Existentialism: A Short Comic

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Drawn in response to The Daily Post Discover Challenge: Mixed Media

Background image via  Unsplash

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Share Your Whole Self

Authenticity means everything to me.

It is at the core of why I write here, or anywhere. I write to share all sides of myself. I write to bring to light not just to what we wish we were but to get at who, and what, we really are. Authenticity to me means sharing what is inside of you, all the good and the bad, and not only recognizing where you wish to improve but why.

There is a very human tendency to only show the best sides of ourselves. It has been evolutionarily beneficial for obvious reasons. We separate the parts of us that are love—or at least are acceptable to society—and we make those parts of ourselves into a mask, pretending it is all there is. We use that mask to hide the parts of ourselves that we believe are unacceptable to our friends, and family, and society as a whole, and we pretend they do not exist.

This tendency is exacerbated by social networks like Facebook and Instagram. We are showing more and more of ourselves to more and more people, and we want to make sure all sides of ourselves polished and perfect. We work harder and harder to make that make the version of ourselves we wish we were strong and believable. We bury the ugly things deeper and deeper. Sometimes we bury it all. Sometimes so deep we even fool ourselves.

But what we forget is that the fragmented human is an unhappy human. We feel the most satisfied and fulfilled when we are allowed to be our whole selves. We are happiest when we feel seen and understood. So why then do we try so hard to be something else?

It is fear, only fear, that keeps us splintered and suffering in that way.

We are afraid because, as much as humans want to be genuine, open, and accepted, we are not very good at offering other humans a space to experience the same. We do not do it for others, and so we believe no one will do it for us.

We have to lead by example. Be yourself, the good, the bad and the ugly, allow others to be the same. Praise the ones you know are practicing radical authenticity and let those who don’t know that they can.

Post your worst selfies, your unfinished art, and promise never to delete them. Write when you are sad, when you are angry, when you are embarrassed. Tell us about the times when you have been cruel, when you have been wrong, and when you have been tricked. Don’t try to be funny, don’t try to sound smarter than everyone you know, don’t promote your work. Ask questions and offer no answers. Tell them why you are sorry, then tell them why you’re not. Tell them what you love, what you hate, and what you learned.

Tell me about the times your mom made you feel stupid and how your dad left you feeling confused and unloved. Tell me about and all the fights you have with your spouse that leave you in doubt. Tell me when you can’t sleep at night because your thoughts are too loud. Tell me when you hate yourself. Tell me about every time you’ve looked into the abyss and whether or not it winked back at you.

When you feel yourself hiding behind posts that don’t tell the full story or only show one side to your life and personality, work hard to correct it.

Don’t ever pretend to be perfect, don’t even try to be perfect, B

Do it because the splitting and the hiding only leads to shame and a life wasted on lies and deceptions. Do it because the greatest joys in life only come when we decide to be brave, be vulnerable, and find that all along everyone around us felt the same. That is how we find connection and community. That is what makes anything we do worth doing.

Promise yourself to live in truth and good faith.

I promise to do the same.

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Written in response to The Daily Post’s Discover prompt: Radical Authenticity

Featured image via Unsplash

Don’t Listen to Your Brain, It’s Stupid

“What’s wrong honey?”

“A lot of things, mostly that I am ugly and I can never do anything right.”

“That is not true you are beautiful and you have done so many great things.”

“But that’s not what my brain says.”

“Well, don’t listen to your brain. Your brain is stupid.”

The best piece of advice I have ever received and continue to receive regularly, in person, comes from my girlfriend.

She reminds me that my brain is stupid.

It may sound a bit harsh; my girlfriend is the kind of person who says things bluntly. She can sound mean or angry when her intention is only to be honest. She wants me to see myself from her perspective, but she knows that is impossible. The best she can do is remind me that there is more than one perspective and mine may (read: probably is) wrong.

So, she reminds me that sometimes my brain doesn’t know what the hell it is talking about, nd I should not believe everything it tells me. She reminds me that brains are not perfect organs. They do not experience the world objectively, nor do the process and recall information without clouding it first with emotion and previous experience. Brains are made up of a whole lot of things other people (and their imperfect brains) put there.

