Saturday Morning Musing

Lately, I’ve been noticing that a lot of musicians I follow have been disappearing from parts of the internet. Or, at least, some of their music has been. In the past two months, links to songs I posted are now broken and playlists I’ve created on YouTube and Spotify have empty spots where favorite songs used to live. Some of these are songs I’ve listened to for years that are now gone. Some of these are the albums that got me into the musician that I can no longer find anywhere but on my iPod. Sometimes, I even begin to wonder if I’ve gone crazy. I mean, what else could I think when I have a four-track EP on my iPod of Kyle Andrews music that 20+ pages of google results knew nothing about? No one, not even the friend who first got me into the artist, remembers that album. If you’ve heard of the album “Damn Baby You’re Cold” by Kyle Andrews, please let me know. I’d really like confirmation that I’m not insane.

For the most part, though, there are traces left behind. A split second of video because the YouTube video player displays “This video is no longer available” or something similar. A listing for a song in a playlist, but the text is now dark grey and Spotify keeps telling me that “This song is not available. If you have the file on your computer you can import it.” I can’t find that song anywhere online, except I can still purchase the entire album it’s on from the author’s website or from iTunes. All of these great videos of my favorite live performer doing small shows while walking down streets in little towns in Europe are gone and my heart breaks that I can’t hear the haunting beauty of his voice echoing off old buildings in little alleyways and mixing with the bustle of people stopping to listen. Thankfully, someone else uploaded it a long time ago. Unfortunately, the quality is much lower and the greater range I could hear in the other video isn’t present in this one. Still, at least I know this one used to exist for sure.

I’ve been trying to figure out if this particular kind of artist, indie rock seems to be the only genre I follow with this problem, is in the middle of some kind of legal battle or if they’re trying to remove some of their older work from the internet. I mean, that’s a shame since I loved sharing their music, but I can understand that they probably want to get paid and having their music up on YouTube probably isn’t super conducive to a living wage as an artist. Still, I really wish I could share the majesty of Kyle Andrews singing about getting a lump of coal for Christmas from an ex-lover or about what he’s going to do with his current lover at Christmas if the world doesn’t end before then. I can’t even direct you to where you can buy it since nowhere I’ve found has it listed.

I worry, a lot, about erasing the past. Or losing it. I’ve been guilty of trying to ignore it and of hiding from it, but now I do everything I can to remember the past without getting stuck in it. When chunks of it, especially chunks that were super important to me, go missing, it makes me worry. Not because I’m concerned about falling back into my bad habits, but because I worry that time will eventually just make me forget. Unlike my iPod, life doesn’t have a shuffle setting that might let you rediscover old favorites you haven’t heard in years. Sometimes you get a prompt that reminds you of something you’d forgotten a long time ago, but it often disappears again if you don’t work to keep it around. If I hadn’t bought that album all those years ago, choosing instead to just listen to it on Soundcloud, I’d have lost it forever. Part of me wonders what else I’ve forgotten that I’ll never experience again because I never followed up on it or made a commitment.

With how much I’ve forgotten about my past, some that I’ve tried to forget and some that just vanished along the way, I’ve got a bunch of half-memories I’m not even sure are true. I for-sure remember going on Hayrides with my original church’s youth ministry group. I remember the faces of the people I met there and the friends I grew apart from as we became teenagers. What I’m not sure I remember is whether or not I had a crush on this one girl in there who may have confessed her feelings for me at the end of the hayride, as I was about to walk home (I lived a few blocks away from the stables that put the event on). I know I never saw her again after that night because her family was moving away and I know that, if I’m remembering events that actually happened and not some amalgamation of dream and memory, I didn’t realize she was confessing feelings until I thought of it sometime in my last two years of college. Can you image how insane I felt? The thought randomly popped into my head, that I’d missed someone confessing their feelings, and I couldn’t tell if it was something that actually happened or if it was a dream that twisted a memory of the last fun I had before a shitty year.

I’d make a joke about getting older, but I have so many similar memories from my childhood and pre-teen years. Things I half-remember spaced throughout a bunch of time I worked pretty hard to forget. Some things come back if I did for them, but I’m always cautious when digging in that particular minefield. I’ve already been devastated by realizations I’d carefully hidden from myself. It sucked and it not something I want to do again, even if one of the therapies I’m doing with my therapist is specifically for digging up and processing these kinds of memories.

