Hey all :).
I was biking down to the gym tonight—pretty late, since I’d accidentally decided to plow through a bunch of code. It’s a 14-minute bike, I was hitting all the green lights (and making my own when safe) and it felt like the first time I got to take a breath all day. When I’m biking I don’t have to keep my focus steady like I do most of the time, plus: gym! Gym time was coming up!
14 minutes later: I’m in front of the gym, reading the sign on the door that said it’s closed early for the holidays. Sadddddd. Well, all right, I’d actually started to suspect this about 10 minutes into my bike ride, and the bike ride itself was so nice that I’d decided it’d be worth it even if I had to turn around. I got back on the bike: around we go.
So, I said to myself. What’s the plan.
What’s on the calendar tonight is that I could blog. Or I could move that to tomorrow. Or I could work on code some more. Or I could, like, blog. But I don’t want to blog.
Hm. Well, let’s think of a topic. We have a whole 25-ish minutes back to think of a topic. We can write a poem or something, like we were thinking about yesterday. Something really short.
That sounds great, except we have no ideas. Have I mentioned I don’t want to blog?
Hmm. Well, we could blog bi-weekly. We could put that on the “About” page: blog weekly / biweekly. That could be a thing. But why did we want to blog weekly in the first place? I think we wanted to blog weekly.
Hm. But I don’t want to think right now, I don’t want to analyze, it’s a really nice temperature right now, we’re going kind of refreshingly fast. No thinking, no blogging. We could hang out tonight and just waste an hour?
No, no, come on, let’s think about this blog thing.
Sigh. Well, if we did it biweekly, then… then I’d only write when I’m feeling angsty. That feels really, really bad.
Oh. Okay. Hm. We’re feeling really good right now.
Yeah. Best we have all day, really. I like exercise. I like moving. I did a lot of good work today. I’m going to bike up this hill.
Hm. What else feels good?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the characters from a show I’ve been watching… Ooh, we could write a story! We’ve been wanting to write a story for a while. That’d be fun!
Nice energy! Cool, we could write a story. We could work on a story every other week?
…No, I don’t want the bi-weekly thing anymore—ooh, you know what else feels like that good energy? When I was hanging out with my friends L and A at the Exploratorium, in their special touch-exhibit thing. That was really good. We could write about that.
(And that was the summarized story of how, 14 minutes back into this bike ride, after much repetition and coaxing, my mind suddenly decided that it was all right and excited to write a blog despite being actively resistant earlier. I spent a good portion of the remaining ride bike trying to figure out how this happened. No strong conclusions yet :).)
There’s a science museum in San Francisco called the Exploratorium. The Exploratorium is marvelous, and when I went with two of my friends, we decided to check out their special touch-based exhibit. Essentially, the museum has walled off a small section in the middle and constructed an entire jungle gym inside. It’s not actually that much square floor space, but because it’s a jungle gym, they’ve built up and around and everywhere, such that it takes a good 10 minutes to climb through the whole thing. They’ve put a roof on it and blocked off all of the light when you’re inside, and then they’ve plastered on layers on alternating texture on all of the walls, so you’re essentially wandering around blind through this maze with tons of interesting things to feel. Really wonderful.
The feeling that I most remember from it was the… joy? Freedom? Space?… the sensation of just taking up so much space, all the space, in that safe darkness—the possibility that I could hang from the mesh in the ceiling, and that it’d hold, that I could spread my arms out and expand into the space, and I’d reach something that felt nice, that I could just reach as far as I could in any direction and no one would stop me, it wouldn’t look weird, it was exactly what I was supposed to do, it was huge. And the funny thing was that the space itself wasn’t ever huge—it was quite contained, which you didn’t know until you felt it out—but it felt comforting and freeing in a way being in a big room doesn’t make me feel. It was my space, maybe, mine to discover, and to spread out into. I’m really not sure how to describe the sensation, really. Expansive, playful, large, like I was expanding, not it.
Remembering that feeling from the Exploratorium, and how that was going to be the start / core of the blog post I was going to write, reminded me of my therapy session the other day. I walked into therapy and (after pleasantries), told her: “Hey, so I’m feeling fine and not burning with any particular thing, actually I just came from a meeting so I haven’t prepared for this, so if you could lead off?”
“You haven’t prepared? So what are you thinking of right now, then?”
This was a move I maybe should have expected, but didn’t really. As she had me explain to her later, I “prepare” for meeting by choosing an emotional topic I want to get resolved, and then presenting as much as I can around the topic in seeking help. I was expecting her to bring up one of these emotional points from last time, since she’d said she would follow up at the end of the last session.
But I’d forgotten one of the common tricks of the trade—if the therapy-ee is staring at you expectantly, ask them how they feel in the moment. Golden.
(One of the things I’ve learned from this therapist, actually, is that trends can appear throughout behavior, including in-the-moment behavior, even if I haven’t gone to the effort of finding a specific problem area. So while I can bring up the most traumatic example of a problem area, she can find more minor examples in my normal thinking. Also, she generally has me describe my thinking aloud a lot, which can be surprisingly surprising. When people ask me what I’m thinking, I’ll often feel pretty blank, like I don’t have any useful thoughts running through my head at all. But when people ask me what I’m thinking, not relevant to any question they have in mind, but really, just, Monica, what in the world are you thinking about, I’m always very surprised by how many structured thoughts are running through my head that I can voice aloud.)
