Discover more from wide open
and how to manage your internal state, a tiny bit better.
You may read this as a departure from my normal subject matter. Fine. I have no idea who I am or what this newsletter is about. It will be as chaotic as the ever changing blacks of my heart. Most of this was fleshed out prior to getting sick with stupid covid, and I wanted to post it before it lost its wind.
THIS IS NOT FINANCIAL ADVICE.
Time is the only asset you have any purchase over.
but, the moment you start thinking of time as an asset it immediately begins undermining you at every turn.
is that worth doing? is it worth the time?
you have no idea what is worth doing or worth the time until you spend it and even then it can take years to fruit.
you have no idea about anything. honestly. you know this.
There is one part of the world you can make sense of if you work at it that's your own internal state at any given time. It's not as sexy as a large online following. It's not as distracting as doom scrolling or leveling up whatever we're supposed to level up on this week. It won't fire those sweet sweet dopamine hits like picking online fights does.
we all want those sexy uses of time. to hell with developing ourselves into something more than a gangle of reactions.
I've come to see time as a microcosm of the primary human problem, and also it's answer. Our awareness of the passing of time against the ever looming end of us finds us in a (presumably) unique position in the world and at some point we all come to value time above most things, however good we get at squandering it on close call traffic accident reels or obsessing about how marjorie from middle school owns a lambo now.
I spend a lot of time watching oven spring timelapses lately. literally watching bread rise.
Who the fuck even are we.
but also, have you seen that magic when a loaf just explodes out of nowhere. Flour. salt. water and some yeast.
wanting all the time, all the time.
The problem with valuing time (while not valuing time when it's past our threshold of forcing ourselves to submit to the demands on our time) is abstractly that time is more valuable than literally anything we can use it for. You get a fixed, but unknown amount of it. How are you going to evaluate anything as being worth what could be your last day in existence. You're not. Choice fatigue will kick in an you'll end up just idling on instagram.
Concretely, the problem is more subtle. Time is an additive ingredient not a product. Time is used to change the state of one thing from another. That's literally all time does. All. of. the. time. Being an ingredient not a product means it somehow has less value than the finished product. You see the rub? You don't go around printing your printer test sheets on wafer thin sheets of pure gold because you don't waste the precious on the banal and trivial.
but recall, you are a dumbshit on your best days; boldly wandering around proclaiming to anyone who will listen you know what is banal, or trivial, or even, gasp, what is important. yet, how's that working out for you?
yeah, i know.
The pandemic set you back. your back aches. your girl won't stop sleeping with all your friends. Those interest rates. That boss that just doesn't see your value. Those clients.. oh those fucking clients with their ridiculous ideas and demands. The dog has the shits. Again. The world is sorta, you know, burning, or freezing. Depends which twitter you live on. Oh god, don't even get me going on the pointless texts. so many, yet somehow not enough. Don't they know we're trying to pretend to have a real connection? how can you pretend with this few empty texts about nothing? The illusion demands you commit.
Life, it turns out, is ever chaotic, ever not what you thought it would be, ever less and ever so much more than you can handle. Simultaneously. it's like the magic of the oven spring rise. It's so simple yet so astoundingly shocking to find yourself in the middle of, you know, actually being alive.
sensory. overload. but you know, with a side of for the ages existential boredom.
How quickly we can alternate between feeling we have the entire thing figured out and we're pumped for the next thing to not being able to decide what to watch next because like, why are there literally 80000 streaming services with 4,000,000 shows. no, seriously. who asked for all that in the first place. what reasonable person wants to have to work through all that noise to find the gems? wait for it.
Who has the time?
you do. schlub. mountains of it. heaps. buckets of time just like, spilling over the sides. you have so much time it's logically infinite time (to you). all you have is time. all you will ever experience is time. you will never not experience time. from the very beginning of you to the sad sack only 2 people logged into your virtual funeral (but six people liked it on facebook) end is time.
you have the time to grow from a child (you're still working on that. okay. you're only 39--what do they expect, really). you have the time to fall in love (you don't want hear my thoughts on love) and you have the time to learn that language, to read 1000 books, to fuck a thousand whatever you want to fuck, but like, get checked you whore. you can lose that weight, gain that phat ass. whatever it is the kids are excited about, you have time to do it.