I really wish there was a way to find the answer to any question. Google used to feel like that, but I’m pretty sure that’s always been a bunch of garbage. It just seemed like it knew the answer to every question and we were too naive to question whether or not it really did. Now, I’m left wishing that everything I was taught growing up about a wise, powerful figure in an adjacent realm is true so I can eventually learn the answer to every little mystery I’ve encountered. That’d be heaven in my eyes: finally getting all the answers.

 

Saturday Morning Musing

No matter where you live, what you do, or who you are, there’s a lot going on in the world these days. The only way you can escape it is if you’re being willfully ignorant that the world is going slightly (I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I have a bit of a tendency to understate things) crazy and that only works for upper-middle class white dudes and rich people. Even then, it probably still intrudes on your life because global politics and the constant stream of fear and anxiety pumped into the world by modern “journalism” are almost impossible to get away from unless you cut off all human contact, including the internet. Especially the internet.

I don’t really want to go into all of what’s going on, because I honestly can’t escape it and I don’t have anything new to add to it. All my thoughts and feelings have already been said and probably been said better than I could with the energy I’ve got right now. It’s really wearing me down to be spending the vast majority of my time trying to keep track of what’s going on from as many sources as possible so I can hopefully uncover the truth of what’s happening. Even then, I know it’s mostly impossible without being a first-hand witness to most of what is going down because there’s bias not just from individual sources, but from entire groups of people based on what kind of group they are or if they’re reacting to something in particular.

I spend so much time and energy trying to follow what is going on, picking the battles to fight, and doing everything I can to advocate for human decency and respect of all non-shitty life (sorry, shitty lifeforms, I’ve got no time for you) that I barely have the energy left for doing my daily writing. Things were different when I had a significant other. The world would fade away a bit when we were together and I couldn’t help but forget everything else for a bit. Now that I don’t have that, I’m relying on myself to take breaks when I need them and I’m actually really bad at that. If I do not have something that requires me to take a break or to rest for a while, I will not take a break. I will keep working or procrastinate until there’s no point in working and then feel terrible about not having done any work. In the past three weeks, last night was the first time I consciously decided not to do any writing work and just read a book instead of fretting about my blog or the book projects I haven’t touched in months.

I realize this isn’t healthy. I need to be able to rest and I shouldn’t rely on someone else to pull me away from my work long enough to unwind. I need to figure out how I can pull myself away from my work and to find ways to rest. Video games, reading, and TV don’t always work and sitting around by myself is often more likely to be a recipe for anxiety and stress than rest. Even meditation isn’t a sure-fire help these days since I’m still caught up in the feelings of my breakup and struggling with the daunting task of trying to date again. Any time I try to quiet my mind, thoughts of what I used to have or of how much I struggle to meet new people intrude. It’s daunting and frustrating.

Even when I do manage to relax or to avoid thinking about my relationship status, the news inevitably intrudes. I’ll get a phone notification that someone tweeted something about someone doing something dumb or that some government official is now royally screwed because something leaked except they’re totally not because all the people who give a fuck are spineless or powerless. The few times that doesn’t happen, or that I remember to silence my phone, thoughts about the very scary potential futures ahead of the world intrude. There’s no escaping just how shitty the world is when it affects me and all of the people I care about on such an enormous scale that it’s nearly impossible to contextualize just how screwed we all might wind up being.

It doesn’t help that so many people are constantly reminding everyone that being scared or tired or feeling unable to cope is exactly what the shitty people want. Sure, taking a rest is a good idea and we should probably all do that, but so many people lose urgency when they rest and people giving up is actually what the shitty people want. They want us to stop. If we’re intimidated or worn out and stop, that’s what they want. If we’re resting and miss something important, that’s also what they want. I’d love nothing more than to be able to constant rage against the shitty people with the burning passion of a million stars fueled by the wildest dreams of poets and artists across the universe, but that’s a bit more than I can manage. No single person could contain that much power and, so far, even the best coordinated groups have proven themselves unable. Someday, someone might be able to channel that amount of strength into their righteous fury and wipe away the taint caused by shitty people, but that day is not this day.

It’s a nice mental image, but that’s all it is. If things are going to change, it’ll take a lot of people working together toward a common goal. In the mean time, I’m going to try to figure out how to rest up on the few days I can’t fight for my goals and human decency any further. I don’t think the problem is working up to the point of wanting to collapse that’s the problem (and no, that’s not me trying to justify working myself ragged), I just really need to figure out how to actually rest on the days I’m not working on whatever.

