howeverbrief: (Temp)
I've had this idea percolating in my head for quite a while, probably because I spend a lot of my break time at work asking myself the same questions, almost like a mantra even though I already know the answers before I ask them: What day is it? What time is it?

Over and over. Sometimes answering, sometimes groaning. Occasionally I'll add another: When can I go home? This question is easier to answer in even years because I know when I'm going home. Five hours. Three hours. One hour, fifteen minutes. Odd years, I only have one answer: I don't know.

I've been adding a level of difficulty to these questions lately, probably because there are only so many times you can ask the same questions of yourself without getting entirely bored of it. I start to wonder why do I ask these questions of myself when I already know the answers. Why bother with a mantra that merely passes the time?

I'm not sure of the answer. It makes me think back to a class I took years ago where the instructor told us the importance of staying in the moment. Ego, she said, is how we fall. We learn to balance by tuning into what's happening and adjusting to it rather than expecting things to happen the way we think they should. I am still not good at this, and every time I try to balance, I tend to fall, thinking I should be able to even though I don't focus or practice or even take the time to tune back into lessons I thought I'd learned long ago.

I am not good at remaining in the moment. I never have been. Most of the time, even though I'm more aware of this than I ever have been, when I make a conscious effort to take in the colors of the leaves around me, the temperature of the air, the smells from local restaurants and the uneven plodding of my feet in front of me, my mind tends to wander to other things. I explain my political positions to myself. I finish conversations I've never had. I respond to situations that haven't happened yet. I try to prepare for the next moment, month, year, tragedy, success, hardship... The thing is I know I can't predict any of this, yet I can't stop doing this. I have the world in front of my eyes, and my mind drifts off into deep waters, brought back only when it's time to open the doors and work again.

I've been thinking life moves incrementally. So often now, I feel myself pushing through uncomfortable moments I don't want to deal with by trying to step back and think of the bigger picture and/or positive experience I'm looking forward to next. At one point this year, after we had come back from our big trip and did not have anything else planned, I felt really depressed. Before me looms session, with all of its time-sucking, stress-inducing bullshit, and while I've been through it before, it's hard to know what will happen because every session is its own animal. I am not looking forward to the sometimes 90-hour weeks or the late nights I'll spend away from Mike because of deadlines or the constant task switching that's part and parcel of my job. I am not looking forward to seeing what kind of breaking point we'll reach with one member of my staff in particular who's a constant source of drama. I am not looking forward to the next six months.

I am not looking forward to a lot of nonsense I make worse for myself by worrying about what might happen versus just letting it happen and figuring out how to adjust rather than thinking I know.

But back to where I started. Life appears to move incrementally. No matter how we feel about it, it is indifferent. If I welcome what's coming, if I desperately want to avoid something, if I am bored of it all, it moves regardless, and I move with it. I can't help this. Good, bad, indifferent.

Like I said, I have not worked this out entirely, but it is something rattling around up there. Alongside these thoughts, I've been thinking there are only a few ways to get along in this constant incremental movement, a few ways to come out on the other side even if we are moving toward something regardless.

1. Do your best.
2. Admit your mistakes.

Simple enough to say, harder still to put into practice. Doing your best being an ideal concept to strive toward and admitting your mistakes being the near opposite action of realizing your less than ideal self will screw up even when you have the best of intentions.

I am tired at this point and unmotivated to finish this train of thought, but I wanted to share anyway. It has been too long. I will try again soon.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
Oh HAI, livejournal. I should update you, but tabular_rasa kindly asked me some questions I'd rather answer before I forget. If you'd like 5 questions, reply "Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, spock!" in the comments.

What is your favorite thing about where you live? (Take that to mean what you will: your city, your neighborhood, your home itself, etc).
I wish I could say I adjusted to being a city person (if you can even count Reno as a city, with its "Biggest little city!" status), but even though I lived there about ten years, I never quite adjusted. This isn't to say that I would never consider living in a bigger city than I'm used to, but given where I grew up, I'm pretty comfortable with small towns.

This town is particularly nice because it's not big and crowded with people, but it's also not so far away from places that are both less populated (like my parents' place) and places that have much more going on (like Reno or the Bay Area or, you know, an airport). It's pretty much the best of both worlds because I can hide from people when I want to but get to wherever else I'd like to be without much trouble.

Long story short, I like the size of where I live. Plus my house is pretty awesome too.

What is the last new thing you learned?
I think it was that there's another size of bed. I'd never heard of an Olympic Queen before, but I don't think it's very common. Ebay has a buying guide on bedding for them. I guess the difference between a normal queen and an Olympic Queen is about six inches in width. I only learned about this because the bedding we bought had measurements for an Olympic Queen.

(We got our bed today. It's giant and hopefully will be much more awesome than sleeping on the floor.)

If you could know your own future, would you want to know? Why or why not?
Hmmmmm. That is a hard question. On one hand, I'd like to know because I'm pretty paranoid about wanting to do a good job and would like to know that everything turns out okay in the end. On the other, I still want to believe that I can change things for the better if I keep trying to improve. I want to believe that I have control over my life to some extent, and if I knew what happened in the future, I might not strive or try to do other things that weren't in line with what I already know. (I may have some control issues and seen too many movies on time travel, haha.)

