Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Woodpeckers and Guilt

This woodpecker was an unusual guest on the lawn, a couple of mornings ago. I can't remember ever seeing a woodpecker sitting on the grass, pulling out grubs.

But there it was.

It was "unusual" enough for me to pull out my camera to take a picture or two. Which-- in turn-- required getting fresh batteries for the camera, finding a good angle for the photo, waiting for the right moment and yadda, yadda... followed by offloading the images, choosing the decent ones, cropping and color correcting, formatting for blog use and yadda, yadda.

And so, old familiar feelings of guilt over "wasting time with something useless" when I could be doing "something more productive" with my life arose.

Which, in turn, led me down a rabbit hole of considering why we feel what we feel, and especially why we feel what we feel when we are experiencing negative feelings.

I enjoy nature photography. I enjoy observing the world around me, and then sharing what I see with others. I may not be the world's greatest conversationalist, but I am a passable story teller and illustrator, so I write and add pictures.

Now, I was not raised in an environment where I was made to feel that work-- by definition-- had to be "something you DON'T enjoy doing." Far from it. I was, however, raised in an environment that revolved around "duties (work) first, fun later." And if "duties" took ALL your time? Too bad. If we were to consider Aesop's fable about "The Ant and the Grasshopper," I have pretty much always been closer to the proverbial Ant... in spite of the fact that I am-- to a considerable extent-- a "slacker." These uneasily live side-by-side because my sense of responsibility and conscientiousness (the Ant) does battle with my desire to be "authentically me," which is more about BE-ing than DO-ing.

So I am sitting here, writing these words-- which takes (valuable work) time to do-- feeling like I am not being "suitably Ant-ish" because these words and pictures are (a) primarily for my own enjoyment, and (b) not income producing and (c) will "cost" me $30 because the time is NOT being used to generate income. And there's an attendant feeling of guilt; a sense that I am "wasting time with frivolities, again."

But don't many people photograph and write in their spare time? Or walk on the beach? Or paint? Or collect stamps or belly button lint?

Few things are truly as simple as they look-- especially when it comes to the human psyche.

I don't have any "spare" time. And therein can be found an answer, of sorts: Even though I am-- in many ways-- "an Ant," I have mostly been singularly unsuccessful at "Anting" because for most of my adult life I have made choices leading to a reality that doesn't have any "spare time."

Sure, I have "made my own way," and I "work from home in my sweats" but at what price? Yes, I may be living "authentically" and "on my own terms," but the ostensible "reward" has so often been that there's (metaphorically speaking) only a twenty-dollar bill between me and living on the street. It's not a question of when the electric bill gets paid, but a question of remembering the last time I wasn't worried whether the power would go off next week. A year? Five years? Ten years? Twenty years? And sometimes that's to close to "reality" to even consider a true metaphor...

One of the things I have been considering recently is the well-known saying "Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow" (which also happens to be the title of Marsha Sinetar's landmark book from 1989 ◄ highly recommended!) and its deeper implications. I have been doing that for almost two decades, so I have started wondering what (reality?) I am not seeing: I am doing one thing I love (beach combing), but dealing with an ever depleting resource. I am doing a second thing I love (being a rare postage stamp dealer) but am dealing with a hobby that's slowly "graying" and dying. I am doing a third thing I love (writing) which is notoriously hard to make a living at, and focusing on HSPs (who often believe things "should be free") so there has been very little there. I am doing a fourth thing I love (being creative, artistic and painting geometric designs-- Alchemy Stones), but art is a "luxury" which makes it something most people "do without" in hard economic times, such as these.

The question that arises is "How do you MAKE IT, when your passions may be authentic, but just aren't very popular, on a greater scale?"

Anyway, the woodpecker came to me in this unusual context (it's actually called a "Northern Flicker" and is one of the very few woodpeckers that does get some of its food from the ground) and made me pause and think. I'm a student of synchronicity and symbolism, so this surely had to "mean" something. So then I had to go look at the meaning of woodpeckers, as totem animals and animal spirit guides.