Anyway, try to not be a shitty human today and every day. Work towards the common good. Rest when you need it but don’t forget there’s a fight going on. And so on. Keep it up.

Saturday Morning Musing

In most of my circles, social and professional, I’m known for having long hair. Typically, I grow my hair out for two years, get a buzz cut, donate all the hair, and then let it grow for another two years. Because my hair grows very quickly when it’s short, I spend a lot of that two-ish years with what would be considered “long” hair for a guy. Right now, it’s long enough to touch the bottoms of my shoulder blades and I’ve gotten to the point where I’m wearing it up or pulled back almost all of the time because it makes my neck sweat during the summer and always falls in front of my face when I’m configuring hardware at work. Which also means I’m considering cutting it.

This time is a little different, though. Now, in my mid-to-late twenties (I’m getting close to twenty-seven), male pattern baldness is firmly taking grasp of my head and my hair is thinning to the point where it doesn’t seem to be growing any longer, aka my hair is falling out faster than it’s growing back. I’ve always had a pronounced widow’s peak, but now I’m getting a widow’s mountain and the peak is slowly sinking back into the rest of the mountain.

There are plenty of options out there for the man who wishes to fight back nature and hold on to his hair, but most of them are a lot of work and no method is certain to work. Nor is any method cheap. I wouldn’t call them expensive, especially in terms of medical procedures or many life-sustaining medications, but they cost enough that I’d have a hard time justify sticking them into my budget since they’re nowhere near necessary. I like having hair. I like long hair I can pull back, that is thrown around on windy days and can that I can run my hands through when I’m busy thinking about something (stroking your beard only works for so long, so it’s good to have a backup). However, I’m not so attached to the idea of having hair that I’m going to freak out about losing it or spare no expense in trying to prevent it from disappearing entirely.

Honestly, I’m pretty lazy and only started growing my hair out originally because I didn’t want to take the time or spend the money to go to a barbershop in college. Donating it just became an easy, go-to explanation to give when strangers (usually older people) would inevitably demand to know why I had such long hair. However, after donating it the first time and getting to see the wig made from my hair (there was actually a local organization that’d take your hair, turn it into a wig, and donate it to the big cancer center nearby), I decided to stick with it. It kept my life easy, did a good thing, and I got to enjoy having long hair without needing to deal with too many “get a haircut, hippy” comments. I’d like to keep growing it out and donating it, if I can. I think that’s a good cause and it makes me feel good to be able to contribute something.

That being said, I’m getting to the point where I’m not sure how well my hair’s going to grow back after I get it cut the next time. I’m pretty sure the length of my hair has done a fair amount to conceal just how thin it’s getting up top. Without some kind of medical or pharmaceutical intervene, this next haircut will probably be the end of growing it out. One of my uncles had the same problem around the age I’m at now. He had long hair and, when he got it trimmed for a wedding, it never really grew back enough for him to want to let it grow out.

To make matters worse, my beard is still slowly filling out because genetics. I apparently inherited the slow-arriving-but-eventually-thick facial hair from my mom’s side of the family and the once-per-generation male pattern baldness from my dad’s side of the family, so I’m pretty follicly challenged. The only thing I’ve really got going for me is how soft all of my hair is. Which doesn’t count for much when most of my hair is going to be on my arms and legs a year or two from now. The chances are good that I’m going to go bald but, unlike all of my bald associates and family members (there are only two of them and they’re both on my father’s side), I won’t be able to grow a lustrous beard to compensate for it. Which is a total bummer. I want nothing more out of my hair than to eventually have a giant wizard beard. I feel like that shouldn’t be too much to ask considering how hairy I am in general, but my beard is still slowly working on connecting over my upper lip.

Personally, I’m getting to the point where I kind of want to just shave my head. For one thing, I feel like a nice big change is exactly what my life needs right now. I already moved my room around, so maybe I should just change something about myself if I really want to feel like something is different now. For another thing, I’d save a lot of money on shampoo and a lot of time in my morning routine if I no longer had hair that needed washing, combing, and drying. Plus, it’d be easy to maintain. Heck, I could ask my roommates to just buzz my head clean every week and then I’d never need to do anything but buy a new trimmer every few years. Or I could learn to do it myself, since I’ll like live with the remnants of my hair for the rest of my life, just like my grandfather and uncle. Aside from the need to shave/trim regularly, going bald would make everything much easier.

