Categories
Aesthetics

Day 292 and Television

I overdid it a little today. I pushed to go for a evening walk and got overwhelmed by the appearance of some pain. It wasn’t so much the pain that bothered me, it was the anxiety that washed over me as I contemplated the pain. I struggle to juggle life with pain sometimes, less because the pain is bad but more because I let it get in my head. The surest path to letting the worry go has been television.

If I take half an hour to watch some TV and let every other thought go but the plot of some cartoon or sitcom I’ll be calm and eventually the pain will be controllable again. It’s fascinating how the mind body connection works sometimes. I wanted to let the anxiety over the pain spiral in my mind but the utterly predictable and calming plotting of a Tim Allen comedy grounded me. I can let my mind wander the simple pathways of a half an hour show and find myself more centered than after a mediation.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that finds television soothing. We wouldn’t call it zoning out to the boob tube if it didn’t do something to tamp down higher level thinking. But maybe derogatory commentary is missing the point. Maybe the dumbing down of America has some benefits. We are constantly overstimulated. In my case the stimulation can be spinal pain. Letting the high frequency worries come down to a more mellow intensity is a positive for me.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 291 and Self Control

Self control is a form of self abuse for me. Early in life I learned that I could control others by controlling my emotions. Instead of showing my feelings, I’d distort my emotions into whatever got me attention from adults. That’s pretty clever for a child, but is the road to misery once you’ve grown up.

Alas I’ve kept up the habit of self control. It might not look like it from social media or press narratives, but I self censor a lot. I’m often conscious of what others will like or dislike and I will edit my feelings if I feel it isn’t to my benefit. What can I say, I am still hurting from feeling like I wasn’t loved as a child by my father. Same old story that everyone has in their lives (well maybe for you it was your mother but same idea).

But it hurts to keep your emotions inside. Eventually it will turn into pain or sickness. Not that I’m saying all pain or illness is caused by emotions (that’s some bullshit) but the mind body connection is real. The point is it’s only hurting myself to exert so much control over my emotions.

I need to get more comfortable with being uncomfortable with other people and how they feel about me. The control I have is largely a fantasy. It’s not that it’s not possible to change how others perceive you. Hell I’ve picked professions where that’s practically the main skill set. I love the perception game. Public relations, fashion, even venture capital are all games you win by building a good reputation.

Having a good reputation doesn’t mean turning off honesty. If anything reputations are built on being trustworthy. And that generally means saying what you mean and meaning what you say. So I’ve got to stop abusing myself by choking off emotions I don’t think others will like. Maybe it’s a gender thing. I learned pretty quickly no one likes an angry woman. But sometimes I get angry. Whatever excuse I’m using for hiding unpleasant emotions has got to go.

Categories
Biohacking Emotional Work

290 and Self Care

I’ve feel like I should have an entire category on the blog dedicated to “maintenance” as I’ve got loads of posts on my struggles to balance the activities of staying alive with well, the rest of my life.

All of the activities that go into keeping a human alive and functional are so damn time consuming. How does anyone ever get anything done when so much of life is dedicated to keeping our meat sacks from spiraling out? I’m pretty sure these are the things that actually make up life and I’m supposed to treasure this time in my body. But until I become as enlightened as the Buddha, I feel like this whole embodiment thing is just getting in the way of what I should be doing. My therapist likes to call this “human doing” instead of “human being” and I don’t love the joke.

I had a terrific day of doing things this Sunday. I woke up at 7am and didn’t finish all of the various routines and self care activities till 1pm. I went for an hour long walk (which is pleasurable since sunshine and mountain air but also low impact cardiovascular activity) I lifted weights (alright fine, I love squats). I meditated (mindfulness doesn’t count when you quantify it). I showered, shaved & washed my hair. I did the grocery shopping and meal planning for the week. I did three loads of laundry. I made lunch. I cleaned up. I juggled supplements (I’ve got a spreadsheet to track them all with 8am, 10am & 11am slots) which are completely separate from my medications (I have 7am and noon spots for those). And only then at 1pm did I finally get a chance to settle into work. There was so much work just to get to work.

And while I know all of those things that keep me balanced and healthy are the stuff of life, I also resent their necessity. I have elaborate fantasies about what other people get done with their time. Other people don’t need to exercise, meditate, take vitamins, or watch their nutrition right? Well alright I said it was a fantasy. If you also spent your Sunday doing chores and self care it would make me feel better to know that.

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 280 and Scooping

I first started blogging in college because a friend of mine pointed out that I needed to own my digital identity. I had written something about designer jeans in the lesser school newspaper and another student was dunking on me in her personal blog.

Unless I acted swiftly, Google results would be tainted forever he assured me. So I started blogging. Not because I necessarily felt like I was meant to be a writer but because I didn’t want this other girl to scoop my life story. I didn’t want to get “Bad Art Friended” by letting someone else tell my story.

I’m pretty grateful to both my friend James and the “mean girl” Phoebe for launching my social media habits. Every big break I’ve ever had has come from the connections I made on the Internet. If I hadn’t been petty enough to want to own my own digital identity I might have missed out.