I will refund your money if you run out of time.
So if you don't have a time problem what kind of problem do you have?
You have an internal state problem. It's not broad enough. deep enough. slow when it needs to be slow, fast when it needs to be fast. able to filter out noise and distraction, able to dial into the stinking heart of the reaches of human experience when it needs to. you have a you problem.
we all have a you problem. (this goes double for you white CIS middle aged people. you gross fuckers).
How we think about time, how we marshall it, not in an everlasting search for the next productivity hack unlocks the human experience. Allowing time to work on your life always changes your life. The human experience is dark and rich and deep and ridiculous. it's absurd and the range of experiences is so wildly varied and so unthinkably deep it staggers the mind. It's more than we're living in 2023. But we can work back to it.
There are a couple parts to this that are not prescriptive. Your own situation will determine which parts matter most and i trust your lizard brain to key in on what you need to read right now. I trust my inner gecco to just write words and hope they tie up nicely in the end. I'll be in the corner, over there while the words fall from the sky and deny I ever thought any of this if I can't bring this together in the end.
You need a time toolbelt. I need to trademark that immediately and sell an online course.
In this magical toolbelt, mine is neon green like my jeep, you need a few things. They're at hand so no need to fire up amazon. Bezos has no quarter where we're going. You need the ability to slow time down when you need time to slow. You need the ability to speed time up when you need time to pass. You need the ability filter noise and listen to your internal voice about what you want to do (not what you don't want to do) and you probably need to come to terms with the fact that nothing means anything. Like, at all. None of it. Not a lick of it. zero. meaning.
Figure out those four things. figure them out hard. figure them out every day when you get up and again the next day and you might have a chance to enjoy, or feel enjoyment during this short, brutish, isolating and bleak existence.
I know your heart got broken. i know it fucking aches. I'm sorry. No one cares. We're all fucking aching. no one cares. Everyone is busy running from their own demons. They don't have time to fight yours. true story.
Like i said, these 4 things are not prescriptive. I can't draw you a map on how to develop them. Your relationship to time is unique. Your relationship to yourself is unlike anything in the living universe. get it together. Don't get it together so you can be a master of the universe, or get a blowy in the bar bathroom, or amass a trophy following. Get it together so every single fucking second of your time on this planet doesn't feel like torture. Doesn't feel like punishment.
Get it together so the one relationship you have your entire life is a good one. The one you share with yourself. the one you take in the bathroom when you have the squirts. that's love. or. being trapped in an abusive relationship and dragged around places you don't want to go. Who can say, really.
Why do you want to have control over these four things in relationship to time? a few examples to frame this for you.
Slowing down time.
The most lost of lost arts, circa 2023.
Digital life has nearly entirely robbed us of any silence, peace, quiet or slowness. I'm not slow cooking here. I'm not saying walk to the bathroom slowly. I'm saying watch your relationship to how time passes. Make note of when time expands around you and crawls by. Minutes become achingly long. Usually we experience this in the wrong ways. You're waiting for a bus in -35 weather. you're having a root canal. Someone wants you to read their blog. (cough).
But it also happens in the quiet of the night, when you pause a few moments between pages of a book you're loving. It happens when you just turn off the tv in a fit of I can't find anything to watch. It happens when you're waiting for someone you're really into to show up and you have no idea how the night might unfold. It can be anticipatory, positively or negatively. Those are spontaneous, and the trick is to learn from them, how got your internal state there so you can enhance the choices you're making to bring yourself there more often. This is the space of depth and richness. Free from the volume and pace of our daily lives we can meander in ourselves, our ideas, and our experiences. For me, it's reading. If i stop reading books (yes, those paper things) I tend to stop being able to slow my mind, and time down. Reading while getting random texts is not reading. And maybe that's part of the recipe to slowing time down, for me at least, is focusing on one thing and one thing only, but not something deeply passive like a tv show, or actively engaging like a video game. There can't be goals, or you trip from slow time to flow time (flow time being when you're immersed to the point time seems to fly by without you being aware of it).
