Saturday Afternoon Musing

I just took a five-day weekend and I already need another. One of the things I’ve been reflecting on recently is that it has been quite a summer. Two weddings because the relationship I was in, the end of the relationship I was in, throwing myself into my writing and my work in order to take attention away from the end of the relationship I was in, working more than ever so I could pay off my car loan, paying off my car loan, tons of flooding in my area, winning the Hamilton lottery, going to see Hamilton, trying to enjoy my long weekend and the game I took it for and being unable to because the internet has been going in and out without warning or pattern… A lot has been going on.

Sure, some of it has been good stuff, like the lottery and Hamilton, but that’s a still lot of emotional energy that gets spent. I can tell I’ve reached a new low because I’m always filled with the kind of existential exhaustion I associated with my depression but none of my other usual symptoms that go along with it. I also find myself spending an hour or more sitting on the couch, doing nothing or letting the TV just run because I know the internet is out again and, sure, I could write in a Microsoft document and just past it into WordPress when I’m finished or I could even just grab my phone and write my posts on it if I don’t want to bother with a bunch of temporary files but that’s a lot of effort and it’s taking all the energy I’ve got to just stay calm about how unreliable the internet has been and how that’s been negatively impacting my relaxation activities. Which isn’t at all a description of how I spent my early afternoon while waiting for the internet to come back so I could finish today’s post and get it online.

It definitely doesn’t help that work has been super stressful as well. We’ve got a big deadline coming up and I’ve had to assert my priorities to some senior coworkers a lot more than I’d like to. I’ve also had to deal with the prospect of getting put on a future project that continues a current project which has been a total nightmare of everything going wrong and one person domineering the design decisions. It’ll be a great product eventually, of course, but a lot of the time it feels like it’ll be good despite some people’s best efforts to turn it into an unholy abomination of things that sound good but are totally useless. I am extremely uncomfortable with conflict, but I keep finding myself gearing up for them at work because I don’t mind telling people they’re wrong or that they’re wasting my time. I’m one of the only people stubborn enough to sit through an hour of a meeting and stick to my (correct) line of reasoning rather than just agreeing so the meeting will end. I don’t blame my coworkers for not being willing to fight to the death like I am because they’ve been dealing with this guy for much longer. Most of them are much friendlier than I am with people who waste their time and none of them are as stubborn as I am. I’m a perfect storm of the right personality traits to confront people like this person and the sincere desire to never be in conflict ever. I’ll fight the battle because I recognize it needs to be fought and, if it turns out well for me, will save me stress and effort in the long run, but I’d also rather just keep my nose down and get through each day as it comes.

Some days, it feels like a lot of my life is like that. Lots of stress and effort now so things will hopefully be easier later. As I see this particular thought crop up in my life, I find myself wondering at what point I stop thinking “it feels like” and start thinking “my life is”? I think the main problem the later is that it’s easy to go from reflecting on how much effort I put into everything in my life these days to a whole slew of negative thoughts. Stuff like “is it worth working this hard” or “I have to work this hard because nothing good ever happens” or “I wish something nice and easy would happen because nice stuff never happens to me,” all of which are false. If anything, this past summer has taught me that this isn’t really a “good” versus “bad” scenario, this is a “work” versus no work” scenario. I did no work to get the Hamilton Tickets. Spent twenty dollars and clicked stuff on an app every day for so long I forgot I was doing it. That’s not any kind of definition of work in my book. That was a good thing that happened to me. It was an amazing thing that happened to me and I’ll be holding on to that happy giddiness for months.

