What I Learned from // One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

“One flew east, one flew west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest Ken Kesey tells the story of a group of Oregon men living in a mental ward and the staff meant to get them sane through cruelty and control. There is Randle Patrick McMurphy, who is new to the ward. He’s street-smart, stubborn, rambunctious, and ready to have some fun.

Standing in his way is Big Nurse Ratched who likes her ward kept quiet and is determined to bring McMurphy under control by any means necessary. We follow it all from the perspective of Chief Bromden, a half-Indian schizophrenic who can see the authoritarian gears grinding behind the walls and working through McMurphy and Nurse Ratched.

This book was definitely something altogether different. I can certainly see how it came to be one of the most banned books in America. The writing is intense from the very outset, and the imagery is vivid and often disturbing.

My heart raced along with Chief Bromden while he hid from the orderlies. I was afraid of Nurse Ratched and her way of breaking the will of anyone by using condescending kindness and patience. I was sad to see the way the “chronics” were treated, or the way “acutes” were turned into “chronics.” I wondered at the great big “Combine” working keeping us all in control and conforming. I wanted to fight the Combine, and keep it from churning us out, one by one, to the roles ready-made made for us.

I was in awe of McMurphy and confused by him too. I couldn’t understand whether he was supposed to be good or bad, but I know he stood for something big, and bold, and free.

“And later hiding in the latrine from the black boys I’d look at my own self in the mirror and wonder how it was possible that anybody could manage such an enormous thing as being what he was.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

In One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I learned that in the real world heroes and villains are bigger than right and wrong. That a person can save you and swindle you at the same time and that the best of intentions, the kindest smiles, and the gentlest treatment can make a prison out of a person.

Kesey reminded me that joy, spontaneity, and adventure are an important part of the quality of someone’s life and ought to be a part of their recovery, even if it leads to a little mess and the occasional setback. The alternative is worse.

I learned that a person needs to be free. A person needs to feel like a person. They need to know they mean something and that the way they see the world is valid. A person needs to be built up and loved the way they are. Yes, we are all special snowflakes and while that may not entitle us to any special privileges in this world is does mean the right to be our beautiful, unique selves. It means we have the right to joy and proper mental care free of someone else’s biased view of what it means to be “normal.”

But we can never claim those rights without first recognizing the way we allow them to be taken from us in the first place. In this modern world. Each of us has to make his mind for himself what rules he will and won’t follow, not because he is told, but because he agrees with the reasoning behind the rule.

“Rules? PISS ON YOUR FUCKING RULES!”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a reminder to us all not to place too much trust in authority and to never stop asking why things have to be the way they are. This book is about the ways we control each other and the need to constantly question that control.

This book certainly asks a lot of questions. In a world where any deviation of behavior makes a person crazy, does the word mean anything anymore? How do we treat people who are depressed, anxious, or unhappy? How do we treat people who we have deemed are beyond our help? How do we decide, why do we decide, that people aren’t worth seeing, helping, or caring about anymore? How do we recognize who is trying to help us, and what help looks like when we see it if we aren’t of sound mind? What makes a person good or bad? What makes a person a person?

“Papa says if you don’t watch it people will force you one or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Some of the other themes I wasn’t so comfortable with. There seemed to be a misogynist tones weaved below the action that threw me off and made it hard for me to fall head over heels with the book. It’s hard to cheer for the little guy when a big part of why he hates the figure of the authority is her womanness.

Nurse Ratched wasn’t a good person, but it wasn’t because she was a woman. There are plenty of men at the top of every one of societies institutions using physical violence and mental manipulation to keep the masses controlled. Men love destroying the masculinity in one another as much as any woman ever would.

This is my only gripe with the book, but maybe the book wasn’t written with someone like me in mind.

I recommend reading it regardless though. It was still an enjoyable and exciting read and, let’s be honest, no author is perfect, and no story can be either. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some good to get out of exploring it. This book is all about questioning, and just like we question the motivates and meaning of Nurse Ratched and McMurphy, we can certainly question Ken Kesey himself.

“But it’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.”

— Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

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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 paul morris on Unsplash

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When Time Slips Away from You Hold Tight to Emotion Instead

“We live in deeds, not years; in thoughts not breaths; in feelings, not in figures on a dial. We should count time by heart throbs.”

