Dorian Gray is Awful…(but we might have something [else] in common)

When I first entered the adult world and started taking college classes, I went on a big reading binge of classic literary works because I was leaning into feeling smart and sophisticated. I’m not saying that that worked, but it was a good journey. I now know why ‘Frankenstein’ was terrifically tragic, how ‘Dracula’ was somehow both lamer and way cooler a tale than I’d thought it would be, and that Dorian Gray is a massive douche.

I’m serious. It’s a decade later, and despite the hundreds of stories I’ve taken in since then through the different mediums – books, movies, television, video games, etc – I haven’t found a character I vehemently despise with a greater fervor than I hold for Dorian Gray.

Now, first off, I recognize that it’s a little ridiculous, and I’ve cooled my jets some. Kurt Vonnegut has a great quote about hating fiction:

“Any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae.”

Well for a while, I bathed my armored boots in the sugary blood of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” for the simple reason that the protagonist is an utter shithead.

I rant about it now a lot less often than I used to, but I hold to the opinion that Dorian Gray sucks. That’s probably a good thing, though, since I think he’s supposed to be disliked. If you haven’t ever read or heard of the story, it essential goes that a young nobleman, Dorian Gray, has a portrait painted of him by his meek friend Basil. He soon discovers that the portrait, rather than he, will bear the marks of things that ought weigh heavily on the soul: stress lines in the face, silvered hair, wrinkles that come from a Liar’s Frown, etc. He struggles a bit with whether or not he’ll lead the kind of pure life that will render his portrait forever perfect and unblemished, or live wantonly since the picture will foot whatever ethical tab he runs up.

Spoiler, he opts for the latter option, like a total dick.

*RANT INCOMING*

(I’ll keep it short, but) What I can’t stand about him isn’t that he’s selfish, conceited, arrogant, smug, and manipulative, but that he whines, bitches, and is so spineless too. Whenever he’s in a position of power or leverage, he’s completely mad with whatever little power that may present him, but the moment the tables are turned even slightly, he moans, complains, begs, weeps, and mews. Then, if he gets his leverage back, it’s right back to being an insufferable ass-hat. Like, if you’re going to be a conceited, villainous asshole, at least be sure of yourself in that. At least stick to your damned guns. But to flip flop back and forth between villain and victim is SO gross, and I’m SO happy when he *spoiler* f__kin’ dies at the end.

I forgot where I was going with this, but- oh! Yeah, my car.

Right, trust me, it ties in.

I realized earlier today that my car, Phoebe, is kind of my own portrait. I took great care of her a few years ago. Got her regular washes, got her oil changed ahead of time, maintenance and check-up’s before things had a change to break, and she’s served me well for it.

Then, life got sort of topsy-turvy and difficult, I’ve really had to realign my financial priorities, and that meant Phoebe couldn’t get the same kind of treatment. At the end of the day, with everything I’ve been through and continue to work against, I try to keep my head up, shoulders back, eyes forward, and a bit of smile at the life I’ve got. Almost like you wouldn’t know things have been rough.

But my car looks like total ass now.

I’ve said from the beginning, that as my first car that I’ve had for over a decade now, I’m going to drive it until it dies. She’s in her twilight years, and BOY does she look it. But until lightning strikes her outright dead, I’m going to act as though she intends to roll on.

It’s just created a funny bit of imagery and comparison wherein it’s like I’ve endured some rough stuff, but maybe you wouldn’t know it, and meanwhile my car is bearing all the telltale signs of hardship instead of me.

And I think that’s worth a larf.

Have a good one, everybody.

Ciao.

Skyrim-itis: Fighting Addiction

If you’re reading this, then the odds are good that you have a pulse. If you have a pulse, then the odds are weirdly even better that you’ve at least heard of Skyrim. In that way, Skyrim is a lot like the TV show The Office – almost everyone on the planet has at least some kind of run-in with it, and to say you like it nowadays is like admitting you have the intellectual palate of a goat. An especially dumb goat. It isn’t that the game is bad at all, but it’s aged a fair bit and its fans are pretty ardent ones that have a hard time shutting up about it, which is a rough recipe for newcomers or the indifferent.

Skyrim also has the irresistible force of a whirpool, sink hole, sand trap, or any other kind of thing that pulls you in and won’t let go.

Black holes! Like a black hole! Way better example.

Anyway.

I guess all of that means I’m mostly speaking to fellow Skyrim fans with what follows. Because what I’m going to describe is a problem that plagues those of us exclusively, it seems. There was a point where I sunk so many hours into that game, I walked by a fern and had the reflex to reach out and try to harvest it for Spikey Grass pods for my alchemy. I did the same thing when passing an agapanthas and thinking it was Death Bell (I have poisons of ‘Slow’ to brew, after all).

