Monday, February 27, 2017

Hatching (and a Wee Story)


To me, the best time to turn over a new leaf isn't New Year's Day. It's still cold then, meaning the earth is still hibernating and so am I. I'm also just coming out of full holiday mode at the beginning of January -- probably not even back to work yet after whatever vacation I took to celebrate the season. I'm not ready to go from that state of being to making self-improvement plans and trying to be productive in any meaningful way. 

"Pre-spring" is a much more natural time for that. It's getting a little warmer, which makes it easier to get in the mood for positive change. Lent also starts, so I'm already primed and ready to put the brakes on the old self-indulgence engine for a while. I've been in kind of a low energy funk for a while, but I feel pretty prepared for Ash Wednesday day after tomorrow. This is a challenging time of year for me, but an exciting one as well.

........

That said, I felt like trying to snag myself a real bank account and maybe a line of credit a few days ago. To my very pleasant surprise, I was actually approved for both. My credit's been such shit for such a long time, I've grown completely used to living a cash only lifestyle over the years. Apparently by now though, it's been so long since any credit problems I might have once had that I'm seen more as someone with no credit at all than I am a potential risk with bad credit. (I confirmed this with an actual credit check.)

That's appropriate, as I feel like a completely different person from the one I was many years ago when my life was a lot more conventional. I went from being a married person that worked for the man and worried constantly about being "normal" to someone that is in a relationship on her own terms, works for herself, and couldn't give fewer fucks about whether or not she's enough like everyone else. Something about being approved for a whole new set of "real person" financial accounts somehow feels like having those choices validated in a tangible way. Finally.

I even opened a savings account for the first time in my life and that's something I've never had before. I've never had enough money to my name to necessitate one, nor have I ever had any reason to think that state of affairs might actually change one day. This is no longer the case. Despite never having wanted to work and never having been an ambitious person, I appear to have stumbled onto something society seems to need from me badly enough to pay me to do it. 

In all likelihood, I probably won't be a copywriter for the rest of my life, but I'm really sure I'll always be a writer. And I think there could be a future there that comes complete with money to live on and security of one kind or another. Or at least that's the way I'm feeling right now. A big, fat wave of depression and self-loathing might roll in next week and find me feeling completely differently, but hey. I haven't felt this hopeful about life in general in a while, so I'm just going to accept it for what it is.

........

I've also been writing little snippets of weird, creative prose like I used to here and there -- a good sign. This little narrative is from earlier in the month. I even posted it a couple of places it could be read by someone other than myself for a change and I can't recall the last time I did that. I figure it belongs here as well, as I like it and don't want to lose it. I'm not completely sure what it's about -- abuse recovery, mental illness, and some other random things. Admittedly my creative writing has never made tons of sense, but I rather like it that way.

Burnt and Buried
It began not with peace, but with a storm. A vortex of salt, and sea, and flying debris. Air heavy with moisture and meaning. An energetic pregnant earth far below, green with growing things and ripe with possibility. But the longer the vortex twisted and writhed, the higher it rose into the cosmos. The further it traveled toward another place where there quite possibly was no more green earth far below -- no lemon trees and no cinnamon foxes with black velvet paws. Only tall, lopsided mushrooms and drooping nightshade -- things that grew in the dark, anchored in place by strange roots. 
One day, she decided to build a golem just to see if she could. She took a handful of burnt rags from the center of her chest and tied them into a series of knots following a very specific sequence. The golem stank of kerosene and tobacco. His was the scent of frustration and imprisonment. And his name was Burnt. But Burnt could not be controlled as well as one would have hoped. He refused to rake leaves in the autumn and make chamomile tea in the spring, so his maker cast him out of the vortex onto the hypothetical green earth far below to find the cinnamon foxes instead.
Sooner rather than later, she decided to build a second golem for no discernible reason at all. She took a handful of iron from the center of her head and molded it into a series of peaks and valleys following a very specific sequence. The golem stank of mildew and musk. Hers was the scent of melancholy and panic. And her name was Buried. But like Burnt, Buried also could not be controlled as well as one would have hoped. She refused to gather seashells in the summer and stack bones in the winter, so out of the vortex onto the hypothetical earth below, Buried was cast to find the yellow lemons.
There were no more golems after that. Only the wind and the lightning cage spinning round and round as it hurtled through the void. Somewhere far below, the Lemons of Maybe continued to grow at a dizzying rate, perfuming the air where the Foxes of Perhaps lay sleeping.

