November 14, 2018 – Morning Journaling (My Name)

While running this morning I had an idea and decided to go through with it. To be honest, very few of the important decisions in my life took more than a few minutes to settle on. Marrying Anna, getting a tattoo, quitting my job twice to cycle across the country without any security, joining the Army, buying a house, etc. Adopting Higgins was really the only long-term decision I made after a lot of thought and reflection. I just kind of know whether something will work for me and then go for it or discard it.

So, on the run I decided to change my last name. I’m going to add my maternal grandparents name and I’ll be Peter John Neiger-Reiswig.

You might be wondering why. Well, it really comes down to the importance of my name and family. I was raised equally by my parents but my grandparents also had a profound impact on me. I lived with them much of my life and it feels a little dishonest not to show that influence in my name.

From an extended family perspective I am much more a Reiswig than a Neiger. I don’t know any of my cousins on my father’s side but I’m in regular contact with those on my mother’s side. I didn’t know my grandparents on my father’s side due to death and distance but I lived with my grandparents on my mother’s side.

My life was shaped by the Reiswigs just as much as the Neigers. So, I’m gonna change my name to honor how important both sides of my family were and are to me.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 13, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Reading)

I am about an hour away from finishing my first 24+ hour fast in a long time. I forgot how good fasting makes me feel. It is a lot like meditation, I know I should do it and I’m always glad I did it, but it can be tough making it happen in the beginning. I’m not particularly tempted by food while fasting, it is just a matter of getting myself into the right mindset in the beginning. Once I commit, I am good to go.

Today, only one of my readings stood out to me. I’m a little bummed that “A Year with Rumi” really hasn’t impacted me. I really have not gotten much out of it and once the year ends I’ll probably start a new yearly reading, probably “A Year with C.S. Lewis”. That was recommended to me a while back by two brains that I respect. Though, that would go against my 2019 plan to read 75 books that are not by white men. Maybe I can make one exception for that morning practice.

Actually, that makes me wonder. How exactly am I going to define “white”? Most Latinx individuals are technically “white” because white is a race while Latinx is an ethnicity. But I don’t think I’m going to refuse to read books by Latinx authors. Maybe I’ll refine my statement, “In 2019 I am going to read 75 books that are not written by non-Latinx white cis-gendered men”. Should I add heterosexual in there? Hmm, maybe. I’ll give that some thought.

That still really doesn’t help me narrow down “white”. The US Census defines white as “a person having origins in any of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa”. That doesn’t work for my purposes. I’m trying to expose myself to points-of-view that differ from my own. The truth is, I don’t understand what life is like for someone who lives in or is from Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Israel, or Turkey. The government may call people from those areas “White” but they don’t match my experience, so I have something to learn from them.

Ugh, definitions are difficult.

I guess what I’m trying to do is read books by people who aren’t culturally “white”, which is admittedly a bit more difficult to nail down.

“In 2019, I am going to read at least 75 books by authors that are not cis-gendered men from a Christian white privileged culture similar to my own.”

Okay, I’m happy with that statement (for now). I really didn’t mean to go through this debate with myself today but I kind of love when I get off topic and just spill my thinking system onto the page.

What I really was going to blog about was my reading from “The War of Art” . I think this will be pretty short… maybe.

In today’s reading there was much discussion about the difference between a professional and an amateur. Every one of us is a professional in at least one area, our job. Unfortunately, many of us (including myself) treat the things we love and our passions and our Work like an amateur would. Pressfield identifies 10 ways that professionals differ from amateurs (see below for awesome visualization that took me hours).

And, that about sums up my treatment of writing and other passions. I’m a damn amateur. Admitting that is the first step to defeating Resistance. Maybe these steps will fix it:

  1. Show up: Schedule time to sit in the chair and create, no matter what. Don’t leave until the allotted time, even if the house is on fire or my dog is being dognapped (false: I will stop for those things). Make this a routine that I plan on keeping until the day I die.
  2. Commit: Start gaining income and then become dependent on that income.
  3. Be More: Have a life beyond the Work, be able to laugh at it and be a well-rounded person.
  4. Improve: Constantly work to improve my craft through real-world criticism and study.

As is often the case, planning is easy and executing is difficult. We shall see.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 11, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Ace)

My grandfather is dying.

It has taken me a long time to write that sentence even though his health has been declining for several years. He had always been in pretty good health but after a car accident things started to change. He has mostly recovered but things have never been quite the same. It seems that incident and the days of recovery in the hospital were a hill to high for his body and mind to fully climb.

Each visit with him is more difficult. His mind wanders, he forgets things, he has trouble with simple language, and his mobility is nearly gone. Rationally, I know that he is around 80 years old and overall had a really healthy and amazing life. But to see this man who helped raise me, who taught me some of the most important lessons of my life, and who, until recently, has independently run his own business for 60ish years, barely be aware of the world around him has struck me hard. So hard in fact that I’ve basically pretended it isn’t happening.

