Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Social media is a veritable paradise for the avid people watcher. Because what one does is incredibly public while feeling like it's not quite happening in reality, there's a lot you can tell about someone by looking at not only what they say over social media, but how they say it. You can see exactly how they want to come across to other people, but if you're paying attention, you can also see all the ways their online image isn't quite in line with who they really are underneath.

I'm relatively open with others about how I treat my social media accounts and how I view the people on my contact lists. I've even openly compared scrolling through Facebook in particular to watching a bunch of fish swimming around in a bowl. I don't consider myself to be much of a people person, but I do enjoy people watching. People watching is most interesting when people have more or less forgotten they're being observed and pondered in such a way. The things I've learned have taught me a lot about the way others operate... and about how I fit into that dynamic as well.


That said, I don't really tend to spend a ton of time on social media once the holidays roll around. Everyone tends to put on one or two of the same acts and that gets tiresome. I barely even bothered to check my feeds over this past Thanksgiving weekend. Over this past year, I've been able to upgrade my client roster a bit so that I'm only dealing with high caliber clients willing to pay for top-notch content. That said, I was easily able to take five days off to celebrate the holiday.

I spent the entire time relaxing with Seth and my cat, basically. I went balls out on Thursday roasting us an amazing turkey and whipping up some delicious but relatively healthy sides. (We didn't want to spoil all the progress we've made with our weight loss.) The rest of the time was spent sitting firmly on my ass and doing whatever the heck I wanted to do though. Origin had Sims 4 on sale for Black Friday, so I downloaded that and spent quite a bit of time playing it. I read. I watched TV. I dicked around on the internet. That was all though and it was exactly what I needed.

I'm not at all happy about being back to work today, as you can imagine. It's cold, and grey, and rainy today. My favorite weather. I'd much rather be designing Sim houses or reading short stories than forcing myself to write about real estate marketing for a client. By a landslide. But bitches got to eat and food doesn't pay for itself.


As anyone that actually reads this blog or follows my life may have noticed, I decided to throw in the towel as far as NaNoWriMo goes a while back. I doubt that's any more of a surprise to anyone else than it was to me. Even with not having to take on as many assignments to make ends meet, my workload still eventually managed to encroach on my ability to keep up with my daily word counts. The whole thing started to feel like one more chore after a while -- just like my work writing does -- and I'm really doing my best to make sure my personal creative projects don't ever feel that way. That means not forcing things when they're not flowing comfortably. Maybe some writers can come up with decent material when they do that, but I can't.

Before I quit, I managed to churn out a complete short story that actually has potential, as well as a couple of halfway decent free form poems though. I also started a second story, but that one isn't nearly as creative or unique as the first one I did when I was still super excited about the event. Whatever the case may be, that's still something written as far as creative content I can revisit in the future, I suppose. I'm trying to teach the perfectionist in me to loosen up a little bit when it comes to judging my ability to keep up with certain things and recognizing even minor progress for what it is. That attitude that it has to be all or nothing reminds me way too much of people I don't want to be anything like.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Quality Over Quantity

As usual, the beginning of another month has simply sped by and I'm just kind of left wondering what happened. I can't believe we're already ten days into November. Really, I'm going to take too long turning around one of these days and it will be Thanksgiving. Such is life when you keep relatively busy, I suppose.

As you may already be aware if you ever check in with me at my freelancing blog, The Creative Cat, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time in several years, as I finally have time for it, at least in theory. I'd been trying for some time to get my entire client base to a point where everyone I work with is paying premium pricing for my content and earlier in the year, I finally succeeded. I've been able to cut my overall workload in half as a result, meaning I now have actual time for creative endeavors of my own. 

I have to say, actually having time for something like NaNo in particular has been really pleasant. I'm working on a short story and poetry collection called Jar of Lies and so far it's going pretty well. I'm really happy with some of the ideas and think quite a few of them have some real potential. Others are just plain fun to work with, which is also OK. I'm a little bit behind on my word count at present, but it's nothing that I won't be able to easily make up this week. I don't actually have a deadline on the books for today, so should be able to make a nice, big dent in it this afternoon sometime.

