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”