I find it funny on some levels. I’ve gone through End-Of-Life doula training and I am considering a career in end-of-life care. I’ve been the rock people come to when friends commit suicide. My partner and I talk about her aging grandmother and how the grieving has already started. But I haven’t really thought about the simple truth in my own life.

My grandfather is dying and there is a fair chance that it will happen relatively soon. In some ways, due to dementia, the man who helped me become the man I am today is already dead.

I actually would have never realized my own denial(?) if it weren’t for my therapist bringing it up this week. When she asked how I was grieving and establishing a legacy with him (an important aspect of doula work) it was like shades were pulled away from my eyes. My conscious mind had simply not allowed the thought of grief to happen. I wasn’t in denial that he was dying, I was in denial that I should start the healing and grieving process for myself now.

As part of this process my therapist and I talked and I decided that I should write a letter to him telling him how much he has meant to me. I’m struggling with it a little, I don’t want it to become an obvious “good bye” letter. I’m not sure it is my place to remind him or make real his own mortality. I shouldn’t try to be the end-of-life doula for my own life. But I want him to know how much he has impacted me and how those lessons will resonate throughout my whole life.

Like most of the important writing I do, I need it to marinate a bit so that I can collect my thoughts. It is difficult. I feel on an emotional knife edge while this is sitting in my subconscious. To constantly have his mortality floating around the background of my mind is not an easy emotional state, but I owe it to him. His life deserves the respect that comes from deep thoughts and doing something right. I know I shouldn’t wait too long though, or the letter might arrive too late.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 10, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Legitimate Reasons)

“I’ve long since decided if you wait for the perfect time to write, you’ll never write. There is no time that isn’t flawed somehow.” – Margaret Atwood

Happy Saturday, everyone! My mind is remarkable calm today but, as is often the case, my morning readings got things churning a bit. But first, a song that is stuck in my head…

Today’s reading from “Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On” by Tian Dayton is titled “A Scientific Approach to Life” and just reading that made me a little horny. Few things titilate me more than using science in my own life and the reading didn’t disappoint. The whole thing was about experimenting with your life, living by trial and error, and figuring out what works for you.

Of course, there was greater insight than this, particularly this passage:

It is difficult when I see something works, to get myself to believe in it and try again. What doesn’t work can sometimes feel more familiar and even more comfortable to me than what does, and often I find myself repeating that pattern rather than the more constructive one.

Holy titballs, that is basically me. “Hey Peter, you know those patterns and work that helped you reach your goals? Let’s not do that again. Clearly, that was a fluke and failure is the default. Why try again when you can accept your mediocrity, merge your body with the couch, and die without ever knowing what or who you could have been?”

Sounds ridiculous, but that is my mind much of the time. It is nice to read this and not feel alone.

The second reading that tickled my mind is from “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield (duh). While the book is about artists and other creators on its surface, really the thoughts apply to every part of life. In this chapter the author discusses how we rationalize not doing what we should do. We come up with reasons why right now isn’t a good time to have a kid, write a book, start exercising, quit smoking, learn the guitar, see a therapist, quit our job etc. Sometimes the excuses are just bullshit, but sometimes they aren’t.

Rationalization is Resistance’s spin doctor… Resistance presents us with a series of plausible, rational justifications for why we shouldn’t do our work.

What’s particularly insidious about the rationalizations that Resistance presents to us is that a lot of them are true. They’re legitimate. Our wife may really be in her eighth month of pregnancy… Our department may really be instituting a changeover… (emphasis added)

Or, in my case. My house is disaster because three rooms are unusable because of storm damage that is going to costs thousands of dollars to repair. My workload is larger now than it has been in years. The days are getting shorter and colder. My legs are stupid sore from my work out yesterday. These are all true, they are all legitimate, and they mean fuckall when it comes to doing my work.

Very few people can actually say they don’t have enough hours in the day. We all piss away time and justify it because there are too many barriers or because we deserve the reward of laziness for what we did earlier today, yesterday, or last month. Hours of my life have been used for little to no benefit when I had work to do.

If Tolstoy can write War and Peace and raise 13 kids, then I can sit down and write a book as a childless* person who works from home. If Lance Armstrong can train and win the Tour de France with cancer, then I can get outside and go for a four mile run to train for a half marathon. If a high school friend of mine can get a terminal cancer diagnoses in her 30’s and still live a full, active, and loving life then I can do my work.

There are a near infinite example of scientists, athletes, parents, leaders, artists, and personal friends who had legitimate reasons for putting off their work until next month, next year, after the kids are out of the house, once their savings account was big enough, but they didn’t. The truth is, there will ALWAYS be legitimate reasons. Rationalization will always be present. It will NEVER be a good time to work.