What are your thoughts on nudity? Do you like being naked? Does it depend on the context?
I think nudity is okay to some extent, though I'm sure you won't be surprised to find out it depends on the context. I am pretty modest, all things considered. The most skin I'll show is usually when I'm wearing workout clothes, and even then, it's nothing too scandalous. Since I don't have much in the way of curves to show off (and clothes don't always fit my proportions right), I don't tend to show a lot of skin to begin with, and I think I'd feel pretty uncomfortable being nude in public. I'm okay with nudity in the right situation, but I don't seek out time to be naked. I'm usually fine with it when it happens for the right reason, though. ;)

In the first round of a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock! which would you choose, and why?
I have to admit that even though I have heard of this variant of rock, paper, scissors, I had to look up the rules to find out what Spock and lizard can do. Usually, I'd pick scissors, as it's my go-to in the traditional game, but given Leonard Nimoy's recent passing and what the sign can do, I'd say Spock.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
I haven't written in my paper journal since the beginning of August. Before that, it was sometime in June. I don't seem to make as much time to privately chronicle the daily ins and outs of my thoughts or activities much anymore. It's not just here. It mostly feels like I'm constantly not giving myself enough time to get it all done, partially because my life has changed pretty dramatically in the last year. Hell, this slow change has probably been happening for longer than that, but like many other things in my life, I can't pinpoint an exact date to blame and draw on. I suppose that's life, or a convenient excuse. Maybe both.

Before I go too into musing, I wanted to share what I wrote the other night. I had wanted to write a much longer entry here about the topic, but I found myself too tired to follow through. It wouldn't leave my head, though, so this is what came out.

Read more... )
howeverbrief: (Ink)
"No, not us."

Oh, that we would not
surrender
Oh, that we would fade
gracefully without sorrow
or rancor
The sins of our forebears
chastised and abandoned
That we would be so silly
as to succumb to silver
strands when the years
should echo and multiply
greatness!

What a thought.

(And yet, oh, that
tell tale droop, that first
hallmark of youth deferred
And oh, all our plans for
it, unraveled.)
November 22, 2013

I haven't written poetry in quite some time. This came out of nowhere the other day, so I thought I'd share, with minor edits.

Process

Jul. 12th, 2013 11:58 pm
howeverbrief: (Ink)
I had an entry here-- thoughts about memories of related events popping up at inopportune times and causing unwanted and intense feelings of unrest even when I'm happy. My brain likes to talk when I least expect it, usually about things I'd rather forget that still manage to cause embarrassment or anger long after they're over. I wrote about how upset I was this morning remembering something I did years ago and how those years have heaped experience on top of this event and skewed it into something it never was before.

(And I still like this line at the end of that string of thoughts-- I end up simultaneously wanting to apologize for my past self and punch certain people in the face.)

Still, after that I tried to write about how I've learned over the years how little it helps to dwell on these things and how it's gotten easier to let them go given the right amount of perspective and time. Regardless of what's happened and how badly I've screwed up sometimes, I want to believe that all these experiences have lead me here and helped me become the person I am now, in this moment. As annoyed as I get a lot of the time, I also somewhat appreciate it.

I sat here staring at those words for a while and thought, "You know what? You should actually do that instead of just writing about it."

So, here's this entry instead.

Resolutions

Jan. 5th, 2013 07:33 pm
howeverbrief: (Ink)
I've talked at length about resolutions in the past. I'm sure I've mentioned multiple times that even though I'm fairly adept at keeping them, I don't tend to make them that often. This is probably because the new year always seems kind of arbitrary to me, and I don't put much stock in it.

Still, for some reason, this year I've been hit with an avalanche of potential resolutions. When I've been out walking alone, I've found my mind in overdrive, endlessly cycling through certain circumstances, attitudes, and bad habits I should remedy. I can barely keep up with them as they flow through my head, chiding my shortcomings but also rapidly disappearing. As I was crossing a rock pile on the bike path near my house earlier, I said, "Ok, resolution number... oh, I don't know, 57?" and laughed a bit, mocking myself.

I haven't said any of these resolutions out loud, probably because I don't want to see them on paper. I'm not ready for that kind of tangible evidence, I guess. I justify the long-held habits by reminding myself that bad habits are harder to break than good habits are to cultivate. I sum up the momentary mistakes and regrets by promising to reapply myself to the broken vows I've made in the past. Hardest of all, I hold up the future issues I know I'll have to settle eventually with the hope I'll have the strength and forethought to make the right choices when the time comes.

Like everyone else, I have no idea what's going to happen. I get a little anxious thinking about the possibilities, and I'm not sure how to deal with it all. I guess the good news is I don't have to figure out everything that will happen all at once, which I try to see as a blessing even if it doesn't always feel like one. All things considered, I keep coming back to trying my best, though I know it will sometimes fall short. Try; fail; evolve; grow. Same old story, different day. Such is life, regardless of what time of the year it is. Sometimes that is enough.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
I occasionally write in my paper journal still. Not nearly as much as I write here (which also isn't much of anything lately), but I thought I'd post it here too, slightly edited.

I watched a program (this program for those who are curious) that detailed the story of a mathematician (George R. Price) who, upon learning of evolutionary theory applied to social behavior, subsequently discovered a theorem that proves altruism is a trait strictly devoted to survival. The theorem was published, but then the man was so disturbed by the thought of altruism being driven by self-interest that he set out to prove it wrong by attempting to live a completely selfless life. Upon finding no way to prove or disprove such selflessness as being connected to any sort of egoism (as it was nearly impossible to prove such motivation even if it appears altruistic on its face), the man committed suicide.

It's an interesting paradox. On the one hand, it makes sense. You do good things to better your surroundings or make yourself or someone else feel good or whatever else, and it all leads back to self-interest. Even if you die saving someone else or perform another incredible act of bravery, it means genes live on (and you or your family reaps the rewards of such "kindness", thus helping their survival too). You've snuffed yourself but offered someone else's genes survival. On the other hand, it renders human kindness into a cold, calculated evolutionary goal, as if every nice thing you or anyone else has done is really all a ploy to make sure we all live to see another day in one form or another. It's a hard pill to swallow even if it does make sense-- a depressing take on what human beings really are at their core even if they think of themselves quite differently.

