Don’t read this: Contracts.

I’m writing this because I have to. There’s no urgency in what I want to share today. These words don’t have to be aligned in this particular order for any other reason than the fact that I have to write today. No mission. No greater purpose. No raison-d’être. Just a contract. An arbitrary contract to write every other day. Today, nothing is interesting enough to give the contract more meaning.

I have many of these contracts. I guess we all do. Wake up, feed yourself, clean yourself, go to work, produce things, be social, establish relationships, engage in extracurriculars, move your body, clean your environment, go to bed at a reasonable hour. Repeat.

How many days are made up of routine fulfillment of contractual obligation and nothing more? How many are the equivalent of empty words put on a page so that I fall in line with expectations? Expectations imposed on me either by myself or by the omnipotent “they” who say these things need to be done.

There’s a part of me that hates the inefficiency symptomatic of a contract-based life. If I know I’m not going to have a productive work day, why can’t I just tick a box that says NOT TODAY and instead go for a swim, clearing my head enough to be able to tackle tasks twice as efficiently the next day. If I feel I’m in the middle of an unproductive conversation, why can’t I just tap out without offending, saving everyone’s breath and time. If my legs feel like lead as I contort them into yoga poses, why can’t I just stop and go get ice cream.

Well, technically I could. We all could. I just don’t. There’s something I prioritize more than efficiency or immediate satisfaction. I prioritize the promise. As if micro-dents in these contracts are representative of my failings as an adult human.

I honestly don’t know what’s worse: sub-par but consistent delivery on contractual agreements or sporadic “masterpieces.” Today, I clearly chose the former. And now the world has one more thing it didn’t need. You’re welcome.

An Ode to Coffee

Coffee is a glorious and wonderful thing. I could thank the person who discovered it every day. It has the power to keep me alert, keep me awake at all hours of the day and night, without discrimination, without regard to my pre-existing condition, which is probably irreversibly sleep-deprived.

Note that I make a distinction here between coffee and caffeine. Caffeine can come in many forms. But the coffee goes down with pleasure, alongside the rich aroma. And I don’t mind added milk, be it cold or steamed. I know, I’m violating the idea of a real purist coffee drinker. Kill me. I add things.

Let’s resume. It has the power to keep me up at all hours, finishing things that I “need” to do, right now, right this minute. I whiz through texts and writing and analyzing. I find my flow.

Its duality amazes me. While it is able to give enjoyment and provide a certain utility, it is also able to give extraordinary anxiety. I feel my blood pumping, my brain churning, sweat on my palms, my face hot, the tremors start. All of these things, coffee is able to achieve all at once or separately.

Yet, it also has the power to make the morning inviting and the weekend welcoming, when I don’t have any obligations. It’s a source of enjoyment.

It’s something shared. Everyone is willing to sit with you for a cup of coffee. Unless they don’t like you, in which case, that’s a different issue. It can bring people together, and also push peoples apart.

Can’t keep my hands to myself

I love the internet. Don’t get me wrong. I can spend hours on end sitting behind my computer, surfing the waves of human emotion transposed across articles, photos, videos, comics, memes, and so on. In one sitting I can be delighted, outraged, teary-eyed, stimulated, dumbfounded, and so on. But I also hate the internet. It straps me to a chair and teaches my fingers to prowl over the keyboard. Permanently crouched above the QWERTY, waiting. Waiting to be inspired. Waiting to be motivated. Waiting to produce something that matters.

But my hands have known more. They’ve known the weight of piano keys, flirting gently with pianissimos and arguing in forte. They’ve known the scruff of sand paper, gliding across the grain, revealing shapes long-trapped in tree trunks. They’ve known the earth that feeds those trees, sweat and dirt mixing into muddy masterpiece across the grooves etched in my palms. They’ve known the slow rub of skin against pencil, the callus that forms, a testament to learning, effort, dedication.

They’ve since forgotten. Shifting instead to the virtual world, letting it control my thinking, alter my attention span, and delete my sense of calm.

ctrlaltdelllctm

Today, I let my hands do more.I let them warm up the ball of clay. I let them work in concert with a wheel, sculpting into existence … nothing. The misshapen sludge of clay went flying off into the failure pile.