Rather like the “Bad Art Friend” piece where one writer uses details from another’s life for her art, whoever is able to own the narrative is the default winner. It’s not terribly fair but it could have been someone else telling my story had I not chosen to write. If the victors write history then there is an incentive to be the one whose narrative wins. And the only way to win in our social media saturated works is to be sure you’ve got the scoop on your own life.

Categories
Reading

Day 273 and The Newsstand

I used to travel a lot. It seems like another life, but before the pandemic airports were my most important liminal space. Even as a child this was true as my father loved taking us on trips. That emotional weight meant the airport have always had significance to me. This persistent exposure to airports lead to me to developing certain affinities and aversions in my routines around travel. But the one that I liked the most was buying something at the newsstand.

There was a period as a teenager where I thought carrying both the The Economist and Rolling Stone (neither of which I read anymore) was just the height of intellectual signaling. And no place was more crucial to signal than inside an airport. I could meet someone in passing that would change my life and they needed to see immediately that I was both smart and cultured. Yes it’s embarrassing now.

But this signaling was part of a wider ritual I felt was important to ground myself. Even if I felt the unsteadiness of traveling, I could bring routine and ritual into it. I knew no matter how much I anxiety or uncertainty I felt around a given trip I could always treat myself to buying something to read from the airport newsstand.

Generally I would pick up some kind of periodical. I’d leave myself time to browse the newsstands for at least ten minutes so I could adequately cover all the weird genres. Because I grew up in a small town and not a proper city, the only newsstand I ever encountered was at the airport. There was simply no place that held as many magazines covering as many topics.

And while I had the Internet very early in my life, the actual transition away from physical publishing wasn’t as far along. It’s not that I loved magazines so much as it was the only place I could find writing that wasn’t a novel was in newsstand. Now of course I read blogs, email newsletters, forums, Subreddits and my beloved Twitter. But the memories I have of finding new worlds came from newsstands. And while I may have literally been going someplace new, it was never quite as horizon broadening as picking out what I was going to read.

Categories
Internet Culture Reading

Day 271 and Correspondence

I love writing to others. I had some pen pals as a child but it wasn’t until as a teenager that the Internet gave me the chance to correspond with practically whomever I liked. And it’s been one of the great joys of my life to reach out to others for conversation.

I developed a habit of writing to journalists, authors and academics whose work I admired. Many of them maintained email addresses and personal websites even back before social media. If you are ever worried that someone will find it odd or unsettling to receive a note from you, don’t fret. I can share that if you are polite and sincere outreach is almost universally appreciated. Most people want to be seen. If you feel you’ve seen someone then you should share it with them. It’s a kindness to you both.

While I particularly like short form correspondence like Twitter, there is no substitute for a more in-depth and layered letter. I’m personally a fan of the threaded twenty response deep email chain. I think of it as like the letter writing of our forefathers. Maybe it’s a bit less satisfying to our heirs than discovering a box of letters but I’ve got a fantasy that the Ken Burns of the future will make excellent use of email and chat logs.

If you aren’t convinced of the benefits of reaching out through writing feel free to test it out on my before you write a letter to your favorite author or thinker. We just might become pen pals.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 269 and Pacing

I’m very defensive of my time. While I work at curtailing reactivity in my emotional growth, it’s still easy for me to feel invaded by obligations to others. Taking video or meeting in person was among my least favorite activities even before the pandemic. That’s one reason I’ve written extensively on how to communicate with me asynchronously. But another deeper reason is my fear of misusing my time. And tempting as it may be to project it onto others, I know that this fear is entirely about me.

I am very fearful of anyone needing things from me. I don’t mean things like money, favors or advice; though it is harder to say no than you’d think. My fear is deeper. I’m afraid friends and family will start to count on me for their emotional needs when I’m still figuring out how to be present for my own. I’ll deliberately put distance between myself and others to avoid feeling needed.

So what does this have to do with pacing? I’m not very good at giving myself enough space to be challenged and recovery. And when every encounter with another person is an emotional challenge, I need to be careful about pacing myself.

Maybe there is some latent autistic spectrum issues or maybe I have more trauma than I can consciously dig up but it’s a rare human that doesn’t make me anxious about the energy required for maintaining my own boundaries. It’s not about other people to be clear. It’s about me and my fears of being emotionally invaded.

As I build up more systems and accommodations to allow me to work effectively I need to figure out better pacing. How do I connect with others without emotional fear while still respecting my needs for down time and rest? Giving myself enough recovery has been an ongoing challenge that I write about extensively. But putting it into writing also serves as a valuable reminder to course correct before a crisis emerges.

Categories
Emotional Work Internet Culture

Day 263 and I’m Baby

One of my friends got me an embroidered “I’m baby” patch with a Moomintroll holding a knife in place of the original Kirby. It’s an elaborate play on the “I’m Baby” meme and was a truly excellent Christmas gift. I’m a fan of the Finnish children’s author Tove Janson who created the Moomin series and also emotionally baby and my friend knows it.

