August 2017 // I Did the Thing!

Wow, the end of August really snuck up on me! I went the half the day writing the date on forms and staring at it on my calendar before I realized what it meant, tomorrow is September, and then it took the other half to reflect on everything that happened.

This month was a buzzing busy one. The kids have all gone back to school with means I have gone back to working a regular schedule and this school year has been off to the rockiest start I’ve seen in my 11 years here. With the employee shortage, we are all having to chip in and work a little more. My girlfriend is working very long hours, so I’ve been picking up some slack at home all the while plugging away at a big scary goal I had at for myself too. I sent in an application for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers under the topic of sexual politics.

I’ve never done anything like this before which means I had no experience working cover letters, crafting a CV, or putting together writing samples, but I did it. I agonized over it. I fought my fear of it. I thought of my future self and how I hoped she would be proud rather than disappointed. I did the thing, guys. I did the big scary thing, and now I’m ready for September to begin.

But before it does, here is what I am currently:

Writing: Nothing. Well, not nothing. I’m posting here and working on a few little things, but after having worked so hard on that application, I’m kind of burned out. I’m going to take a little break from the pressure and deadlines. I’m just reading and brainstorming. I say nothing, and I say I’m taking a break but to be honest with you I’ve already been making interesting little notes I might make into something one day.

Planning a long weekend away! So, work got in the way, and our big trip west won’t be happening after all. Bummer. But since my girlfriend’s birthday is on Sunday, and since this weekend marks the 40th anniversary of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and since Birth.Movies.Death is teaming up with SyFy and showing the movie in Wyoming at the base of Devil’s Tower we ARE DRIVING NORTH FOR THE WEEKEND! I’m so excited. Oh, and I guess I better start planning for the 100 other birthdays of close friends and family falling in this month too.

Making a new art journal. I think I’ve said this before, and I didn’t really do it, but I finally have just the right piece of cardboard for the cover and plenty of scrap paper to make a nice thick book out of it. I want so badly to get back into drawing but trying to do it in the same art journal I failed to keep up with is just a reminder of my failure. I can’t draw when I feel like a failure, so there needs to be a clean slate. Art will be the thing I do that is entirely for me. Writing used to be that thing, but now I write for you all too, and while I love sharing my passion with you, I’m just one of those people who needs something that is just for me too.

Anticipating the end of September! I hate to see the season go but Halloween is my favorite holiday, and as far as I’m concerned it begins on October 1st. I’m ready for candy corn and all the horror movies I can watch. The good ones and the cheesy ones too, I love them all. Plus I’m so ready for the next season of Stranger Things. I have a feeling September is going to dragggggggggg.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway, still, because I caved and reinstalled Candy Crush on my phone. I’m so addicted to the game that even talking about it now makes me want to close my laptop and get a hit of that sweet, sweet color matching action. I need to delete it, and I will, I promise, just one…more…level. It’s not just the game though, the book’s stream of conscious style was hard to get the hang of, but I am making progress. I believe I’ll get through it before the weekend is over. Next up I’ll be reading either Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare or Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.

Watching Last Chance High on Viceland. Many of the years 11 years I’ve worked in this school district were spent with children who have emotional and behavioral disorders. These kids are defiant, violent, and angry but they are also so caring, and smart, and afraid. There is a serious lack of public understanding of how these disorders develop and how to treat them. People believe these kids need to be ashamed, bullied, and beat into better behavior but it is precisely this treatment that leads to this behavior. Last Chance High chronicles the harsh world these kinds of kids live in and teaches us that love, affection, protection, and understanding is how you help them heal.

Feeling a little alone. I’m surrounded by people who are too busy living their own lives to pay attention to me, but I’m doing my best not to be too whiny about it. I’m taking some time to learn how to be alone with myself without anxiety and existential dread creeping in. I’m learning to be self-motivated and disciplined and to soothe myself and take care of me without help. I’ve never been on my own, and even now I’m not truly alone, only bored and having a small internal tantrum over not having attention paid to me the moment I want it.

Needing the world to get back on some kind of even keel again. Everything feels so upside down and up in the air. I’m afraid of the future, for our country and for my own small family and circle of friends. The big political and economic landscape have had real world effects. My job can’t find or keep enough qualified employees, my friends can’t afford the skyrocketing rent prices in this city, and I’m afraid to lose my rights, my healthcare, and my sanity. I’m worried about war and natural disasters victims who will lose their homes. I’m afraid there is nothing I can do, and I’m afraid there is so much I can do, and I’m only too weak or lazy to do it.

Loving that last season of Game of Thrones! Best season yet despite being so short. Every episode was action packed and full of surprises and bombshells of information. I sat on the edge of my seat for seven whole weeks. I have no idea how I’m going to wait out the next year or two until the eighth season premieres, and I have no idea how I will live without the show in my life after that final season ends.

Hating that I’ve had to stop being so open to people emotionally. I used to pride myself on being so willing to hear the pains and complaints of others. I k ow how much we all just want to be heard and I know not every is so lucky to have someone in their lives to listen, but lately, there has been so much negativity and lying around me that I’ve had to take a step back. With my own support system working at a lower capacity than usual I just don’t have the emotional strength right now to deal with toxic attitudes. I hate it, but it’s necessary for now.

Hoping I get picked for this fellowship, and I’m also hoping I don’t. I want it because I really think with some mentorship and a little direction I could turn out to be at the very least a damn decent writer. I want this because it will give me a purpose and a place for my writing to call home. I want this because I want to feel proud and I want people to feel proud of me too. But as much as I want it I still have this sinking feeling that I’m not good enough and that I have made myself a liar by trying to convince the nice people at Bitch Media that I am. I’m afraid to waste their time, to find out I’m incompetent, and to let everyone down. Mostly I’m just hoping I can put it out of my mind and keep myself from going crazy until November 15th when the 2018 fellows are announced.