She does this whenever I get down on myself and to me, it feels so much more real or true than just telling me I’m wrong. When you think you look bad or when you think you have done bad, having someone say you are wrong doesn’t help. Hearing that only frustrates you and deepens your feeling of loneliness. She isn’t invalidating what I am feeling, she is only pointing out that I don’t have to believe what I am feeling. Plus, the way she says it is kinda funny which brightens my mood a little.

I still get down on myself from time to time but I remember what she says and the moment passes quickly.

It’s a comfort knowing that my bad feelings about myself aren’t unreal or unjustified, they are just wrong. It helps shift my focus from believing my bouts of low self-esteem are fact-based into realizing that my feelings are the sum total of the genetics I inherited, the childhood I had, and what society says about people who look and live like me.

It isn’t true that I am ugly, or dumb, or incapable of accomplishing my goals. What is true is that my brain is imperfect, it functions with only the tools it has been given over my lifetime, and sometimes it is even stupid.

Sometimes I just shouldn’t listen to it.

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Written in response to The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge: A Piece of Advice

From Notebooks to Novels

I don’t remember exactly when writing became a part of my life, but I know it was long before I knew that I wanted to be a writer. I only knew that writing offered a way to say the things I couldn’t tell anyone. I only know that it was a very private thing, a secret expression of who I was. I knew that it was all I had.

It started somewhere between when my 14-year-old self gave up on the world and when my 17-year-old self gave the world a second chance. I think my first notebook was probably picked up in a Hot Topic, probably along with a pack of plastic lip rings and a stack of discounted Johnny the Homicidal Maniac comics.

I don’t remember when the journals became a part of my daily life, but I do remember there became a time where they were pulled out multiple times a day. I remember trying different pens and inks and even wondering about writing with coffee or even my own blood. Now that would be a true self-expression.

Like my first love, I longed to spend all my time with writing and searched for ways to bring us closer than was probably possible or healthy. I remember that I bought new journals before I could finish the old one, hoping that I could write better with a cover that really represented who I was. I remember I lost one on a bus somewhere and I still feel the loss of it as a tiny hole in my heart.

I don’t remember what I wrote about; I know it was a lot of “sad girl” stuff. I know I was lost, and I know I was angry. More than anything, though, I was lonely. I wrote about being depressed before I knew what it was and I wrote about love before I knew what that was too. I doodled and painted. I wrote my name over and over again, trying to make it into something beautiful and real.

I still have some of them. I keep them in boxes under the basement stairs and whenever I see them I feel a strange combination of love for my younger self who poured herself into them and shame that my deepest, and very often foolish and dramatic, feelings exist in a physical form. A form that anyone might come looking and see.

I don’t remember exactly when those journals moved from paper things to digital things, but I remember spending time on old computers learning HTML and typing away on online diaries along with other “sad girls.” I remember the thrill of making my feelings public and fearing that someone in my family might read them one day.

I wish I could still log into my old Open Diary account. The first place I ever met other sad, lonely girls like myself. I felt free when I wrote there and just like the paper journals that came before I wrote there multiple times a day. I was obsessed. I could change the look of it to suit whoever I was that day, and I could delete one and make another whenever I wanted to start over.

I don’t remember exactly when I first heard the term blogging or associated it with something I was, or wanted, to do, but I know I was doing it long before I learned the word. I moved from Open Diary to many different blogging platforms over the years, and each one was abandoned and forgotten eventually. I read other people’s blogs and fell in love with their lives only to have them abandon the medium, and me, too.

The freedom I felt at first always turned to fear. Fear of being found out. Fear that my family and friends might read my secrets and know more about me than I wanted. That felt like too much of a loss of power, but the feeling of being understood was too attractive, and I always came back to the online world of journalling.

I don’t remember when I decided that I would like to take the next step and write about who I was and what I felt under my own name, but it was around the time I began to connect the act of personal expression to becoming a published author. I know I hoped that by ceasing to hide behind usernames and convoluted email address I might be able to take this form of expression from notebooks to a novel.

I find myself moving from those private journals of my teenage years to more and more public writing every day. I set out to practice the craft and have ended up revealing more and more of myself to strangers. I am slowly learning to cope with my friends and family seeing me this way too.

I might not remember the details of how or when, but I feel that my life has always bent toward expression through words and toward the sharing of them. I am nowhere near the end of it, and I have no idea where I will end up. I only know that I have always felt the most like myself when I am writing.