— Philip James Bailey, “Festus”

I am one of those people gifted with an acute awareness of my mortality and a near constant anxiety over the amount of time I have left. There is nothing wrong with me—that I know of. I have no reason to think I won’t live to a miserable old age. I have no reason to be so afraid and yet; I suffer from terrible death anxiety. I lay awake most nights staring at the ceiling contemplating what death means and what it means to be a being that will die. The thoughts have begun to seep into the the daytime, stopping me in my tracks and bringing tears to my eyes. I’m obsessed, in the worst way. I’m scared, and I’m angry too, and I don’t know how to stop thinking about the end so that I can finally live.

I want to stop seeing all this time flying by and start seeing all the life I have in and around me instead. I want to be free, but I don’t understand how I can when my life seems so small and death, even if it comes 50 years from now, feels close enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck. How is everyone else doing it?

When I reach out to tell people how I am feeling and get a little advice and reassurance I get the most puzzling looks and responses. No one seems to be crushed under inevitability the way that I am. No one else seems to be lying awake at night with their heart pounding in their ears wondering when the end might find them and how. No one worries how long it will take to be forgotten by the world and no one is devastated by the unfairness of it all. I don’t understand why I feel time slipping through my hands so painfully and no one else does.

I know I need help, but it’s hard to admit I am so weak and strange. I suppose I believe I’m somewhat beyond help or that there is no help I can be given by another person that I can’t give myself.

Still, I long to talk to people who suffer the way I do. I want to know I am not alone. I want someone to understand that to me the rest of humanity must be walking around blind to be so calm. There has to be someone out there who understand that this life feels like nothing but a death march to me.

I’ve tried to live mindfully, aware of every minute I am alive but I think I only got half the picture and that is why I suffer so now. When I became aware of time passing this way, I wanted to hold onto it, but no matter how hard I tried every moment they keep slipping, slipping, slipping, wasted and irretrievable out of my reach. And that is all I can see of my life now. All I see is how I am always dying. All I see is that I can never go back. I live in near constant panic over all the choices I have left to make, and the ones I won’t get to make before it all goes dark. I am furious over all the life I won’t get to live as the eons pass without me.

Becoming aware of every moment means becoming aware of how few moments there will be. Seeing what you have doesn’t stop you from wishing for what you can’t. Taking control of your life doesn’t stop you from seeing what you can never control. Living doesn’t stop you from dying one day.

So, I guess I need a new perspective. I need to find out what it is I am missing that everyone else has grasped.

I’ve been thinking to myself, rationalizing and trying to make sense of my fear of dying, of leaving my work unfinished, of one day not being, and of being forgotten. I try to remind myself that I have time and that even if I didn’t, even if the end came for me this very moment, I have had a good life. Not the best life, not exactly the life I planned, but a life most people in the world only dream of. I have been loved, and I have been happy more often than not, and maybe that is the answer to my problem.

Maybe instead of looking at what I won’t have, I need to focus on what I could have. Maybe I measure time all wrong, and that is why there seems to be so little of it left. Maybe, for humans, time is best measured in memorable moments, and emotion invoked.

So, what if I stopped counting all those seconds? Most of them were empty anyway and, if I’m honest, I hardly remember them once they are gone. Maybe a richer life isn’t found by hoarding time but in bringing time to life? The seconds that matter are the ones full of wanting and connection, of passion and curiosity, of novelty. I need to stop trying to hold on to every moment, trying to freeze myself and everything I love in place as if I could stay any longer by doing so. I need to move and make things happen.

After all, the only time I am not worrying about when my heart would stop beating is when it was beating out of love, or fear, or excitement. The only time I am not worrying about how much time I have left is when my time is filled up doing something new, fun, or fulfilling. I’ve become stagnant, tightened and tied up, I need to be loose, to laugh more, to let go!

If death is to come either way, if time is going to slip away no matter how tight my grip, I suppose it all ought to make it worth every second. My heart ought to come alive whenever possible. I should be learning, doing, loving, yearning, every day. I have to cling to the right things and measure time in laughter, kisses, candies, fears, and triumphs. I need more good books, good friends, new experiences, and new ways of living.

I don’t even think I need to make any huge changes in my life. I have plenty of love and laughter around me I only need to take the time to notice it and muster the courage to participate in it. In the moments where it doesn’t exist, I can certainly create it and make other lives as rich as they make mine. Even when I am alone, I can at least love myself. I can learn to enjoy my own company and make even the most mundane activities into a joy simply by being grateful and noticing the miracle that my life is.