It made me think of the divide between free will and determinism, which I haven't parsed in some time, probably because it's another impossible riddle. In terms of religious tenets, it appears ludicrously hypocritical to me to imagine an all-powerful creator who also managed to impart free will on all us lowly subjects. It goes back to the silly question of a God being so all-encompassingly powerful that he can make a rock even he can't lift. It's ridiculous but also a fitting image for these issues of the mind and heart. If an all-powerful being set everything in motion and knows everything we're going to do before we do it, how is it possible that we are responsible for anything we do? In such an extreme, we have absolutely no power over what fate has thrust upon us, only that we're alive. On the other hand, free will breeds responsibility through choice in a system that is not pre-determined. On the contrary, it is chaotic and connection-less. Our actions have consequences, and we can effect change for good or ill. In such a system, we can't help but order (or mess up) our own lives and hope that somewhere in that chaos, we arrive at the right place. (Then again, the champion of free will theory was Sartre, and from what I've read, that guy was an asshole.)

Neither extreme is satisfying, but no one has come up with a foolproof theory concerning the middle ground of soft-determinism-- that heady divide between the two where free will works either inside a system of determinism or hand and hand or who knows how (that I know of anyway; I admit to being behind on current arguments in this realm). All I know is it's an interesting (if not frustrating) question. I suppose altruism is a different paradox, but that's what it reminded me of-- another problem I have no solution to.

...

On a different note, I got my hair cut today. I had a conversation with the woman cutting my hair that went something like this:

"What do you do?"
"Oh, I work for the legislature reading legal documents."
"Oh wow, like, all day? I couldn't do that. My eyes start burning when I read."
"Yeah, pretty much all day. Session is coming up, so that'll be interesting again. Lots of hours."
"Session?"
"Yeah, like where they pass all the bills into law."
"Oh, well do you get paid by the hour? That probably makes it worth it. People think I'm making it up when I say my eyes start hurting when I read, but it's true."
"Oh yeah, it definitely happens to some people, I've heard."
"Like my mom thought I was always making excuses, but it's true! Especially now that I'm out of school, it's a little easier for people to believe. It's funny though, because reading makes you smarter. My dad reads all the time and knows like five languages."
"Wow."
"Yeah, I wonder sometimes how we can hang out because we have nothing in common. Then again, when I was a junior in high school, I got really into reading those stupid Twilight books, like, read all of them really fast, and my GPA was a 3.8 where before it had been a 2.5. Kind of crazy."
"Yeah."

Not that I'm slamming this woman. She was really nice and good at cutting hair (also seemed really young, though that just might be me feeling old), but wow. Just wow.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
It's really hard to be reminded that there are bigger things than you, that there are processes at work over which you have absolutely no control. Not that you're always thinking you're the center of the universe or that life owes you an explanation, but a lot of the time, it's easy to coast along and be relatively happy in that obliviousness, thinking that as long as you try and do your best, it will all work out somehow. It's nice to have the illusion of action, that no matter what you'll be able to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and have a hand in fixing whatever is happening, but that really isn't the case, is it? Sometimes pushing and toiling and forcing something is just as bad as doing nothing at all. Isn't it a slap in the face when your good intentions amount to very little? Isn't it funny that no matter how hard you work, you are always somewhat powerless in the grand scheme?

Despite this, I still believe life runs its course and plays out in the way it's supposed to. However, it's hard when you're in the midst of these grinding gears to see where it all goes and how it will end up, especially if you're not sure you'll agree with the destination when you get there.

I am uncertain how to take these forces. They seem to converge all at once, and the only way to deal with them is to react as best as you can and hope it's not all wrong. Life has a funny way of kicking you in the teeth just when you think you have it figured out. You think you've learned your lessons, but that cockiness is always just shy of true enlightenment. Hell, even humility won't get you where you need to be-- that perpetual circle of "Oh, this old thing," and, "There are others much better than me," never really amounting to much. You've got to play it somewhere in the middle, the place where everyone's overreaching just a little hoping it falls where it's supposed to. I can't say I've found this, only that I've fumbled enough to know it's near impossible to get to though I keep trying anyway.

I feel weak. I am not strong enough to do everything. No matter what, I'll fall short in certain ways. Such is life and my flawed existence in this world. I've never been one to handle conflict all that well, and this helplessness feels like the worst form of failure. What do you do when you know you can't really do anything? How do you know you're not being pessimistic for the sake of self-preservation? How much risk is too much, and how do you recognize where that line is drawn? I suspect that's something that becomes apparent only after you've crossed it.

I don't really know what I'm talking about, only that I felt like I needed to say something, even if it doesn't really make any sense to anyone else. My feelings are here, there and all over the place, and all I'm trying to do is shelve this until I can find the resources to deal with it. I'm not very adept at that either, but since my thoughts refuse to cohere, this over-analysis is pretty much worthless.

It'll blow over, I think. It'll work itself out however it's going to work out. I probably just need to let it ride. Give it time. Whatever cliches work best in this situation.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
Actually, I feel like writing now. Strange.

(I'm in a Calvin and Hobbes kind of mood. Bear with me.)

It's kind of funny to me. Well, lots of things are kind of funny to me. I tend to do a fair amount of things because I find them funny. Sure, I am perfectly capable of being serious (and don't cross me if I'm being deadly serious because you won't like the results), but I spend so much time oscillating between depression and boredom that when I'm in a relatively even-keeled mood, I try to amuse myself as much as possible. I'm not saying I'm always successful in this endeavor (since I still waste a lot of time being bored, looking for better ways to use my time and/or berating my time-management skills), but I like looking around for things that will make me laugh. For all it's vast uselessness, the internet is pretty handy in this regard. If you can't find some obscure trivia to look up, person to stalk, game to play, person to talk to, old commercial clip to watch, or whatever else on your own, the internet will most likely have something on it that will suck up your time and make you forget life for a while. Well, now that I put it that way, I might as well say that if Marx was alive, he might have called the internet the opiate of the masses (and that's not necessarily a good thing if you actually want to get anything accomplished in life), but it's not like communism was really successful and you get my point.

