Domestic Labor And Taking Care of Yourself

The first time I was tasked with preparing a meal for the rest of my family, I was nine. My parents had made the choice that they were going to homeschool all (at the time) four of their children and we started when I was preparing to make the transition from kindergarten to first grade. When I turned nine right around the start of our school year, my (at the time) youngest sibling was finally of an age that she needed to begin initial education, the sibling between us was just starting first grade, I was in third grade, my elder brother was in fifth grade, and my mother was just beginning to realize that she wasn’t capable of doing all of the housekeeping, schooling, and childrearing while my father was at work. Given that she had a number of children, she did what anyone else would do and continued the process she’d started years prior of offloading responsibility for some of that work to her children. Unlike most families of a similar size, the work wasn’t given to the eldest child or evenly distributed between children according to their abilities, but almost all of it was given to the most responsible child. Me.

Which isn’t to say none of my siblings did anything around the house. We all had a scattering of weekly and daily chores we did, meted out by our mother via a chore chart she put on the fridge every week, ostensibly in exchange for our allowance. Things like setting the table, wiping the table after dinner, loading the dishwasher, sweeping the floor, picking up a specific room, and so on. Simple chores, easy enough for any child tall enough to reach the sink or use a broom, that were shared between us via the chore chart for my entire time living with my parents. Still, it was not difficult to notice that I was the only child tasked with preparing lunch for the entire family.

Since my mother had realized I woke up at five every morning (even then I never slept much more than eight hours at a time) when she found me breaking our family’s video game time rules so I could enjoy Donkey Kong 64 without interference from my brother or younger siblings, she’d started waking up at that time as well and giving me my daily school lessons. I’d be done by the time my other siblings woke up for breakfast and then finished with my assignments by eleven, so she also assigned me the task of preparing lunch for everyone. This way, she could get an extra thirty minutes of lesson time in before the day was interrupted by lunch. And to keep me busy, of course. Idle hands are the devil’s plaything, after all, as I’d proven by trying to enjoy some time to myself in the mornings.

After a couple months of successful lunch preparation, including branching out into various warmed and easily cooked foods instead of the usual coldcuts and leftovers we’d enjoyed prior to my assignment as school cook (which is an editorialization on my part, since my parents never framed this or anything else I’m about to mention as anything other than normal “helping around the house” type work), I began a short period of cooking lessons. Which were, of course, framed as helping my mother prepare dinner. And eventually clean up from dinner. When it was clear that I could handle a few basic meals, easy baking tasks, and knew what it meant to properly wash the dishes, suddenly I found the chore chart expanded to include a few new entries. I had the daily chore of making lunch and, one or two times a week, making dinner. There were also a new series of chores sorted by age categories that meant my brother and I were now sharing more after-dinner kitchen clean up tasks with our parents.

What I noticed as a result of this process was that my brother never aged into chores. I did and then he was added in at the same time, despite enjoying two years of not needing to do that chore before we began to share it. The only exception was mowing the lawn, but that’s a bit of a special case because it was a weird masculinity thing in my house since my father, who is the biological source of my grass allergy, always mowed the lawn even though my mother was perfectly capable of doing so herself and not allergic like my father and I. So we both started doing lawn care the week we turned thirteen, which was notable because it was the only time my brother did a chore before I started doing it. At that point in time, it was more surprising to see him tasked with something before I was than to find myself being taught how to do a “good job” according to my parents sensibilities so that I could make up for the poor job my older brother would be doing when it was his turn to do the chore in question.

This was one of the many aspects of my childhood that I took note of but never really felt any which way about. Part of that was just me attempting to survive my childhood, but part of it was me lacking any other context. For instance, despite the firm gender roles and assignments handed down by my parents, we never had any concept of “women’s work” because my mother frequently tasked me with cooking, cleaning, sewing (admittedly mostly limited to my own clothing and stuffed animal repair needs), and cargiving chores. It wasn’t until I was in college (and had stopped thinking of my parents’ house as my “home”) that I realized that the idea of “women’s work” wasn’t just a cartoonish pasitche of regressive villainy. Finally coming into contact with lives that were undeniably different from my own was what it took to cease the unquestioning acceptance of my lived experience as fairly normal for my ethnicity and socio-economic station.