I’d just really miss having long hair. I enjoy having it and not needing a hat during the winter because it keeps my ears cold. At some point, probably soon, I need to make a decision. Shell out the money to try to get my hair back into sustainable condition or commit the bald look and figure out where to stop trimming near my ears so my beard looks natural. Is it where the sideburn reaches its consistent width, or is it level with the part of my ear that connects to my head? Or do I just trim to until the hair is all the same color (my facial hair is a reddish-brown and my head-hair is dark brown)? There are so many unanswered questions and I don’t really care enough to seek out the answers. Maybe the knowledge will just come to me when I pick the bald route. Spontaneous knowledge, like my parents expected to happen when I first started growing facial hair.

Is it common for parents to not teach their kids how to shave, or was that just me? My childhood was weird, so I’m not sure I can take my own experiences growing up as an indicator of the general way things go…

 

 

Saturday Morning Musing

After spending almost two months reflecting on my emotional state and then doing everything but reflecting on my emotional state for a few weeks after a breakup, I’ve found myself finally settling back into some kind of normal life. I’ve processed the breakup to the point where all I need to do is let more time pass and keep myself from getting caught in any thought spirals (which is something I need to do regardless) and I’m back to monitoring my emotional state with regular (if much less extensive) meditation and reflect. As a result, I’ve achieved a sort of emotional neutrality I haven’t felt in a while. For the most part, it’s kind of nice. I had a small depression episode today that only lasted for about an hour because I knew exactly what was on my mind and what to do about it in order get through it quickly. The only real downside is that I’ve got this emotional state that is in discord with most of the music I’ve been listening to for the past six months.

Music is super important to me. I struggled with silencing the intrusive thoughts from my OCD and anxiety when I was younger, but eventually discovered that listening to music on top of doing normal activities like reading or playing video games would keep them at bay. Music was also what got me into meditation because a retreat I did in high school had a guided meditation where one of the retreat leaders talked to us while we listened to some calming music. When I wanted to achieve that same level of mental clarity again, I turned to music to help. Music has been the basis for my meditation since then, even if I no longer need it. I usually play the song in my head if I can’t clear my thoughts or I’ll get it playing on my iPod if my thoughts are drowning out the mental music.

Even as I write, music plays a huge role. I’ll create playlists full of songs that make me feel a certain way and use them to get me into the right mindset for particularly difficult or emotional scenes. When I need to write something that involves dredging up parts of my past that I’ve purposely buried, music keeps me from getting lost in the memories. When I’m trying to write a poem to help deal with something I’m feeling, I’ll find a song that resonates with that feeling and play it on repeat until the poem is finished. Hell, the meaning of songs at a particular moment in my life has inspired entire stories. The one I worked on during 2017’s National Novel Writing Month was inspired by a song and a book I read. Last week’s Flash Fiction was inspired by a song I was listening to and a TV show I’d been watching.

Musical is an integral part of my everyday life. I use it to help me deal with my emotions by influencing them in one particular direction or another. If I want to focus on feeling an emotion and accepting it, I’ll play something that resonates with it. If I want to focus on pulling myself away from the emotion, I’ll play something that feels similar, but pulls me in the direction I want to go. If I need a temporary but drastic mood change (when a big depression wave hits at work and I just need to get through the rest of the day), I’ll listen to something that sort of counter-harmonizes with the emotion. I keep a huge amount of music around and am constantly building more playlists because I like to weave music into my life. Which is why the current discord is stressing me out so much.

Right now, I feel like everything is pretty alright. Nothing is great, but nothing is terrible either. Nice things happen and bad things happen, but they move along quickly so everything just flows up and down around neutral. However, all of my music is tied to other mental or emotional states. My old neutral music is now tied existential reflection and emotional delving. Some of my favorite low-mood resonance music is now tied to the emotional tumult I felt as my relationship came to an end. Most of the rest of the music from the past six months is songs that remind me of the relationship I’m no longer in or how love feels, neither of which is useful right now. All of this music is discordant with my current emotional state and trying to just let the music wash over me and wipe away my intrusive thoughts is actually making things worse. I get frustrated and antsy. I can’t sit still or focus on anything for too long.

