masculinity, psychology, purpose

Purpose and Mindset (Advice For Men)

Internal:

 

Purpose

 

A man is what he does, not who he is.

 

It is a cruel idea to know all your good qualities have no value in the marketplace of people.

 

A devotion to a relationship kills it with the weight of attention.

 

These dichotomies are bitter medicine, but there is, if not a cure, then an antidote to the worst side effects.

 

A purpose.

 

An interest, a goal which you have outside of your relationships and hobbies.

 

Owning your own business.

Becoming a doctor or a lawyer.

Becoming a published writer

Releasing and playing music to audiences you’ve written and performed.

You should set yourself the goal of finding one, and soon. Make it align with your values and aptitudes then set yourself to achieving it. Be passionate about it, have it occupy your thoughts when you’re not doing it. It is the difference between having a job and a career as Chris Rock said.

 

Having and maintaining this will provide you with a source of character and meaning which will resist the vagaries of other people. It will teach you a valuable lesson: responsibility for meeting your own needs.

 

So if you’re a writer, don’t call yourself ‘aspiring’. Write. If you’re a musician, practice and write music, get out and play with better musicians than you. Study people who have excelled in your field and ask yourself how they did it, and what you can borrow from them.

 

Be excited about yourself and the things you do.

Mindset

 

‘Just be yourself’ is common advice.

 

It is well-intended, and avoids making any accurate, or challenging observations about where you need to improve as a person. If someone says it to you, and you breathe a sigh of relief or feel confused, then it is the latter feeling which is the honest one.

 

What if you suck?

 

So, no, don’t ‘just be yourself’. It is a lazy cop out and if it got you women in the past, then you wouldn’t be here reading this, would you?

 

No, as men, we should work on being the best version of ourselves. It is unnecessary to set impossible goals, but the higher you reach, the better place you will land if you don’t quite reach it.

 

Give yourself someone to aspire to.

 

You.

 

The routines and basic psychology of game are useful in so much as you can, with practice and application, get any girl. However, as the French say:

 

There is one thing worse than not getting the girl.

 

Getting the girl.

If you lack character, principles, boundaries then you are at risk of being unable to screen for people in your life who may not want what is best for you. This is not an idealised screening process, but if you understand yourself, then you can see whether someone is the best person for you. I offer the tools to allow you a clear consideration of whether it is a place you want to be in your life.

 

It starts from the most dangerous, uncertain territory.

 

Inside your head, looking out.

How do you separate you from yourself? It is difficult to figure out how and why you do things, including those things which keep you from your goals, but there have been tools to achieve this and I will share them with you.

Journaling:

 

Diaries are for teenage girls and Boomers who don’t know how to use their phones.

 

You are going to journal.

 

Write each day about how you are feeling.

 

There are variations on this, which I will share with you and these depend on what sort of person you are, in terms of whether you ‘move towards’ or ‘away from’ things in life.

Towards:

 

Before coffee and after scratching your balls, write your goals and tasks for the day. Include something you can do with ease or have already done, which you can cross off as soon as possible.

 

Example

 

Scratch balls

Go to gym

Say hello and make eye contact with five strangers today.

Do laundry

 

See, it is not so much simple as elegant. You become accustomed to setting yourself small goals each day and making yourself accountable for them. Check off what you did and move to tomorrow what you didn’t.

I recommend pen and paper, a hardbound book and a good pen. Pencil fades but it is convenient in a pinch, but whatever you use, write things down.

 

Away From

 

To write what you are feeling, borrow this maxim from Joe R Lansdale:

 

‘Write like everyone you know is dead.’

 

Use I statements when you write what you are feeling.

 

I felt frustrated when David asked Simon to stay and do the overtime at the store today. I am a good worker, but Simon spends time with him away from work.

You have an issue, but you control your feelings and providing the means to a solution in assessing the situation.

 

Pen and paper is important. It combines physical activity and is low-tech enough to avoid you sharing it on social media. Keep it private as something you do for yourself. Later on, when we get to the performative aspects of masculinity, then we can talk about what you share with others.