I have only so much control over the length of my life, but the width and weight of it are up to me. I can have more life by measuring it by heart throbs rather than the ticking of a clock.

***

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If We Were Having Coffee // Halloween Isn’t Over Yet

Hello dear readers! Thank you so much for stopping by today for a bit of cold brew and conversation. I’m up and moving about with the blinds thrown open and the sun streaming in but I feel far from awake. The stupid time change is enough to throw your circadian rhythm off, but I also stupidly decided to stay up late last night for no reason at all besides I hate giving up so much of my life to sleep.

I’m no good after late nights anymore. No matter how late I let myself sleep in the next morning, I still feel groggy through to the next evening. I’m less myself and certainly less productive. The early bird gets the worm, sure, but only if she’s had enough rest to keep her eyes open and her thoughts coherent, right? Coffee helps, but I’ll still need you to be patient with me today too.

“There are two kinds of people. Coffee people and sad people.”

@deathwishcoffee

***

If we were having coffee, I would need a minute to recall what all has happened since we last sat done. It’s been a little while, hasn’t it? I don’t think we’ve chatted since at least before Halloween. I don’t usually take such long breaks from these dates, and I don’t have a good reason for it this time except I’ve been feeling down. Not sad exactly, but like I’m empty. I have no ideas, no energy, no interest. I feel thin, transparent, fragile? None of these words describe it quite right.

My girlfriend calls it depressed, but it’s hard for me to use that word. I think I’ve only been lazy, and selfish, and weak, but I’m trying not to feel that way, and I’m trying not to apologize for resting or removing myself as I need to. I only wish I was better at expressing how I feel instead of just sort of fading out of people’s lives with no explanation.

The good news is that I had a sort of revelation recently and I’ve come to accept that while it’s not my fault I am feeling this way, it is up to me to start doing something about it. I haven’t been out of the house much, except for work. I haven’t been exercising. My eating habits have gotten bad again. I’m focusing on other people’s successes and my contrasting failure. I’m struggling to want to do things I love, like writing, drawing, and reading, and falling too easily into doing things I know don’t make me feel good, like playing games on my phone, wasting time on social media, and sleeping.

No wonder I am depressed. But I’m going to make more of an effort to get out and feel the sun and go to places where there are other people. I’m going to eat more fruit, drink more water, and say a few nice things to myself and to the people around me. I’m going to go for walks in the evening and try to get in a quick 15-minutes work out in the morning when I wake up. Those are my goals anyway, it won’t happen overnight. I need to get help too, but that’s a bigger ball of anxiety than I can get over at the moment.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that Halloween wasn’t all I had hoped it would be. We dressed up as Coraline and Wybie from the 2009 film Coraline. I wish we’d had more time to prepare because I didn’t get to make his mask and no one really knew what I was supposed to be. We did have fun at our friend’s party, but a very inconveniently timed migraine meant we had to call it a night earlier than we’d hoped.

Still, the rest of Halloween was great, and I’m even planning to have one last night of spooky celebration this Tuesday when my favorite movie theater, Alamo Drafthouse, is showing my favorite horror film, The Shining. Around here Halloween isn’t over until we’ve watched it and getting a chance to see it on the big screen (and get an awesome t-shirt too) is beyond exciting.

Once we’ve gotten that out of the way, it’ll be time for the customary watching of the transitional holiday film The Nightmare Before Christmas. Then and only then will I be able to fully accept that Halloween is over, and the god-awful holiday season of stress has begun.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that even though it has been hard some days, I have been doing my best to read more. I tell myself that if my brain is so out of it that I can’t write, and if my self-doubt is so intense that I can’t draw, then I need to be reading.

I got through The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, a beautiful and effortless read and Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, a strenuous yet rewarding read. I thought it was time for a little nonfiction again and picked up A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, an interesting and rather incendiary read so far. I have Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman to read next, but after that, I’m not so sure.

A few days ago I did come across a list of 135 Free Philosophy Books and another list of 800 Free eBooks that would be plenty to keep me busy for a while. I’ve never been very good at reading from a screen, but if there are free books to be had, I’m willing to put in the effort and learn.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that on the writing side of things, it really hasn’t been so bad. I’m writing, I’m just not posting, and to be honest with you, I don’t have much of a problem with that.

