A Matter Of Clarity

I’ve taken another hack at the Bullet Journaling thing for June. I always find it really tough to stick with that. The week notebook layouts are just not something I find very helpful. So this time what I did was not set up the whole month all at once, but one week at a time.

I gave myself a couple one-week goals. Little things. Last week was:

  • Finish setting up your match.com profile. That’s pretty self explanatory. Though it was a failure. I waited until Saturday to get it done and, when I tried to finish I found that they’d for some reason locked my account. Add to that the fact that their customer service department has normal Monday to Friday business hours and, well, it was a wash. I’d originally said “Did what I could, but the task couldn’t be completed.” But that shit ain’t the truth. The truth is: I dragged ass all week and couldn’t complete the task because of my delaying. So be it.
  • No dishes visible in the kitchen. I can’t…seem to get on top of dishes. I let them pile up and wash some when I need them. Well…that doesn’t really work. But I did get it done.

So what I did was just declare that by the end of last week they all need to be washed and put away such that, as I said, none are visible.

It only took a few hours really, between washing, drying and putting them all away. (I have a LOT of dishes and many of them needed literal industrial degreaser to get them clean enough to actually put away.

When I was done and I looked around my kitchen (still more or less a disaster) I was just struck with this wave of relief and I realized a couple things:

  • My day to day goals are generally pretty damned nebulous: “Code for a few hours.” or “do some laundry/dishes” or “spend some productive time in the shop” or “a half hour cleaning the office” etc.

I’ll get them done and nod to myself that the tasks had been completed. But without real concrete object achievement goals other than “spend time wisely” there’s just not really much to hang on to or take away from the effort. So they’re satisfying in a sense. But I just didn’t really get that concrete sense of accomplishment and after some time of this I’d forgotten how much different it is, which is bad.

  • Clean surfaces are more than just empty spaces.

I had a girlfriend a long time ago, and absolutely gorgeous Polish girl, about 6’1″. Just breathtaking. Her smile would absolutely destroy me. Unfortunately it was a relationship with an end date as she was only in New York for about six months. So after a very short time I suggested that she move in and it was just great. Sure we had our troubles but whatever.

Anyway she’d complain (quite lightly really) “Surfaces dahling, where are my surfaces” as we were both pretty inclined to let things clutter.

I only mention her because she comes to mind every time I clean anything, for which I’m quite thankful as her memory puts a smile on my face quite consistently.

For years after she left I’d find little post-it notes hidden deep in programming books saying things like “Wow you really DO read them <3.” Come on. How fucking adorable is that?

But cleaning a kitchen counter or desk top has a weird side-effect that’s really the primary effect. It absolutely clears my mind. It becomes obvious after it’s done that an external mess has a symbiotic relationship with my mental state. The more cluttered my surfaces are (dahling) the more…infringed upon I feel.

It’s “literally as though” (a nearly contradictory phrase) the mess is creeping around my awareness, boxing me in more and more tightly. Problem is I rarely notice it, as I said, unless it’s clean.

So this week it’s clothes. My dirty clothes are pretty well relegated to the bedroom and bathroom. But I’m wondering how badly that’s actually affecting my head day to day.

In fact, the more I think about it the more sure I am about it.

One of the aspects of that I’ve always been VERY conscious of is that when I have clean kitchen counters I feel a near slavish compulsion to bake a couple loaves of bread. The clean work surface is just too tempting, demanding an act of creation of some kind. It’s the strangest damned thing. But I’ve been more or less conscious of it since I lived back in that apartment.

It’s as though potential is limited because my mind is as cluttered with crap as my environment, and as soon as I start seeing some latitude my brain opens up a bit.

So…let’s take that and run with it a bit, see where it goes.

It dovetails with (or, well…maybe it’s not even a different thought) a curious little thought that popped up in my head a few days ago: How much can I get rid of in my mind that seems like it has utility but is actually standing in the way of…well…it gets weird here…my own potential down (or up) to even a spiritual level?

Certainly physical mess is psychological mess. But does that miss the point? Is this a visceral intimation of the Buddhist doctrine of attachment? Eh. That’s a bit too abstract a leap. While I suspect it’s precisely accurate, it’s tough to ground that.

IF it’s true that a clean environment represents a clean mind then I am bound to wonder if the boundary of the definition of ‘clean’ isn’t larger than what we think of traditionally as ‘clean.’

I’ve found that ridding myself of people who are loose acquaintances has a similar effect: Dispensing largely with people who aren’t actually ‘friends’ makes those friends that remain absolutely more valuable. Now I’m not NEARLY ruthless enough in that category as I should be, being as I am quite prone to please.

Now I’ve bounced against this idea a few times when it comes to the number of hobbies I’ve got kicking around. After a few aborted attempts at ridding myself of most of them I’ve just ended up gravitating back to just about all of them. I’m still not sure what to do about that.

The trouble I have with focus on a couple projects is pretty frustrating as it goes hand in hand with my moment-to-moment focus. So whether the macro issue is a manifestation of the micro issue or the reverse, I’ve as yet no idea. More frustrating even is that I’m not sure how to figure it out.

I get nine kinds of excited when I have a several-day span that I can dedicate to “getting something significant” accomplished. But in practice I can usually only be on a specific project for a couple/few hours at a time before I feel like a fucking caged animal and need to change context. Unfortunately that frequently ends up meaning going to the kitchen and eating something (I’ve backslid about 5 pounds off my low weight, which is one reason I’m here at the cigar lounge to begin with.) But more frequently it means I’m letting distractions take a hold of me, which can just soak up any amount of time at all.

A the micro-level I recognize most of the time this feels like procrastination, which has more to do with a lack of clarity than anything.

And procrastination/lack of clarity is directly tied in to the kind of mental hygiene I was talking about above. Now…I didn’t think it was THAT bad. But when I start drawing lines between these ideas like this I’m drawn inexorably to the idea that it may simply be so.

Frankly an insight doesn’t have to be a giant epiphany to be useful.

It’s all well and good to be metacognitive and clever; to congratulate yourself smugly for your own insights. Unless you put those insights into practice they aren’t worth shit.

There’s more to this. But I’m going to take the Struthless 70% route and post this as is.

As such, the takeaway is simple: When you’re flummoxed by confusion, clean something and see what happens.