Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Writing Lab: On Wasted Energy

Prompt: "What does the phrase 'a waste of energy' mean to you?"

To me, a waste of energy is usually an activity or pursuit that consumes time, brainpower, and other intangible personal resources, but doesn't really have a point or yield useful results. I'm thinking of tasks like mindless busy work you might be given at a place of employment or things your parents gave you to do when you were a kid just to keep you out of their hair. They're wastes because that same energy could just as well be spent on something that feels worthwhile because it's actually fun, useful, or productive.

Sometimes I think of other scenarios as wastes of energy on a larger scale though. Examples from my life would include some of my past relationships. I used to have a bad habit of getting into relationships with people I wasn't all that into just so I wouldn't have to be single. In some of those cases, I stayed with the person for years despite being 100% aware that I didn't see any sort of a future with them. Even casual relationships consume a lot of energy though, so I look back on situations like that as having been absolute wastes. I could have been spending that energy on bettering my own life or on people that were better suited to me. I also think back on some of my old jobs.

When you combine all of those situations and look at them as a collective, they add up to entire years of my life flushed straight down the toilet because they yielded absolutely nothing of use. That time and energy is something I'll never get back. I wonder all the time how my life might be different or more stable if I'd actually spent those years on worthwhile people and pursuits instead. Not every life experience has to be earth-shattering or life-changing, but it would be nice if I could at least look back on some of those situations as having been fun for what they were at the time.

This ties in a little bit with what I was talking about in my post from yesterday as well. The one where I talked about finding life perpetually boring on so many levels. It sounds completely narcissistic, but I often feel like I might be too smart for most people and for most of the experiences life is likely to throw at you. That said, I think I got used to being bored to the point where I expected it and took it as a given. 

I really did think that if I wanted to be in a relationship, part of that would mean learning to settle for someone that bored me because that's all there was out there. I thought having a job meant having to "put up" with work that was unsatisfying or out of synch with the life I wanted to be living, because that's all there was. Same goes for other types of situations and relationships. I never learned to recognize boredom and disinterest as warning signs that a situation might not be right for me because I didn't know there was such a thing as an alternative.

I think I'm learning it now though. Finding even one person whose company I genuinely enjoy and even a few casual activities to spend my time on that actually move me has helped a lot though. If there can be one or "just a few", then there can be more. Once you know the things you really want actually exist out there, it becomes pretty much impossible to settle for anything less ever again.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Struggle

I deal with self loathing and generalized negativity about life as often as the next person, but it never actually takes the form of "I bet I wouldn't be good at ____". It's more like "will ____ turn out to be as unsatisfying as nearly everything else in life and do I even want to waste my time".

That's the interesting thing about having been considered gifted as a child. You get used to hearing how exceptional you are at everything, so even as an adult, it never occurs to you that you wouldn't be good at whatever you try. You just assume that you not only will be, but that you'll be better at it than everyone else. And you're even right a lot of the time.

When that's your reality, the act of accomplishing things is easy and belief in your own ability is not the problem. It's the act of mustering any kind of enthusiasm for 98% of the so-called opportunities life presents you with that is difficult. It's the remaining 2% that keeps me going, but holy shit... that 98%. The struggle. It is real.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Writing Lab: Vacations Are Freedom

Prompt: "Do vacations help you relax or stress you out?"

I'm one of those people that literally lives for vacations, so the idea of any vacation actually stressing me out is completely foreign to me. My answer's the same whether or not we're talking about a vacation that actually involves leaving town. Work stresses me out. Social obligation stresses me out. Having to live up to other people's expectations at all times stresses me out. Vacations are literally the permission I give myself to forget about all of those other things and just focus on what I'd like to do for a change. If stress even might factor into the equation, then you can bet it won't be part of my vacation.

Most of my vacations involve simply staying home and doing whatever it is I might have decided I'd like to do. I spend time with Seth. We cook and eat things we enjoy. We binge-watch shows we like on Netflix or Hulu. I catch up on my reading or my gaming. If I'm feeling productive, I might decide to blog a bit or mess around on social media. I'll spend a lot of time online just reading up on whatever topic I'm interested in at the time. In the past, I might have decided to sketch or draw. 

I haven't been out of town in a very long time, but back when I used to take vacations more regularly, I always chose options that would allow me to just kind of drift around at my leisure and see where my curiosity might take me. It used to drive my ex-husband nuts that I didn't believe in travel itineraries or in planning out our entire day from beginning to end. He liked structure, order, and knowing what to expect every minute of every day we were away. I preferred waking up in the morning and wandering around, deciding on a whim what I'd like to do from moment to moment. I liked not knowing for sure where I'd be eating dinner that night, what I might be doing in two hours, or what time I would be in bed that night.