 

Your journal is your portable father if you don’t have one. It is also your private mentor and harshest critic.

 

Write what you think and feel there. Be fearless about yourself, and it will repay you as time progresses.

 

Start with 30 days of entries. Make each one as minimal as you need to, to get it done. Accomplishing anything for this time period creates neural associations, like a groove which you fall into.

 

If you feel any residual embarrassment, remember you’re leaving your wisdom and experience for future generations and let other people blunder around in unguarded and blithe ignorance.

Meditation:

 

We are learning machines. With modern life, it is difficult to focus on what is important and stick to it. The ever-present fear of missing out has us chasing novelties which fit Oscar Wilde’s description of smoking as ‘exquisite but unsatisfying.’ Our relationship with news is akin to escorting a shrieking friend from a bar before they get you both killed.  We are supposed to maintain, or even put forward a genuine version of masculine identity to gain and maintain the interest of women so how we reach the state of inner calm without drugs or neurosurgery?

 

Meditation.

There used to be a stigma attached to it as a practice. It carries connotations of narcissism projected as spiritual depth when it is one of the fundamental tools with which to address core concerns and issues within yourself.

 

It allows you to separate from your thoughts and feelings. Distance lends perspective and from there, you can see how and why you do things. To deal with the traits and habits which hold you back, this is invaluable. However, it is important to see the qualities which you like about yourself.

Basic Practice:

 

  • Find a quiet room and make sure you won’t be disturbed.
  • You sit or lay down, close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
  • One inhale and exhale counts as one repetition.
  • Carry out eight repetitions.

 

  • As you do this, your thoughts will take on a pace which can unnerve at first. Suddenly, you are preoccupied with what rhymes with orange but you need to just breathe through it and keep going.
  • If you lose your place, then you start again at one and keep going until you get to eight repetitions.
  • There may be points where one repetition is enough, then it is enough. However, commit to this practice for thirty days and do so without announcing it to anyone.
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Sir 2.0 Episode 3: Spoken Word/Audiobook

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Sir 2.0 Episode 2: Processing (spoken word)

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Sir 2.0 Episode 2: Processing.

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You swallow but your throat is acrid with tension. You cannot make out the details of the people watching you, only that they are there. The gown continues to shift up on the back of your legs, adding self consciousness, drop by drop, over the stir of emotions that collide and change within you.

‘To complete processing, you will undergo a cursory medical examination and a bathing procedure. Once those are complete, you will be assigned sleeping quarters and then left to your own devices until tomorrow morning.’

You narrow your eyes against the light. The voice has retreated behind an air of routine and its emotional content is all that you have to go on in terms of figuring out what is going on here. How much trouble, you potentially are in depends on what information you can glean from your present circumstances.

‘The correct response is yes sir.’

Your heart beats hard and faster. There is a low murmur of conversation, and a stifled giggle which rakes its nails down your spine. A hot flash of humiliation bursts in your stomach, a perfect emotional time travel, taking you back to high school again. The spotlight is hot, and you can feel perspiration beginning to teem underneath your arms and at the small of your back. At this precise moment, every sense is sharpened, ready to cut like a theatre of eager surgeons. Whether it’s you or someone else, depends on the response you give.

‘Yes, sir.’

You raise a hand and a titter snakes through the audience.

‘Am I being held here against my will?’

The laughter grows and someone calls out ‘not with those thighs, dear.’ Your cheeks burn with blood and tears well in the corners of your eyes.

‘Don’t laugh at me.’

That draws a series of oohs.

‘What upsets you more, being held here against your will or being laughed at?’

The voice comes through, silences the others in its wake. The way a comet burns up air on its passage through the night sky.

‘Don’t play doctor with me. I want an answer to my question.’

The voice gives a dark chuckle that makes you shiver to be its subject.

‘What if you had already been asked that question?’

You frown, aware that the spotlight makes every expression exaggerated. Another ripple of laughter starts up. It hurts more than the first time and you start to back up.

‘Stop right where you are.’

