A Balanced Diet for the Starving Soul

Of the few things I can say I like about myself, my curiosity is one. I have always loved to learn, and I am excited by new topics and tidbits from history to philosophy, math, and science.

When a new question occurs to me, I hold onto it and excitement fills my chest knowing what comes next, feverish searching through Google web and image results, skimming Wikipedia pages, adding books to my Goodreads TBR. I am excited to learn to grow to become more whole and free and aware. I love to stretch my mind and consider new facts and concepts, but I’m not good at making it happen every day, and I’m not good at recognizing the difference between knowing things and understanding things. I’m not good at keeping my curiosity alive.

I admit, this only occurred to me yesterday when I saw this comic by Austin Kleon—an inspiring author I admire greatly—came scrolling up my Instagram feed.

💀

A post shared by Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) on

Ouch.

Yep, that’s me. I check the news first thing when I wake up too. I don’t think about what I want to know, what I need and should know, to grow as a person. I don’t think of all the wonders of the world and wonder at the way they work and how they came to be. I wake up, and I want to know what new drama has unfolded in the petty politics we humans have made for ourselves.

Not that I don’t think learning is important. I consider myself a smart person and I even think of myself as a curious one too, but Austin’s comic reminded me that learning, real learning, has not been a priority in my life. I am learning Spanish. I am learning new math. I have my flashcards on geography, state flags, and the anatomy of the eye all on my phone, but it’s not really learning, and it isn’t healthy.

And not that I don’t think current events, politics, and even pop culture are important. You have to know the world around you to navigate it, and you have to navigate it to live and find your happiness, but sometimes it all feels like a play put on the stage, and I’m following the story. It’s a good one, but I want to know what happens backstage and how the script materialized and how I might write my own one day.

The drive to know, to learn, and to discover can easily be tricked. Humans love novelty. We love to discover things and make things. We like to be smart. Social media, TV, tech companies, and advertisements all exploit your curiosity. They make you feel like you are learning and growing wiser while your soul dies of malnutrition.

My phone beeps pleasantly for breaking news and trending topics. It glows cool blue from the side of my bed, enticing me with promises to tell me all I need to know to make polite conversation and bond in mutual anger, outrage, and anxiety at work. I pick it up and scroll. I learn things. I know things. I am in the now in the know. My mind is happy, but not healthy.

Too much of anything is bad for you. A balanced and varied diet has always proven the healthiest.

All your knowledge should not come in the form of 140 character tweets, or sensational images on the news, or click-bait headlines on Facebook. You should know more than what happened yesterday, and you should look further than your own city, country, and conventional beliefs. Your day should be more than breaking news, and your mind should have more to live on than what bring in rating and advertising money. When you are starving can eat rocks and feel full, but you’re still dying.

Mindfulness is key. Become aware for where your information comes from and what kind of information you are consuming. Ask yourself how much time you devote to learning and if you are really learning anything at all. Your day should be more than breaking news, and your mind should have more to live on than what brings high ratings and cash from advertisers.

A starving person can eat rocks and feel better, but it won’t stop death from coming.

I want to study something. I want depth and context. I want to get frustrated by the work of understanding.  I want to stay curious and to feed my soul something good.

Just like the body feels hunger when it needs food, and thirst when it needs water, the mind feels curiosity when it is parched and starving. And like good eating habits, or remembering to drink the right amount of water every day, it takes mindfulness and willingness to forget, fail, and start again for long-term happiness and health. You have to bring learning into your life from something that happens passively and by accident to something you make time for because it’s critical to your well being.

I want to change my diet and learn to keep my soul alive.

I’m not sure yet what that means for me. I’m not sure yet how to do that with my schedule and limited resources, but maybe I can start by picking one or three things every morning that I want to know. I can ask a few questions about how the universe runs and how humans came to be who we are. I can start the day with burning curiosity over anything I choose from trivial to monumental and make time during the day to find answers, not just to know, but to understand.

“It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.”

― Tove Jansson, Fair Play

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Thanks for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured photo is by Lacie Slezak and available freely on Unsplash

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If We Were Having Coffee // The World is Falling Apart, Stay Safe

Hello, dear readers! Thank you so much for stopping by for our weekly coffee and conversation date. I know it hasn’t been so “weekly” lately. Life’s been a little crazy, and my health and energy levels have been suffering because of it, but I’m hoping that we will get back to regular coffee and catching up starting this week. There’s a chance all the crazy may be winding down. I can’t say I promise though since so much of what has happened has been last-minute and unexpected. I just want you to know I’m trying.