In order to get through this now-frustrating neutrality, I’ve spent the last week trying random songs on YouTube, screwing around with only Pandora playlists, and letting Spotify recommend songs until I want to throw my headphones across the lab or my room in frustration. Thankfully, one of my good friends does the same thing I do and we have enough connections in our musical taste that we can make good recommendations for each other on occasion. She had a brand new album she’d been listening to that not resonated with me, but had a few more albums show up in YouTube’s autoplay feature that also resonated. Thanks to her suggestions, I’ve now got a new playlist for this particular feeling. After spending the last couple days listening to it, I finally feel like I’m working through this neutrality and will be able to leave it for something more positive soon.

While listening to the music, I tried to pick through what was responsible for the downward trend of this neutral feeling. It wasn’t until this morning, as I lay in bed and fought against the desire to spend the day in bed that I realized that the hardest part of my breakup is that I’ve now got an entirely empty summer. Just over four weeks ago, I had a summer full of new things to do, new places to go, and new people to meet. It was exhausting to think about, but also so incredibly exciting. Now, I have nothing but free weekends. I’ve got nothing major happening this summer and very little to look forward to from one week to the next. What’s worse, I don’t even had anything I want to do. D&D is great, I’ve got tons of great books to read and review, there’s a new marvel movie out, I’ve got at least 100 Steam games I’ve never played, and I’ve got so much I want to write. Unfortunately, during the spring, I decided that spending time with my girlfriend was more important than most of those things and going out to do new stuff in new places with new people was just as important as she was, so now none of that stuff feels exciting or new. Interesting and engaging? incredibly so, just not exciting or new.

I’ve thought many times about reclaiming my summer, filling it up with other things I can do with my friends or trips to visit people, but the neutrality (which turned out to have a decent amount of apathy mixed in) takes over before I get anywhere. Throw in the fact that thinking about why my summer is so empty almost always leads directly to a negative thought spiral and I find myself unwilling to really consider what I’m even going to do for any given weekend until I’m waking up Saturday Morning.

I really need to get more active. Schedule some trips and do something fun with people I haven’t seen in forever. It may not keep me feeling emotionally or mentally positive, but it will at least keep me busy and that will keep the apathy and negativity away. If I can also keep myself supplied with the right kind of music throughout the summer, I might actually come out of this feeling better than I have since I graduated college.

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

Trying to put together gear and clothing for a medieval combat society’s summer event is a hassle. I enjoy Belegarth–the foam fighting system I participate in every Thursday–because it can be a ton of fun to run around and hit other people with foam weapons without having to worry about role-playing or special rules. All you have to do in Belegarth is hit them hard enough for them to count it as a real hit and not hit them in the head. Pretty simple, when it comes down to it. At least, that’s how it plays out in practices. I’m sure there are more rules that come into play when participating in the huge fights that happen during national events, but I haven’t done any of those so I wouldn’t really know about them.

Even when it comes to creating gear and clothing for events, most of the rules revolve around ensuring safety in a full-force sport. There are a few rules about “garb” for events, but mostly people just don’t want to see anything overtly modern like screen-printed t-shirts and cargo shorts. Which is unfortunately eighty percent of my wardrobe. Since the rules are fairly lax and most people aren’t sticklers, you can get away with loose fabric pants with the cuffs removed and plain shirts with a triangle cut out of the neck and the cuffs removed from any long sleeves. Removing the cuffs is the big thing, apparently.

There are, of course, more elaborate methods of creating garb. Sewing loose pants from some dark-colored fabric, throwing together complex top assemblies made of fashionably arranged bits of fabric that are going to get absolutely shredded as soon as you start fighting, tunics, surcoats, tabards, sashes, belts that are tied instead of buckled or cinched, and more! They all take a surprisingly large amount of work and knowledge if you want to do them right, though. Pants made of two bits of fabric seem like an easy thing to make, especially if you have a sewing machine, but there’s a lot of work that goes into making sure the legs are the right width in the right places, that the seams are straight, and that there’s adequate room in the crotch and rear for whatever you’ve got going on there. A tabard is essentially a long bit of cloth with a hole for your head and a design on it if you’re feeling fancy, but you’ve still gotta make sure it fights well, ties up properly, and isn’t so long that you’re tripping on it or dragging it behind you.

Now, I’ve done costuming before. I’ve helped to create various articles of clothing for theatrical products. Put in my time in the sewing mines, as I like to think of it. I still suck at it, despite that. I can follow a pattern easily enough but, even with a really good sewing machine, I have trouble keeping everything straight, un-bunched, and turned around the right way. The second pair of pants I ever made had one seam on the inside and one on the outside. I can do clothing repair by hand easily and quickly if I’ve got a sewing kit, but that’s an entirely different beast. I would not want to embark on a bigger creation project without either guidance or a strict pattern to follow. While those things exist, they can be hard to line up at the last-minute when you’ve spent the last few months procrastinating until about a week before you need the clothes you’re still not sure how to make.

