Saturday, September 11, 2010

Impossible -> Possible -> Easy -> Elegant -> Intimate

Dear Shiddy,

Bear with me as I try to explain, but right now I'm all about living the trajectory from impossible to intimate. According to Lance Brunner, it's about taking the things you want to do (but are less likely to do) and creating a space for them to become so familiar and rote that it becomes a seamless part of your life. In the way you might make a habit of running or knitting or knotting your tie. Since my experience at ALIA this past June, I've been hoping to recapture an intimacy and connectedness with community that extends beyond my family and circle of friends.

Last weekend my husband and I attended a weekend course on Shambhala meditation - a form of secular Buddhist practice. Our experience was just as our great instructor had predicted: frustrating, boring, difficult. Wow, you say. Sign me up! Yeah, well it was a distinct challenge to set aside thoughts of work, parenting and side projects to sit cross-legged for eight hours with your eyes open staring at an orange wall.

I won't fib and say I was suddenly enlightened, or that I solved a major dilemma while sitting in silence. But there was a certain calm that came about after my monkey brain settled down. A calm I typically only experience in the three minutes I have to myself in the shower each morning before my daughter rips back the curtain and announces she's pooped in my office.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Unglorious Mystery

Dear Shiddy,

Is it just the end of a decade that was defined by personal extremes? Have I unknowingly tumbled into a wormhole ala Donnie Darko only to discover that my pineal gland is back in 1992?

Why am I depressed? There is no evidence to explain my shitty attitude or bitch-ass feelings. This causes me no small amount of dismay seeing as how I:
  • put goddamn flax meal on everything
  • have dance parties with my toddler at 7am
  • run 3-4 times a week
  • take my medicine at the exact same time every day
  • really like my husband (which I think you might agree is better than just loving him)
  • have a job that has become really rewarding lately
Instead of motivated, joyous, and generous- I feel petty. Beset by grudges. Ready to trip or poison people (so that they will be my best friends?). Preoccupied with judgments and comparisons of my life to everyone else's. Outstripped, overrun, bested. Humbled and insecure. Romanticizing memories that in reality, sucked. What the fuck.

I've been hesitant to articulate all this because in the enumeration of it I think I may be making it worse, or at least ultra-specific. Up to now there's been such an expenditure of effort on my part to be present in my life, to enjoy the right now, to pay close attention. It is difficult to have orgasms about the life I lead right now. If only I had a 13,000 lux beam to shine on the back of my knee this would all go away. Like, instead of Calgon.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Office Ladies (Or: Diet Soda, Microwave Popcorn, and Baked-Good Terrorism)


Allow me to be a dick for the duration of the present post.

The ladies in my office are loud and always talking about nothing in particular, and I am extremely unkind to them in my mind.

Near the microwave in the break room someone has thoughtfully placed a coaster that says, "In all things God works for the good of those who love Him," or some similar quote that is clearly not fucking true. Their voices are reedy and birdlike; they say "um" loudly, like an interjection, and they strain to talk over one another. This is what a typical morning sounds like:
squeaksquawk Weight Watchers brawwwwwwwk Dr. Oz squeaksquawk OH. bokbokbokbok Cookies and/or Snacks brawwwwwwwk UM. squeaksquawk OH. OKAY squeaksquawk UM. bokbokbokbok Weekend [etc.]
They are TEXAS LADIES. I love my adopted home, but I am not sympathetic to the Texas accent when it leaves the mouth of a woman. Men: Just fine; sounds avuncular. Women: Sounds ignorant. I KNOW THIS IS WRONG. I don't know why I am this way. This is how I feel.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fair and Balanced

Dear Shiddy,

I humbly submit to you the weeknight musings of a tired poet and a punchy house-husband:

It gives me an embarrassing amount of satisfaction.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Need a Minute.

I saw this the other day, and I got more jazzed than I've been about anything in a while. In this case, it was more the condition of the clothing and coffins that interested me than the condition of the bodies, but: Jesus, why does this do it for me?

I've been fascinated by dead bodies since I was little. As a child, I was obsessed with the skeletons and plaster casts at Pompeii and Herculaneum. I kept a copy of National Geographic with an article about it. I slowly destroyed the binding by flipping through and considering all the pictures, especially the Ring Lady.

I am strangely invested in the past: I am (maybe) more interested in it than I am in the future. Perhaps this is my weakness. I'll spend some Saturday mornings clicking through this site, enlarging images so that I can see lettering on windows and appliances, facial expressions, stitching on clothes. For me, the past is irresistible when there's a record of it--a photograph, a sound recording, a skeleton or (better) a weirdly preserved body--even if that record's not entirely reliable. I did seriously try for a career making half of the money I make now just so that I could flip through dead people's diaries and letters all day. (For the record, I'm now glad that didn't work out.)

