A philosophical guide to surviving the transition from an old way of life to a new one

The following post is written especially for my conversation partners who are now living through a transition. We know that your old way of life has gone under but you’re not yet able to walk into a new way of life. You know I’m concerned that you’re despairing, concerned that you’ll infer that because this way of life is unsuitable for now life in general must be unsuitable for you.

I assure you that there is a way of life that you can live out. Recall from Wednesday’s post that “The suicide, in the presence of the philosopher, is learning about being radiant by participating fully in a radiant way of being.” This is true, only we’re not quite there yet. Before radiance comes surviving, with surviving leading on to a radiant way of being. Bear this in mind. Be strong.

Let’s turn our focus to the interregnum. During the transition when, for you, despair is stronger and far greater than hope, I’m urging you to be brave–and to be ruthless, ruthlessly brave, unapologetically ruthlessly brave. Ruthlessness is vital (i.e., life-restoring) for a time. Gnash your teeth and be upset. Be ruthless, be as ruthless as you have to be. We’ll come to loving life later.

The guide, below, is for you. The art, from William Blake, is also for you. My gifts to you.

1. Limit contact with stern voices and nay-saying people. Limit physical contact, all contact period. Best to have no contact whatsoever. Fuck ’em.

2. Forget about helping others. You can’t. Plus, they’re dead or dead to you anyway. Time to save yourself by ignoring them, by ignoring everyone but yourself and those in 3.

3. Surround yourself only with those who have survived or with those who are radiant. These and no others. Most of these people should be older and wiser than you. (Know the difference between “old” and “wise.”) Regarding all others, read again points 1. and 2.

4. Give yourself time to grieve for the past way of life. Don’t cry a little. Ball your bloody eyes out. It fucking hurts, this soul pain, this soul wrenching. Feels like a fucking asshole pulling barbed wire out of your body while another feeds it back in through many novel holes.

5. Hope small. Grab like good mad onto any sign that you’re getting closer to a new way of life. We’ll point together, gather the seashells and smell the reminder of seawater.

6. You’re not ready to entertain the question of whether living really matters, so don’t. Just act as if it does. We’ll get around to radiance later, after you’ve taken some steps toward a new way of life. Right now, you’re just trying to survive. Be OK with that.

7. Are you beating yourself up? Then listen to my voice. Listen to the voices of those in 3. Be careful, friend. Regarding all other voices, see points 1. and 2. Also, re-read my post on taking care of yourself. Go on and read. I’m here, I’m not going anywhere.

8. A day is fucking hard, it’s a goddamn wasteland, so fucking long as to be uncompletable. Don’t let that defeat you. From now on, your day is to be cut up like a military schedule: reasonable when it comes to goals, highly regimented in all things, cut into decent time blocks and time chunks, micromanaged down to the bathroom breaks. Learn to love looking at yellow sheets and neatly drawn-up “To Do’s.” Love the small things. Feel your fingers, with frisson, cross that item off. Ooooooooh.

With regard to goals, pick out, however arbitrarily, two things you’re going to get done today and do those two only. You can’t do everything at once, otherwise you won’t make it out. If you finish those two, go out and play or pretend to go and play. Or simply pretend. Pretend life is OK.

9. How do you know which two to complete? Come now, no life-sucking paralysis for you. Simply put your index finger down on a piece of paper and say, “These two today.” Or ask a survivor or a radiant being and let her–allow her–to tell you. Let yourself be allowed. Reread point 3. Avoid nay-sayers: re-read points 1 and 2.

10. In lieu of thinking “It’s all on me, so I had better find the motivation somewhere within, had better get my shit together,” think instead that it’s all about making obligations to others. Hold yourself to your obligations with survivors and flourishers and with those only. Let the other draw you out. (Recall points 1. and 2.)

Remember Ulysses who bound himself to the mast. Learn to love external mechanisms.

Get out of your fucking home. Get out. Your apartment is no good for you. Your apartment is death. Remember that.

Meet people someplace and do work in a library, at a coffee shop, on a park bench. Ask others (remember point 3) if they’ll sit with you while you work. Sit in someone else’s sunny apartment while she’s at work. Tell other survivors and radiant beings that you’re sending them things and then send them the things you say you’re going to send them. Ask them to reply immediately, saying they’ve received the things you sent them.

Learn to get off by crossing things off the list. I’m not joking about the getting off. You’re trying to remember what it feels like to be alive. Learning to desire again is a full day’s lesson. See again point 8.

11. Each day, have something to look forward to, however insignificant that something may be in the grander scheme of things. Yeah? You like Baskin and Robbin’s mint chocolate chip ice cream despite the fact that it tastes like green perfume. Great, then thank yourself for doing the daily things by getting yourself the green funk this very evening.

Repeat 11. tomorrow, every morrow after.

12. Go on and laugh at all this shit. Go on. It’s funny shit, this shit. It’s funny that you’re getting off on crossing stupid shit off of a stupid list. It’s funny that other people are idiots, stupid wankers, fucking pricks, fucking dudes. Go on and laugh because this whole fucking thing really fucking sucks. It sucks. Only don’t go to the “active listener” therapist who tells you she’s heard what you’re saying heard what you’re saying heard what you’re saying and is listening to you to you to you. Don’t get your shit validated. Only go if you’re going to punch that dude in the face, in his stupid graying beardy face, because he totally deserves it. He’s a waste of breath and, by doing this, you’re being a good samaritan. After, go get yourself some green perfume.

13. Move around, call a friend, move your body some more. Your bed is a death trap. Sleep on the floor, on the coach, on the railing. Curl up with a blanket and sleep in the hall. In the morning, learn to love how your back feels, back broken, get up, cold and joint-stiff, and move around. Chant. Yell. Scream your fucking bloody head off, breathe, only keep moving around. Stasis is a temptress and she will kill you.

14. For the love of god, please stop talking to your mom every day. Most (not all, mind you, but most) are dotty or saccharine or both. Dotty as in: they don’t have their shit together, so you better not tell them anything. Or saccharine in that they’re doing the pat pat god has a plan for all of us dear oh you’ll be fine pat pat sort of bullshit. Well, it may not, mum. (Recall points 1 and 2.) You’re not being attentive, never have, can’t talk now, are not good for me. You’re soul-sucking, getting in the way of my surviving. Not letting you, nay-sayer.