I have no one to blame but myself.

Despite the fact that I’m probably going to need to either give up all my evenings or go to an event in what feels like really low-quality garb, I’m excited for the event. Despite participating in this combat society on and off for over four years, I’ve never actually gone to an event. Fighting is incredibly stressful for me as even a minor verbal conflict can be enough to exhaust me, and fighting as a part of a large group sounds like a nightmare made real. Half the reason I fight is to prove to myself that I am capable of overcoming my limitations and proving to myself that my mental health issues don’t limit me, so going to an event seems like a good idea to aim for. Next weekend’s event is going to be relatively small, as far as events go, and I don’t really plan to fight for very long during it, if at all, so I should be fine. I might fight for an hour just to prove I can and help me get used to the idea before I attend a national event or try to fight in a huge battle with hundreds of other people. Dip my toe in the waters, so to speak.

There’s plenty to do at these events without fighting, though, so I’m going to try to keep myself as busy as I can while I’m at the event. If I can stay busy and outside the fighting for most of it, I should be fine. Plus, I’m a huge fan of anything that keeps me busy and focused lately. Keeps my mind away from any dangerous spirals. Toward that end, I’m going to start obsessing about making the perfect fighting pants for next Saturday and see if I can figure out how to make them the kind of pants that can also be shorts since I’m going to get heat exhaustion if I have to wear pants and run around outside all day. There’s a line, just a little bit past the knee, where they can wind up being both. That’s my target. We’ll see how many tries it takes me to hit it.

Saturday Morning Musing

I saw Avengers: Infinity War recently, with my girlfriend and my two roommates, and I’ve gotta say that my least favorite part of the movie was talking about it before and afterwards. Trying to actually engage in a debate about the timeline, what was likely to happen, what the movie’s actual events would mean in the long run, and how this all fit into the greater Marvel universe (which was the dumbest part of the discussion because the cinematic universe is 100% not the same uni/multiverse as the comics) was completely useless.

That isn’t to say that anyone was being stubborn, intransigent, or deliberately abstruse. No one was trying to be difficult and it was mostly just spirited debate for the most part. There were some difficulties, as there often are, because we all have very different ways of expressing our opinions that can sometimes make even the same opinion seem opposed to each other  The main issue is that I can point out the problems of a movie or book without it impacting my ability to like or enjoy it.

I studied literary criticism in college, which means I have a hard time turning of the “critique” part of my brain, but it also means I was quite literally trained to be able to look at the flaws of a story and still be able to evaluate it without letting one or two faults cloud my judgment. I’d like to say that’s the only difference, but I know people who were in my classes who never quite figured out how to do that.

When I said there were problems with the timeline that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has previously released as a result of the movies they released after the timeline, one of my roommates immediately leapt to defend the MCU despite the fact that, as we eventually figured out, he agreed with me. To him, my statement implied that the timeline issues of the MCU made the whole series of movies problematic. In my mind, it meant exactly the words I said. It took us a couple of minutes to figure out that he’d added implications that I hadn’t intended and to settle into an uneasy moment of agreement following a couple minutes of disagreement, but this is a situation I’ve been in so many times I feel like I should start to expect it any time I have something critical to say about any popular book or movie.

I could provide a long list of the things that got messed up or where unnecessarily changed in the Lord of the Rings movies and let’s not even get me started on the pile of steaming issues that was the second and third movies in the Hobbit trilogy. There’s also a few issues I spotted in the Harry Potter books over the course of the last few years, as I’ve re-read them a couple of times. Hell, I can even find problematic things in even my favorite books. Any time I start to talk about them with most people, though, they immediately get defensive or start bashing whatever we’re talking about.

It starts to feel, sometimes, like people can only love or hate something and that, when they do this or react strangely to me pointing out issues in something I love, people are telling me I can only love or hate something. I dislike being told what to do or put inside a box at the best of times, but this whole thing grinds my gears because emotions and preferences are so much more complex than that. I can love something that I believe pointlessly frustrates me. I can dislike something that has elements I enjoy. Like the everything else in the world, appreciation for stories is made of shades of grey rather than just black and white.