So, I need to keep this in mind during the tough mornings. When the bed is warm, my schedule is light (or full), or I accomplished a ton (or nothing) yesterday. There are plenty of excuses and legitimate reasons for not doing my work, but honoring them does nothing to get me in shape or finish a book or finalize a revolutionary RPG/board/CCG gaming system.

I gotta get to work.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

November 9, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Systems)

So take the photographs, and still-frames in your mind
Hang them on a shelf in good health and good time
Tattoo’s of memories and dead skin on trial
For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while
It’s something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right
I hope you had the time of your life

As is often the case, my therapy session this week continues to resonate with me. I find it kind of funny how my brain works sometimes. In many ways I am obnoxiously compulsive. If an idea pops into my head I often immediately make plans and take action to accomplish it. This is particularly true with travel. If my friends and I talk about maybe going to Asheville for New Years I will start researching AirBnBs and pester them to commit even if the holiday is four months away (obviously a real life example). When it comes to adventures I am ready to commit full-bore and work out the details later. This method of living has its pros and cons… I’ve had some cool adventures but I also owe $45,000 on $25,000 worth of student loans and my credit score is poop.

But, in other ways I am obnoxiously contemplative. When reflecting on myself or deciding how to respond to those who ask for my point of view I tend to let things marinate for days or weeks. Things swirl around my head and I look at it from too many angles. While this can lead to some great insights, it can also lead to procrastination and (I’m ashamed to say) I actually completely forget to respond to those who message me. I kind of suck at communication.

Anyway, when I meet with my therapist things tend to fall into that latter category. I think and think and reflect and then don’t take a lot of actual, concrete action. I’m trying to get better and I hope that by writing out things I can identify and execute specific steps.

With all that in mind, my therapist and I talked about how rare it is for me to have systems and rituals that are really my own. Okay, I wouldn’t say “rare”, but there are still weird little things that I do or don’t do that aren’t really me. I, like everyone else, was heavily shaped by my upbringing and the environments I lived in after moving out. My home life was good, but I was surrounded almost entirely by white, protestant, conservative-leaning people who idealized the nuclear family.

I may have been in Oregon, but I was out in white suburbia. For the life of me I can only specifically remember having one not-entirely-white friend in high school (he had one black parent and one white parent). Despite being on the west coast there was even relatively few Hispanic or Asian students in my high school of about 1,500 people. So, my upbringing was pretty, umm, vanilla.

The military was much more diverse but the systems in place were rigid. Everyone did everything the exact same way and it really wasn’t until college that I started seeing examples of how differently people can live and respond to situations. But still, in college things are pretty structured and we all just kind of follow orders and systems put in place by those we are, umm, paying to be our superiors?

It’s been over 10 years since I left the army (sweet aqua buddha!) and I’ve been exposed to a lot of different things since. DC toxic political culture, left-wing Indiana pagans, Burning Man, Montana mountain life, and now the coastal south. In each place I have observed a variety of ways to live and love, but there are still deeply entrenched habits inside of me that feel foreign but I still default to them.

The example that my therapist and I addressed is gift-giving. I am pretty damn terrible at gift-giving. It isn’t my love language at all, I don’t enjoy doing it and receiving gifts often makes me uncomfortable. I can appreciate the intention behind the gift, I know that others show love by gift-giving, and that by showing appreciation for the gift I am really showing appreciation and love for my friend, but it still feels kind of weird. I’m sure I have friends who feel the same way if I showed my appreciation by cuddling or kissing them (rare… because I understand social norms) or by verbally sharing my love and admiration for them (less rare… because I can’t just box in my love).

So, I recognize how differently people love but I don’t want to risk making my friends uncomfortable with my apparent lack of appreciation for gifts. Now, normally I could just mirror the gift-receiving norms that I was raised with like I’m Dexter pretending to feel emotions, but I actually don’t recall any particular gift-receiving norms. I don’t remember sending thank you cards or anything like that, which means I need to create my own system for this.

What is that going to look like? I have no damn clue because I’m going to overthink it until perfection becomes the enemy of the good and I establish nothing concrete (I’m kidding… I hope).

There are many more systems and rituals that I need in my life that may require some discovery and experimentation. Spirituality is a big one, as is political activism. Sexuality and relationships are huge, but I actually am pretty happy with how my monogamish openish fluid system is. Now that I think about it, I am better at establishing the big ones than the more nuanced and personal systems. That isn’t terribly surprising though, I’m generally more of a big picture philosophical person than a detailed realist. I see the forest but miss the trees all the time.

I will continue to think and try to work towards balance and peace within myself. The struggle will never end. Establishing and living true to myself is never going to stop. Even if there was an actual measurable end goal (and there isn’t), I am constantly changing, evolving, and growing in a way that the end goal would shift. I’m trying to find and follow a path that doesn’t stay in one place, I’m aiming for mountaintops that don’t have peaks, I’m navigating a river with infinite tributaries and offshoots. And by god that is fucking beautiful and exciting. I can’t wait to keep not reaching the end.

