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?

Friday, August 19, 2016

On Tall Tales


Prompt: "What do you think of people who tell tall tales that are meant to entertain but not deceive?"

It depends on what's meant by "tall tale". Are you legit telling me an actual made-up story and presenting it as a work of fiction or are you exaggerating something from your life that I'm expected to accept as fact even if there's no earthly way it could possibly be true? I'm going to assume for all intents and purposes that it's the latter.

People that tell tall tales (a la Edward Bloom in Big Fish) honestly really irk me. I grew up around pathological liars that you couldn't trust to tell you the truth about anything. Sometimes the lies were malicious, but other times it was just about making something sound better or more exciting than it really was. My brother in particular really made a habit of this and would often lie just for the sake of lying. You took him at his word at your own peril because there would always be facts left out and other facts embellished at the very least. Every so often a story he told you would be a lie from beginning to end.

I personally don't really care what the person's intention are. I don't like being lied to. Period. Presenting me with a fish story I'm expected to accept in lieu of the actual truth doesn't entertain me or amuse me. It insults my intelligence and it wastes my time. If you're someone I know and I ask you to tell me how you met your spouse out of genuine interest in you, it's because I'm trying to get to know you better. Don't spin me a yarn about daffodils and circuses, for fuck's sake. If what you want to do is entertain, then write an actual work of fiction and present it as such. It's rude to do otherwise.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

On Stories, Fact, and Fiction

Prompt: "What are your favorite types of stories?"

I've been reading and writing so long, that I legitimately can't remember a time in my life when I didn't do those things. It only stands to reason that I've fallen in love with all kinds of stories over the years -- everything from fairy tales and epic adventures to high-brow literary fiction. However, I think the stories I like most these days are the ones that are anchored in reality to at least some extent.

It doesn't have to be a straight up non-fiction story or anything, but it's nice if it's at least inspired by events, people, places, or ideas from the author's actual life. I like knowing that that person is sharing little bits of their world with their readers. A given story just doesn't really feel "complete" to me without that.

That's been the case for me since I was a kid. Even when I reached for my fairy tale books, the experience of enjoying them was only partly about being entertained by the story itself. My favorite part of the process was actually learning the origins of those tales and the meanings behind them. I absolutely loved annotated versions of different books for that reason. I know it seems weird to imagine a 10-year-old being interested in the cultural context of Hansel and Gretel or in being able to identify the political satire in Alice in Wonderland, but that's the kind of child I was. I liked reading stories and then picking them apart afterward so I could fully understand what I'd just read.

This has only become more the case as I've grown older. I've learned to shape my reality instead of constantly trying to escape from it the way I did as a young person. As a result, the need to understand the inspiration or real-life connections in a given story is even more important to me than it used to be. I love memoirs, historical fiction, and stories that tackle abstract social concepts for that reason. I don't write nearly as much fiction or poetry as I once did, but when I do, I strive to write the same types of stories I most enjoy reading. The type built on a foundation of meaning and personal connection that I like to picture potential readers appreciating one day in exactly the way I used to.

Monday, August 1, 2016

On the Merry-Go-Round of the Past


Normally, I don't truly understand why other people seem to think I'm so young for my age. I almost always just blame it on my youthful looks and the fact that I don't really choose clothing, hairstyles, or make-up that would be considered age appropriate. Then something will happen that shows me it's probably more than that. I'm realizing that I still act young and think young for someone that's 40 years old. I'm also realizing that it's not necessarily a bad thing.

For instance, I don't get nostalgic over dead technology the way a lot of people my age do. I don't think tapes and CDs are superior to digital music and streaming. I don't wistfully sigh and think back fondly on the days when people shared a landline and some dial-up Internet with the rest of their family instead of having their own cell phones and devices. Why would I? Today's technology is so much better, more accessible, and more convenient than the shit I grew up with.

Sure, at the time all of that seemed pretty cool, but it was the best, most innovative technology that was available at the time as well. Sure, I still like listening to a lot of the same bands I liked growing up, but I love that I can listen to perfect, pristine-quality versions of their albums on Spotify now instead of having to pop a plastic disc into some clunky old player. Honestly, if I were still single and dating someone my age? I would probably reconsider them if they were still making mix tapes and burning CDs. It's just a silly thing to do in a day and age when there are better, more efficient alternatives.

The older I get and the older my so-called peers get, the more differences there seem to be between us. Honestly, I can't even talk to most of my old high school acquaintances anymore without being bored out of my gourd. All they want to do is "remember when" and wax nostalgic about times in our lives that are long over with. They don't ever seem to listen to new music or give new television shows a try either. They're living completely in the past and I can't imagine wanting to do that myself. I don't want to do that myself. The 90's are over with. I want to enjoy the era I'm living in right now.

........

Speaking of the past, I actually wound up giving that interview I mentioned in my last post. The one about abuse survival. It was quite an experience -- both freeing and very draining at the same time. Some of the questions I was asked challenged me to look at certain things from angles I'd never quite considered before. It was kind of a lot of work emotionally. So much work, in fact, that I don't even think I did much work writing that day. I just wound up in a different head space that I didn't expect to find myself in.

Perhaps that's part of the issue I have with people that glamorize anything about the past. Although I will admit to missing the simplicity of life back then and the wonderful optimism that seems to come with being young, that's about it. I never want to be back where I was emotionally, mentally, and socially speaking. I never want to know and understand as little about myself as I did then. I never again want to be surrounded by people that don't really accept me and refuse to understand me. 

That is what the past is to me, at the end of the day -- a merry-go-round that wouldn't stop spinning long enough for me to figure out where I was and get my bearings. It would spin so viciously as to make me feel scared, nauseous, and confused at all times. I do not miss that feeling. I like it here in the present -- the place where life, technology, and society is a much better fit for who I know myself to be.