Eventually though, after this awakening and the many examples of other ways of living I found once I knew to look for them (some of which were helped along by the supportive, patient, and wonderful professors in my many cross-listed English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies classes), I tried to figure out how I felt about this. It wasn’t until my senior year when I wrote about Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room that I took my first really step forward in figuring out how I felt about that sort of domestic labor distribution beyond the basic “this is clearly not fair” feelings I’d harbored all along. The first of two major papers I wrote for that class took a close look at the way that the value placed on domestic labor and how it was shared between people living together could be read as a metaphor for the equality and inclusivity of everyone involved. Reading back over that paper now, it is clear to see the feelings I couldn’t quite pin down or even properly put to words in my therapy sessions burbling beneath the surface. About my place in my parents’ household, about the roles assigned to me, and about my own (at the time) supressed identity and sense of self.

As I wrote the above paragraphs, I was standing next to the remnants of my dinner. A container showing the red stains of tomato-based pasta sauce as the only evidence it had been packed to the brim with leftover ravioli and tortellini smothered in a sauce I’ve known how to prepare for more than two-thirds of my thirty-one years. The first of five such containers that still graced my refrigerator this morning because it wasn’t until after I’d prepared and mixed up everything that I realized I could have cooked for just myself. I could have prepared only part of the tortellini and ravioli. Or prepared just a part of one of the two types of pasta rather than part of both. Instead, I cooked for a group of people I haven’t had to take care of in thirteen of the twenty-two years since I first learned to prepare this particular recipe.

Only recently, as I reflect on my childhood while preparing any of the various dishes I’ve grown to love in portions meant to feed a family of seven, do I see these memorized recipes and ingrained cooking habits as signs of the unequal, abusive, and neglectful relationships that formed the core of my childhood home. Only now, as I reflect on my relationship with my parents, my own identity, and my sense of self, do I explicitly think of how the way that I was tasked with domestic and emotional labor shaped me in ways that I’m just beginning to understand.

I feel like I should feel the need to console myself as I wrap up this blog post. Like I should need to prove to myself and whoever is reading this that I am capable of taking care of myself in a way that isn’t accidentally or incidentally included in taking care of other people. After all, it’s not every day that I realize just how bad I am at taking care of myself in a way that radically alters my thinking. The thing is, I’m not uncomfortable with that idea. Like I’ve said, I think I always knew even if I never explicity realized what it meant. I think that finally being able to put all of this into words, to be able to realize what all of this represents as I stare each morning at leftovers I’m going to have to force myself to eat every day if i want to prevent them from going to waste, is a sign of progress. Maybe not a watershed moment, but definitely a step in the right direction. I think the first thing I’m going to do to prove this to myself is make a much smaller batch of sauce. Once I’m not sick of eating it every day, anyway.

Emotional Investment At The Table

During the many hours that I spend thinking about my various Tabletop Roleplaying Games (can’t just say “Dungeons and Dragons games” anymore, since I’m finally running and playing other games), one of the things I think about the most is my players’ emotional investment in our shared stories. I do my best to give them stories and non-player characters to care about, but I can’t exactly force it. They’re only going to care if they find something they feel is worth caring about and then make the effort to care. I tend to focus on the story elements, since I’d prefer that they care about the game as a whole rather than individual NPCs or one-time encounters, but it is usually a lot easier to make them care about an NPC than the game itself.

Most of the time, you can make an NPC sympathetic, interesting, and a little bit quirky without too much of an issue. It is a roll of the dice (pun absolutely intended) as to whether or not the players will care about any given NPC, but the nice thing is that you can always toss one aside if your players are not interested and make a new one. In any given TTRPG, you’re probably going to run through multiple NPCs in any given hour of the game, or session at the very least. NPCs fill the world and the players will wind up picking whichever ones interest them and you can just expand from there. For instance, I had an NPC rogue in one of my games that was around mostly to serve a narrative purpose in the first session, assist with some skill checks if the party chose to go somewhere they would need a trapfinder or the like, and provide a safety release valve in combat scenarios that involved the entire caravan the party was traveling with. Eventually, they also wound up providing a second voice for the caravan itself and a source of supposed romantic tension as one of the players jokingly shipped them with another player’s character.