That's what a vacation is to me whether you go somewhere else or not -- freedom. Freedom to do as you please in the moment with no restrictions or "have to's". Freedom to be open to different experiences and freedom to decide you're not really in the mood for new experiences after all. Freedom to make whatever decisions you like during a given time period and to change your mind completely the minute those decisions don't suit you anymore. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My Nipples Don't Need Your Help

So I had another "I totally feel 40" moment earlier. I woke up this morning to an Instagram message from some chick. She was apparently one of the many women you run into on social media these days that claim to be feminists fighting for social justice and all that. Her account was one of those "free the nipple" deals. She was actually messaging me to request a submission. You know, so I can do my part to fight for women's equality.

Why she approached me of all people, I don't know. I have a profile picture up on Instagram and I will very, very occasionally post a selfie or something. But none of the photos I post are the type of thing that should lead anyone to believe I wouldn't mind showing a bunch of perfect strangers my tits. I use Instagram primarily to post pictures of the foods Seth and I cook. All I can figure is that this person took one look at me, saw that I was "alternative" looking (unnatural hair color with black clothes), and mistook me for someone a lot younger or more progressive than I actually am. It sure wouldn't be the first time. Whatever the reasons, I was honestly kind of offended, but not for the reasons most people would probably think. 

I was offended because I don't see how a strange woman approaching me out of nowhere to ask me for nude pictures in support of some cause is any different from a strange man wanting to see my tits so he can get off to them. Both of those scenarios involve someone making assumptions about me as a person (probably based on how I look). Both scenarios reduce my nude body to an object that can and should be offered up for other people's use. Worst of all, both scenarios subtly imply that letting other people look at my body, use images of it for their own purposes, or show those images to hundreds of other strangers shouldn't be a big deal to me.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have a problem with nudity or think the human body is anything other than completely beautiful (male bodies, as well as female). I would even say that I think society needs to be less uptight about nudity and sex in general. But I also believe that there's a time and a place for nudity. That time isn't "all the time" and that place isn't "everywhere". It's never OK to approach perfect strangers and ask to see their nude bodies. I get that lots of women don't mind taking a ton of selfies or posting nudes online for other people to look at, but I'm not "lots of women".

I don't actually support the "free the nipple" cause, nor do I support public breastfeeding for that matter. However, I don't expect the rest of the world to conform to my personal set of standards. For instance, it's legal for women to breastfeed in public, so the fact that I feel breastfeeding is too private and personal to be done in public is irrelevant. If I don't want to see it or be around it, it's on me to find someplace else to be without saying anything to the person or attempting to make them feel bad about what they're doing. I believe in "live and let live"... but that means I expect other people to respect the possibility that my values might be different from theirs as well. 

If you believe in "free the nipple" and want people to get involved, you use your own space to publicly request that involvement. You don't scour a major social network for people you think look alternative or goth, assume that they'll be down to whip their tits out because of it, and then direct message them about something so personal. That's nothing short of rude. So no. I won't be freeing my nipples for anyone but myself, my partner, or my doctor to see. Call me old fashioned, but I don't consider modesty to be a prison in the first place. It's a shame that so many young people do.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Death and Taxes of It All

I feel like I'm going though another one of my phases -- the ones that are becoming more and more frequent these days. I already voluntarily avoid offline friendships, but I'm swiftly approaching the point where I don't care to have many online ones to speak of either. The vast majority of the people I used to think of as friends just bother me now. They all seem so ignorant, and silly, and stunted. They're all stuck in a place I managed to break free from years ago at this point... and I've always been something of a late bloomer, so that's really saying something.

None of them show the slightest little bit of interest in growing or evolving either and something about that honestly disgusts me. I've always wanted to be better than I was. All that's ever changed was my definition of what "better" meant. Somewhere along the line, it stopped meaning "be someone my parents like and approve of" and started meaning "be someone I like and approve of". Even now, I still want to be so much better and so much more. And I want to be surrounded by people like myself -- thinkers, artists. People that are more focused on improving themselves and less concerned with how they stack up to others around them.

I'm sure that's at least part of the reason it's been easier to keep up with my public blogging lately. I used to far prefer LiveJournal and Facebook as locations for thought dumping because I actually knew the people there and kept a lock on the front door. Then a little bit at a time, I stopped relating to those people until one day I just woke up and realized I no longer relate to them at all. Blogging here started feeling a lot more therapeutic and I think it's because no one I know all that well really reads what I post here with any regularity. Seth does, but he's about it. Seth... and I guess the faceless masses out there, which is fine.