Unrelated Post Script: I’m listening to a Spotify playlist called “late 90’s early 2000’s pop rock” and it is great. “Good Riddance” by Green Day just came on and I got flashbacks of teaching outdoor school in high school and I am starting to cry a little. I think this one is joining my funeral playlist, I really need to make that. This is why I used the intro quote that I did.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Nov. 8, 2018 – Morning Journaling (Fear)

“If you’re paralyzed with fear, that’s a good sign. It shows you what you have to do.”
– Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

It’s been quite a while since I sat down to journal. The last couple of weeks have been a bit, umm, off. It is difficult to explain sometimes. I go through these cycles of highs and lows. They used to be REALLY bad, but with medication and therapy things have mellowed out and I experience life in a healthier range, but I still have depressive periods. It used to be 6 weeks of highs and 6 weeks of lows, but now it is more like 8 weeks of moderate highs and 2 weeks of moderate lows.

Actually, “depressive” isn’t really the right word for it. It isn’t really highs and lows, it is stability and instability. For the last 10-14 days my life felt off-balance, like the ground was shaking underneath me. The shaking was imperceptible to my conscious mind but my body could feel it and it made me uneasy. I couldn’t figure out what exactly was shaking, but something was.

During these times I tend to neglect my health, writing, meditation, etc. Basically, I stop doing the things that would actually provide me with some stability. So, I got out of the habit of writing, as well as exercising, eating well, practicing moderation with my drinking, and my morning routine. But, the worst of it appears to have passed and I’m feeling better and I’m back into a morning routine and committed to my half marathon training (only 7 more weeks!).

My reading reading of “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield really struck a chord with me because it talked about fear and self-doubt. Really, the two are the same thing. There are only two types of fear: fear of not being good enough and fear of being out of control. A whole wide range of negative behaviors and beliefs stem from those two interrelated fears. Self-doubt is really just the manifestation of the fear of not being good enough.

Rather than ignore or bury these fears, it is best to observe them and see what there presence tells us about ourselves. Pressfield makes the very Stoic argument that the presence of fear and self-doubt are actually good signs (see: “The Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday). Having these feelings means we are on the right path, we are pursuing our calling, Resistance is gathering weapons because we are approaching victory. Self-doubt requires love because we don’t doubt ourselves with things we don’t carry about.

“Self-doubt can be an ally… It reflects love, love of something we dream of doing, and desire, desire to do it. If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ chances are you are.”

The same applies to the source of self-doubt, fear. Fear tells us what we have to do, what we NEED to do, what our calling is, what is most important to us. If something is unimportant then we don’t fear doing it or not doing it.

“The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it… the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.”

Scared of starting a business? Joining a gym? Asking someone to marry you? Writing a book? Starting a family? Then you should probably do it.

I have never been scared of starting a family. There has not been any strong fear or self-doubt at raising children. I know that I would be okay at it but I also know that I don’t want to do it. It isn’t my calling, it isn’t important to the me or the growth of my soul. My path leads elsewhere, which is a really good thing. Raising children is one of the most important (if not THE most important) thing a person can do for society, it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. Parents should be passionate about it, educate themselves about it, be obsessed with it, and be terrified of it.

I am none of those things. Everyone is better off if I sit that adventure out. Besides, I am an uncle. Every kid needs an adult they can come to with questions too personal, embarrassing, or whatever for their parents. Every kid needs a person they feel won’t judge them and they know they will give them open honest advice. Every kid needs adults that model lifestyles different then their parents so that they have an idea of how varied the world can be. That is a role for me. And I’m scared shitless that I’m going to fuck it up and be a terrible uncle.

Writing scares me. Playing a musical instrument doesn’t. Training to be a therapist scares me. Studying economics doesn’t. Running a triathlon scares me. Cycling across the country doesn’t. I’m frozen by fear at the thought of really dedicating my time and labor to any specific area. It seems easy and natural to bounce from subject to subject, interest to interest, to the point where I know just a little about a lot.

I’m afraid I’m a terrible writer, therapist, friend, athlete, or partner. Or worse, I don’t think I actually am a writer, therapist, friend, or athlete. My path is clear. Where Resistance stands against me, that is the battle I must face. That is, if I want to truly live my life.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

Making Decisions

This may come as a surprise (it shouldn’t), my partner and I don’t always agree on things. Our brains have been shaped by different DNA and experiences, and we can both look at a “problem” and come to different solutions about how to address it. Shocking, I know.

One of the benefits I’ve started seeing from therapy is that I am becoming a more understanding partner. That wasn’t my intention in seeking mental health but important relationships come up in therapy. Overall our relationship is really strong and we handle things well, but there is always room for improvement.