“Life is like coffee, the darker it gets, the more it energizes.”

― Ankita Singhal

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If we were having coffee, I would start by letting everyone in the state of Florida know that my thoughts are with you. I am following the news of Hurricane Irma very closely, and I hope that the worst predictions won’t come true. I hope you all stay safe and that the damage to your homes, schools, streets, and wildlife and lands will be minimal and I hope the recovery and the rebuilding will be a time of coming together in compassion too.

My thoughts are still with Houston and the survivors of Hurricane Harvey. I’m following the news coming out of the West as wildfires burn unchecked, and I am thinking of the people of Mexico dealing with their own hurricane and the strongest earthquake to hit the country in 100 years.

My heart is also breaking for the young men and women who feel so betrayed by the President’s decision to put an end to the DACA program. I faxed all my congressional representatives to let them know just how ugly and cruel this is and that I hoped they would do right by the citizens of this country and protect its most vulnerable.

It feels like the world is falling apart and I am doing my best to be grateful for what I have a where I am and to keep my home safe and my anxiety in check. The news is getting harder and harder to watch every day and the problems around me grow and grow until I feel hopeless and helpless do anything that matters.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the reason we couldn’t meet last week is that we finally got a weekend camping trip in. We found out that our favorite movie theater chain, Alamo Drafthouse, was partnering with SyFy to show Close Encounters of the Third Kind below the Devils Tower Monument in Wyoming. We learned it would be shown in the campsite next to the tower and decided to head on up and make a whole weekend of it for my girlfriend’s birthday.

I went up there remembering very little about the film and knowing next to nothing about the monument, so the trip was a real learning experience for me. The film was amazing, emotional, thought-provoking, and very funny. The tower was like nothing I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend you go at least once in your life. The hike around the base of it is incredible. You get right up next to it, and even without registration you can climb the boulder field around the base and get right up to it.

I learned a ton about the geography and formation of the tower as well as some of the myths and Native American ceremonies that involve the tower that still go on today. The whole experience was just amazing. I want to tell you more, but the words I have just aren’t enough to convey how I felt up there. I’m so glad we went and that I got to see just a miracle of nature up close.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that while getting away from all the problems and expectations of life for a weekend was nice, it wasn’t nearly enough. When you know there is a whole world out there, with no deadlines, no expectations, nothing but beauty and history, you want to leave everything you know, go off grid and just dedicate your life to seeing as much of nature as you can. Sadly, letting go of your life, your connections, and your luxuries isn’t so easy. So, back to the real world, we had to return.

Work has been hard. I had a hectic week both last week and the week before plus I have been trying to squeeze in writing whenever I could, which wasn’t nearly as much as I needed. And even with all I have on my plate, I feel so guilty for complaining because compared to people around me I think I have it pretty easy. My route isn’t that bad. My work hours aren’t so bad either; and at least I have some time, anytime at all, to focus on my passion. At least I have a passion to wish I had more time for, you know?

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that everything hasn’t been all bad. Not only did I accomplish my goal applying for the Bitch Media Writing Fellowship the week before last I also sent my first real pitch to Buzzfeed for their Mental Health Week coverage. I had hoped to send a full draft of the piece but work really got in the way and I just couldn’t finish it. I’m hoping a summary, and a few clips will be strong enough to be considered, if not I’ll have a topic to discuss here instead.

I have a list of other places to send work, and I anticipate lots and lots of rejection, but that’s okay. I want to start pushing myself further. I want to start learning how to become a real writer, one who is paid to write. The only way I can do that is to start putting myself out there. I have to get over this fear of failure and start making mistakes and maybe even embarrassing myself a little so I can improve not just my work but my pitching strategy too.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that as much as I have missed chatting with you, I have to run. Between the long weekend, the busy work weeks, and my girlfriend’s birthday celebrations, I’ve had no time to take care of the house and I still have to get ready to visit my family, who I have also neglected these past few weeks.

I hope these first weeks of September have treated you well and if it hasn’t, I hope things turn around for you soon. Stay safe, make time for the things you enjoy, take care of yourselves and your loved ones too.

Until next time lovelies.

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Thank you for reading! If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Part-Time Monster

Featured image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Marguerite Duras on Writing Through Solitude

Writing, like any other art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats—both living and dead, famous and not—apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week’s inspiration comes from the French writer and film director Marguerite Duras.

“Finding yourself in a hole, at the bottom of a hole, in almost total solitude, and discovering that only writing can save you.”

— Marguerite Duras, Writing

Solitude is where I first found my love of writing nearly 20 years ago.

