Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Welcome to the Desert of the Real

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill—the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. Remember: all I'm offering is the truth. Nothing more."

 Morpheus makes this pretty little speech in The Matrix and for the past (almost) twenty years the internet has quoted, misquoted, speculated, fantasized, and made memes about it. The image and its accompanying idea is powerful. The life you have been living is not real, but you can change and wake up in the real world. Now I am borrowing this scene to make my own point. 

I have been blessed to find myself playing Morpheus a time or two. More often than not I am standing in Neo's shoes (metaphorically speaking since Neo was sitting in a chair at the time.) The problem with the metaphor is swallowing the red or blue pill is a choice we all have to make multiple times each and every day. Perception defines human reality. Many of us have a flawed perception of the world and events around us. We are too blinded by our own bias to even know that we have chosen the metaphorical blue pill.

Let me tell two quick stories of me taking the blue pill thinking I was living in reality. 

I used to call myself a writer. I think it may still be my "job" on Facebook. It was a fair thing in my mind to say. I love to write. I blog regularly. I have a few different novels I have been "developing" for a number of years now. Of course, I am a writer, right? 
Wrong. I don't write every day. I don't treat writing like a job. I write when I am inspired. I play at it. 
The truth, ugly as it may be, is that I want people to look at me and say," Wow, he writes. That makes him smart, deep, and philosophical. I want to have sex with him." Probably, maybe not that last part but you get the idea. 
When I started calling myself a writer I wanted to make myself sound more deep and impressive. I think I was probably working at Bellsouth (a pretty profitable gig) and I didn't think Sales Associate sounded sexy. Because I wanted that attention the real problem wasn't the function of my job or the money I was making, The real problem was me glorifying a hobby to sound cooler than I really am. 
The real bedrock of the problem was my own self image. It took me a while to admit that I felt like a failure because of other parts of my life. I had to stop overcompensating for that with other things and accept me. That overcompensation was another problem. It made me brag about silly things that didn't matter. That made me unattractive in actuality. Once I stopped, I was surprised how much people seemed to like the real me. 
Oddly enough, a side effect of this was me finding out I wanted to write more. I talk about my writing now, but I do a heck of a lot more of it. Occasionally someone will start a conversation about my blog (since I am not yet published in another format) and I feel amazing that someone took the time to read the work I do as a hobby, 
Once upon a time, David was 450 pounds plus. Now, I am tall and I have a broad frame so I carried this weight without people realizing just how big I was. I had already had my self love epiphany so I was a happier David. To be fair, I was married and happy which tends to put weight on people at an increased pace. The weight problem was effecting my health.

I decided to fix this by running. I got on the treadmill and said," I am either going to run 5 miles or I am going to die." I ran the five miles. By running I mean that i kept my feet moving at slightly above a walking pace for 5 miles. 

I did it the next day, and the next, and the next. Exercise became habit. I lost weight. I felt healthier. I had a health scare. I stopped working out. I started having problems at home for non related reasons. I bulked back up.

Now, I do go through bursts of exercise. I will get on a kick and lose a bunch of weight. Life will start to get complicated and the first thing I do is cut my trips to the gym. This has the side effect of taking away one of my stress outlets as well as stopping my weight loss. 

I talk a really good game about being healthier and my determination. I drink only water. I don't eat desert. I don't have sodas, sugary foods, or snack cakes. Then again, eating two hamburgers, a baked potato, a big scoop of baked beans, and corn is still over eating. I let myself buy into the better lifestyle by talking up my few good changes rather than make the full transformation and stick to it. This lie makes me feel good about myself just enough to excuse myself from completely dieting and exercising. 