The only thing that frustrates me more than this is people telling me I can’t like something because they think its dumb or people acting like their opinion means something definite. I have a person in my life who does this a lot and I have a hard time expressing my frustration about it because I get so annoyed when it happens that my response is almost always too extreme for the infraction. I know I should say something, but it’s really hard to be polite and have an earnest discussion about what someone likely doesn’t see as problematic when you’re fighting down the urge to be angry about it.

Saturday Morning Musing

There’s a part of me, deep down inside me, that worries I’ll eventually run out of words. Not in a “be unable to write or talk because I can no longer use words” sort of way, because even I do not have enough senseless anxiety to worry about that. This part of me is specifically afraid of running out of Things to Say. It worries that I’ll eventually say everything I have to say of any consequence and I’ll no longer be able to convince myself that I should be writing.

I don’t remember who it was, which irks me greatly, but I saw someone on Twitter post that to be a writer, you need a bit of an overly large ego. The whole idea of being a writer is predicated on believing that you have something to say that people want to hear. You can’t really write a story or a newspaper column or even a tweet without believe that what you are writing is something that someone wants to read. Sure, a lot of tweets are pretty dang meaningless and don’t have much thought put into them, but there’s also a lot of rather casual arrogance out there about writing.

Just like when you talk to a friend, writing a message includes the implicit belief that they care about what you have to say. Tweeting includes believing that the people who follow you care about what you have to say and that random strangers could potentially care about it. Writing a blog says that I think you, whoever you are, care about what I have to say. Writing a book says that I think a bunch of strangers will care about my thoughts or stories. No matter what I do, I have to believe that what I have to say is something that someone wants to hear.

I know it might just be a result of my OCD and the particular ways my brain words, but that thought feels like a vortex it’d be really easy to get stuck in. I struggle regularly with the belief that I don’t have anything worth saying. I don’t really posses an ego large enough to simply brush past that doubt, so I often wind up trying–and failing–to justifying writing something. And it isn’t just blog posts. It is everything from text messages to Facebook or Twitter replies. I can’t tell you the number of messages/comments/replies that I’ve typed up and then deleted instead of sending. For today alone, my best guess would be at least two dozen.

Some people say that anyone can be a writer and that is definitely true. What people often fail to take into account is that, like any other trade or art, it takes a lot of work to actually be decent at it. People go whole careers without ever being good at it and even fewer ever wind up being considered great. Writing gets treated as an after thought in a lot of work places and by a lot of people, but our increasingly electronic world depends more and more on writing. Thanks to the internet, the main way we interact with people is through writing. Video chat may entirely replace text-based communication on the internet eventually, but I think it’ll be a while before then since video still uses a lot of cellular data and that can still be very expensive for a lot of people (myself included).

Yet here I am, struggling to keep up with my daily blog posts because I feel like I don’t have anything worth saying. I find myself circling back to previously picked-apart topics and thinking I don’t have anything worth adding. I can’t find any thought or idea worth writing a poem about. I can’t think of any story worth telling here. That nothing I have to say is worth posting about.

It took me a while to realize that in order to consider whether or not something is worth saying, I actually need to have something to say. There’s little reason to shout down something as worthless if there’s nothing actually there and one thing I know for a fact about myself is that I’m not going to shut myself down over nothing. There’s always something at the core, even if I can’t seem to find it. Every thought spiral, every depressive episode, every single needling anxiety. There’s always something there, beneath the emotional/mental turmoil.

While it felt like a huge epiphany at the time, I’ve got to say that it really hasn’t changed much. I still wonder if everything is worth posting or writing or even considering long enough to see if I have enough there to write about. Hell, I wrote most of this out and then nearly trashed it since I don’t have much of a conclusion or anything thought-provoking to say. Mostly, I just wanted to say this so maybe someone else thinking the same thing would know they’re not the only one wondering if their words are worth it.

I’m pretty sure they are. Probably. You never know until you try?

Morning Coffee

Harris woke to the scent of frying bacon, birdsong, and early-morning sunlight. He blinked his eyes, trying to adjust to the light from the window Linda had thrown open.

“C’mon, get up!”

Harris pulled the blankets over his head. Linda sat down on the bed, pulled the blanket back, and gave him a kiss on the nose. “If you wait too long, breakfast is going to get cold!”