One of the things I’ve started to understand is how we go about making decisions and taking action. She is a perfectionist, while I am very much not. I am not making a qualitative judgement about our two ways of operating, but they do impact us in a lot of ways. Her perfectionism means she is passionate about justice, equality, and preserving our environment. When something is wrong, she wants to make it right. My lack of perfectionism often leads to apathy, laziness, and justifying bad decisions as “practical”.

Much like the importance of learning your partner’s “love language”, learning your partner’s decision making process is important in a relationship. Knowing this can increase empathy and understanding of how we can look at the exact same issue with the exact same goal and come to very different solutions.

For example, let’s take buying clothes. If I wake up one morning and realize that it is getting chilly and I don’t own a seasonally appropriate jacket then decisions and actions come almost instantaneously. Without conscious thought I figure out the likelihood that I will be at an appropriate store to buy a jacket in the next 48 hours. If I am then I will put “jacket” on my shopping list. If I won’t be, I get on Amazon on my phone and order a jacket. From realization of problem to execution of solution is less than five minutes. I have an “execution” decision-making system (there are probably psychological terms for this stuff but I don’t know what they are).

This works great for me, overall. I experience considerable psychological distress when I don’t have an action plan in place and in progress. That plan may change considerably throughout execution, but at all times I feel better if I have done all I can. Aside from easing my mind, this also means I get things accomplished very quickly. The house is often picked up. My workload is planned out and structured. I can get in shape and educate myself about stuff fairly quickly because any plan now is often better than a perfect plan tomorrow. I am also quick to cut jobs or people out of my life that I feel are toxic.

Of course, there are downsides to this. I often pay more than necessary because I don’t explore options. Items may be the wrong size, a color I don’t like, or made poorly. I respond strongly to price and ease, which means I may end up actually losing money and ease in the long-term if I have to buy the same cheap version of a product dozens of times instead of a high quality one once. I also find myself frustrated or bored with projects that require repetitive action or are overly detail-oriented.

I recognize all that about myself and I am working hard to build my decision-making tool chest and using the “execution” that comes naturally only during appropriate times (ordering food, cheap products, picking up the house, etc.), and look to systems like my partners when details and quality are of the most value. It costs me some mental energy and stress to postpone and move slowly, but the end payoff is generally better.

My partner, on the other hand, experiences greater psychological stress when she rushes into a decision without knowing her options. Picking something now without research, trying it on, etc. leads to her being unhappy with the decision. This slows down the process but it also means that purchases (especially major ones) are better. She basically saved us over $1,000 on our refrigerator because we went with her decision making style instead of mine.

So, together we end up making really good joint decisions. Generally, neither one of us are 100% happy, but we are both 90% happy… and two 90%s is better than one 100% and one 10%. The most important thing is that we recognize and appreciate the other person’s way of going through life and making decisions. We have learned to default to the other person at times and to use the other person as an example to build new systems. We strengthen each other, but only because we are aware and don’t believe the “my way or the highway” is a good system.

Very rational people can look at both simple and complex problems and come up with drastically different ways of dealing with that problem, even with shared goals. This is true both in personal relationships and between cultures. The worst thing any of us can do is to have so much hubris that we completely ignore or demonize different solutions just because we don’t understand the process.

 

October 26, 2018 – Morning Journaling

“Today, I will begin the day consciously.”
– Tian Dayton, “Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On”

While on my morning run I started thinking about why I got up before 6am, put on running shoes, and pounded wet pavement in the chilly morning. This thought often pops into my head, particularly early in my runs. Sometimes, I think about being healthy or sexy or strong. I also think about how running will increase the chances that I’ll have a longer life with Anna or see my nieces and nephews become grandparents or be around when civilian travel to Saturn is pretty common.

I didn’t think about those more practical things today, though. Instead, my mind kept going to more philosophical reasons for what I do, specifically waking up. I came to the conclusion that one of the reasons I do it is because I want to live, not just in the biological exist way but in a way that honors my life and the sacrifices my ancestors made and the gift that was given to me by God/fate/coincidence/nature/determinism. I don’t really believe in a personal God, but if I did I feel like that would be a strong motive for me to be healthier, to honor the gift I was given instead of abusing it.

We are really only living (ugh, English is really bad in this case, I need a better word) when we are doing things that aren’t biological necessities. Eating, sleeping, shitting, these are all needed to maintain our lives but when they become something we choose to do outside of our need then they become just another unhealthy addiction that we use to avoid life. Just like drugs, gossip, shopping, video games, exercise, and masturbation can do.

Warm beds on chilly mornings are comfortable, but life isn’t about comfort. We don’t grow and laugh and cry and suffer and enter states of ecstasy while comfortable. It is the Chaotic, Lawful, Good, and Evil characters that are interesting, not True Neutral. Life is lived on the edges of our potential, not in the comfortable middle.