I don’t sleep enough. I take care of myself last of all. I have depression that leaves me feeling listless and unable to do anything but focus on moving myself forward through the day. I get so caught up in my anxieties I can’t breathe. I have a hobby that fills my soul with meaning and helps me set direction for myself. I have good friends around me who care about me and the stuff I care about simply because I care about it. I have terrible luck, but it often turns good in surprising ways and at unexpected times. I can support myself and am only financially limited by my willingness to work extra hours. I make enough that I don’t actually need to work more than my required minimum number of hours to make ends meet. My life is pretty well-balanced, honestly. It’s not bad. It’s not great, either, but it’s on the positive side of neutral. I just have to work hard pretty frequently. Not because my life or lifestyle is in danger if I don’t, but because that’s the cost of making progress on my dreams. I wish it was easier, but then I probably wouldn’t value the time I get to work on my dreams as much as I do. I wouldn’t value a quiet weekend in the woods as much as I do.

Today, I don’t wish my life was different. Today, I just wish I had a few extra hours each day. There’s so much to do… It’d be easier if I suddenly got four extra hours every day so I could sleep more. I bet I’d get a lot more done if I was well-rested all the time. Maybe that’s what I should do with my next vacation. Just go to bed every day at ten at night instead of staying up super late because I know I don’t need to get up for anything in the morning. It’s worth trying, some day.


Saturday Morning Musing

Ever since the flooding in the Madison area happened, I’ve started to regard thunderstorms and rain storms as actual storms rather than a simple minor shift in weather conditions. I used to enjoy sitting on my porch during storms, drinking a beer or just watching the rain fall. Now I can’t really shake the feeling that I’m looking at one of the first steps required to create a natural disaster. I used to take comfort in rain but now I spend most of the storm wondering if this is going to be enough rain to flood again or if the slow but steady rain over several days is going to make the lakes and rivers around here rise even more. I’m not in any danger, thankfully, but tons of people who live near me are in danger, as are a bunch of people I know.

Storms were once incredibly dangerous weather phenomena because they could knock over buildings, wash away months or years of hard work, and easily ruin the lives of people who were in their path. As humans developed into what we are now, we learned to set up our lives in such a way that it would mitigate the dangers of a storm. Things like better building techniques, irrigation, mechanical pumps, and stuff like gutters or cisterns or aqueducts are all things we’ve developed or learned to use as part of our adaption to storms. Most of them were meant to make it more likely that we’d survive the storms or to prevent the storms from wrecking our things, but some of them were things we built to make the storms work for us. Humanity, ever-adapting, learned to be able to thrive in an environment where chunks of ice, huge globs of water, and the occasional bolt of electricity are fairly frequent over the course of a year.

We got used to the storms and nature’s wrath expressed through earthquakes, giant storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and lava spewing out of giant rocks on the horizon. We learned to adapt and to build our homes in a way that would leave them somewhat more likely to survive the same disaster again. We refused to move away from places we’d adopted as our homes and determined we would master our environment. No amount of flooding, storming, hurricaning, or erupting would stop us from living where we wanted. For a while, that even worked. We built giant walls to keep the water where we wanted it, with complicated doors and windows so we could control where the water went once it was gathered up. We learned how to make big, strong buildings that would not only stay upright in an earthquake, but protect the people inside them. We learned how to predict eruptions and what to do when they started in order to save as much of our community as possible. We figure out how to predict the worst of the storms and then communicated to people that they needed to hide in specially designed shelters. We just adapted to the problems we found in our areas, invented insurance to pay for the homes that kept getting wrecked, and carried on with our lives.

And then we screwed it all up. Thanks to global warming and the fact that the entire world dragged its feet on responding (and many parts of the world still refuse to respond and at least one significant part of the world refuses to accept as fact), we get the leveled-up version of every storm. Hurricanes flood and destroy the costs. Tornadoes rip apart the interior of the US. Earthquakes show up in areas where there never were any before. Giant waves wreck coastal countries. Rainy seasons and typhoons stick around much longer in come areas and disastrous droughts show up in other places. Wildfires burn all summer and destroy ever larger patches of land. All the while, the people leading my country stick their heads further up their asses, people with money decide how best to screw over everyone else, and reactionary politics starts working its way into political systems that seem designed to let them have their way. The world is on its way to hell in a hand basket and it feels like all I can do is watch. And write.

