Monday, 27 May 2019

Momentous

I'm probably overthinking this - because I tend to overthink everything. That's kinda what I do... so, I figure, I might as well just bite the bullet and write this damn thing. After all, today is the 27th of May, and I have an irrational preference for the number twenty-seven.
Speaking of numbers, I'm not really sure what's so special about the number 300. I mean, sure, it's the highest and score you can get, playing a perfect game of bowling (twelve strikes). It's also the name of a Zach Snyder movie about Spartans (based on a Frank Miller comic about Spartans). Of course, that movie was inspired by the Spartan legend of the 300 Spartans who fought in the Battle of Thermopylae. But they're not alone in legendary militia - in religious narratives, the "300 soldiers" appears to be a common motif. 300 Israeli soldiers fight the Midianites; in Islamic Tradition there remained 300 Israeli survivors of the conflict with Goliath & there were 300 followers of Muhammad that survived the Battle of Badr.

But, at the end of the day, this remains yet another milestone - an integer chosen arbitrarily due to being the square of 10 (the basis of our decimal numbering system). I don't think that the number, or even this post, is in and of itself special. What makes it special, and meaningful to me, is that it shows the distances that I have come and (if you are a loyal reader) which you have come along with me.
But what about this moment is special? What should I talk about right now. It feels significant, but I'm not certain as to why or how.
Well... something that I have been considering lately is the significance that can be found in all moments, regardless of the broad sweeping inevitability of time, or the general outlook of the era at large. Lately, I have felt like I keep losing track of "now", and the present moment occasionally seems to slip through my fingers.

For you see, I sometimes suffer from chronic anxiety - I always have it, but usually I manage it. It is a mental illness, whereby your brain overreacts to stress and fear, and/or results in having that response triggered by mildly or completely harmless stimuli (in many cases, the stimulus itself doesn't exist). I have talked about this many times before, so I hope this information isn't new to you. But what may be novel to hear is that this isn't simply "a sense of dread".
Anxiety may manifest in different ways for different people, but one of the ways - and indeed the way this affects me - is that I can often find myself disconnected from the current moment.
Sometimes, I worry about the things that I've done, or the things that have happened to me which I may have avoided if I'd acted differently in the past; or even I worry that things which have happened which I don't fully understand may happen again.
Or, I may stress about the future, and not only the consequences it may hold for me, but also the opportunities which I am denying myself based on the actions I am not taking & the ways that the future may be both predictable and unpredictable in any given moment.

This is not the only symptom of my anxiety (far from it), but when I am stressed, I am often thinking about something that has happened to me, or something that I fear may happen to me - and it can mean that I am failing to pay close attention to those things that are currently happening to me.
And so, the word of the Day is: 'MOMENT'
Moment /mōmənt/ n. 1. An indefinitely short period of time; An instant. 2. The present, or any other particular time 3. A definite period or stage, as in a course of events; juncture: At this moment in history. 4. Importance or consequence: A decision of great moment. 5. Statistics The mean or average of a given power of the values of a set of variates. 6. Philosophy An aspect of a thing. 7. Physics A measure of the tendency to cause rotation around a point or axis, equal to the product of the force and its perpendicular distance from the point of the axis.
I struggle, at times, to fully embrace the moment, because I am so often concerning myself with the past and the future. And although I know these thoughts are irrational, that doesn't stop my mind from thinking them. See, in a sense, there is a mild sensation of stress and fear that is constantly bubbling just under the surface of my mind. It's usually very mild, and if I am in the right mindset (and  not forgotten to take my medication) the heat barely bothers me. Like resting by a fireplace, the heat is felt, but not feared.
However, since it is already so close to boiling point, a single disturbance can start it spilling over into my mind, and although it can't actually hurt, it can feel as though my mind is on fire. Now, if I recognize that the temperature is rising - that I am becoming stressed - then I can try to calm it with a proverbial cool breeze or soft, cold rain, to slowly calm the waters. On good days, the waters can even be practically still. But, because it is so energetic and frenetic most of the time, it is as though it is always on the verge of spilling over.

Please, keep in mind, this is all just a metaphor to illustrate my point, anxiety isn't literally "hot" (if anything, it can manifest as a cold chill down the spine). But, this is to demonstrate how my mind works in regards to my anxiety, because for the average person without anxiety, the waters beneath their mind are cool and calm as a serene lake, and they only boil over when something dangerous, cruel or tragic happens.
In a very poetic, illogical, metaphorical sense, you could say my mind is more tropical than most...

That's the reason this word resonates so much with me, to the point that I want to use it Today for my 300th Blog Post. It is because as I have managed more and more to take better care of myself and to enjoy the present moment moreso than fearing the past or future, I've become more aware of my life.
And perhaps more importantly, the reason I feel the need to tell all of you about it is because I feel like, although I am so often removed from the current moment on account of my anxiety, I also feel as though there are probably many people who despite lacking this particular mental illness, nonetheless don't seem to truly take part in the present time of their lives.