I was a teenager, and like most, I felt misunderstood and completely alone. My home life had always been harsh and chaotic. The adults in my life were not equipped to help me make sense of all the ways I was changing or of who I was becoming. My parents had been only teenagers with no proper adult role models or direction themselves when I came into this world. My sibling couldn’t help, they are all younger than me and I never had many friends either since we moved around so much.

I had no way of knowing if anything I thought or felt was normal and no knowledge of how to navigate from child to adult without making mistakes that would follow me for the rest of my life. I had no way of channeling my emotions and energy. I was alone.

But there was light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, I would find a kind of companionship and a place to express myself and work through my thoughts and feelings, a place of validation, a place I could trust. I found a journal.

I remember that first one. I was around 16 or 17 years old, and I am almost positive I bought it at Barnes and Nobel, my favorite hang out when I didn’t feel like traveling all the way downtown to be at the library. It was double-sided, one had an illustration of the sun on it, and the other had the moon. I filled it quickly, sitting down to write multiple times a day about everything from my frustrations at my first jobs, my first crushes and questions over my sexuality, and soon after, my first real love.

As I got older, and sometimes happier, I began to ask bigger question of myself and of no one at all. I wanted to know why were people the way they were and why the went on living the way they did even when they wanted so much more. I wanted to know why people hurt each other so much and spent so much time doing nothing and pretending it all was of the utmost importance. I explored my thoughts and observations on religion and relationships, my fears, and my hopes, and dared to confess my sins and proudly state who I was. It was where I made no apologies and was never asked to.

My journal was my first real friend, and I loved and felt loved back by it as if it were a person. Those notebooks brought me out of many holes and back into the light. Those notebooks showed me the power and connection that comes from writing even if you are only writing for you, especially when you are writing just for you.

 

I still write in a journal every day, when I remember, but like any relationship that lasts there are times when I take it for granted. I forget how much just writing about my day and my feelings for me has helped. I get depressed and discouraged and forget about the one thing that has helped get me through those bouts every time. I have to try harder to keep the relationship going. I have to make a conscious effort to work at it every day.

There are many benefits to journaling, healing is only one. Austin Kleon recently wrote about a journal being a place to say things you shouldn’t say out loud, and he’s previously written about a journal being a good place to have bad ideas. I also use my journal to write my intentions for the day, a place to write encouraging notes to myself, and to keep track of good things that happen in my life to keep me from focusing too much on the bad.

In fact, I carry more than one notebook with me at all times. I carry one I use as a planner and a place to jot random thoughts, to do lists, or keep track of people, places, and things I’d like to investigate further. I have another to take more organized notes on books I read, documentaries find, and even educational YouTube videos I watch.

I use pen and paper to brainstorm, to connect ideas, and to work through emotions. There is no app or piece of technology that can give you that feeling of turning the inner workings of your mind and heart into something physical and tangible. There is no person and no social media platform that will be so open to you and so forgiving of your needs and confessions. Journaling is not something only for the angsty teen, it is for anyone in need of a place to unload their stress and all of the information we are bombarded with every day. It’s a place to make sense of yourself and this world.

So, when you find yourself stuck or feeling alone remember that a sturdy notebook and a good pen will get out of any hole if you trust it enough to lead the way and that writing can save you from much more than solitude too if you trust yourself enough to find the way.

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820800Duras was born Marguerite Donnadieu on April 4, 1914, at Gia-Dinh, near Saigon, French Indochina (now Vietnam), after her parents responded to a campaign by the French government encouraging people to work in the colony.

Marguerite’s father fell ill soon after their arrival and returned to France, where he died. After his death, her mother, a teacher, remained in Indochina with her three children. The family lived in relative poverty after a bad investment in an isolated property and area of farmland in Cambodia. The difficult life that the family experienced during this period was highly influential on Marguerite’s later work.

At 17, Marguerite went to France, her parents’ native country, where she began studying for a degree in mathematics. This she soon abandoned to concentrate on political sciences, and then law. After completing her studies, she became an active member of the PCF (the French Communist Party).

In 1943 she changed her surname to “Duras” for Duras, the name of a village in the Lot-et-Garonne département, where her father’s house was located.

She is the author of a great many novels, plays, films, interviews and short narratives, including her best-selling, apparently autobiographical work L’Amant, translated into English as The Lover, which describes her youthful affair with a Chinese man.This text won the Goncourt prize in 1984. The story of her adolescence also appears in three other forms: The Sea Wall, Eden Cinema, and The North China Lover. A film version of The Lover, produced by Claude Berri, was released to great success in 1992.

