mental health, self-improvement, writing

A Ghost of a Person

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”

– Jim Rohn

I have no idea who Jim Rohn is1, though variations of this quote run rife in the personal development community. It’s an overly simplistic way of saying that we tend to manage our behaviour in relation to other people, that we should be around people who lift us up, and run a mile from people who drag us down. You know, the regurgitated advice from every self-help guru.2

We’re about 11 months into an on-again-off-again lockdown, so if we are being responsible adult, then we are not being around many other people in a meaningful way. We may be trapped with have the company of family, friends, or flatmates, we could find ourselves living with just one person, or we could find ourselves living alone. What does this mean for us if we are the average of the people we spend time with?

I bring this up because of something I am personally experiencing.

I have been diagnosed with Emotional Intensity Disorder3, twice. It basically means my emotions go up to 11, but you can look at the diagnostic criteria for the ins and outs of it all (it is very complex, and there are many different combinations of symptoms). The one criterion I want to look at it is this:

Identity disturbance with markedly or persistently unstable self-image or sense of self.

I have very little sense of self. I have a habit of modelling the ideas and opinions of the people I am around. I can come across as a bit of a cranky and overly-opinionated little shit online, but in person I think I am overly-amiable and conflict avoidant. I want people to like me, but who am I? Well, I’m whoever I think you want me to be. It sounds really creepy when I write it out, but it’s true. I can’t pin my identity to anything other than others. I am a ghost of a person, and I only exist in relation to other people. When I am alone, and try to figure out who, what and why I am (remember, I am addicted to personal development) there is nothing to pin myself to.

So what then am I, and people like me to do when we aren’t around other people? How do we continue to exist?

I am struggling with who I am, and I can’t be the only one.

Are any of you fans of Nickelodeon’s Fairly Odd Parents4? There’s an episode where Timmy Turner wishes to be alone with his crush, Trixie Tang. Trixie needs constant admiration from the boys, and with them gone Timmy has to provide it all. Watch it.

That is a vibe. And it’s kind of my vibe right now.

I don’t need the constant admiration of people, but my partner alone can’t provide me with a strong anchor point for my identity. He shouldn’t have to. That’s too big a responsibility for anyone, and he is unable to really consent to that5. It’s a toxic behaviour that I am struggling to manage.

Being among people doesn’t give me a stable identity, but it allows me to flex and explore identity without overly burdening people. However, I will not be able to be around people in any meaningful way for a long time, possibly next year. A year of being a ghost.

Of course the real solution is to have my own stable sense-of-self, but I’m fucked if I know how to do that.

What am I the average of?

You can’t drink from an empty cup, but what if that cup can never be filled?


1He’s an entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker. All the worst sorts of people, lol.

2I snark, but I am addicted to this stuff.

3Or Borderline Personality Disorder, but that label is so shallow and easily misunderstood.

4It’s problematic. Shut up. All your favourites are problematic too.

5How on earth would consent work in this situation?

activism, self-improvement, zero waste

Doing something

“Someone should really do something about that.”

Be honest, you have probably said this at some point in your life. Some thing isn’t the way it should be, objectively or subjectively. Our worlds are never what we feel they should be, but how often do we step up to make a change? I rarely do.

One of these things is the rubbish littering my local park. The Cunninghame Graham Memorial Park, known as “The Mony”, appears to be nothing remarkable, but is thought to be the site of Cardross Castle where Robert the Bruce died. The park is named after Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham, a wealthy socialist. I don’t know enough about him to comment more. I do know that his actual memorial was moved elsewhere due to vandalism, which doesn’t surprise me at all.

Back to the litter. There is always a trail of litter along the footpaths, and clusters amongst the trees. You can see where folk “hide” to drink, or do drugs. Now, it used to be worse when the local secondary school was open, but it moved to the other side of town taking with it the majority of takeaway cartons, energy drink cans, and cigarette butts left behind by the pupils and staff. The Mony is still an unecessary mess though, and everytime I would walk through it I would find myself getting wound-up. Why do people drop litter in the first place? Why was nobody clearing it up regularly? Why did nobody seem to care?

I can’t answer the first question. I do not understand how anybody could drop litter at their arse. As a child I used to drive my mum bonkers because my pockets were always full of rubbish. I was very good at not dropping litter, but I was pretty rubbish at remembering to put it in a bin later!

As for the second and third questions, they come from a place of expecting other people to take responsibility for things. They could be rewritten as “Why should I clear it up regularly? I don’t drop litter!” and “Why should I care about it? Nobody else seems to.” As I am learning through my current Mindfullness CBT course, that is not how the world works. Waiting for other people to change is not a productive use of energy. It has been better for me to work on the things I can change for myself, and that means that I can take some time out of my life to clear up the park.

I started today, Samhain, as it felt like a meaningful way to celebrate the holiday. It also gave me a socially-acceptable excuse to do my litter-pick while wearing my fox onesie. I took my foxy self, a bin bag, some gloves, and a litter-picker out to The Mony and got stuck in.