I’ve played through that game, 100%, at least a dozen times. There isn’t a quest of any tier that I haven’t played through multiple times, any NPC’s I haven’t met, any random encounters I haven’t encountered randomly, or any new dialogue I can’t recite alongside the one who says it.

So why the F*CK do I feel a compulsion to fire it up again?

In an interactive medium like video games, the whole point is for emergent storytelling. In other words, not knowing exactly what’s going to happen. But in this case, I know exactly what’s going to happen. In fact, I know I’m barely going to make it through Helgen before I start wondering why the hell I’m burning my minutes on this earth with this again. I’ll counter myself by brewing excitement over trying a new build, but then that will fall flat when I remind myself that I’ve done every possible build fives times over.

There will be nothing new.

But I still kinda want to be a Bosmer archer, communing with mammoths and shooting bandits in the eye with my trusty bow. I want to ignore the Dovakiin story line entirely and roleplay as a hunter that takes down elk and sells the skins in the Hold capitals for petty coin. I want to “fall in with” the Thieves’ Guild of Riftin and ignore the sh*t out of the Stones of Barenziah because finding all twenty-four of them is duuuuumb. I want to complete dungeons, sidestep traps, ambush draugr, and collect treasure.

But I KNOW I’ll get bored thirty minutes into all of that, and rightly so.

So, really, in the end, maybe this is just a lesson, the Great Lesson that Todd Howard has been trying to impress upon us all for the last ten goddamn years in his refusal to progress The Elder Scrolls series into its sixth installment. Maybe the wisdom here is to learn to let go, to recognize the futility in hanging onto what’s normal, what’s comfortable and familiar. To learn to grow beyond those familiar things and seek betterment and change. To accept that good things in life are meant to be savored and then release to the flow of time…

Or it could be that Skyrim can be ported to a refrigerator and still print butt-tons of money, and I’m drastically overthinking it. Maybe I just need to move on and try something new rather than re-playing all the same stuff. Either way, I think it should meet the criteria for some kind of official condition.

Skyrim-itis?

Tamriel Syndrome?

‘You Cannot Run, You Are Overburdened’ Disord-

Actually, wow. That last one hits. Life…might just be a bit busy, and we seek refuge from its obligations in a realm of fantasy, and what we really need to do is some house-keeping of our priorities rather than blaming the…video games…we…distract ourselves with…

Gosh. Look at us. Learning. On the fly and in the moment.

Heh. And they say video games don’t have anything to teach us.

I’m gonna go clean the living room.

Why (I Think) Writing Should be Hard – A Rant

Not saying that’s what this is at all, but I get into about one online fight a year. I do them annually. I keep it to that, because otherwise I’d go insane, since they all go exactly the same way: I see something I disagree with, I look into it to see if I stand to learn something, after which I tell the person I disagree and why, they disagree back, I cite sources and supplemental arguments, they post a picture and call me dumb, I explain why that’s insufficient, whereupon they say that I’m insufficient, and I close with a final argument, a plea that they improve themselves, and a promise to myself to never do that again because it’s fruitless as hell.

It’s dumb because it’s <sigh> too easy. And I’m not saying that at all in an “I’m so much smarter than so-and-so” egotistical way. I’ve gotten into plenty of online discussions wherein someone stakes a claim and backs it up with reasonable evidence and rationale, I try to do the same, and we both come away with an evolved view of our positions even if they haven’t necessarily changed. The problem is that those things are rare as a pink manta ray (look ’em up, biologists have found ONE that exists), and the remaining overwhelming percentage are folks posting pictures, regurgitating easy rallying cries, and slinging insults.

That’s because it’s way easier to do the latter than the former, and that’s so damn disappointing. Ideally, one should either take part doing it correctly, or not at all. Just because you can post an inflammatory picture or meme that’s supposed to summarize your point, doesn’t mean you need to. (Also, if your world view has so little nuance as to be completely encompassed by a rehashed picture and a joke, that may be part of the problem.)

I’ve been a longtime lurker on reddit, too. Always reading and surfing posts, but never posting my own or commenting much. Recently however, I’ve started getting a bit more involved with commenting at least. I stumbled upon the r/writingadvice forum, and that seems to be where I do most of my talking. It’s always great to spread and pick up tips and shared wisdom from other writers, and that’s as good a place as any. It also feels good to have your advice find some small purchase with another person and resonate with them.

That said, I found one bit of advice I’ve shared that never seems to get a positive response. I’ve dwelled on it critically, whether it’s sound advice or if I’m just being an asshole, but I earnestly lean toward the former (not out of defense, either; I’m down to be called out if it’s correct). In a nutshell, it goes as follows:

The OP says they know they’re a strong writer with a powerful voice, but they never find the motivation to finish projects or commit to anything. They have talent, those close to them praise their work and reassure them, but still the doubt remains. What can they do?