“Oh, well, I just got done with a meeting, and I was thinking about processing speed. Because the guy I was talking to had a really, really fast processing speed, and he spoke really fast, such that I was needing to pay absolute full attention to keep up. And that reminded me of the Uber driver I was speaking to the other day, who couldn’t understand what I was talking about even though I was using normal terms. My friend, who was with me, said that the driver couldn’t understand me because the driver worked in larger “chunks” than I did, and I needed to chunk my concepts a bit more. My friend also said that what would have helped would have been to make more of a story of it, since I was obviously going for information-transfer but the driver was using speech as both a bonding medium and an information medium. And that made me think about how my friend knew that, since I had the same evidence he did, and how I could get that. But anyway, the driver and that meeting made me think about intelligence some more, since people have recently been telling me I’m smart and it’s been hitting me more than in the past, so I was comparing myself to this fast-processing guy, and also thinking about how I am with my advisor, who is obviously brilliant so I was comparing the two of them. And then I was thinking about my definition of intelligence, and the breaking it down into maybe four components—I wrote them down really quickly before I got in here so I wouldn’t be stuck thinking about them—and thinking about how other people thought about intelligence, and then I was quickly typing out some of this so I could stop thinking about it and focus on this session.”
I feel a little relieved to get all of that out, clear the headspace and such, so she knows the engagement level I’m starting out with. I also feel surprised, because, like I said, that’s a lot of thoughts. I feel like I think in mainly feelings these days, with an underlying narrative, but new feelings are layered on top of old thoughts and their associated feelings. So when someone wants me to explain something, I have to explain all of the old thoughts, and that makes it seem like I’ve just done lots of thinking? But also, I’d actually forgotten I’d just thought all of those thoughts, because I’d flitted through the feeling and then went on to the next thing, and it’s weird to think all of that had been on the pathway?
She pauses, then says: “You were thinking all of that on the way over?”
Now I shrug, uncomfortable.
“Um. Well, I mean, I’ve thought about this all before… idle thoughts,” I say, waving her off. “You know.”
(And what’s going on there? The phrase “idle thoughts” struck me, even at the time, as an odd thing to say and emphasize. It still makes me uncomfortable now to even think about this exchange. By “idle” I think I mean something like: these aren’t thoughts I mean to share, in their current form. They feel like self-indulgent, circling, non-useful thoughts… even the topic isn’t great, since you’re not supposed to talk about thinking about your own intelligence unless you intend to go somewhere with it. And I don’t have any conclusions on this, for myself, or generalizable to other people, and I haven’t even reality-checked these thoughts properly. Plus, who thinks about this kind of thing, rather than something more productive? Also, these are repeating thoughts, they’ve got the: intelligence-hard work-identity feel to them, as well as the why did my friend see a social thing that I didn’t, how?? feel to them, which are both intimately familiar to me. Because they’re so familiar, it feels like I’m wasting people’s time talking about them, because I seem to implicitly assume that other people have heard them just as many times as I have, but I’m somehow still stuck on them anyway even though we’ve been over this, so I feel really uncomfortable about wasting people’s time with them. …Hm, that’s an interesting bit of logic there, isn’t it :P.)
(Huh, that reminds me of another therapy exchange I had this weekend. My friend taught me something, which is that I shouldn’t have a bias to try to say new things. I seem to assume everyone knows the mental workspace I live in, and so have a bias against saying “repetitive” things. My friend told me this really clearly though: “Monica, if you don’t say the most obvious thing, then I start thinking this space is unbelievably complicated, whereas if you say the most obvious thing, even if it feels repetitive, as an outsider I can have grounding.” That makes an immense amount of sense to me. It’s funny, because my drive of “give the therapist the information they want” is still true, but now the surface-level behavior changes because now I know “the therapist wants the obvious thing” instead of “the therapist wants the non-boring thing”.)
(Also, in that therapy session, I learned that I seem to assume that everyone has all of the implicit information I have about myself? Like, if I’ve told someone something, then I assume they have all of the background motivation for that something, and so if they tell me that I’m doing something wrong, I assume they’ve considered all of the evidence that I’ve given them and decided that the background motivation is also wrong. WHICH IS NOT WHAT PEOPLE ARE DOING. I think I may just have to start thinking that people just don’t know stuff about me. I have not given them nearly enough words or structure for them to…)
[Track back – track back – track back now where was the thread I was originally on…]
Ah, yes. So, the therapist had reminded me that starting out from what I was feeling in the moment could be informative and interesting, rather than planning out what I was going to say. And I was reminded of this incident, because the Exploratorium feeling was a very in the moment thought, even though I’d been trying to plan out a well-formulated blog post.
…And I’ll end this deep dive into the parentheticals and back, because tomorrow’s Thanksgiving and I have to be up relatively early to catch the train. Best wishes to you all, and thank you as always for reading :).
(meta-thought, because this piece of writing isn’t confusing enough: there’s actually some structure to how this post was written, a sort of (((())))) structure, with some additional past-present flipping. I’m probably the only one who feels this sense of structure, though; I suspect it just feels confusing to anyone who’s not in my head. I wonder if I can still get the playful-interestedness feeling I’ve receiving from doing this sort of daisy-chain idea-jumping, but still have the post be clear. I like being clear, and this post feels anti-clear to me: like it’s not following any of the rules for how to structure understandable writing. Something to ponder :)).