Eventually, they died. It was a rough fight, also claiming the life of one of the player characters as well, and I thought that would be the end of it. I’d come up with some other stuff to give the character more depth, but I’m not precious with my NPCs. They’re there to serve a purpose and are easy ways for me to introduce threat without it feeling like I just hit one of the heroes with a bus. Instead of a hero, I hit the sidekick. The players eventually insisted on bringing the NPC back to life and, since they were willing to go through the rigmarole involved, I wasn’t going to stop them. Then the NPC died in the next major encounter after that and the party once again tried to bring them back. This time, the ritual failed and the party swore to bring them back, no matter what it took. Now they’re investigating how to bring someone back after a ritual fails and I’ve given them a nice little high-level quest for a massive diamond formed in the heart of a mountain. Good times.

I couldn’t have predicted they’d get this invested in the character. I thought they’d wind up more interested in the revenant they fished out of a river or the caravan leader, who was just some dude, who was entrusted with secret documents to take from one country’s leadership to another’s that were apparently so valuable that the caravan was attacked by assassins. None of which caught their interest for very long. They loved the Revenant for a while, but there was no talk of trying to bring him back, or finding out what happened to him after they learned he was the result of an experiment to see if a necromancer could artificially induce a revenant that would hunt a killer who had not actually killed him and he turned into dust when the necromancer concluded his experiment by slaying the person binding the revenant to unlife. They just moved on from the caravan leader, even though he was a family friend/relative to one of the player characters and clearly up to some shit. I certainly wouldn’t have planned it that way, but you make stuff, let your players pick what they like, and then do your best to run with it.

As far as the story goes, all I can really do is try to make cool stuff. I have no idea if they’re actually super invested in what might happen or just enjoying themselves on a per-session basis, and I’m honestly not sure it super matters right now. As long as we’re all having fun, I’m happy with whatever we’re doing. I’d love to be able to figure out what kind of stories they’re willing to emotionally invest in, since I’d love to overwhelm a player with emotion (not, like, in a mean way, just in a “dang, that’s some good storytelling” kind of way). I think that if I making sure I’m investing in their stories, building things out for them, and checking in with them regularly, I’ll probably get there eventually. None of my games are meeting weekly right now, at least not ones I’m running, so it’s difficult to tell if people are super invested because it’s difficult to retain details across multiple weeks without a session. Everyone asks questions like someone who wasn’t paying attention and that’s just because it’s been so long. Even the most meticulous of notes can only remind us of the details of what happened. They can’t make us feel that way again, nor can they entirely re-immerse us in a story that’s been set aside for multiple weeks.

Like I said, as long as my players are enjoying themselves, I’m happy. I’m going to keep doing what I can to get them emotionally invested because I think that’s a good focus for me to have as a storyteller (specifically to give them things they’re interested in investing in rather than manipulating them into investing), but I’m not going to be upset if it doesn’t happen on my time scale. These things take time and we’ve all got plenty of it (you know, probably).

NaNoWriMo 2018 Day 4 (11/04)

Well, I’ve been pretty derailed. Yesterday was not the day I had hoped it would be. A combination of only getting four hours of sleep, from seven to eleven in the morning, set me up for a bad day. My nieghbor’s music was loud and non-stop until four in the morning and then I was too upset and frustrated to go to sleep for three hours. Also, four hours isn’t enough sleep when that’s more or less the amount I’d gotten for each of the two previous nights as well. After that… well, I got the precursor to some bad news right when I woke up, got the bad news half and hour later, and then, around two in the afternoon, finally got the context for the bad news so I could properly appreciate how bad it was.

And that was pretty much it for the day. I was just waking up enough to be able to write at that point and then I got the context for the bad news and I pretty much gave up. I still tried to write, but I packed it in around six and just played video games until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore. The only reason I’m in any kind of shape to write is momentum built up by starting with easy stuff like showering, breakfast, and laundry, along with the eight hours of sleep I got thanks to the start of Daylight Saving Time. I still feel like absolutely crap, but I’ve worked through worse. Maybe. I don’t really know. It’s not like there’s a translation table for “effort required to keep doing stuff” between the various kinds of awful stuff that can happen to people. I’ve felt worse from my own depression and kept writing, but I’ve also been dealing with my depression for over a decade. This… This is new. I’ve experience similar things before, but not this.

