32 posts, 32 days

Well, we made it.

Thirty-two days of consecutive posts. I’m proud of us for actually going through with our goal of writing daily. It turns out that the act of making mini contracts with yourself to commit to targets set by you, for you, is rather empowering. We had to write regardless of whether or not we were inspired by anything to write about and whether or not we had the time or energy. This exercise taught me the following things:

1) Take yourself more seriously. I was affording myself the right to be heard, which translated to increased assertion in how I express myself in my day-to-day world.

2) Take yourself less seriously. Having to take a moment a few times a week to reflect on various topics gave me enough pause to consistently remember how absurd the world can be and how much of a fool’s errand it is to take anything too personally or too seriously.

3) Giving space to unformed thoughts can help you draw more from your environment. The dusty corridors of my mind had to be visited every once in a while when I was pressed for time or really uninspired. This forced me to step back from the whirlwind of the everyday and sort through incoherent ideas. It created new frames of reference that have made me more attentive to certain phenomena in the hopes of connecting the dots.

4) Routine and discipline enhance your sense of competence. Every time I managed to post on schedule, I felt a wave of accomplishment. I would venture to say that it made me more productive in other areas as well just by increasing my self-efficacy.

5) Sometimes you produce crap. And that’s ok. Still better than constipation, err I mean writer’s block. One of the hardest things was pressing “publish” on posts I didn’t particularly like. I felt I had to post what came naturally so I never waste-binned a potential post even though some of them were truly cringe-worthy. I’ll just call it a war on perfectionism.

6) Having an accountability partner is key. As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes you have to rely on others. I know. It sucks. But having the two of us take part in this together made it both more entertaining and more feasible. It makes me think about the different types of partnership and how important it is to know yourself enough to recognize both the types of partners you need and the types of partners you can be.

7) We apparently still use “just” more than I’d like.

33

World Cloud based on past 32 posts

8) There’s a distinct preoccupation with “time” as well.

9) We feel a lot of different emotions but there’s certainly a tendency towards various nuances of frustration and contemplation. Sigh, humans.

emojis

Dominant feels from each of the posts

10) An audience makes a world of difference. Having people engage with the posts, give us feedback, relate to the thoughts presented, and/or ask us wtf we’re talking about has been the most interesting part of this. Thank you for reading! There’s more to come. Maybe not every day, but more often than before.

Pulse.

It was gone too long, a familiar friend, this familiar feeling. The feeling of dread and loathing that I thought I’d stomped out on the way to leisure and happiness. But it’s always there, deceptively lurking, ready to come out when it’s allowed, when it’s tempted. I feel it’s pulse. It’s steady, stronger now, threatening.

I’ve been better at keeping it at bay. So maybe something has really changed. But the precipice looks closer than it did. I can only hope it’s an illusion. Maybe it’s the weather, or maybe it’s getting caught up in the thick of things, hardly having time to think, or having too much time to think about the wrong things…

But I’m better at keeping it at bay. Keeping the dwelling and obsession to a minimum. Reminding myself what matters, that it can’t get better than this. This is what I’ve wanted. This is what I want.

Still, the dread is there, at the surface, just barely breaching the water, waiting. As the days get shorter, I can feel it approach and recede again. It’s not yet the time to fully take hold. I get nervous about the dark. When the days are short and the dark is long, will I be able to find relief?

Rollercoasters & Democracy

Everyone sucks and nothing is worth doing. This is my brain’s message to me at this very moment. It’s as if my shoulder angel is French and has gone on its third strike this month leaving shoulder devil to do all the heavy lifting of messing with my psyche.

The sun is shining brilliantly, the crisp smell of autumn hangs in the air, I have a coffee in hand, work is fine, social calendar is healthy, and yet this is me:

giphy (3).gif

I’m begrudgingly stomping my way around the aisles of my to-do list like a child who didn’t get his favourite candy at the store, threatening a tempestuous tantrum to virtually anyone in my path. Even from the confines of my desk, every time an email comes in…

tumblr_lw5m2sAN6h1r8p27bo1_500-1426520390.gif

At this rate, I could really give Donald Trump a “temperament” worth talking about.

giphy (2).gif

The ridiculousness of that debate makes me panic-giggle too President Clinton.