I don’t really think I’ve got the power to change much right now. I’ve got a platform and a voice, but not a lot of people listen. I’m not even the person people should be listening to for these problems. Those people are screaming at the top of their voices and all the systems that should be taking notice are ignore them. It sometimes feels like there isn’t much of a point to trying. I wonder if there’s any point in trying all the time. Not about sticking to writing, I’ve thankfully passed that point in my life, but about trying to make people see what’s wrong in the world. So many people want nothing but confirmation of their own biases or to be told that someone else is taking care of the problem. What’s the point of reaching out if everyone who will listen already agrees with you and everyone else refuses to accept anything that differs from their opinion? In the age of the internet, it’s super easy to find whatever you want to confirm your incorrect beliefs. I mean, we’ve got people who think vaccines are bad because one shitty-ass doctor lied to the world (and lost his license) and we’ve got people who believe the Earth is flat because some people wanted to figure out if they could make people believe something stupid. How the hell do you try to talk to people about scary, difficult topics in a world where people will believe governments are controlled by some fictional “deep state” and that a bunch of money-grubbing assholes are actually prophets of some insider who will shortly expose the “deep state” for the dark cabal of secrecy and manipulation it supposedly is?

The world suddenly got too weird for me to understand it. I want to be a voice of reason, but it’s pretty clear that people care less and less about reason lately and more about emotional appeal. But only emotional appeal that benefits them because screw all the people who die due to, or have their lives ruined by, worsening natural disasters, racism, police brutality, fascism, extreme poverty, or disappearing natural resources.

Normally, I’d like to go sit on my porch and take comfort in the rain that’s gently falling on the area, but I can still see the pile of ruined furniture and carpet sitting next to my neighbor’s driveway if I do, so I can’t really enjoy the rain that’s probably helping to grow mold behind what’s left of the drywall in their once-finished basement. Instead, I’m going to sit here and write something until I feel better about being unable to make the change I want to see.


Saturday Afternoon Musing

Some days, what you really need is to hang out with a new friend online and repeatedly punch each other in the face during a custom PVP match only to eventually betray each other with ridiculously over-powered guns so that you both wind up fighting over who gets the ammo for the over-powered guns by returning to punching each other once again.

That was my evening. Well, the end of my evening. Played a lot of other games before than and actually did some more progress-oriented stuff in Destiny 2 before inviting a new clan member to a private PVP match so we could punch each other more effectively. I mean, you can totally still punch people when they’re on your team and you’re wandering around a planet shooting bad guys, but there’s never a winner. It doesn’t do damage. No friendly fire in Destiny 2, thank goodness. My clan’s favorite pastime, while we’re waiting for an event to start or for someone to complete a platforming puzzle, is to shoot each other or try to knock each other off of stuff using melee attacks. It’s a good time.

Really, though, what helped the most last night was being able to just relax with my friends and do something that engaged my attention. Additionally, since I don’t have any plans for this weekend, I was able to just read until I finally felt tired enough to sleep. If I’d had plans today, I’d have stressed out about the fact that I couldn’t sleep until about half past one in the morning because I would have needed to wake up and get out of bed at a certain time. Sleeping in and having a leisurely, quiet morning that ended in me playing a few hours of World of Warcraft was so relaxing. I didn’t need to think about anything, there was nothing going on for me to plan or anticipate, just the calm meandering from one task to another that is a big breakfast, kitchen cleaning, and using up all the bonus XP my character in WoW got because I didn’t play for almost a week (which is a great feature, by the way, I really enjoy the fact that I basically got a free level’s worth of XP for not playing).