Anyway, every once in a while, it strikes me that while I am definitely grateful for this technology that allows me to stay connected to a larger number of people than I would otherwise (because let's be honest, if we only communicated through letters and phone calls, I wouldn't have met a fair number of you much less gotten to know you in the limited way I have), there are a lot of things and people I don't miss. For all the connections I have made, lost links, cherished companions, new friends, long distance relationships, family I wouldn't see otherwise, and more, there are certain people I have lost contact with purposefully that I do not regret in the slightest. In fact, I reach points like this where I realize how long it's been since I've talked to these people, and my heart lifts in my chest. It actually leaps with relief when I think about how, even if the internet gives me the option to track them down (or I already know where they are), I never have to interact with these people again if I don't want to.

On some level, it's still sad to me that it turns out that way, that I can't have a good, lasting relationship with everyone I let in my life. I don't tend to open myself up easily to others, and connecting in any sort of satisfying way has always been difficult for me. It's not that I don't want to have friends or be close to people. Quite the contrary. I'd love to have some sort of storybook friendship where I could call someone up in the middle of the night and tell them things if I needed to. I'd love to be able to drop everything for someone else because I know they would do the exact same thing for me, no questions asked, any time day or night. Alas, I have learned that this isn't how life works. You can't really expect that from other people, but that's okay, too. Other people have their own lives happening, and on some level, it's pretty silly and selfish to put that much emphasis on friendship. I mean, I wouldn't be able to live up to my own sky high expectations, and there's no reason for me to expect that of others. In the end, you do what you can for people and hope it comes back. Even if it doesn't, why worry about it?

But I'm getting off topic here. I guess what I mean is it's especially hard to lose friends when you're kind of iffy about making them in the first place. Occasionally, I will still have long-dead conversations pop into my head, and I'll want to solve them, to talk with the person even though I'll probably never see them again. These are the moments I don't especially enjoy being conscious and living with a brain that's constantly talking. Sometimes I wish I could switch things off for a while, just long enough so I wouldn't have to rehash arguments and conflicts that should have never seen the light of day again.

Fortunately, there's a flipside to all this, and that's those moments like these-- where I'm sitting quietly by myself underneath my ceiling fan with the windows all open, nothing but the TV playing in the background, and I realize that I'm miles and miles, nay, years and years away from who I used to be and these people I used to know. After all is said and done, in the silence of my home, I occasionally feel very blessed in that I have somewhat figured out that, even if there's still a lot I have to do and many more things I am responsible for, I control the great majority of who still gets to stick around, the people I actually want in my life as opposed to the people I used to surround myself with because it seemed "too mean" to tell them to go away.

Maybe it was cruel to banish them, maybe at first. Maybe there's a better way I could have done that, softer things to say, a more tactful turn of phrase. Maybe I could have made things a lot easier for myself from the get-go, recognized these issues long before I did anything about them or convinced myself it was okay when I knew deep down it never would be. I did a lot of it the wrong way. I failed. I made mistakes, and it could have been different. There are so many possibilities and paths life could have taken, but all I know is despite them all, I've ended up here, firmly entrenched in myself. So far as I can tell, that's not a bad thing. I am who I am; no one has to come with me if they don't want; and I'm fine never seeing some people ever again.

I don't miss the past one bit. Bring on that horizon.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
So where are we now? It's evening, quarter past ten on a Friday night, and I'm sitting on my oversized chair wondering if I should close the windows because it's kind of cold in here now or if by getting up I should just give in and go to bed. Instead of doing either of those things, I'm stuck here. It's not all that bad, though. Most things aren't if you give them a chance.

Once again, I've been sleeping like hell-- barely going to bed at a time where I'll get just enough sleep to make it though the next day then either staying awake or waking up before my alarm goes off anyway. There's a lot running through my mind though not much seems to be happening. I suppose that's a fairly consistent state, now that I think about it.

I've been trying to do some adult things. I ordered a credit report, which just irritated me in its simplicity. I called about my credit card not working and found out it had been cut off since October, but they'd been calling the wrong number to tell me about it. I had a nice little runaround with them about my identity, complete with unnecessary lectures about changing the number on the account. I still have lots of other stuff I need to deal with too-- making doctor's appointments, finding ways to eat more fiber, trying not to say the wrong thing at work, and on and on and on. I think I call them "adult things" because I still don't really feel like I've got the hang of being "grown up" and responsible. I mean, I seem to be handling things okay. I pay my bills, go to work on time, exercise, feed myself and get dressed in the morning; but I suspect what I'm sure a lot of people do, even if I'm just guessing at this point. That's really the only thing I think I'm good at, guessing at things and hoping they turn out somehow.

Sometimes I realize I'm saying things I've heard other people say to me, and it makes me feel strange. I'll turn around in myself and feel like I did when these things were said, and I almost immediately want to explain it away and say that's not what I meant, that there's no reason for you (or me) to take it so badly even if you didn't see it that way at all. I don't know whether I just take everything wrong or if that's the way communication works sometimes. Well, that's silly of me to say. Of course I can't take everything wrong. I just kind of feel that there's a lot I haven't understood all that clearly up to now and outside of that, there's so much more I'll never quite get. There are always a million avenues for mistakes. Best to forge forward even when the burden of experience makes one cautious and nearly unable to move.

I don't know why I'm being so esoteric lately. It's not something I'm doing purposefully. You're not missing any secret messages in these vague ramblings. It's just the way things are going. Whenever I feel like writing recently, I tend to take these winding roads around what I mean, if I meant much of anything to begin with. Like I said, not a lot is going on, even if my brain seems to believe otherwise. I guess it's all just a waiting game at this point, a look in the distance and foggy promises that sound weak even as I conjure them up. I don't want to do the wrong thing. I don't want to say anything I don't mean. There's way too much insincerity in the world as it is.