I’m not going to go into the specifics of what it was, but I will say that my health and life are just fine. The biggest impact this will have is the negative impact on my mood. And my focus. Right now, I very much do not want to be in my own head and it is incredibly difficult to avoid being in your head while writing. My current strategy revolves around partitioning things and trying to be a little more forgiving when I need to go do something that pulls me out of my head quickly. I’m also leaning heavily on one of my YouTube playlists. It’s full of music that has a calming effect on me and that’s super helpful because it is basically shrinking the size of the stuff I’m trying to avoid in my head which gives me more room for trying to write stuff.

Which I’m still going to do. I cancelled D&D because my heart just isn’t in… well, anything. It isn’t in anything right now and I don’t want to run a game I’m not going to enjoy because I’ve learned that’s a really good way to run a game no one will enjoy. Hell, I won’t even really be able to get into it. I played games all evening yesterday and I kept getting pulled out of it by what’s going on in my head. But I’m still going to try to write today. I owe it to myself to do the best I can to continue working on my goals because those goals haven’t changed, my plans haven’t changed, and my life still needs to continue. I can’t let this stress and emotional turmoil just bring it to a halt. So I’m going to try again today and I’ll hopefully be able to get more done today than I did yesterday. I’ve got all day, still. Twelve hours until Monday. Ten until I should go to bed (since I need more than one night of decent sleep if I’m going to survive the upcoming week). That should be enough to scrap out one thousand six hundred sixty-seven words of main National Novel Writing Month project, one thousand words of romance novel, two blog entries (since I am supposed to write the next day’s post during the last hour of the prior evening and I didn’t do that yesterday), and a bunch of reading. Ideally, I’d also get a draft of Coldheart and Iron: Part 36 done since I still plan to post that on Tuesday, but I’ll take progress on it instead of the whole thing. I’m not picky.

In fact, I’m trying to be realistic. It’s entirely possible I’ll do none of those things at all. Maybe I’ll just do a few hundred words and pack it in for the day because trying to force myself to write right now was too tortuous. Anyway, I hope your National Novel Writing Month is going well and that you had a chance to make some good progress this weekend!

Daily Prompt

Unless you’re Andy Weir, your protagonist needs someone to interact with. A friend to go to for advice, a student to mentor, a foil to highlight their strengths and weaknesses, a rival to compete against, or so on. There’s someone (or multiple someones if you want an “all-of-the-above” situation) in the world of your story who will be the main focus for the protagonist. Maybe they’re part of the reason the protagonist is driving the plot or maybe they’re helping drive the plot so the protagonist can figure out how to solve it. Whyever they’re there, your protagonist needs them to shake up your descriptions with some dialogue. Today, introduce the protagonist’s main source of interaction and give a scene that establishes their relationship with the protagonist.

 

Sharing Inspiration

One of the best stories I’ve experience this year, though it’s not as good as “An Absolutely Remarkable Thing,” was the anime, My Hero Academia. What I thought was going to be just another “people with powers in high school fighting stuff” show turned out to be one the most complex and well-written anime I have ever seen. The only one that compares is Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood and that only came together that well because the fans demanded a faithful adaptation of the manga after it was finished. I love the way it tells complex stories using an anime genre that is notorious for simple stories about gaining more power to beat the bad guys. There’s still plenty of that in this anime, but that’s not all there is to it. It constantly defies my expectations and I love any story that can surprise me in a good way.

 

Helpful Tips

Don’t be afraid to take a break if you need one. You can always make up for it in the future or you have probably over-written on a few previous days so you’re not even really missing a full day of progress. The most important thing you can do this month is maintain your mental and physical health. Writing is great, and finishing a story feels great, but none of that matters if you make yourself incredibly sick as a result of pushing yourself too hard. So take breaks, take a day off when you need it, or, at the very least, don’t hold yourself to a word goal for a day. Try to write a little bit and be content with getting anything out instead of being disappointed that you fell short of your goal. Take it from me, building a daily writing habit is more important than writing the same amount every day and keeping yourself from getting sick or over-stressed is more important than both. Figure out what your hierarchy of needs is and make sure to stick to it as well as you can.

 

Every Day is an Adventure

I remember, the first time I sat down to watch Adventure Time, remarking to my friends that I wasn’t drunk enough to watch this show after only the first episode. For those of my friends who are adults and trying to start the show, I usually recommend sitting down to it with a strong drink because while I adore the show, it starts off a little weirdly. It also continues weirdly, but it isn’t jarring once you’ve made the mental adjustments required to enjoy the show. They’re not strenuous, of course. It just takes a bit of time to adapt to the over-the-top action and characters before you start to see past the surface to the surprising depths of the story and character development arcs.