Of course, there was a huge amount of information to be had-- suffice it to say that Woodpecker has profound spiritual messages, many centering on returning to, and focusing on, our roots and our original creative ideas. Even Carl Jung observed that the woodpecker symbolizes "a return to the womb of creativity." Woodpeckers are also a symbol of determination-- they will peck away at seemingly impossible obstacles (like an oak tree trunk) till they reach their objective... against all odds. I have surely been doing that... if I had a dime for every time I've been told "Just give up and get a 'real' job-- what you're trying to do can't be done" I wouldn't be alluding to financial hardship here.

And yet? To get back to the "Ant and Grasshopper" analogy... the woodpecker embodies a little of both: the dogged determination and single-mindedness of the ant (hammering through impossible obstacles) and the "slacker"ways of the Grasshopper... it's narrow pointed beak and long tongue allows it to reach its objective with the least possible effort needed.

And the "guilt" bit? It is a fundamental truth of me that I will-- in general-- accomplish exactly what I need, and NO MORE. I feel extremely "driven" to "get by" yet lack any sort of ambition to accomplish much more than that. The guilt arises because-- UNlike the Ant-- I never have a "store room" to draw on, any kind of "reserve" when I just want to take a day to photograph and write about woodpeckers, or when I just want to do something "because I feel like it." Why? Because I feel like I am-- in essence-- endangering my own security when I pay attention to anything other than "the essential," hence a sense of guilt.

Now, if I could only find another passion that's a little more globally popular!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Dear Service Provider...

Dear Service Provider,

Thank you for your recent statement showing that my account with you is, once again, past due.

I noticed the small "please let us know if there is anything we can do to assist you" appended below your demand for payment.

Unfortunately, the only way you can "assist" me is by re-pricing your service at a level that allows me to derive a benefit that's in proportion to its cost. 

The simple fact is that I can't afford your services-- ostensibly designed to "help me make a living"-- because their cost actually contributes to preventing me from being able to "make a living." It makes no financial sense to pay $299 a year for a service that adds-- to the degree it is trackable-- $100 a year to my bottom line. If I am lucky. Your assertions that your service makes me "cooler" than my peers remains meaningless until you can talk Safeway into accepting "cool" in exchange for groceries.

I'm am not impressed by your advice that if I only "invested another $500 in services A, B and C to customize our program" my results would improve. I am not impressed, in general, with service providers whose primary selling point consist of nebulous promises of the "possibility" of better results, sometime in the "future," which may be 17 years away.

But what really does not impress me is the subtle subtext that you get to "charge whatever you want" for your services because you consider yourself to be "the only serious contender" in your market niche. 

I am taking the time to write this letter, because I want you to know that I no longer have any interest in doing business with a company whose fundamental strategy for establishing their pricing is "because we can get away with it.

Me, your customer no more.


The above, of course, is a fictitious letter.

However, it reflects a common "issue" in our world, especially here in the US where capitalism and greed get to run rampant... namely that lots of companies, individuals, organizations and other entities try to get away with (and often succeed in) charging large sums of money for something that amounts to little more than "air."

Why do they "get away with it?" Because we're often "too busy" to be informed and "too distracted" to seriously consider why we perceive ourselves to be afraid of "not having" aforesaid services or products in our lives. Or we believe in the "Big Bugaboo" we've been sold, called "We have no CHOICE."

They "get away with it" because we have persuaded ourselves that we "need" (metaphorically speaking) that 2nd 5-terabyte hard drive, even though our existing 5-terabyte hard drive is only 8% used and will still have empty space in 2050. We also suffer from a sort of "selective cognitive blindness" that prevents us from grasping that we will probably be DEAD, in 2050.

In other words, we keep investing in "more" of "something" we already have plenty of, because we fear we don't have "enough." We have a multitude of reasons for doing so, surprisingly many of which revolve around some variation of the core thought "But what will people THINK?"

Of course, there is more to it than that... but it's really time for people to WAKE UP and evaluate their choices, and to start doing things for reasons other than "it sounded good."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Staying Conscious with Millions and Millions of Words

I was sitting here, earlier this morning, contemplating "writing."

More specifically, I was contemplating the fact that I have been writing "actively" since age 13 yet have very little to show for the millions of words I have churned out, over the years.