I've said, "I don't know," about so many things so many times in this journal, and it's no less true now. I'm just doing my best not to sit on the sidelines. If something does come to knock me down, at least I'll be standing and somewhat ready. That's the theory I'm currently laboring under, anyway.

So it goes... or not. Whatever. Who knows?

Good.

May. 3rd, 2012 10:16 pm
howeverbrief: (Black)
"So--"
The question becomes
what I haven't said versus
what I haven't done
-May 2, 2012

I think this April was the worst "poem a day" challenge I've ever done. I kind of figured out it wasn't working when a couple days in, I could see the days piling up while my ideas were either stuck in my brain or half-formed. I still have a fair amount written down in various places which probably won't make it here. Somehow I'm okay with this. The tradeoff's been worth it.

Sorry if I've been kind of absent around here. I've been trying to keep up with everything, but the same kind of things keep happening. Lots of talking and losing track of time. This isn't an excuse. It's just what's going on. Life and all that. I must say I appreciate not being completely alone most of the time, even if it's not necessarily what other people consider having a social life. I missed being able to bounce all sorts of things things off of someone else and pick at someone's brain and not be so trapped in my own weird analyses. I missed being accepted, even when I'm not 100% coherent or pleasant. I'm not saying I didn't have this before, more that I kind of lost track of it for a really long time and thought maybe it was a myth I'd invented with which to torture myself while it was gone.

My coworker asked me at the concert how I handle the distance. I guess her son is in a long distance relationship with someone who only lives six hours away, and, "I don't know how you deal with someone who's a few states away!" How do you answer that? It wasn't something I'd thought of before. Really, more people are dealing with much bigger distances than I am for much longer times, and who am I to say much about that? I'm no expert. I have no reason to complain.

I'm not saying any of this is easy or that the distance doesn't get to me sometimes. Maybe because we've only been together a couple times in person, maybe because we talk all the time anyway, maybe because it's still relatively new, I prefer not to think about it that way. A friend of mine once told me something about how you can feel the ancient form of longing in your solar plexus, that you can tell by the ache. I don't recall exactly, but if I think about it too long, it hurts. I've spent way too many hours in the last few years hurting. Still, I can take it. What's life without a little pain, if for nothing more than at least you still remember how to feel something? I don't want to abandon anything as it's beginning for fear of what could be. That just messes up what already is.

I'm not all that good at living in the moment, but given the way I've lived and what little success that's brought me in the past, I'd rather try savoring each moment I have now than worrying about all the possible directions and forms this could take. People come and go, and Tom Robbins keeps echoing in my head, asking how to make love stay. I figure if I don't know, neither does anyone else. If everything continues to go well, we'll deal with any and all complications later on. If not, the same holds true, just in a different way. All I know is in the meantime, I keep hoping. Hope being one of those dumb things you can always do free and clear of any other solid proof of anything. If nothing else, there's hope.

Do the best you can with what you have. The rest will come whether you like it or not. That's good enough for me.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
I come back to this again and again--
It's such a strange paradox. I mean, while, technically, I'm closer to the end of my life than I've ever been, I actually feel more than ever that I have all the time in the world. When I was younger, there was a desperation, a desire for certainty, like there was an end to the path, and I had to get there.
I know what you mean because I can remember thinking, 'Oh, someday, like in my mid-thirties maybe, everything's going to just somehow jell and settle, just end.' It was like there was this plateau, and it was waiting for me, and I was climbing up it, and when I got to the top, all growth and change would stop. Even exhilaration. But that hasn't happened like that, thank goodness. I think that what we don't take into account when we’re young is our endless curiosity. That's what's so great about being human.

-Waking Life

I worry sometimes that this is all some sort of dream, and I'll wake up one morning back in my old life where I didn't have anything together and nothing making sense was the only sense of normalcy I had. I'm not saying everything makes sense now, but it sure beats the hell out of whatever I was doing in my early 20s. I look back on that time and remember feeling so inspired by everything around me-- the strife, the injustice, the very core of what was wrong with society and my own inability to fix it myself but desperately believing change was possible anyway. I suppose I should feel guilty at the lack of progress I've made. My previous self would be oh-so-disappointed in the person I am and would probably write volumes on how I've surrendered myself to living a half-intentioned life with little to no passion for anything. She'd be right in some respects. I do feel a little guilty, I guess, but at the same time, I don't call on other people to feel guilty with me just so I don't feel alone any more. I think that's a large part of the messed up origins of this place-- wanting to fix things but not knowing how and berating others for the very same shortcomings because it seemed better than doing nothing at all.

I still have some of the same problems. I feel very strongly about certain issues, but I don't tend to talk about them as much because of my job and the nature of these issues in the first place. There are things you just can't fix on your own. There are always other people to fight, always other opinions that won't jive with yours no matter how fine you tease out your premises and conclusions. There's an abundance of experiences and perspectives that prevent us from agreeing on the best way to answer even the smallest questions, and that's why there are still problems. We're better at arguing about who's right than we are about working together and finding compromises so we can actually get somewhere. It's easier to bicker among ourselves than unite against common problems, no matter how great the reward will be for everyone eventually.

Even though these things still exist and flare up in my head from time to time, I find I don't feel as frantic as I used to. I don't feel like tearing off my skin or drowning in my own sorrows. It was simple enough to open a vein and pour out every single thought and perceivable emotion, nuanced or not, back in the days where I had time and angst to spare, but while that might have been my one dream and passion, it didn't amount to much when it came to long term goals or anything resembling reality. I may have known the use of counting stars and staying up way past my bedtime drinking and carrying on, but no one pays for that. Eventually, it's sink or swim, and I took my damn time figuring out the swim part. I'm pretty lucky I made it here at all.