Monday, December 12, 2016

On Holidays and the Malaise That Sometimes Comes with Them


Every time I randomly decide to blog after not having really blogged for a while, I wonder what my problem is as to why I'm no longer the consistent blogger I used to be years ago. I usually just blame the fact that I write professionally for a living because of the way it burns through so much of my creative energy for the week. And honestly, that probably is part of it.

Every so often though, I realize that it's probably more because I don't truly feel like my life is worth recording the way I used to. I don't do anything or go anywhere. I feel like I never have good news or exciting changes to report. I honestly feel like the only thing I really do with my time is work and lie around like a slug attempting to recover from work. While I definitely like being able to eat, I don't get any kind of personal fulfillment out of working the way other people do, so it's a problem that that's the only thing I really have going on. 

I guess what I'm saying is I feel like my life kind of blows right now. When I feel like life blows, I feel very little urge to actually record anything about it. This is despite the fact that I've always found journaling to be therapeutic. I know I need to be taking back some of my creative energy for myself now and then, but it's not as easy as it probably should be.

........

Of course, the holiday season is here again. Gaudete Sunday was yesterday, so we're already halfway through Advent. I also have everything squared away for Christmas dinner already. Safeway apparently decided to stock only turkeys and Cornish game hens as far as birds go, so I went through ButcherBox and ordered us an awesome pasture-raised duck from a fancy farm somewhere instead. Over the past year, I feel like I've become a real hipster as far as some of what I eat, but I don't care. It's a place to put what's left of the fucks I actually give, as well as proof that maybe I'm not as tired of living as I feel sometimes.

I enjoy the holidays to a much greater extent than I used to, but they're still a really weird time for me. This time of year has a way of really forcing you to focus on whatever it is you don't have in life. I see all of my friends and acquaintances posting about their supportive families, the great relationships they have with their parents, their beautifully decorated homes, the time off they have from work, and all of the awesome things they have going on this time of year. Meanwhile, I'm still a cave troll with a never-ending pile of work to chew through and not a whole lot else as far as my actually agenda goes. No fun trips planned. No outings. No get-togethers with people I rarely see (and actually want to). And worst of all, no energy or actual motivation to do any of those things even if I had the opportunity.

And I fucking hate it. This is the only time of year, I really feel what I would call jealous of other people. They have so much that I don't have -- basic things that they probably don't even see as advantages. Some of those things -- like the family relationships -- I will never have. Most of the time I'm comfortably resigned to that state of affairs, but sometimes (especially over the holidays) it really gets to me. I know I'm lucky in other ways and God knows I'm grateful for that... but sometimes I feel like giving myself permission to be pissed off and upset about all the rest of it as well. Especially since collectively speaking there's way more that's wrong with my life than right with it. I'm only human after all.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

On Election Day


People have never quite understood why I am the way I am. Particularly in regards to why I don't trust the system, wish to be part of society to a greater extent than I absolutely have to, or believe in the inherent goodness of humanity. Something tells me they're starting to understand now.

The thing is I've understood for a while that we live in a garbage society filled with garbage humans that are the very picture of arrogance, entitlement, vanity, hypocrisy, and prejudice. Our society is infected with an illness you can smell even on people that don't see themselves as being anything of the sort and this has been the case for as long as I've been alive. That society threw me away a long time ago in a way I've been painfully aware of for as long as I can remember.

Nothing has really changed as far as the type of world we live in. It's always been like this. You just see it now. You are realizing how big, and bad, and putrid the sickness really is, perhaps for the first time. This election dragged it right out into the open where everyone had no choice but to look at it, smell it, and try not to vomit at the stench. What I am talking about isn't even about politics, really. It is, however, something that has been exposed by politics as such things often are.

