Tough Question To Not Have An Answer For

About a month ago Sharon asked me what I liked doing. Simple enough question but I could only reply with “riding my bike” which isn’t the best answer to give someone who has a rich social life, an infectious personality that brings people up and a sense of humor that is broadcasting and wildly funny!

My answer was not what was expected, or maybe wanted, but it was the truth and as soon as it left my month I had a suspicion that something very significant had happened. I think my answer obliterated the understanding Sharon had of me because what she’s known of me has been fun, activity based stuff and a genuine passion for doing whatever. When I replied with biking all of that other stuff got whitewashed and we were left with one very interesting and dynamic person and one introverted self-isolationist, looking at each other with two bewildered and slightly silly looks on our faces. From here there were two directions to go and so we each took a separate path away from each other. Mine was a path away from the present me who didn’t know what they liked doing towards the person I used to be before I let me drift away.

My answer was as embarrassing as it was revealing. Who had I become, and why? And why don’t I know what I like doing? Why is riding my bike the only thing that I was able to muster when asked about it? Who was I being when I answered her question? How had I become this person?

Well, I caught a break sort of. I got a concussion a couple of days later and the doctor suggested that I take a couple of weeks off of thinking too hard about anything. The truth was, I didn’t have a choice, I wasn’t able to function normally. The concussion drove me down to the pits of despair, as they can do. I was lost. In my diminished state of function I wasn’t able to see anything in my future and, worse, I didn’t see anything in my past. And my present had me sitting on there, head in hands, pit in my stomach, confused, scared and in serious need of something of purpose.

I was beginning to see that I was still in recovery from a number of relationships and hadn’t actually let any of it go and I didn’t know what I liked doing because I have either been in a relationship or in the end of a relationship for years the last 5 years. I hadn’t let it go so I was still acting the same way as I used to. I was still thinking the same way too which meant that I hadn’t started to re-expand my interests to find my own passions again. When Sharon asked I wasn’t going to say that because I didn’t realize it, but as I sat there I knew I had missed the moment to live in the present. I had on some level made the decision to substitute thinking about the past for actually doing something. Given that the brain rewards itself each time it makes a correct guess, and given that I wasn’t engaging the physical world, I had no difficulty manufacturing the information I needed to not more forward in life.

I was living in the past and as each day passed, I was living further and further in past. Each moment saw me becoming more and more detached from the present reality. I was fully committed to whatever it was I was creating and I was really good at it! This manufactured suffering became a habit and I needed to get away from it so I rode.

The purpose of the bike riding was escape, then aesthetics, then training. This leads to me riding too much and getting less than optimal training effect. I’m also prone to burn-out and fatigue. But it’s the opportunity cost of riding so much that made the answer to Sharon’s question so lame – I don’t do very much else for fun because I have been using cycling as a way to escape something. I had stopped doing almost all of the things that I used to enjoy and spend this time pushing my body to the limit first to forget, then to look lean and finally to ride faster. So this means, in one way, that I haven’t even been riding my bike for fun either.

On that day when she asked, the completely honest answer is that I don’t like doing anything. I do one thing a lot but not for fun. I do it to escape which I’ve labeled fun.

Hmmm… I’ve set out to find what I like doing so that I can, by the end of the summer, write a better blog about it.

Closure Begets “Closure”

For a very long time I have struggled with closure when it comes to past relationships. I thought I had a handle on it, it’s the feeling you get after a relationship has ended when you no longer think about the person, the relationship you held and no longer wish for the future you believed you would share with the person. This understanding seemed to cover it for a very long time, I just thought that I wasn’t very good at it. Closure was just a skill that I was deficit in.

But that’s really silly when I stop and think about it. There isn’t such a thing as closure. There’s “closure” but that’s a concept, talking point, mental state about which people talk like they have a common understanding of what it means. But I don’t think I have the same understanding of closure as a number of my friends, clients and even members of my family.

The state of mind “closure” is the “not really thinking about it in a negatively influential sort of way” that I always understood it to be. There’s mostly agreement about this.

Closure, or the action we take that allows us to reach the closure state of mind, is decisive action to commit to a different future that is based on a logical analysis of all the information available. It is decisive because you run through a check list of all the concerns, eliminating them one by one until there is no reason left NOT to commit to the new future. The doubt is eliminated by this thorough examination of the facts as you know them. If at some point in the future you were to question the decision, you can be confident that you don’t have to be concerned because you performed your due diligence. You’ll adapt and change based on new information, but you don’t need to think about it again unless you get new information. This is the process by which we get closure and achieve the closure state of mind.

When I chuck this realization into my brain and let it do battle with my world view, there is an exciting feeling that builds right where my unconscious mind materializes as awareness. The sense is that of a lightening of mind, a freedom, like I’m suddenly able to run again, and as I do, useless pieces of me are burning off and that helps me run faster. It’s like I’m escaping the gravity of something that was dark and I’m off into an open expanse of nothingness.

For the more scientifically minded, it’s like the mental energy that was being sapped by continuing to think about things that had not been properly analyzed and actioned on is now available for other tasks and this is experienced as a boost in brain processing efficiency.

The consequences of this are pretty cool. First off, you get to stop thinking about stuff that you shouldn’t have been thinking about anyway. Second, you get to feel better because you aren’t thinking or agonizing about this stuff. Finally, you are smarter in a relative sense because you do have more processing capacity, which will improve you concentration, memory, and other executive functions. Lumped together, these represent a huge improvement in the quality of life.

So if you’re stuck on something from the past or have gotten into something now to stop the pain of the past, that a few moments today to write-out the check list as to why you’ve close of that part of your life. You may be surprised to find that a much better quality of life is just one self-dialectic conversation away!