Like a lot of “children’s shows,” Adventure Time can be enjoyed on multiple levels. At the most basic, there are good lessons about how to be responsible, what it means to strong, how to deal with emotional problems, and how to treat people who are different from you, to name a few. These lessons are delivered through fairly straight-forward plots and the colorful fun of an action show with heart, making it an instant hit with most kids. For those looking for a bit more, there’s actually some complex emotional and interpersonal problems that happen through the various seasons that are resolved slowly. It can be difficult to watch if you want the sort of cleaner wrap-ups of most adult shows since, for example, some things are introduced in season 1 that aren’t addressed until season 5. Emotional development takes a long time, in terms of seasons and shows, but it happens at a rate that lets the adults watching the show appreciate what is going on beneath the surface but also lets the kids slowly see the changes happen in a way they’ll understand as they go through similar (if somewhat less fantastical) situations in their own lives.

For instance, a lot of the earlier episodes are non-sequiturs, with nothing to place them inside the show’s overarching timeline, but there are details that slowly fill in the world around the protagonists, Finn the Human and Jake the (magic) Dog. Finn’s sword is an easy indicator of when an episode takes place as he has a tendency to go through them a lot faster than you’d think. His behavior and age are much more subtle ones since they don’t mark most of his birthdays or give a number to his age that frequently. Instead, you can follow the show’s continuity using plot markers and shifts in character relationships. Old enemies become friends, allies reveal ulterior motives and become enemies, and background characters rise to sudden prominence before establishing a firm place in the long list of secondary characters.

The way information is revealed to the viewer can make it a difficult show to watch haphazardly. While understanding most episodes isn’t dependent on having watched all previous episodes, a lot of foreshadowing or important subtext can fall between the cracks in your understanding of the show. As information is slowly revealed, one small bite at a time (bites that increase in size as the show goes on as the first two seasons are particularly light on details), so much that you suspect is confirmed. If you pay attention to the background in almost any episode, you could reasonably draw the conclusion that Adventure Time occurs in a post-apocalyptic world. You could also conclude that humans are rare, magic has risen in the place of most of the sciences, and there’s an incredible danger present in the world that most people see as ordinary because of how screwed up the world became following whatever apocalyptic disaster befell it. Eventually, you get enough information to assemble a picture of the past on your own. Full reveals or complete pictures are super rare, but they become reference points for the show that help shore up the history you assemble as you watch it and you can usually tell where you are in the show’s timeline by references to these points.

My favorite part of the show is the way the writers use the same method of small hints and details mixed in with a few big reveals in the emotional development of the characters. Finn, as the primary protagonist, deals with the most as he grows. Jake, the secondary protagonist, has his share as well. Even a lot of the secondary characters (who occasionally have small arcs featuring them) have complex emotional journeys throughout the show. The best example of that is probably the Ice King, a certifiably insane wizard with ice powers given to him by a magic crown he wears. Not only does he feature in a lot of Finn’s emotional growth, he changes throughout the show from a pathetic villain to a tragic villain who can’t help himself, seeing as he’s been driven insane by the magic crown he wears. Some of the most powerful and emotional moments in the show come from his stories and the way people start to treat him as they grow to understand and somewhat accept him. There’s a whole list of other characters, some with their own special mini-seasons, that undergo growth and change, and each one gets their moment to shine, even the pesky whiny ones you want to just disappear.

 

Throughout it all, aside from the big reveal or big change moments, the show manages to keep an upbeat sense of humor and a positive look on even the most difficult situations. The characters rely on each other to get through their weak moments and humor is a constant aid as they try to cope with the world they actually live in as it pushes aside the world they want to live in. Even the most resilient characters are sometimes knocked down and we get to watch them struggle to their feet again. The entire show is a lesson in getting back up after failure until you succeed and learning to accept change and growth into your life gracefully.

I’ll admit the pacing can be weird early on and that it can be difficult to accept some of the asides the show makes as it slowly works its way through a difficult problem, but every episode has something important to say if you’re willing to look for it. A lot of these messages are repeated many times, but they’re usually important enough that it’s worth hearing them again. Plus, with how human they all act, even Jake the Dog and Princess Bubblegum (who is made of gum), it can be incredibly refreshing to see people struggle to deal with lessons they’ve already learned and taken for granted.