Whether it’s right or wrong, this is roughly what I try to share with you now as I have on those posts:

You can’t tell yourself you have talent. It may very well be true, but for the vast majority of us, it isn’t. It doesn’t always come easy, and it shouldn’t. There will be times when inspiration strikes and the words flow, sure, but you can’t just accept that your words will effortless spin gold because it’s natural. It takes effort over time, commitment, and exhausting levels of energy. “I don’t like compliments,” Jimmy Hendrix was once quoted saying. “They distract me.”

Be like Hendrix. Even if you are talented, don’t tell yourself that. Make yourself earn it, time and time again. Celebrate successes, absolutely, but don’t get lost in them. Live, strive, learn. You have to be your own biggest fan, but only while paired with being your own harshest critic.

Doubt, loneliness, some self-loathing, exhilaration, wonder, elation, and all the rest are part of the trade, it seems to me. Having wonderful ideas, observations, and tales to tell is something literally all of us do. The trick- the job is in building a bridge between that realm of imagination and fantasy into the real world.

Y’all, that takes work. Just like a bridge, it needs structure. It needs fittings, cables, hangers, bolts, sub-structural braces, decorations if you’re fancy, and maintenance. It needs all these things before it can work like you want it to. So just like with the aforementioned internet squabbles, it needs more effort than expecting it to come naturally and have people see it the way you do in your mind’s eye. The work is wondrous, lonely, heartbreaking, but uplifting and rewarding.

Can you do it? Fuck yeah. Please, Christ, share your story. But put into it tenfold the energy you expect to see out of it. Will some succeed and find it easy? Maybe. But even ninety-nine out of a hundred success stories you’ll hear about by very talented people are built with insane amounts of unseen work and luck. Enough patience and fortitude is what will make the difference for us normies.

If you’re looking to succeed at an art, at a project, or whatever else, that’s the secret. It’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Great artists that seem untouchable are people just like us. The only difference between us and them is time spent. That means time spent trying, spent working, spent failing, spent regrouping, spent learning, and spent trying again. That really seems like the secret everyone wants, but doesn’t like. But if you’re looking for a sympathetic ear and a pat on the back, ask for those instead.

Or shoot, maybe it’s a diet rich with Vitamin A. Like, somehow fifty years from now science will find that’s the trick to creative genius and everything I’ve just said is malarky.

But it’s worth a try.

Ciao, y’all.

A Weakness for Reality TV: A PSA (sort of)

I wish I was going to come into this with some sort of “here’s a way for turning your weaknesses into a strength” angle, but I don’t think that’s present here. The basic fact of the matter is that a seared Ahi tuna with spring greens is wonderful, but sometimes you really just want a greasey burger and fries. A roasted chicken with seasoned fingerling potatoes and balsamic glaze is a worthwhile culinary creation, but I’ll be damned if I wouldn’t take a box of white chedder shell mac n’ cheese for a last meal.

My point is just that there are finer things in life, things that are worth the time and effort that go into them, but sometimes all we really want, crave, and maybe even need are the crap. The Velveeta cheese. The mental diet equivalent of “mechanically separated chicken” (that’s the first ingredient in most packages of bologna you’ll find).

I’ve battled with my weakness for trashy reality TV for years, but with growing older comes maturity, and that maturity materializes with recognizing one’s limits and one’s nature. Turns out that an indellible fact of my being is that I just love this sh*t.

Flavor of Love. MTV’s Are You The One? Love is Blind. Sexy Beast. The Circle.

I love the fights. I love watching them gossip and bicker and drunkenly profess undying love for someone they’ve known for three hours.

I recognize that magic of TV editing, let that not go unsaid. I realize that the show editors can cut, clip, edit, and paste the footage to make anyone come off to look almost any which way. So in that way, I try to keep a healthy barrier between myself and the FULL enchantment of the brainless web it weaves.

But this latest round of binging I’ve done really brought to bare an important question: How the heck is this even legal?

Like, I understand that everyone on the show likely has to sign contracts, sign waivers, and give permissions to be there and have their likenesses be used and such. They sign up for the ride, I get that. But, I mean, we give ZOOS the ethical side-eye for how they treat their captive animals. How is it okay to take a bunch of young twenty-something’s whose hormones are peaking, throw them into a house with a bunch of unerringly hot people, liquor them up, put cameras on them, and whisper, “Go on. Go. Fight!”

Obviously, this isn’t a legitimate grandstand. I’m not on this little soapbox of mine in any serious capacity, and I’m guilty as HELL for consuming it after a hard week of work, it’s just struck me as funny. We worry about the dignity of captive animals (c’mon, obviously, rightly so), but cheerfully commit similar abuses to our youth for the sake of entertainment.