I'm hoping that this year's NaNoWriMo event marks the start of some promising new things to come, particularly in regards to my becoming creative again on a regular basis. This whole content production and copywriting thing I have going on at the moment just isn't something that's going to be sustainable over the long haul. Sure, it's probably the one thing I ever set out to do that actually became successful in any real sense. It's also just like any other job in too many of the wrong ways and honestly speaking, I really don't enjoy anything about it. I'm not passionate about it in any capacity the way I once was about my creative writing. It's a living and that's all.


Quality over quantity has been my focus for close to a decade now. However, I'm just now reaching a point where I can kind of see that philosophy actually bearing fruit. I have fewer "close" relationships than I used to, but the ones I do have are actually meaningful and fulfilling for a change. They're finally more than just the other person calling all the shots and treating me however they please -- often ignoring me altogether one day, but demanding my immediate and constant attention the next. I feel like I'm actually valued as a person instead of as a project people are working on.

At this point, I'm actually embarrassed at the memory of how badly I once allowed other people to treat me -- family, old friends, and even business connections. The true nature of said treatment becomes glaringly apparent when people from the past come out of the woodwork fully expecting to stick me with the short end of every stick the way they always did before. Behavior that once seemed annoying but ultimately acceptable now seems disgusting to the point of being ludicrous and I just can't justify making time for it anymore. 

It does make for some interesting story fodder though, so I choose to see it as such. Every great writer had a tortured past or a bunch of jerks they used to know once upon a time. I'm taking a page out of their book now and gleaning what I can from it all.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Indian Summer

Indian summer is in full effect here in the Monterey area and I really don't like it much. Some people here love the unseasonably warm weather and welcome the chance to enjoy an extended summer. Being the fragile little Pisces that I am, I'm really very sensitive to heat, so I have to worry about problems like heat stroke. Especially since like most households around here, ours doesn't have air conditioning.

Thankfully, Seth is the type of guy that insists on doing anything he can to make me as comfortable as possible. Within the past week or so, two of the fans we depend on to stay cool when it's warm decided to kick the bucket. We tried to order a replacement in time for it to get here before the heat wave started, but there was some problem with the order on the vendor's end and it was unexpectedly cancelled.

Yesterday, Seth actually wound up walking five miles and visiting three different stores to get us a new fan so that we wouldn't fry to death. I'm really grateful that he did, too, because having this new fan in here today has made a massive difference. It's been warm, but I haven't even broken a sweat despite the temps being up in the 90's somewhere for most of the day. Thankfully, I didn't have any deadlines today, so I was also able to just kind of forget about work for a change and just vegetate.


I'm already getting rather excited about Halloween. Seth received a really generous package full of Halloween decorations from one of his professional contacts recently. It was full of fantastic goodies that he's placed around to make our home feel more holiday-ready. That nifty skeleton bird was promptly claimed by me and given the name Peck. Whenever I finally get around to clearing my desk area of all the junk that's somehow taken residence on top of it, Peck can have a permanent home there. Until then, he's hanging out next to the television set in the family room.

I love that Halloween falls on a Friday this year. I have every intention of making sure I'm done with the week's work a bit early so that Seth and I can enjoy a bit of a long weekend. Not that we have big plans or anything, as you know we're not terribly social. At present, we're thinking of just walking around the neighborhood drinking spiked coffees, checking out the decorations, and seeing what everyone else is up to. Afterwards, we'll cook something fantastic and delicious as always. 


I have no idea if it's just the effects of the heat or what, but I've been finding "people on the internet" really annoying lately. For instance, I had this one douche on Facebook piss me off yesterday by insulting my country for no reason whatsoever. I mean... I hardly consider myself to be a gun-toting, Bible thumping, stereotypical redneck 'Merican or anything, but I'm still proud of our beautiful, amazing country and of everything it means to live here. The fact that so many people find it socially acceptable to insult Americans on principle these days and to basically expect them to apologize for their heritage is just unacceptable to me. So a piece of my mind was given, as you might expect.

Then there are the usual people that annoy me just by existing. People I have decided for reasons of my own that I don't want anything to do with anymore, but can't seem to get rid of unless I get extreme by blocking them. People that won't just take a hint, fuck off, and bother somebody else. People that ask stupid questions. People that make me lose even more faith in humanity just by virtue of being themselves. Hell... people period.

