A Lesson in Resigning

My twenty fifth birthday was one of the saddest so far. I didn’t feel like celebrating it, few people remembered about it, and at the end of it I couldn’t fall asleep: I was projecting the things I heard about being over twenty five onto my future. It made me cry. I was anticipating that I’d have the same problems I used to have, and that the only difference would be that I’d be less emotional about them. I was anticipating a resignation from my ambitious plan to gradually change the things that make me unhappy.

That’s what I heard people over twenty five become: emotionally cold, and resigned. Everyone gets those projections somewhere. They might be ridiculous and untrue, but they stay with us.

But, of, course they don’t have to define our future. We all have our needs, dreams, and plans that run against any bleak visions of the future that other people or the present feed into our minds. I, for example, need to listen to myself more. I dream about filling my life with interesting books. I have the ambitious plans I mentioned above.

And all of it didn’t go away when I turned twenty five. Quite the contrary: with each success and failure in fulfilling the above, I’m more and more aware of what these needs, dreams and plans mean to me… and in the end, it’s them that define me, not the projections.

Resignation is tempting, very tempting sometimes. It makes things so much easier to say: “this is too hard,” and give up. But I wouldn’t want to do so when I care about something deeply. And of course I care about my needs, dreams and plans deeply!

There is another kind of resignation, though, one I didn’t know until this year. It came unexpectedly naturally to me – a person used to fighting her own perceived weaknesses – after someone casually exposed my “people anxiety” by pointing out that I curled up when someone else sat beside me.

I always tried not to draw attention to my fear of people, wanted others to see me, ideally, as a confident person, and hated it when somebody made comments towards the contrary. I wanted to become confident, there and then, even if only in the eyes of some random beholders.

But at that moment, I resigned from pretending, and from my own hasty efforts to get rid of the anxiety (one of the things that make me unhappy, part of the big plan). I acknowledged the state I was in at the moment, and accepted the exposure, thinking: “yes, I am scared, why would I deny it?”

And, even though I’d never have expected any kind of resignation to be good, it was good for me. It had a calming effect. I’m not really sure how else to comment on this, or what to call this new kind of resignation, so I’ll just leave this discovery here for your consideration, and mine too. Maybe it will make us both more accepting towards ourselves…?

Post scriptum: Two days after I scheduled this post, during a yoga class, the teacher unexpectedly summed up my roundabout reflections on resignation by saying that all work starts from the place we’re in at the moment, and it can’t start from the place we would like to be in. It seems that everything around me conspires to teach me something.


Why I No Longer Set an Alarm When I Go to Sleep

I used to believe it’s sad to think about sleep during the day, to be longing for sleep when you’re awake. Sleep, I thought, is an escape, and if you feel the need to escape, it must be quite bad.

But is sleep indeed an escape? And an escape from what? If the waking state was the primary reality of human beings, and if our living in that reality was always and without exceptions a hardship, then we could consider sleep an escape.

But our reality is composed of both sleep and wake, both playing a huge role in our well-being. That the waking state takes up two thirds, and sleep only one third of our lives, does not mean the latter is less important. We live in both, and need both.

The waking state is not always a hardship, either. I used to think it is for personal reasons, but now I’ve become acquainted with many more of the experiences that life has in store.

There is pleasure in life, and there is love. There is enthusiasm and exhaustion, and there is sadness and pain. There is also the feeling that one is actually lucky to be alive. And there is much more.

Coming back to not-so-personal beliefs, let’s remember that the time we spend asleep is equally valuable as our waking time. It is a time for rest, a time perfect for connecting with our inner lives, a time for dreaming and, let’s not forget about that: for growing.

But we’re reluctant to accept this fact of life, aren’t we, the twenty-first-century high-speed human machines? We minimize the time for sleep to have more of it for work, game playing, partying and whatnot. We treat sleep as if it was a necessary evil, often resorting to it only when we’re completely exhausted.

You’ve been there, haven’t you? If you haven’t, then my congratulations. But most of us relegate sleep to a place down at the bottom on their list of priorities. “Sleeping won’t get us a financial upgrade, awesome friends and photos from an enviable exotic trip, so why waste our time?”

There are at least two reasons… no, not to “waste our time”, but to change our minds about sleep so that it doesn’t seem a waste of time. Aaand to finally sleep enough.