No kidding, season three of Are You The One? showed one guy having a mental breakdown in one of his private confessionals, whereupon he said, weeping, “I can’t do this anymore,” and tried to exit his confessional and hide behind the camera he’d been speaking to while telling himself to “Pull it together, man.” You know how I know that? Another camera on the ceiling filmed the whole thing. These people can’t take a shower or drop a Number Two without a production team seeing the whole thing.

I don’t really know what I meant to get out of this rant, but I feel better now (lol). Next time you just need a mindless laugh, check out any of the above shows. Just make sure no one sees you do it.

A Quick Rant: Unicorns are Badass

Hey-o. It’s that time again.

I’ve been (thankfully) busy of late, which has also sort of rekindled this dry lil’ well…hmm, mixing those two bits of metaphorical speech is kind of contradictory.

…anyway!

Yeah, I’ve been finding myself more and more over the past couple of days thinking, “Oo! That thought might be one for the blog,” and then jotting it down. So the next couple of days will be seeing some of those, but I figure we’ll loosen up with the easy one: Unicorns are kind of badass.

There’s a beloved coffee shop in town – we all have one that’s our go-to – and this one is particularly special due to their decor. They’re very outwardly LGBTQ+ friendly, meaning rainbows and sparkles EVERYWHERE. Their mascot, for lack of a better term, is a bright silvery unicorn. And that places brings about so much comfort and productivity, a real writers’ haven, that it inspired the very deep thought: God, unicorns are pretty badass!

To the point where, now as an adult, I’m really at a loss as to why they ever were considered as “sissy horses,” or a symbol for little girls meant in a pejorative way. They’re a freakin’ stallion with a freakin’ horn on their head. You’re talking about a strong, magical, terrifyingly intelligent equine with a weapon on it’s face. What, it’s cool for rhinos and dragons to have horns on their faces, but give one to a horse and suddenly it’s nansy-pansy. Get the f*ck out of here. If we’re riding into battle, I’m taking a unicorn (or a centaur – probably a better conversationalist) any damn day. There’s no lack of stories placing unicorns as lieutenants in fantasy armies, incredibly valued for their blood, horn, mane, or overall wish-granting abilities, and thankfully more and more stories where they gore an mf’er with that fancy piece they’re sporting (thank you Cabin in the Woods). They were one of my favorite Clans in Legend of the Five Rings (like, two of you will get that reference, maybe) and now I can understand why. This has all seriously absorbed me, too, to the point where I’m considering decor for my office space, just so I can start those conversations. “Evan, why the unicorns?” “Intruder, why NOT unicorns?”

Anyway. Been fun, but I’ve beleaguered the point to hell and back and now I gotta be off for a day of manual labor.

Catch you again soon!

What Would you do with the Lottery? (You’re Wrong)

Hey everyone, and sorry – the title’s a mite too aggressive, but you can never be too careful.

Let me explain.

You know when you’re going through your daily life, and all of a sudden you’re struck all over again by something that got your irritated years ago? Something that really chive’d your spuds, ground your gears, got your goat, years ago? Well I had one of those moments the other day.

I was working in an optics factory at the time, and I had a coworker who regularly followed the lottery. Not one of those “If you just follow the numbers, man” types, just kept a healthy eye on it. Well, as I remember it, the Super Lotto Jackpot (if that’s what it’s called) was at some truly ridiculous sum. If you hit all the numbers, the winner would be given something like 500 million dollars, either in the form of a 350 million dollar one-time payout, or basically $300,000 every month for the rest of your life.

Three hundred thousand dollars, every month, until you died.

Naturally, the question roamed around work: What would you do with it if you won? And some of the answers I heard infuriated me. “Oh, you know,” they began. “I’d keep my day job, of course. I’d make sure that plenty of it went into savings, and I’d use the rest to take care of my needs and live comfortably. Maybe a small house.” Even now, years later, I can feel my pulse quickening at how stupid that is.

Do you-

Can you even-

Does it settle on you how much money $300,000 is? Much less, that much every MONTH. That’s $10,000 A DAY. For most of us, that’s more money than we’d know what to do with. “Keep my day job-” Listen lady/dude/you, fu** your day job. Your day job doesn’t matter anymore. Literally, whatever you were doing, it doesn’t outweigh the net good you can now do with these boatloads of cash. It would be the most actual waste of time. Your day job is now hiring the right people to make sure this money gets spent properly. Set yourself up, set your family up, then you know what you start doing? Start solving sh**.

Homelessness in your area? Not anymore there isn’t.

Local schools having issues with budget constraints? Thing of the past.

People with crippling medical debt? Be gone, foul financial demon.

Your main concern now is living a loooooong healthy life and putting together a network of qualified, trustworthy individuals who will make sure the funds hit their mark and achieve the most good. With that much money, there is no such thing as a savings account for you to squirrel away to; and if you did you’re a villain who will wind up in Dante’s Fourth Level of Hell (Avarice). In a single month, you make more than the FDIC will insure.