Maybe that's just the way of the world-- we get in the habit of "going about our business" without staying actively aware of having any specific purpose in doing so.

Because "I'm into that sort of stuff" I did some quick calculations. Going by what I have written in my personal journals, and then on blogs, forums and web sites, and then articles, and not missing years of writing for work-- from being a technical writer to eBay descriptions-- and then the eternal string of email over the past 20 or so years; a conservative estimate would be that I write about 2500 words a day, in some form of writing. String that out across 40 years... and you end up with some 36.5 million words... at least half of which were written by hand.

For comparison's sake, let's consider two massive "bricks" of literature that most people are familiar with (or abhor), to some degree: Tolstoy's "War and Peace" (587,000 words) and Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" (645,000 words). So... I've written "War and Peace" 62 times... If that's too esoteric for you, the 66 books of the King James Bible (Old + New Testaments) have an estimated 788,000 words, so I have written the Bible 46 times... in 40 years.

Of course, I haven't. I'm just playing around with statistics.

To someone who struggles to peck out a 100-word email to their mother, this probably sounds like "evil wizardry." Besides, why would anyone want to? Moreover, why would anyone want to write so much and not turn it into some form of "measurable output," like a Stephen King or Isaac Asimov?

I guess one of the most common responses writers give when asked "why" they write is because they "feel compelled." For me, it has mostly been a case of being able to "think better" in writing than I do in my head, and that I usually "express myself" better in writing than I do by speaking.

On any given day, I probably write more words than I speak. I expect this is because writing is a "slow" way of expressing yourself, and I have a "slow" brain, thanks to something scientifically described as "Sluggish Cognitive Tempo." I just think I have a "slow brain," not a "condition," but what the hay... science likes to put a "name tag" on everything.

But I digress...

What led me to thinking about all this is the fact that I so often give lip service to the idea that "I don't have time to write." Which, of course, is patent nonsense given what I have just outlined above.

So why do I feel like I "don't have time to write?"

This is where we start poking at the essence of the human condition-- and it applies to everything, not just writing:

Being Present and Mindful and Conscious.

What I claim to "not have time to" do is really a statement about feeling like I don't have the energy or inclination to put forth enough effort to write with Presence and Purpose... because that calls for me to be "engaged" rather than allowing me to "zone out." And-- to use some of those 21st century buzzwords-- "Staying Awake" and "Being Present" and "Consciousness" all are a lot of WORK. "Sleeping" is infinitely easier... and that's why we can look at the world and feel like "everyone is sleepwalking through life."

In my case, "writing" is merely a metaphor wrapped around the context of my lament of "not having time."

I can punch out 1000 words of random thoughts in 20 minutes, but to write a "Meaningful and Purposeful piece of prose" (or an article) of the same length takes me hours of concentration. Which reveals that my "real" excuse below the words is that (a) "it's too much work" and (b) "I don't get compensated for it," the latter always being a major consideration when your financial life perpetually hangs by a thread.

So what are the lessons-- the "takeaway"-- from this?

Seems to me that anytime we feel like we "don't have time" to take on some project we really actually want to take on... could be writing, painting, creating a garden, building a sun room, organizing a baseball card collection... what we're really facing is our fear of the "discomfort" of awakening from our comfortable "slumber" to become "active agents" in our own lives; to become "engaged" in what we're doing, rather than just "skating by."

Modern society works against us, in many ways because it is filled with "sleeping pills," from television to junk food to "meaningless busy work" to gossip to Facebook to the relentless pressure to pursue more things rather than good things. The pursuit of "more" is particularly odious because it attempts to trap us on a treadmill where we stay in a state of constantly "flitting between things" without paying real attention to any of them... because "we just don't have TIME."

It is time... to evaluate how we really think about-- and use-- our time.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Paddling Upstream, Against the Current

Humans are strange creatures.

I often find myself wondering why so many of us-- and I'm not entirely excluding myself, here-- seem to deliberately (and often repeatedly) choose "the hard way" to do things.

Well. OK.