Every person has an Overton Window that they operate in for every aspect of their being and to find out where the true edges of our potential lie we must push towards the ends of the window. Truly living isn’t static and it isn’t comfortable and it doesn’t happen under the warm covers after an unnecessary extra hour of shitty sleep that is interrupted every 7 minutes by a snooze alarm. There is a lot of life that can happen in bed, but it isn’t sleeping.

So, I push myself out of bed, pour coffee, be grouchy, and put on running shoes because that is when I’m alive. Instead of dragging myself through the day with this nagging feeling that I’m running behind or missed an opportunity to learn, grow, get stronger, and be uncomfortable, I enter the day feeling inspired. Living is tough and painful and challenging, but if it wasn’t then everyone would do it. And I don’t want to be just everyone.


Daily Readings:

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield

What I read today is one of my favorite “chapters” in the book, and at three pages long it is also one of the longest. Part of me wants to just quote the whole thing but that would be out of control, nobody would read it, and it might be illegal (please don’t sue me).  But, here is some of it.

The artist and the fundamentalist both confront the same issue, the mystery of their existence as individuals…

The artist is grounded in freedom. He is not afraid of it. He is lucky. He was born in the right place. He has a core of self-confidence, of hope for the future. He believes in progress and evolution. His faith is that humankind is advancing, however haltingly and imperfectly, toward a better world.

The fundamentalist entertains no such notion. In his view, humanity has fallen from a higher state. The truth is not out there awaiting revelation; it has already been revealed. The word of God has been spoken and recorded by His prophet, be he Jesus, Muhammad, or Karl Marx.

Fundamentalism is the philosophy of the powerless, the conquered, the displaced and the dispossessed. Its spawning ground is the wreckage of political and military defeat… as white Christian fundamentalism appeared in the American South during reconstruction, as the notion of a Master Race evolved in Germany following World War I. In such desperate times, the vanquished race would perish without a doctrine that restored hope and pride. Islamic fundamentalism ascends from the same landscape of despair.

What exactly is this despair? It is the despair of freedom. The dislocation and emasculation experienced by the individual cut free from the familiar and comforting structures of the tribe and the clan, the village and the family…

The fundamentalist (or, more accurately, the beleaguered individual who comes to embrace fundamentalism) cannot stand freedom. He cannot find his way into the future, so he retreats to the past. He returns in imagination to the glory days of his race and seeks to reconstitute both them and himself in the their purer, more virtuous light. He gets back to basics. To fundamentals.

Fundamentalism and art are mutually exclusive. There is no such thing as fundamentalist art. This does not mean that the fundamentalist is not creative. Rather, his creativity is inverted. He creates destruction….

The fundamentalist reserves his greatest creativity for the fashioning of Satan, the image of his foe, in opposition to which he defines and gives meaning to his own life. Like the artist, the fundamentalist experiences Resistance. He experiences it as temptation to sin… The fundamentalist hates and fears women because he sees them as vessels of Satan, temptresses like Delilah who seduced Samson from his power.

To combat the call of sin, the fundamentalist plunges either into action or into the study of sacred texts. He loses himself in these, much as the artist does in the process of creation. The difference is that while one looks forward, hoping to create a better world, the other looks backward, seeking to return a purer world from which he and all have fallen…

When fundamentalism wins, the world enters a dark age… It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarefied for us to breathe… The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Well, I basically copied the whole thing. Damn it. Oh well. I’m sure many people of all political views will read this and think that the author is taking a shot at Trump and modern “conservatism” (it isn’t conservative, though it may be fundamentalist and nationalist). In some philosophical way he might be, but this book was written in 2002, long before the current political climate but possibly in response to 9/11. If someone reads a response to Islamic fundamentalism and thinks it is a response to them, that should give them pause, just like the Trump supporters who thought NPR was attacking them when the news outlet shared the Declaration of Independence on Twitter.

Alright, time to get the rest of my day started. I have work to do, worlds to create, and beer to drink. I hope y’all have a great Friday and wonderful weekend.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

October 24, 2018 – Morning Journaling

Oops, I missed yesterday (womp, womp). Oh well, life is busy sometimes and my mornings have been a little off this week.

My first reading today, from “Daily Affirmations for Forgiving and Moving On” struck a chord with me because it seemed to relate to something I was pondering yesterday. It all feels very serendiptious but I don’t think there is some magic force or fate that brings things to our attention when we need it. I think we humans are good at finding patterns and noticing things consciously that we ignore when they don’t serve our purposes. We filter things in that were always there and we also interpret the meaning of things in a way that makes sense to us. So, this passage likely would get a different response from others.

