My Personal Independance Day!  (09/23/2012)

Today, September 23rd, 2012 is the very first anniversary of my own Personal Independance Day!

Many of you out there, no doubt, may have often seen the same struggle in your own lives that I saw about a year ago. People who were once trusted comrades and friends had morphed into just ordinary (and often annoying) acquaintances who simply demanded to be treated like friends. Individuals in one's life sometimes gather who don't truly have your own best interests at heart, but rather their own. You become indebted to them with little or no promise of return. You find yourself in their good graces only so long as you are giving. When the giving stops, for whatever reason, they turn hostile... and then disappear completely.

I will admit, I became quite jaded during that period in my life. I found that I could trust no person, no corporation, no government, no association. I know well, better than most, that there are exceptions to every rule, and sometimes there are occassional beautiful gems in a landfill teeming with cold stones, but when the tide turns away from the exceptional and strongly towards the brutal, it's quite hard to keep your optimism up. It's hard to keep focused; harder still to see the joy shining behind thick clouds of delusion, illusion, and obtusion that seem to surround us all, at times.

When the proverbial shit hit the fan to the point where I could not bear it any longer, I made a radical choice, more than a year ago. Out of desperation, I opened a file on my computer and began a list - a very involved list. It was a list of people, projects, hobbies, associations, interests... even career based tasks. That's right: sometimes the biggest assholes in the universe are, regrettably, those you are forced to deal with while you are earning a living. Enough said.

Once the list was finished, I divided it into two columns: 'Pro' and 'Con'. In the 'Pro' column, I listed everything related to that name, be it a person, an organization, or even one of my own activities, that I found beautiful, useful, beneficial, and desirable. In the 'Con' column, I listed all the items that I found burdensome, troublesome, damaging, painful, and even futile.

It was tough to compile the list, to be sure. It included many names, both friends (real and virtual), associates, and enemies. it included nearly every hobby, project, interest, or activity I've ever involved myself with. And when the list was complete, it was LONG; the price I pay for being the sort of person with many interests, little need for sleep, and a whimsical tendancy to drift in and out of activities, at times.

The list was completed last year on or about September 18th, 2011. I spend nearly three full days reviewing it, adding additional notes, marking it, scoring it... The list was to be the 'input' for a very bold and potentially life-changing process.

I had decided, simply enough, to cut away the 'Chaff' from the 'Wheat'. I had decided to seriously simplify my life. I had chosen to eliminate the negative, the unproductive, the hopeless, and the dangerous and concentrate my future efforts on the productive, the beneficial, the prosperous, and the enjoyable.

As every sea captain can tell you, there are times when the water pouring into your hull threatens to swamp your ship and your only choice is to both a) plug the leaks and b) jettison everything overboard that you can live without.

I had a lot of items to jettison, it turned out.

Next, I made some hard choices. What/Who would stay? What/Who would go? What could I keep but in a miminal fashion; one that required less time and effort than I had spent previously?

As fortune would have it, I also found some items on my list that required MORE attention, effort, and intent on my part. I took note of them, as well.

Over the next six months, I divested with abandon! Now, mind you, it wasn't a heartless prospect, especially where friends and associates were concerned. The best friends (all 'Pro' and very little or no 'Con') were kept. Others were minimized to a degree, but I kept in touch with them; a few of them (as a result) have blossomed into better and much healthier relationships, since I began this process. If you are now reading this account, you can rest assured that you were one of the 'kept' names on this list of mine!

A precious few, sadly enough, ended completely; but only in cases where the 'Pro' list was thin or nearly empty and the 'Con' list was exhaustive. One long term virtual relationship that had once been very strong I chose to end abruptly after discovering that it had turned seriously one-sided and selfish on the other party's part, and after discovering that the person had been strongly affected by a rather serious mental illness that they had been hiding from me for more than a year. In the interests of preserving my own sanity, I had to finally admit to myself that I was ill-equiped to provide counsel and support to this person. I am, after all, a software developer, not a psychologist...

The vast majority of the people I ceased day to day contact with were mostly brief acquaintances, minor business contacts, and "friends of friends of friends". I had made up my mind that I was too deeply involved in a myriad of surface level situations and that the only way to return quality to both my life and theirs was to prune away at the roots and devote most of my efforts to the truly valuable people in my life.