I have a few things written for the upcoming week, and I feel a little freer to work on things that are important, not just urgent. I never wanted to only be a blogger. The goal has always been to be an author, but it’s hard when you feel like people now expect things of you, and you now expect things of yourself, and you can’t switch gears as easily as you’d like.

I love this space, but I need space in my life for other kinds of work too. I need to stop worrying about content, posting times, follower counts, and engagement, and about how I’m failing at all of those things.

I need to write with pen and paper and spend a lot more time getting bored so I can think. What I’m trying to tell you is that things might get a little inconsistent around here but don’t worry, I won’t abandon you without saying something. I won’t drop off the face of the internet the way I have seen so many other bloggers do. I haven’t posted in a while be patient, I’m coming back, I promise.

***

If we were having coffee, I would say that it was about that time that I get going on this housework. The time change still has my mind and body feeling all out of whack. It feels later than it is and I’m panicking even though I shouldn’t so I’d better get going anyway. No harm it getting it all done early I suppose.

I hope you’ve been well these last few weeks since we’ve talked, and I hope we can all get through the coming months with a little more cheer and grace than we’ve been expressing toward one another as of late. Let me know what you’ve been up to lately in the comments, I’ll be around today, and I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time.

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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.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up, now hosted over at Eclectic Alli!

Featured photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

 

Currently // October 2017: Autumn is a Second Spring

It’s feeling like fall for sure now, both outside, with the clouds and the cold winds, and inside, with my craving for big blankets, hot tea, soups, and cuddling. My temperament has come to match the typical Colorado Autumn, one day sunny and 70 degrees, the next freezing and flurries flying. I’m all over the place, up and down and unhappy about it.

I’m still trying to be grateful and see the good in the season too, but every cold day makes it harder to be happy and hopeful. I found a quote attributed to my favorite Absurdist, Albert Camus, that goes: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” I’m sure he didn’t mean anything so cheery as this cherry picked quote would have you believe but I do like it and choose to pull a hopeful meaning from it.

Not that the fall is like spring, with everything coming to life and being born anew, but that everything is going through its necessary change. Growth isn’t always beautiful and changing fucking hurts sometimes, but it’s necessary and good. Winter is coming and with it a time for focusing on myself for change.

But first, here is what I am currently:

Writing at a real desk again! I took advantage of a few days off over fall break to clean out and rearranged our “creativity room” and make a new writing corner for myself, and just in time too! It’s too late to get my shit together for NaNoWriMo, but I might be able to pull something out of my ass for ZineWriMo! (A quick thank you Sea Green Zines for letting me know such an event and group existed.) Which fits right in with my project goals. I don’t expect to have a finished product by the end of the month, as last minute and disorganized as I am, but I hope to get a good start have something to show come December 1st.

Making real life things and not just internet things. Lately, I have been feeling pretty lost. The internet is a big place, and it’s full of thinkers and writers far smarter, funnier, and more well connected than I can even dream to be, so I need to stop dreaming, and just be. I’m scaling back my social media use and refocusing on making, sharing, and building community. I plan to keep my eyes on my own corner of the internet for a while.

Anticipating the crushing disappointment that will come with my not so shocking rejection from the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers 2018 program. I worked hard to get an application in by the end of August, and I am so proud of myself for trying, but I am under no delusions about the competition. There are too many writers with more to say and the talent to say it better, writers more deserving than me, and that’s okay. To even be rejected by Bitch Media will be an honor.

Reading Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, whew! I’m not very good with plays, it’s hard for me to follow a story that is made entirely of dialogue, but The further I get the more I get the hang of the story, and the more I enjoy it. I was lucky to have found a Barnes & Noble edition (I picked it up at a thrift store) with plenty of notes and explanation throughout on the language and history of the play and England as it was in Shakespeare’s time for context. This is my first reading of Shakespeare, and I’m happy to find he’s actually pretty funny, and there is plenty of wordplay and a good dose of sexual innuendo to keep me interested too. Next up I’ll be back with Virginia Woolf reading A Room of One’s Own.

Watching Stranger Things 2! I actually finished it last night, so I’ll probably start the analysis show, Beyond Stranger Things, to keep me going for a little while longer. There isn’t much else that has my attention. The Duece is over. I’m not as enthusiastic about Mindhunter as I thought I’d be. Transparent is getting too weird for me. I’ve been rewatching all seven seasons of True Blood, but I’m almost done with those too. Thank God Shameless starts up next week!