I was underprepared, as I filled my bag super quickly and only covered about 1/6th of the park. In the mix was the traditional bottle of Buckfast, fizzy drink cans, polystyrene takeaway food cartons, and dog poo bags. Fucking dog poo bags. What’s worse than leaving dog shit lying around? Wrapping dog shit in plastic and then leaving it lying around. It boggles the mind. My most interesting find was the handlebars from a child’s bike.

As I was finishing up, I met a dogwalker who handed me some glass she had collected. We chatted about doing what we can, and I made the decision to go out a few times a week and focus on filling just one bag with rubbish. I have a habit of trying to do Big Grand Gestures that I cannot sustain, and eventually have to give up. But one or two bags a week? That is doable for me.

I can’t stop people from dropping litter, but I can do a bit it mitigate it, and after speaking with a dogwalker I realise that people do care, they/we just don’t really know to show it. Maybe we have to stop waiting for other people to tell us what to do, and what we can do, and just do what we can by ourselves.

self-improvement

Winning (by losing) the Minimalism Game

A series of nine photos showing some of the clutter that Emma managed to remove while playing the Minimalism Game.
Some of the clutter I managed to lose.

A belated happy new year to you all! Like most folk, I entered 2019 with a handful of resolutions. To be healthier, happier, and better all around. One of my major life battles is with clutter. I idolise those who can live a minimalist lifestyle, but no matter how hard I try I cannot emulate it.

I am just a little clutterbug!

Enter The Minimalism Game from Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. The rules are pretty basic: On the first day you get rid of one item, on day two, you get rid of two items, all the way to day thirty. Simple?

Well, no. Not so simple.

By day twelve I was struggling. Not because I had nothing to get rid of, but because my brain couldn’t handle the counting! I gave up the game at 78 items. I may have lost the game, but reducing my clutter by 78 objects is still a victory and I am still decluttering – just not as intensely, and I am combining it with a little bit of the KonMari method. I want what I have to “spark joy”.

self-improvement, zero waste

Trash Audit

I’m not perfect, but I had always thought that the level of rubbish I created was not that bad.

Okay, that’s a lie. I had never thought about the level of rubbish I created because I assumed that it was not that bad. After all I used moon pads, a bamboo toothbrush, and reusable bags! Gold star for me!

My rubbish trail was brought back into my awareness when I caught Cheap Lazy Vegan and Tidy Guy’s Trash Audit videos on YouTube. To summarise: CLV was asked to consciously minimise the amount of trash she created, and was given a jar to collect her trash in. At the end of the week, the pair of them reviewed the jar’s contents. The videos are really worth watching.

I thought to myself “I should try this. How much rubbish could I possibly create?”

Here is a selection of just some of the rubbish I produced.

I am not going to list all of my rubbish, because I am embarrassed. It really hit my shame button. I realised how lazy I am, and how much I prioritise convenience.

During the week I did my audit, the bulk of my waste came from food. Many of the cakes, biscuits, and cereal bars I eat come in single-use plastic wrappers. I have a terrible sweet-tooth, and rely on sweet treats to get through my days. I also have a bad habit of ordering takeaway food for dinner because I am too exhausted to cook at night. Most of the food I order does come in recyclable containers, but then there is the dreaded polystyrene packaging. I have been trying to ensure that I eat more fruit, so I have been relying on precut portions that come in wee plastic bags. Finally, I have been trying to motivate myself to leave the house (for work or a walk) by picking up a takeaway hot chocolate on my way.

The rest of my waste came from personal care. My permanently runny nose and my sloppy eating habits mean I use a lot of tissues and kitchen roll. Then there was the security wrappers and blister packs from my medication. Finally, there was my razor blade. This was frustrating! I had switched from disposable razors to ones were you reuse the handle thinking that it would use less plastic. I was wrong! The blades come in so much plastic packaging!

Of course, different weeks bring different waste! Since doing my audit I’ve noticed that I use a lot of microwave rice (which comes in plastic pouches), and that my internet shopping comes in a variety of packaging. Some of it I reuse, but there are too many single-use plastics for my liking.

So where do I go from here?

-I could make my own cakes and biscuits, and bring them with me in reusable tubs.
-I could make more of an effort to cook at home instead of ordering food in.
-I could cut up my own fruit portions, and bring them with me in reusable tubs.
-I could buy a reusable travel mug. I already have one, but it doesn’t have a secure closable lid, so I use it to get my lunchtime soup at work instead of using one of their takeaway cups.
-I can make my own handkerchiefs and napkins from scrap fabric.
-I could begin using a safety razor (thanks for the tip, Simply Sustainable Sarah!)

I’m really glad I did my own trash audit. Facing up to the impact of my lifestyle has been hard, especially as I have been relying on my illnesses as an excuse to be a slob. I am positive I can change though. Looking at my habits and my rubbish this closely has helped me draw up an action plan on where to go from here.

I hope to keep you all updated on my low waste journey!