You jerk at the change in tone and volume and in response, the back of your gown hitches up a centimetre, highlighting the backs of your thighs where they meet your ass. You give an involuntary yelp, which fuels the embarrassment even further.

‘I wouldn’t, there’s nothing wrong with me.’

He pauses and the laughter dies away again. It’s application reminds you of a whip or a paddle and its sting unsettles rather than the pure, stable joy of pain that you enjoy. That you recognise this comes to you unbidden and without import.

‘My point, exactly.’

A wall to the left bursts into brilliant, white light and coalesces into a screen. A series of numbers dance across, teeming in patterns of deliberate complexity before it opens on a woman’s face, smiling.

Your face.

‘Hey, look you’re probably freaking out about now, but that’s kind of the point. I am you and you are me, before all this starts off.’

You watch yourself give your name, date of birth, social security number, mother’s maiden name and that you have paid to experience SIR, signed a raft of paperwork to avoid indemnity and that you should just relax and go with it.

Offscreen, a female voice asks you onscreen how you heard about SIR. You smile, and you recognise yourself, the telltale blink that you give and the bitemark on the inside of your lip that you could probably slip the edge of your front teeth again and find the indentation by instinct.

Your capacity to tear yourself to pieces without cause, a thought arises, might be part of why you are here.

Not that you are sure what here means.

‘I go to a munch two towns over once a month and one of the subs there went. She did not stop talking about it so I looked into it and -‘

You watch yourself spread your arms and grin. A hopeful light twinkles in your eyes. If this is not you, then it’s terrifying in its accuracy.

‘Here you are. Or I am. Sorry, I get tongue tied with things like this.’

The interviewer chuckles and you join in, a little ahead of the beat and the audience in the room follow along. The screen fades into black.

‘We’ve installed a block on your memories. We don’t change anything about you, and at every turn, we’re a bit like the opposite of a supermarket. We always offer choice. You are here because you want to be, but part of what makes this so popular and so important to maintain discretion is that we agree that this is all part of the play.’

Your breath is molten in your lungs and a heat begins to pool in the pit of your stomach, drawn downwards by gravity and you clench your thighs together to make the sensation flare deeper and warmer.

‘So, I volunteered for this?’

A hum fills the air and you experience the interview directly again. The leather chair underneath you, the scent of the Ethiopian coffee that you were offered on arrival and the drive over, calculating how much this was going to cost you. Chrissy had said it was ‘life-altering’ and you knew that your life could use some of that.

Some people went into simulations about the zombie apocalypse, you came here.

‘Does that answer your question?’

You stare into the darkness. The want is bolder than your fear, it puts a leash on it and a muzzle. The courage hardens your nipples, relaxes the muscles between your thighs, opening and transforming the emotions into fuel for the engine of your desire and your fear and your need.

There have seldom been clear distinctions between them and that, you know is part of why you are here. You smile and lower your head. Deferment is part of it, and you know that there is expectation and a responsibility here for you. It is a misconception that the submissive is powerless, and you stopped explaining this to vanilla types a long time ago. Here, you have the power and the voice, the eyes in the darkness are asking you to take it.

‘Yes, where do we start?’

The table is wheeled in with stainless steel stirrups mounted on telescopic stands mounted on the ends, a section cut away in the middle and velcro straps at the top end. A second table is brought in with a bowl of steaming, lilac and coconut scented water and a natural sponge. You run your tongue over your lips, and your heartbeat drowns out the thoughts in volume and rhythm.

No one is laughing at you now. Which is a good place to start.

‘Whenever you are ready.’

TO BE CONTINUED.

 

 

 

 

 

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Two Pages(13/10/16)

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The two pages this morning were solid, the back and forth of the relationship between the protagonist and her mother has been a quiet source of pride for me in capturing both the narcissism and it’s impact. I know a few narcissists, and I hope that I have done them proud. It also allowed me to go and revisit the earlier part of the book for reference, which is something that always makes me feel especially competent. I love it when I read it, a reference to something that you experienced as a different person but now seen in an entirely different light. What was text becomes subtext, and what was subtext becomes text again.