As for my own past, I remember too much of it and consider it about as much as I consider what I'm doing in real time. (This is probably not true in reality--that would be incredibly sad--but it least it feels this way sometimes.)

Speaking of which, real time has been fucking me tough lately. I want to find a secret pause button so that I can enlarge and peer at some stitching or lettering. I've noticed the general acceleration more keenly since returning to Austin, because this place feels like a city-sized personal time capsule from my twenties. What intervened (New York City) was a blur: two and a half years of a certain routine (work, subway, gym) after years of little routine (graduate school, social life, part-time work). My memory from April 2007 to December 2009 bleeds and clusters. It feels like it didn't actually happen. Maybe this is excellent.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Of Human Management

Dear Shiddy,

In the way that there are people who derive great pleasure from calculating numbers or measures or notes; people who can assess the strength of a beam or building, who predict the time between accidents, deaths, or weather... that is the way in which I enjoy considering people around me. At its most dumb, my latent anthropologist spends a lot of subliminal energy reacting to and examining how I interact with others, and they with others,
ad infinitum. This lends itself to a fairly crippling yet pleasurable sense of nostalgia, which I think it's fair to say is a major component of my personality. (Aside: an older friend once insisted that no one really knows nostalgia until their late 30s. I beg to differ.)

So there really isn't much outside of relationships that interests me about the world. When I respond to music, I'm approaching it from its real or imagined backstory. Photographs: more about the framing than the content. Nature- the way we all move through its space. (I kind of hate that word, what the hell is nature, anyway?) And as my twenties feel further in the past, I find myself in roles where I'm constantly managing other humans. Mostly grownups. And I think I like it most of the time.

That sounds manipulative, here is more what I mean: in my current occupation my tasks revolve around some hybrid art of influencing, hosting, encouraging others to connect and share information. To give in to the more human. Sometimes this coaxing only takes the form of me being an example of empathy or earnestness or frankness. There's almost nothing dark or clever about it, though I often want to indulge that aspect.

It is a strength of mine: rallying a group around a purpose. I am persuading, tailoring my words or actions to another vocabulary, customizing a way of being with a particular individual.
I like determining how to be with each other- or at least setting up a series of possible ways of being together, better ways than what has come before. It makes me feel powerful. I work to articulate a public facet of intimacy- the one in which we tell mere acquaintances what we want, and they tell us their desires in turn. And the private instances as well.

If all that I have just described is so valuable to me, if I am detailing these qualities as the essence of what I do or am; then I guess it makes sense that the past would be my most important reference point and study aid. Because past relationships, events, dialogues form an amalgam of technique and intuition that gets richer and more accurate with each experience and contact.

And when a person from my past or present makes a reciprocal gesture toward me- one imbued with a similar attentiveness, affection, consideration- it feels like the world is speaking back to me, assuring me that there is nothing else.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Trophy.


Thank you for your persistence in keeping this blog semi-afloat while I went into communications hibernation. I see that my last post was nearly three months ago. As you know, I wasn't in life hibernation: I moved cross-country, I got a promotion, and I generally worked my ass into total desk-chair adhesion.

It's interesting that you're concerned your brain life is atrophying. (For the record, I don't think you have anything to worry about; just re-read the second paragraph of your last post.) I've come to the same conclusion recently about myself. What do I do? Do I have any passions? I suppose knowledge (in air quotes) is a passion of mine: learning languages, learning about languages, reading, trying to know the smallest things about smallish subjects. But when was the last time I actually studied a language or read a book? Now that I'm not riding the subway for two hours a day, I don't have the same time-vacuum to fill with reading. And, reality check on that last thing: outside of working hours the last year or so, my brain has been so steamed into egg-noodle softness that I could only read partial New Yorker articles or maybe two paragraphs of a non-news- or politics-related Times article on my iPhone. Instead, I usually used my train time for easy iPhone comforts like making colored jewel shapes explode or doing easy crosswords while still using the "check grid" and "reveal letter" features.

Let's get the facts. What do I do? I work, I work out, I spend time with the s.o., I avoid crowds and never really socialize anymore because social situations usually involve alcohol and loud settings and being reminded that alcohol and loud settings make me feel weird and spaced out (a noticeable transition the s.o. likes to call "shutting down"), and that combo doesn't really work out for me. That last sentence causes me to wonder if I have a high-functioning form of autism, but I'll save those suspicions for a separate post.

I have many talents. When I've tried things that have nothing to do with physical activity (e.g., visual art, writing, music), I've excelled. But usually my perfectionism creates self-conscious hang-ups that drive me to stop.

So: I'd like to mark a turning point in my life with this move to the place I really wanted to be, which (when I really think about it) is one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to me. And which, I can't let myself forget, couldn't have happened without me. I need to use that general feeling of self-goodness and the extra free time I now have (my commute is only about 20 minutes each way) to do something I already know I'm good at, or to find something I'm good at that I had no idea I'd ever be good at.

Suggestions welcome.