Speaking of, I might do NaNoWriMo this year. I need a push to get some of the newer, rawer stories I've had on the brain out of myself and NaNo has always been pretty good for that.

Monday, September 22, 2014

At the Threshold of the Fall Equinox

Tomorrow is the equinox, so I guess it will officially be fall at long last. I can't even express how happy that makes me. It's time for cooler weather and nice, long nights. It's time to read Dracula and watch horror movies. It's time for big steaming homemade bowls of stew, and soup, and chili.

Then it will be time for the holidays. Last year, I think I felt like I'd finally made them my own. Not what my family, or my ex-partners, or society thought they should be, but what I felt they should be. It turned out the right approach combines religion with the same fun, cozy traditions Seth and I have developed by ourselves over the years. I am really looking forward to doing that again. My holiday season felt like it had a lot of meaning on more different levels than usual and that's something that's been missing.


I decided I'm not really going to bother with my high school reunion in October. The main reason is the tickets were prohibitively expensive -- for me with my limited income, anyway -- and I just couldn't justify spending almost $200 for Seth and I to attend something I'm not even sure I care that much about. However, I also really don't think I feel like wasting an entire weekend socializing with people I'm not even close to just so I can say that I did it. As nice as it was to see some of the old peeps at Robert's funeral, the introverted Pisces that I am still kind of couldn't wait to leave. An hour or two of forced social interaction is about all I can realistically expect out of myself these days.

Funny how similar that is to the way I used to feel about school events like dances and such while they were going on. Case in point -- the prom. I didn't even remotely want to go to the prom. I also don't know how many times I heard that one day I'd grow up to be a halfway normal person that deeply regrets not having the prom to look back on. Therefore I should just make myself go. I can tell you right now that at 38 years old, I don't regret my lack of fucks given about the prom or my insistence on missing it one little bit. Same goes for not having a senior photo taken for the yearbook or anything else related to high school. It wasn't important to me then and it's not important to me now.

If anything, I think I'm glad I stuck to my guns and did what I felt was right for me. Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to do that with any kind of consistency because I let people convince me there was something wrong with the way I am. And now that I've sort of reclaimed my right to establish and maintain my own boundaries, I'm back to not being bothered by the fact that I'm pretty reclusive. I'm relatively friendly online though. If anyone from high school wants to shoot the shit, they know I'm on Facebook.


Not that I was really doing it specifically for the reunion or anything, but I've been sticking to the program as far as our calorie monitoring goes. I've lost quite a bit of weight over the last three months -- something like 50 pounds. I look and feel much more like my old self again than I have in a long time. Leave it to me to get myself back in some kind of condition to turn heads again and then not really care about doing so. Makes me wonder how much I really cared about that to begin with. 

I guess the weight loss was something I was interested in doing more for myself. I like feeling healthy and attractive instead of like someone that might potentially wind up left in the dust when it comes to life. Plus, even if I don't care about turning heads or impressing anyone from back in the day with how young and pretty I've stayed, I will admit that I like knowing I could if I wanted to.

Monday, September 15, 2014

On Emotional Honesty, Priorities, and Being True to One's Self

It always seems that the more I have on the agenda for work on a given day, the more I actually feel like writing something of my own instead. A blog entry, usually, or a bunch of shorter social media updates... but occasionally a snippet of a longer story, a piece of flash fiction, or a poem. Usually, I react to those thoughts the way I was taught to -- by telling myself I need to get "the important stuff" out of the way first and then if I have time later on, I can spend what's left of my energy doing things I actually want to do.

The trouble with that approach to writing is that nothing expressive or passionate ever actually gets written. There's always something else to do that "needs" to get done or that society would label as more important. By the time I get to the point in my day when I'm out of things to do, it's the wee hours of the morning and I'm exhausted, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. The last thing I want to do at that point is write some more.

In fact, I'm constantly wondering if maybe that "work first, play later" is actually the wrong approach. For me, anyway. It certainly feels like the wrong one. One of these days, maybe I'll learn that it's OK to be someone that makes decisions based on how they feel and not how good they look on paper or how many of the right people sign off on them. When I just allow myself to give the first hour or two of my writing day to something that I'd actually like to write, I don't resent having to work as much as I normally do. I resent the need to earn money less, since it no longer encroaches upon my self expression.