Maybe I am excluding myself-- to some degree-- because a substantial part of my "life's work" has revolved the quest to always find the "lowest point" of the proverbial fence to jump over. In fact, if I can, I will probably walk around the fence (or crawl under it), so I don't have to jump, at all.

As someone once observed about me "You'll put an almost insane amount of effort into figuring out how to not put any effort into something."

So when I feel baffled by people's choices, I expect that part of it is a failure-- on my behalf-- to have much appreciation for the "because I CAN" paradigm for living. Of course, part of it is personal opinion... I believe the world would be a better people if people were more willing to "think" through things, rather than "muscle" through them.

"Yeah, I climbed over the fence at the tallest part, where all the razor wire is! Look at what a badass I am!"

Yeah. No. Who gives a shit? What's more, while you're busy gloating over your superior fence climbing skills, did it even cross your mind that one side-effect of your suffering antics is that several people are now tasked/saddled with tending to the bleeding cuts on your arms?

Sometimes I feel like a better name for this blog might be "Miserably Misanthropic Mumblings."

But I digress.

So what am I really talking about, here?

Since I spend a lot of time in the self-development, consciousness and "enlightenment" business, I am always confuddled by the number of people who actively choose some form of "suffering," operating under the twisted perspective that wisdom (or even just "contentment") in life "isn't a thing" unless you've endured twenty years of hardship and misery to attain it.

It is almost like there is "status" and "ego value" attached to protracted suffering.

Here's a metaphor for you (because I love those!):

We stand before a thorny thicket, filled with a tangle of stinging nettles and blackberry vines. It seems we have to traverse 200 feet of it.

Looking at the thicket and going "Wow, that's a nasty mess, and going through there will cut me to threads. I'm just going to walk a mile down here to the side and go AROUND that, instead" is often not seen as "real" wisdom. It's "cheating," on some level.

"Wisdom," in many cases seems to only apply to the process of painstakingly forging a path through the thicket, getting yourself torn up, scratched and burned as you go, then emerging on the other side as "a survivor." Twenty years of suffering, thank-you, come-again.

Wow. Painful. Let's just walk around, 'm-kay?

"But it's not that simple!"


Therein lies the rub, alas. Somehow we take the opinion of the goo-roo who spent 30 years eating bread and water in order to reach enlightenment as "more meaningful" than the person who woke up one morning and said "Thus sucks, so I'm going to do it differently and be happy." And then is.

It is as if we attach a twisted "nobility" to eternal suffering and considerable skepticism to simplicity and common sense.

Aside from the prosaic truism "Misery loves company," why do we so often choose suffering? Why would we rather try to paddle our little canoes of life UPstream against the current?

Friday, September 5, 2014

So just what IS this "Authenticity" thing, anyway?

Many years ago, I sat with a friend during a workshop break and we discussed moving, life and what thereof follows. I had been talking about my (then) plans to relocate from Texas to Washington state.

My friend said "Wherever you go, you take yourself along."

We added the corollary "... so when you DO go, you'd better make sure the 'Yourself' you take along is someone you like."

I've often thought back on that day, and reminded myself of the importance of not only "knowing" ourselves, but also the importance of being truthful in our self-knowing.

That second bit seems to be what trips people up, more often than not.

Who are you, really?
Who am I, really?
Who is anyone, really?
And are we open to really being that?

As children, we exist largely "unfiltered," at least until we become acquainted with the word "don't!" typically delivered in a relentless fashion by our parents.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that's a bad thing. "Don't" is a part of learning not to touch a hot stove, or not running out into traffic. However... the "don't" that potentially represses the truth of Who We Are is not so good. Or, at least, it tends to repress parts of our essence that come back to bug us later, in the form of a "mid-life crisis."

What do we learn, as we walk through life?

Most of us learn how to "act," and how to put on the facade we believe "best serves" us. Yet, no matter how good we may become at maintaining our carefully constructed "self images"... there are very few people who don't eventually "show us" who they really are, below the veneer.

What does an "image" do?

It seems it allows us to have an "affiliate identity" aside from merely being a Human.

I'm a Goth.
I'm a Healer.
I'm a Warrior.
I'm a Pacifist.
I'm a Geek.
I'm a Hipster.
I'm a Badass.