I mean, think about it - what are you doing right now? You're reading "this". And by this, I don't mean my blog post, but I meant that word. It's done now, you've read it and now you're reading this sentence. Of course, that's over now, and now you're reading this one. In a matter of seconds, you've read five sentences, have you taken a moment to think about you, in this moment, who you are and what you're doing?
Don't get me wrong, I'm wonderfully flattered that you've taken this moment out of your day, whatever time of day that may be, to read my words. And I also feel as though this is a good use of this moment in time - assuming of course that you're not procrastinating or ignoring some other pressing matter... in which case, you should probably do that first. But, have you taken the time to think about what's happening?

Now, don't worry, some people think of crap like this as profound. It's isn't - fuck that. I'm not here to tell you about how every moment is precious or that life isn't about the breaths you take, but the moments that take your breath away... blah blah blah, no. I'm not here to be a motivational poster. I don't want to draw your attention to the current moment due to its supposed "profundity", but due to it's simplicity and immediacy.
Yes, immediacy - perhaps that's the best way to think about it. It comes from the greek word "media", the plural for medium. When something is medium it's in the middle - often between two extremes: small, medium, large; soft, medium, hard; short, medium, tall - so, im-mediacy is about being IN the middle, between the past and the future. You're here in the middle of then and soon, in the present moment of NOW.

Again, I must reiterate, I am not saying that you need to "live life to the fullest", not only is that really lame and cringeworthy to me, but this idea that you need to live your life so that "no moment is wasted" is the kind of thing that can make you feel incredibly anxious in the first place.
Worrying about whether I was wasting my life was part of what made me curl up into a little ball and do nothing for a week - ironically, wasting my life even more.

See, one of the ways that my therapist taught me to deal with anxiety is called a grounding exercise - if you notice that you're starting to stress about something, what you are meant to do is set your worry aside by consciously identifying several things in your immediate environment which you are currently experiencing. There are several methods of doing so, but the one I use is based on a countdown of your senses. So, you have to simply identify:
5 things you can FEEL; 4 things you can SEE; 3 things you can HEAR; 2 things you can SMELL & 1 thing you can TASTE.
So let me run you through an example now. Right now,
Five things I can feel:
 • The pressure of the chair beneath my backside.
 • The keys of the keyboard beneath my fingers.
 • The tightness of my shoes on my feet.
 • The dulled edge of the desk on my forearm.
 • The warmth of the shirt on my back.
Four things I can see:
 • The colourful images of the YouTube video player on my screen
 • The coffee cup beside my monitor.
 • The messy three-tier tray of papers beside me.
 • A single five-cent piece that fell from my wallet onto the desk.
Three things I can hear:
 • The dull whirring of my computer's cooling fan.
 • The dull, plasticky clacking of my keyboard as I type this sentence.
 • The muffled sound of a newsreader from the television in the livingroom.
Two things I can smell:
 • The mild smell of sweat from my shirt (I went for a walk today).
 • A very light smell of dust from my desk.
One thing I can taste:
 • At the moment, simply my tongue, salivating since I am a little thirsty.

That's me at the present moment. Or, at least, it was a moment ago when I typed that, I'm going to go get that glass of water now - but the point is, once you identify these things, you recognize that these are all a part of the world around you which you're a part of - or, you could use another method to place yourself in the current moment. I use this because it's easy to remember, but there are several grounding and anchoring exercises. No matter which you use, the purpose of these exercises is to bring yourself out of this drifting, unsecured worry about what was, what may be or what could be, and ground yourself in the present, solid reality. In a sense, it's like snapping you awake out of a daydream.