That is something else I'm learning to accept about myself as time continues to roll on. I'm not a rational, nose-to-the-grindstone sort and I'm probably never going to be. Yes, I do consider myself to be a relatively gifted thinker and I certainly have that elusive gift of common sense that seems to escape so many. However, being a watery Pisces female, I'm perpetually steeped in emotion. I don't even know what it's like to not feel completely passionately about something. If I love you, I adore you... but if I hate you, I most likely also can't even stand the sight of you. I don't just get mad; I get furious. I'm never simply happy; I'm elated. And then there's the way sadness can easily turn into a deep depression if I dwell on it too much.

I've always been a bit ashamed of this, as well as the way my emotions seem to get in the way of me toeing the line in the way my parents, my clients, and the rest of society would probably prefer. However, when I decided to stop apologizing for it ten years ago or so, it seemed to start a chain reaction that eventually led to self-acceptance. I may even be beginning to feel the first stirrings of pride in who I am.


I had a really nice conversation with an old friend from high school a couple of weeks ago. It was just us two girls shooting the shit. Talking about exes, talking about divorce, talking about high school. Also talking about how much people we know have (or have not) changed over the years, including ourselves. She actually said that it seemed like I'd come a long way -- that I seem really relaxed and a bit more at peace with myself and the world around me. I agree with that... to a point.

It's less that I'm more relaxed and more that I'm less apologetic. I am who I am and it hurts no one. In fact, it may do quite the opposite. The intensity of my feelings also means I'm a very loyal friend. I'm moral and God-fearing. I'm not only creative, but I have an uncanny ability to read other people and anticipate their needs. That's actually part of what makes me such a talented copywriter with such a solid client base despite never having advertised my services anywhere. That conversation with my friend simply made me realize that I'm more than OK with that at this point.

That said, I try to look for ways that I can be truer to myself. Every time I consider making a major decision, I ask myself if I'm doing it because I want to and it feels right... or if I'm just doing it to please somebody else that most likely doesn't even deserve the time of day from me. One day, I hope to have cleared away all the detritus from "before', including anything that still exists inside my head because other people put it there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Partying With the Animals at the Monterey County Fair

We not only made it to the Monterey County Fair this year for the second year in a row, but we also remembered to take plenty of pictures. I'm even in a few of the shots for a change like this one I absolutely love of Seth and me. It was taken in the bleachers on our first night there waiting for Queen Revisited to take the Garden Stage right before the sun started going down. (We saw War and Journey Revisited on each of the other two nights we were there as well. Wonderful shows, all of them.)

Like most women, I'm hard on myself when it comes to my looks, so I'm not crazy about pictures of myself. I'm plenty comfortable in my own skin and I realize that I'm attractive, so it's nothing like that, but I never really see what other people claim to when they look at me. I feel like my dieting and focused efforts to take better care of my skin and hair are starting to show though and that's found me feeling more interested in my appearance than I normally do these days. I was especially surprised by how clear and smooth my skin looks in this year's fair photos. I also like that I look happy, healthy, and in love. As well I should! I am happy, healthy, and in love... and becoming more so all the time.

We're both doing great on our little weight loss journey still, but there's no way you can go to the fair and not enjoy plenty of fried food and guilty pleasure-type treats. I am not sure I've ever actually had real, deep-fried midway corn dogs before, but we shared several this year. We tried alligator for the first time -- wonderful, juicy, spicy fried alligator on a stick served over deliciously savory New Orleans dirty rice. We even had pizza, and nachos, and fried fish with garlic fries -- all the things we normally wouldn't eat these days now that we're paying more attention to calories -- and plenty of delicious craft beer to wash it all down. 

Walking to and from the fair, as well as all over the place while we were there actually meant we burned off everything we ate. I wasn't sure I was totally enthusiastic about the walking part of the equation before we actually went, but really, walking is like a lot of things tend to be for me. It never sounds like something that's going to be fun, but once I've got some music on and get out there in the fresh air, I actually enjoy it. I'd even go so far as to say it's a mood booster, especially since it gets me out of the house and away from my various screens for a while, which I probably need to do more often.