I used the quote above, because so often, strong emotion is seen as impediment as much as inspiration. Either in using your art to resist it, or explore it, in the same way that you would handle fissionable material with proper protective materials. All emotion is energy trapped by a thought, and our emotions are layered, they form traps and barriers as well as they do weapons. If I have said hurtful, dismissive things then it has been because I have felt hurt and dismissed and in it’s own way, it’s to continue a severed connection, usually to something that felt real but turned out to be illusory. James Baldwin once said –

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However, and this is where I lose the literary cachet and respect that the last paragraph might have garnered from you, I like to use emotion in much the same way as the subway scene in Ghost shows. All your love, your hate and focus it to the tip of your finger and then push. Sometimes it’s exhausting, like pushing a penny uphill with your nose and I am well aware that I am touching on ‘woo’ here but stay with me. If you can get it out of your body, then that energy goes into a page.

A sentence.

Three words.

I love you. Sometimes from the same person, that can lift you up like taking flight, then in a different context, you no longer believe them and it feels like a date stamp, a meaningless gesture and you feel betrayed that they would use that. Now you can say that word in any number of ways, and have it mean any number of things. Words have a utility beyond imagining, it’s why I love them so much. It’s why I built a blanket fort out of them to hide inside when the world is too much to bear.  It’s not the same as throwing yourself into your work, because no spreadsheet can ever comfort you. It’s a distraction but art/writing etc is where you can take what is useful and discard the unnecessary parts.

People do that to one another all the time, and artists are above all else, people.

In other news, I am now free to finish editing the rest of Until She Sings. After a tangential introduction from a former acquaintance, I am going to bite the bullet and invest in Pro Writing Aid, as a nifty bit of software on annual subscription which illuminates my flaws and sends me into spasms of fearful anguish at my appalling grammar. It’s an investment I will make in myself, part of an ongoing reinvention in order to keep pursuing my goals. There are no more notes coming from the agent now, as they said that it would be repetition of points already sent and fortunately, I have already done a solid run through so it’s more pruning and weeding than digging for the last part of the book. If this is to be my first published book, and I cannot say, because as much work as I’ve put it into it, it doesn’t guarantee me of anything at all. The work is what will last long after I have gone. I am not afraid of rejection,  just don’t enjoy it and having experienced it, professionally and personally, I would rather focus on the professional rejection because I can do something about that. Art harder, as Chuck Wendig said.

I also pitched Lawful Evil and the new untitled book, which will be a personal work expressed through metaphor, names changed to protect the guilty and all that but outlined and informed enough that I can talk to the agent about it’s veracity. Things are moving faster, my cultivated self image and ambition is reaching escape velocity and good things are happening.

Ten thousand joys, ten thousand sorrows.

Thank you for reading.

 

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The Burden of Law.

 

We had been in country for six months now, making friends was a thing of necessity and all of us in the unit had developed friendships in different layers. Imogen, who had dropped out of Stanford to be here was tight with Lorraine, who had been about to start beauty school before she got drafted, giggled like she was sucking down helium and liked to do our nails and hair when we were back at base. Olive had been on a scholarship to run track at LSU and she would work out with Patsy, who had been running her dad’s hardware store when he took ill, had resented handing it over to her younger brother, and took it out on the rudimentary weights and track they had ground and welded out of jungle dirt and brush. My BFF out here was Kelly, because of the fact that we had come from the same town and signed up together. It was that or get pregnant, get married to someone who would become an obese stranger to us over time and watch the years fly by. Safety is an illusion, and it just didn’t feel right to stand by and let other people stand a watch for our safety.

It’s strange what you believe, and your reasons for doing things. They weren’t lies as such, but we believed them at the time. Boot camp didn’t abuse us of that notion.

War did.

We dealt with it in different ways. Some of us retreated back to habits that engendered comfort, like Olive running track and Lorraine doing our hair.