Original “I’m Baby” Kirby meme vs a photo of my Moonin “I’m Baby” embroidered patch

The “I’m baby” meme is generally a play on why someone should be allowed to continue with their behavior or emotions without consequence. It’s a kind of elaborate joke about wishing to dodge responsibility if only for a few minutes. Obviously it’s very popular with Gen Z but it’s really more about wishing to live in a world where it’s even possible to be a baby when life feels overwhelming.

The original meme came out of an emergency but it’s come to be a kind of wishful demand and hope that one can just well be a baby for a bit and have someone else handle it.

Moomintroll is an excellent stand in for Kirby in the meme because in the Finnish cartoons he never has to live without Moomin Mama. Moomintroll is an archetypal baby. The Moomin universe has constant catastrophe (no seriously there are floods and asteroids) but Moomintroll can always count on Moomin Mama. It’s a soothing set of books for children obviously but it’s also just nice that there are parental figures to which one can turn. That’s a fantasy we all have at some point. Especially when shit looks bad.

But being baby also means someone else has to be the adult. The willful insistence on being baby is about giving your power to someone else. Unless you are literally baby (in which case how are you reading this blog) you’ve chosen to put someone else in the position of power. Which is an important lesson for adulthood. You always have the power. Even if you chose to be baby. Especially if you are baby.

So be careful when you say “I’m baby” and act helpless. You gave up your power. And that’s alright. Being helpless can be a totally cool sex thing and it’s great to chose your kink when. But you’ve got to have consent for that shit. Bringing someone else into your fantasy of being baby might be non-consensual. When my friend jokes that I’m baby it’s because he knows I like to give up my power. But alas it’s a fantasy and I can’t go back to being Moomintroll for real. But it’s a nice patch right?

Categories
Aesthetics Internet Culture

Day 260 and A Good Schtick

I admire a well executed gimmick. Being clearly branded has become a necessity in digital life. Living life at a scale larger than your local community turns out to require we communicate who we are for easier communication.

Mediocre marketing people will insist that you find areas you can “own” in planning materials for promotional campaigns. They want you to find a schtick. But you better like what you come up with as you will be forced to repeat your greatest hits ad nauseam.

It’s not that they are wrong. Repetition is pedagogy. Which is a fancy way of saying in order to teach you must repeat your lessons. Humans usually require hearing something a few times before the information will stick. But then it can be very hard to dislodge a piece of information that we’ve become convinced is true. That’s why it’s much harder to change a brand than it is to build one. We get indignant when we feel someone has mislead us with their brand.

That’s why you need to be very sure if you are going to dig into a schtick. The temptation to go full Tucker Carlson or Rachel Maddow can be tempting. It’s seems like it’s an easier path to attention and awareness if you develop a clear point of view. But be warned, if you change it people will get mad at you. If you explore shades of grey you will get called a hypocrite. Nuance is the enemy of clarity. And clarity is required to reach big audiences.

I swear half of cancel culture is just assholes who don’t understand that their friends may see them as whole empathetic humans who are more than their schtick but the masses won’t. And remember you too are a member of the masses and judge others hypocrisy just as harshly as they judge yours. That’s like the basis of all Abrahamic religions. If the golden rule was easy we probably wouldn’t need to attend various worship services regularly.

So if you see someone with a good schtick admire it. But recognize it’s a Faustian bargain. They sanded off some portion of the wholeness of their being in order to be easier to understand. And if they drop some portion of that gimmick in the course of their lives it’s worth showing a little grace to them. You’ll appreciate it when you require the same.

Categories
Emotional Work

Day 256 and Helplessness

When I was a child I hated being helped. I was a “Mary quite contrary” type except I wasn’t yet in a profession where that was considered a sign of intelligence. I’d ignore the advice, aid and help of teachers. I preferred to figure things out on my own.

A story that I’m sure will eventually turn apocryphal as I get older involved a horse trainer and needing to be left alone. I was was having trouble with a jump in a group less. My horse kept throwing me and ducking the obstacle. My trainer did his best to give me advice on how to keep my posture and encourage my horse. He kept piling on advice and kept his focus on me. And I kept not making it over the jump.

I probably fucked it up over a dozen times. Eventually my trainer gave up and went to help another pupil. Without the glare of a professional, I finally gathered myself up, held the horse firmly in hand and soared over the jump on the first try.

Holy shit was my trainer pissed. “Julie didn’t need my help at all! The second I turned my head she just handled it herself.” From then on my trainer learned that I’d happily internalize his training but if he kept too close of an eye on my I’d develop a kind of learned helplessness. I’d get worse and not better.

I sometimes wonder if this tendency remains a part of me. I like attention so I’ll accept help if someone is willing to give it to me. The upside to this is I am always learning and questioning. But if I’m not careful I’ll just keep enjoying the benefits of helplessness. But I can’t linger there. Because I know moment I’m left to my own devices I’ll gather up the knowledge and willpower and make it over the jump. But it can be temping to wallow in helplessness.