I only know that it all started with a cheap notebook I bought in a store that catered to sad, lonely, overly emotional teenage girls like me. I know that that girl had something to say, and she’s still saying it today.

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Writen in response to the  The Daily Post’s Discover Challenge: Origin Story

Featured image via Unsplash

Small Wounds

I have always had a fascination with small wounds that look worse than they are. Paper cuts that bleed more than they should and stubbed toes that turn black and blue. Bigger wounds are too scary but these small one, they remind you what flesh is made of and how soft you are. Everyone knows small wounds hurt the most.

Small wounds remind you that you can bleed. They also remind you that you are lucky. A small wound could always have been worse. The knife could have slipped more, you could have lost a lot of blood, you could have broken your toe. Instead you will be fine. It may sting, and it may bruise, but you will be fine.

Small wounds remind you to be more careful next time.

Next time a band-aid and some ice might not be enough.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Monochromatic.”

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The Convenience of Soylent and What it Means to be Human

What if someone offered you the opportunity to get all of your daily nutrition from one simple drink? No more trying to decide what’s for dinner. No more worrying about cleaning your pots and pans. No more slaving over a hot stove. Would you be intrigued, I know I am.

It may sound like something out of a science fiction movie but finally it is real, I give you Soylent!

I first heard of Soylent years ago. There was an article/interview in one of the many science-y magazines I buy. Created by Robert Rhinehart in response to a need for “a simpler food source” the article made it sound like a miracle drink! “A food product (classified as a food, not a supplement, by the FDA) designed for use as a staple meal by all adults”. Each serving of Soylent provides maximum nutrition with minimum effort.

Never again would I have to worry about getting all of my nutrients, plus I would save a ton of time since I didn’t have to cook or clean any longer :)

Soylent.com Free your body

Soylent.com Soylent Powder 1.5 details

I wanted this so badly.

My girlfriend thought  it was weird. She said it would probably give me cancer. A lot of people have reacted to me the same way. I didn’t understand at first but after talking about it more and thinking it over I think most people’s aversion to Soylent is that it’s just so different. No one can imagine a life that is not centered around food. To not eat real food seems to fly in the face of what it means to be a human.

The act of finding, preparing, and eating food is a very social activity. Without that what would we do all day? How would we gather? What would we talk about if not the taste of a steak or a new recipe we discovered? What would we have to look forward to if not a nice greasy pizza or a juicy burger piled high with more beef patties than any person needs? Not worrying about food or finding new ways to prepare just seems too weird.

soylent-food

I was so excited when I discovered this amazing discovery but after talking to friends and family I felt like I have broken some social rule and quickly felt ashamed. So I let it go.

My interest was piqued again recently when Soylent 2.0 was released, promising to not only give you all of your nutrients but also provide a glowing feeling from helping the environment too. It’s vegan, so no animals are being slaughtered, and it’s made partially from sustainable algae! I wanted it even more!

Not only are its ingredients vegan, Soylent 2.0 reaches an unprecedented level of environmental sustainability with half of its fat energy coming from farm-free, algae sources. This next generation agricultural technology has the potential to reduce the ecological impact of food production by orders of magnitude, signifying a major step towards a future of abundance, a world where optimal nutrition is the new normal.

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Then again when The Next Web published a think piece slamming Rhienhart for a recent post on his blog. The piece described Rhinehart as “someone so disconnected from reality that he might as well be hooked into an Oculus Rift 24/7, bathing in a bath of temperature controlled Soylent”. Harsh much?

Yeah Rhinehart might be a little kooky but he’s made Soylent his whole life! I worry though that I could go a little kooky too if I forego the pleasure and social aspects of food for the convenience of “grey goop”. I mean I understand the benefits but Rhinehart acts like preparing food is a task only suitable for people burning in the lower levels of hell.

I have not set foot in a grocery store. Nevermore will I bumble through endless confusing aisles like a pack-donkey searching for feed while the smell of rotting flesh fills my nostrils and fluorescent lights sear my eyeballs and sappy love songs torture my ears. Grocery shopping is a multi-sensory living nightmare. There are services that will make someone else do it for me but I cannot in good conscience force a fellow soul through this gauntlet.

It’s not that bad dude! I mean yeah sometimes Wal-Mart can be a bit annoying, especially on a Sunday afternoon, but a “multi-sensory living nightmare” it is not. I worry I will be buying a one-way trip to kooky town with this guy with my first shipment of Soylent. This is what keeps me from giving it a try.