Remember when people called communism a failed experiment? Is it democracy’s turn to explode magnificently into a plume of private emails and non-ironic trucker hats, leaving behind a deluge of Bern victims?

giphy (5).gif

Sexist, racist, would-be dictators aside… I shouldn’t be grumpy. And yet here I am, with ice daggers for eyes, waiting for my next victim (which as a rule, is usually myself). I’ve occupied this space before. Generally, I mask it under a perfume of forced smiles and small talk, but now I’m wondering… is there value in stewing in fleeting emotions? Like a bruise or a headache, aren’t emotional shifts also indicators that your body or your mind need a little extra attention? Perhaps you’re dealing with an event, a person, a situation that goes against the grain of your value system. Isn’t it better to listen to the angry indication that something isn’t quite right and identify the rotting source before it uproots everything else? Maybe, just maybe, if all of us were a little more inclined to productively listen to our anger or frustration, we could have a more engaged populace that demands to be heard and contributes to building more equitable systems rather than trudging about miserably complaining. As is, the anger festers and suddenly Britain and the EU go through a nasty divorce, America’s toxic racist mold poisons an already-divided nation, and choker necklaces make a comeback.

Even as I write this, I’ve taken some time to identify where my irritation lies, and I can feel the dark cloud lift. I now know which arrow to pull from my quiver and where to aim in order to realign my reality and expectations. Shoulder angel has come back from the picket lines, satisfied that I’ve done my best to make her job easier. Until next time…

Who wants cake?

giphy (6).gif

Home?

Looking out the airplane window, down onto the moving toyland from my little sister’s Lego set, I can always tell how I feel about a place. Sometimes it’s excitement. Other times, it’s dread. And every once in a while, it’s the warming feeling of home. This one in particular is an interesting feeling, and probably because it seems that the feeling has changed for me in the past year. So much so that it was both at first alarming and exciting and comforting. Alarming in the realization that I may be attached to a place, which has never been the case in the strict sense of knowing that I want to live there, be there. Exciting to be finally figuring it out –  a place that I like to be. Comforting to know that yes, this is home.

But I’ve moved again. A month ago, I moved again. And it won’t be the last time. I recognize now that that feeling of home doesn’t come for every place. In that way, for me, when it happens, it’s noticed. It’s treasured. In another month, I’m going back. But just to visit. I don’t have a room there, a bed, my own window, a place to call my own. I only have a friend’s couch. Will I still call it home? Will that feeling come back? Will it have gone forever, left in a time that I can never re-create or re-build or re-live, only reminisce and remember? Or will it be so overwhelming as to overcome any potential future plans I’ve already made in my head? Will it become a guiding goal to call this place home? Will I be set on striving for something that seems so unreachable and faraway? Which is worse?

I’ll know in a month’s time as I contemplate all the things cut off from the world in my window seat, looking down.

Living without Uhtceare

You know that moment? The one where you wake up and glance over at your phone bleary-eyed.

5:32am.

Early. And yet, morning. You don’t get up. You’re exhausted. A good night’s sleep hasn’t yet had the chance to rejuvenate your body and refresh your mind. But you don’t fall back asleep either. You’re supposed to be up in an hour. Your to-do list is longer than a Kanye speech. And you’ve most likely underestimated the time devoted to each task. Your yesterday self had been in vehement opposition to the old adage that Rome wasn’t built in a day. You glance again at the phone.

5:36am.

This time you notice the 32 new likes on your instagram photo. The part of you that can’t help but embrace cogito ergo sum‘s new translation – I’m liked therefore I am – is satiated. You catch the first few lines of an email you’ll have to deal with after sunrise. It reminds you of tangential tasks. Anxiety builds. The bed is suddenly on fire. You close your eyes.