Harris smiled as Linda pulled the sheet back, putting up only a token resistance as she hauled him out of bed. “Alright, alright.” Harris pushed himself to his feet and hugged his wife. “You win.” After putting on his bathrobe and new slippers, he followed his wife’s singing down the stairs to the kitchen. He watched as she flipped pancakes for a moment and then started making coffee. Five minutes later, they were eating.

“I’ve got a few errands to run, Harris, but I’ll be back shortly after one.”

“Alright. I’m going to work on getting our taxes filed after I clean up here. Should be done before you’re back.” He smiled at Linda.

He lifted his mug to take a sip, but the handle slipped in his hands and hot coffee poured into his lap. Even as he leapt out of the chair, part of his brain pulled at him and, instead of a coffee stain on his robe, he was looking at his bedroom.

The shades were drawn and the window was closed. The air smelled faintly of sweat. He looked around his room and tried to see it as he had when he was still asleep. He tried to remember his wife as she had looked that morning, but all he could remember was how her face had looked when she handed him the divorce papers later that day.

Saturday Morning Musing

I started this year, 2018, by telling myself that I was going to put my writing first. Instead of sacrificing my writing time in favor of my friends, catching up on sleep, playing video games, reading books, or building relationships, I was going to write. Not all day, but for at least two hours a day. That seemed perfectly reasonable, since I was already sort of doing that anyway with my, at the time, two months of daily blog entries. Turns out, it is a lot harder than I expected. Not so much the writing time part, because I can make the time for it, but actually making it my number one priority.

When my roommate went to the hospital, I gave up all of my writing time for that day to visit him. I’ve given up multiple days each week to spend time with my girlfriend. I started playing D&D on Monday nights, which often means I’m too tired to write when I get home at 9:30 or 10. I’ve been going to foam fighting practice almost every week, which definitely leaves me too tired to write when I get back. I am prioritizing people and social interaction over writing rather consistently at this point. I do it without thinking. I have a natural tendency to put other people’s desires, or what I think are their desires, before my own, so it can be a difficult habit to break even on my best days.

I don’t really regret it, though. As much as I’d like to have a bunch of writing done or have rebuilt my buffer so I’m not writing blog posts the evening before they’re supposed to go up, I really don’t think I should have made my decisions differently. I want to prioritize writing above everything else, but the world is full of things that are actually more important than getting a thousand words written, no matter how much I want to have written those words. Honestly, I can’t even really say that I prioritize my writing over other things like resting or playing video games. If I’m too stressed or exhausted, I won’t be able to write well. I can sit down and produce words no matter what, but there comes a point when it is easier to just take a break to rest and try again some other time.

Recently, I haven’t been writing as much as I planned. I intended to write an extra thousand words every day this month, on top of maintaining my blog, but I’ve written exactly zero extra words. I sit down to write and wind up feeling too tired to get anything written but the stuff I absolutely need to. I only ever sit down to write at the end of the day because I’ve been spending my work days prioritizing work (as I should be, since it pays my bills and allows me to participate in society) and then I come home and wind up spending time with my roommates or making dinner. I can’t say these decisions are the wrong ones to make, it’s just that I find myself realizing that there’s not really anything to prioritize writing over.

I only play games and read when I’m stressed to the point of needing relaxation in order to sleep at all. I try to sleep enough every night because sleeping too little leads to depression spikes like last week’s and a haze that coats my mind is thought-slowing cotton. I can’t skimp on meals because the act of preparing and consuming a meal is very relaxing to my. I have been letting a lot of my cleaning go, lately, but that’s reaching the point where not doing it is stressing me out more than I’m benefiting from the extra fifteen to sixty minutes I gain from not tidying up my living space. I definitely can’t work less since I can barely avoid my life as it is. If I worked fewer hours, I probably wouldn’t be able to make ends meet or I’d be so stressed that I wouldn’t be able to do anything but desperately avoid thinking about my finances or panic about my finances.

I honestly don’t have much in my life that isn’t something I need to try to be healthy. I probably don’t need a girlfriend, but I really like having one and she’s an immense positive influence on my average mood throughout the week. I don’t really go on trips, I don’t waste time with things that don’t benefit me, like phone games or Imgur, anymore. I’ve cut out a lot of crap and tried to reinforce my life with things that positively influence me. I read more, now that I’m not browsing Imgur for hours every day and I get more done at work now that I’ve removed most of my handheld distractions.

I really should be seeing an increase in the amount of time I spend writing and the amount of writing I get done. I’m really not sure why I’m not, and I don’t even know where to begin trying to find out…