Mostly I’m just hoping I can put it out of my mind and keep myself from going crazy until November 15th when the 2018 fellows are announced.

All in all, this month was a really hard one, but I’m so proud of myself, and my girlfriend, and of us for making it through it all together.This month was about growth and maturity and about loving each other enough to put our own feelings and sometimes needs aside to be supportive of one another. She supported me and took time out of her day to proofread and give me her opinion. I did my best to take some worries off her mind, and we both let go of our frustration to make the most of what time we had.

I hope things improve next month, but I know that if it doesn’t, we can handle it. We can take on whatever the world throws at us, separately and together. We’re growing up finally, and it feels good.

So, how about you? How did August treat you? Are you ready for fall? Do you have any last-minute summer plans to squeeze in? What did you think of Game of Thrones season 7?

Let me know in the comments (:

***

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.

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

Featured image by Dixit Motiwala on Unsplash

 

Advertisements

Currently // July 2017: Freedom is Bad for Writing

The passing of June was a time of conflicting feelings for me, but the passing of July is just down right depressing. The heat of summer may continue, but my freedom will end almost immediately. Working for a school district means August is a chaotic time. No matter how many school years we begin and end, they never seem to get easier. Every year is different, and each comes with new challenges and new anxieties.

Then again, I’m kind of looking forward to returning my old structured schedule. One thing I learned this summer is that I am not very good at managing my time and working when no one is making me do it. I spent plenty of time napping and feeling guilty about napping. With the return of the children, there will be the return of reasons to wake up early and days that come with writing time already built in. The loss of all this free time might be the best thing to happen to my writing in months.

But before I get back to it, here is what I am currently:

Writing more blog posts, and essays, and poems, as usual, but this time, purely for me and purely for fun. I dropped off the face of the internet for much of July because I lost my passion for writing. I lost my passion for writing because I was trying too hard to be someone else. I want to be successful, and so I watch what other successful people do and try to emulate it, but that isn’t fun, or interesting, and it doesn’t lead to fulfillment, joy, or pride in my work. So, I’m going to stop listening to all the things people say I should do and just do what feels good for a while. Blogging feels good and so does writing about whatever pops into my head and sometimes writing about nonsense.

Planning my first real vacation. I can’t give away too many details yet but it looks like very soon my girlfriend, and I might be heading west and away from all our stress. We’re taking a break from worrying about the future for a while. I can’t wait. Actually, I am planning a lot of things. I’m hoping to start actually planning our wedding too. We’ve been engaged forever now, and we’re coming up on a year out from our “we’re getting married no matter what” date so we need to get our shit together asap.

Making a lot of Old Fashioned whiskey cocktails lately.  I had one a while back at one of our new favorite restaurants and thought I’d give it a try on my own. I have special ice cube molds and a couple of thick bottom glasses leftover from our old set. I’ve been having fun adjusting the recipe to taste and I contrary to the website I got the recipe from I do enjoy adding a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry, but I do skip the club soda. That is too far from the classic for me.

Anticipating a quiet month. July was stressful. There were a lot of birthdays and events to attend along with all the work obligations. We also spent a lot of time making improvements to the house, and despite how exhausted we are somehow it feels like we barely accomplished anything. Next month there are only two birthdays in the family, and our calendars have been wiped clean to focus on work for a while. As the school year starts, every day will get easier and easier, and hopefully, by the time we get to September, everything will be running smoothly.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, still. I don’t know what it is, but I am having a tough time getting into this book. All of humanity pretty much agrees it’s a classic and I’m still hovering around the first third of the book trying to figure out the flow so I can make sense of where I am and where Woolf is trying to take me. I’m not giving up though, I’m just trying a new strategy. I’m going to read two books at once. I’ve decided to revisit Phi: A Voyage from the Brain to the Soul by Giulio Tononi. I attempted to read it years ago and never did maybe switching between two books I’m struggling with and giving myself a break from each every chapter will get me to the end of both.

Watching Game of Thrones yo! We’re three episodes in, and I’ve already grieved the loss of another favorite character and worried about the possible loss of another. Every episode leaves me shocked and wishing the week would fly by a little faster so I could find out what happens next. Besides GoT, I’m watching two other HBO originals, Insecure and Room 104, and rewatching the old L Word series since I hear a sequel is in the works.

Feeling lost, and a little sad. Being alive is hard and knowing that one day I won’t be is even harder than that. My anxiety has been at an all time high, and my self-esteem seems to be getting lower every day. Then again, I feel so much gratitude too. At least I get to be alive at all, even if my little life is nothing but a blink of an eye and even if I don’t get to be someone who will be remembered outside of my own family. I got to be here, and I have to stop worrying about the end and get on with enjoying the time I have.

Needing a little more independence. I had hoped by now I would have made more progress, any progress toward overcoming my driving phobia, but I haven’t. Not being able to drive has had a profoundly negative effect on my self-esteem and not being able to go places and do the things I want to do has contributed to my feelings of isolation and depression. So, I guess what I really need is more courage so that one day I might be able to get the independence I crave so much.

Loving the latest season of The Heart podcast, No, in which “Kaitlin explores her sexual boundaries from youth to adulthood.” The episodes explore sexual coercion and can be super triggering if you aren’t in the right head space but if you can I encourage you to listen. One thing I love about The Heart is that when they explore these painful issues they tackle them from all sides, and this season it was interesting to hear from men who admit pressuring women into sex and coming to term within themselves about why they did it and how wrong it was.

Hating the entire sprawling Trump and Co. circle of family, friends, and ass-kissers. Politically this year has been the longest and most exhausting of my life. I miss the Obamas so bad it fucking hurts. I miss feeling like America stood for something more than just money and greed and self-centeredness. I want to return to a time when there was at least the illusion even if there was little more of us being leaders in the world fighting for what was right, defending the oppressed, and working to bring nations together rather than tear the world apart. Is it 2020 yet?

Hoping that now that the Republicans have finally tried and failed and tried and fail and tried and failed to kill the Affordable Care Act they can finally get down to the business of real health care reform. I am one of those people with a pesky pre-existing condition and who is finally receiving the care I need because of “Obamacare” and as grateful as I am Even I can see that the system is far from perfect. Let’s finally start helping people!

All in all, this month was…not the best, but it wasn’t all bad. I may not have made a lot of writing progress but I did learn some valuable lessons and I did make progress in other parts of my life. I had some fun and through all of the stress my girlfriend and I have been able to find ways to lean on one another, be there for one another, and continue to grow together.

I know things can only get better from here.

So, how about you? Was July a good or bad month for you? What goals did you accomplish? In what ways were you disappointed? What are you reading, watching, or looking forward to in August? Let me know in the comments (:

***

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 these posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured image by Stanley Dai on Unsplash

Go and Heal Someone Else

“As soon as healing takes place, go out and heal somebody else.”

— Maya Angelou

Humans have a hard time accepting that other people might have an easier way in life than they did, even if the easier way in life is all they ever wished for when they were struggling. What I mean is, if we see some going through what we have but we see them being given the support, patience, and understanding we weren’t, we get angry, and we cry over what we didn’t have and what no one else should have either.

We’re just bitter. We feel we have been wronged and since those wrongs can’t be helped or undone the least we can have is that everybody is wronged in the same ways we were. It feels like some kind of justice or validation of what we went through if at least it is universal and enduring. There is relief in seeing others fight and struggle the same as you. I suppose it makes us feel superior for having survived while others fall behind. It gives us a little bit of power and control over the world and other people we’ve never had.

But it’s wrong, and we know it’s wrong.

What are we all fighting for if it isn’t so other people don’t have to go through what we did?

This week, listen to the ways you talk about what other people should have, what they deserve, and why you think they aren’t as strong or as smart as you if they had it a little easier. Listen to the ways you talk about change and what benefit you think there comes with keeping things the same?

I’ve heard people say we shouldn’t be fighting bullying in school, we shouldn’t have kids wear seat belts, we shouldn’t have therapy, we shouldn’t have later start times for schools, or awards for kids who do their best, why?

The only answer I get is because they didn’t have that when they were young, and they turned out fine so no one should. I always ask if they think they might have turned out better, happier, or more successful if they’d had more support, understanding, and a better sense that they were good enough, smart enough, and strong enough already to do anything they wanted in life. They always answer yes, and they have no answer for why they wouldn’t want that for everyone, even if they didn’t have it themselves.

For the most part, I’m aware of when thoughts like that creep into my head, but I still struggle with believing other people should be able to do everything I can with the same limited resources and assistance I had. I forget that I don’t have a corner on suffering and that I don’t get to decide what other people need or what they can handle. I can be just as hard on other people about their lack of progress as I am on myself for mine. I can forget to have a little understanding, patience, or empathy.

What healing I have done has taken a lot of work. Work that would have been so much easier if I’d had more support and understanding. I want to help others in all the ways I needed help when I was struggling rather than talking trash or thinking trash thoughts about how weak they are or about how much I did with so much less. I want to heal people, not hurt people. I want to teach what I have learned and make the world better for the next person who feels alone and lost. This week, try to do the same.

Of course it isn’t your job to heal anyone, just as it’s no else’s job to heal you either, but we are social creatures, and so much of our lives are wrapped up in other people’s lives, in society, and culture, and community, we all benefit when we build each other up and do our best to meet one another’s needs.

You can’t fix it all, I’m only asking you to do one thing you wish someone would have done for you when you were hurting. Try checking in on people, especially people you haven’t spoken to in a while, or people you think are strong and don’t need it. Try really meaning it when you ask how someone is doing. Encourage others to open up to you. Try opening up to other people and letting them know they are important to you and that they make you feel better. Try actively listening and not just waiting your turn to talk about yourself. Offer advice if it’s asked for. Offer a hug if they want it. Offer some words of validation always.

Heal yourself first. Get what you need, do what you need to, first, always first, but after you have made some progress and stored up some strength yourself, go out and help the rest of the world heal.

***

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 image via Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // I’m Always Playing Catch-Up

Hello, dear readers! I’m so happy you’ve stopped by for a bit of caffeine and conversation today. I’m got up early, and I was feeling better, more motivated and hopeful, than I have all week, but I’ve since grown sluggish and apathetic. To be honest with you I’m no fan of Sundays. The mornings are sweet but as the day drags on I grow disappointed and depressed and not even coffee can help now. The work week is approaching fast with its early mornings and expectations.

But here is a bit of light underneath the dread. There is the knowledge that a fresh start has come. I’ll hold tight to that feeling today, and add a bit of cocoa and chili powder to my coffee. That should turn the world around, yeah?

“Coffee tastes better with a side of conversation regarding how the world might end”

— @cybersygh

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that I continued to make progress this week. I did better than this time last month but not better than the week before. The problem wasn’t from lack of trying, but a lack of knowing how to finish things.

I started a few blog posts, and a newsletter too, but the words got away from me, I couldn’t make my intentions clear and, so, I couldn’t bring anything back around to conclusions. But even that problem is only another symptom. The real disease is not knowing how to manage important vs. urgent tasks.

Lately, I feel like I’m always playing catch up. I’m never looking far enough ahead. I’m not making plans or working toward long-term goals, especially with this blog. I’m writing posts early in the morning that must go up that day rather than having them done and scheduled well in advance like a real blogger. Not that I’m trying to be a real blogger, but I am trying to be a real writer—not that there is a difference—and being a real writer means learning how to plan and manage my time.

