Thursday, April 23, 2020

Priorities and Crutches

The apocalypse really gives you some time to think.  I tried to write yesterday but I just couldn't make anything stick to the page.  Hopefully today will be better (I feel like I say that literally every fucking day).

We all have things that are important to us, be it values we learned as a kid or maybe decided were important along the way (for me they are things like kindness, honesty, and humility), or actions and achievements we value (generating financial independence, running a 6 minute mile, or fostering an animal).  These are our priorities.  The one thing I can think of worth mentioning is that it's really valuable to actively identify your priorities and values through conscious effort, then analyze if your day to day life actually lines up with holding those things in high regard.

For example, I have this out-dated priority of achieving financial success through poker.  It's not that that's still not important to me; it is definitely somewhere on the spectrum of my priorities.  But my actions the past year or two (maybe longer) aren't really congruous with it.  If it's my number 1 priority (as by my time allocation would appear to be), why does it not give me pride?  Why does it not make me happy?  And why have I not mustered the energy to do the extra things (like studying, learning, reading, hand reviews) that would allow me to continue to succeed at it?  Don't get me wrong, succeeding at poker used to be my #1 priority and it used to make sense.  But lately I think I've just been limping along because I haven't replaced it with anything else.  Inertia perhaps?  It's easy to do the same thing again and again.  Or it's not and we turn to crutches.

What's a crutch?  Some people I guess might call it a coping mechanism, and it's something or someone you use or do to help you cope with other, less pleasant, aspects of your life.  I had a couples therapist who called them "escapes".  Obviously the ideal is to generate a life that you don't need to escape from, one that requires no or very few crutches and coping mechanisms.  Back here in reality we accept the need for some of those things (we call them "me time" or "self care") and I think they are completely fine.  Having a glass of wine and a bubble bath?  That's self care and that's great.  Getting blitzkrieg drunk at a bar for no reason on a weeknight?  Probably less good....

As I was thinking about this post (and the one I failed to write yesterday) I realized something.  The reason I failed yesterday and the reason I'm still going today is that today I have a fucking point, something to tie the whole thing together at the end.  That sounds absurd now that it's out on the page, who starts writing without a point, but for someone who has close to 800 blog posts and doesn't know how that's even possible maybe it's not obvious.  Anyway, here's the point.

Crutches are OK as long as you treat them like crutches.  As long as you use them as intended, they can be a perfectly healthy way to keep yourself going (that's the whole self-care thing).  The problems creep in when you start treating crutches like priorities, when they start getting in the way of you doing things that are actually important to you.  Hopefully you see where I'm going with this, but here are some examples.

You like to drink, but you've started scheduling your life around your ability to get blitzed with your friends.  You are often hungover the next day and can't work effectively.  You can't get into shape because of the excess calories.  But still you make sure you find a way to get to the bar with your friends as often as possible.  Your crutch is being treated like a priority.

You play a dumb internet game on your phone.  You used to really enjoy it, but now you're just going through the motions and it's eating away at time you could spend doing other things.  It's fine if you need a distraction now and again, but you should know when too much is too much.  What are you really getting out of it, anyway?  You're prioritizing a crutch.

You're in a stagnant relationship that's not giving you what you need or really even want.  It has become a crutch to avoid feeling useless and lonely.  Obviously at some point it was giving you those things, or else you wouldn't have gotten into it in the first place.  Maybe it has changed, or least it's forward projection (what it could turn into in a perfect world) has, or maybe just your priorities have shifted.  Who fucking knows.  It's OK to stay in something like that so long as it's not interfering with your priorities, but it's important to make sure you know what those priorities are.  Do you want something more, something different?  Are the good parts worth the bad?  It's always easier to limp along than make big changes, trust me that I of all people get that, but here's the thing.  If it's a crutch you have to treat it like a crutch.  You can't make it a priority.  If you do you're just selling the rest of your life short, and that's no way to live and will eventually eat you up.  But in this case....if your relationship isn't a priority, then I it really a relationship?

So yeah that's all I've got.  Take the time and effort to decide what your priorities really are, and make sure you live your life in such a way that the majority of your efforts and energy go towards those priorities.  It's OK to have crutches, but you have to limit them to just helping you re-focus on your priorities.  You can't let them become priorities themselves.

No comments: