(This picture really is not relevant but pictures help people engage, I’m told. Think of this wall as the ultimate lie that two groups of people cannot peacefully co-exist without a big ass nasty wall)
So I am editing a book. It’s wonderful work. It’s like living secretly in the back of an author’s mind whispering, “You could say that a little more clearly” or “Are you sure you feel that way?”
I would rather edit than write and that’s a big statement. The truest, happiest, most tortured and miserable I can be happens when I write. I am not living in my head–I am living on a page. I don’t know who is lecturing inside me until she climbs in my fingers and begins to dictate. If you read this you know the best and worst of me-us. Because like you– there is more than one of me. All the ladies and a few guys huddle up and provide comments, judgments, story lines, idea pitches and there’s always the guy who follows me around very concerned about my weight. I tell him to fuck off but he still comes to work everyday in my head.
When I edit it’s just me and the author. My crowd goes for a smoke break. I think the work is less ego and more connection and those interior voices aren’t into real connection or examination of truth. They just want to blab on about their stories which sound like this:
“That guy should learn how to drive.”
“At least I’m holding up better than her.”
“How did your butt get big with just a week out of the gym? You pants are tight–better watch that!”
“Why don’t they like me?”
“I’m not going to make it. This is the day I don’t keep going.”
“What the fuck does it take?”
“I never should have done that. I’ve ruined everything. That’s why no one ever loved me.”
“God, can I just move past this already?”
“Hey this is all working out–I so got this!”
“I can’t say this..but I feel pretty good about me right now. Holy shit–that’s nice.”
“Jesus–I wish I were more productive.”
Blah, blah, blah. That’s about a minute of dialogue.
We all have our entourage but we try to shut them up with music, movies, staying busy, food–anything. The worst part is that we think they are real. We think the thoughts we have are true. We forget to observe these clowns in our head and say, “Wait- stop! That’s not true. Where is that coming from?”
If we don’t rule these thoughts they rule us. Honestly even the good ones are pretty full of crap. I had all this kindness around homeless people as if they are victims. Some are. Some aren’t. Some don’t want to be homeless. Some do. No two are alike. I thought I was being kind but I was generalizing and being condescending. That was a process to get there. One of my best buddies doesn’t want a home. I love him how he is. He’s no longer a story for me.
As the author points out in the book I’m gifted to work on, those voices and thoughts are the by product of an unexamined life. He has a lot of fellas on his team like Socrates, Plato, Russell, Hume and a pub full of the best minds. I picture them all discussing how one lives an examined life over beer. I’m in the corner on a box listening from the shadows. So far the plot turns at the part where we look over all our assumptions, ways of believing and operating and separate them from the collective culture we live in. It’s a way of asking, “Is this what I think and experience or is this something I’ve been told? Did I try on my own to see if it’s true?” Once we begin unraveling the truth of our experience and belief from that of our culture and family then we begin to look at our own thoughts, beliefs and ways of operating and see how rigorous we were about determining if those things are true. It’s like taking all the thoughts, beliefs and even things you hold sacred and shaking them to see what falls out. Oh and here’s an important one–if you are operating in opposition to something then you’re still bound up with the lie of it. If you’re pissed off then you’re buying in at some level.
I won’t lie. It hurts a lot. Sometimes the truth is not easy to see and we wish we didn’t. Sometimes it makes us change our lives–leave relationships, jobs, goals and dreams. It can kill you before it births you and sometimes it feels like you won’t live through it. But you will. If you let yourself–you will live through it.
Ultimately we can’t be helpful if we don’t see things as they really are. Everything starts with the truth of who we are and what is true inside us. It’s a long, frustrating and difficult process. It will most likely take your entire life and there is not one promise you’ll ever fully get it. I figure I’m doomed to failure. I still do it–there are so many assumptions. Just when I cut through a whole bunch, new ones crop up. But showing up and making the effort counts for me.
Julie–what are you talking about?
Okay, let me try this: Close your eyes. If there’s noise shut it off or block it out. Breathe deeply three times. Sit there no matter how antsy you feel. Hear that? Hear all those thoughts coming in one after another? Hear that one who keeps telling you about some chore? How about the angry dude who says you’re wasting time? There’s always the complainer who says your leg is falling asleep or maybe you want to fall asleep. All of that is bullshit. That task does not need to happen in this exact second or you wouldn’t have opened a blog. That is a starting point for the examined life. Sit with your thoughts and let them run on without talking back to them or acting on anything that comes up. Just observe the nonsense in your head. If you keep doing that the thoughts will go slower and once in a while you’ll identify nonsense before it gets started.
When you’re not sitting watching those loud thoughts and you’re in the world operating as the commentary in your head goes on, ask in the middle of the sentence, “Wait. Is that true?” “Is that guy on the elliptical really thinking you’re a fat ass? How do you know that’s true?” “Does that person actually not know how to drive?” Then other things happen such as wondering if people who don’t see the world the same as you are malicious or not as smart as you, is it true that the Bible says that, is it true that you have vetted that in your experience and found it truthful–no matter what book it comes from or who said it? Maybe that thing you found ugly is actually mysterious and cool if you see it in its proper context?
Maybe we’re all just trying really hard to be okay while we’re battling all these voices in our head as interior editors tell us…”please don’t say that out loud, think it, just don’t say it.” The examined life calls bullshit on that too. It says it’s not okay to think things that aren’t true.
I love editing. I love the opportunity to examine someone’s mind that is not my own for a bit. But I cannot hide forever. I will have to get back to the real work of this life–living truth.
Okay. Wish me luck!