Pause and ask three questions

Talking about intrusive thoughts, distraction, and procrastination with my therapist, I worked out a structure to pause and redirect my attention.

Stop what I’m doing/thinking.

Take a slow breath.

Ask myself three questions, in order:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What do I need?
  3. What will satisfy that need?

It’s for doom scrolling, dopamine-seeking behavior, and intrusive thoughts. It’s for any time when it’s possible to recognize what I’m doing in the moment isn’t something that’s helping me align my actions with my identity.

It’s easy to forget that what I’m doing in the moment has meaning later on. Those twenty minutes scrolling TikTok or imagining a worst case scenario don’t come back later.

These questions interrupt the cycle of procrastination/distraction > guilt > shame/sadness > procrastination/distraction, and so on.

It’s like one of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies:

Honor thy error as a hidden intention.

Stop > find the reason for my actions > address the reason.

It’s a practice, not a one-and-done realization. I can still find myself ignoring my own advice, or not having the willpower energy to follow through.

But it’s helping me a little. Maybe it can help somebody else, too.

Returning to Final Fantasy X

Screenshot from Final Fantasy X cutscene of Yuna and Tidus.
Pictured: A cat and a golden retriever.

I still need to finish Breath of the Wild, and my Animal Crossing residents are probably dealing with abandonment issues. Sorry, but Final Fantasy X gets to live in the Switch right now.

All I want to do when I have some time to play a game is level grind and watch cut scenes of these dumb dumbs wrestling with their feelings.

The last time I traveled to Spira was back on the PS2. I’ve forgotten most of the plot, and I’m pretty sure I never actually completed the game.

A problem I had back in the day was getting impatient toward the end of games and not building up the necessary equipment/levels/skills to tackle the final challenge. Or I just walked away if the final quest felt tedious (sorry, Windwaker).

So Final Fantasy X feels right for the moment. It’s comfort gaming that feels immersive, but not too immersive. Lots of things to do and see, but a clear path.

Because the game is mostly the same, but I’m different now. And playing through feels differently because of it.

If Great British Bake Off has taught me anything, it’s that it’s important to have hobbies you enjoy where you’re not focused on monetizing it or being the best. To have things you do where the only thing you’re producing is joy for yourself.

Not tracking my page count

I’ve had trouble getting back in my writing brain for a while. Too much second-guessing, impostor syndroming, and generally feeling exhausted.

(Holidays, y’all. And let’s not forget two kids on winter break from school. It’s a lot.)

My therapist encouraged me to work on reconnecting writing with pleasure.

Little by little I’ve been working at it, but it didn’t start to click until a few days ago when a friend texted:

Wanna do a write sprint today?

We just made plans for another sprint tomorrow — our fourth day in a row keeping pace with each other.

Are the scenes I’m writing perfect? Far from it. Are these pages that will definitely make it to a finished draft? Unlikely.

But I’m enjoying the process. I’m trying not to worry about when this is going to be finished as much as I’m focusing on making sure I keep at it.

I’d rather have a good habit than a bad, rushed draft.

Other people’s expectations of what love feels like

Finding quite a few of these 22 things I learned in 2022 posts. If I feel like I actually learned 22 things in this past year, I might cook up my own.

But for now, let me share this one:

3. When you feel lonely, it’s because you think nobody loves you or loves you the way you wanna be loved. But accept all love as love. Understand that no one knows how to love perfectly. And that at each point in our lives someone is always trying to love us. Accept the trying as being enough.

Rebecca Toh, 22 thoughts and lessons from 2022

See also:

The West Wing. Leo asks Bartlet "Who was the monk who wrote, 'I don't always know the right thing to do, Lord, but I think the fact that I want to please you pleases you.'"