I also have to learn to stop and move on to something else when I get stuck. My current strategy is to stop doing anything at all and hope better ideas or a fiery passion will light under my ass and put me back to work. That never happens though because I end up spiraling into a pit of anxiety and disappointment. The longer I spiral, the harder it becomes to get back to doing something, anything again.

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is the first step is always admitting you have a problem and I am now well aware that I have many. I’m working on them, I swear.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week wasn’t especially exciting. I’ve been going into work a bit early and heading home for the day at lunch time. Every day I plan to write until evening but nearly every time the couch calls to me. I turn on the fans, turn the tv volume down, and the dog and I sleep soundly through the afternoon heat.

It’s been nice to relax like this every day, and I’m aware I am lucky to be able to. I don’t want to complain too much except to say that while having time to nap every day is nice, having time to work toward your personal goals is even better. I cringe with embarrassment knowing how much a better person than me would be able to accomplish with over a month of free afternoons.

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that in addition to that embarrassment I have a healthy helping of guilt thrown on top. Evey day my girlfriend comes home with me for lunch, and every day she heads back to work while I nap. She doesn’t seem too resentful of me though. She assures me that if the roles were reversed would sleep the day away too without a shred of guilt. I think she was trying to help, but I only felt more guilty. These past few weeks her job has been even more stressful than usual, and relief is at least a month or two away.

I’ve been worried about her, and I wanted to do something for her, get her out of our work home routine and do something fun. So, Friday night we dressed up and went back to a hidden seafood place we discovered earlier this year. We enjoyed a few drink, a few oysters, and a few hours of real interaction sans phones and social media.

Our usual date night routine is to head to the movies, but I forgot how much fun it can be to just enjoy a good meal and some in-depth conversation and catching up with another person. I’m hoping to have more of that in the coming weeks as I try to introduce a bit of balance into my girlfriend’s life.

 

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that it was getting late and there is laundry to wash and fold and words that must be written elsewhere. Thanks again for dropping by. I hope your week was a productive one and that your weekend was relaxing enough to allow you to reset.

***

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, once again by Part-Time Monster

Featured image via Unsplash

If We Were Having Coffee // Hello July, I Have Goals

Hello, dear readers and happy Sunday to you all. Thank you for stopping by for a bit of coffee and catching up on this weird weather, hot and gloomy afternoon. Warm coffee sounds awful right now, so of course, it will be cold brew instead. I need the higher caffeine content anyway. As usual I had plans of cleaning the entire house and writing the tons of blog posts and essays plus reading and drawing and being generally awesome all over the internet, but instead, I’m fighting the urge to lay on the couch, watch Netflix, and drift in and out of naps until dinner time.

“A little coffee. A little sunlight. Your troubles will get smaller.”

— Richard Webber, Grey’s Anatomy

***

If we were having coffee I would tell you that this past week was much more productive than the week before, and the week before that, but no nearly as productive as I had hoped it would be. I’m not all that disappointed though, I’m never as productive as I want to be. I don’t think anyone does as much as they would like to do, ever. We’d all be dead from exhaustion if we were. Laziness does have its evolutionary benefits I suppose.

I ended up having to do more work at my actual work which left me a lot less time for writing than I had hoped. I wrote about letting go of what I haven’t accomplished and start working from where I am. I took some inspiration from Kahlil Gibran and contemplated confronted the recent silence in my soul. And I shared everything I am currently doing and think as the month of June and the first half of the year, came to an end.

I did better than I have all month, but I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped on my, not so secret side project and I didn’t get my latest newsletter out despite having written at least half of it. It is a top priority for the coming week.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that one thing I am proud of is my first attempts at catching up on comments around here. I have been harboring so much guilt for being such a bad blogger. I’ve said it before but for the new followers, I’m already a little awkward socially, but I’m especially so online. I’m probably the only person in the world who thinks it easier to interact with other in real life than on the internet. BUT I’m working on it.

I don’t want to go one feeling like this, and I don’t want any of you to think I don’t appreciate each and every one of you. I don’t want you to think even for a second that every comment left here doesn;t mean the world to me.

All of you have been so supportive and kind, and I probably would have given up long ago if it weren’t for your encouragement. The least I can do is get over myself and say something! Even if it’s just a simple thank you.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m a little bummed the first half of the year flew by so quickly. I didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to (story of my life), but I’m hopeful for the second half.

I don’t like to look too far ahead, that’s been part of my problem lately, but I’m taking a moment to think about what 2018 is going to mean. I want next year to be the year I do all the things I’ve wanted to but have been horrible at planning in advance for.

This year I missed the Write On challenge, I failed the A to Z challenge, and I didn’t create any artwork. I figure if I spend a little time every week starting now I can get these project set up and hit the ground running in 2018. A little time every week doesn’t sound like too much at all…I think.

I’m also working on setting up small monthly goals. You may be surprised to learn that I am not very good at all at setting up goals, not the kind that are detailed, clear, or have deadlines. I’ve seen other bloggers sharing their “small goals” every month, and I thought I’d give it a try:

  1. Finish a writing sample for the Bitch Media Fellowship for Writers
  2. Complete 5 pieces for the first issue of Zen and Pi the zine
  3. Gather tutorials and supplies for beginning a lino printing project
  4. Start cleaning out the basement for bulk trash pick up

***

 

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the highlight of my week was date night with my girlfriend. As usual, we went to the movies, a very late night showing of The Beguiled. The film is about an all girls school in the south during the civil war. The girls—and the teachers too—seem to have been a bit sheltered when a wounded Union soldier shows up, and they all go crazy from the testosterone and manliness trust into their presence. It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either. I’d advise waiting until it’s on Amazon or Netflix to check it out.

The reason this was the highlight of my week was that it was the first time in a long time that we’ve had an entire theater to ourselves. We spread out across a few seats, ordered french fries and a couple of old fashions, and giggled and talked through the whole thing. We were the last ones to leave the theater and in fact, couldn’t find one staff member as we made our way out to the parking lot at one in the morning. It was great!