Of course I don't have it figured out. I probably never will. I'm just glad I don't hate myself as much as I did ten years ago. I'm glad some of this seems to make sense even if I'm aware that it can all disappear as quickly as it comes. Maybe I'm not as on-fire as I used to be (and maybe that's part of why we all eventually become part of the problem), but I don't necessarily think settling in to life as we know it means there's no room left for dreams. Sure, they may seem muted, changed or further away than ever before, but nothing says you're not allowed to want things, to strive, to keep walking forward in the hopes that it'll all work out in the end despite the way you've seen reality play out. If there was no room for that, I don't think life would be very interesting, especially given all the time we have to waste on day-to-day drudgery. There will always be routine and responsibility, but what of the splendors of life and love? What of the always elusive lure of happiness? What if you really can have it all, even if it's just for a star-splitting moment?

I don't know the answers to these things. I suspect no one else does either. That makes this journey all the more important for each of us, I think. Even if it seems like no one else understands, we're all in this together, each of us in our own way. I can't say I've mastered much of anything at all, and I've barely cobbled together what I have now after years of working hard on trivialities and finally succumbing to what I should have been doing all along after getting a lot of things wrong. It's a given that I've messed up, sometimes royally, and part of me says I shouldn't be anywhere close to where I find myself. Still, it's nice to say I'm happy. It's nice to be cautiously optimistic. It's nice to feel hopeful again.

I'd almost forgotten how it felt. If this is a dream, I don't want to wake up.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
Start the year with a gigantic smile on your face.
Laugh.
Feel good for once in this miserable mishmash of puzzle pieces that barely fit together if at all.
No one's going to come out and say that it'll be fine and actually know it, actually mean it in a way that's 100% verifiable, but hope against your own tired senses and sneaking suspicions and believe in something anyway.
There's no time to be so bruised and let down (though you will be); there's no time to shatter yourself into a thousand fantastical shards and miraculously smash them back together (though somehow it will happen anyway).
With all these sparks of idealism, you can shoot from the rooftops even if most of it is misplaced and hard to recognize under the thick veneer of supposed realism and self-doubt.
Flash against the overwhelming night rather than fizzling out against your own mediocrity.
We have insecurities to spare-- small horrible memories, cracks in that perfect shimmering surface, "You don't know me all that well"s slipped between little pockets of the purest kind of face-to-face dreams and wishes and silly desires we don't think can come true (but secretly want to anyway).
Underneath, there it is all broken and battered but also holding the various strands in a web that's just tight enough, woven so fine yet strong enough to carry our weight from one disaster to the next.
If nothing else, just try-- try, try with everything and even more, the places you don't know and the people you're not sure of, the feelings you shoved into a dingy traveling case long ago with only a cheap lock to keep them safe.
If this isn't want you wanted, stand up and change direction.
If that doesn't turn out well, understand it's never too late to start again in some capacity, even if certain doors are forever closed due to past mistakes and ill-dealings.
Accept and move on, forward, maybe diagonally if necessary, but never back.
No one can truly predict what will happen, so go forth and do what you're going to do, live the life you're going to live, be the person you're going to be.
No one else is going to get it right either.
Find some measure of comfort in that.

I wish I had some unifying message, some overarching "above all things" conclusion to impart, but I don't. I don't really believe in resolutions or looking back on the year once January hits. I've been saying the same thing for months ("It's (insert month) now? What the heck happened to (insert previous month)?"), and I can barely comprehend the significance of the past two years, much less the change that has happened since then. I'm just... really glad I made it to this point, and I'm not sorry to see it go. I'm more myself than I've ever been, if that makes any sense at all. I have a lot to be grateful for and lots of things to look forward to in the coming year, even if I'm not quite sure how it will shake out. I'm trying to keep myself grounded and pragmatic and within shooting distance of reality, but it's hard to plan for everything. We shouldn't want to anyway.

Still, I hope wonderful things happen and that these aren't empty words. The world has enough disingenuity to go around, I think. That all remains to be seen, but what's life without a molotov cocktail or two? What's happiness without a seedy underbelly to define it? Not very exciting at all.

Be well in 2012, friends. Much love.

Settle

Dec. 16th, 2011 11:18 pm
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One more, from December 12th--

Perhaps each stage of life is a form of settling. Every couple of years I've been able to look back at previous versions of myself, my modes of thought and ways of viewing things, and I think, "Man, was I wrong!" I keep seeing articles that echo this sentiment and say it only gets worse with age. You live and experience things, but it doesn't mean you'll eventually gain enough knowledge and foresight to prevent yourself from being stupid and making horrible mistakes. It's not like you suddenly develop a perfect form of judgment or you grow into yourself and finally (finally!) see what it's really supposed to be about and what you're supposed to do and how to make that all happen.

Ten years from now, I'll be saying the same kinds of things about the person I am now, just focused on different aspects I can't currently perceive. Who knows how long this goes on? Who among us really is the sage who will lead us out of our own darkness?

I want to be realistic. Pragmaticism and I have not always seen eye to eye. My staring into the horizon of possibility has been much easier than dealing with the day-to-day humdrum of making life actually happen. Reality is something entirely different once you step away from what you want to happen. You really can't live in that world all the time or you'll never accomplish anything specific. It is nice to have dreams to hold onto, but what of the sticks and stones raining on your roof? Someone has to deal with them eventually too.

(And around here I have a comment on how horrible my handwriting is. It's only gotten worse the longer I work. I guess that makes sense considering I don't really have any reason to practice my penmanship. The only reason I even write in cursive is when I'm signing my name. Otherwise, I print in this terrible scrawl. There are evenings where it's difficult for me to write for very long because during the day, I'm constantly picking up papers and books and moving rulers in order to read then picking up pens to write comments and such. I'm kind of surprised my writing is legible at all.)

