Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Karmic Retribution

Or poetic justice. I find myself having to look in an ugly mirror and partake in the exercise of finding myself beautiful. I guess understanding in the moment and feeling compassion is consummate with forgiving myself. I guess life does make us pay for our mistakes and I made mistakes. The friends who supported me now spared from me and my obstinate misplaced confidence and esteem (because I got better) I find myself having to be those friends and watch helplessly, knowingly (well as far as I can presume to know anything).

Because much as I could claim to know what should be done, and many people outside a situation can and most people outside a situation are right - a forest tends to look like a fucking forest from the outside rather than a unique and precious cluster of trees. But I know what I did do, I suffer from the paradox of capability, the very fact I feel so capable is what rendered me for years so incapable.

So it's probably high time I used the paradoxical privacy of this blog to do my own autopsy.

It starts, in hindsight with Warren Buffett, who offered perhaps the best relationship advice there is for people like me under the guise of financial advice: 

"Many managers were apparently over-exposed in impressionable childhood years to the
story in which the imprisoned, handsome prince is released from the toad's body by a kiss
from the beautiful princess.  Consequently they are certain that the managerial kiss will
do wonders for the profitability of the target company.  Such optimism is essential.
Absent that rosy view, why else should the shareholders of company A want to own an
interest in B at a takeover cost that is two times the market price they'd pay if they made
direct purchases on their own?  In other words investors can always buy toads at the
going price for toads.  If investors instead bankroll princesses who wish to pay double
for the right to kiss the toad, those kisses better pack some real dynamite. We've observed
many kisses, but very few miracles.  Nevertheless, many managerial princesses remain
serenely confident about the future potency of their kisses, even after their corporate
backyards are knee-deep in unresponsive toads."

Also Drucker, the management guru labored the point quite intensely that you put your resources behind proven strong performers, and you don't invest in the weak or problematic performers.

I knew all this, I knew it all. I read 'Warren Buffett CEO' and Peter Drucker's 'Effective Executive' long before I got into the situation where I couldn't plainly see.

I was an overconfident princess believing in the transformative powers of my kisses. To make matters worse, or at least more damning for me, I'd even had it translated into the relationship context for me by Dr. Gordon Livingstone in 'How To Love' one of my oft-sighted books I actually read in the past 5 years. Many people waste their time and life believing that if they just love somebody enough they will cure their ills.

It seems clear now, and even in retrospect it always seemed clear. I just cherry picked my knowledge and built a narrative to keep me unaccountable. To make me special, exceptional to the rule. 

I made a miscalculation in the concept of risk, one I wrote about in my last post. The very low odds of my success I translated into a highly valuable anticipated payoff of success - hence worth my investment of time, energy and love. I equivocated it to my persistence with art, I was simply being consistent it was my nature to strive for the impossible, and if nobody did then how could we be certain of what was possible or impossible.

Conveniently though, I was ignoring the ongoing and growing body of evidence suggesting that instead of being a high risk endeavor what I was engaged in was in fact, no risk at all. It was, relative to me, just a toad - and always going to be.

And as a caveat, I don't agree at all with the notion 'people don't change'. Anybody who espouses it, has defeated themselves. I just think the best counter argument to engage in is to change yourself, do the work. Not work at changing other people. 

We can certainly change others for the worse, by inflicting trauma on them. We can help and influence others. I just believe that people should only really borrow your esteem to add it to their own, not as a a substitute. 

But what damage did I do? At what cost was my undertaking? What is karma handed to me now?

Here's what I did. I fought for my impossible dream day in day out, if not directly, psychically, going over and over the situation in my head. Attacking this seemingly insurmountable problem every which way I could imagine. So much rehearsal, experimentation. So much energy went into the disciplines I forced myself to maintain.

And almost like clockwork - every 3-6 months my optimism received an insult from reality. A crushing one, I pinned all my hopes and dreams on this endeavor. Invested in this one person (who is not to blame for my own folly). 

And at my lowest, when I was in despair, I would do something actually smart - I would pick up my phone and call somebody who loved me. And I would poor my heart out, and they would listen patiently, reassure me, build me up, invest time in me. We would have fun, I would feel better. I would quickly recharge, regroup my esteem and remember what it was like to feel capable and confident. Amazingly quickly, over one or two weeks max, usually about 2-3 interactions with my loved ones. 

That was the power and energy of their love. It is a massive, potent source of energy. 

And then I would take that energy, and use it to grind myself down to devestation and despair again over 3-6 months. 

Let us do the math - 1-2 weeks to replenish my energy by keeping good* company. 3-6 months expending that energy on bad* company.

*here I use 'good' and 'bad' not as absolute judgement of character, but in the specific effect they had on me. The people who are good for me are able to translate their love of me into consistent behavior, but for all you know they could sell poison milk to children.

Or in graph form, my energy/well-being etc could be plotted thusly:

Quick recovery, slow discharge into despair. Repeated too many times to reflect well on my character.

This is the real thing I fucked up in my life. What took me longest to figure out. It was where I was putting my time. I even drew up a list using that heuristic of 'how do they make me feel' and I knew who I should be spending my time with. I had a concrete behavioral selection criteria for who I should invest my time in.

And I just didn't do it. I didn't put the energy back into them. I took their energy and used it to push shit uphill. Again and again.


Here is what I have come to realise, it's not that there's no value in undertaking the impossible. There's the usual journey/destination disparity. It's that building a mediocre structure that is 'miraculous' because it's foundations are so poor is not the best use of any persons capabilities. Impossible things can be built on really great foundations, the better the foundations the further our efforts can extend to what is possible.

Since I broke my own cycle of despair, and while I don't believe in accidents I have to attribute the cycle being broken mostly to luck rather than my design, I find myself with an abundance of time and energy, that I now put into really, really good people for me. It happened so quickly, and aside from a few painful frustrations decoupling myself from the person most bad for me, on the whole I just get stronger and stronger, and feel better and better.

I am becoming my best self, and having to watch somebody now remind me so much of myself when trapped by my own hubris, even that is making me better, though I have no idea what the fuck to do as a spectator.

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