I recommend watching it. The seasons are pretty cheap on Amazon or Best Buy, but I wouldn’t recommend getting them on a streaming service as they are sometimes in weird orders and the season-by-season breakdown in the later seasons gets super wonky. It is way cheaper to get them on DVD or Blu-Ray than to buy them on Amazon or iTunes. If you want a show that will make you laugh so hard you cry and so sad you just have to laugh, that will take you on an incredibly complex emotional journey through the eyes of a wide range of very (mentally and emotionally, since “diverse” means very different things in our world than it’d mean in their world) different characters, and will leave you constantly wanting more, I cannot recommend Adventure Time strongly enough.

Saturday Morning Musing

Last week, I completely rearranged my room. Originally, I was just going to clean it from top to bottom (multiple times since a ton of dust had built up thanks to my pet bird whose full-time job is dust generation), moving things around so I could clean underneath them, but I got hooked on the idea of changing how my room was laid out so I would up permanently shifting almost everything. Rearranged my books, threw out a bunch of junk, set up a new shelving system so I’ve got space for additional books, and even figure out a way to flag all the books I haven’t read yet so I don’t forget about them.

What originally started as a project about taking care of myself and the spaces I inhabited turned into a sort of meditative rejuvenation projection. All the physical labor involved in moving every single thing in my room and the mental labor of figuring out how to improve on an incredibly packed room using what I had previously thought was the optimal layout left me with no energy to berate myself or get caught up in thought spirals. As a result, I was able to really clear my head for the first time in a few weeks and actually think about how I’m feeling after what had been an emotionally exhausting May and June. It felt good, once I got past the incredibly gross feeling of being coated in dust and sweat for nine hours.

Beyond just the fresh feeling of having a “new” space to inhabit, I feel like I finally got all of my emotional processing from my break up to finally click into place. There’s still some healing, growing, and changing that still needs to happen, but it’s all stuff that just needs time now. I don’t regret it, anymore. I also don’t really want to make any more “pronouncements” about my emotional state right now because I recognize that my feelings are going to shift from day-to-day as stuff happens and I continue to go through the post-breakup process. I’m sure I’ll have another day before too long where I’m upset about everything all over again because something will remind me of a part of my relationship that I loved and my OCD will seize on it so I can’t get it out of my head. If I try to deny that, I’ll only wind up in a negative thought spiral about my relationship and another one about how I shouldn’t be upset anymore. That wouldn’t be good for me.

After I’d finished the new layout for my room, finished processing all my emotions, and actually did most of the work of laying out my room, I settled into a couple of hours of putting things back to rights so I could occupy my room again. While I did, I thought about the difference between being emotional or mentally healthy and being able to cope with one’s emotions and thoughts. I am not terribly mentally healthy, thanks to how often I struggle with depression, anxiety, and OCD, but I’m actually pretty good at coping with my own emotions and thoughts. I process things quickly, can figure out what’s going on inside my head, and have healthy outlets for emotions that are not productive or useful in living a life that makes me feel good.

Sometimes, it can feel tempting to say I’m emotionally or mentally well-adjusted even if I’m not emotionally or mentally healthy. The problem is both phrases mean mostly the same things, so it can be difficult to find the right way to talk about this. When I meet people who would probably get a clean bill of health from a psychologist or psychiatrist but have almost no ability to cope with, process, or handle their own emotions, I wonder which of us is better off. I usually think it’s me, because at least I’m not a gigantic shitshow of a human being intent on making my issues into problems the rest of the world has to deal with.

These days, it feels like these kinds of people are coming out of the woodwork and showing up all over the news. Fans harassing actors, artists, writers, and other content creators online. Political extremists who know nothing but assume everyone who disagrees with them is some kind of monster. Horrible people who decide that shooting a bunch of people is an appropriate response to rejection or anger. It can be difficult to remember these people, for the most part, always existed and they only seem to be more prevalent than emotionally well-adjusted people because the current twenty-four/seven news cycle is almost entirely a platform for stirring up fear.

There is still a lot of important reporting that happens, but it tends to get lost in the constant stream of idiotic crap that spews out of “news” sources. I don’t remember who said it and I can’t find it since I don’t remember the exact quote, but someone said that governments and public figures used to mislead people by controlling what information they can access. Nowadays, governments and public figures mislead people by flooding them with information until they can’t tell what’s true and what is false. That’s a lot of what is going on, these days. The internet is flooded with crap until people can’t tell what is true and what is false. It’s incredibly frustrating.