We actually went on rides this time as well, which we've never really done together before. Sort of, anyway. By "actually went on rides", I actually mean we went on the Ferris wheel twice, but it was still a blast. Beautiful views of the fairgrounds and the city from up high. It was an especially nice place from which to take some pictures, chat, and finish our contraband booze. You're up there by yourself in your little bucket, but you're still part of things. I usually just sit on the sidelines and watch other people ride the rides, so it was nice to participate myself a little bit for a change.

Visiting the animals has always been among my favorite things to do at the fair. Something about the way the hay and the barn areas smell always reminds me of being a little girl in Germany. Especially if said smells happen to be combined with the smell of burning wood or coals. It doesn't really seem to matter what your childhood was actually like. There's a real sense of security and "OKness" with the world that instantly sweeps over you when something reminds you of the days when you really were a kid. Barnyard smells and sounds provide that OKness for me and most likely always will. I like that Seth gets it and enjoys it, too. My ex-husband only saw an opportunity to try to hit me over the head with more vegetarian propaganda.

The produce building brought back all sorts of memories of the summer Seth and I had our veggie garden in Montana. Since we've been focused on losing weight and getting into better shape, we've been really loving our veggies. Everything at the fair just looked so good and smelled so fresh -- lettuces, squash, artichokes, various greens. As much as I loved the experience of letting myself off the leash long enough to enjoy a huge slice of pepperoni pizza and a few corn dogs, there's something I really love about eating fresh, healthy, wholesome foods from the earth as well. That makes it easy to stay on track the rest of the time for sure.

The fair came at a great time for me this year. I don't know how appreciated I've felt by my clients lately or how enthused I've been able to get about writing in general. That's usually a sure sign that I need to take a bit of a vacation and there's no time like Labor Day weekend for a vacation. Turns out I was right. I really, really needed a break, but I also needed to get out of the house, enjoy some fresh air, and have some fun. Spending a few days at the fair with Seth listening to amazing music and treating myself to some of my favorite foods in the world was just what the doctor ordered. 

I wouldn't say that I feel excited to be back at work starting tomorrow, but... I feel rejuvenated. Something rare and wonderful for me that I wouldn't mind feeling more often. Plus, autumn is coming along with a whole new set of possibilities and adventures to be had. I can't wait.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Music on the Wind: A Yearly Tradition

This past weekend, the First City Music Festival was in town. Seth and I briefly considered getting tickets months ago when I first found out Beck would be headlining, but at the end of the day, we decided we'd be better off saving the money for other things. We attempted to see if we could get press passes, as we did want to cover the concert for some of our media outlets, but things didn't quite come together in time. 

That said, we decided to engage in something that has honestly become a much loved tradition for us. Something we affectionately call our "Music on the Wind" concert series. We're lucky enough to live so close to the fairgrounds that when there's a concert down there major enough to warrant a spot on the Redwood stage, we can totally hear it from our porch. And when I say we can hear it, we can totally hear it. It's loud. You can hear all of the lyrics well enough to sing along if you want. Especially when the wind from off of the bay is blowing in the direction it normally is -- right toward our house. 

Some people might find that annoying, but we personally love it. In fact, when we know someone we like is going to be playing, we make a whole event out of it. We plan a menu, have a barbecue, pick out drinks, and make plans to be outside by the time the concert starts. We look forward to it the same way you'd look forward to any other special event. Then when the day arrives, we have a complete blast just being together and enjoying some free music. We've been doing this for a few years straight when it's time for First City. Last year, Modest Mouse was playing and the year before, it was Mumford & Sons. We've gotten to enjoy live music from Trace Adkins, Bob Dylan, and countless other truly awesome artists this way as well. Of course we wanted to arrange a Music on the Wind event around a Beck concert.

As usual, we couldn't pass up a chance to barbecue. We've been doing the whole calorie conscious thing lately, but unlike so many other dieters, we don't believe in full-scale deprivation. Just as we take advantage of creative ways to enjoy concerts when we're too strapped for cash to afford tickets, we don't believe in giving up the hamburgers and hot dogs we love because we're trying to lose some weight. We just start making smarter choices.

That said, we've still been having a wonderful summer full of delightful things to eat. Like the grass-fed lean beef burger and the lean hot dog from Saturday pictured here.