Maybe it’s the fact that it is so unfathomable that made my friends give such dumb answers, but it just struck me as sublimely poor reasoning. “I’d buy a yacht.” “I’d buy a private jet.” Sure, you do you, boo; but I say forget the luxury industry. They have plenty of Old Money twits to keep them in business. Be the hero the world needs. Buy whatever kind of house you want, pre-pay your life and your grandchildren’s lives, then fix the world.

In other news, I have another book out!

Well, one that I helped contribute to. Proper ownership goes to Jessica Augustsson, as she’s the editor. And due credit to her, as she was a joy to work with. So, if you’re feeling like a tale featuring a quirky future kid getting tangled up in the misadventures of time travel, check it out on Amazon, and look up my piece, “30,000 B.C.” [Here, if you’re in the UK, chaps.]

I’d be much obliged.

Stay frosty, remember ya beautiful, and I’ll see you around.

Ants v. Cats – A Moral Dilemma

So, last time, I mentioned that I had a background project in the works that involved some of the most ridiculous math I’d ever done, right? Cool, well, some backstory.

Our current living situation is a little weird. Mandy (girlfriend extraordinaire) and I share a house with technically two other roommates and a gaggle of children. The children are present because, during weekdays, the house also operates as a nursery or daycare run by one of the aforementioned roommates. That meant that while I was home for a while between work seasons, there were nursery workers running around and the need for ice breakers arose. It’s an oldie but a goodie, meaning I resort to it often, but I enjoy asking, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?” I’m sure we’ve all given or answered that one once or twice in our own time. And it worked!

It also started a trend. So, every now and then while things were slow at the nursery (ie our house), I’d pop in with another dorky, speculative question. After a few of these, we arrived at a particularly juicy one: “If you had to choose, would you rather make all cats in the world the size of ants, or all ants in the world the size of cats?” I urge you to think on it too, in fact. Go on, I’ll wait…

Have your answer?

Sweet. Well, then you should also know that if you picked ants becoming the size of cats, you’re painfully, horrendously, ineffably, woefully, deliriously incorrect.

She, quite sensibly, choose to make all cats on the planet the size of ants. A sizeable loss for the cat-lovers among us, no doubt, but at the cost of saving the planet. Since I thought it was funny, I brought the question to Mandy, who said the above horrible answer AND tried to justify it. “Aww, but what will the anteaters eat?” was one point, that still thoroughly vexes me.

Anyway, I got so wrapped up in debating with her just how awful a sudden influx of cat-sized ants would be to the planet that I resorted to doing math. Like, actual hardcore arithmetic. Y’all, I wound up doing (and am still doing) more math in my free time than I ever have in my whole academic life. So, if I may, I’m going to present just some of the preliminary findings in my research and calculations.

As it turns out, there are an estimated 1 Quadrillion ants (1,000,000,000,000,000) on the planet right at this very moment, while there are a far more modest estimated 600 Million cats (600,000,000) at present. That means, there are about one and two-thirds millions times as many ants as there are cats on the planet right now. (# of Ants = # of Cats x 1,666,666.67)

The first thought I had when considering this is all we’re covering here today, which was: What would the seismic impact be of a sudden weight shift like that be? Like, forgetting ecological, topographical, geological, societal, and all the other -al’s, just the strain of all the suddenly added weight. What would that do to the planet’s tectonic plates?

The ultimate answer is: I’m not sure, but it would likely lead to some earthquakes in the short term; and I’d imagine, even more in the long term. As I’ve found, studies have been done on this sort of thing regarding shifting waters linked to rains and monsoon seasons, and have concluded that those seasonal occurrences lead to seismic activity (albeit small). For example, the study observes that monsoon season affects quake frequency around the Himalayas, so I did some math.

To calculate the weight of a monsoon, feasibly the amount of weight/pressure that reliably affects seismic activity, I took the given land area of India (3,287,263 sq. km), used the upper limit of expected rain fall over a monsoon season (300 mm), and ran those numbers through a rain fall calculator. The result showed a total deposit of 986,178,900,000,000 liters of water hitting the ground, which weighs roughly 21,741,523,121,299 lbs.

So, if the weight of a monsoon affects seismic activity to a noticeable degree, and we have that, then we know the amount of weight needed to affect seismic activity is somewhere around twenty-two trillion pounds (21,741,523,121,299 lbs).

Ants weigh anywhere between 1mg and 5mg, so we’ll call their average 3mg.

Cats, feral and domestic, on average, weigh between 8lbs and 10lbs. So we’ll call their average 9lbs.