Then there was Laura. Law, she shortened it to that and even spelt it that way, had it stencilled on her helmet with a skull and crossbones underneath. She was married, apparently, no kids, volunteered at the church in the small town where she had been born and lived before she got drafted.  No more than 5 feet tall, about a buck ten soaking wet but she had muscled through training. She was good at it.

Too good, but we never said that aloud. It was a feeling that could only be captured in the language of friendship’s whispers.

Law was the member of the unit who was appointed to kill children. It was not an official order, nothing written down or anything that would put a five star general in front of a sub committee but it was there.

Necessary.

It did not sit well with us, a callus against the skin of our souls, a cut that would heal if we could stop touching it. Law bore the burden quietly at first, but that changed.

It was the enthusiasm that she showed.

She started to take trophies. Fingers or ears because they kept better. No one else needed memories of their kills in country.

Once you’ve shot a grandmother in the face, it tends to stay with you. At least, I hoped it did. It reminds you that you’re still human. Still a woman.

So, when I tell you about how it ended, you have to understand that we were thinking about a lot of different things.

The village was supposed to have been cleared by the 101st

Law, by then, had settled on fingers, tied onto her bandolier of shotgun shells with neat loops of string, each one woven through one of the canvas pockets where each shell nestled, snug like a baby at a breast. Her bright red hair had been shaved down to stubble, bursts of cinnamon freckles against white skin that either burned or resisted the sun. Droopy-lidded brown cow eyes that saw everything with a quiet acceptance. She worked the pump action shotgun with surgical skill. Whatever she aimed for, she hit.

So when the little boy emerged, cheap Russian AK shaking in his arms, she was already in motion. Olive shouted but it was too late.

He flew backwards, at that range, his unformed, tan chest blew apart like a pound of meat dropped from a great height. Law had done it with no more expression than flitting a bug from her eyeline. We stood there, as Hillary, our lieutenant came over and touched Law on the shoulder, as though waking her from a pleasant dream.

‘What the fuck?’ I said.

Hillary raised her eyebrows and strode over to me. Her face had tightened into a harsh scowl, the same one she had probably used as a wedding planner to deal with an errant tent rental company error.

‘Sargeant, you do not get to question operating procedure. Stow that shit for base camp.’

Law knelt in front of the cooling corpse, looked around and giggled. It was a sound that stayed with me for as long as I lived. She already had the knife in her hand, ready to take a trophy.

The next sound was the shot.

It took her between the shoulder blades. Kelly lowered her rifle, then knelt down, placed it ground in front of her and knitted her fingers at the back of her head. She looked at me, tears budding in the corners of her eyes.

‘It had to be done, lieutenant. She can’t go home with that inside her.’

We retreated at the same pace we had arrived. Kelly was by my side, relieved of her rifle but not her duty. Hillary could have shot her there and then, but there would have been enough paperwork with Law already.

When the MPs came and took her, she smiled at me. I could not bear the weight of it and as she waved at me, she had the same expression as Law, but it was overlaid with the patina of friendship. I never saw her again, but when I went home, resuming my bachelors degree, I thought of her often.

I thought of Law too, but those were done by the time that I awoke. I would wash the sheets and shower a little longer than normal.

 

 

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The Ten Perfections Applied To Writing

 

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So, if you’re a long term reader of the blog, then you might be aware that I am interested in spirituality. I’m not a magician or anything like that, but I do take an interest in certain philosophies, mainly Eastern but I do appreciate stoicism and have been reading Marcus Aurelius and Seneca but the one set of tenets that I do return to quite often is Buddhism. I like it’s rooted in human behaviours, that there’s no external deity to worship and I draw comfort from the attempt to aspire to an ideal. There are buddhist bigots out there, Myanmar is a sad example of such but nothing and no one is perfect, which Buddhism allows for. I also like Taoism and Zen as well, most religions are fascinating to me, and there are rich seams of poetry and sensuality within each of them.

So, I have been listening to an audiobook by Jack Kornfield which talks about The Ten Perfections, virtues of the religion, all delivered in his soft, warming voice, interspersed with parables, jokes and illuminating stories. I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of faith because there is a lot you can learn from considered and informed voices without a dog in the fight.