That and the fear of losing a basic part of what it means to be human. Food is a form of expression. The foods we like and dislike, way we procure food, the way we store it, prepare it, and even the way we talk about it is both unique and quite common. It’s one of the ways we connect with those around us. It is one of those basic things that reminds us all that we are more alike than we think.

So for now I choose eating my food the the old fashioned, inconvenient way.

You can learn more about Soylent at soylent.com and check out Rhinehart’s blog at blog.soylent.com.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Red Pill, Blue Pill.”

Feet and Paws and a Good Patch of Grass

My puppy, Lola, loves to go outside. So even though I am tired, even though it’s hot out, and even though I am busy, I have to take her. If I don’t she will become an absolute terror in the house. She’ll find things to get into and she will run circles through the kitchen and jump all over the furniture. Taking her outside is better for everyone.

Despite that I am never really “in the mood” to take her outside. Like I said, I’m tired, it’s hot, and I have other things to do, but as soon as we get out there I can’t help but be cheered by her obvious happiness at being outdoors. Her tail is wagging, she’s panting and tugging at the leash. She wants to feel some grass under her paws!

Outside everything smells so good and the ground is littered with a million edible things. There are rabbits, and birds, and other dogs to run after and if she’s good I will let her run off leash in the tennis court or the grassy area behind it.

We go to the grassy area a lot.

Lola’s favorite thing in the whole world is the feel of grass.

When her paws hit grass she changes, she becomes confident and free. She becomes half-wild too. She tries to run and jump while still on leash and it can be hard to calm her down enough to unclip the leash. Once free she runs through the grass, she eats the grass, she digs it up, she rubs her face and, eventually, her whole body in it. It’s annoying sometimes but it’s also pretty cute.

I try to get her out in the grass at least once a day. I know she needs it and because she loves me so damn much and tries to be a good dog I figure it’s the least I can do. She deserves it.

One thing I have learned since having Lola is how to appreciate a good patch of grass. Her excitement gets me excited and next thing I know I’m running through the grass right along with her. She runs circles and figure eight’s around me while I try my best to catch her. I’ll throw a ball or a stick and the game turns into one of “keep away”.

Eventually she gets tired, especially if I mess up and forget to bring water (whoopsie). She’ll stop quickly and lay down, panting hard and looking like the happiest dog in the world. I always lay next to her, which is a pretty big deal because I am afraid of bugs. Then she rolls over for belly rubs. Once she’s rested enough we begin the running game again. We do this a few times before I start to get afraid she will get too comfortable off leash and run away.

One the walk back home and she is happy and content. and much more well behaved. I look at her and wish I could be so happy in life.

You see, dogs teach us to be happy with what we have, wherever we are. For them, gratitude is an instinct. I wish I could be content with nothing more then a patch of grass. I wish I was happy to run in circles and dig holes. I wish I didn’t need anything else. Then again maybe I don’t need more than that. Maybe I am the one complicating things. Maybe all we need to feel true happiness is nothing more than a cool patch of grass to run in.

Then again my dog eats her own puke, what does she know?

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Beneath Your Feet”

From Me to Me in Twenty Years

Dear me in Twenty Years,

I do not know you, but I guess you know me quite well.

I will become you in twenty years but one thing I have learned is that trying to picture or predict what the future will hold is futile. I never knew the me I would become now and I cannot fathom what your life must be like.  I have learned instead that I can only hope and I hope that my future is a happy and fulfilling place.

You are 50 now and that means your body is probably creaking and sagging in all kinds of places but I hope you don’t care. I always thought it was silly that older women spent so much time and energy applying creams to fight the breakdown of collagen and various hair dyes to fight the graying. I hope you have a ton of laugh lines and long gray hair. I hope you look in the mirror and see how beautiful age can make us.

I hope you still have your dreadlocks. I love my dreads now and can’t imagine having to cut them off. Please tell me that won’t happen! I also hope you have more tattoos. I have been saving my pennies to get more and I don’t want all that saving to come to nothing in the end.

I hope that you are healthy. I know you have always worried about what you eat and how little you exercise. I hope that somewhere in between the time I was me and the time I became you that we found a way to take care of ourselves better. I know you remember the nights we lay awake facing our mortality. I hope you aren’t still afraid.