For perspective, to have the equivalent to one pound, it takes 453,592mg; which means that the average cat weighs the same as 1,360,776 average ants. To put it another way, your average cat weighs x1,360,776 that of your average ant. To put it ANOTHER way, every ant that becomes the size of a cat means an increase in weigh of 136,077,600%

Finally, taking the estimates on how many ants there are and how many cats there are on the planet today, and knowing their average weights per individual ant or cat, we know that there are roughly 6,138,000,000 lbs of ants on the planet right now, and approximately 5,400,000,000 lbs of cats on the planet right now; meaning that if one were to make all the ants on the planet instantaneously the size of cats, that would mean a sudden addition of almost eight and a half Quadrillion pounds (8,352,436,950,000,000lbs) to the planet’s surface.

If it takes 22 Trillion pounds to start seismic activity, then to be clear, to be very frank…<ahem>…the sudden weight of ants WOULD SHIT ON THAT NUMBER.

8,352,436,950,000,000 / 21,737,365,862,331 = 384.24
[I shaved some decimals off of the result there because it does not at all matter. What matters is…]

The weight of ants after the switch is over three hundred and eighty TIMES what it takes to cause noticeable seismic activity; not to even mention that the weight change would be instantaneous rather than over the course of a month like with monsoon seasons. Trying to figure out THAT angle of the impact might mean learning how to calculate Newtons and Joules, which will take someone smarter than me to figure out, but let’s all safely assume that before the ants would even be able to tear our cities, infrastructure, and eco systems apart, their arrival alone would probably be equivalent to several million nuclear bombs…

I also have an anthology with Bards & Sages Publishing coming out this month, which is pretty rad. So stay tuned for that. It’s a story I’m pretty fond of.

Anyway, until next time. Ciao.

Insanity isn’t What I Thought it Was

Sup everybody.

(Hmmm…word of warning up top: this one is a little heavy. I was going through some of my random files and found the following. It was deep into a really tough life event (about a year ago), and is basically a diary entry from then. I’m mostly putting it on here as…well, going on whim, really; but also in case it resonates with anyone. I’m going to omit some names, given the nature of the thing, but otherwise, it’s just something I sat down and typed out as the feelings arose. Anyway, consider yourself informed [sounds less dramatic than “warned,” and we’re trying to have fun here- well, not today, exactly, but just in general and you get what I- oh God, okay, onto the thing]).

I think I might be going insane.

It’s been about seven months since mom went to the hospital, and about that long since we first heard the word “dementia” as it relates to her. Since then, it’s been neurology visit after neurology visit, insurance call after insurance call, email after email with hospital management – everybody either not knowing what to do or trying to get rid of us.

I just woke up from the same nightmare, three times in the same night, and bawled my eyes out.

I cried for an hour.

In it, mom died, the bank wanted to take her house, [landlady] said she couldn’t keep me as a tenant, and nobody was around – Mandy, [uncle], [aunt], [cousin], [in-law], [in-law], [aunt], [Pierre], even city workers from the damned coroner’s office – absolutely nobody.

There were people, but no one I knew and no one who was willing to help.

I was utterly alone.

And I woke up feeling that way, thinking that way.

Mandy came to bed when I called and lie there, consoling me. I told her the voice in my head kept telling me that the dream was right, that no one would miss me if I was gone. She told me that I was loved and listed people who felt that way.

In the nightmare, though, that was just the thing. Nobody was around, nobody cared. And all the people who would love me…the feeling just didn’t go that far. Nightmares have always been that way: I need to run, I’m slow; I need to punch, I hit light as a feather; I need love, the most someone can feel towards me is casually like me.

It was a world where love towards me just didn’t exist.

Every name she gave, the voice found a way to tell me why that wasn’t true. (Except when she said “Jeremy”. Weirdly, the voice said “Yeah, I guess him, actually”.)

She told me that I was family, and that her family was mine too, that I needed to let go of this feeling that I’d be so easily abandoned. She gave [a sibling] as an example of how persevering her family was with troubles.

Again, the voice piped up and told me that that was different. [A sibling] is family by blood, it said. Of course they won’t abandon him, it continued, he’s a son and brother by blood – you, though…?

“Even marriage,” it said, “is different.”

It seems true for everyone else, I tried telling it.

“For them, yeah. But for you…?”

I went from crying to laughing into her chest and shoulder. And I’m not sure why. I think it was because I could see how crazy this all looked and sounded, and the laughing didn’t help but kept going anyway.

When we had to put Ferdinand (our cat) down a couple of years ago, it was the reminder of how harsh but sure a teacher experience can be – or rather, just is.

I stood in the bathroom and she brought me a glass of water and a hug. After she left, I swirled the water around and drank it. And I think I know why people prefer the burn of whiskey or scotch in moments like that, like in the movies.

I’m starting to wonder when people describe voices in their head, whether they mean actually hearing someone speaking to them inside their head or if it’s impulses or thoughts that just don’t sound like what they’d usually think to themselves. Foreign ideas and concepts that feel like invaders.