Feeling a bit down on my body right now. I’ve been gaining weight steadily since at least the beginning of this year but the problem isn’t the weight, it’s my clothes. Nothing fits me anymore, and I can’t really afford a whole new wardrobe, and I can’t keep trying to work and live in clothes that are so tight they hurt so I have to find a way to get back down to my skinnier self. There is a gym around the corner from me that I’d like to join, but I don’t trust myself to actually do it, so I’m going to start by working out at home, by the end of November I want to have a plan and a routine down pat!

Needing more time to spend with family and friends. The two people who I count as my good friends, people who check on me and encourage me, are working different schedules and locations now. We don’t see as much of each other as we used to and ever since my sister, her husband, and her kids moved away to Texas, I haven’t seen much of the family I have left here either, but I want to. My mom has been down over her health, my niece is growing up, and my little sister is a hair’s breath from adulthood, and I want to be there for all of them. I just need some community, people to take care of and people to take care of me too.

Loving the continued exposure of men who thought they were too big to be brought down as sexual harassers, pedophiles, rapists, enablers, and trash human beings. Sometimes it hurts. I had come to really enjoy Kevin Spacey as an actor, but I celebrate the cancellation of House of Cards, no matter how much it sucks, because he hurt a child and he deserves, at the very least, to lose this and go away for awhile because of it. I hope victims and survivors continue to feel empowered and encouraged to tell their stories. I’m here for it because, sadly, #MeToo.

Hating the stress of the holidays already. The older I get, the more I see the way capitalism and consumerism have corrupted the season. I want Thanksgiving to really be about giving thanks for what and who we have in our lives not competing for the best and biggest spreads. I want Christmas to really be about giving not competing for the best gift given and begging for better gifts in return. I want the new year to be about new beginnings, not big parties and best dressed. I just want to focus on loving the people I love and enjoying some much needed time with them.

Hoping to spend a significant amount of the upcoming holiday time off to focus on self-care too. I’ve been anxious, and depressed, lost, and a little down on myself lately and I have realized I’ve been waiting, hoping, expecting that someone else would fix me but people aren’t medicine. I am responsible for me and I know I’m not doing okay so it’s my job to do something about it. Excercise, eating right, getting enough rest, and getting help, these are the gifts I hope I can give myself this holiday season.

All in all, October was a fun month. We were able to see It, check out a haunted house, get Friday the 13th tattoos, and meet up with friends for dinners and parties. I feel like the most was made of the last warm days of the year and I can head into winter with no regrets.

But, what about you? How did October treat you? How did you treat yourself? What did you think of Stranger Things? Are you ready for the holidays, or are you already stressed out and plan to be until January?

Let me know in the comments!

***

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.

The inspiration for this posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured photo is by Kyaw Tun and available freely on Unsplash

Our Words Fail Us, and We Fail Each Other

“War is what happens when language fails.”

— Margaret Atwood

We all fight with someone, even the people we love the most. We fought all the time, nearly daily for some, but it’s rare we reach for physical violence to get our point across. It is common to reach for emotional savagery at the slightest threat to our self-image, our way of thinking, or our sense of control. Real or perceived we are quick to hate, to degrade, and to cut off people around us for the smallest transgression because we have lost the ability to really tell one another how we feel, and to really listen to the feelings of another.

We’ve all utilized violence at some point on siblings or schoolmates. Some have hit their children or had to fight a stranger. Worse are those who have struck a spouse, a parent, an animal. I’ve seen it all and done my fair share too. I have been hurt and hurt others. I have had my sense of safety taken away, and I have felt pride in taking it from others. But I hate that version of me that was so stupid and so weak as to think there was any reason to feel pride in such brutality. I hope to never act so brutish again unless I have to use force to save my life or the life of someone I know.

I’ve come to see violence as something to only be used as a last resort and only when violence is first used on me. I now believe that there is no end to the ways a conflict can be resolved as long as both parties want to. Growth has made me sensitive to the ways I see communication break down around me and the way people have come to see physical violence as the second step after verbal violence is utilized as the first.

Violence is an instinct. Little kids do it and have to be taught not to do it. It is also a learned behavior too. The more they see other people doing it, the more we do it, of course, but I’ve seen babies not yet walking and not yet witness to assault hitting and throwing things out of frustration when they feel their needs have not adequately been communicated.

I work with children in a space that isn’t home and isn’t school, and in this place, they are a little freer, a little more themselves, for good and for ill. I find that at any slight correction, challenge, or frustration they fail to communicate their feelings and instead head right for violence, first verbal and then physical.