It’s been almost twenty-four hours since I gave up trying to process how I’m feeling and started focusing on just escaping for a bit. Coping instead of dealing with it, really. I can still feel it there, sitting inside me and demanding attention, but it’s sorta like the feeling your eyes get when you’re tired. It’s easy to ignore as long as I’m staying focused on something. At this point, though, part of me wants to move on to processing it. I’ve taken a bunch of time away from it, gotten a lot of sleep, and recharged as much as I can in a day. I might go for a walk first, as well, just to solidify my peace of mind by spending some energy on a relaxing activity. The weather never got as bad as they predicted it would, so today’s warmth and sun would be quite enjoyable.

That being said, I’m living in a city that’s been devastated by the flooding. I don’t really think I could go on much of a walk without running into signs of the damage. Dealing with it on foot, though, when I’ve got the ability to just pause and consider what I’m seeing rather than just the glimpses I catch in my car as I drive back to my unaffected home, might make it easier to handle. Or perhaps even help me process it. Walking has always helped me work through things and maybe that’d be the ideal venue for processing this feeling rather than meditation. Meditation can be isolating and a lot of my feelings are tied up in a sense of disconnect from the problems plaguing my community, so maybe entering more fully into it would be good. Plus, I haven’t gone into town since Tuesday afternoon, when everything was settling from “dangerous” to “safe, but still destroyed.”

I kind of miss the places I used to walk when I was in college. The town was small, like my current town, but more developed. There were sidewalks everywhere and streetlights often enough that I never worried about being unable to see my environment. Plus, that neighborhood was entirely suburban. It sprawled out, taking up a huge amount of space, because it was a suburb of Green Bay and most people commuted to work in the city rather than anywhere in their town. Plus, it had all the benefits of being a college town without being constantly full of students. I went to a small college, some twenty-five to twenty-eight hundred students, so I was pretty much the only person wandering around late at night when I couldn’t sleep and the few quiet stargazing spots on campus weren’t doing the trick. It really was such a peaceful town. I miss it.

I miss a lot of things about my life before I moved to the Madison area. I miss the sense of peace and possibility I had back then, when it seemed like I’d be able to do anything if I just worked at it long enough. I miss the confidence I had when I considered my future and the ultimately naive way I thought everything would be alright in the end if I just pushed through. Now, I know things will always work out in the end, but frequently not in the way we wanted them too and all too often in a less-than-positive way. I don’t know anything about my future or what I really want out of life, so I just focus on what I think is best for me and what goals I want to accomplish now. I know I can’t do everything, but I’m also much more certain of my ability when it comes to things I know I can do, like writing.

It’s been a long four years and eight months, but this place is home now. Even if I do miss where I went to college, I’ve got a lot more invested in this city. Maybe I’ll eventually find places to walk that I’ll love as much as De Pere, Wisconsin, but I know I already enjoy being able to walk around downtown or through the numerous parks in Madison. Or just through the “downtown” parts of my little suburb. There are plenty of sidewalks there and a bunch of benches that should no longer be submersed. Maybe I’ll bring a book and sit on one of those for a while. That’d be pleasant.


Saturday Afternoon Musing

Today, I’m helping my family out by spending twenty-four hours with my youngest sister so she’s got someone around while my parents go on a trip. Thankfully, I didn’t feel too ill to drive down to Chicago, though I’ll admit I kinda fell into a bit of a zone as I drove. I’ve made the drive so many times at this point that I’m almost on autopilot when I do it now. Same turns, same exits, same traffic. The only thing that changes is where the construction is along the route. Or how much construction there is. This time, it felt like it was all construction.

Otherwise, the drive was nice and relaxing. I enjoy the sensation of being in motion and having the time to just relax and think while staying engaged in an activity. That being said, things started to feel a little weird when I started to get near where I grew up. I’m used to the feeling of things being or seeming different when I go to my old haunts, but this was a different. Instead of the buildings looking smaller or everything looking shabbier than I remembered (which is what usually happens when you go back to someplace after you’ve grown up of changed), everything looked shorter. It has been a while since I’ve been back here in the summer, but It feels like I remember there being more trees and less sky. It’s pretty clear that some of the trees are taller, but it just feels like I really saw the sky more than I’m used to around here. It’s a weird thing to focus on, but I’ve gotten used to always looking for sky since I live right on the edge of a forest, on a street surrounded by trees, and in a neighborhood that I can only get to by going through a small forest.