Because this voice was fully the latter.

But boy it was convincing. And I think that’s because it sounds like I’m talking to myself, telling myself things. But it still sounds like a voice that’s not mine.

So I’m starting to think that’s what insanity is. It may not just be a sudden crack into mad raving, but soft touches like this, a voice that tells your low worth, how easily you’ll be forgotten, and that if you confide this in anyone, that gives them power over you and they might use it just for fun, because they know they have it now.

The more I woke up, though, the quieter the voice got – which isn’t really a super sign in and of itself. You shouldn’t be afraid of sleep, afraid of whatever-this-is waiting for you when you’re tired. But as I woke up, another voice spoke up that told the first to shut the fuck up.

It told me that I’m not the only who gets like this, and I believe that.

Which is both comforting and kind of scary, isn’t it? I don’t want the people around me to wake up crying and then cackle about it, and to have that be something normal.

But se la vie.

Which is what the voice said next. “That’s part of the human experience, baby. Learn to love it. Happiness, anger, thrill, depression – they’re all in the same basket.”

It didn’t say the parts past “baby”, but I know it’s what it meant.

While I was crying into Mandy’s shoulder, I told her something. Something very true that I don’t think I’ve told anyone – even myself.

I’m afraid of dying alone.

Not “dying while single” or “dying and not being in a relationship” or even “dying with nobody around at that particular moment” even though they’re all definitely true.

I’m scared (ironically to death) of dying and nobody caring.

Then my team of mental coaches – Deadpool, Kevin Hart, and Kratos – ganged up and beat up the voice in a cartoon dust cloud.

And I’ve been pretty optimistic and comfortable in my skin since.

Also, because I think I learned something.

When I was a kid, I thought going crazy was scary, but maybe a little fun. I thought you’d get used to seeing people that weren’t there or hearing voices no one spoke and you could just make it a fun new world view.

But I think insanity’s a little softer than that and a LOT more intimate.

We’re all a little bit insane.

Or at least part of me hopes so.

Brute Force and Ignorance, a Formula for Life

I stumbled across an old picture of my uncle Barry the other day. He passed away about ten years ago, but he was so warm and larger than life, it’s amazing how just a glance at an old photograph brings back memories that were the same. He died of pancreatic cancer, but it doesn’t define his memory, if that makes sense.

We were in the hospital with him one day when he was having his chemotherapy done, and while you’d think the impressions that would last longest would be the intangibles – the sterile odor of the halls, the somber atmosphere, the sad attempts at making light – but they weren’t. The first thing I think of is a picture he had me take with my phone of him using one of those long, blue, plastic vomit bags propped up on his lap, inflated, to look like a big dick. (He dubbed them elephant condoms.) I left that day reeling from how fearless and strong he was. Tired, obviously, but undaunted amid a battle with cancer. And it only just occurred to me now, a decade later, that he might have been scared. That after we left and the door closed behind us, maybe he let out a sigh, or cried, or had to go back to wrestling with being scared, or whatever else.

He put on such a strong, happy, joking face, it’s been ten years without realizing there may have been more to it…

Hmm…pretty incredible.

He was this big Jewish guy. Salt-and-pepper beard, big glasses, bigger, round belly, and a deep, breathy laugh that filled whatever space he was in (even outdoors). He had such a powerful charisma that was just at home toasting a room crowded with friends and family as it was holding a conversation with you as though you and he were the only ones that existed in that moment.

I could ramble for hours on all of his beautiful qualities, but I won’t hold you here for the day and a half that would take. Rather, there was one nugget of wisdom he offered when I was ten, just after he’d helped my mom find the house that became my childhood home. My dad had passed away the previous year, and Barry was gifting me a little gray toolbox, saying something to the effect of: “You’re man-of-the-house now, kid. And this is a pretty good place, but you gotta help your mom take care of it, alright? Here, take this. Every man needs a good set of tools. Every man.”

“Now,” he continued, “there’s something else to go with it, and that’s some advice. With it, and with these tools, there ain’t no problem that comes up you can’t tackle, alright? Just remember: ‘Brute force and ignorance, when applied in the proper proportion, will solve any problem.'”

The hilarious thing? He was right.

We all have a tendency to overthink, from time to time. We get into a problem, get into a jam, then get too far inside our own heads. It’s kind of like earthbending, for my fellow Avatar: The Last Airbender nerds out there, in so much that sometimes there IS no special trick or angle to getting through something. Sometimes what you need is just a goal and some good old-fashioned hardheadedness. In that, we set both Brute Force and Ignorance to High.

Other times, we might need a different approach, say approaching a personal matter with a friend. In those times, you need to be direct, blunt, firm, but selective. That’s keeping Brute Force high, but utilizing Ignorance a bit less.