I don't know those people personally. Those people aren't going to get drunk and message me at 2AM because they made yet another stupid decision and just "feel" like I'm someone they can talk to. They're not going to not-so-gently imply that I'm obligated to donate to their latest Go Fund Me campaign because we're "friends". They're not going to expect me to waste my personal time giving advice they're not going to listen to as far as how they should style their hair, or function in a relationship, or deal with whatever acquaintance pissed them off last.

In other words, I still like having my writings "out there" and available to people that might theoretically be interested in reading them. What I don't want right now are the implied friendships and assumed personal connections that can come with having regular readers that feel like they "know" you even when they absolutely don't. I like that blogging way out here in what feels like the middle of nowhere doesn't seem to invite much actual communication or attract a lot of attention from people looking to turn me into their next best friend.


In other news, my birthday is coming up in a little less than a week. I'm going to be 40. On the one hand, I want to say that I don't feel 40. People don't really seem to process me as a 40-year-old, which is understandable. I don't look 40 and I don't really live the life of the typical 40-year-old either. I don't have a 40-year-old's responsibilities -- children, property, a sensible career I've been plugging away at for decades. But then I think about how irritating I've started finding people that are in their 30's even. They seem so immature and I think it's in ways that didn't use to bother me as much as they do now. And it's at times like that I realize... yeah, I'm totally 40.

I don't really get why people get so depressed about turning 40. I'm kind of excited. I like the way I am at this age and really, I never thought I'd see the day. I'm actually something akin to level-headed. I feel like I have focus and purpose -- kind of, anyway. I still don't know exactly what I want to do with the rest of my life per se, but I guess I have faith at this age that it will all work itself out somehow. The better things that have happened to me in my life not only weren't planned, but they were impossible to plan for, so I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the ride, anticipating the next surprise God has in store for me.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Writing Lab: On Energy and Its Sources

Prompt: "Where do you draw your energy from?"

I've never been what you'd call an energetic person. Even when I was a child, my brand of energy was a very quiet, subdued one, if such a thing can ever be said to exist. My mind would be going a mile a minute on any given day, but I was never much into being physically active. I've also always had a hard time mustering energy for doing things I don't feel personally invested in.

That part of who I am hasn't changed one little bit now that I'm an adult. I only feel what most people would call energetic when I'm legitimately on fire about something. Truth be told, I don't feel much enthusiasm when it comes to life in general. However, there are a few sources from which I seem to be able to pull energy if and when I need to.

God: As a young person, I was never what I would call religious, but that's been different over the course of the past few years. I've become very concerned with trying to live a godly life. Granted, my idea of a godly life doesn't fit the picture most people have in their heads when they try to picture what I probably mean, but yeah. A big part of that involves taking the things about life I hate the most -- *cough cough* WORK *cough* -- and trying to see them as duties I'm performing for God, as opposed to a client or a boss. Sometimes work -- and life, for that matter -- is still a major drag, but it does help me care a lot more about the job I'm really doing when I remember that God's up there watching. I don't want to let him down the way I feel like I probably did at other points in my life.

My Relationship: Until I met Seth, I don't think I actually knew what it was like to really care much what other people thought of me. Even when it came to my parents when I was a child, I think I cared more about keeping them off of my back more than I actually cared about winning their approval. Now that I'm in a relationship where it's safe to let my guard down at least a little, I'm discovering what it means to want someone to be happy with you. I'm still very much my own person, but it's nice to feel like I'm part of a unit without having to change anything about what I value or pretend I'm someone I'm not, Some days, I'm really aware of how lucky I am to have that and it gives me motivation to be my best and do my best.

Accomplishment: Every so often, I'll find myself in a really good place mentally simply because I've been spending enough time doing things I value. Like if I actually manage to get some creative writing done or I've been really, really good about keeping my blogs up to date, I can get a really pleasant high from it that will last a while. The same thing can happen if I spend a whole weekend reading or absorbing information. I like feeding my head, especially if I can actually manage to generate some output after the fact. I can actually wind up feeling the same way if I've been extra good at keeping up with work assignments.

Anticipation: If I've got something coming up that I'm really excited about, sometimes I feel a burst of energy when whatever it is pops into my head. It doesn't have to be anything major. I can be something as simple as a long weekend, a special meal I have planned, or something I've ordered online that I'm excited to receive in the mail. For instance, right now I'm really looking forward to making corned beef for St. Patrick's Day and having a bit of a celebration. I'm also feeling really proud of how well I've been doing with the personal goals I set for Lent. Little things, but pleasant things all the same.