So now each of us gets to decide what to do about it. I suggest cooling it with the whining and the blaming, because that accomplishes precisely nothing. You cannot change the hearts and minds of others, but you can change yourselves. You can choose not to be a garbage person and not to help the cancer spread. You can choose to be a vessel for the type of conviction, awareness, and integrity you want to see in the world instead.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

On October and the Mineral


We lucked out for a change this year. It's the 20th of October and that disgusting Indian summer weather we normally get in the fall still has not arrived. By now, it's probably safe to say that we're out of the woods. Usually if you can make it past Halloween without it hitting, you can trust that there are no more surprise heat waves just waiting to descend on you that year. Honestly, our entire summer was really pretty mild. Just a few way-too-hot days here and there, but that's it. Good.

I've been feeling incredibly lethargic and fresh out of fucks to give regardless though and that's been the case all summer. We already don't really do much or go out very often, but we didn't even go to the fair for Labor Day last month. That's... like... the one going-out thing I've been good about actually doing every year and I skipped out on it for the first time in a while. That means I never really did my hair or spruced myself up from an appearance standpoint either. I look and feel disgusting lately as a result. Kind of like a cave person, or a potato, or something along those lines.

I feel disappointed in myself because of that, but I'm also realizing I'm past the point where I'm willing to just beat myself up all the time because I don't meet some imaginary standard I've decided to inflict on myself for no good reason. I will always want to do better and be better where my mental health is concerned, but I've also learned to give myself credit for the things do accomplish, even when things are really bad. When I remember to do that, everything sort of comes out in the wash.

For instance, I've been a fucking powerhouse at work lately. My schedule is very full as it tends to be this time of year, but it's not overfilled. I'm making excellent money and I actually like pretty much all of my clients right now. I'm no longer working with anyone that I feel doesn't appreciate me or undervalues what I do. It's a nice feeling to have -- validating. I may even be experiencing actual job satisfaction for the first time in my life, which is really a miracle. I never thought I'd see the day.

........

While we're on the subject of depression. I discovered a new movie to obsess over -- the Lars Von Trier film Melancholia. It addressed mental illness from this incredibly realistic angle. However, it also told a hell of a story and was packed with gorgeous visuals. As I told Seth at the time, this is another one of those stories that I truly wish I had written. It is the kind of story I would really love to write someday if I can ever get back to a place where I feel like I have adequate energy for something other than work. And the entire scenario with the rogue planet was so very similar to actual recurring dreams I've had -- terrifying, but so beautiful at the same time.

I had a lot more to say about this film and how it affected me, as well as another Von Trier film on depression, Antichrist. I just wasn't quite sure what to do with those thoughts at the time. By the time it occurred to me that I could simply express them in my personal blog, the thoughts were no longer clear. At this point, I think I'd like to have a second watching and go back to those thoughts when I'm ready.

In the meantime, I am stoked at having found a new artist to admire and love. And it's one that not only understands depression and mental illness, but is making beautiful movies about it. I've been borderline obsessed with the pretty blue planet that smashes into the earth in the film -- the planet Melancholia shown above in my little GIF there. It's my current Twitter wallpaper, as well as the wallpaper for my phone's lock screen. I feel like I should find the thought of it depressing, but I don't. It actually makes me happy every time I see it. I call it the mineral sometimes for reasons I don't totally understand -- the same thing I call iron when I'm feeling anemic.

It's always so nice when I find a story, a film, a book that sticks in my head this way. So many people lose the ability to feel this sort of wonder over such things. I'm glad that I haven't. It's a gift for sure and one that's helped me immensely when it comes to surviving in this garbage society of ours. As long as art and creativity are alive and well in this world, then I can rest assured that I belong here.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

On Self-Knowledge and Contradictory Traits


So I took that self-knowledge questionnaire a lot of my friends have been doing lately. The results were interesting and relatively insightful. 

........