Slow time is one of your most valuable creative, and stabilizing tools. It allows you to feel, even briefly, like there is indeed enough time to go around. There is indeed time to learn, to grow, to waste on pet projects and curiosities that have no clear value which often end up forming the bounds of your life. Slow time is where your internal voice speaks up and says hey, shit for brains, what if we made hand painted t-shirts for our friends--without that inner accountant shitting all over your ideas by reminding you time is precious, you're going to die, and oh by the way, you're going to die. Even brief side trips into positive slow time can really change you. That grounding we are all missing as our online lives tear by as we watch in wonder, is a salve for so much of our problems. You won't get control of this easily, or quickly, or permanently. But try.
time so fast you can’t outrun it
Fast time is the inverse. Fast time is when you actively speed things up to help you escape from overhwelm. From a deeply bad situation. From quitting something and needing time to move ahead. From your mother dying a horrible death. From the ache of having not achieved any of the things you thought you'd achieve (hello, middle age). From the regrets, which pile on from week to week, but only when you're lucky enough to be alive and have real choices to make. Regrets don't form in a vacuum. Even regrets are a sign you're engaged in your life. It's when the regrets stop you have a real problem. But, that's another topic. Fast time is holy shit my life is horrible I need to jump to the next part of it, like now. This is a hugely valuable skill we use all the time, burying ourselves in mindless things hoping our lives will change. The shift here is to know you're doing it, why and planting a couple seeds before you begin to let them germinate while you speed through to the next part.
Filtering noise so you can hear your own voice is the most critical life skill you can try to develop. We often feel cut off from ourselves. Making choices, doing things, hell living entire lives that aren't ours because we can't hear anything but the silence, in the silence. Training yourself to hear that part of you that often isn't very loud, and often sounds ridiculous, is vital to finding your ground. To having a base from which to carry out all your other plans in life. It's also the voice that spurs creativity, whispers ideas in the night, notices patterns and problems and comes up with solutions. It's your internal guide to life and not hearing it, because the noise of the world, or the noise of your feet running from your shit is so loud it gets drowned out is a recipe for suffering. Find some slow time. Take a listen. Then filter enough noise out to actually do some of the things you hear. try it.
The last tool is to be able to wrap your head around, and selectively turn on and off, the idea that nothing means anything. There is no meaning. Even no meaning means nothing. Your life is a biological exercise. physics. chemistry. You'll experience the most wonderful and disastrous things interspersed between soul crushing mundanity and when they finally plant your ass somewhere it will have all been for naught. If you're outsized in your contributions to human kind, perhaps some bits of you will carry forth. You'll leave photos that matter. A book. A painting. Your kids won't be horrible fucking self involved assholes ruining everything for everyone. But all these things will be washed away in time. That's just the truth of it. You mean nothing. I mean nothing.
But that doesn't change the fact we're here. Alive. Feeling. Experiencing and while we're here, alive and experiencing we can shape and change what we're feeling, what we're experiencing and we can limit our suffering, increase our euphoric moments, we can have a bland, or magical life. It doesn't matter that nothing matters.
This becomes a tool when you can turn it off and on. Often we care too much about everything. We are too attached to outcomes outside our control. Too vested in our own successes or failures. Too traumatized by the things that happen to us. Too waylaid by life and it makes us smaller, less vital and less alive. It's not the load that breaks you it's how you carry it and learning to actively hold space for the idea nothing matters, your stupid little life doesn't matter, can free you in times of need from the weight of whatever has you pinned prostrate to the floor. It feels like her picking him over you matters. it feels like starving your mother to death matters. it feels like putting your best friend down because the dumb dog went blind and senile matters. It feels like everyone is doing better than you matters. they're all so shiny and sparkly and what you feel isn't that, and that feels like it matters.
not your old man whaling on you your whole childhood. not your wife leaving you for your best friend. not being published in the NYT, not falling in, or out of love. Not becoming a master of the universe. they are just moments in time. things that happened. Things you made happen, or happened to you. They are gone now. behind. over. let time wash them clear. fucking let them go.
When you use this tool, in combination with listening to your internal voice (or muse, or inner stinking child, whatever) and make time variable to your needs, you'll see parts of yourself you never knew existed just explode out of nowhere. You'll be that beautiful oven spring but in a meatsack form that coughs and farts at the same time (yes, i see you) and you might even figure out what the hell you want to spend your time on while you're here.
if all that seems like too much work, your phone is right there. go ahead. open twitter.