headshot of George Dinwiddie with books he's written

iDIA Computing Newsletter

February 2023

Renovating the House You Live In

If you're a home owner, I'm sure you're aware that there's always something that needs fixing. Something either broke or it's about to break. In an old house, this is to be expected. Even in a new house, you soon reach the same situation. It's part of the nature of life.

And when something needs fixing, you eventually set about to fixing it. Sure you may try to put it off for awhile. You may tell yourself that you don't have time right now, or that you can't afford it. You get accustomed to the way it is. You may tell yourself that it doesn't really need fixing, and try to live with it.

It never gets better on its own. It gets worse, perhaps gradually and perhaps suddenly. Sometimes it becomes an emergency you can't ignore, and may cost you more time and money than if you'd addressed it when you first noticed. In the mean time, it just gets in your way.

If feels good when you get it done, but that's not the end. Soon, if not already, there's something else that needs attention. You'll never reach the point where everything is fixed for good, and you can quit thinking about it. Get used to it. Pace yourself, but don't stop.

Now, think about where you really live. I don't mean within boards and bricks, but within your own skin. You'll never reach the point where everything there is fixed for good, either.

When you started out, you couldn't do anything for yourself, but you explored the world around you the best you could. Early on, you started to find the boundary where you ended and the rest of the world began. You learned more and more, and became more competent and confident in navigating that world. You learned some things that others wanted you to learn, some things they didn't, and some things that just happened to tickle your interest.

Somewhere along the way you may have thought to yourself, "I've got this." Perhaps you thought that you didn't need to learn so much any more, and could relax. You felt comfortable in the self you had become and become accustomed to being. That's all well and good, but it's not the end. As long as you're alive, there's still need to learn and grow.

Learning and growing is, of course, multi-dimensional. You may be able to point to things you've recently learned and say you're still pushing forward. Seeing these may distract you from the things that you're not learning. It's only natural that you focus on some things at the expense of others. It may even be that you're focusing on the things that are most important at the moment.

I've learned a little trick that helps me notice when I'm avoiding some form or area of learning, feeling comfortable in the decaying surroundings I've built for myself. When I start to justify not learning something, when I tell myself or others that I've got it all in place, that's a wake up call for paying closer attention. Ego defense is a sure sign of avoidance. I've become sensitized to the sense of cognitive dissonance, the mismatch between two beliefs that are telling me different things, that often triggers ego defense. If you can get that to ring a bell for you, then you can make this human tendency to protect oneself from anxiety and emotional discomfort into a tool for helping you actually fix the problem--at least, for now.

That's not to say you should let the situation hurt you. Hold onto your self-esteem. It's OK to feel good about yourself even when you don't feel good about something you've done or thought. In fact, it's your self-esteem that can help you through the tough times. Self-esteem is not, however, avoiding looking at the parts of you that you may want to change. That's more likely a form of fear. Self-esteem lets you look at those parts with the self-assurance that you can do what it takes and be OK. Self-esteem lets you regret the past, but focuses your desire to change on the future, where it has a chance. This makes it possible to live with the knowledge of that past rather than hide from it.

I know that I will never reach a point where I no longer desire to make changes within myself. Since there is no such thing as perfection, that would mean that I had given up on myself. That would be living in a decaying house. I'm not willing to do that.

I am willing to look hard at who I am and what I've done. I'm willing to work to do better in the future, forever. As Bob Dylan sang, "He not busy being born is busy dying."

/signed/ George

P.S. What is it you're working on? You don't have to tell me, but if you'd like a sounding board, you could schedule a Zoom Session with me to talk about it.

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