Turning Circles into Spirals 🌀

August 23, 2021

Recently I've been rereading my old journal entries. At times it makes me laugh—past Jun had no idea what was coming to her; other times, it hurts to peek into my past chapters—it can feel like I'm catching up with a friend I've lost contact with.

I've been taking note of the underlined sentences that felt like epiphanies at the time—lessons I wanted future Jun to remember—as if the simple act of striking a line under a particular phrase would root it deep in my consciousness:

✰ Slow down.
✰ Zoom out to see the bigger picture.
✰ Avoid alcohol—it makes you do silly things!!!
✰ Connect with yourself before connecting with another.
✰ Your anger shows you what your boundaries are (but don't let it overtake you).
✰ Saturate yourself with people who make you feel good.

The same lessons, phrased in different ways, are noted throughout years of entries.

It's almost comical, the way I've lived nearly 10,000 days and yet continue to repeat the same problems, ask the same questions, dwell on the same existential dilemmas. My train of thought chugs on a circular track.

My self-destructive ouroboros goes: making a mistake learning from the aftermath swearing I will take the lesson to heart.

A circular cycle that goes: 1. Making a mistake, 2. Learning from the aftermath, 3. Swearing I will take this lesson to heart. Repeat.

I establish beautiful rituals and abandon them before they form into habit. I overthink little moments until they become knotted in my brain. I start writing drafts with no conclusions. I obsess over a new hobby and quit when I get bored, or when I do not immediately excel at it. I let my anger take over my tongue with words I regret later. I dissect silences from an otherwise joyous evening until only its specimen splays across the memory. I crave human connection and leave my texts on read. I sabotage relationships I value and love.

I learn from a mistake and promptly forget the lesson.

"We repeat not because we’re broken, but because we’re trying to heal. In the act of repetition comes variation. And within the minute variations that occur in the repetition of acts, we are slowly able to create space for transformation." — Kai Cheng Thom

Progress is a maddening loop when it is so incremental. It feels like we aren't moving at all.

What if instead of visualizing growth as a circle, we imagined it as a spiral?

A 4-part grid that shows the progression of a circle turning into a spiral.

Jung said about the spiral: "The spiral in psychology means that when you make a spiral you always come over the same point where you have been before, but never really the same, it is above or below, inside, outside, so it means growth."

The imprint of the spiral is everywhere in nature: the Milky Way, a snail shell, chameleon tail, fingerprint...A delightful fact: leaves, branches, and petals may also grow in spirals so that leaves don't block the sun from older leaves or so that the maximum amount of rain reaches the roots.

A collage of different spirals found in nature, such as a snail shell, the milky way galaxy, a cyclone.

My path is not a smooth line; it's wiggly and capricious with sine waves of highs and lows. The size of the gaps also vary, depending on the season. There are times I repeat the same mistake in the span of a sunrise and sunset.

If I fail over and over again, is this proof I’m incapable of redemption? Then again, if I fail over and over again, what can I do but see this as proof of redemption?

I am choosing to be gentle with myself, to sit and stare ambiguity in the eye, to remember that finding out takes time. This requires intentional and thoughtful reflection—tracing my steps to see how far I've come while recognizing how far I have to go. A great deal of trust is also requisite—trusting that my droughts will be followed by periods of rainfall, simply because it is in our nature to ebb and flow.

I remind myself of the words by Herman Hesse in Siddhartha: “We are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”

My spiral is ever-expanding, like our galaxy. There is whimsy in the fickleness of her mood swings and peace to be uncovered by recognizing her patterns. I wish to befriend my spiral and admire, not fear, her stubborn tenacity. In the meantime, I will enjoy the undulating turbulence as best I can.

A quote from Mimi Zhu: "What you feel around you is rebirth, change, the same lessons masked as different challenges, the universe trying to tell you over and over that it beckons you to listen. It only tests you because you are capable of it, because it is you who can interpret it and understand. I am here to stay."