I thought about how it would apply to the practice of writing and how they might be intertwined with the Ten Perfections. Here are five or so, that might be interesting.

Equanimity – A balanced, even mind applies in respect of how you portray your characters. If you can understand that no one considers themselves a villain, that ‘good’ people are flawed and duplicitous without diminishing their goodness. Establishing and practicing this is a good way to achieve depth in your stories.

Compassion – Unsentimental is the caveat here. You show your love for the characters by making them suffer, setting them challenges between them and their goals. Their reaction, their desire is what fuels the engine of your story.

Generosity – To yourself, in terms of caring for you, physically and emotionally is a form of generosity. When you’re giving everything away, be sure to keep something for yourself in order to maintain and empower yourself. In terms of your writing, take delight in what you are creating, it’s the cheapest form of entertainment to tell yourself a story and yet the most powerful. Be generous to your characters in how you tell their story, protagonist and antagonists alike.

Morality – Your passion and genuine emotion are what will draw the reader in and keep them there. We can forgive clumsy writing, inconsistent plotlines and bad cover art if we sense that we are reading something genuine and heartfelt. Your morality informs your writing, either in opposition or consolidation. Explore that on the page – write about a homophobic nurse forced to care for a dying gay man, or a white nationalist who finds themselves working alongside a Puerto Rican. Depending on your point of view, try to explore different viewpoints with the same passion and insight that you would confirm your own.

Renunciation – I characterise this as the fear of missing out or chasing trends in writing. Renounce the voices of others only when you have found yours, be the best version of you on the page that you can be. Don’t be JK Rowling or Stephen King, they’re already out there and they got there through hard work , luck and determination. Be the best version of you. It can also refer to the discipline of a writing practice, or making sure that you read more, and to do so consciously.

           Wisdom – Your life is source material. If not the objective experiences, then the emotions that you have experienced or the things that you have learned from them. The life you have lived and live has all the colours you need to paint a masterpiece, sometimes you will need blend colours and nuances to get the shade that you need. You have lived, and learned, the difficult part is in the translation sometimes. Imagination is that path, but it is the wisdom of experience that will give you the strength to walk along it.

 Effort. There is the effort required to write, or develop a sustainable practice of writing and maintain it. There is the effort required to research and improve your craft, the effort to read rather than watch television or play videogames. There is the determination to market your work as well. Effort is important to the development of an approach to writing.

 Patience. Writing for a reply to an email that may offer success or feedback. Replies to enquiries or about submissions that seem to take their sweet time in arriving. Seeing people get deals, retweeting fan art and glowing reviews whilst you’re still waiting to find out if what you’ve written is actually any good. Patience is important but do not be passive about it. Work on your material, seek to improve in some small way to ensure that the time spent in patient anticipation was not wasted.

Truthfulness. Honesty on the page is everything. Yes, writing is a series of entertaining lies interspersed with truth. Tell the truth through the observations and actions of your characters. It is free therapy, and earnest, unvarnished truth resonates with readers in a way that the most elegant, glorious language never could. If it is uncomfortable, keep a straight face and say that it is just fiction. Stick a hobbit or a ninja in there to distract them. Yes, you’re making things up and having a fine time doing it but hold some measure up to the light of the truth within and about yourself.

Determination. Better work than yours will be ignored, lesser works than yours will be feted and celebrated. Some people will do less to get further and faster than you. Your work will sometimes feel like a trudge through a muddy path. Your family will demand more of your attention, at exactly the point that your second act falls to shit and phone calls will interrupt your most sublime reveries. This is where determination comes in. It applies regardless of whether writing is a hobby or a career for you. A strange fact is that the more effort you put into something, the better you will get and then your enjoyment of the hobby will gain depth and find new meaning. There’s something almost perverse in developing a level of aptitude for no other reason than your own pleasure. We’re encouraged to get better for the salary increase, the title but when we do it for the soul’s reward, there is something truly sublime in that.

When your heart is breaking, writing makes sense. It takes determination to write through your pain but it makes it easier to bear it all.

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