I deal with this sort of frustration by writing about it, by talking about it with people, by trying to learn more about the problem and ways to counteract it. One of my favorite ways is summaries of recent news articles followed by citations from trusted news sources pertaining to said stories. A few people (including a friend of mine whose page you can find here) have taken it upon themselves to do just that and finding someone to help weed out the truth from the crap is great, especially when they cite their sources so you know whether or not you can trust the story.

This all went rather far afield from where I started and where I originally planned to go, but I wound up taking a break to read some stuff in the middle of writing this and got a little distracted. I hope you have a great day and find a positive way to deal with your frustrations!

Saturday Morning Musing

I really enjoy spending time with my friends. Like most people, I’ve got a mix of introverted and extroverted qualities. Depending on where I am when I’m with my friends, it can be either relaxing or tiring. For instance, I organized a get-together tonight since one of my friends is leaving the state for her last semester of college and I like send-off parties. We went to a Mongolian grill restaurant for dinner and that was super exhausting because it was super loud, super busy, and I had a hard time participating in any kind of talk with my friends. Afterwards, we went to a coffee/chocolate shop where one of the group was still working, and the much quieter atmosphere helped me relax from the stress of the restaurant.

After the coffee/chocolate shop closed, they all opted to go to a bar and I opted to go home. It was a Friday night. The last thing I wanted, tired as I was and as busy as I am this weekend, was to go out to a noisy, crowded bar. They all get it, which made it easy to linger as they made plans so I could enjoy a last few minutes being around them. To be entirely fair, I probably still would have gone home even if they’d gone someplace super chill. I was exhausted after a long week and the continued reduction of my daily caffeine intake. I also started getting back into some more active things, so I’m super low on physical and mental energy. Throw in a week’s bout of depression brought on by the gloom and the cold that had ruled Wisconsin, and I’m also out of emotional energy. The trifecta. All energies dwindling and rapidly approaching zero.

So I went home and went to bed. Brushed my teeth, put on my pajamas, and decided to just wake up a bit early to get this written and pack for my trip. Unfortunately, as is often the case when I’m nearing zero, I couldn’t sleep. Instead, I opted to lie awake and stare at the ceiling until I wanted to pull my hair out. Rather than do anything to speed up my inevitable male pattern baldness, I got out of bed and worked on some poetry for a bit while listening to a band my girlfriend suggested since they’re in town for a concert next month. Walk the Moon makes for pretty good late-night-poetry-writing music, actually. They’ve got a good sound that fades in and out of the background as your attention waxes and wanes.

While I was trying to sleep and then writing poetry, the main theme of the thoughts I was trying to ignore was dread for my weekend plans. Even now, as I’m double-checking my bag and debating whether or not to bring my Switch, I really don’t want to go. I know I’m going to have a great time because I’m seeing some of my closest friends from college, people who used to fill me with such a creative charge that they drove some of the almost-insane amounts of writing I did during college. Well, insane in a sense. Given the amount I’d written at the time and how many projects I started that eventually influence my ability, I was at my most prolific in college. These days, I wrote more in a month (NaNoWriMo 2017) than I did in any entire semester of college.

Even though I’m going to meet with these wonderful friends, watch some fun movies, exchange late Christmas presents, and have a peaceful drive to clear my mind, I’m still dreading departure. This same exact thing happens all the time. I make plans that sound like a lot of fun and then the plans start to appear on the horizon, looking miserable. It happened with my plans to go out to dinner yesterday. It happened with my decision to return to my foam-fighting practice on Thursday nights. It happens with pretty much everything I do these days.

I will go and I will have a great time assuming nothing horrific happens. Unless I get in a car accident, break a bone, or get my wallet stolen, I’m going to have a net-positive trip. I’ve got too many great people and fun things packed into my weekend to have anything but a good time. The only thing that could make it better is bringing my girlfriend along for the ride. Which will happen eventually, I hope. The friend I’m staying with is still adjusting to her new apartment and hasn’t met my girlfriend yet, so I’m going to hold off on throwing additional stress her way. Plus, now I’ve got a reason to go back and visit everyone soon!