Today, I will accept abundance in my life. The more I recognize abundance being meant for me, the more it will be for me. An unconscious attitude of limitations and scarcity will find its way into my life if I allow it I will think positively about other people’s prosperity, knowing that I what I believe to be true for someone else I also believe to be true for me. In fact, any thought that I think about another person I first create and accept within my own mind as a possibility and a truth. (emphasis mine)

So, I’m going to break this down a bit. The first emphasized sentence relates to an issue that I was thinking about yesterday: receiving gifts. I am often very uncomfortable with receiving gifts. One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is “Gift Giving” and it is the one I struggle with the most, I don’t mind giving gifts (I love it, but am pretty bad at it) but something about receiving something for nothing feels weird to me. I have not thought about it too much but I think it comes from my Christian background where all worldly gifts are ‘bad’, being raised in a somewhat poor environment, and a little too much right economic libertarianism that views  most things as a monetary exchange. I struggle with receiving gifts or accepting help when offered, though I’m getting better. In no small part because of Burning Man and the video embedded below.

Recently, I bought myself a bottle of scotch for my birthday. I was resistant to give myself this gift.  My house is tore up because of the storm and we still aren’t exactly sure where the money is going to come from to recover. The damage estimates may be in the $20,000 range and we really don’t have that kind of money easily accessible without taking out loans. So spending $100 on a bottle of scotch is pretty wasteful, but I decided to give myself that. I don’t often buy myself things that aren’t “practical” and it was my birthday.

Then, when I got home. The bottle of scotch broke all over my kitchen floor. Liquid gold flowed through shattered glass before my eyes. I wasn’t mad or upset, my Stoicism kicked in pretty quickly and my first thought was “the teacup is already broken” (see below). There was certainly disappointment and a small voice in the back of my head that said “This is what you get for trying to have something for yourself. Stop being selfish.”

I shared the broken bottle on Instagram (like I do with many things in life) and almost immediately received offers to replace it from friends. As soon as I saw the offer I felt anxiety bottle up inside me. I felt unworthy of this friendship and support. I felt guilty for wanting to take them up on it. After a day or two I finally decided to accept the gifts. I had to realize (as Halcyon says above) that a gift is not a one-way transaction, the giver receives something too. In fact, by denying someone the opportunity to give a gift they wish to give I am actually hurting them and making their experience on this planet a little worse… which is the opposite of what I want.

I have had this same experience with the storm damage. I had a dear friend offer to set up a GoFundMe to help with some of the financial burdens. But I said no. Inside I was desperately screaming “YES, I need help and I don’t know what I’m going to do… I’m terrified right now and I don’t want to feel alone” but instead, I said “No, there are other people worse off. We will be fine.” We will be fine, but I seem hell-bent on suffering more than I need to. I seem to almost desire to be alone on some subconscious level, or maybe I have some toxic masculinity and philosophies ingrained in my head from decades of negative influences. I wish I would have said yes to this offer, and all the other gifts of labor and financial support that has been offered. I get physically uncomfortable receiving gifts from others, and even myself, and that is pretty fucked up. I need to talk to my therapist about that.

<Writes note in “Therapy” notebook>

Which brings me to the second emphasized sentence. I have this fracture between how I view others and how I view myself. I am always happy (well, usually) when I see friends get the things they want in life and I do what I can to support them. I’ve probably sent out thousands of dollars in the last couple of years to friends who needed help with rent or food (what a messed up world we live in… but that is another blog post) or to start an entrepreneurial venture or had art to sell. When someone posts (usually on a private group) that they need help I send it to them whenever possible. It is so easy for me to see my life and think “Hey, they need this more than I do.”

So I see helping and gifting as possible and a truth for others, but not for me. I really need to reflect on this a bit. I wonder what kind of guilt and pain I will uncover. Like all things with mental health, things are deeper than they seem and I have some work cut out for me.

Oh, the teacup story. This is sometimes attributed to Buddha but it probably came from somewhere else. It has a very Buddhist and Stoic feel to it though, and in the end the source of the wisdom means nothing compared to the actual wisdom.

The Buddha told his student, ‘Every morning I drink from my favorite tea cup. I enjoy morning in this way. But, in my mind the teacup is already broken. Do you see this glass? It is beautiful and does its job well, but it is already broken. Someday, the wind will knock this glass off the shelf or my elbow will bump my favorite teacup. It will fall to the stone and shatter. When that happens I will think, ‘of course’. In this way I will value every minute I have with my teacup and worry not about the future.’

I love that. Everything will be broken someday. My computer will fail. My muscles will weaken. My dog will die. My partner will breathe her last breath. We are stardust and to stardust we shall return, that is literally true but it also a beautiful, comforting, and poetic thought to me. So, instead of being attached to the bottle of scotch I should have been better at appreciating it while I had it. It was a beautiful bottle and the color reflected the light in a beautiful amber tint.