Reason one is very simple, and you already know it: we need sleep. Our bodies, our minds, our everything needs sleep like plants need the sun. There’s no denying it, even if we like denying our needs so much. Remember: there’s no shame in being in need of something, so there’s no need to deny it.

Reason two is arguable, and I am going to argue for it: sleep makes our lives richer and more interesting. If we were to go with the current conception of a human being as a sort of organic robot, with brain for its main computer, stomach for the fuel tank and so on, we’d make ourselves dull and exhausted.

We’re not machines. We’re animals with an enormous capacity for experiencing things. Numerous things (see the personal paragraph above). And I have no doubt that we experience and remember them more fully when we are rested than we do when trying to fight exhaustion and boredom.

Our lives get more interesting also thanks to the dreaming we do while asleep. Seriously, wWhat would they be without those strange nightly phantasms, reflections on their possible meaning in the daily light, and evening discussions with our loved ones about whether they mean anything at all?

These are my reasons for not feeling bad when I think about sleep during the day, not setting an alarm when I go to sleep, and enjoying most of all the days when absolutely no external force can make my eyes open until they open by themselves in the morning.

What are yours? If you don’t have any, go find some, quickly. Because sleep is quite a lovely state.


A source that made me reflect on my attitude to sleep, and also a place for you to look for reasons to start getting enough sleep: The Cure for Insomnia Is to Fall in Love with Sleep Again

On a less serious note: A video presenting a healthy attitude to sleep


Nighty night!

What Would You Like?

The question that our title
has cast in deathless bronze
is painful yet so vital,
we owe it a response.

~ K.I. Gałczyński, trans. S. Barańczak and C. Cavanagh

We all have dreams – I could start by saying this if I didn’t know better. Dreams never come true – I could also start by saying this if I wanted to discourage you from reading my blog. This post is going to be about dreams and disappointment – I start by saying this because I don’t feel like trying to sound clever.

It would be nice to believe in what we get from films, books, and people who are perhaps too lazy to think over the old truths that they repeat: that all of us have dreams. But unfortunately, not all of us, and not in all circumstances, can keep up enough hope to sustain a dream.

All it takes is to face a terminal disease, extreme poverty or violence. In other words, if your life falls apart, you may become temporarily unable to dream.

A tragedy is not always the case, though. Some people, at certain points in their lives, simply don’t have dreams. And I’d think it’s perfectly all right if only I couldn’t be bothered to think about the reasons. But I am bothered, I am indeed very much bothered by the reasons.

There might be a multiplicity of them, and I might not be able to account for all of them here. All right, all right: I’m actually able to account for only two reasons, namely that:

  1. We’re happy with our lives as they are, and at this particular moment we just want to enjoy it, and dreams get kind of sidelined, or…
  2. We’re afraid of disappointment… which is completely understandable because disappointment is unpleasant. If it felt pleasant or neutral, I guess it wouldn’t be called disappointment anymore.

Well then, let’s be afraid of it, I’d say if I didn’t know that this fear might become unhealthy and lead us to give up on dreams.

It’s a very simple mechanism. If, as children, we were repeatedly told that we can’t disappoint other people because we hurt them by doing so; if, all too often, we saw other people being unable to cope with disappointment; if we experienced disappointment ourselves and couldn’t cope with it – we’re almost sure to be afraid of disappointment later on.

But there’s nothing to be afraid of… or at least there shouldn’t be, don’t you think? Disappointment is part of life and, in most cases, the human psyche is strong enough to cope with the pain it brings.

However, that is not enough for us to stop being afraid. Perhaps those of us who are will never stop being afraid. So, perhaps it’s worthwhile to learn how to cope with it? Learning a few coping methods should help to relieve anxiety, no matter the cause of it.

But who are we supposed to learn from if so many of the people around us are so clearly not good at handling their own disappointments? So many of them, resenting life that it’s not as good as they expected it to be, obstinately offended, neglect their own, and sometimes also their loved ones’ well-being.

I don’t know. I don’t know who to learn it from and, as you’ve probably noticed by now, I haven’t come up with any tricks of my own either. So far, I don’t think I have answered a single question I asked myself on this blog – I just write them down as homework to be done in the future.

But I already know one thing: I don’t want to give up on dreams for reason number two. I don’t want to forget how to dream just because I am afraid of disappointment. I don’t want to linger in this special kind of apathy which prevents us not only from making our dreams come true, but in the long run, also from knowing what they are.