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that as much as I enjoyed this chance to talk exclusively about myself I had better get up and get going. The dishes are waiting to be washed, and there are loads of laundry that need washing and folding. I’m hoping there may still be a nap I can take too if I time everything right.

Thank you for stopping by. I hope your week was more productive than mine and your weekend was as relaxing as you needed it to be. And to my fellow Americans, please stay safe this week as we celebrate being the land of the free and, at least in our own minds, being the best at everything ever.

Until next time…

 

***

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 Nerd in the Brain

Featured image via Unsplash

 

Currently // June 2017: The End of a Disappointing First Half

You Have Everything You Need // ZEN AND PI

The passing of June is a time of conflicting feelings for me. I am happy it is still summer, the weather is still warm, and I still have a feeling of freedom and possibility, but at the same time, I feel disappointed. I never accomplish as mush as I want to in the first half of the year, and I am sad because from here on the days will be getting shorter and the weather will soon begin to get colder.

But I am also excited. All the mistakes I have made so far can be left in the first half of 2017. I can look back and learn from my mistakes and let July be a new beginning, a last chance sprint to the finish line and all of my goals. I’m excited to feel excited again.

But before I start again, here is what I am currently:

Writing something for my Bitch Media’s Writing Fellowship application, and I am extremely nervous about it. I’ve been a reader of Bitch Media’s online publication for the past year or so and the idea of becoming a part of something so big, and wonderful, and feminist is both exciting and terrifying.

Planning on making some big changes to my schedule and the way I work both at my day job and on my personal projects and goals. There have been major changes made at my day job, and I no longer feel that it fits with the life I am trying to have. There is a chance I may be looking for different work, or I  may stay and try to work around the changes. I do know for sure that this next year will be focused on finding a way to turn writing into income.

Making very little progress on my personal projects, surprise! Not really. I have no idea what I am doing or what I want to be doing. I wrote about it already so I won’t say much more. I’ll just say that I am learning and I really want to do better and do more. I’m trying not to doubt my talent and passion or let myself believe there is anything I can’t do if I would only focus and work al little harder every day.

Anticipating my first Coursera course. Someone in the Femsplain Slack group posted a link and asked for some buddies to take a free course in International Women’s Health and Human Rights by Stanford University. I’ve never done anything like this, and I know I don’t really have the time, but I do miss learning about new things in a structured way, so I thought, why not try? It’s free, and it’s a topic I’m passionate about so I’m jumping in.

Reading Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, I haven’t gotten very far yet so I don’t have much of an opinion except to say that the way it’s written is interesting but a bit hard to follow. I’m sticking with it though. The last book I read by her, Orlando: A Biography, was the same way but so worth the effort. I finished The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Stories of Your Life and Others, a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang. Gatsby was boring but very well written. Stories of Your Life was like nothing else I have ever read. The plot of every story was so original and well thought out that I wanted to quit trying to be a writer because I was so certain I could never live up to that standard.

Watching nothing. I finished House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, American Gods, and the Leftovers on HBO. Right now I just watch Vice News Monday through Thursday and Vice the documentary series on Fridays. In film, I enjoyed Wonder WomanIt Comes at Night, and Okja, a beautiful and heartbreaking Netflix original that you must watch. Some new shows will be starting up soon. I’m looking forward to Game of Thrones season 7 and Insecure season 2 in July.

Feeling so damn scared. Did I mention that I am applying for the Bitch Media’s Writing Fellowship? Oh, I did? Well, what I didn’t mention is that they only pick FOUR PEOPLE. I think I read somewhere that last year they received 5,000 applications. They picked four people out of 5,000 from all over the world who probably write much better than I do. Part of me doesn’t even want to try because I am sure I won’t be chosen. Part of me is hopeful though and dares to dream I might win.

Needing my mind to start working a little more creatively. I’m running into a lack of idea lately or a lack of ideas that I think are good. I want to move away from purely person essays to the informative, the persuasive, and work on telling stories other than my own. There are so many topics out there my mind cannot choose. I have to narrow my focus and work on branding and purpose. I need to learn to be more creative with fewer choices and tools at my disposal.

Loving the @AloeBud Twitter account, a community garden and self-care bot that asks followers to tweet “resources” like water (💧), sun (☀️), tending (👒), and encouragement (💚) to help the plants grow. In return, you get self-care prompts and questions to help you take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Aloe is brought to you by the same wonderful people who created Femsplain, the first publication to pay me for my words, so you know it’s amazing and pure.

Hating that I wasted so much of this month. It’s summer time, and since I work for a school district I have been allowed to come in late and go home much earlier than I normally would throughout the school year and instead of sitting down to write, I was lazy. I slept, I played games on my phone, I slept some more, I watched TV, I messed around on Facebook and Twitter, and I slept. I wasted a great opportunity, and I’m angry with myself for it, especially because I am trying to do some very big and scary things right now.

Hoping that I do much better in July. My schedule is still going to be open for at least another month which means I get another chance to make some real progress on my goals. I can’t keep focusing on what I haven’t done and how much I don’t know how to do yet. I can’t keep letting myself stay frozen in indecision and inactivity because I am afraid to take the wrong step. I am good enough to begin, and I am smart enough to find the way.

All in all, this month was a good month. The weather was warm. I got a much-needed visit from my sister and her kids who I have missed more than I knew. My siblings and I got matching tattoos that turned out better than we could have hoped. I got plenty of rest. I got to see some fantastic movies. I celebrated Pride month with my lovely girlfriend and a few good friends. I did a lot! Looking back now I see there is more to be happy about than there is to be disappointed in. I couldn’t have asked for much better to mark the end of the year’s first half.

