24 Apr 2009

Post 122: Trying to explain my own philosophy

I'm no psychologist (you might have noticed) but I have often tried to judge how life is going based on a method of my own devising, probably not a very revolutionary method but it used to give me a roughly objective measure of where I stood and more importantly it allowed me to know what I had to do to improve things. I'll try roughly to describe it and how it worked. Remember this came off the top of my head!
I used to divide my life into categories or buckets, so the input was totally subjective, and each bucket was a different weight, again selected totally subjectively, depending on what felt important to me at the time and in my head I could tot all these buckets up and it would spit out an overall positive or a minus, dependent on the relative contributions of each bucket towards this total, I would know what I needed to work on to improve my overall level of happiness or as J.S. Mill would say, my 'utility'. That's virtually all the Philosophy from my first year at Uni that I remember, oh and some nonsense uttered by Descartes like 'Cogito ergo sum' or something, all very relevant to the real world. I do remember that most philosophy texts seemed to be in double dutch. I soon ditched Philosophy as too much of a headf*ck, too esoteric and weird to be of any help to anyone.
Back to my own bucket method, the title of each bucket is stage two. It's important to note that there will be some constant titles but buckets can come and go depending on what is important and what you think affects your overall level of 'utility' or 'happiness'. My headings before my stroke were 'lovelife' which to me was the most important followed by 'finances', mainly because they were a constant source of stress,- can I afford my next mortgage payment? How much, no seriously, HOW much debt am in? Can I afford to go out this weekend?Am I allowed to go out? Can I afford to eat? In that order usually! The next bucket was 'how am I feeling in myself?' the 'health' bucket, The next was 'friends', how am I getting on with people,how is such and such etc?', followed by 'work','how's the latest project going?', 'how am I getting on with my boss and co-workers etc? 'how's my team doing etc?'
These were the main buckets then, Lovelife, Finances, Health, Friends,Job and then various smaller less important buckets that were usually very time specific like 'hows my DJing?' I've got an important gig in three weeks' etc, or 'how's my golf?' and totting up all these things would tell me how life was going and roughly the area to focus on to improve things. Usually each column/bucket has some sort of knock-on into other columns because the limiting factors were time and energy, with limitless time and energy, even after a stroke life might be easier. I'm sure that most people have some sort of internal rudder like this it's just that mine is rather more 'analytical. Well I was a career analyst. A word that you can't spell without the word 'anal' as I'm oft fond of pointing out. Or the words that have had most relevance since my stroke 'therapist' which you can't spell without the word 'rapist' or psychologist without 'psycho'. Well, these things make me chuckle anyway.
I think the reason why I broke this down so discretely and logically is so I could explain it and discuss it with other people and try and make them understand how I thought and how I made decisions on prioritizing some things over others. For as long as I can remember I have been the type of person who values getting someone else's opinion before doing something and in a conversation I had with Vicki my wonderful psychologist, she mentioned that I sounded a bit co-dependent, in other words, that I find it hard to function (on any level) – without a partner. To be clear before my stroke this wasn't so much an issue, I was very independent. I was very heavily in love because for as long as I can remember women have been the most important thing in my life. I have always been in need of affection so it's small wonder that since my stroke I've been such a misery, both my health and lovelife columns are heavily in negative territory. Even now I still don't know where either of these stand and what's worse is I feel powerless to do anything to quickly change either of these two. Finances are for once ok, I may have very low income, but I also have very low outgoings. The main ones being food, household bills and concert tickets. All therapy is (so kindly) handled by the Dom Pardey Trust who through the immense kindness of a network of donors raise enough money for my continued physiotherapy. This is such an enormous weight off my mind because there is no way I would be able to afford the current level of physical therapy I currently have on my own meagre income. I treat my physical therapy and any other appointments I have as my job. There is a slight problem with this, the work is relentless and there are no short term rewards, I don't even know what I'm working towards because even when I can walk independently it will be virtually unrecognizable. The only physio who has told me I have a chance of walking independently again is Ian (the guy I'm working with at the moment). All the others have ruled it out. Ian's approach is exercise,exercise and more exercise. So far I have done everything he's asked but it's not getting easier, quite the opposite, I just feel more exhausted and can never feel or see the improvement he and everyone else says they can see. This should be building up my health column but paradoxically it's depleting it . The health column used to get built up by going to the gym and that feeling of wellbeing you'd get afterwards or giving up drinking for a moth but even though I haven't drunk properly for more than three years I no longer get that feeling of sharpness/restedness, there's no longer that feeling of wellbeing after exercise.
The only positive that I can identify by my crude bucket psychology system is that the friend column has either increased or is much higher than I first thought, Basically I know what I have to do, I just don't feel capable of doing a lot of it and because I'm so co-dependent these days I feel the need to tell the world, this is my problem, I should be able to deal with it, but I don't feel tough enough anymore.

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