Now, I'm not asking you to examine your own life on a second-by-second basis. This exercise is about ripping you out of your worry and bringing you back to the present moment, you don't need a grounding exercise unless you're worrying or lost in your thoughts. Rather, I am just hoping to draw your attention to the fact that your life is happening right now, and you should probably try to experience it whilst it's happening. Even the little moments...
See, I decided to write about this because of three moments. They were rather minor, but I feel they're worth mentioning:
  1. Firstly, about three weeks ago, I was going for a walk. I had been stressing and worrying, trying to figure out what I should do for this blog. I was wondering if I should do something simple, so I could draw it, or maybe I could do another vlogpost. But, I had no idea, so instead, I put it out of my mind, and instead considered stories that I was writing. When I walk and work on stories, it either consists of me talking to myself (either to brainstorm aloud, or speaking in character to develop dialogue), or I consider concepts again in the hopes that a literal new perspective could inspire something.
    As I walked I remember noticing that there was a large patch of dirt where the grass hadn't grown, through a combination of foot traffic and the occasional car parking by the fence. I noticed that some of the rocks in the dirt were green, or even clear and shiny. It was obvious that they were the result of broken bottles, but they weren't sharp, they'd been smoothed down to pebbles. It occured to me then, that even something as simple as the ground, can seem beautiful. Not only was there an interesting palette of colour, but I knew (although, I only recognized this subconsciously) that some had been collected, melted, shaped and coloured, before being filled with liquid, drunk and discarded, only to be moulded into a round pebble, whereas others may simply have washed down the road in the rain, or been kicked up by car tires or shoes. And all because I had taken a moment to pay attention... to the ground. That's when I first considered "moment" as a word.
  2. Secondly, although this happened nineteen years ago now, this may be the moment that resonates with most of you, rather than a moment staring at the ground - since it has the greatest impact. See, in the year 2000, the new millenium and a year full of promise and anticipation for many, Australia hosted the Olympics Games in Sydney. In a sense, it ruined the Olympics for me, not because it was bad, but because it was too good. Not only was I a nine-year-old kid, but I was seeing my whole country get excited - there were promotional tie-ins; the torch relay was all over the news and I even remember some school activities which made reference to the sporting events.
    But, that's not the one moment. The actual moment was during the Opening Ceremony. I watched it on television, at about 7pm, and I was mesmerized. The music, the dancing, the amazing puppetry & the jaw-dropping choreography. It is an amazing performance, and you should look it up if you've never seen it. But, what struck me was that, because of the camerawork, whilst it often showed the performance as a whole, it would occasionally cut to a close-up on just one moving sculpture, or one performer; one puppeteer, one horserider or one firebreather. In particular, there was a moment during the "Nature" segment of the ceremony, when several thousand people moved in a way that represented a bushfire followed by blossoming flowers - and in that moment I realized that every single individual involved had dedicated a fraction of their life (perhaps months of practice and rehearsal) to come together in one moment, to perform once live for two hours, then return home. According to Wikipedia, the ceremony had a cast of 12,687 people. I didn't know that at the time, but I saw in that moment how several thousand people can work together, to create something great in a single moment.
  3. Thirdly, I went to Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary with my family. Some of our Japanese extended family were visiting Australia, so we decided to take them to see some Aussie animals. I took a lot of photos, because I could get some amazing photos of the animals - I even managed to cuddle a snake called Isis (although, the handler insisted that they mostly called her Izzy). They also had a miniature railway, which could take you from one side of the park to the other, and because I absolutely adore trains, I insisted that we ride it. But, on the train, as we travelled I took three photos, then quickly realized that the train moved too quickly for my digital camera, making every photo an ugly blur. So, I put my phone in my pocket, and just enjoyed the ride. And, even though I didn't really "do" anything, it was a great experience - I just watched as we travelled through a park, saw a peacock, went in the tunnel, past the lake, then came to a stop by the reptile show and the live-flight display.
    Now, I probably would have enjoyed it just as much if I had taken photos - I took photos all day, and I loved it - but with empty hands, I realized that I was having an amazing time. Like I said, I love trains, we were chugging along at a good pace and it was also a beautiful day and we were headed to see a birdflight show. It felt great to be alive that day.
Of course, these aren't the only moments which matter - my point is meant to be that most of them matter - but I believe that these moments are emblematic of what I talk about when I say that I find meaning in being aware of your present moment. The reason why I shared them with you is because those are moments in my life which I will remember because of how they made me feel grounded in the present moment, and realize where and when I was. I am glad I experienced all of them, even though some were more grandiose than others - because yes, it's important to be fully aware during those momentous occasions, but that doesn't mean we should ignore the occasional moment.

Now, maybe I'm just overthinking it again. Perhaps these simple moments feel more potent to me because, when I was stressed or feeling depressed, these minor moments were emotionally stained with negativity. I am finding more enjoyment in the present because it's not as depressing as it once was.
But, if this blog meant something to you, and you feel like your life is passing you by, or like you're simply a passenger on a world that's spinning faster than you can comprehend. Maybe you occasionally feel stressed, and find yourself lost in worry. For whatever the reason.  I want you to take a moment to ground yourself. Whether you need an exercise to realize the world around you, or if you simply need to reconsider how you look at things... perhaps you should take a moment to experience the present time of your life.

If not, well, thank you in the least for sharing this moment with me - since it is the 300th moment of 299 moments which I've shared on this blog. Even if it doesn't seem that meaningful, especially surrounded by some which are better or even worse, and it's a number without any grand significance, it's the fact that it's the moment happening now which makes it meaningful. Not special, not better, not profound... but it nonetheless matters, and hopefully it will be just another moment in the path ahead.

I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and until next time, I'm gonna take a moment to myself to figure out what I'm going to do tomorrow.