Sandy at the beach

I have written about “surrendering” before — this touches on an adjacent topic. It is less about interpersonal situations and more about navigating life more broadly. I could perhaps summarize the agenda/topic I had in mind by using the term “rolling with the punches.”

Lately, I have had to do quite a bit of rolling with the punches. It somewhat reminded me of the situation where you go to the beach — THE BEACH IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE PLACES ON EARTH — and you end up having to leave with sandy socks on or sandy shoes on or sand all over your body (this used to be a thing of sorts that would give me anxiety).

You see or at least hopefully start to see with the thing going on above. The beach is one of my favorite places on earth. The sand thing used to give me an unreasonable amount of anxiety. Unreasonable as defined by me — but it is to say that I just really did not like it. For a time, it was “so bad” that I would actually not want to go to the beach because I did not want to have to deal with sandy socks or whatever. Now, it was not so bad that I would like scream or cry or anything like that. But it was so bad in my head that I was like okay this is just not worth it.

So recently I have been in situations, headed to the beach, and I have taken a new approach to sand. Which is to not care. Who cares if I get sandy? Who cares if it gets in my shoes or if my socks are uncomfortable or if my legs still have sand on them?

The approach has worked fantastically well in that I have been able to enjoy the beach and think far less about the sand and the impact of the sand.

Now you may be reading this essay rolling your eyes and/or smirking and/or laughing at me. The whole thing is a bit ridiculous isn’t it. Sand! It’s just sand. It’s harmless. Who cares?

And I agree.

And I think in life there are many activities full of sand. Full of things that make you at least a tiny bit uncomfortable. And full of activities that you would probably like that you are avoiding due to the tiny bit of uncomfortability that comes with it.

Perhaps it is the start of your run. Or the going up to a stranger and trying to make a conversation. Or the start of an essay.

A tiny thing that if you just closed your eyes and counted to three and did the thing and let whatever badness come — you would make it out okay every time and you know it.

This is really a note to myself — telling me not necessarily to care less, because that sounds impossible, but care for a moment, seriously care, and then figure out what to rationally do with that thought. So do not tell yourself the thought isn’t real, tell yourself the reaction to the thought is what is not real. The reaction that is telling you that it is worth not going to the beach or not going up to talk to the person because there is in the grand scheme of things the tiniest bit of uncomfortability in the way between you and getting what you want. And you are not going to let yourself get stopped for that. No way.

Rolling with the punches and just leaning into the uncomfortability. Realizing you are not going to be able to escape the sweat of the night so just bringing it on and letting it happen. That is a skill in and of itself. When the going gets tough, you have a choice – you can complain or you can roll up your sleeves and just accept you are going to get muddy. One of the best ways to learn this is to realize that you will not always have a choice. There are situations where the only way forward is forward. And you will not be able to turn back and take the less sandy route. You just have to grit your teeth and keep going forwards. That is the learning in all of this for me – that sometimes trusting the cognitive brain really only takes you so far. In fact, would probably go even further in saying that many aspects of life are not understandable. Not fully in such a way that you can turn them into math equations. Feynman admits this, too, saying that doubt is incredibly important to maintain. The idea of achieving absolutely full of anything is a bit of a myth. Not sure why I even think that that sort of analysis and understanding is really even possible, because, well, surely it is not. What in life is absolute. Few if anything. Knowledge is dynamic, and so is our existence. Therefore, merely accepting the notion that not everything is fully understandable and fully knowable is perhaps an acceptance worth doing. I bring up this notion of acceptance and surrendering because I believe that to still be a big blocker. A big deterrence of me not going to the beach, both literally and metaphorically, was these small sand like issues. I would try to logic out the equation and figure out if the costs of getting sand uncomfortably on me was worth the fun of going to the beach. What if though in those moments I simply thought less and went for it. Worst case I’m wrong but I don’t believe in wrong again as an absolute. I have to turn down the volume that’s all. Turn down the volume of the voice in my head running to cognition — running to the hope of logic. Logic is appealing in so far as you think it makes sense. It seems like the right place to go. It feels defensible. It feels safe from emotions. The one seemingly minor but actually major problem is that logic breaks. I have said this before and written thousands of words about the concept but basically IT IS ILLOGICAL TO ASSUME YOUR LOGIC IS SAFE without including the variable that is humans “being humans.”

That’s why, in situations where perhaps your plan isn’t going to plan or perhaps even more commonly if you are playing things appropriately (tbd on what that means) you should expect to both be in situations where you are getting sand on your socks AND ALSO that it is okay for you to get into those situations. The latter point being super true — the latter point being a recognition that while something may be uncomfortable, ranging from minorly to extremely majorly, note that if you take the long view, you will not remember it. Therefore, if you can do things that give you no short term positive feedback other than being on the trajectory for the longer term, you can also withstand the minor inconvenience.

The minor inconvenience’s inconvenience gets meaningfully amplified when you give free rent to it. When you start thinking about it and overplan for it. If you over account for what you think your emotional reaction will be, you will tend to have a larger than necessary emotional reaction. Weird how things work that way but it tends to be true. And it never needed to be that way. Imagine your ultra chill friend in any situation you are in — what would they do? They are not a different species than you. They are just taking the stimuli and responding a bit differently. They are saying who cares about the sand.

I think the example of sandy shoes or whatever is a great one because it so embarassing-ly trivial that it demonstrates just how silly it is to not endure the minor minor amoutn of pain. Surely you can find more of these examples in your life.