And Beck absolutely rocked. He played so many of my favorites. OK, so "Devil's Haircut", "Hell Yes", and "New Pollution" are probably most people's favorites, but whatever. We had so much fun. So much so that we weren't really all that sorry we didn't score an opportunity to be there in person. That's how much we've come to love this particular tradition of ours.

A lot of people have trouble truly understanding how few resources Seth and I actually have because of the way we always seem to be having such a good time. They figure we must not actually be as poor or have as little as we say we do, because they have these images in their heads of poor people moping all the time. The fact of the matter is, we have even less than we let on most of the time. We just choose to make the most of it. We don't believe that not being able to afford more should mean we aren't allowed to enjoy each other or our lives. Just like we don't believe needing to lose a few pounds should mean you can't enjoy at least a lean, low-calorie cheeseburger once in a while.

We have our moments that find us really super frustrated with life to be sure, but generally speaking, we choose to be happy. We choose to listen to the music on the wind and count ourselves among the lucky. Next up, the Monterey County Fair, complete with all of the wonderful music and food that comes with it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Body, Mind, Spirit

I'm beginning to realize that I've been on a real self-improvement kick lately. In many ways, I'm probably just normalizing a bit after what in hindsight has been several years worth of soul-searching and reevaluating when it comes to what's truly important in my life. As I've alluded to in the past, a lot of that process has involved eliminating relationships, mindsets, and habits that really no longer serve me. 

Now I'm working on rebuilding what's left and figuring out how I can get the most out of it. I want to become the best possible version of me. Better, happier, and healthier than I've ever been in my life. So far, I'm making excellent progress and that has me really excited.


Like a lot of people, I realized I could stand to be a lot sounder physically. Years of working at home behind a computer while simultaneously eating and drinking pretty much whatever I want has meant I'm not anywhere near as thin or healthy as I could be. Plus, I've just let a lot of little grooming things that were once important to me kind of fall by the wayside because I've had other things to worry about.

I just gave myself a fresh dye job and a new haircut. I kept my cartoon red because it made me happy. I ditched the ultra-long length because it didn't. I'm also working on taking better care of my skin and such. Plus, I've been using the S Health app my new Galaxy S5 came with to get on top of my calorie intake and whatnot. Seth and I have been doing that for a little over two weeks now and it's already paying off. I've lost 13 pounds so far. 

Plus, I'm only getting fitter and more excited about making more progress, so I should be looking pretty good by the time Labor Day rolls around. I'd like to go beyond simply losing weight and actually sculpting a body shape I really, really like, so we'll see where my journey takes me in the future.


I'm happy to say that I've apparently gotten back in the habit of reading regularly again and my mind feels fantastic as a result. I have ideas again. I feel like I'm close to feeling really creative again. I'm excited about words, and writing, and artistic growth again. That was a big part of my personality in the past, so it's nice to see that it's not simply something I grew out of with age.

I'm trying to be a more well-rounded reader than I was before. I'm reading lots of fiction -- classics, contemporary, and bestsellers. However, I've been reading self help books, history books, and cookbooks as well. I'm also making good use of my Next Issue subscription and absorbing a ton of magazines. Currently, I look forward to reading Time and The New Yorker every week, among others. I actually feel like I know a bit about what's going on in the world! I also read a lot of monthlies -- beauty magazines, cooking magazines, fitness magazines. You name it and I probably read it these days. My mind feels full, and happy, and enlightened.


I can't recall whether I've ever really mentioned much about my ongoing spiritual journey in this particular blog or not, but I've definitely been experiencing one over the past year and a half or so. Once I reached a place where I was ready to let go of some of the ugliness from my childhood and my past, I started feeling ready to rebuild my relationship with God. That experience has been overwhelmingly positive for me.

Spiritually speaking, I guess I lean more toward old-school Catholic ways when it comes to interpreting the Bible, praying, and doing the whole church thing. I pray the rosary every day -- usually when I first wake up -- which is extremely relaxing and enjoyable to me. I also abstain from fish on Fridays, take in a Mass service each Sunday, and read the Bible daily. Seth does the great majority of these things with me, so it's been something nice we can enjoy together and use to become closer as a couple as well.