I'm a Guru.
I'm a Mystic.
I'm a Christian.
I'm a Buddhist.

Perhaps... for some people... these terms (and untold thousands like them) are no more than semantic identifiers that afford us a shortcut to placing ourselves "somewhere" in a meaningful context of the overall human experience. In a psychologically healthy context, it's merely a bit of descriptive text that allows us to have a sense of place within the card catalog of the Library of Life.

I am a Highly Sensitive Person. I am an Introvert. I am a Dane.

These things "describe" me, but they are not what I essentially "am."


What happens when the image becomes the person? What happens when we become more strongly identified with the self-image we've created, than our (often hidden) inner truth?

People eventually show us who they are, as people.

And there's the rub. We are not our "images." And even those who have very carefully manufactured "masks" will have moments (and often many of them) when they inadvertently let their "human-ness" show, no matter how carefully their facades may be constructed.

Which begs the question "Why are you afraid to just be human? To just be yourself?"

I started thinking about this several years ago, as I was gathering my thoughts to write an article (which I still haven't finished) about why the majority of HSPs are afraid of letting anyone actually see that they are Highly Sensitive. There's a "disconnect" between between outward expression, and inner essence.

Sarah and I were talking about our "super powers," yesterday. She's a clairvoyant and world class psychic... her super power is the ability to "sit inside" other people's energies and immediately being able to see their "story." My own super power is more akin to being able to immediately evaluate the "relationship" between what someone says they "are" (their words) and what their actual doing and being says they are.

It never ceases to amaze me how much people's actions and true essence betrays their words... no matter how skilled they are at conveying their "story." This is especially true of those who seem "addicted" to labels... labels they use as a way to excuse themselves from their humanness, by substituting the attributes of their chosen label for their true essence.

I'm sure you've met them: "I have/can't/do/am XYZ because am an ABC" and variations of the preceding. Sometimes true, but often an excuse.

"I can't work because I'm ADHD."

No, not true.

The point being that it's a truly beautiful-- and quite rare-- thing when someone's "story" and their "essence" are totally in synch. And that, to me, is the definition of true authenticity: There's no "story" that deviates from the essence of who someone "is." Not only do such people "live their story;" their story is an authentic expression of who they genuinely are.

But it's hard work, and perhaps that's why many people resort to labels, rather than allowing their authenticity to shine. Labels are easy. "Images" are easy. Many many moons ago, I remember someone saying (about their rather ambiguous profile on a dating web site) that "it's less painful to be rejected for a projection of myself, than being rejected for my REAL self."

True words, those.

But do we really want to live in a box of lies?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Modern Web Sites are Stupid!

Sometimes I have "inner debates" with myself.

For the faint of heart and delicate of mind, I should give advance warning that my Inner Self tends to be a "potty mouth." Consider yourself warned.

Today's topic of discussion revolved around whether I am simply "getting too old for this," or am merely blunt enough to point out how stupid and dysfunctional it can be when the world allows "hot trends and coolness" to override common sense and functionality.

I'm talking about web sites. Specifically the current trend in "new look" web sites that seem to have been de rigeur for a couple of years now.

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You've seen them... and you've probably visited them.

There's some big huge GIANT image up top-- usually pretty "artsy" or "cosmic" or "hip"-- and about three words visible on the page.

So I get there, am thinking to myself "That's really pretty... but where's the actual CONTENT?"

Well, it's a splash page...

Sure. Fine. Let me splash on, here.

So I'm sitting there, looking at the pretty picture, trying to figure out what to do next... moving the cursor around on the page, trying to find a "hot" spot to click on. Which, in due course, I do.


Which just refreshes the page, because it's part of the CSS that when you click on the main image, it takes you back to the home page.

This is where I start to think I may be "too old" because I am on a web page that doesn't look complicated at all, yet I am not sure what to do next. In and of itself, that's annoying... because I've actually been using the web for more than two decades and it's sad that I evidently haven't learned anything...

I was raised with a school of web design that taught that your most important "real estate" on a web page is "above the fold." Which is tech speak for "what you can actually SEE when you land on a web page, before you start scrolling."

These days, I seem to be increasingly faced with... nothing... above the fold.

As it turns out, my path forward is hovering the cursor over the words that look like graffiti, spray painted on the building in the very "artsy" image. A drop down menu magically appears. How... "interesting"... the words looked exactly like they were "part of the picture."

How clever.


So I click on "Our Services."

Guess what?

I get to another page that's just a giant freakin' picture and nothing else. It's all I see.

Yes, I am now hip to the fact that I will have to (probably?) scroll down to find the actual content of the web site.

So what's the big deal? Why is this pissing me off?

Because you are wasting my time, having to figure out how your web site works. At the very least, put some site navigation up top, in plain view! Remember that bit about where the "most valuable real estate" on the screen is? That's where it goes.

I'm not kidding about that. I spent a long time in the IT industry, specifically studying-- in lab settings-- computer users' eye movements, when sitting in front of a screen. I can gaurum-frakking-tee you people's eyes do NOT start at the bottom right corner to see if you need to "scroll down" to see more.

But I built an AWESOME web site! Can't you see how AWESOME it is? Can't you feel my AWESOME-ness oozing from my web site?

Sure I can. At the very least, you have an "awesome" sense of your own awesomeness. Unfortunately, you are just too "awesome" to understand that your sense of awesomeness actually has little to no bearing on how real human beings use the Web.

But here's the thing-- I don't give flying fuck how awesome your web site may, or may not, be. It is functional? Unless you happen to be a dark and depressed artist with deep dedication to remaining in a state of perpetual starvation for the rest of your life-- in which case you really don't give a phuck-- your order of operation should be whether your site is functional and has good usability first, and is "amazing," second.

Here's the other thing: when Google suggests that your web site has "the answers" I'm looking for, you have approximately two seconds, during which I (and 90% of web users) determine whether or not it's worth looking at the site. If the answer is "no," you'll be rewarded with a "bounce," which is web-speak for using the back arrow on my browser. If I can't tell what your web site is "about" in those two seconds... "goodbye!" And then you can sit there and wonder why your site gets 50,000 hits a month, yet nobody ever seems interested in your product, service or whatever.

Because I really like metaphors, here is one for you:

That giant picture splash page with no navigation and a "cleverly hidden" drop-down menu? Think of taking your clothes to the dry cleaner and being told you have to solve a Rubik's Cube before you can hand in your clothes. You probably wouldn't go to that dry cleaner again, because their place is a pain in the ass.

Part of the problem with "modern" web design is that it has become super easy to build an amazing and "professional" looking web site, thanks to widgets and drag-and-drop technology. In and of itself, that's not the problem... the "problem" is that people no longer need to learn "structured programming" in order to build a web site. This has resulted in a myriad web sites being built "bass-ackwards:" People choose their amazing and beautiful web site design first, before they have actually sat down to create the content they want to share.

The result? A bunch of web sites that look like people paid $1000s to have custom built... yet are functionally a disorganized and virtually unusable clusterfuck.

Phrased as another metaphor, build the bones (content) first and then "dress it up" with an amazing wrapping, rather than "buying the dress" first, and then seeing if you can make the bones fit it.

Last time I was seriously pissed off at web design (in a "global" sort of sense) was when people first discovered Flash. And every new web site suddenly had to become a pissing contest of "Look at how good I am at coding with Flash!" And my response was something like "F**k you, and your Flash!"

This article was inspired by real events. One of which was shopping for web templates and realizing just how many are all about "looking good," with little to no attention given to the actual displaying of information.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Restating my Assumptions... ver. 54.0

Writing has always been a central part of my existence.

I started very early... discovering how the written word enabled me to communicate not only truthfully, but often compellingly, in ways my brain never seemed capable of doing "in the moment," using the spoken word.

I'm talking about being eight years old, here... meaning that this journey has now lasted 46 years.

From my teenage years through the late 1990's I wrote letters to people.

"Why don't you just pick up the phone and call me?" people would ask.

Well... because I'd rather write you a letter.

For many years, I was part of the "social blogging" movement, until it seemed to slowly wither away as people-- perhaps pressed for time-- turned from writing blog posts to writing shorter Facebook posts, and then even shorter twitter posts.