So, how about you? Was June good or bad to you? What are you looking forward to in July? Are you excited for the new season of Game of Thrones? Do you think I have a chance at this writing fellowship? Let me know in the comments (:

***

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 these posts come from Andrea at Create.Share.Love.

Featured image via Pexels

Kahlil Gibran on Weariness and Writing

Writing, like any 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, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week’s inspiration comes from the Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer Kahlil Gibran.

“I want to write more but I cannot. I am a little weary and the silence in my soul is black. I wish I could rest my head on your shoulder.”

— Kahlil Gibran, Beloved Prophet: The Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journal

These past few weeks something strange happened to me. I have been touching on it and mentioned it in post after post because writing it out feels like the logical way to solve this problem. The problem? I stopped wanting to write.

Writer’s block isn’t something I believed in. I learned from Austin Kleon that a problem of output is almost always a problem of input. If I felt stuck I only needed to get out in the world, in real life and online equally, to search for ideas to steal, to pull apart, to transform into something all my own. For as long as I have been blogging I have never had a shortage of ideas.

No, this was something different. I stopped wanting to try to write.

Writing felt like work. It felt pointless. It felt pointless because there are so many who are better than me. It felt pointless because I don’t know how to be more writer and less blogger—not there is anything wrong with blogger. It felt pointless because I am worthless as a writer. I want to say things, but I have no idea how to say them. Too much is flying around inside my head. I flit from one thought to another, one message to another, one interest to another. It felt pointless because I am so turned around and confused and insecure and scared and lost, and I don’t know how to get out.

I do know. I’ve written about that too. I just have to do the work, but first I have to work out how that looks for me.

In the meantime, I’m acknowledging how hard this is and why. I’m spending a little time letting myself feel what it’s like to try to be a writer. I’m looking at what is working and what isn’t, what sets my soul on fire, what turns it black, and what makes it go silent and keeping track of what I do in response.

I’m marking what I do when I can’t write, and what it is that gets me writing again. So far I’ve only found that rest is important and a sense of safety and support is crucial. Part of the reason I chose this quote specifically is that a shoulder to lay on has been the best help I could find.

Every writer I have read seems to have trouble writing, a revelation that is both comforting and frightening. I feel on more even footing with the greats but even more fearful that this dread, this pain, this fear will never go away. Writing will never be something I can do easily and with pure joy. It will always be this hard. I imagine it will always feel something like drowning, or like pulling teeth, or like healing broken bones. The only difference between the greats and me is that their pain produces better results than mine, for now.

If writing is so taxing for the soul, then all writers must have a home to run to too when they become weary. If they don’t, I imagine they write about that too. Maybe they move from writing poems to expressing themselves in other ways. Home can be found within yourself as well, you know?

As for me,  I have someone who loves and supports me. I am one of the lucky ones. I have a shoulder to lay on, arms to hold me, and ears to hear me whine and rage about my future failures. I have someone who cheers me on when I make progress and who supports me when I fail.

It’s wonderful to have such a home inside of such a person, but all the love, support, and self-reflection will only get me so far. The rest of the way has to be made with hard work and words on paper. I just have to fucking write.

So, I will keep a notebook with me at all times and keep my pockets filled with pens. I’ll have a journal to fill page by page every day and a tiny notebook to take with me wherever I go to jot every passing thought in. I will write on scraps of paper and in the margins of books making conversation with every author I whose work I read.

I will write love letters and thank you notes. I will write to rant and to praise. I will write essays and poems and stories both true and false. I will write what hurts and what feels good. I will write the lie and the truth. I will write what has been forgotten and what has yet to be known. I will spill secrets and expose my darkness to the light. I will write what life is and what it isn’t, what it should be and how we make it there.

I will do what I always set out to do and what I had always done before it occurred to me that writing could be something I do for me, for others, for money, and for recognition. I’ll just write and forget all the rest.

***

khalil-gibran-9Kahlil Gibran was born on January 6, 1883, in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon (then part of Ottoman Mount Lebanon) to Khalil Gibran and Kamila Gibran. As a result of his family’s poverty, Gibran received no formal schooling during his youth in Lebanon. However, priests visited him regularly and taught him about the Bible and the Arabic language.

As a young man, he emigrated with his family to the United States where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic. In the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, especially prose poetry, breaking away from the classical school. In Lebanon, he is still celebrated as a literary hero.

He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet. The book, composed of twenty-six poetic essays, is an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in English poetic prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception, gaining popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the 1960s counterculture.

Gibran was an accomplished artist, especially in drawing and watercolor, having attended the Académie Julian art school in Paris from 1908 to 1910, pursuing a symbolist and romantic style over the then up-and-coming realism. Gibran held his first art exhibition of his drawings in 1904 in Boston, at Day’s studio. During this exhibition, Gibran met Mary Elizabeth Haskell, a respected headmistress ten years his senior. The two formed an important friendship that lasted the rest of Gibran’s life.

Haskell spent large sums of money to support Gibran, extensively edited all his English writings. Sometimes Gibran dictated his ideas to Haskell while Haskell found the proper words. Haskell’ contribution to his writing, including The Prophet, was such that by today’s standard she would be acknowledged as co-author.

The nature of their romantic relationship remains obscure; while some biographers assert the two were lovers but never married because Haskell’s family objected, other evidence suggests that their relationship never was physically consummated. Gibran and Haskell were engaged briefly, but Gibran called it off. Gibran didn’t intend to marry her while had affairs with other women. Haskell later married another man, but then she continued to support Gibran financially and to use her influence to advance his career.

Gibran died in New York City on April 10, 1931, at the age of 48. The causes were cirrhosis of the liver and tuberculosis due to prolonged serious alcoholism.

He is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.

gibran_weary-sq.png

***

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

Work From Where You Are

“In human life, if you feel that you have made a mistake, you don’t try to undo the past or the present, but you just accept where you are and work from there. Tremendous openness as to where you are is necessary.”

— Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Transcending Madness

For a long time now I have been trying to move beyond this blog and into writing that is more challenging and more rewarding too. I’ve had a few opportunities, but they’ve all fizzled out. Some of them I missed, some I messed up, some simply faded away, and now I’m beginning to feel discouraged. I’m unsure of where I want to go and wholly ignorant of how to get there even if I did.

All of this has snowballed, and these last few weeks I’ve gotten worse. I am distracted, lost, and honestly, afraid.

I’m watching other people more and more. Other writers who are moving on, finding jobs and a following and I’m trying to puzzle out how they got there. I’m trying to figure out the formula to progress and telling myself that it eludes me, but that is a lie. I know how to get there, but I just can’t move. I’d rather spin my wheels instead because it feels safe. You can’t fail if you never start, right? That’s another lie. I am failing every day that I do nothing, but I want to stop. I want to let go.

This week I watched my girlfriend start from nothing, a hobby, something to do for fun, and suddenly she was on a path forward. Things happened for her, and I am jealous, but instead of letting my jealousy further hold me back, I’m trying to learn something from watching her.

She started by making birthday cards for fun using watercolor paints and paper. Then she made some for our mothers on Mother’s day, then Father’s day, then one for my cousin’s daughter’s dance recital.  That cousin took the card to work to show off to co-workers, and soon my girlfriend got a text asking if she could make five congratulatory cards each for a new baby and a new home.

She worked all week to get those ten cards done not once stopping to worry about whether they would be liked or what would happen after. She focused on right now. She used what she had and simply started.

We’re not sure what will happen yet, but even when I bring up future possibilities, she hushes me. She isn’t on that step yet she tells me. She is simply having fun and seeing where it leads. She is simply doing the work without worry.

I want so badly to be like that. To just do it without caring what other people will think. I don’t want to freeze up because I am comparing myself to others or doubting my own talent. I want to just do what feels good, what is fun, what interests me and share it with others, the same as her. I’m not positive that this way will work for me, but I do know that what I have been doing isn’t getting me anywhere. What I’ve been doing has been holding me back.

What I’ve been doing is a lot more consuming than producing. What I have been doing is trying to find what it is that other people have that I don’t. What I have been doing is making a whole lot of plans and taking almost no action. What I have been doing is talking the talk and standing completely still. I have been failing by refusing to act. I have made a mistake by doing nothing because I thought I could only do something very little, and stupid, and uninteresting, and ugly…That was a lie too.

So, I have accepted where I am, and I have beat myself up enough for it. Now it’s time to start again, again. This isn’t the first time I have admitted to being frozen by self-hate and fear, but the difference is, I have seen first hand what just working and worrying about nothing more than this day and this task can do.

I am incredibly proud of my girlfriend and a bit jealous that she could do so easily what I am struggling with week after week, but again, I have to let that go and move forward on my own path.

If you have been like me, unsure not only of which road to take but which road you are worthy of walking, take some time to look around, admit your mistake, and take stock of your options. Then take a breath, forgive yourself, and take your eyes off the horizon. Stop looking at the people around you. Stop looking at where you wish you were. Stop looking at where you messed up and missed out. Just look down.

Look down until you can only see the next step you must take. Focus on what you want to do today, not next week, not five years from now. Focus on what you want to do right now because it feels good and right.

Remember why you started in the first place. You didn’t start because you thought you would be perfect or the best, or because you thought you would be popular, go viral, or get rich. You started because this is simply what you enjoy doing. So, just enjoy doing it.

Take it one step at a time and let your feet and your passion lead you where you want to go.

***

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 image via Unsplash

May 2017 // The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is Here

Summer doesn’t officially start for another few weeks here in the northern hemisphere, but in my heart and mind, it’s already here. This is my favorite time of year but to be honest, I’m not sure why. The heat is intense, the bugs are everywhere, and the threat of severe weather is worrisome but something about the season makes me feel alive and happy again. I love the rain that rolls in the evenings and the warm nights I spend on bar patios with friends. Summer is when new connections are forged, and beautiful memories are made. I’m so ready to see what June has in store for me.

But before I do, here is what I am currently:

Writing some essays, or, I am learning how to write essays anyway. I’ve decided, I think, that becoming an essayist is the dream. I’m hoping to learn by example. I’m consuming popular longform non-fiction pieces from my favorite publications, reading print magazines, and this month I’ll be diving into some work from one of the greats, James Baldwin. So, the writing around here is going to get a bit more serious, and some of the fun and personal type stuff, book reviews, poetry, etc., will probably be moving to Tumblr.

Planning the design of the first issue of Zen and Pi the zine. I now I have been talking about this forever, but this time I mean it. I wanted to complete one project this summer, and this is it. By the middle of August, I need to have something ready for print at the very least. I’ll have more info next month.

Making some big home improvements! I haven’t written much about my house, but that’s because I hate it. We bought it years ago, during the recession, when we didn’t know what we were doing. We got a good deal, but it needs a lot of work. Unfortunately, we’ve learned that home ownership isn’t exactly for us and we’ve barely made any progress fixing this place up but if I ever want to be happy here, or sell this place and find a home I love, I have to start. First up is a new swamp cooler, then paint, then flooring maybe?

Anticipating Game of Thrones season 7! Okay, so GoT doesn’t actually premiere until July 16th, but it’s all I can think about, as far as media and pop culture go. Outside of that, I’m looking forward to Denver’s Pridefest the weekend of the 17th. I wish the parade wasn’t scheduled for the same day as Father’s Day though. Every year I feel like I have to choose or try to squeeze in both.

Reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of the many used books I’ve picked up over the past few weekends. I finally finished The Mind’s I: Fantasies And Reflections On Self & Soul by Daniel C. Dennett and Douglas R. Hofstadter. This is my second attempt. It was still hard to get through, but this time I really tried, and it was so worth it. I’ll still need a third read through though.