I know people’s perspective tends to change as they grow and as they reflect on their life, but I’m really not sure what this sudden focus on the sky means. Or if it even means anything at all. It could just be one of those things you notice that leaves you wondering if it’s been that way all along or if something changed that caught your attention. I know some things around here are looking a little more broken down than I remember from Christmas and a few of the houses around here have had some major work done on then, but none of those things would draw my attention to the sky. The weather isn’t particularly gorgeous nor particularly bad, so none of my usual reasons for extensively looking at the sky apply, but something definitely changed or disappeared.

Or maybe my focus just has. I’ve lately been making more mental effort to look up when my mind is wandering. Looking down is great and all, but I feel like the simple act of looking up instead of down has a positive impact on my mood. A minor one, to be sure, but still noticeably positive. To me, it’s the focus on looking at things a different way or paying attention to things a lot of people don’t think about. I mean, there’s a whole trope in stories that you can hide from anyone by hanging from the ceiling. It’s funny because the only thing the guard or whatever would need to do is look up, but they don’t. They look down the hallway or around the corners. The same is true of most people.

We have this little game we play at work. Someone once brought a pink stuffed flamingo into work and hid it someone’s office. Now, whoever finds it in their office has to go hide it in someone else’s office. This has been going on for several months now, but I hold the record for the longest hide because I always put it someplace you’d only see if you looked up. It helps that I’m taller than most of the people on my team, but I never put it out of reach for anyone. I’ve even told people my whole strategy revolves around the fact that people never look up and the pink flamingo is currently on its fifth week of being “hidden” on the underside of my coworker’s umbrella. I’ve pointed it out to two people and yet, despite the fact that it is easily visible to anyone who takes the time to tilt their head upward, no one else has spotted it yet.

I don’t think I’m special for doing something other people don’t do, I just like paying attention to everything, to all the details of my life and the world around me. Since I’ve started focusing my attention upward when I can spare it, I feel like I’ve noticed a lot more of the world around me than I used to when I’d let my attention drift downward. Plus, I’ve always had an affinity for the sky or stars and looking up is a constant reminder that they’re out there, even if I can’t see them.

So maybe it isn’t so weird that I feel like the sky is super big now. A bunch of trees got planted around here when I was in high school and now they’re all at the stage of growth where they’re filling out and getting noticeably taller every year. The skyline I grew up seeing has changed a lot since the last time I was here and spared the attention to look at it instead of trying to avoid sliding in the snow or had to watch out for other people visiting family during the holidays. Maybe there’s a tree missing somewhere or maybe the telephone poles got replaced lately. Heck, maybe it’s a combination of being a bit tired from a long drive and still feeling a little fuzzy from being sick yesterday. I’ll reflect on it and take some time to check out the skyline a bit more thoroughly this weekend, but there may not be an answer.

Sometimes you just notice something for the first time in a long time and it kinda sticks with you. Sometimes things are just different and you can never really nail down why or how. Whatever it is, at least it’s got me thinking about the sky rather than focused on how it always feels different to be visiting my parents’ house now, as an adult.

Saturday Morning Musing

You know what I’d love to do? I’d love to take a month off from work and all obligations so I could stock up on groceries and hide away in a cozy cabin on the side of a mountain somewhere. Set myself up with no obligations, no social media, and no schedule so I can just live for a month. Eat when I’m hungry, sleep when I’m tired, and just let my life drift into some kind of equilibrium. Rest up from the exhaustion of worrying about money, about my job, and all the anxieties of living in the modern world so I can figure out how much of my constant exhaustion is me wearing myself out with constantly working on stuff or not getting enough sleep and how much is from trying to cope in a world that seems to always be somewhat offset from my natural pace.