Side note: I looked up the Bible verse I paraphrased above (Ecclesiastes 3:20, “We are dust and to dust we shall return”) and I realized I had never read that whole chapter, so I did. The first half of the chapter is pretty well known and often-quoted “Time for peace, time for war, time for harvest, time for planting, etc.” but the paragraph with the “dust” quote is an interesting one and (again) reminds me of how universal certain philosophies are throughout the human experience. It is giving me a bit to think about on this crisp Wednesday morning.

I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. Surely, the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath* ; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into earth?”

* the Hebrew word actually means spirit as well, which gives this a new level. If Solomon is willing to ponder the existence of animal’s spirits and admit his own ignorance, I think there is value in doing the same. If you knew that the animals you ate or pets you kept had God-given souls and will live eternally, would you treat them differently? Would you try to assure they were not mistreated on earth? Of course, we can never really know the answer to that question, but doesn’t ignorance mean we should err on the side of caution and treat all living creatures with kindness, including those whose flesh we devour?

<Gets off vegan soapbox>

Anyway, I’m almost late for the gym so I won’t be writing about my other morning readings. Maybe tomorrow y’all will get a double dose of some things.

Much love and happy hump day!

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

October 22, 2018 – Morning Journaling

“We don’t just put off our lives today; we put them off till our deathbed.”
Steven Pressfield, “The War of Art”

I had a basic plan in mind for re-reading the 12 most impactful books of my life over the next year. It is a simple plan, divide each book into 30 parts and finish one a month. For my first book, “The War of Art”, that means reading five pages per day. Not only is this a simple feat but it allows for some adjustments if I miss a day or something.

Well, I didn’t miss today but after three pages I was ready to reflect, so I guess I’m two pages behind (or really, seven pages because I didn’t read yesterday). I think I’m ready to reflect because these three short pages punched me in the gut. They reminded me of my past and present, the behaviors I’ve exhibited that gave in to Resistance.

The first one, procrastination, is pretty damn universal (probably). As Pressfield says, procrastination is easy to rationalize because we aren’t abandoning our passions, potential, work, creation, we are just neglecting them for today. I’m totally going to start eating healthy… tomorrow. But tomorrow becomes today and we say the same thing. It is like that cliche sign littered throughout divebars across the US (world?), “Free beer tomorrow”. It is like there is a permanent sign posted in my mind that says “We will do our work tomorrow” or “Tomorrow we will start to write/read/exercise/volunteer”. Tomorrow never comes and we get weaker and weaker.

There is hope, though, “This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny…. this second, we can sit down and do our work.”

The second one, sex, hits really close to home. Not so much now, but when I was dealing with the worst of my mental illness I used sex to feel alive. It was one of the few times for about six years that I felt like I was valued, that I felt a human connection, that the world had some color to it. I don’t regret the sex, it was some of the best of my life and I am still friends with several of my partners, but I do wish I had a healthier approach to mental health.

In this case, my “work”, wasn’t an artistic creation but the process of getting well. Instead of seeking help I would seek sex, which was strangely fairly easy to come by. In college and DC there were lots of people who weren’t interested in a relationship but still wanted to share some orgasms. It was a great, cheap way to connect, relieve stress, and kill some time. It was a drug, just like shopping, beer, video games, and food.

Even today, much of my life is influenced by the drive for sex, especially “new” sex. I am torn on whether this drive for variety is something I should accept or fight. I don’t think drugs are necessarily bad, in fact I think they can be a great good, but we should recognize the risk that exists.

Sidebar: One of my biggest issues with many people in marijuana culture is that they act like weed is either harmless or a panacea. It isn’t. It should totally be legal for adults to use, but lets not pretend that inhaling burning plant material or introducing intoxicating substances into your body is 100% healthy, harmless, or guaranteed to heal. There are certainly riskier drugs and there are likely health benefits to using marijuana, but it isn’t some magic herb that doesn’t have risks or potentially negative effects.

Okay, back to me…

I still long for sexual variety. My partner knew this about me when we went into our relationship and one of the reasons that we work well together is because she isn’t selfish, jealous, and is open to new experiences. I wouldn’t be happy with someone who held the idea that my body belonged to her or that there is something good about wanting to reduce the amount of pleasure your partner has. That just wouldn’t work for me, but it doesn’t have to. I have friends that are in very strictly monogamous relationships that are very happy, and I’m super thrilled for them. There is no single-way to have a relationship, what matters is honesty and compatibility.

Hmm, went off topic there. Anyway, should I fight this drive for variety? I don’t think so. For one, the cost of fighting it is too high. Second, it isn’t causing a big problem. Resistance doesn’t use sex as a tool at this point in my life (well, except for the occasional procrastibation, but that only delays things for about 180 seconds). But it is something I should keep an eye on, like all things.

Happy Monday!

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”