The sum of everything you haven’t done builds behind your eyelids. They snap open.

5:52am.

A calendar reminder pops up. Meetings. That’s three less hours you have to do everything.

Have you done laundry? Do you have groceries? You missed the gym yesterday. You’ll miss it again today. You’re going to be a lumpy potato. You roll over.

6:14am.

Your colleague hasn’t responded to an email. Was the wording too terse? Too unclear? Should you follow up? Should you make an appointment at the optometrist? Is your sister drinking enough water on the other side of the world? Has your dad gone for a walk? What’s the expiration date on the yogurt in the fridge? Does the new project at work need ethics approval? When’s the deadline?

6:27am.

Sleepiness graces your lids once more. You drift off.

6:30am. Alarm.

You did this to yourself.

But here’s the good news. There’s a word for this whole phenomenon.

Uhtceare
Noun
ūhtcearu f ‎(nominative plural ūhtceare or ūhtceara)

pre-dawn anxiety

They say to know thine enemy right?

Now you do.

Art, Culture & Exploitation

When do displays of culture as art become exploitation?

You walk into a coffee shop. All you want is a strong, soothing cup of coffee to brighten your day, to get you started. You smell the alluring aromas. (It’s most likely an independent establishment.) You order at the counter and walk away with your warm brew for which you probably paid more than your bank account should allow.

This coffee shop sources its beans from around the world – Asia, Africa, South America. Lining the walls are stimulating photographs of the people who live in these regions of the world. Today, the shop is going through a phase of African villages. Today, hanging on the walls are the photos of African children and workers and people living their daily lives to harvest that which they will probably never taste in its final form. The coffee that’s harvested and industrialized and barista-ed for the people’s $5 Sunday pleasure. These photos are intended to decorate, transporting you, making you feel connected and sustainable and grateful…

But something feels gross about it. I’m sitting here, gazing upon a photo and it feels invasive. This person’s way of life is so different from mine. And I wasn’t invited. This person’s way of life and appearance and norms captured in photos that line all of the walls are my “decoration” to view upon on this Sunday morning.

Most people walk in hardly taking a glance at the walls. They’re too focused on the work that they have to do or the person sitting across from them or the book in their hands. But it still creates an ambiance. It subscribes to the “responsibility” of an independent coffee shop. This isn’t the mass production of Starbucks, it screams. (As I listen to the barista/cashier denounce all that is wrong about Starbucks.)

We’ve seen the #InstagrammingAfrica and phenomenon of African voluntourism. And what about “art” and “décor”? And I’m truly asking – where exactly is that line? When does it become some form of self-serving exploitation?

Season’s First Snow

The fatigue has started. I only had to wait for it. The mental and physical fatigue. I can only be thankful that it isn’t an emotional one too.

Despite the weariness, I am happy. I am content. But that has not always been the case. I venture to ask what is different today, what is different now. I still cannot answer. Is it a shift in perspective? Is it a shift in my life stage? It is a shift in my environment? Is it the people surrounding me now as opposed to then?

At the forefront of my brain is the fatigue. But it’s missing all of the hate and dread and anger. It seems foreign. What happened? Maybe I just…matured? Is that all it is?

That seems rather anti-climactic. Or maybe I have a better idea of my life than I think I do. Maybe I have it all subconsciously figured out in the way that leaves me unfettered and calm. I’m suspicious that the anxieties have truly faded away for good.

It’s more likely the security of having a plan for the next four years. It’s all been planned out for me. I just need to pass through the motions, show up on time, and deliver what’s promised. I hope that’s not what it is. I’d prefer it to be more of a contentment with what I see the next ten years of my life to be, whether or not it works out the way that the fantasy world plays out in my head.

For now, I’m embracing the warm feeling, and waiting expectantly for the first snow.