I have to slow them down. I work hard to teach them that there are other things to try first. I tell them they can talk to me, tell me how they feel, and I will never punish them for that. I do it because I understand they are being raised the same way I was, to believe that any show of emotion or expression of need is a sign of disrespect. Their feelings are being forced in, and their ability to communicate is decaying from non-use.

As a result, they have no idea how to simply say they are unhappy, that they don’t understand, that they are frustrated or hurt, or to ask for space or time to process what is happening around or inside themselves. They don’t know how to say what they need, and they have no desire to hear what other people need either.

They only know what they have been taught— that respect and understanding come after you have forced it from someone. They have been taught that there is only one right and one wrong and that the one who is right is the one who hits harder.

As we get older, we gain some control, or at least we learn who we can’t hit and who we can. We still don’t know how to talk, and we still don’t know how to understand though.

That’s not to say we are all violent people. No one wants to start there. No one wants to yell, humiliate, or hurt, we do it when we feel we have no other choice and that place is different for us all but none of us have the strength or patience we might have if we’d worked at communication or seen proper examples of it. All of us has given up on someone, some of us have given up on whole groups of people we will never meet because we are convinced that they are incapable of understanding us and us, them.

But there is always a point, and there is always a way, it’s just hard to do, that’s all. Language is a poor way to describe all the complexity and shades of meaning and feeling that exist inside of a human being, but as long as we are each trapped inside of our own perspective and consciousness, barred from the minds of one another, we have to use what we have, our words.

To listen is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy, emotional and intellectual, to hold your own mind back, to trust enough to let your defense down and listen to another. It’s even harder to be vulnerable and ask someone to expend such energy on you. We try once, twice, and the third time we’re done not seeing that the first time we sounded frustrated, the second time we yelled, and the third we used insults and threats. There was never real communication. I see this every day.

No one learns how to communicate rigorously.

No one learns to consider that they are wrong.

No one believes there is honor or pride in giving time and consideration to needs, ideas, or ways of living of others.

The effect is worse in groups and worst of all in nations. Too often violence can seem like the only course of action to take, not last but at all. We work ourselves into a frenzy declaring that our way of life our thinking or land must be defended at all costs. We are right, and they are wrong, and words will do nothing. There is nothing to say to “those people,” they wouldn’t understand if we tried and we will not allow ourselves to be infected, manipulated, deterred, or distracted from our aim. EQUALITY, FREEDOM, JUSTICE, PEACE! Worthy causes to die for, but to kill for?

Maybe. I won’t say I believe that there is no place for violence. Sure, there are wars worth fighting. There are people who can only be saved if someone else was to die, but I don’t see those kinds of wars being fought. What I see when I watch the news is wars being fought that might be solved with listening and an exchange of ideas and empathy, and I see wars not being fought where genocide, mass rape, and the exploitation of children has been taking place for generations.

What I see is nations acting like people, fighting for respect and control and not for equality, freedom, justice, and peace.

What I see is here at home a divide furthering between ideologies because talking is exhausting and listening is just too hard. I see people who are sure they are right, that there is no other way to see it, and that communication is no road to resolution. I see tension building and a canyon-sized divide between the purity of each sides way of seeing the world. No one is willing to build a bridge. The bridge builders of the past are disillusioned, and the would-be builders can only see what the other side won’t do.

So, violence is quickly becoming all that is left because we’ve not built the strength nor the desire to keep trying, again, and again, and again.

We’ve not been raised to believe that people can come around by words alone. We’ve not been raised to believe there is a middle ground in that canyon separating us from one another. We’ve not been raised to understand that people are mysterious and complex and in need of love and understanding the same as us. We have not been raised to see each other as equals only as beings to dominate, manipulate, and use for our own emotional ends. We’ve not been taught that words will get us what we need.

The average person isn’t out there beating people up and humiliating them, but we are internalizing and perpetuating the same way of looking at the world and thinking about one another that leads to violence on more massive scales. We are protecting and excusing the violence that breaks out on individual levels seeing it through our own upbringing and justifying the pettiest reasons.

I just want to see us all try another way and try a little harder.

Try being patient. Try being quiet. Try being open, sympathetic, and kind.

Work the muscles in the mind that express and understand. Learn how to use your words and learn the meaning of words that other people use. Consider that you might be a little wrong and that the people you have written off might be a little right. Not just the people you know, but people half a world away too. Think about what war is and what it’s cost is worth. Teach your kids to do the same and teach your loved ones through their interaction with you. Take the time communicate. I promise it is no waste.

I’m talking to all of you, myself included. I am talking to all sides of the issue those who have never listened and those who have tried listening so much they’ve given up hope that it works. I’m talking to you.

I’m talking to us here and now and to everyone in the future because if we don’t learn to sharpen and strengthen language, make it better and make it work nothing will change.

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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 Georgia National Guard from United States [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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

If We Were Having Coffee // Time to Get Spooky!

Hello dear readers. Thanks for stopping by for a bit of coffee and conversation. I’m feeling anxious today. The caffeine isn’t helping. Actually, the caffeine might be the cause.

I’ve been drinking cold brew coffee for months but since the mornings are growing colder and colder, and I need something warm and strong to start the day again. Drip coffee tastes like bitter water now, so I’ve dusted off my espresso machine and moved to drinking a couple of warm, velvety shots instead. I’m still figuring out the right ratio of coffee grounds to water and I may have overdone it.

“Coffee for two
The sweetest and most bitter
Bold in taste
Warm in conversation
Lovely in embrace
Coffee for me
Coffee for you”

— NB // Coffee For Two

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m feeling much better this Sunday than I was the last. The world still feels like it’s ending nearly every day, but I made sure to take breaks from social media and to limit my intake of the news to once or twice a day. Some of the shit still found its way in.

Between Harvey Weinstein’s predation coming to light, the short-sighted call to boycott Twitter in response to Rose McGowan being suspended, the fires in California, and Trump sabotaging what little health care we can get in this country I still found plenty of reasons to be depressed and anxious, but less so than the week before. It was good to unplug for a while.

Not that I have been any more productive instead. I found new ways to waste time, and new ways to be disappointed in myself. It wasn’t a good writing week at all. I had such hope after starting a list of specific topics to write about here and after deciding on the theme for an upcoming personal writing project I thought it would be easy-peasy from here. Nope, the hardest part is still keeping my ass in the chair and just doing the damn writing.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that there is hope though. I’ve started reading Things Are What You Make of Them by Adam J. Kurtz, and I’m feeling a little less afraid of writing. Or, I feel a little less alone in my fear and my failure. It always helps to know you aren’t struggling alone. It helps to know it isn’t all you, being creative and putting yourself out there are just hard things to do, but you can do it if you just don’t give up.

I’m also reading The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I started it last Thursday, and I’m already halfway done. It’s such a dream to read! I’ve seen the movie about a million time but it’s such a unique story told from such an intriguing perspective that it still draws me in and excites me.

***

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a belated happy Friday the 13th! Being a fan of all things horror, I’m always excited when the 13th falls on a Friday of any month, but having it happen in October is an especially spooky treat. To mark the occasion my sister, and my girlfriend and I went out to take advantage of some Friday the 13th tattoo and piercing specials. My sister got her nostril pierced. My girlfriend got a lucky white rabbit tattoo, and I got this cute little fly that reminded me of the film The Fly, the 1986 version specifically, thank you very much.

This is my second Friday the 13th tattoo, and I’m already looking to getting another next Friday, which just happens to be my birthday!

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the highlight of my week, besides the tattoo, was last night when we met up with some friends for a couple’s night out.

We started at a small pizza place downtown for dinner and drinks. It was a new place, and I was pleasantly surprised. The calzones we ordered were enormous and delicious, and the menu featured an extensive list of microbrews and cocktails. Afterward, we went to a huge haunted house to get spooky! After that, we went for even more drinks!

It’s been too long since we were last out with friends, I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. Especially these friends, two other couples who understand what it means to be with someone for years. I enjoy watching them interact with each other. Like everything else, it helps to know you are normal.

We're the cutest 😍😙

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it’s getting late and I have to get going. There’s more writing to do, posts to draft and notes to type up plus laundry to do, dinner to get in the oven, and the cocktails that need to be made before The Duece comes on.

I hope you had a wonderful week. I hope you found time to take care of you this weekend. I hope it’s beginning to feel like Halloween and you are enjoying the spooky vibes too.

Until next time

The world's shrinking.

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

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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.

Written for the #WeekendCoffeeShare link-up, now hosted over at Eclectic Alli!

Featured photo is by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash