Wow. A lot of great content being generated here. Again, thank you for taking the time to read and share.
Some of hits, some of it doesn't, but all of it is worthy of consideration. It's hard to come forward asking advice when you can't really share everything about who you are in one or two posts (or 200), though I guess being engaged in this board already tells a bit of the story.
I spent some time last night answering some of the questions Freedom_2018 posed: "What other interests do you have? What would you like to do if you were already retired and no one knew who you were (i.e. without your past baggage or accomplishments)?"
Well, writing for one. I enjoy persuasive writing (research, essays) and tech-writing (not how-to, but position papers, briefs, etc.) almost as much as, if not more than, short-stories and poetry. I'm not sure that it is that "good" for me though -- it can consume a lot of me if it's future oriented stuff on the state-of-world, things that are f-cked, etc.
Two, I love spending time with kids. Infants on up. I love the opportunity to give love and inspiration to the next generation. I love the innocence and wonder. My wife and I are planning to make a go at having our own this June/July...but I wouldn't mind finding a career in something to do with kids.
Three, I love teaching. Whether it's mentoring, tutoring, or just helping share about the things I've learned how to do, I like helping other people learn how to do things easier. (I'm not sure how this jives with my introvert tendencies, though more on that later.)
Four, I love selling. I worked in retail and residential real estate leasing for a number of years and actually loved it. I liked learning about people's needs and trying to meet them at a fair price that worked for both of us. I never felt the need to be sleezy about it.
Five, I like interacting with people. As a barista, server, retail, and other misc customer service gigs, I always liked listening to people, chatting with them about their day, etc. BUT - only when I had the autonomy to do so and didn't have a micro-managing boss breathing down my neck.
Six, nature. I like being outside.
Seven, food-service/nutrition related stuff. I've spent years learning about diet, food, and as you can see from my avatar, tea. I love cooking simple, healthy, tasty stuff. My wife and I have often dreamed of opening a simple tea and snacks/books cafe type joint. But never followed through...
So, I've got all these things I'd love to do or be involved in, and then I have the negative voices associated with them (as represented by my parents, bro, and certain friends that still sit in my psyche):
1) you'll never earn enough to support your family
2) how will you get health benefits to care for your family
3) stop dreaming and do something practical
4) you've tried doing something different in the past and failed
5) you need X,Y,Z credentials to do that
Those are the voices and negative tracks that need to be overcome or dealt with...
I agree with some of the comments around the concept of the Self; as I said at the outset, I'm steeped in quite a bit of cognitive and neuro science, nondualism, Zen, etc. I've sat silent retreats and had some mind-blowing bliss. The question remains...how does this all integrate into day-to-day experience? How do I exist and relate to the world? How do I perceive the experience that comes into my awareness?
I have loops of connections in my brain that lead to positive emotive experience and seeing the world as it is and dwell in that place from time to time...for long periods of time actually. But I have other tracks and connections in my brain that lead down paths of pity, difficulty, anger, frustration, low-self-worth, and all the rest.
Through practice, I've been able to sit more and more often in the place of awareness that sees all that negative bullsh8t going on and sees it as passing clouds in the broader field of consciousness/awareness; I know it's not "me" or my "true self", it's just what's happening in this moment. And yet, it's still there, and it still causes a limited experience in this world. I'm still attached to those clouds at the heart level, so to speak, even though mentally I know they are what they are.
Looking back over the past few years, I can see how the awareness of my attachment to certain negative loops has grown and how those negative loops have become easier and easier to hop out of.
BUT - I'm still really struggling with creating an environment (mentally and physically) that doesn't reinforce the negative loops. My current boss is a spitting-image of the narcissistic parents I grew up with; the inconsistent messages, the frantic, unprepared nature, the micro-managing mixed with inaccessibility on important projects. It's a horrible fit for me, as is my current position in general -- except that I do get to write position papers and do policy research -- but those are then torn down by management anyway, so it's a double-edged sword. And because it's a horrible fit, it puts me in a mental milleiu that triggers all those negative loops on a daily basis...hourly even.
This is really long, so I'll sum up.
I recognize that most of what I'm dealing with is a gap between understanding and implementation; mixed in that are deeply engrained feelings of unworthiness; which are triggered by my work environment and negative influences; over-time I could likely develop the cognitive ability to re-wire how I deal with those negative experiences, but it may be more expeditious for me to do some training and make some choices to get myself out of a situation I'm having difficulty dealing with; to do so, I need to develop the self-confidence in my overt abilities to take a chance on something new for work; and to do that, I need to work on understanding and skillfully counteracting the negative, self-limiting tendencies that are part of my current day-to-day reality.
I like what I've read on REBT so far. I think that may be a practice that draws me out of my head and into my heart. The therapy, reading, and mindfulness/insight practices I've been engaged in so far have been very "heady". That may not be a good thing for me.
Final note, I'm not sure if I'm truly an introvert (see my love for teaching and selling), or if I'm an extrovert, but one who doesn't like being managed or judged, and so reverts to introversion to avoid the judgement..hmm.