Anyway, I ought to go to bed. Got to find one more Christmas present this weekend. I'm working on knitting two more presents, though I'm not sure if I'll be able to finish those before Christmas. I actually managed to finish sewing thirteen presents last weekend (and send one out). That's kind of an accomplishment. I still need to wrap the rest of those and the pile of presents I have left on my kitchen table, and I need to find some energy to bake cookies for a holiday potluck on Monday and maybe get my hair cut. Mehhhh. So don't want to do anything right now. I guess we'll see what happens.

Upstream

Nov. 16th, 2011 09:55 pm
howeverbrief: (Ink)
There's no time for both.

It gets harder and harder to tell the difference. I used to have many conversations about how certain seemingly opposing interests are actually two sides of the same coin. They repel each other, but they are also intrinsically bound, spinning away from each other back to back in near perpetual motion. Nothing can go on forever, though. You either need more fuel for that passion or it flashes and fizzles out leaving behind the burns of lessons hard learned. I haven't found a surefire way to keep that going. What do you do when you've had nearly everything on your list, but you still wind up with nothing? What makes you stay alive?

Burning the list, I guess. Starting from scratch with little expectations so you're not surprised or disappointed if nothing happens.

I will not say it is getting any easier. I sit here and wonder what I am doing, if I'm going in the right direction, if there is any way to know when there are a multitude of possibilities and so many places to get things wrong. I say a lot of stupid things and feel immediately foolish, like I should take them back; but I can't snatch things out of the air and shove them back in my throat once they're out, just as I can't squeeze other people's necks to prevent them from saying things I don't want to hear but must. I can't change what's happened, but moving forward breeds uncertainty.

My mantra for the past year has been, "It is what it is." It doesn't really solve anything. I try very hard to believe that acceptance of specific inevitabilities is better than fighting the tide, as if that will somehow prevent these pensive mood-swings and make things dull but predictable. Still, I've believed in impossible things my whole life without really having any reason, and lots of strange things happen without provocation and despite my approach or reaction to life anyway. I'm not sure these concepts play well together or if everything is mere coincidence, and jumbled at that. Such is the non-specific opposing forces/sides of the coin debate that continues to be just out of my reach.

I'm still struggling a bit, but I know very well there are certain things you can't go back to no matter how much you miss them. It's never the same. Life waits for no one but definitely knows how to stage a surprise exit even if you're nowhere near ready for it. Best to move onward and upward, thumbing your nose at the things you can't do anything about. Whatever that means will sort itself out in the end.

You can fall in love with something every day.

Every day that something can also break your heart.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
It occurred to me a few days ago that while I think hope is something necessary to continue living, one of the worst things you can do is hope for something specific. I think it's one of the surest ways to end up disappointed.

Generalized hope and specific hope are two very different creatures. Generalized hope is the kind that keeps you alive in that it gives you something to look forward to. There's something to wake up for in the morning, even if you can't quite pinpoint what it is. If there's nothing else in life, there's hope to cling to when there's no one else to hold and hope to shine on you when the evening air is unbearably cold. If you've lost your last penny and are starving, if you've broken your heart for the hundredth and last time, if you've fallen in the well and no one can hear your screams, there it is to give you the strength to carry on. There it is to remind you that everything will turn out all right, even if you're really not sure that's true and are suspicious of anyone else who goes around blindly believing such things. Even if you've given up every last drop, you've still got the feeling that it will be worth it in the end if you just keep going. Keep fighting.

Don't lose touch. Don't give up hope.

Specific hope isn't anything like that. It may look similar at first, but the same feeling of hope pushed to the limits of specificity will do nothing but lie to you about what's possible. While there's nothing wrong with having and wishing to attain a goal, hoping that a situation will improve or turn into what you want it to be is a very passive way of living. It's a way of wanting something without really taking responsibility for it. I mean, there you are, living your life, and here's this thing you hope will happen. You have the whole scene mapped out the way it should be in your head. If only this would happen, if only life would go back to the way it was when things were better, if only this person would realize what mistakes they are making, if only this didn't hurt me so badly, if only my job didn't suck so much... You could go on and on with possibilities, sifting through each one until you build the ultimate alternate reality where you could be happy if only the right things would happen.

But see that in this kind of hope, you're not really doing anything to make what you want to have happen, actually happen. While life has this nasty habit of not always giving you want you want or need at the exact moments, it also appears even less inclined to present you with your dream scenario just because you hope it will. Sure, there are people who get very lucky, but what are the odds that luck will suddenly waltz into your life and give you everything you could have ever hoped for? Slim to none. Without action, what good is it to hope? Yeah, there are no guarantees that continuing to strive and work and do things to get to where you want to be will actually mean you're successful either, but at least then your hope is being put to use. At least then you're moving toward the things you want. At least then you can say you got up and tried rather than sitting back and hoping for something to happen. Specific hope tells you to stay put, that it will work if you give up, and you'll continue looking for what you want to see and being constantly dissatisfied because it doesn't match the details you've hoped would come to fruition.

Keep hoping, though. Stay statically idealizing something to the point where nothing in front of you will ever come close to the things you hope for so fervently in your head. Just know nothing is going to change.

...

That said, I am very frustrated and angry with life right now and don't know what to do about it, if there's anything I can do. I don't know where this came from, when it will go away, or if it's even justified given that there isn't a lot going on beyond the usual stupid annoyances. I don't want to talk about it. There's nothing to say.

Midpoints

Oct. 8th, 2011 03:35 pm
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(I wrote this a few weeks back but didn't share it here because I promptly forgot about it. Though it's short, it sums up something I've been mulling over recently. Otherwise, I am several entries behind and don't know if or when I'll catch up. There's a lot happening and nothing all at once. It's okay, though. Well, it is what it is.)