I hope you are working for yourself, doing the things that you love. I hope you are writing and creating art which I know has always been your passion. If you aren’t

I hope you are still in love and that your relationship continues to flourish. Our love for a particularly special girl is what got us our of the darker times. I hope you are treating her well. Do not forget the lessons we learned the hard way in the past. If my hopes are misplaced, please, don’t tell me. I’d rather stay ignorant and blissful a little while longer.

I hope our family is well. Your niece and nephew would be all grown up now and our siblings will be getting older right along with you. I hope you see them every Sunday still. I hope they all turned out to be fine men and women with their own happy lives and happy families too.

I do imagine that in the time between me writing this and you reading that you have experienced many hardships and some devastating losses. I know that life is often harsh and at times quite cruel. I hope you have not forgotten that life can be beautiful too. I hope nothing has broken you. You are such a fragile creature at times. I also know you are strong when you need to be, you always have been.

Whatever is happening in your life, wherever I have ended up as you, I know that we did our best and I promise when I am you I will have no regrets.

I can’t wait to meet you one day, we will have much to discuss when I do.

– Love always,

You at 30

This is part two, can read part one here.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From You to You.”

Original image via Caleb Roenigk

From Me to Me at Fourteen

Dear Me at Fourteen,

You do not know me but I know you very well.

You do not know me but you will become me one day.

I want you to know that even though life is hard right now, that even though you feel alone and hurt, know that I love you. You do not love yourself yet, that won’t come for a very long time, and not without a lot of work, but it will come.

I want you to try to have hope. I know it must seem silly to have hope in a world where things only ever go from bad to worse, but it isn’t. You must have hope. You must try to survive. I promise you there is light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel and you cannot imagine how beautiful life will be.

There will come a time when all of this will feel like nothing more than something bad that happened to someone you once knew. The wounds will heal and there will be love and security. It seems impossible, I know, but it will come. You only need to hold on for just a few more years.

Until then, try not to be so hard on yourself. I know you are struggling to figure out what is right and whatever you choose is ok. You are only a child and those who are meant to teach you are leaving you to figure it out on your own. It’s ok, you will get there. Try to be patient with yourself, no one else will and it’s what you will need the most right now.

I know no one has told you but I want you to know that you are amazing. You are beautiful, and kind and so, so smart. More than that though, you are strong. There are so many people who would have crumbled under half the weight life has piled on you but you can handle it. You are stronger than you know, and stronger than they tell you you are.

One day, when you are all grown up you will be happy.

All you have to do is survive!

– Love always,

You at 30

This is part one, can read part two here.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From You to You.”

Original image via Caleb Roenigk

Ava Up Close

Everyone, meet Ava.

Ava, this is everyone.

I hope you aren’t squeamish about snakes. I promise you there is no need to be. Not with little Ava anyway. She’s not aggressive. Not if you are patient and slow with her and remember to not to force her or restrict her.

She only wants to explore the world around her. She’ll flick her tongue a lot. Taste-smelling the air looking for delicious rodents. If she happens to want to taste-smell your face it tickles ever so slightly like baby eyelashes on your cheeks.

She doesn’t feel slimy at all. She feels cool and smooth. She glides right over your skin and through your fingers. At first she is shy, she stays coiled and still but very quickly she relaxes. Then you will have to stay alert because she is quick! And if you lose her I will hurt you….

Don’t worry though. I’m here to help you with her.

Excuse me while I rattle off facts that you probably don’t care about.

  • She’s a Brazilian Rainbow Boa, they’re called that because the shape of their scales cause them to have a beautiful iridescent sheen
  • She requires high levels of humidity, which are hard to maintain in this dry Colorado air
  • She’s almost a year old now. She was born last August.
  • Boas give birth to live young rather than lay eggs.
  • I got her as a Christmas gift from my girlfriend but she couldn’t be shipped to me until last spring.
  • Yes, she was shipped to me, in a box.
  • No, I’m not crazy. Snakes are awesome, I promise!

Ava is just as much a part of my family as my dog and cat are. Her and my other snake, Delilah. They may not love me, or show me affection, but I have earned the trust of an animal that does not trust easily.

Sometimes that feels better than love given instinctually.

In response to The Daily Post photography prompt: Close Up