Overthinking an itinerary or what should be a simple day to the beach? No real call for Brute Force, there, but crank Ignorance up so you can just fucking go where the wind takes you, rather than getting so caught up in details that do. Not. Matter.

The ratios and applications are as endless as life’s problems, but whatever the case, the formula holds true: “Brute Force and Ignorance, when applied in the proper proportion, will solve any problem.”

It’s also an excellent tool for keeping your head up and staying the course. Stuck on something? Multiple attempts failing one after the other? You KNOW all you have to do is adjust the formula and keep cranking.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. I hope this is something you can and will take with you. I think I have a resting place to go visit.

Go in peace, go in love, y’all.

Later.

A Different Look at Optimists II

(It’s a re-post, on account of being busy. Sorry + Thanks for being you!)

To start off, I hate it when people behave like ultra pessimists and respond to accusations of being such by saying, “I’m not a pessimist (bro), I’m just a realist.”

Translated, that says, “I’m totally not being a whiny b-hole (bro), I just see things the way they really are because I’m hype and in-tune n’ shit.”

See how goofy it sounds when clarified?

It’s the same lazy route people take when they fancy themselves a sophisticated critic when all they do is harsh on whatever the subject matter is. It doesn’t make you all high-brow, insightful, or point to a delicate taste when nothing pleases you, it’s lazy. L-A-Z-Y, lazy. Criticism is a dissection, a surgical breakdown and analysis of what you were presented with followed by feedback on what elicited responses from you in positive and negative ways. It’s not just being hard-headed.

It
grapes my nuts
chives my spuds
grinds my gears
gets my goat so badly because it takes no effort whatsoever to not see the good in things. It’s so easy to look at a situation and see why it sucks or how it could suck. Armchair anthropologists/psychologists will tell you it’s a primal rooting in our brains to see, seek out, and guard against the negative. So of course it’s easy, it’s natural.

You know what isn’t easy?

Being an optimist.

And trust me, this isn’t a boo-hoo on behalf of optimists. We have it pretty good always seeing some kind of benefit or path to success in grimy situations. What I am saying about it, is that it’s exhausting.

And not in a day-to-day sense, necessarily. But it seems to be an undeniable fact of adult life that things get pretty shitty sometimes (also natural, as armchair sociologists would have it).

We fall into ruts. We run up against walls. We lose traction. Time to time we just zig when we ought to have zagged, and Boom! — life problem.

THAT is where being an optimist is goddamn exhausting. (And that’s a little different from having a spirit to persevere, but we’ll get to that in a second.) Because especially if one is an optimist by nature while thing after thing in our life explodes or crumbles around us, the part of our brain that makes us shitty gamblers takes over: “It’s okay,” says The Brain, “this next thing we try will be the one that works out,” or, “Nope, it’s fine. It’s this next thing that will be what works.” So on and so forth.

You lose your job and you set up three interviews at new places of work. The first two totally bomb and don’t call you back, and while you’re thinking, “it’s okay, this next one is the one that works,” your car breaks down. “It’s okay,” say Brain again, “we’ll just take the bus.” And so you take the bus to your third interview, but you get sick the night before and mugged as you step off the bus. “It’s okay,” Brian pipes up once more, “at least we’ll have a new job to help us with our car soon.” Meanwhile, you make it to your third interview, and it turns out the interviewer is racist or something – boom – rejected immediately. And your phone’s battery died, so you can’t Uber home and have to walk instead.

“It’s okay,” whispers Brain. “In a few years, you’ll be able to look back on this as one hell of a chapter in your life.”

Even those points where you’ve been knocked down, picked yourself up and dusted yourself off, only to see your efforts fail and get knocked down again, and repeated that process dozens of times with only minor, scattered successes…

…it can leave you feeling really trapped to know that come morning, after a night’s sleep, you’ll be back to telling yourself that it’s this next effort that will break through.

It’s dancing on the line of delusion, battling – almost secretly – with this inner question of whether or not you should cut your losses because this is a vain effort, but knowing your habit is going to keep the cycle going anyway.

This isn’t to speak on those who’ve fallen into a dark place and need help to climb back out. Having a spirit that perseveres is hard for everyone. And I guess that’s my point here, really. Times get difficult for everyone (and if they don’t for you, either congratu-fuckin’-lations, or re-examine what you get up to, because you’re a liar and/or it’s probably boring and unremarkable).

My point at the end of it all with how it regards optimism, I suppose, is that just because a happy face and strong spirit are at the front of it doesn’t somehow magically erase the struggle. It’s difficult emotionally loading up each new effort, sure that “this is the one,” then watching it fail, and trying to convince yourself you aren’t delusional when you do it again because giving up just feels icky.

Not trying to change anyone’s mind or “spread enlightenment,” really; but cool if it happens.

Anyhow, peace y’all.