We all get to take turns being the people we hate most. Some of us just inhabit the roles for longer stretches of time. The divisiveness in this country strikes me as ridiculous and unproductive, a bunch of children fighting over who knows best while the rest starve. No one wants to compromise because that means admitting weakness and imperfection. Can't give an inch because then it looks like you don't believe in your own cause strongly enough to appease your fringe groups. God forbid we start trying to do what's best for everyone even if it means both sides lose something in the process.

I say these things, but I feel more and more ambivalent lately, which my teenaged self would be appalled by. Then again, she was appalled by pretty much everything, which is fairly unrealistic when you're trying to get along in the world. You've got to pick your battles, but somehow that ends up feeling unsatisfying as well, especially when you're aware of the choices you make even if you have to make them one way or the other. I don't keep up nearly as well as I should because it depresses me on top of the other crap I have going on. I can only do so much, and that always falls short somehow. I don't know what the happy medium is.
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I keep getting this song stuck in my head. I try not to delve too far into the lyrics, lest I start believing there are no coincidences again. I hate the way my mind connects things other people would see as merely random. Sometimes too many things strike too close to home at the same time to seem coincidental. I keep feeling like I'm forgetting something and remembering too much at the same time, like I'm holding on to too much bad when there's so much good I let slip through my fingers. I miss things and people and then convince myself it's better this way. It has to be. What else could it be?Rambling. )
howeverbrief: (Ink)
I still have other posts to write because stuff is happening, but this week-old (and wandering) entry from my paper journal seems closer to the present moment for various reasons. Shrug.

...

I think some people say, "It's complicated," because the scenario being questioned isn't necessarily something they want to discuss. That's not the way the sentence was originally formed in my head. Hmm. It's more they want to mask the true situation from others and, perhaps, even themselves. Sure, the details of the situation may indeed be complex, and it's not worth delving into just to satisfy the curiosity of a passer-by to your life, but maybe underneath all those complexities lies the truth--

that it's not complicated so much as devastatingly simple in a way that would utterly destroy a person if they didn't bury it under scores of details.

As long as, "It's complicated," the big picture simplicity can't hurt the person, and eventually the disentanglement will reveal itself when the person is ready for it or the whole mess will be swept under the rug.

Hard to tell sometimes, though, because you can't be in a situation and see it from an outsider's perspective at the same time. One either has to be subjectively part or objectively studying the situation. You can't really have it both ways no matter how good you believe you are at multitasking, which is why retrospection reveals details that were difficult to see the first time around. However, getting to that period where one can look back in hindsight involves forgetting certain aspects of the experience in order to build a cohesive narrative, if only for the viewer's sake.

...

I thought I had more to add, but right now, I don't. That's it.
howeverbrief: (Ink)
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You know, I've been thinking about this all day, and I'm not sure what really fits this question. I love my dad, but he's not one for giving advice. The conversations I have with him usually center around his Irish-English dictionary (which he's been writing for over thirty years and will probably never be complete), linguistics in general (since I have an English degree), politics or religion. I learned long ago not to argue with him about the later two topics, mostly because it's pointless. He talks at me more than with me, and I have no reason to try to get him to see it my way because he's convinced half the time that I'm a terrible democrat whose mind has been warped by going to college, which isn't all that true, given my wavering stance on many different areas of thought, but that's neither here nor there. (Besides that, he believes all philosophy is moral relativism, and that doesn't sit well with the part of me that minored in philosophy. Don't even get me started on how much he hates lawyers.) The one time I tried to explain my stance on religion, he told me I had "dangerous thoughts" and implied I was going to hell. That would be assuming such a place exists, but try explaining that to a devout Irish Catholic who has only grown more religious as the years have passed.

However, an incident in high school stands out to me. I guess I should really call it THE incident in high school because it was the one time I really got in trouble. I was around sixteen. My older sister talked to a boy on the internet who lived in the next town over, and when they met in person, I was her unwitting wing-woman. This meant while she got to know the guy, I was stuck with his friend in the backseat of the guy's beaten up blue Volvo. (Incidentally, this is how I got my first kiss, and it was the start of one of the oddest relationships I've had to date.) Anyway, we drove out to meet them fairly often, and we'd hang out with their friends; they'd smoke; and eventually, we'd all drink, usually around a bonfire (real small-town cliche-like). One evening, the parents of one of their friends were out of town, so they threw a huge party like the teenagers we all were. My sister and I swigged vodka straight from the bottle (because we could do things like that and it still seemed cool in those days), and within an hour, we were both trashed. Our internet friends drove us to the nearest 7-11, called our parents (because I somehow slurred out the number to them), then left us.

My mom, being the disciplinarian and all-around parent in that relationship, was predictably pissed and got our stumbling asses home, spent half the next day giving us the silent treatment, and then doled out the lectures and castigation we both deserved. On top of feeling horrible because I was hungover, I slunk downstairs to try to get relief from the intense shame and disappointment that hung thickly in the air. I hid in the basement behind the only computer that connected to the internet (as we were a dialup family in those days).

I mention this because I don't remember my dad being around at all during this incident until that moment. He was fairly tight-lipped and tended to leave the room whenever mom was handing out punishments. This was pretty much the way it was my whole childhood, aside from him yelling at my siblings and me to turn off lights when we left the room and not to stomp our feet or make lots of noise overhead while he was working on his dictionary in the basement. (Well, that and generally not being a fan of us watching The Simpsons or Southpark or anything we listened to besides Cake, but that's another story.) But this day, he walked in the room (which is also where he worked), very quietly told me that everyone makes mistakes and that it would be alright, and walked back out.

My dad is fairly absent and has always had other priorities. We don't talk much; and we agree on even less; but that's the sort of thing I think about when anyone asks me about fatherly advice-- that almost non-existent voice in the background saying that even when you've messed up royally and it doesn't look like you'll ever make it right, it will eventually turn out okay.

Thanks, Dad.

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