That’s why, for a start, I suggest pulling your old dreams out of the waste bin and examining them closely – perhaps they still fit? And if not, I suggest asking yourself once again, bravely, in a demanding tone, this one important question: what would you like?

It’s painful yet so vital – you owe it a response.

Have a good day,

Post scriptum: You can read a Polish version of this post at uczesiemowic.blogspot.com.

Madness, Downplay, and Some Nice Music

I’m friends, or acquainted, with some people who are utterly mad.

For instance, they stay up and night-write novels even though they’re supposed to go to work or classes in the morning. Or they stand up and leave in the middle a party because they suddenly feel they don’t fit, and “everyone knows” that’s a sure way to end up lonely and perceived as weird. Or they obstinately study the most outrageously useless of subjects with the dull certainty that they’re not going to find a job in the future that would satisfy them. Or they get involved with someone else’s wife even though “everyone knows” that will only make them abandoned, lonely, hated fucks in the end. Or they give strangers looks of deepest sadness, glances of most unreasonable fear, or they just beam at them with happiness because they can’t restrain an emotion when travelling together on some shaky means of public transport – and that’s a complete disgrace, as well as a sign of MADNESS, ISN’T IT?

No, it isn’t, and the preceding behaviours aren’t signs of madness either. To me, they seem like actions undertaken because some emotion, or need, or passion, drove one to do that, but also ones undertaken in spite of some other people’s expectations, in spite of the fact that “everyone knows” these actions are in some way wrong.

And as far as I’m concerned, they really may turn out to be wrong, stupid, or simply great mistakes.

But on the other hand, “everyone knows” mistakes are great learning material, too, don’t they?

And there’s yet another thing: how exactly does “everyone” know if a given action is a mistake? I mean, how do you know whether someone else’s actions will prove wrong? They’re not yours, they may have a totally different meaning to them than they have for you, so far they haven’t produced any outcome and… guess what: they may not produce the outcome you expect.

Some people would call the behaviours I described at the beginning “mad”, or “irresponsible”, and they’d say the people who do that kind of stuff “don’t know what they’re doing”: “You must be mad, doing that kind of stuff. It’s so totally irresponsible of you. Do you even know what you’re doing? Have you thought about the consequences?”

To this, I can only say — sad as I am even thinking of this kind of judgemental stand — that these so-called “irresponsible” actions usually come along with much consideration; sleepless nights and drowsy days; sacrifice; sometimes suffering. And I can only say anything here on the basis of my own experience and people-watching, but I’m sure that those “irresponsible”, “mad” people do know what they’re doing, and they do think about the consequences, and sometimes very hard at that.

Sure, you can’t predict all the possible consequences. And sure, getting tips from other people on what might be the possible outcome of what you do is awesome. Personally, I love hearing people’s stories of what happened when they did this or that, how they failed, or how they became the happy people they are, or how they just learnt a new thing. I love advice, too, especially when I need it.

What I don’t love, and what makes me sad, is judgement of the “that’s irresponsible of you” type. The downplay that some people want to pull you into, and which is nothing like fun, so that I don’t even understand why I call it “play”. Because it’s actually a sad thing to engage in, no matter whether you’re the one played down, or whether it’s you who plays someone else down. It shows a lack of respect for the other person, his or her decisions and the load of fear, hope, tension, and love that may come along with these decisions. And it shows a lack of… umm, knowledge about… umm, how things work.

Because even though other people’s actions might seem mad, irresponsible, doomed to failure or otherwise wrong to you, they may work quite differently for someone else. It sounds stupid, I admit, but things just work in different ways for different people in different situations. And it would be so much more respectful to stop playing the people around you down, and accept the fact that they may just do a different kind of stuff than you, and make different sense of that stuff than you would, and get from it a different outcome than you expect.

‘Cause everyone knows that it sometimes happens that people end up as the authors of some truly amazing stuff when they give up sleep in order to write, or they just get their peace of mind, or their emotional balance, or whatever it is they need, by acting like they feel they should. Many good things may actually come out of putting those loads of fear, hope, tension, and love into our actions. And on this optimistic note I’ll finish my happy ramble.

Or no, no, no: there’s a song I wanna share. I found it yesterday evening, and it’s so, so, so awesome. Here it is: Skin by Jóga.

Have a nice day,