"Nobody has time to read, anymore."

It was my birthday, yesterday, and I more or less "took the day off" from the daily grind of making a living and keeping the electricity turned on. It allowed me a few moments to sit and reflect; specifically, to reflect on "things I like" and "things that matter to me."

There's an exercise people often engage in when trying to determine their "True Calling" in their work life... in which you brainstorm the question "If money were NO object, what would you most like to be doing? What would your day look like?"

Yesterday, I took the invisible invitation to re-examine that question, and to look at my life since I last pondered that stuff... somewhere around 2006, which is also when I last attempted to "reinvent" myself, after moving from Texas to Washington.

Truth be known, if I could just do "whatever," I'd probably spend the first 5-6 hours a day just writing. Which begs the question "Then why aren't you DOING that?"

Well, I can't afford it.

"But people make a living from writing, all the time!"

That's absolutely true. But they make a living from writing sales brochures for timeshares, manuals for stereos, online FAQs and corporate newsletters. I actually did that, for a while, and abandoned it... chiefly because I had zero interest in it.

Writing-- for me-- isn't just about words on a page or even "telling a story," it's about setting pieces of myself "free" into the universe with the hope that someone might be touched and benefit in some way from reading them.

"Observations about life" is generally not the kind of writing that earns people an income... chiefly because there are six bajillion interpretations of "life" out there, and they are all 100% free. Taking time to write musings like these is a pure "luxury" for me, these days.

Increasingly, I am finding meaning in writing my observations from the perspective of being an HSP or "Highly Sensitive Person," and that gives a sense of direction and "purpose" for my writing... even if I am writing largely to an audience who-- in their idealism-- either expect things to be free, or are sailing in my same boat as I of being "well-intentioned, but flat broke."

But let's continue with the exercise.... what else would I be doing?

I'd "be" doing pretty much what I am doing: Taking long walks on the beach and beach combing, I'd be working on my stamp collection, I'd go to flea markets and antique malls to look for "interesting treasures," I'd be doing some form of creative doodling, I'd take pretty pictures in nature and I'd work in the garden.

So that's really kind of cool... I actually get to do that. Most people can't say that.

What's less cool... and what prompted me to "re-state my assumptions" is that eight years after the last revision, I'm still not "making a living" at this. Well... yes, I am... but only in the most technical sense of the word, just like a rusted out 1988 Yugo is technically speaking "a car."

On the greater scale of things, the picture is not much prettier... it's 2014, and I'm making about the same income I did in 1989, not even "adjusted for inflation." And in 1989, my electric bill was $65 a month, but today it's $230 a month. Sadly, that's an equation that doesn't really add up. But at least I am here "on my own terms."

So what is it really I am doing, here? What has been my "objective" in life, to date?

I guess what I have "been" is authentically myself. That has been my objective... and it feels like I have succeeded quite well. Of course, then I can point to the fact that being authentically myself is not a "sustainable endeavor," perhaps becayuse I always struggled to "monetize" (to use that popular buzzphrase of our times) that endeavor.

My parents tried to instill in me a value set that would make me feel motivated by money, but it never really took. I have failed miserably at planning anything, or undertaking anything, primarily based on its financial viability. I just look at whether a venture is "what I want to do." Even when faced with a shutoff notice from the electric company, I'm not motivated by "money," I'm motivated by "fear" (of sitting in the dark).

As I do my soul searching I consider whether I have some sort of subconscious vow of poverty... or some altruistic need to actively "reject" the financial tenets that drive our world. In most ways, I really don't. I recognize that everybody has to eat... and so, we want to be "compensated" for our contributions to the cause. I just happen to hate sales, in any way, shape or form... which is ironic, given that I have been in various forms of "sales" for all my adult life.

And so-- as I concluded my little "inner journey" yesterday-- I examined a dilemma faced by many other HSPs, like myself: How do we find a balance between "meaning" and "money?" Moreover, when being your authentic self involves "things esoteric" that appeal only to a small number of people, how do you put food on the table through the pursuit of what "most matters," without selling your soul in the process?