RATIONALITY
You like clarity and intelligent simplicity and you get frustrated at messy thinking. This can make you seem unreasonably pushy to some, but it is actually a virtue: you are motivated by a horror at pointless effort and a longing for precision and insight into how things and people work. Your ability to synthesise and bring order is essential in producing thinking which is truly helpful.

INDEPENDENCE
You don’t set out to be different for its own sake; you are more easily guided by what interests and moves you. You are more concerned about what is right for you than about the pressure to fit in. In sex you are more aware than others of impulses which are not entirely conventional. You know the value of selective irresponsibility, of forgetting occasionally about being ‘good’.

PLAYFULNESS
You are good at seeing what’s funny, at relaxing and finding the pleasure of the moment. Play is random, whimsical, fantasy-driven behaviour which releases internal tension. Because it is detached from some pressures it allows you to act on weirder, perhaps neglected, parts of yourself. The downside is that it is no help in sticking with things that are not much fun but which need to be addressed. So it is well complemented by its opposite, Stoicism.

........

I find it interesting that two of my most dominant traits almost contradict one another. Almost. I've always been this odd mix of rational/logic-oriented and playful/imaginative. People that don't know me well almost always know of one of those sides to my personality or the other, but not necessarily both. It's almost always the rational side, as people will notice I'm smart or detail-oriented long before they ever see the side of me that far prefers playing, joking, and laughing to working and being serious about things. I love facts, learning, and reasoning but am completely uninterested in really applying those interests in a practical way that isn't also "fun".

The only time you see both traits at the same time is in my creative work. I remember teachers I had when I was a kid commenting on how unusual a combination it was. For instance, other kids I knew would write stories about the Care Bears that followed the actual imaginary characters through imaginary events taking place in their actual imaginary world. I'd write a story where I imagined my actual stuffed Care Bear toys being sentient and going through the experience of being laundered in the washing machine, spin cycle and all. I'd make what appeared to be elaborate fantasy paintings that had to have come straight out of my child's imagination without any rhyme or reason to them, but if asked, I'd be able to explain how each little inclusion was actually symbolic of some abstract concept. 

On a somewhat related note, I personally wish we lived in a world where society makes room for playfulness and rationality in equal measure. Too often, people want to separate an artist's creativity from the random nature that makes that creativity possible in the first place... or they want to separate a thinker's genius from the eccentricity that inspires them to think outside the box. It just doesn't work like that. It'a package deal. You want one, you have to take everything that comes along with it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

People Are Allowed

This rolled through my Facebook feed earlier. I posted it to my own page as well, but for some reason I never feel like people want to hear more than a couple of sentences as far as why I posted something these days. That's when I start to miss the days when blogging was the go-to way of communicating with others online. Not that I truly mind, of course. Keeping a blog mostly for myself (and the few people interested in reading something longer from me) is therapeutic in its own way.

The fact of the matter is if there is one lesson it's taken me most of my 40 years to really learn, it's the one covered by this graphic. My entire life people have tried to make me feel like I'm some horrible wreck of a person just for ending past relationships and friendships or for putting distance between myself and family members I consider to be toxic. Not because I was abusive or cruel while we were still part of each other's lives -- just for calling it quits and walking away.

Those people failed to understand that I didn't make those decisions in a vacuum. I don't go from wanting to know someone to not wanting to know them overnight or without cause. Those people don't apparently remember me trying to tell them when something was hurtful right before they dismissed my feelings by ordering me not to feel that way or telling me I was too sensitive and "needed to work on that". They don't remember the times I shared an interest, a dream, or a fear with them only to have them mock it and make me regret even trying. They don't remember the constant stream of suggestions, demands, comparisons, and little criticisms they lobbed my way over the years either -- all the little things that never let me forget I wasn't good enough.

Who wouldn't feel unhappy when in the company of people that treated them that way? Who wouldn't eventually decide that that other person just really doesn't want them to be happy? Who wouldn't at least consider ending (or at least marginalizing) those relationships so that there's room to create new, healthy ones with plenty of potential?