In order to effect change in your life you have to start with admitting that there is a problem. The "problem" of identifying myself as a writer was not the real problem. Having self esteem issues was the problem. The problem of being fat is the problem, but it isn't solved by not holding myself accountable for the lack of diet and exercise. The human mind is built to make excuses. The more you allow your memory to edit the truth the further you get from reality. Once you are too far gone from reality even the steps you take to solve your problems become suspect. 
I have been impaled on the horns of several problems in my life lately. In struggling to figure out the right path to take I have created an idyllic fantasy of being able to break away from everything and strike out on my own. This is a very dangerous blue pill and I have swallowed it several times.
All the time I put into my fantasy solution is time and energy wasted. Even the thoughts that went into the idea were a waste. Simply put, I could have used that effort to face the real problem. Now I find myself mourning the loss of my fantasy. 
I have begun to resent the idea of "happy" as a goal or right way to live life. How exactly do you define happy? For a meth addicted person, happiness is probably found as a result of meth use. For a pedophile, happiness is found in lusting after or partaking in lewd acts with children. Do right minded people want either of these folks pursuing their happiness? I can tell you I don't. I have no forgiveness for heavy drug users or pedophiles. I am still very on the fence about marijuana and have no use at all for alcohol unless it is used as a disinfectant or a treatment for a cold.
That may not seem pertinent to reality, but I see tons of people deluding themselves about the importance of happiness. Your life may be a constant fight. Is it better to pretend you aren't getting hit and take a beating or is it better to focus and get in a few licks of your own? The ability to fool everyone around you and get away with a false reality may be the most damaging thing in the world. It allows you to perpetrate your lie, but some part of you is always aware that the truth is out there and it cannot wait to catch up with you. This is my biggest issue with social media. If you are posting a flashy lie, you have a real problem with your reality, but you are trying to cover up the rotten foundation with sparkly wallpaper.
How many family vacations start with the idea of "getting away from our problems for a little while." Guess what? Those problems go right on vacation with you. Escapism does not work. You need to dig deep, figure out the real problem, and then deal with it. I love this quote:

"Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." - Zhuangzi

This means be present in the reality of the moment. Don't be thinking of the mistakes of the past. Don't be anxious about the status of the future. You are where you are. Be engaged there.
When you do this you will find yourself able to accept and overcome your reality. Some things in life cannot be overcome. I am in the middle of reading Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life. The book refers to some problems as "Gravity Problems." There is a clever anecdote in the first chapter to explain what that means. Basically it boils down to, if you try to fight reality you are going to lose.
The question behind all of this is simple. Why do people choose the blue pill, consciously or subconsciously, over the red pill time and time again? They take the easy road that is more pleasant looking than the hard road. It is a choice of laziness and avoiding pain. I personally avoid anything easy or free. A beautiful lie is not better than an ugly truth. I even have a rule about it.

Rule #8: Take people, places, things, and situations as they are, not as you would like them to be. 

I have a bad habit of losing reality. Breaking this rule, like all of the others, is dangerous. I have had entire relationships based on a fantasy. Normally the break up brings all the truth to the surface. It becomes very hard to swallow. It was no one's fault but my own for allowing myself to live a lie.
I have had jobs where I lied to myself about my level of skill and ability. This caused me to get passed over for promotions. It caused me to be dissatisfied and to seek out other jobs without any real reason.
Because of violating this rule I have stayed in many different relationships that I should not have. I lied to myself about my importance in other people's lives based on insecurity in my own. This harmed me. 
Here are some ugly realities all people should accept:
Life is temporary. Everyone is going to die. 
You are replaceable in every situation. 
You are not special to anyone except yourself. 
Most everything will change. 
That person you like has other people in their life. Don't let that stop you from making a move. 
If a person is with you they are yours. As soon as they are gone, they are not. Wife, Husband, Boyfriend, Girlfriend, Boo, and Bae are bullshit titles that only mean as much as the person you apply them to allows. 
Beating up the "other guy" will not make her come back to you. This applies to beating up the "other woman" as well. Avoid assault charges. 
Friendship is based on convenience and mutual self interest. 
Love is not easy. It is not the answer. It sometimes is the problem. It is not all you need. Try eating love and you are a cannibal. Try drinking love and you become a vampire. There is no way to breathe love.
Romeo and Juliet is a tragedy not a love story. 
Everyone you deal with wants something from you. 
Rule #26 No matter how little you have, there is someone who wants to take it from you. 
Everybody poops. 
Someone thinks those pictures of your "cute" little baby are creepy. 
Your feet stink after wearing socks and shoes for any amount of time. This is as it should be. 
Politics are about control. You are being controlled. There is nothing you can do about this.
There is nothing more overrated as bad sex, nor as underrated as a good bowel movement. 
About your ex, you weren't the biggest or best she ever had. Still she let you do stuff to her. 
Most people, including your parents, masturbate. 
Bacon is delicious, but it isn't good for you. 
It is much better to accept reality than to live in a fantasy. Pass it on. 

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