Overall, I just feel really, really good about how I'm growing and evolving in a way I don't think I have in a long while. I feel like I'm turning a real corner here. It's like I've finally purged some of the emotional poison that's been keeping down for decades and am ready to heal and become something new as a result. I thought I might have been irreparably damaged... but thankfully, that's turning out to not be the case. I can't wait to see where the future takes me next.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

On Autopsies and Reconstructions

The Resistless Hour Awaits by Dan May
The older I become and the more I continue to evolve as a person, the less and less I seem to need validation from other people in order to feel good about myself and my decisions. At one point, I never thought I'd get here... but here I am just the same.

Once upon a time, things were very different for me in that regard. Like a lot of people -- especially when they're still young -- I cared about being liked and accepted above all else. I still insist on being liked and accepted by the people I allow to become close to me, but I am a lot pickier as far as how I go about making connections these days. It's quality over quantity all the way.

It occurs to me that I've been outgrowing more and more of my friends as a result. A little at a time, but steadily all the same.

You know how it goes. You take up with people at a point in your life when you're in a certain state of mind -- lonely, angry at the whole world because you're not getting everything you think you're entitled to. You're probably even initially attracted to them because they're like you and have the same outlook on life. Then you evolve. You start figuring things out. You grow up a little and start realizing that sometimes you're the problem. You learn how to make better choices and form better quality relationships as a result. You slowly but surely begin to "get it".

Then you look at some of the people you were closer to during the darker days when you weren't as self aware and you can clearly see that they haven't been making the same progress you have. In fact, they're in the exact same place they used to be. They're still mad at the whole world. They still think their unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life are everyone else's fault. You stop thinking they're as cool as you used to think they were and you start pulling away, probably without even realizing it at first. Then one day they do or say something so out of line you can't justify continuing the relationship anymore. And you realize you don't actually care. You may even realize that you haven't really cared for some time now.

This has been occurring in my life a lot over the past six or seven years. My natural evolution paired with a couple of life-altering events (like Seth's hospitalization and near death a few years ago) have really changed my priorities, especially socially. I've ended or marginalized a lot of different relationships -- with online friends I was once pretty close to, with family, with business associates. I've run into people from my past that I was once super close to and been jarred by the way their lack of personal evolution makes me wonder what I even used to see in them.

I'm just not the same anymore, so I suppose it bothers me that they are. They say "you've changed" without even bothering to conceal the disappointment in their voices. I say "and you haven't" in a tone that conveys just as much disappointment... not to mention boredom.

And then there's the way the removal of such people from my life leaves this... vacuum behind. But it's a vacuum that quickly fills itself with relics and ideas related to the person in some way, shape, or form. I find myself picking these relics up from time to time, turning them over in my hands, and studying them. I've always been an introspective person, so once a particular relationship is over, I like contemplating what it taught me about what I do and don't like about people and relationships. What I find beneficial or unacceptable. How the experiences I had with that person helped me grow as an individual. Seth and I can (and do) talk for hours about this sort of thing. It's like our therapy.

I guess I don't mourn dead connections so much as I perform autopsies on them. Then I recycle the salvageable parts and turn them into characters or stories. That process is very natural for me. It is therapeutic and intellectually stimulating as well. In a way, it almost makes having had to deal with certain people or experiences worthwhile.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Has It Really Been 20 Years?

The other day I got an e-mail from one of my former classmates letting me know that my 20-year high school reunion is coming up. What the fuck is that shit about? I know I'm not the first person to ponder this, nor do I think I'll be the last, but how it's been two whole decades since I graduated from Monterey High is beyond me. I still feel like a kid in so many ways.

No, really. That's not just something I'm saying. I don't and probably never will feel like an actual adult. I don't have any kids, I don't own any property, and I don't really have a career as most people would define the word. I have absolutely no desire to change any of this either. I'm a work in progress just like anyone, but I'm happy with the level of freedom I enjoy. However, all of these factors mean I don't feel much like an adult, especially when I'm physically around people I used to go to school with.

I've had limited dealings with my graduating class over the past twenty years save for the casual maintenance of long-distance relationships with a couple of my better friends. When I have been around them, I almost feel like I'm hanging out with my parents or something. They wear grown-up clothing and have grown-up hobbies. Concepts like day care, mortgage payments, and career goals are familiar to them... but foreign to me. They look, act, and sound their age. I don't. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, because being on either side of that equation comes with advantages and disadvantages. It just... is.