My hands, they’ve forgotten. This is the start of re-membering.

em·pa·thy, noun

This marks the beginning of a series on empathy. Something so desperately needed today between the bombs and the borders and the bros. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while, but, as of yet, feel is not fully formed from fetus status. Regardless, I’ve committed to starting the series or I think it’ll never evolve beyond the size of a peanut with arms and legs hardly defined. Let me just lay out my beginning thoughts.

em·pa·thy noun

the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Our differences are what makes it difficult for us to understand one another, for others to fully understand you or understand me. Why is this understanding important? This understanding becomes important if we accept the premise that humanity should aim to preserve life for all its members. That we strive for equity. That we hope to build a greater world for all of us and then some. That we should develop. That we should evolve to a higher standard. That humanity should care for one another.

There are so many instances today of the severe lack of empathy. If the history books could speak of humanity’s crimes on this front, libraries would be a horror, driving those who dared enter into madness with the constant, unwavering resonance detailing its memories of pain and cruelty and destruction. Is today that much different than the history books? How much have we progressed? Have we regressed? What does it take to treat this chronic disease?

The flood of information accessible to us today with the advent of the wonder that is the Internet magnifies our differences. It intensifies in speed and sometimes in content the information that we seek out and the information that we receive. Still, this doesn’t necessarily translate to our learning and understanding of the other. The Internet is merely a tool and medium. The Internet has made it more possible for me to encounter the hate and propaganda and rhetoric and violence with each day. It comes from politicians on television and pervades the everyday person on the street. I even catch myself.

We become unfazed. This happens. Just An Ordinary American Terrorist. Life continues. I don’t bother messaging friends to check in anymore.

We see this everyday. And all we can muster is regret.

My mother, the X-man

My mother has an X-gene. It glows a pinkish orange, greenish blue, goldish red.

I first noticed when I was 12. A long-faced woman – tears brimming her eyes – was retelling a grey story in the hallways of an elementary school. My mother nodded along, her face strained with the scrunch of real empathy – the kind you rarely see. A hug and phone number exchange later, the long-faced woman walked away, glowing a pinkish orange, greenish blue, goldish red.

The pattern would repeat itself over the years. People with grey stories would find an ear that listened and a heart that cared in my mother, and she would move mountains to colour in the grey. To ease some of the pain. To make this life thing just a little more pleasant for those that crossed her path. They’d walk away from the interactions enveloped in all shades of pinkish orange, greenish blue, goldish red.

Some days I’d notice the toll the power took on her. The wrinkles etched by other people’s stories, the frustrations of not doing enough or having done too much. Still, it never wavered. Relentless on its mission to colour the grey, her magic led her to the front of a classroom. Here, every year, new stories await her, and she takes on the task of equipping them with their own power source. She teaches them how to add compassion, subtract hate, and multiply empathy. Every year, she leaves behind classrooms basked in hues of pinkish orange, greenish blue, goldish red.

My mother has an X-gene. I’ve often wished I had her blue-green eyes, her light curly hair, her cascading laugh. But mostly, mostly I want her power to paint the world a pinkish orange, greenish blue, goldish red.

Happy birthday mom! On behalf of the world, thanks for being born.

Exposed.

You know the feeling you get after an evening of being hypersocial? The drink helps and the exhilaration heightens and the words flow freely. Oversharing. What I keep for myself most of the time is coming out. My own. The morning is the aftermath. You sit in it, alone. Alone with only your recollection of split seconds here and there, overanalyzing your words and their reactions and what it means for tomorrow.

No? You don’t know that feeling?

Perhaps it’s my introversion showing. The next morning it reemerges, in full recoil. I’m experienced in this cycle by now – the one where I crave social interaction, only to be met with angst afterwards – but I’m no expert. It takes that same rationalization, that same analysis to remind myself that it doesn’t matter. That no one will remember all of the bits and pieces of yourself that you left out there in the open to be judged, stomped on, and known. Not really. Everyone is also wrapped up in their own selves. The baseness of human nature is there to catch you.

I continue through my morning, hoping that I don’t remember every moment of the night before to dwell and analyze. I work to forget. The hangover helps. It helps the not thinking. The energy has been sucked away. Still, I yearn for the next night to erase this one. The next night when I’ll see the same people and I can re-write. Again and again.

Let me take a selfie

Values, contoured by the brush strokes of experience,
Strengths, highlighted by the shimmer of performance,

Weaknesses, covered up by the foundation of knowledge,
Power, accented by a strobing heartbeat,

Hopes, wax and wane, shaping future paths,
Fears, threaded throughout, always eye-opening,

Spirit, in shades, both matte and glossy,
Idiosyncrasies, in curls, stubborn, wild, unruly,

Memories, filtered to enhance history, adding mystery,
Capacity to love, double tapped into existence by family,

Smile, 27 nuances of happy, sad, and in-between,
Click. This is me. #selfie.