And when this process was complete, I was overjoyed to discover several key benefits to this process:

  • I had MANY wonderful and beneficial relationships that survived this weaning process! It turns out that listing the positives and the negatives of your relationships is actually a wonderful way to see which of the many people you know are TRUE friends. When this process was complete, the remaining close friends were those would not only drink my ale, and share my house, meals, and company but were those who would share my tears with me, as well, or call me to the carpet out of Love on those thankfully rare times when I had acted like a real jerk in their presence and needed to be corrected!

  • The easiest items to eliminate from the list were the inevitable 'time sinks'; activities (especially online ones) that I had engaged in on a regular basis out of habit or out of consideration for groups I had been formerly active in. Anything that I still had the 'spark' or eagerness to participate in remained, but I was shocked to find that I was regularly engaging in a whole host of activities that I no longer enjoyed, simply because I had been doing them out of 'rote' for so very long.

  • Seperating the 'Chaff' from the 'Wheat' in my life revealed a few truly precious and wonderful elements of my life that I had been neglecting due to the demands, both in terms of time and effort, of these other activities. These were elements that would severely affect my life to the negative were I to lose them, and a few were relationships that I had thought firm and secure but, it turned out, were being strangled by my lack of attention to them!
  • When the process was complete, yes, I had lost friends. With the exception of those thankfully few relationships that had proven manipulative (such as the online mentally ill former friend), I announced my seperation gracefully with them. I contacted each and informed them that my life had taken a turn in direction and that following this turn would reduce or possibly eliminate my contact. I invited them all to stay in touch, via email, this website, or facebook, and thankfully nearly all of them have complied since then. The ones who didn't I simply have written off as collateral damage.

    They were never friends to begin with: True friends walk beside you through mud OR roses. Any who couldn't live up to that quality became simply people who I had used to know...

    My list of weekly activities had shrunk dramatically, but that turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. Several hobbies and activities (such as my writing) have blossomed tremendously since then. I have published my first novel (a meager effort and one that I will NOT make a fortune on, but an accomplishment I have always wanted to see and one that I am now grateful I have brought to fruition). I have poured new attention into many of my Career based activities, as well: learning new software development technologies and completing many half-finished home projects that had suffered over the past years and gathered dust.

    I found myself spending more immediate and neccessary time with my family, as well. We began turning off the TV more in the evenings and returned to our earlier simpler joys of sitting on the front steps of the house at sunset with a coffee, enjoying simple conversation, the rustle of the leaves on the trees, and the sheer utter joyful silence of it all...

    And with this sudden 'rush' of free time that I now had on my hand, I found myself meeting NEW people, all of a sudden. I found new ways to enjoy some simple time with friends and loved ones, and even tripped across a few new hobbie and activities that have greatly enriched my life.

    And now? One year later? Today (the 23rd day of September, 2012) is the one year anniversary of this grand upheaval in my life's decision and activities and I can truly look back on the process now and rejoice not only at what I have gained from this grand adventure, but give thanks for those precious few relationships and activities that I had damn near come very close to LOSING before I began this weaning.

    I live a simpler life now, but a happier one. No longer do I devote huge amounts of time, coin, and effort propping up pseudo relationships, activities, and interests that I once thought neccessary but, over time, have discovered were actually quite damaging and self-destructive.

    With them gone forever, I have found it easier to concentrate on the people, hobbies, activities, and interests that truly AID both me and mine. I have discovered that life often forces us to dig through many a dung heap looking for those few precious jewels in our lives, but that it's simply foolish and self-destructive afterwards to keep both the jewels and the dung...

    Today is the First Anniversary of my own 'Personal Independance Day'. I fully expect to repeat this weaning process, once again, in the weeks and months to come.

    I look forward to next year and find myself keeping an eager eye out on even more positive and directed changes in my life. I am, after all, just like everyone else: I gather both the positive and the negative in my daily journies. i make both good and bad choices.

    I have just discovered that is is wise, on occassion, to be able to look inward, recognize those successes and failures, and deal with them appropriately.

    All of us, it turns out, occassionally need to 'Cling to that which is Good, and Abhor that which is Destructive'....

    So, until next year... Happy Personal Independance Day!

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    My Personal Independance Day!
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