Other major works include Moderato Cantabile, also made into a film of the same name, Le Ravissement de Lol V. Stein, and her film India Song. She was also the screenwriter of the 1959 French film Hiroshima mon amour, which was directed by Alain Resnais.

Duras’s early novels were fairly conventional in form (their ‘romanticism’ was criticized by fellow writer Raymond Queneau); however, with Moderato Cantabile she became more experimental, paring down her texts to give ever-increasing importance to what was not said. She was associated with the Nouveau Roman French literary movement, although did not definitively belong to any group. Her films are also experimental in form, most eschewing synch sound, using voice over to allude to, rather than tell, a story over images whose relation to what is said may be more-or-less tangential.

In 1939 she married the writer Robert Antelme. During World War II, from 1942 to 1944, Duras worked for the Vichy government in an office that allocated paper quotas to publishers (in the process operating a de facto book censorship system), but she was also a member of the French Resistance as a part of a small group that also included François Mitterrand, who later became President of France and remained a life-long friend of Duras.

During the war, Antelme was deported to Buchenwald in 1944 for his involvement in the Resistance, and barely survived the experience (weighing on his release, according to Duras, just 38 kg). She nursed him back to health, but they divorced once he recovered his health.

Marguerite’s adult life was somewhat difficult, despite her success as a writer, and she was known for her periods of alcoholism. She died in Paris, aged 82 from throat cancer and is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse.

Her tomb is marked simply ‘MD’.

duras_hole-sq

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for inspiring reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering. Or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Goodreads and Wikipedia

Featured image via Unsplash

Blogging A to Z Theme Reveal // The World Really is an Awful Place

Hey, hi, hello! Here I am, late to the big Blogging from A to Z Challenge theme reveal, as usual, but better late than never, right?

If you’ve never heard of it, the challenge takes place yearly in the month of April. Bloggers pledge to do their best to write and publish 26 blog posts, one for each letter of the alphabet, on a schedule. Most choose themes, not all, but I hear it makes it easier.

This will be my third year of participation and you’d think by now I would have figured out the ropes and be well ahead of the curve, but you would be wrong. I’m the kind of person that can’t muster up enough enthusiasm or inspiration to complete a task unless there are looming deadlines and real consequences. I’m working on that.

To be honest it isn’t just my awful work ethic. It’s been a rough year so far and I haven’t had as much time to plan for this thing as I have in recent years but I still hope to rock this thing!

My first year’s theme was astronomy and I failed miserably. My second was fiction. I was able to finish but the writing was kind of crap and I beg you not to look.

I thought about doing fiction again, but I’ve just about given up on that kind of writing, publicly anyway. It doesn’t come easy to me the way that essay/memoir does. I thought about poetry but poetry and I are just starting to get along and I don’t want to force the relationship and risk pushing her away, you know?

So, instead, I looked to what has been on my mind lately. What is it that I can’t let go of? What do I feel the need to spend and whole month talking about?

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.”

― Albert Schweitzer

Since this past year’s election, all I can see are the ways the world seems to be coming apart at the seams around me. Not just because of that man living in the White House. No, the world was falling apart long before he came into the picture, but he made me more aware of it. His actions have forced me to take notice and face my false sense of safety.

I watch the news nearly constantly now and I think a lot about the privilege I have. I don’t fear bombs. I can find food easily. I have a home and work and money enough that I hardly worry at all, but I haven’t been very good at doing my part to help those who have so much less.  I haven’t even worked very hard to stay informed or raise awareness.

In my defense, I have been a bit overwhelmed but even that is a privilege. So many others don’t have the option of turning away when it all gets to be too much. It’s too easy for me to look away whenever I want to. It’s to easy for all of us to hide inside our homes and go one believing that the fire will never touch us but it will. I promise it will unless we take notice. Now.

The world is full of suffering and bad scary things and I’m not sure what to do now, yet, but it feels right to start by using my platform here for research and awareness. I carry a fair amount of guilt for not doing enough, then or now, to help.

So, my theme this year is the awful world around us.

That’s right, I’m going to write 26 posts, one for each letter of the alphabet all about something in the world that is going wrong but that no one seems to be willing to look at, care about, or fix. Everything from the arctic ice melting, to diseases on the rise, to famine, and war, and much, much more.

I know it’s a strange one. It’s not fun and flashy but it’s real and it’s important. I hope that I can teach you something or point you in the direction of a cause you can care about. I hope we all start thinking more and more about what is happening out there and what our part will be in fixing some of this shit.

April is going to be a real blogging dumpster fire, and kind of a downer, and I encourage you to come along for the ride.

