by James Wallace Harris, 2/28/23
Yesterday I watched a YouTube video about writing morning pages. The idea is to get up and hand-write three pages of stream-of-conscious thoughts. So, I tried it this morning and I realized I have a number of things that make me discontent. And one of the things that make me dissatisfied with my life is not being able to see the big picture of what’s going on with myself. This brings me to this blog. I went to Xmind and created a quick mind map of my discontents hoping to see an overview of what was gnawing at me. You can see the results above.
The seed of discontent that inspired all of this comes from the way I feel each night before I go to bed — about how I spent my day. If I did something that felt productive, I feel satisfied with my day. If I didn’t I feel restless. I like when I have an ongoing project that inspires me to get up and get back to working on it. I haven’t had one of those in a while. My next level of satisfaction comes when I write a blog that I’ve put some good work into creating.
Of course, everything depends on health. Over the past few years, I’ve had to deal with a number of health issues. The walls of my life, my aquarium you might say, are the limitations of my health. When I was younger, that aquarium felt like the ocean itself, but as I grew older it shrank. As an adult, I began to realize my limitations, but the possibilities still felt huge, like I was living in the Atlanta aquarium. In my fifties, it felt more like a fancy 50-gallon deluxe home aquarium. In my sixties an ordinary 20-gallon job. Now when I feel bad it feels like I’m living in one of those bowls people keep goldfish in. When I’m feeling better, I’m back in a basic 10-gallon tank. My health goal is to do as much as I can within the boundaries set by my body. That means a lot of my daily anxiety deals with staying healthy. If I can maintain a certain level of health I feel like it minimizes my discontent. And the more I do, the less discontent I feel.
However, staying healthy juggles so many goddamn variables that it’s stressful to think about what to do to stay healthy. For instance, I watched a video, “7 Foods That Ruin Your Liver” this morning — two of which are among the top ingredients of the protein supplements I eat. Since I have a fatty liver, and sometimes have pains in my liver area, this is another worry. I also have a cyst on my liver. And I have gallstones. Eating carefully has become a very big deal for me.
Luckily, my health problems don’t cause me much discontent, or even anxiety. I’m used to dealing with them. My discontent comes from worrying over what to eat and how to exercise. I want to eat what I like and dislike making myself exercise. What would eliminate that anxiety would be finding a diet that I just stick with all the time, and finding a way to integrate just enough exercise to the minimum needed. Both really come down to discipline, but discipline is a major area of discontent for me.
I’ve been lucky lately, and have been feeling better. Last year wasn’t so good because of health problems and a hernia operation. Because I’m feeling better I feel like I should be doing more. Because I’m not doing more I’m feeling restless and discontent. That’s what came out in my morning pages.
Reducing that discontent and getting back on track will require finding a project to work on. I want something that will take me several days or weeks. Something that will make me feel like getting out of bed in the morning. The one I’ve picked to start on, but I don’t know if I’ll stick with, involves creating a new way to learn, memorize, and visualize a subject. My memory is deteriorating, but it’s never been very good for studying a subject deeply. I read nonfiction books and news articles all the time. But that information goes in and out of my brain almost instantly.
I recently read and reviewed a book about the German romantics. Supposedly, they found a lot of insights that have trickled down to us today. I want to create some kind of visual representation of their ideas and how they connected to other influential people over the last two hundred years. I figure this will kill several birds with one stone. It will touch on four branches of the mind map above: memory, reading, productivity, and anxiety. It might even touch on possessions because I will enjoy using more of my computer equipment, and it might touch on friends because it will give me something to talk about with them.
What I want to do is develop a way to visualize what I read to help me remember the information and convey what I’ve learned to other people.
All of this was inspired by scribbling out three handwritten pages this morning when I got up. Watch the video above, you might find it useful too.
By the way, the level of discontent I feel right now isn’t very high. I have a very contented personality. I find it very easy to just hang out and putter around in life. My greatest discontent has always been not being more ambitious. All I’m doing now is pushing myself to do just a little more.