When our 15-year high school reunion rolled around, I wound up not really having to worry about whether or not I wanted to show up. Seth and I were still in Montana at the time and we certainly didn't have the money to travel all the way down here just for the fuck of it. However, since I'm back in Monterey this time around, I almost feel obligated to go. And after a little thought, I think that's OK with me.

When I first graduated, I never would have figured I'd want anything to do with any of our high school reunions down the line. I didn't particularly like myself then and I couldn't possibly have been less happy with my life or less optimistic about the future. I continued to feel that way for many years. I'm realizing that my attitude about high school and the people I knew then has changed because my attitude about my life has changed, even though I consciously still tend to think of myself as being a rather sour, pessimistic person who is restless and less than happy most of the time. (My pessimism is more just part of who I am than anything else at this point.)

I'm realizing I wouldn't particularly mind a chance to show my life off, to be totally honest. I probably will want to drop a couple of pounds before the reunion actually rolls around, but all in all, I think I look great for my age -- well better than average, actually. I'm a professional writer, something pretty much everyone I know envies on one level or another. I'm in a long-standing, happy relationship with someone good-looking, talented, and cool instead of still stuck in a marriage to someone I legitimately would have been embarrassed to show up with. I live a life that is characterized by freedom, art, and ideas in a way most people's wouldn't be. It still needs work to be sure, but the basics are in place in a way I didn't figure they'd ever be. I've come a long way since high school... and I'm proud of that.

Monday, January 6, 2014

On Living Authentically

Life has made me a huge believer in living authentically. I've just known far too many people that turned out to be something other than they made themselves out to be to feel otherwise. Really, there's private and then there's intentionally deceptive. There's not wanting to tell people things that quite simply aren't any of their business and there's keeping things from other people that they legitimately have a right to know.

I remember when social media was first becoming a thing. I hopped on the bandwagon just like everybody else and I fell immediately in love with the way I was no longer stuck playing the same old roles I'd always been cast in offline. For the first time ever, I was free to be absolutely anything and anyone I chose... and I guess that's when I finally discovered that the person I most wanted to be was myself. It was just so freeing. I no longer had to be that silly, over-dressed, perfectly polite princess other people had always expected me to be. I could have opinions. I could fucking cuss, dammit. I could just go ahead and be every bit as writerly and nerdy as I wanted to be and no one was going to try to stop me. It was a really liberating experience.

Ever since, I've been looking for ways to get to know myself better and to become even more authentic in the way I live my life and present myself, both online and offline. I like feeling like I have nothing to hide. I enjoy knowing my primary relationships are truly genuine and that I am mostly surrounded by people who appreciate me for who I am, as opposed to my "potential" to become someone else. That's exactly why I don't understand it when other people don't seem to feel the same way.

I'm beginning to think that authenticity is one of the most important qualities a person could possible ever have and a huge part of being authentic to me means being forthcoming with basic information about yourself. Yes, even online. People should more or less go by whatever name they use offline or at least a legitimate pseudonym that they've adopted for professional purposes. They should have real photos of themselves on their social networking profiles. They should be honest about whether or not they're in a relationship and with whom. They should be up front about what they do for a living, as well as all the other basics of who they are as well. People who don't do this really run the risk of my pegging them as people who shouldn't be trusted.

As anyone who follows me on any of my social media accounts no doubt already knows, I don't believe in making New Year's resolutions... but every year, I still look for ways I could be more authentic. Often that means identifying situations and people in my life that limit the extent to which I'm actually able to be myself and doing away with them. In 2013, my personal spirituality was a big focus for me. I also focused on living a more authentic professional life. I feel more and more every day like I'm able to be the writer I really want to be, even though I'm not yet quite where I'd ultimately like to be. Keeping focused on maintaining my ability to be as authentic as possible seems to have been the key here.

I'm at this wonderful place in my life that finds me looking at people that are living the way I used to -- hiding who they really are (if they even know who they are) so that people will like them more or find their lives more impressive -- and I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry for the person I used to be, too. I wish I'd known a lot sooner that all it takes to build a foundation of happiness for your life is authenticity and simplicity. Everything else seems to grow organically once you have those two things in place.