateful to have that. Imagine its absence…not for too long, though. Think about making happiness your state. (For a really weird take on being grateful, watch any of Louis C.K.’s stand-up shows.)

Family (especially my girlies) and Friends,

My love and gratitude to you,

Lee

Random cool shot of my 'hood.

Random cool shot of my ‘hood.

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8 Responses to “Relapse, Stuckness, or an old dog can learn new tricks!”

  1. Robin November 24, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    Once again…

    • ldabagia November 25, 2014 at 10:25 am #

      Thank you!

    • stephanie Rockitter November 25, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

      Thanks again for your words of wisdom. I needed them, especially when the frustration become overwhelming and I forget to laugh and be happy. We live for those fog days; it would be funny if we had one tomorrow (we are having our school National Day celebration for those who do not know)

  2. rza November 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm #

    My happiness comes from knowing that I do not have to be happy constantly to be the “whole, best me”. Ennui, morose, or malaise can be good things if “controlled and contained”(meaning they do not run your life or become obsession). Maybe just mere existence is happiness & everything else is the realization that we are not living up to what all know we are truly capable of. Just a thought. Sometimes I wish my life was just comprised of thoughts inside a book by Jack Handey.

  3. Mary Stark December 4, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

    Lee, My husband and two sons went to Galveston Thanksgiving day (by the way happy Thanksgiving) Your two daughters were there and I spoke to the oldest…. She is taking 6 mind you 6 AP courses and is working on IU or Valpo for colleges. She is sooo great a talker. I think she remembers me from school?? It was just a great conversation I have to share.
    Mary Stark

  4. KELTT December 6, 2014 at 9:40 am #

    Meaning

    Within the depths of clearest eternity,
    like the shimmer of wind across calm waters,
    there is an uncertainty
    in a sole heart.
    Life –
    the quest for knowledge,
    wisdom, truth –
    Love.
    Like a creature lurking in the blind darkness
    so an unknown haunts the soul.
    To seek understanding –
    the meaning of Love –
    passion.
    Like a great fury of fire –
    a sudden dawning –
    gone,
    emptiness fills again.
    Heavily laden –
    wandering, seeking.
    Forward,
    and again,
    toward pulsing steadiness, understanding,
    light –
    Communion.
    A heartbeat,
    a sigh.

  5. ldabagia December 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Stunned. Stunning. Thank you.

  6. Bob January 15, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    Happy New Year Lee…I hope it is a good one for you!

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