Watching Sense8 and House of Cards on Netflix. Sense8 is visually amazing, the acting is on point, and sci-fi enough to get you out of your head and away from all the crap going on in the news. House of Cards is the opposite. It’s this world, only worse, which, I’ve learned, can be therapeutic in its own way. Plus, Claire Underwood is the smartest, sexiest, most badass female character I love to hate at the moment *heart eyes emoji*.

Feeling better! Last month my doctor expressed some doubt that the medication we started with would keep my ulcerative colitis symptoms under control. I won’t know for sure until I’m off of the steroid I’m on for short-term relief, but so far, through tapering off, I’m still doing okay. I think this is a good sign. If I feel good through the end of June, I may be able to stay on these meds rather than moving into harsher options. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Needing a little reassurance from the universe that all this good in my life isn’t a sign that terrible things are on the horizon. I don’t know how to feel gratitude and practice mindfulness with all this anxiety. I don’t deserve so much in life, I’m worried there will be hell to pay eventually.

Loving the fact that my local Alamo Drafthouse is hosting a WOMEN ONLY screening of the new Wonder Woman film and gives no fucks about the backlash from weak egoed men. I’m also living the fact that they offered free tickets to the new creepy movie. It Comes at Night for rewards members. Seriously, if there’s an Alamo Drafthouse in your city, there’s no reason for you to go to any other theater. If there isn’t, bug them until there is.

Hating that I’m losing my route next year. It’s a lot to get into, a lot of politics and specifics I’m not even sure I’m allowed to get into but basically, the school district I work for is experiencing an employee shortage, and things have to change to maximize the people we have. So my easy-peasy route with the perfect hours and the awesome kid is going away, and I have to make some tough choices next year. Also, I still hate Donald Trump and every single Republican asshat pushing cruel and destructive healthcare and environmental policies. I cannot wait for midterm elections!

Hoping the summer passes slowly, but I know it won’t. The winter months drag on for eternity, and the summer is never long enough to recover from the cold and drab and depressing. Maybe I’ll learn how to slow down time?

All in all, this month was good, but I may have been too busy looking ahead to really appreciate it. I have to try harder to appreciate where I am. Where I am going will come soon enough, and when it does, I want to know I enjoyed every step of the way there.

So, how about you? Was May good or bad to you? What are you looking forward to in June? Are you as in love with Claire Underwood as I am? Let me know in the comments (:

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

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

Featured image via Unsplash

May Your Terror Make You Brave

“may I never lose
that terror
that keeps me brave” 

— Audre Lorde, The Black Unicorn: Poems “Solstice”

The world is getting to be a scarier and scarier place. Every day I wake up and turn on the news, despite my anxiety, and hear nothing but war and death and instability. These things used to happen elsewhere and to other people. I used to feel safe in my city and in my little bubble, but the bad things are creeping closer and closer, and I’m having to really confront what kind of person I will be in this new world.

I’ll be honest, sometimes I am afraid to go places. I am afraid of events that draw big crowds and attention. I am afraid that a day out with my girlfriend will end in tragedy. I am afraid of the hatred all around me.

I know it isn’t people who are the enemy but ideas and ideas can lurk in any skin, age, and gender. Unlike those who only see the danger from the other side, I see it everywhere. I feel the tension all around me, and I am terrified to become a casualty of it.

I want to hide away, but I am trying hard not to let my fear win, but there is a new terror now. I am afraid of how I will act if tragedy does hit close to me.

I’m not just talking about guns and bombs either. Every day there are new videos posted online of fights, assaults, and harassment based on race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation and in nearly everyone there are bystanders in the background watching it all happening and doing nothing. The hateful know that the natural tendency of the general public is to keep silent and keep hidden. No one wants to get involved, no one wants to get hurt.

I never want to be one of those people. In my eyes, they are almost as guilty as the perpetrator. I want to be one of the ones who stand up for what is right.

But then, last week, two men were killed and another injured for doing just that. They stood up to a man ranting and directing hatred at two young women, and they were attacked for it. I won’t lie, that has me terrified now too.

There was a time when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, lately, it seems there is no end to the way people can terrorize one another and no end in sight for the war happening in secret all around us. So, what can I do when I feel too afraid to leave the house and too afraid to let those who want to keep me there win?

I am constantly working to prevent, and prepare for, the worst-case scenario. Not the hatred, not the violence, not even the prospect of losing my life. No, the worst case scenario is to become something I’m not. To become a part of the problem. To let my fear control me, or worse, turn me into someone filled with suspicion and willing to do anything to feel safe again.

This week, when the world all around you feels on the verge of violence, and you worry you might be the next victim, remember that there are worse things than death and that there are ways to live and die that are preferable to others.

What I am really afraid of is living my life cooped up and alone, cut off from humanity. I love people. I love experiencing life alongside other people. I want to feel like I am part of a community. I want to feel joy, and wonder, and curiosity with others. I want to feel connected to the rest of the world. That is a big part of what makes life worth living. Other people!

We should be able to go out and be with each other without feeling so afraid. Human beings are social creatures. Human beings are also rare creatures in this universe. We should be treating each other better than we are and we should be helping each other learn how.

What we all should be afraid of is being part of the reason everything keeps falling apart. What we should be terrified of is becoming more and more disconnected from one another. What should be keeping us up at night is the prospect of losing our humanity and of becoming something dark, and lonely, and mean.

We should be afraid of becoming ruled by fear. We should be afraid of succumbing to evil ideas about who deserves to eat, to work, to live. We should be afraid of succumbing to ideas about when we should act and when we should speak up.

I don’t want to be too afraid to be human. I don’t want to live my life cowering inside, or holding back, or keeping quiet when I see people being hurt. The terror of what I might become is what will keep me brave.

How about you?

***

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

Featured image via Unsplash