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If you like this post check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or buy me a cup of coffee perhaps?

If you want more information on the challenge, head over to A-to-ZChallenge.com and if you are participating leave a note in the comments below and let me know where to find you :)

Featured image via Unsplash

The Week’s End // A Roundup of Important Reads

Hello friends and welcome to the weekend. I’m a little late, but if you’re still looking for some interesting reads to check out while you relax, look no further, I got you covered. Here are the things I found important, inspiring, and interesting enough to share this week:

Day without a woman
Day Without a Woman

Support diverse stories.

Because diversity isn’t easy.

Is America great again yet?

Trumpcare

You may want to marry her husband.

In conversation

Biology > Ideology

Extreme vetting is already a thing

It’s not a fucking debate!

“In moonlight, black boys look blue”

Life sucks

Daylight savings is stupid.

Super cute printable self-care checklist :)  // @Aloebud

What do you think? Have you read, watched, or written an interesting thing this week? Has something on the internet made you feel strongly? If so, drop a link in the comments, we’d love to check it out :)

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This list was originally sent out along with this morning’s newsletter: The Silence in our Stories + some of my own existential musings. Check it out and subscribe! :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Progress Not Perfection, 2017

I thought I would skip this whole New year’s Resolution thing. I thought I would just keep going as I have been going and hope that December 31st, 2017 would find me better off than The year before. I thought I was wise. There is no “new year, new me” after all. I am smarter than that, I am better than that…or maybe I am just afraid.

This past year was a hard one. There was so much death and disappointment. There was so much I thought I was sure of, but I learned in the end that we are all living on much shakier and shiftier ground than we knew. I finally learned what I thought I knew,  that the world is big and scary and indifferent. So, I thought, why eve try?

But of course we should try, we should always, always try. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t at least consider what the new year could bring if I tried hard enough. Progress, not perfection is my mantra but progress cannot happen without a willingness to examine where you are, and an occasional course correction and I suppose that is what New Year’s Eve is all about.

So, here it is, my dreams and goals for 2017, a year I hope will have more good and less bad than 2016.

Yoga and less sugar. I hate physical activity, and I hate thinking about what I eat, but I am getting older now, and things have got to change. I’m not going promise a whole new lifestyle, but I promise to start I promise to try out a Yoga habit and to be more aware of the amount of sugar I am consuming.

 

30 books, for real this time. I failed my reading goal this year, but I don’t care, I read way more than I did in 2015, so I am happy. This year I am going to have a reading plan, a list of specific books to read so that I don’t waste any time.

A new direction in writing. This year I am going to be very busy. I am going to be working more hours at work, and I am going to spend more time writing. I want to put together a collection of poetry. I want to work on this novel and possibly start on a sequel for next year’s NaNoWriMo. I want to write more on science, philosophy, and current events too. I hope to do everything I can to start getting paid for these words too.

Snail mail! I have always wanted a pen pal, and I think 2017 is as good a year as any to get one. I love snail mail and paper products, and I’d love to have a reason to start making things and sending them out to someone. I need a reason to experiment I suppose.

Weekend trips and a real vacation? I want to see new places, eat new foods, and breathe new air. I want to stimulate my mind and make some memories. I want to get out of this town and see the ways that other people live. I want to slow time and see the world.

I will never be a real artist. I had to choose between language and art and writing was something I could never let go of no matter how much art pulled. So, art will be regulated to nothing but a silly thing I do when the words don’t come so easily. I look forward to sharing my doodles with you.

Do scary things! There are two things hat give me terrible anxiety, and they are two things I need to be able to do if I want to start changing my life in real and meaningful ways. I need to meet new people, and I need to get over my fear of driving. Every day next year I will do one scary thing. I will tweet someone I admire, I will share ugly drawings, I will ask for help, I will drive to the store, and I will submit work wherever I can. I will do the thing!

I know that even though a new year starts tomorrow that doesn’t mean I am instantly a new me. I know that change takes time and hard work. I know that I need dedication and motivation. I know I have to be flexible and let myself fail a few times too.

Tomorrow I will still be me, but I will try to be a better me. Maybe I will make it and maybe I won’t but I will treat January 2nd the same way, and January 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so one all the way to December 31st, 2017. A new year is a new chance, and so is every day of that.

I hope we all make progress. I hope we all find what we are looking for, learn to love ourselves and each other, and come out a little better than we hoped. That would all be wonderful, but even if we all just survive with our hope and curiosity intact we will have accomplished more than most.

Good luck to you all in the coming year.

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Featured image via Unsplash