I’m currently promising myself that, once I’ve eliminated all of my debt, I’m going to take that vacation. It’s still a few years off, yet, but I feel like I’ve finally got a realistic grasp of how long it’ll take me. Back when I moved to Madison and had to deal with the prospect of paying back my student loans, I slapped a bunch of numbers together and figured I’d need about five years at my then salary to get everything paid off. That was untrue. I failed to account for taxes, the much higher cost of living in Madison, the fact that my minimum monthly loan payments would be mostly interest at first, and that I’d need a new car almost immediately on moving to Madison. Turns out that, even with about ten thousand dollars worth of raises over the three years I had that first job, I was just barely making ends meet (and spent a lot of time sliding into a decent a mount of credit card debt because I actually couldn’t afford to live at my initially salary once my car payments kicked in).

I’m in a better situation now, thanks to clearing up some of the debt, a much cheaper living situation, and the fact that I get paid for any overtime I work, now. I’m finally getting a good handle on my finances and get to enjoy the feeling of watching the numbers in my bank accounts go up until I dump it into a loan or something. Financial security feels nice, even if the forty-eight hour work weeks I need to do it leave me often at odds with my desire to rest more or try to get more writing done. An extra eight hours doesn’t sound like much until you’re cramming it into four days. I won’t deny I have it way better than people who need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, but I wish we could all just do forty hours of work and not need to worry about money. That’d be really nice.

Ever since I left college, I’ve lived pretty much every day with the mantra of “pay off my loans and do whatever it is I have to do in order to maximize my long-term financial and personal health.” It’s a long mantra, but it’s important to stay focused on that specific goal. Being debt free isn’t going to be helpful at all if I’ve got stressed-induced health issues or I’m constantly sick from years of living in terrible situations and a horrible diet. I can’t spend my money frivolously, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t buy myself things to make me happy or that are perhaps a little more expensive. The whole point of having money beyond what I need to support the requirements of a (relatively) healthy life is to enrich my life. New foods, the occasional convenience, hobbies, and good causes. All of them are fair game because they’re usually things that inject some positivity into my life when I’m struggling. Which is usually when I’m making a decision that’s the right choice in the long-term but means being upset or suffering or being majorly put out right now.

It’s kind of interesting to know you’re making the right choice and still feel miserable. Whenever I fall into a pit of self-pity, this is usually my focus. Thankfully, it isn’t as often as it used to be. Still, though, it can be really easy to get focused on how my life is nothing but an endless string of decisions made to maximize my future potential for success or happiness or whatever in exchange for present-day discomfort or negative feelings. If I didn’t allow myself some hobbies and the occasional bit of short-term happiness, I’d probably struggle with it more. Nowadays, I actually make sure to spend my personal interests budget every month, usually on a new game or going to the movies. I used to tell myself I had to make one dumb but fun decision every month, but it usually wound up being something along the lines of staying up all night playing video games. Now I just stay up all night writing or watching the stars, often more frequently than once a month.

The original intent was to get myself to move outside of my comfort zone a little more, to do something relatively harmless that would encourage the kind of impulsive joy I used to occasionally indulge in when I was still a college student. Stuff like random all-nighters at the library with my friends, drinks before writing a paper, getting the gang together for an all-day D&D session,  going to a bar and flirting with a random stranger while we both watched the Lord of the Rings marathon that was on the TV. You know, normal stuff. It’s just a lot harder to swing once you’re out of college because the bars feel louder and you can’t always just stagger back to your room if you drink too much. The college libraries don’t really like being filled with non-students and you’re probably not going to run into anyone you know anyway. Walking into a random bar and flirting with a stranger still works, but you generally don’t get to do it until the bars are too noisy to hold a conversation and my conversation skills are 99% of my ability to flirt.

It’s kinda difficult to be impulsive and thrill-seeking when that mostly means buying a tube of cookie dough and eating it with a spoon. Life as an adult is weird, sometimes. Or maybe it’s just my life that’s weird.

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!